Tag Archives: gratitude

“Swimming in a Sea of Selfishness”

Believe me, I write this column as no sort of spiritual giant; I don’t know my own weakness as well as I should, but I surely know it enough to see warning signs pop up everywhere when I’m tempted to feel self-righteous.

And here comes that dangerous word: but. But surely anyone with any spiritual sensitivity at all doesn’t have to look long at our society to see that we are, as I heard someone put it, constantly swimming in a sea of selfishness.

We do well to consider also that, even if we can aspire to a little unselfishness, our default mode is to be self-centered. Literally. Our view of the world, our contentment in it, is easily focused, judged, and completely dependent upon how comfortable, prosperous, and happy we are at any given moment.

Are we making increasingly more money? Living more prosperously? “Standard of living” above average? Didn’t lose too many golf balls on our last round? Got slightly nicer cars than our neighbors? Attend a church where all of our “needs” are professionally met, we honor our crucified Lord by rarely ever having to sing a song we don’t much like, and the performance is top-notch? Then life—or at least the top half-inch, whatever else is below the surface—is good.

Sadly, the evidence of our society’s soul-sickening shallowness is all around us. But sometimes some little thing makes it even more starkly obvious. One “news” item did that for me yesterday.

Talk about a slow news day! This item popped up on my iPad in one of those news smorgasbords that pull from lots of sources, including one source that never gives real news—unless you want to know who may be sporting a “baby bump” or what “stars” are beginning their latest affairs.

So I was not surprised to see, from that source, a headline discussing a famous pop star’s fuss with paparazzi. She didn’t seem concerned that photographs of her way short of clothes were everywhere. But it seemed to be driving her nuts (well, nuttier) that the pics, she claims, were altered to make her look forty pounds heavier than she is. She took to Twitter to urgently assure her fans that she is still “pencil thin.”

That’s a relief.

Okay. Seriously. Not many of us need an extra forty pounds.

But much more seriously, I feel sorry for this poor rich lady. I don’t think she needs to worry much about her weight. She seems very small indeed. I wish she could find, and let her soul be filled with, real meaning and healing and purpose and hope. I feel sorry for her children who will likely grow up in financial privilege but with impoverished values that lead toward despair.

A life filled to overflowing with what doesn’t ultimately matter, what will not last, and what cannot satisfy is a sad life. And I feel particularly sad for scads of sweet little girls who, growing up in a society that idolizes such people, receive yet another push toward physical anorexia and soul-shriveling poverty.

Our children deserve better. Real joy, not counterfeit. Real beauty, not soul-rot. Real riches, not just money. Real life that thrives by giving instead of shriveling by constant consuming.

Sadly, as I write this column, I realize what frustrates me most. It’s when I look inside and am forced to see how quickly my own soul becomes self-centered, shriveled, and pencil-thin.

To point toward what really matters and will bless, not curse, those who follow us, we have to know where real life is found. Our kids will look for it where they see us looking for it. What will they find?

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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“God’s Grace: It Just Isn’t Fair!”

A surpassingly strange story it is, and enough to make a math or accounting major bite nails. I’m talking about Jesus’ “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-16).

Here’s the story in a nutshell: It’s grape harvest in Palestine. A vineyard owner goes out early to hire men to work in his vineyard, and he agrees to pay them a denarius, a normal day’s wage. They go to work.

At 9:00 a.m. he finds other men standing around in the marketplace and also hires them, promising to pay them a fair wage. At noon and at 3:00 he does the same thing. Finally, even at 5:00, he finds others standing around, and he hires them also.

When evening comes, he pays the workers, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. To the workers he hired last, he gives a denarius, and so on down through the line. Every worker receives the same pay.

The workers who were hired first begin to complain that it isn’t fair, that the landowner has made the fellows who worked just one hour “equal to” those who have worked all day long in the hot sun. But the landowner replies that he paid exactly what he agreed to pay, and that he has every right to be as generous as he wishes with his own money and pay the men hired last as much as those hired first.

Jesus concludes, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Quite a story, and not so much a story about vineyard owners and workers as a story about grace.

You see, where real grace is found, you’ll find our gracious God.

Law may ask grudgingly, “I know I’m to love my neighbor. Who qualifies? And under its breath it mutters, “I’ll not love anyone I don’t have to.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “Who and how many times do I have to forgive?” and mutters with frosty breath blown out over a cold heart, “It’ll be a snowy day in perdition when I forgive that one.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How much do I have to give?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll not give a penny more.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How many times do I have to go to church?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll go not one Sunday more.”

Those are not the kind of questions grace asks because they are not the kind of questions God asks. God loves, forgives, gives, walks with us, because our Father is the God of all grace. Do we deserve his gift? No! It is enough for him that we desperately need it. His loving us will never make black and white, bottom-line accounting sense. Legally, it will never add up or balance. Not even close.

Sadly, where you find real grace, you’ll also find, just as in this parable, grinchy grumblers who aim to get their salvation the old-fashioned way: they want to earn it. They are angered by a God who freely offers salvation to a thief on a cross or a prisoner at Huntsville with a needle in his arm but faith on his lips. That kind of grace just doesn’t add up! That God gives it always angers some.

May we be far too busy praising him and thanking him to ever listen to complaints from those who’ve not yet learned that the very last thing in this universe any of us should ever want to get is “what we deserve.”

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!     

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some of Life’s Best Moments Must Be Savored–or Lost

Some moments in life are golden. And some of the best of all are precious precisely because they must be savored immediately or forever lost.

Oh, as long as God is our Father, and that’s forever, beautifully sweet moments, joy surprises and cloud bursts of delight will come again. But never again the same one, for much of their rich sweetness and deep joy sparkles in the diamond-truth that no two of them are exactly alike.

None can be bottled to be uncorked and re-savored, recorded to be played back at a whim, or captured to be freed for the moments you wish to dance the same dance and want that particular joy to be your once-again, radiant-in-just-the-same-way partner in the waltz.

You never stepped out onto your front porch to gaze up at the starlit night and looked at exactly the same world. Like a river, it flows new every moment. It won’t be truly the same in ten minutes. Or in the space of your next breath. Look quickly! And look often!

You’re rocking in an old soft chair, but not alone. You and your little very grand baby are swaddled together in a warm blanket on a lazy afternoon. Raindrop-straight-down sounds are the lullaby and the babe’s whiffling breath is the sweet meter of the moment’s melody. Oh, swifter than that tiny living miracle’s heartbeat, you’d sign on were it possible to go on gazing sleepily but in utter awe and purest joy at the lovely face of that precious gift of God, and gently rock… rock… rock… on forever. Only the Giver of all good gifts knows what wonderful joy-flowers you and that precious little one will pluck together, but this particular bloom is fully open right now. And not for long. Thank God for it quickly!

You’ve sung or played or strummed or bowed the same beautiful song time and again but never in exactly the same way. A grace-note in measure eight, a joy-trill in the “bridge,” a bit more tremolo in the “intro,” and a new millisecond pause before the “tag” or the “outro”—it’s the sweetly-spaced silence that gives the intervening notes richness—and it’s an old beautiful song caressing fresh ears and washing open hearts, brand new.

To savor such moments our souls need spaces for rest and not just the counterfeit “relaxation” of loud and manic diversion. Our souls need the sweet salve, the lovely balm, of what our Father calls Sabbath, whatever its date or duration. We need times—sometimes they’re just a few breaths’ worth—of worthwhile moments, and sometimes, regularly, they need to be hours or days—when we’re quiet and still and our hearts and hands are particularly open to receive the sweet and special gifts—golden moments—our Father wants to give.

“Be still, and know that I am God,” our Father says. It’s wonderfully true eternally. But it’s most clearly known in sweet and fleeting moments of deep joy, the kind that can’t be captured—only savored, the kind that grow best in rich stillness.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Thank God When We Avoid “What Might Have Been”!

Have you noticed? When something bad, sad, and tragic happens, we agonize, “Dear God, how could you allow this?” But, too often, when we see something bad, sad, tragic avoided, we fail to give thanks.

If you are my auto insurance agent or my wife, please stop reading in 3-2-1. Now.

I like San Antonio. But a few weeks ago, we headed that way, were almost there, rounded a bend on the wet expressway, and were greeted to a sea of red brake lights much too close that I saw almost much too late. Close call.

Yesterday afternoon, I was again on the way to San Antonio. Just me. And driving a new (to me) truck that I just bought and have already fallen in love with.

(Are you still reading, dear wife? Stop now!) I don’t want my judge wife to pull my license. And I really don’t want her to send one of our kids to San Antonio to take away the keys and drag me home.

I decided just to follow the GPS lady. I’ve seen three gals get in a fight in our vehicles before. One is the “nav” system gal. One is the GPS gal who lives in my phone. The other is the lady in the copilot’s seat. I miss her, but two gals giving me directions on this trip are enough. When they say, “Recalculating,” it doesn’t sound like, “Nimrod, why didn’t you turn!”

The trip to San Antonio entails miles of two-lane roads and miles of four-lane/Interstate driving. And this year it’s gorgeous! Bluebonnets galore!

Big trucks are the hazard on the Interstate. Passing is the hazard on the two-laners. (I love the new signs on some roads that let you know a passing lane is coming, so just wait a sec!)

So . . . yesterday I’m on a two-lane road. I’ve got a Bubba-truck behind me. Too close. If Bubba can see past his eyebrow ring, he’s looking for 90 mph or so. We’re moving about 70 in hill country, stuck behind an 18-wheeler. Fairly heavy oncoming traffic. I can live with 70, but I’m sick of bookends Bubba and Big18. I was tempted to toss the former a little minor (and safe) brake light scare to get him to back off, but I didn’t.

Finally! Here comes a passing lane. The big guy slides over. I’m going for it, for sure. But ten feet or so into the shortest passing lane in this hemisphere, a sign on the right says it’s going away. Are you kidding!?

I should mention that we’re headed up a hill. I can’t see if there’s oncoming traffic, but three lanes should be plenty. (Mistake.) As I’m about to pass Big18, his left blinkers come on. It’s either abort or all in. (What will Bubba do?) Split second decision. Foot down! New truck floored! V8 roars! Three lanes turning into two. Now I see four cars coming on at light speed! Oh, give me a break and use a little shoulder, Big18! Two and a quarter lanes now. Needle threaded. Inches to spare. Start heart. Breathe. Wait for big guy to lay on his horn. He should have.

Having survived, I’ve replayed this, looking for reasons why this wasn’t mainly my fault, but… Several bad things came together at once. It could’ve been…

I wonder. How many times in life do varying degrees of fatigue, impatience, ignorance, foolishness, and just human frailty come together to issue in great pain? And sometimes no one meant evil. But serious hurt came.

How many of those times do we avoid safely, and we don’t even know we had a close call? But I know this: When we do see what could’ve been and that it was avoided, it’s a really good time to give serious thanks and drink a good dose of humility.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Praising God Launches a Delightful Chain Reaction

“Come,” invites the Psalmist of old, “let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (95:1-2).

C. S. Lewis writes, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

Some years ago my wife and I were in New Orleans where she was attending a training conference. I went along to provide pastoral care. When she went to training sessions in search of knowledge, I went in search of seafood.

At one point, we ran into a fellow reading a book in an outdoor courtyard and struck up a conversation. He waxed rhapsodic about a little hole in the wall, Coop’s Place, down toward the river, describing the delectable crawfish étouffée he’d found there. Not only was he enjoying the memory of that fine food, he was enjoying it yet again as he described it to us.

I soon found out for myself that it was remarkably fine stuff. I enjoyed telling my wife about it, taking her there later, and now I’m telling you about it and resisting the impulse to describe it in a great deal more detail. Part of the joy of the whole experience is in telling about it.

Lewis goes on to say that “to praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression.” He says you can no more separate your joy from the praise it frees and releases from your soul than you can separate the “brightness a mirror receives . . . from the brightness it sheds.”

When we praise God, not only is our joy made more complete, our praise itself issues in deeper praise and worship.

So the Psalmist invites us to praise God, to worship him, to thank him as the praise in our hearts builds and overflows the banks of our hearts in rivers of joy, the most wonderful sort of chain reaction. Once started, thank God, it’s almost impossible to stop unless something becomes wrong with our hearts.

God’s people can no more refuse to praise God than living people can will themselves to cease breathing. We praise God because we have breath to live and to praise and God is the One who gives it.

We praise God because God made us.

We praise God because God is worthy and deserving of all praise.

We praise God because there are songs to sing and God is the music.

We praise God because there are colors to see and God is the Painter.

We praise God because we are deeply loved and he is the Lover.

We praise God! How can we not? Why would we not?

We praise God because it is our joy to praise Him, and praising Him completes and magnifies our joy.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Even for Night Owls, God’s Mercies Are “New Every Morning”

What a sweet morning I’ve just experienced! And this from a person not in the habit of gushing about mornings. A “morning person,” I am not.

The preceding sentence is just a fact. No moral ramifications are attached. Not by me. I have actually even met a few humble morning folks who seem to harbor no self-righteous “early to rise” prejudices. I refer the others to mounting research and genuinely science-based books such as Dr. Till Roenneberg’s Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Get up with the roosters if you want to; just please be quiet and don’t crow about it—and, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t bang the lights on!

Our chronotypes—whether you’re a morning lark, a night owl, or a “third bird” (something in between—check out Claudia Hammond’s fun and fascinating Time Warped)—are as hard-wired as our eye color. Granted, the time you’re due at work or school is likely beyond your control, but nobody can control the genes and physiology, your “chronotype,” that dictates when you will generally be most alert, effective, and efficient. The owl under my hat has no problem with mornings; I just like them as dark, as silent, and as still as possible, until caffeine and hot running water can accomplish a resurrection.

All said to underline how very beautiful this particular morning was, even from an owl’s perspective. (My wife and I had the sweet blessing of an unusually un-rushed morning.)

When I awoke, it was deliciously dark. Darkness can be a metaphor for evil, but in a safe, warm place, it can also be as beautifully enfolding as a blanket. I’d banked the fire the night before, tucking in with ashes what was left of the glowing embers so that this morning I could simply rake the ash-blanket aside, lay on some more wood, and wait for the flickering fire to spring into life and warmth. Flickering in darkness is the best kind of flickering a fire does.

I made coffee so as to be able to find my pulse. Later on, I perused the headlines in a digital version of The Wall Street Journal. It was nice to get a couple of my prejudices confirmed. Article headline, front page-below the fold: “Please Do Your Sneezing at Home: Employees Strike Back Against Coughing Colleagues.” (Of course, one colleague will spray disinfectant and sniffle-shame you if you show up sick, even as another will call you a slacker if you take sick leave. Catch-22.)

And I smiled at the book review of Dreyer’s English, a book by Benjamin Dreyer (review by Ben Yagoda). “Being well copy-edited is like getting ‘a really thorough teeth-cleaning,’” Dreyer writes. And he mentions a famous New Yorker editor’s rule: “Try to preserve an author’s style if he is an author and has a style.”

But before heading to the Journal, I sought more timeless wisdom. I decided today to read and pray the “morning office” from the venerable Book of Common Prayer. (There are apps for that! For iPad, iPhone, or PC, search “The Mission of St. Clare.” It’s one of the best. By the way, if you think this sounds terribly “spiritual,” you obviously don’t know me.)

One of the Scriptures for the morning was Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God, / and the firmament shows his handiwork.” I love that psalm in any translation, but I decided to check it out also in The Message, and, wow! Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is always amazing, but never better than this: “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, / God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. / Madame Day holds classes every morning, / Professor Night lectures each evening.” (To read it all, head to http://www.biblegateway.com and go to Psalm 19 in The Message.)

No, I’ll never be a morning person. But I do indeed believe that God’s “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3). And I really enjoyed this one.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Father Tim Kavanagh and Thanksgiving

I’ve been enjoying re-reading Jan Karon’s books set in Mitford, North Carolina, centering on the life and ministry of the community’s Episcopal priest, Father Tim Kavanagh.

I like Father Tim. My wife goes farther: she says I am Father Tim. My wife is usually right, but she’s wrong on this one. Father Tim is a much better pastor and a much nicer fellow than the preacher my wife lives with. But nonetheless it does me good to spend time with the kind rector, and I’m usually more pastoral and a little nicer after I’ve done so.

I wouldn’t deny that a few similarities do exist between us, Father Tim and me.

Mitford is a small town of the “great place to live” variety. Muleshoe is in exactly that category. Father Tim has discovered that the very best (and by far the largest) part of America is the small town part. I couldn’t agree more.

Mitford is set in the “high green hills” of North Carolina. Muleshoe is set in the high brown plains of West Texas. Hmm.

Father Tim has discovered that you can truly and meaningfully touch just as many lives in a small church/small town setting as you can in a large city/mega-church setting. Maybe more. I agree.

Father Tim is the kind of guy who would rather spend thirty minutes with the “real” guys at the local coffee shop than five minutes with the “plastic” big business/big politics/big shots (in general) of our society. Absolutely.

Father Tim has a great church secretary full-time who does a great job and doesn’t mind telling him how “the cow ate the cabbage” and keeping him in line. I’ve got one of those, too, but she can do the job in one day a week.

Father Tim has a great dog. For lots of years, I had one of those. His dog is pacified by the reading of Scripture or 18th-century English poets. I never needed to try that. Like her master, the best thing Maddie did was sleep.

Father Tim has a polite little motor scooter. I’ve got a man-sized machine with air intakes and pipes that opened wide will suck in and spit out neighborhood pets from three doors down. (The similarity is that both machines have two wheels.)

Father Tim has been described as “bookish.” Ditto, and that’s a compliment. Our society desperately needs folks who read more and spout off less. But I don’t read enough.

Father Tim esteems C. S. Lewis and Winston Churchill as among his heroes. Well, of course.

Yes, there are some similarities. But Father Tim is, I repeat, a much nicer guy, better pastor, and finer human being than am I.

As I spent some time with him recently, I was struck by the notes he’d jotted in his sermon notebook on “thanksgiving” and another quotation or two he recalled.

Oswald Chambers: “We look for visions of heaven, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. . . .” Looking for the “highest good,” we “deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, . . . Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.”

I’m pretty sure Father Tim’s Thanksgiving sermon was better than mine.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Thanksgiving: A Time for Giving Thought to Gratitude

“The worst moment for an atheist,” writes G. K. Chesterton, “is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

Though any season is a great time for gratitude, Thanksgiving certainly lends itself at least to some thinking about the subject whether we’re believers, agnostics, atheists, or anything-else-ists.

Even an unusually intelligent golden retriever might do well to ponder on Thanksgiving morning the fact that somebody makes sure that food shows up in his bowl and water in his dish (and, well, for goodness’ sakes, what a nice meaty bone! Wonder what’s the occasion? Woof!). At least a little wag of the tail might be in order, I’d think, and I’m betting it would be more than a little one, since dogs seem to know instinctively that tail wags and gratitude are not items they need to hoard lest they run short.

More than “man’s best friend,” humans have, it seems to me, both a higher responsibility to think and to thank, and a much more serious temptation not to.

I’m told that the word “thank” comes from an older word related to “think.” And, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “thank” is “related phonetically to ‘think’ as ‘song’ is to ‘sing.’” So it would seem that even a very little thinking on our part would issue in “a profound sense of gratitude” and a great deal of thanksgiving. Our hearts really do have a song they should be singing, a song of thanksgiving! “Count Your Many Blessings” was a far better song title than “Think and You’ll Be Thanking,” but it really does come to the same thing.

What’s ironic here, and worth noting, is that those of us who seem to have the biggest boatload of blessings are often the very folks who are least likely to be genuinely thankful. Our “thanking” often suffers because our thinking is snotty, shoddy, and fatally flawed.

We tend to think that anyone else who has worked as hard as we have would naturally have as many blessings as we do.

We tend to think that anyone with a corresponding level of intelligence could certainly have made the same sorts of wise or profitable life or business decisions we’ve made.

We tend to think, though I hope we’d not say it, that we’re a “cut above” average and thus more deserving than others. When we say “blessings,” we mean something more akin to “wages, benefits, or dividends.”

We tend to forget how much we have that no one can possibly earn.

We tend to forget about inconvenient items that no one can control such as bad genetics or pesky microbes or crazily dividing cells or hurricanes or dictators or senseless crimes or market meltdowns—and so much more.

Healthy, happy, and more than well fed, it’s good that we’ve not bought into the self-defeating victim mentality that is such a scourge in our society, but buying into the “I’m my own god” mentality is just as deadly to genuine gratitude—and to our souls. We’ve not created a single breath of our own air or spun this world an inch, much less given ourselves life.

It’s a good time to do some good thinking and thus to be moved to lots of thanking. Most of all, it’s a good time to genuinely thank God and try not to confuse him with the dim-witted pseudo-deity under our own hat.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Genuine Happiness Is Never Found By Focusing on Self

 

One In C. S. Lewis’ account of his early life, Surprised by Joy, Lewis begins by writing about the two family strains that had come together to give him life. On his father’s side . . .

By the way, Dr. J. D. Grey, for many years pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Church, used to tell the story of a little lad who lived a long way from his paternal grandmother. When the boy went with his father to the railway station to pick her up, she hugged him and said, “Young man, I’m your grandmother on your father’s side.” To which the lad replied, “That may be, but you won’t be in the house ten minutes before you figure out that you’re on the wrong side!”

On his father’s side, Lewis descended from Welshmen: “sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and to tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal and who had not much of the talent for happiness.”

Lewis’ mother, however, like her family, was a woman of “cheerful and tranquil affection.” Her people “had the talent for happiness in a high degree” and “went straight for it as experienced travelers go for the best seat in a train.”

You’ve probably noticed long ago that not only is not everyone happy, a good many folks seem to possess little or no “talent” for happiness at all.

I don’t mean to be cynical, and I don’t think I’m telling you something you don’t already know, but you probably can’t make unhappy folks happy no matter what you do, and I suspect it’s unwise to waste too much time trying.

Some folks are unhappy at work. They’re unhappy at school. They’re unhappy at the Little League park. They’re unhappy at the grocery store, at the church, at the bank, and at the barber shop. See a pattern?

The sad fact is that unhappy people tend to spread their unhappiness like chicken pox in a kindergarten class; it seems to be a sad law that unhappy people never seem closer to a twisted sort of happiness than when they’re busy making other people unhappy. Misery does indeed love company.

Until unhappy folks make a decision to be happy, they won’t be. Not only can you not make them happy, if you spend a good bit of your time trying, you will only succeed in becoming the unhappiest of all. Even if you get a little fleeting smile out of them if you stand on your head and stack a dozen or so BBs on your nose, they’ll suddenly remember that they knew somebody back in Kansas who was able to do the same thing except he stacked two dozen BBs in the air sideways while singing “Climb Every Mountain.”

People who want to be unhappy almost certainly will be. So what to do?

Be sure you’re not one of them. (Focusing on Christ and on others and on your blessings and not on your own navel will go a long way toward producing happiness under your own hat.) Love them by behaving in Christlike ways toward them. Pray for them. Model thankful and joyful living as you thank God with every breath that he has taught you how to find happiness by focusing outside yourself.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Warning: Grumble at Your Own Risk

 

 

grumbling

Grumbling is risky business.

Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell—the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.

Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its very nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person—be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . .  Whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better! What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”

Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the very same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the very last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.

And grumbling snowballs—not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.

I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again—grumbling is risky business.

If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort, and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant  grumble where once resided a warm human heart.

Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna! They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The Cook, and his staff.

Both as punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.

When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger! Grumbling Is Very Risky Business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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