Tag Archives: jesus

Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

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

 

 

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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When Jesus Says, “It’s Time to Fish . . .”

In Luke 5 we find the story of the calling of the first apostles.

To get a little space from the crowd, Jesus has turned Simon Peter’s fishing boat into a pulpit, pushed out from the shore, and taught the people from the boat.

When Jesus finishes speaking, he looks over at Simon and, I think, with a twinkle in his eye, he says, “Okay, Simon, you’ve indulged me as I’ve turned your boat into a lectern. Whaddaya say we make it a boat again? Put out into the deep water and let down your nets. Let’s fish a bit.”

Simon’s a tad taken aback. He has heard Jesus teach before and has been amazed. No one taught like Christ. But, with pardonable pride, Simon knows that not many fishermen fished as well as Simon. He knows fishing. It was worth stopping the endless work tending to his nets to listen to the Lord, but he’s tired and filled up with fishing. It’s time to go to the house, but . . .

“Master, we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing. But because you ask me, we’ll do what you say.”

Do you ever get your fill of experts? They’ve never coached a day in their life, but they know more than the coach. They’ve never doctored a day in their life, but they know more than the doctor. They’ve never taught a day in their life but they know more than the teacher. They’ve never farmed even a furrow but they know more than the farmer. They’ve not done the hard work or made the sacrifices or put in the hours to train or earned the experience only years can buy, but they know more about everybody else’s field than the folks in it.

We all play the pseudo-expert at times. When we’re pompous about it, we can be insufferable; but even a little of such can a bit hard to take, especially when you’re bone tired, you’ve done your best, and the last thing you need is help from an expert.

Jesus is certainly not being insufferable, and Simon is not even close to being deeply offended. But he’s really tired. And who’d blame him if behind his polite words is a little kernel of a “please mind your own business” rebuke?

“Rabbi, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to teach, and I don’t mean to be impertinent, but the plain fact is that I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about fishing. I promise you, more fishing right now is a waste of time. But if you have the time to waste—and I wouldn’t do this for anybody else—okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Behind his words: “And I’ll try not to say, I told you so.”

So out they go as Simon unlimbers his already stiff muscles. He takes the boat on out and then with a tired grunt he begins to toss out the nets. And . . .

So many fish the nets begin to break! Simon suddenly realizes that the One who made the lake and the fish and . . . is in his boat! And Christ has caught not just a bunch of fish but also four apostles who through his power will “fish for men” and change the world.

When Christ tells us to put out into the deep water, trust his promises, and follow him, something wonderful is always in store.

 

 

        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.

 


In God We Trust–Not in Us

I am writing this column on December 26. Christmas is not even close to being over. This is only the second of the “twelve days of Christmas,” which was a season a very long time before it was a song.

I’m whistling in the wind, I know, but I prefer to stand with the wisdom of the centuries on this one and not with Western marketing. My little $5 tree and the lights in my humble shed behind the house will stay up until Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5.

I’m not sure if I’m a Yuletide purist or just the son of my mother. Mom liked Christmas and hated taking down trees. Ours often stood in the corner of the living room until February, by which time the tree was a genuine incendiary device we could have sold to terrorists for serious money had we not been patriotic Americans. (My wife, flaunting tradition and my maternal heritage, will slam the lid on the whole thing and shove the plastic tree into a box much sooner than I would prefer.)

Because I’m a Christmas traditionalist, I always hate to see Christmas go. I’m also quirky, eccentric, and loving my second childhood as, I hope, I’m growing younger inside as I grow older outside.

But I also have a deeper reason perhaps worthy of some reflection. You see, at Christmas, for just a little while, we almost get it. We almost understand that genuine beauty and light and joy and life itself do not proceed from us and are not about us. What happened at Bethlehem was something God did. (And though I’d not be legalistic about it, I see genuine wisdom and spiritual blessing in the truly Christian tradition of the preparation time of Advent leading to the sweet 12-day Christmas season.)

We could have sat through a million “success” seminars, strategically planned our hearts out, burned out our calculators creating fine business models, centered on ourselves in a thousand ways, and we’d never have thought of sending God’s Son from heaven and laying him in a manger. Even if we’d thought of it, we’d be as likely to start a nuclear reaction by rubbing two sticks together as to do for ourselves and our world what only God could do by his power. At Christmas, we see with a little clarity, which is far more than usual and about the best we ever muster, that everything we really need in this life is about God and from him, not us.

No wonder it’s a let-down when the lights come down and the lists of resolutions go up. We were centered on God’s great symphony; now we tend to focus again on our own little performance playing “Chop-sticks” on a plastic toy piano. We were enthralled by God’s power; now the temptation is to center on ours, take back the stage, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, start rubbing two sticks together, and get busy trying to do for ourselves what only God can do.

No matter when you take the tree and the lights down, remember the lesson of Bethlehem. In God we trust. Not in us.

 

 

     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.


Christmas Trees Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

My earliest Christmas memories are mostly wrapped around our family’s Christmas trees.

I remember Mom making creamy hot chocolate and my sister stacking the spindle of the old record player with an inch-high pile of vintage vinyl Christmas music by Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Norman Luboff Choir.

Most years the tree had already been bought at (where else?) Amarillo’s Boy Scout Troop 80 Christmas tree lot. I was a member of Troop 80 and thus expected to help sell trees each year. My younger brother was not, but he was a wheeler-dealer sort who liked selling trees and often, as I recall, managed to pawn off more trees than most of the bona fide boy scouts. Jacob (I mean, Jim) always felt Jacob of old settled for far too little when he sold his hungry brother Esau that bowl of stew and only got a birthright for it. Jim would’ve held out for hard cash and then the birthright at the end as a balloon payment.

We’d lean the tree in the garage for a day or a few on its amputation-site stump in a bucket of water while it waited to be lit and glorified. Anchoring the tree in the stand was a chore. Jim and I would crawl under the scratchy boughs and slide around on our wood floor to turn each screw just the right amount. It was never straight the first time.

Then my 15-years-older sister, the unquestioned head honcho of the process, would ascend to perform the task of highest honor as she put on the lights (bubble lights, snowball lights, and all), a job in later years graciously bequeathed to me.

Then we would hang the ornaments, a tedious task but nothing like as bad as the final stage in the process: hanging the icicles.

I don’t see those long, thin, silvery strands of foil or plastic, those “icicles,” on trees much anymore. I hope never again to have to put them on one of mine.

According to my sister, they had to be hung with great care, one at a time. Ten million or so came in a box. You’d drag one out of the box and carefully place it over a tree branch. It was essential, my sister assured us, to start at the back near the trunk and make sure the icicle hung straight down on both sides of the branch. Straight down. No clumps. Which is why Jim’s preferred method of grabbing a paw-full of icicles and launching the whole wad in the general direction of the tree was sternly forbidden. No. One at a time. Until you froze there, died there, decayed there, and Christmas never came, and it was spring and you were still hanging icicles. One at a time.

I don’t know what we thought would happen—apart from sure death—if we didn’t hang the icicles exactly right. Would Santa’s sleigh suddenly crash in flight and the FAA later determine and publish for the whole world full of weeping giftless children to see that the cause was icing—not on the sleigh but improper tree icicling by two Shelburne boys at 125 N. Goliad, Amarillo, Texas, whose wanton and reckless disregard had killed Santa?

I’m sure we never did it “right.” But I remember wandering into the living room as a little lad clad in those great PJs that came complete with feet, lying down almost under the tree, looking up through its branches, and drinking in the beauty.

By God’s grace, Christmas trees don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Neither do lives.

 

 

 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.

 


Why Does God Attend Worship?

A number of years ago now, I took some of our family 70 miles down the road looking for a little dose of culture. We went to hear the symphony, and, with them, the man who’s arguably the best classical guitarist in the world. Christopher Parkening’s performance that evening reminded me of one of my own. No kidding.

The orchestra with which I performed was conducted by Mrs. Stevens, who was not only the head of the Music Department at Amarillo’s San Jacinto Elementary, she was the Music Department. I played the bells. We performed one evening for an elite group—the PTA. Mom and Dad, of course, attended.

Now, I ask you, why did they come? Because they were looking for a cultural experience? Probably not.

Because Mrs. Stevens was world-renowned as a conductor of pygmy orchestras? I don’t think so.

Because the guest soloist was a world-renowned bell player who toured elementary schools the world over and just happened to be their son playing in a limited engagement? No. I may have had a dozen notes. No solos.

No, Mom and Dad were not enamored with the notes or the way I played them. They weren’t in love with the music or the performance. They were in love with me. Which leads me to wonder.

When God’s people gather to worship him, why does God think it worthwhile to be “in their midst,” as he has promised?

This God is the Conductor who raises his baton to begin the “music of the spheres” and set the whole universe dancing with delight.

This is the God of Heaven where the streets are filled with the continual praise of great choirs of angelic hosts.

Is God present at worship because our music is so fine? Or our prayers so perfect? Or our preaching so inspiring?

Is God among us because he is so impressed with the way we worship?

My parents, in a sense, lowered themselves to come to an elementary school orchestra performance at a PTA meeting not because we were so good but because they loved me so much.

And our great God? He’s not with us because we’re so good at what we do, or because we or our group “do” worship better or more correctly than others of his people. He’s there in spite of the pitiful soul-crushing walls we create, not because of them. No, God is not there because we are so good, so right, so impressive. We are none of those things.

He’s there because we’re his children. Because he’s our Father. Because he loves us with deep and genuine love. And he knows that though our love for him is weak and imperfect, it, too, is real.

Why is God with us when we worship? Because of relationship far more than ritual. We’re not child prodigies wowing Heaven with the beauty of our worship. But we are our Father’s kids. And the God of all joy beams and his heart overflows yet again with love as we offer to him the praise that comes from love. As our hearts dance before him, his heart dances, too.

 

 

     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.

 


“You Must Read and Understand These Instructions”

I’m considering buying a new weed-eater. It’s an extravagant thought. The old one, older than five of my grandkids, is still working fine but taking longer on first start. My patience is wearing thin, but my memory is still good. I remember when I bought that machine.

It was also an extravagant purchase. Its predecessor was sputtering along just fine in two-cycle engine form, but a couple of my sons had just moved into a different house and needed weed-whacking equipment. In a gesture of paternal magnanimity, I donated the old weed-destroyer to the cause. I didn’t tell them that it will likely out-value anything else left in the estate for them when I’ve departed. But they seemed appreciative.

I ceremonially handed over the old weed-eater and straightway departed (in a less final sense) to procure a new one. The shopping trip was like all of my shopping trips. I wasted gas going to four stores to save money and ended up back at the first store and lined up to pay twice as much as I thought the item would cost.

When I got my shiny new weed-whacker home, I was tempted to fire it up just to check out the brand new thimble-sized engine, but it was midnight. I’d given my (mixed) gas can away, too, and couldn’t buy a new one to get the petrol cocktail mixed up (shaken, not stirred) until Monday. So I parked the new machine on the living room floor for the weekend and actually started reading the instructions.

Once I’d trimmed the two manuals down to the King’s English only, I was left with eighty-four pages of weed-eater literature. Only twenty-six pages counted as “instructions.” The lion’s share was the “safety manual.” It was evidently a vicious machine.

Of course, there was very little plot to the two-volume novel. Most of the pages were covered with lawyer droppings. Safety booklets will soon come, no doubt, attached to every nail you buy at your local hardware store. Restaurants will be including safety manuals with toothpicks, and toothpick manufacturers will be paying hefty fines since they knowingly sold their wares and conned us, poor victims that we are, into thinking toothpicks were safe.

But I read and learned . . .

The muffler would be hot. Good.

The State of California (which, safety labels assure us, can always be counted on to know so much more than other states) was concerned that my sucking in weed-eater exhaust could cause birth defects. (I’m relieved to report that my grandchildren are fine.)

The thing could amputate my fingers. I figured I’d have to be uncommonly determined to be fingerless, but I supposed it could happen.

It seemed that it would also be a bad idea to run it indoors, to use it to shorten power lines, or to operate it when drunk.

And so on.

I’m not sure I finished reading, partly because reading these manuals, I was warned, was not enough. I needed to “read and understand” all of the warnings. I doubted that I’d ever be able to honestly check off that last part.

I can only imagine the size of the manuals that must come with today’s weed-eaters. I see no evidence that common sense is on the upswing. And we have more lawyers.

The Maker of this world was kind enough to include a manual that we really should read and, yes, do our best to understand. He wrote it not to keep Heaven out of court, but to keep us out of trouble. But the main reason he wrote it was to point us not to the law but to the Savior.

 

 

     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.


Tripping Over a Logical Fallacy Can Cause Bruises

 

I don’t have a clue what the rules are now at most universities regarding graduate/teaching assistants. I do know that when I was working on a master’s degree and serving in that capacity, teaching assistants actually taught. A lot.

It was not unusual for me to teach three or more sections of English 101 (Freshman Composition) per semester. The departmental goal for English 101 was that each student write ten 500-word essays.

Somehow I managed to get through college and a graduate degree without taking a single math course, but I can tell you that if each of three classes had 20 students (we often started out with more), that translates into 600 essays per semester for the TA under my hat to grade. For obvious reasons, we didn’t always make it to the ten, but we got so close that my own spelling suffered from running in such bad company. I almost began to believe that “alot,” as in “My students used that non-word word alot,” was a word. As I recall, when I was sitting in the labor room with my wife as she was doing the work of getting our first child here, I was grading essays and/or working on my thesis until her groans became distracting.

English 101 students will drive a teacher to distraction/despair with spelling and grammar errors, but a big problem with many of those essays was not mechanical; it was a problem some of my fellow TAs and I tried to address with a unit on “Logical Fallacies.” (We meant breakdowns in logic, not fallacies that were logical.) Good writing not only needs to be free of grammar errors, it needs to make alot of sense alot (even most) of the time. (Oops.)

Logical fallacies abound. Whether we’re writing or not, we all bump into them or fall over them regularly. Once we learn to recognize a few, we’ll be a bit more wary and a lot more humble, even as we begin to see more of them lurking about than we’d ever dreamed existed. I’ll list a few below. (A Wikipedia article lists more than 100.)

Either/or sets up two extremes as the only possibilities when many others actually exist. “If we don’t elect Senator Bluster as president, the country is doomed.”

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this,” jumps to draw conclusions from coincidences. We chuckle about the rooster who noticed that the sun came up every day after he crowed. He developed serious neurosis, paranoia that he might oversleep and, at great inconvenience to the world, the sun would not come up because he forgot to crow. To assume that since many children who develop autism received vaccines, the vaccines cause autism is no more logical, but it is more dangerous.

Non sequitur, Latin for “it does not follow,” means that your conclusion does not necessarily logically follow your premise, as in, “If you hate this column, you are mean and ignorant.” (And here, I jump right into the ad hominem, “to the man” fallacy, too, by resorting to name-calling rather than rational discussion.

Oh, and don’t forget the fallacy fallacy. Reasoning for an argument may be fallacious, but that does not necessarily mean the conclusion is false. (Even a broken clock is . . .)

Jesus says that we are to love the Lord with “all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.” I’m not sure which is hardest, and I’d like to avoid the either/or fallacy, but I’ve not found the “mind” part to be the easiest.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my webpage 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.


When “War” Comes to Worship, All Sides Lose

I try to avoid ever firing any shots in what have been called the “worship wars.”

“Worship” and “war.” Those two words together, not held at arm’s length from each other by a conjunction, form a jarring contradiction.

We know what the Apostle Paul would say because we know what he did say in Philippians 4:2 to two squabbling gals named Euodia and Syntyche (who some wit has christened Odious and Soon-touchy). He doesn’t describe the “issue” or take sides. He just says, “Get along.” The mere fact that Christians were fussing was shameful, as out of place as a cow patty on a cheesecake. It still is.

Our Lord Jesus went to the cross, completely emptying himself, laying aside his own will, out of his love for his Father and us. How ludicrous, how deeply wrong, it is for those saved by his sacrifice to refuse to sacrifice their own rights—maybe even to shoulder the unbearable burden of singing a song or two that we might not like but that might very much bless someone else?

I wonder. In times of persecution, do people worry and fuss about such minutia? I wonder how long we could endure the real thing if our idea of suffering is to sing a song we don’t like or endure a service with the thermostat set a bit too high or too low for our personal comfort. (Oh, it’s impossible to ever get that one “right.”)

I do understand why some fine pastors I very much respect and some great churches have chosen to offer separate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, particularly when the whole congregation can’t fit into the building at the same time anyway. I’d likely do the same thing. But, ideally, I much prefer a “blended” worship where we sing a variety of styles and thereby inch up on something called sacrifice. Or love.

As the disparity between styles widens, though, I admit that “blended” is a challenge. “God of Our Fathers” cries out for an organ. “Kumbaya” equivalents, soundly Trinitarian (that’s good) with three hundred verses (fine for the first 150), need a guitar (and maybe a campfire). And the latest coolest Christian Luv Radio Top 40 or sorta sacred rap songs call for calisthenics, maybe some amazing riffs, and perhaps a good deal of other jumping about. It can be a tad jarring to go straight from some of these into others of these.

Yes, and I suppose church folks have always been like all folks. Everyone is somewhere on a continuum from dyed in the wool and pretty much calcified traditional (danger: ossified folks bend poorly and break easily) to folks burdened by carrying about a heavy load of coolness (danger: cool marches on, and we look silly chasing it). The fact that the former folks on one side of that continuum have usually paid the freight and are the reason the church exists perhaps should at least not be totally forgotten but never brandished like a club.

But the One who truly paid the price, the Reason the church exists, is Jesus. And if we ever catch ourselves fussing about worship, we’ve already lost the fight and are utterly defeated. Claiming to see better than our brothers and sisters in Christ’s family, we’ve already poked out one eye and are half-blind and stumbling; we’ve lost the focus of all worship, and we are denying the Cross. Then whether we’re doing so with a pipe organ, a cappella, or a heavy metal guitar makes precious little difference.

 

 

     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.


Strong Faith: How Badly Do We Really Want It?

If God exists and is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow suffering in the world he created?

Life’s biggest questions, the ones that truly matter, can be condensed into a few that can be counted on one hand. The question I’ve just asked is one of them. It, and the very few more in its league, are worth asking. I’m convinced that our God will help us face such questions in his strength if we really want his help.

But if we’re fat and sassy, dollar-blinded and bloated and quite comfy, swimming along in the warm stream of our society’s sea of selfishness . . . If, most of the time, pretty much our highest goal is to get through life with more and more stuff and not lose too many golf balls . . . Well, then we easily shove out of our consciousness the questions that matter.

Yes, but then one hope-withering medical test, one terribly sick child, one life-shaking tragedy is all it takes to toss us out of the hot tub and into very deep, cold, and turbulent waters indeed. Then the questions that really matter really matter, and easy answers and “throw-down,” “Facebook-faith,” TV-preacher platitudes will never weather the storm.

I hope you’re not in such a storm right now, but we don’t have to live long to know that we will all go through times that shake us to our core. Before the time of testing, it’s best to remember that strong faith cannot grow in a heartbeat. However badly I want a 50-year-old oak tree to shade me from oppressive heat, I won’t get it this afternoon by planting a seedling this morning. As G. K. Chesterton said, “No one ever grew a beard in moment of passion.” Some things just take time. Possessing faith that is strong and mature is one of those things.

Don’t misunderstand. You can sincerely give your life to the Lord in a heartbeat and your contrite heart will be accepted into the Father’s warm embrace. Even mustard-seed faith, Jesus said, can be real faith.

But if we think “baby faith” is all the faith God wants to build in us, and if we think genuinely trusting God is easy, we’re mistaken. For our faith to mature, we need to yield our wills to God and follow our Lord in practical ways. The Son worshiped the Father. He spent time in prayer. He was steeped in Scripture. He lay down his will, wrapped himself in a towel, washed the dirty feet of those who should have been washing his, and, because of his deep love for and trust in his Father, went to a cross.

If I want strong faith, I’ve got to walk the way of the cross. Can I carry a cross if I can’t even go to worship? How can I expect to grow in selfless, mature faith if I’m chafed by singing a song I don’t like in worship (but that might bless someone else)? More spiritual still, how strong is my faith if I won’t carry out the trash for my wife or switch off the TV to read our kids a Bible story?

God wants us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He’ll help us to grapple with hard questions and live through hard times. But for our hearts, minds, and souls to be strong and integrated, real relationship and growing faith is required—not to buy God’s favor; God’s people already have that. No, we need faith to help us through life’s storms. And the question is unavoidable: how badly do we really want it?

 

 

     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.


“The Word ‘Good’ Has Many Meanings”

“The word ‘good’ has many meanings,” writes G. K. Chesterton. “For example,” he continues, “if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

Certainly a true observation, as far as it goes. I, for one, would like to know more about the character of the fellow’s grandmother before rushing to judgment.

Nobody before or after Chesterton has done a better job of lining up words delightfully. Of course, were he to fire a good shot with the words above in today’s politically correct society, he’d bump into all sorts of problems, and not just with The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Grandmothers.

He transgresses immediately by using the term “man.” Though one would think that anyone passing third grade successfully would know that “man” in such a construction is more generic suffix than sexist offense, an “enlightened” editor today would undoubtedly want Chesterton to change “man” to “human” or “person,” lest the quote offend delicate ears. Never mind that such surgery would immediately render a pithy quote punch-less.

But let’s play with this. Please work with me a bit on putting away just for the moment any very appropriate concerns against grandmother abuse.

“Human” as a choice in this sentence is so atrocious as to be no choice at all. “If a human were to shoot his grandmother” not only, of necessity, brings in the always ungainly “his or her,” it brings up unhelpful questions about whether or not most Martians treat their grandmothers better than most humans do.

“Person” is better than “human” but still brings up the “his or her” thing along with difficulties related to the subjunctive mood and choices regarding “was” or “were.” Pretty soon, “their” will try to barge in, as it always does in today’s attempts at neutered writing, even as it wantonly wreaks subject-verb agreement havoc by pretending to be what it will never be: singular.

Sorry, but I’m thinking that if you surgically change “man” in this great quote to anything else, the patient (meaning the quotation) will not survive the operation. And, the grandmother’s character aside, we’ve not yet dealt at all with the modern debate over whether or not the guy is really nasty and messed up and mostly to be blamed or if the real culprit is his wicked gun.

It’s a tough situation. Reflecting on this great quotation moves me to sympathy not just for grandmothers but for all writers who increasingly face the choice between political correctness and writing that hasn’t had the life and even the grandma—I mean, the grammar—throttled out of it.

The crux of the quote, though, ain’t grammar; it’s goodness. And it’s not good at all that political correctness can so obfuscate a good point. For a good springboard to some very good discussion about what it means to be truly good, I refer you to Christ’s words (Luke 18:19): “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

A good shot with good words.

 

 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.


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