Tag Archives: maturity

“Ready or Not, Welcome to Leadership and Center Stage”

“Preaching with you in the congregation made me nervous!” my younger friend laughed after worship a few years ago. Completely surprised, I laughed back: “Are you kidding?”

It was a rare Sunday for me, one when I was both away from my own pulpit and not preaching or singing elsewhere. My friend had done a great job preaching, and I don’t know any pastor whose work in a community I respect more. I’ve preached on occasions when I was nervous myself because I knew a veteran preacher/respected mentor was present that day. I knew that no one in the crowd would be more “for” me, but still . . . a bit daunting. I just couldn’t imagine having that effect on someone myself.

After the surprise came a feeling of humility and some trepidation. Why would anyone think I was much more than a wet-behind-the-ears apprentice in preaching, pastoral care, and church leadership?

And extend this to your own areas of life and expertise. Did it surprise you when younger colleagues started to look to you as a mentor? Or, though your kids have been on their own and doing well for a long time, isn’t it a little daunting to realize that they now look to you as you, not that long ago, looked to your own parents? “I want to ask Dad” fits well with my dad, G. B., but that it could be said regarding Curtis is still a shock to Curtis. Are you kidding? That’s above my pay grade, further up the ladder than my rung, isn’t it? (I still ache to call Dad.)

I’ve lived most of my life being able to count on and seek the wisdom of older and wiser folks who’ve paved the way for me. It’s always been good to know they were there.

I remember (forgive the political opinion) my sadness the first time when, though we still had a chance to elect a president from “the Greatest Generation,” we squandered a soon-lost-forever opportunity. I guess I wanted, felt like we needed, more than just a capable person in office. We kids needed a father, a role model of wisdom and maturity. I knew for sure my generation couldn’t be ready to lead. Anyway, how could it possibly be time?

At official graduations, we have ceremonies. But the kind of graduation I have in mind? At first, we almost miss the clues, but suddenly they come more rapidly and obviously, and we look around and realize—this is frightening—that we now occupy the role for others that our parents and mentors did for us.

The time really hasn’t come as quickly as it seems. We just could hardly imagine that it would ever come. We’ve always lived life feeling like we had a safety net. We knew theoretically that the time would come to grow up, but we had time, right? Even if we lurched toward something stupid, well, wiser, more seasoned, more mature adults were still there. They’d grown up fast, surviving a Great Depression, truly “saving the planet,” the free world, in World War II. If we messed up much, they’d pick us up and get us back on track.

Well, my generation almost forgot to grow up. “Greatest,” in any positive sense, will not be mentioned in the same paragraph with our bunch. Certainly, not “wisest.”

But here’s wisdom for any generation finding itself, like it or not, taking its turn to lead on center stage: trust the only One who doesn’t change and seek the wisdom he has promised to give to those who ask.

 

      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.


Mature “Little Children” Could Solve the Government Shutdown

As I write, it is Day 31 of the longest government shutdown in the history of our nation.

I tend to think that a much longer, much more permanent, shutdown of a good many regulation-spawning government bureaucracies would be about as detrimental to our nation as a cure for cancer would be to our health.

But life (and government) is neither that simple nor that fair. We actually need many of the services the government is presently not providing. Even if many of those duties could be far more efficiently provided by the private sector, well, when the gears grind to a halt, the sudden stop is jarring. And for workers whose paychecks are stuck in the non-functioning governmental gears, the shutdown is far worse than inconvenient.

I try not to push politics or a partisan position in this column, but if on occasion, I flirt with making folks on both extremes of an issue angry, I’m probably okay with that, so here goes.

I’m intensely frustrated with our nation’s mis-leaders on both sides of the immigration issue which is the excuse for this mess. They all are behaving like immature brats very much in need of a spanking.

Is there any good excuse for the unseemly cesspool in which so many of our politicians float? In a representative form of government, we are, ideally, supposed to elect our “betters,” people we esteem to be wiser, more mature, and with more experience and expertise than ourselves. We are supposed to be represented by folks who are capable, intelligent, well-educated, well-mannered, and who possess a higher than average level of wisdom, prudence, and integrity. Forgive the metaphor, but if the kids can’t trust the parents to behave better than selfish fools, the family is in trouble.

So the voter under my hat blames both sides. They all look terrible. They should have dealt wisely with immigration issues long ago. They should have been willing to reach fair and equitable, albeit imperfect, solutions long ago. And neither side should be allowed to accomplish by holding their breath and throwing tantrums what they could not accomplish by reasonable legislation.

If this goes on, I really think funds to help pay government employees should be deducted from the salaries of the “leading” politicians from both parties, those who have the power to break the stalemate.

I’d personally love to see Trump and Pelosi locked in a room, fed only water and crackers, with reasonable bathroom breaks, but otherwise not allowed to come out or sleep until they play nice and reach a compromise.

Or, maybe better, I’d refer the issue to binding arbitration by a non-partisan group of wise children. I’d suggest nine third-graders chosen from the student body of DeShazo Elementary School in Muleshoe, Texas. Let them choose a teacher they respect to lay before them, in thirty minutes, the main issues at hand. Give Trump and Pelosi twenty minutes each to make their cases. (Flip a coin to see who goes first.) Then let the kids deliberate and come up with a compromise. Third-graders understand “fair.” They recognize “stupid.” The know how to deal with whiners and bullies. I’ll wager they could come up with an equitable compromise, have the government running again before lunch, and not even miss recess.

Isaiah the prophet, and later, Jesus himself, pointed to the real peace found in God’s kingdom and rule, the time when “a little child shall lead them.” If our leaders find leading wisely in this nation too strenuous, perhaps they should be overruled by little children who could provide more mature leadership.

 

 

      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.


Trouble Comes with This World, But Drama Is Optional

NoDrama

Some people live life with their sirens running. They are either creating wrecks, running Code 3 toward emergencies, or chasing ambulances to be sure to have a front row seat to view the carnage. Right in your living room. If you allow it.

My question is, why would you? Offhand, can you think of any way that a siren wailing in your home or church or business can be conducive to peace, good sense, and harmony?

What I’m talking about, of course, is “drama.”

By virtue (more accurately, by the lack of virtue) of the sin-sick human condition and this fallen world, we will all at times face pain, suffering, trouble, and even tragedy. And, oh, yes, swimming in what is often a sea of selfishness means that we regularly paddle into relational challenges that would be difficult even if we were wise enough never to slop around in them like pigs in mud.

But there’s the key. Sorrows, troubles, difficulties—they come to us all. Jesus said it clearly: “In this world you will have trouble . . .” (John 16:33). But he went on to say, “Don’t be such sick fools that you relish wallowing in it.”

Well, that’s not exactly what he said. What he actually went on to say is, “But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” Don’t you agree that being “of good cheer” implies making a choice that rules out romping around in our troubles? Getting our jollies from splashing in the mud as we pull others in to join us?

Trouble is bad enough without drama, and embracing drama as we deal with difficulty is—we might as well admit it—a choice that tempts us all on some level. When we introduce drama, the spotlight’s focus shifts, for at least a while, to us. The more drama we create, the longer we own the stage.

It’s one thing to have to pass on bad news; it’s another to relish being the first to report it. It’s one thing to have to deal with difficulty; it’s another to egg it on, throw fuel on the fire, inject more poison with sharp tongues.

Face it. Some people stoke drama because they’re Satan-inspired to create chaos and destroy harmony. Others just get used to living in drama and become adrenalin junkies never completely happy without a crisis. They become perpetual victims or voyeurs of other victims. To be sure, some of the pain, sickness, difficulty, they deal with is real. But their reaction is over the top and drama is their dysfunctional constant, their abnormal normal, sucking everyone in their path into its vortex.

Our choice? To jump into the drama with them and blow into the whirlwind, or to set wise and real boundaries, distancing ourselves from the drama and those who would suck us into it. If we choose to embrace it, exacerbate it, marry it, tolerate it, or otherwise allow ourselves to be infected by it, our predictable misery will not still the storm.

Whoever said this spoke truth: “Drama does not just walk into our lives. Either we create it, invite it, or associate with it.”

Don’t do it! This loud world has sirens enough.

 

        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.

 


“What Are You Waiting For?”

What are you waiting for? The truth is that most of us spend the vast majority of our lives waiting for something.

Maybe it’s a birthday. A vacation. A holiday. A graduation. A wedding. An anniversary. A retirement.

Maybe it’s when the baby is finally born, or the student loan (good luck waiting that out!) or car or house or business loan is eventually paid off.

You waited—even as you were working all the necessary hours and many more—to achieve that hard-to-reach business goal or rank. You waited—even as you trained, practiced, sweated—to finally earn that coveted professional certification. It took all of the knowledge, skill, and experience you possessed—and more—for you to finally finish that massive multi-year project, but you did.

Maybe what you’re waiting for right now is not warm or fuzzy, not exciting at all, but you’re waiting nonetheless. Waiting for the chemotherapy to be over once and for all. Waiting for the divorce to be final and that corner turned. Waiting to be dismissed from rehab and praying to keep the freedom you’re working so hard to find.

Waiting can be a big part of the adventure on the journey toward a goal. It can be a sweet blessing. Waiting can be the cask in which the draft is aged and infused with layer upon layer of flavorful complexity. It can be precious time, essential time. Waiting can be filled with anxiety as each day, each hour, each moment seems to bring its own ominous question mark. It can be excruciating.

Scripture overflows with examples of waiting and wait-ers. We read the amazing story of the patriarch Joseph and see him waiting in a pit, waiting in a prison, waiting, unbeknownst to himself, to save his family (and many more), bless the whole world, and be a major link in fulfilling God’s promise to us all.

How many long years did David wait before he actually began to reign as king of Israel?

In a rather negative example, we see a surly prophet named Jonah waiting for three interminable days in the belly of an oversized fish and then waiting, scowling, grinching, sweating on the top of a hill hoping against hope that God might ditch mercy and scorch and destroy a city He seemed determine to save.

Nine months of waiting became for the Virgin Mary precious, invaluable time.

Jesus himself waited for thirty years to begin his primary ministry and, as it began, spent forty days in the wilderness being tested and, I think we can also say, waiting.

Saul of Tarsus was stopped in his tracks on his way to Damascus by Christ and a blinding light. But becoming Paul the apostle also entailed spending three years in Arabia, waiting, learning, being molded by his Lord; the waiting was essential to what he would become and do.

Whenever you find yourself navigating an “in-between” time, a time of waiting, well, you may find that it’s actually priceless time God can use to shape and hone your life into a far richer blessing than it could ever be apart from the waiting.

Pastor and author John Ortberg’s words are wise: “Who you become while you’re waiting is as important as what you’re waiting for.”

 

 

    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.

 


Christ’s Question to a Blind Man Is a Question to Us All

 

John 9 blind man

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus’ question in John 9 to a “man born blind” seems strange at first. The answer was, “Yes!” And it would, of course, be the sincere answer of many, then and now, should the Lord ask and the opportunity truly be offered.

But answering it might require much more honest, difficult soul-searching than we might expect. You see, the uncomfortable truth is that, for some of us at some times in our lives, we simply can’t afford to be healed. It may actually be the last thing we want.

Once this blind man was healed, good news! He no longer had to sit by the side of the road and beg. But more news: he no longer could, even if, for some reason, he wanted to.

In asking the question, Jesus is also asking this man to grapple with who he really is. The Healer is willing to heal him, if that is what he really wants. But Jesus is amazingly unwilling to force himself and his healing on anyone. The deep honesty Jesus asks this blind man to embrace is no easy thing.

Am I willing to be that honest myself? What if my blindness or disease is not so much physical as a “disabling” attitude—critical, grouchy, grinchy, selfish, hard, cynical, bitter, etc. Yes, it shrivels my soul, but maybe I’ve learned how to use it to control and manipulate the people around me—and they tiptoe around to let me and rarely call my hand. What if Jesus offered healing? Would I really want it?

Healing can be hard! I can’t help but wonder if this former blind man was ever tempted during incredibly dark times (even for him) to renounce his healing and pick up his beggar’s bowl? Was he ever tempted to go back to the begging he’d known rather than embrace the health that required so much and was at times so frightening because it was unknown?

I don’t know about him, but I know about me. I’m picking up my own “beggar’s bowl” every time in attitude or action I act as if I have a right to be treated as some sort of victim. I do not.

I’m in awe of the truly courageous people I see each day dealing with great difficulty—physically, emotionally, and otherwise—who refuse to see themselves as victims. But I too often see in myself—with far less reason—a surprising unwillingness to accept genuine healing and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t like what it says about me when I find myself expending great effort to be sure that nothing as demanding as something approaching wholeness and maturity is required of me.

For “healed” folks, the drama is over. Now the duties, tasks, activities required of healthy people are required of me. I can no longer center on my hard lot, playing for sympathy, controlling others by my supposed status as a perpetual “victim,” if that’s my temptation.

Not everyone truly physically or emotionally damaged has the opportunity for health the man in John 9 did. But do we see that in some ways Christ’s question comes to us all at a very deep level? “Do you want to be healed?”

The answer will shape our lives and the lives of those around us, some of whom are the innocents who pay a heavy price if we actually have a choice—and choose to remain perpetual “victims.”

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Suffering Is Often What Makes Growth Possible

 

suffering001

We know it, don’t we? We don’t like it, but we know it: we grow through suffering.

We dislike the accompanying book-end truth almost as badly: too much unbroken ease, comfort, and “success” constitute far more serious dangers to our souls than suffering and difficulty ever do.

Author Philip Yancey says that the amazing German theologian and pastor Helmut Thielicke was asked, years ago after an extensive tour of the United States, what he considered to be the greatest “defect” of Christians in America. His reply? “They have an inadequate view of suffering.”

Not just mistaken. Or wrong. Or misguided or naïve. Not just faulty or illogical. He might have truly said any of those things.

But the word he chose was “inadequate.” Just the right word, I think. Weak. Not up to the task. Not strong enough. Not able to stand the stress of any kind of real test.

A bridge may look fine. It may even look beautiful. But the only way to truly determine its strength is by testing it. Drive something heavy across it. See if it stands when gale-force winds lash it and waves beat against it. If its strength is illusory, you’ll soon know. If it is inadequate to a real test, that truth will soon be made obvious.

Now, real testing is never enjoyable. The tests that come to bridges, cultures, and individual lives are no fun at all. But come they do, and come they will.

In “The Lord’s Prayer,” we’re taught to pray simply for such earthly and non-glitzy concerns as our “daily bread” and, immediately, for what we need daily just as badly, the forgiveness we covet for ourselves and, inseparably linked to it, the mercy we desperately need to extend to others. Do we want mercy? The test comes in how willing we are to extend it.

But then comes another daily need, a recurring petition, “Lead us not into temptation.”

I’m told that perhaps a better rendering would be, “Lead us not into hard testing,” a petition I think many of us find ourselves praying with deeper poignancy the longer we live, particularly at those times when that cow’s already pretty much out of the barn. Times when, though we’ve no doubt the “testing” and trial could get even harder (with all of our hearts we pray for mercy that it won’t), we know for sure that it is already very, very hard.

Then with the psalmist we also pray earnestly, “In the shadow of your wings will I take refuge / until this time of trouble has gone by” (57:1). And we pray that, if the suffering must be endured, “Dear God, may we not miss the shaping, the molding, the tempering that your Spirit can work in our souls only when the fire is hot and the anvil hard.”

In his fine book (what a title!) Creative Suffering, the faith-full Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier writes, “That which disturbs our lives, puts us out, irritates us, annoys us, affects us, makes us suffer—severely sometimes—does not make us grow and develop, but does make growth and development possible, on condition, of course, that we are not destroyed by it . . .”

Talk about an “inconvenient truth.” But true nonetheless.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 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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