Tag Archives: mercy

“No Statute or Regulation Shall Be Enacted Into Law Unless…”

As I write this week’s weak column, Texans are one day away from the 2018 state primary election. I’m too late to add one more ill-fated proposition to the list of mostly D.O.A. propositions already on the ballot.

But I’d like to submit this one: “No statute or regulation shall be enacted into law unless two existing laws or regulations are rescinded, removed, deleted, trashed, shredded, deep-sixed, done away with, gone.”

I should’ve floated that idea to some political candidates while they were still in moon-promising mode. They’ve been pretty busy sending out mailings, littering the landscape with signs, and making television ads. Most of the latter require a big cowboy hat (cattle are optional), a pickup, a shotgun or three, a promise to out-conservative fake conservatives, and a pic of the family praying before a meal or heading to church—all sandwiched between vicious attack ads that should make a pagan blush. Most of these folks seem to think voters are idiots, and we voters have done precious little to disabuse them of the notion.

We may all lose, but some candidates will eventually win, and I wish the winners would consider the proposition I’ve mentioned. Why? Because having too many laws is the surest way to erode respect for the law. We do a lousy job even of trying to keep God’s Ten, but we’ve got so many laws now that even normal people (Donald and Hillary and special prosecutors by the boatload are not normal people) can’t get out of bed without breaking a law before breakfast. If your faith is in government, you may find this state of affairs reassuring; I do not.

I loved a recent Wall Street Journal commentary by attorney Mike Chase who has so far posted a thousand laws, one a day, on Twitter at @CrimeA-Day. He’ll never finish (he says that in 1982, the Department of Justice tried to count the total number of federal crimes and gave up), but reading these is a hoot, and here are a few.

It’s a federal crime to transport a toy torpedo bigger than 23mm in diameter.

It’s a federal crime (hereinafter IAFC) to sell “egg noodles” that aren’t ribbon-shaped.

IAFC for a hamster dealer to put a hamster on an airplane without enough for the afore-mentioned rodent to eat and drink during the flight.

IAFC to market as “wing drumettes” any bird part that is not the humerus of a poultry wing.

IAFC to sell antiperspirant that “lasts all day” unless it reduces armpit sweat by 20% over 24 hours.

IAFC to import honeybee semen if it’s not Australian, Bermudan, Canadian, French, British, New Zealand, or Swedish bee semen.

IAFC to engage in Canada goose population control by shooting geese from a parked car, but not if you’re missing one or both legs.

And so on, ad infinitum ad nauseam ad heehawingum.

I admit that human kingdoms need some laws, but the Lord Jesus has told us that in his kingdom, two are enough: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m thankful that Christ’s sacrifice means that, while his people are confessed law-breakers without a single self-justifiable leg to stand on, we’re forgiven sinners with two good legs to dance on as we praise God forever for his mercy and grace.


       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.


When Dust Returns to Dust, What Kind of Wealth Matters?

Wealth. How varied and strange are the uses of that word.

More often than not, when we use the word “wealth,” we’re talking about money, a necessary commodity, for sure. But measuring wealth is not as easy as it might seem. A boatload of financial wealth, if allowed to possess us, may amount to less than a nanoparticle of the wealth that matters, the sort that frees us. (Oh, and this is tricky. A grasping, greedy soul can be throttled by much or by little.)

Surely you don’t have to think long to call to mind some folks the world labels “successful” simply and only because they have money but who are utterly pathetic and appalling by any other standard. Wealthy, are they? Well.

If you have more dollars or dinars, more pesos or pounds, more shekels or shillings, more francs or marks or rupees or yen, than anyone else in the world, you will most certainly be called wealthy. Your life will be quite different from that of the poorest person on the planet—right up until one millisecond after both hearts stop and both souls are launched toward the only accounting that really matters.

But back in this world, some other accounting may actually continue for a bit.

The first spreadsheet will be a short one. “Amount of money dead filthy rich guy (or gal) or dead pitifully poor guy (or gal) takes to grave” will be zero. Naught. Zilch. Nada. May I press that truth home? The zero for deep pockets guy will look exactly the same as the zero for no pockets guy.

The heirs of our hypothetical not-breathing folks may be arranging for their bodily passage to putrefaction to be first class or coach, but it won’t matter a worm’s eyelash to the honoree whether he’s boxed in hand-waxed cedar (cushioned in comfort) or Amazon-recycled cardboard (stowed in a bag amidst those white packing “ghost farts”). Eventually, dust is dust is dust and pretty much just dust. Beautiful cemetery or pauper’s field, million-dollar mausoleum or a fish’s belly in the bottom of the sea, the location will matter not in the least to the deceased.

But another inventory and another sort of spreadsheet will be left behind in hearts that remain beating. Perhaps this inventory will be counted by tears of gratitude. By warm memories. By smiles. By a life well-lived. By a large soul that valued relationships far more than things and planted seeds of joy and love, mercy and trust, in all the good hearts it touched, seeds that will bear sweet fruit for generations to come.

In God’s economy, rich folks and poor folks and all the many more folks in between can all possess the wealth that truly matters and lasts beyond the grave. “Treasures in heaven” begin to be accumulated when we treasure what truly matters right here. If we’ve not given ourselves away to our Creator and to those we love before we leave, what we leave behind will only be dust.

It will matter not whether kings and queens attend our send-off. The sweet tear of a grandchild we taught to love the One who will bring us together again forever, and the “well done” of the Author of life who walked with us all of our life and receives us now, will be worth immeasurably more. Wealth indeed.


     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 Sets Christianity Apart? Grace!

Author Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference, scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs that set Christianity apart from other world religions.

As they debated some important possibilities, C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and he was told that they were asking what Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions might be. He answered, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Yancey continues, “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

We could never be saved by our own effort or by keeping any law, as St. Paul makes clear.

“We all [sinned], all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5, The Message).

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yes, and that’s a good sign! Real grace always sounds that way as it amazes those who receive it. Read the Gospels! You’ll find a lot of smiling, amazed people there. (Watch out for the Pharisees, though; they never smile. No surprise. Toxic religion never leaves its adherents anything to smile about.)

Real grace is always a little and maybe a lot scandalous. If no one thinks you’re too gracious, you’ve probably not felt and internalized enough of the grace of God yourself. If our churches aren’t regularly accused by some folks of being too gracious—too loose, too accepting, too free from law—that’s a very bad sign. It almost certainly means we don’t understand how much grace we’ve received and how rich is God’s supply. Read the Scriptures! The Good News, the real thing, the real Lord, has always scandalized people by the depth of his love and mercy.

If you’re God’s child, you don’t have to live a fearful, tentative life. Indeed, how dare you!? You don’t have to be careful lest you exhaust God’s amazing resources by being too loving, too gracious, too joyful, too free. God’s supply of love and grace, joy and freedom, is boundless!

You don’t have to live like the “one talent servant” in Christ’s parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Terrified that he might make some mistake and tick off his master (whom he misjudged completely), he made the worst mistake of all, not loving his master.

If we’re living lives cowering in fear, afraid to dance before our God because we might miss a step, we’re making the biggest mistake of all, not knowing and loving our Father as we should—the Father who continually amazes his children by the depth of his love and mercy, his grace and joy, and the genuine freedom that only he can give.


     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.

Repeat Regularly: “There Is One God; I Am Not Him”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” I opined, in an “Aw, shucks!” sort of feigned shame tone, as I tried to hide the weird contortions required to pat oneself on the back.

But twisted pride is one of perfectionism’s pernicious symptoms. Perfectionists like to think they are a cut above ordinary folks. We have, we think, higher standards, work with more diligence, and see more clearly than pretty much everyone else.

Granted, low standards, lazy workers, and the lousy outcomes produced by such are not hard to find. But those ills are never cured by perfectionists; if anything, they are made worse. Even folks who do an average to slightly above average job just want to give up under the incessant pressure of a perfectionist’s thumb; folks on the lower end of the scale won’t even try.

Perfectionism’s thinly-veiled arrogance, along with out-of-balance priorities, and deep (and sick) need to be in control, spells death to any sort of genuine contentment and pushes family, friends, and co-workers, away. Perfectionism sucks the air out of any room and throttles healthy relationships. And perfectionists are sadly unable to see perfectionism’s malignant imperfection.

Yes, its pride is stinky. But the real rot at its heart is the poison of fear, the soul-throttling terror of never being able to measure up, which leads to frantic effort—never ceasing, never resting, and, of course, never succeeding—to be completely in control.

In the final analysis, perfectionism is idolatry, and idolatry always fails. Since we are incapable of being in absolute control of our own lives—and were never meant to be—we fail at being our own gods. And since others were never meant to acknowledge us as their gods, we fail at forcing those around us to “have no other gods before us.” Bowing down to the true God is freeing; bowing down to a perfectionist is enslaving and utterly exhausting. Eventually, the slaves will revolt. The spouse has had it. The kids’ act out or get sick. The co-workers quit.

Based on miserable insecurity and fear, not on “high standards” as the perfectionist likes to suppose, perfectionism never works. “Good enough” will never be “good enough” under a perfectionist’s reign. No victimless malady, it will render both the sufferer and those who suffer the sufferer miserable.

And forget the myth that perfectionism is productive. Study after study has shown the truth one song-writer put into words: The way to write a really good song is to write a good many bad ones. Living life in a fear-based, frantic attempt to produce perfection really means not producing much at all (and certainly not enjoying the process).

Anne Lamott has written, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

For Christians, the truth is even more serious. Perfectionism is a denial of the gospel, a slap in the face of the Savior, as perfectionists live and act as if they need no saving at all, certainly not as much as ordinary folks. But to accept Christ’s sacrifice requires admitting our utter inability to save ourselves. It’s only when we confess our powerlessness, weakness, and imperfection that he enables us to throw off the fear, futility, and idolatry of perfectionism, to embrace his deep peace and joy and live truly gracious lives in the sure knowledge that we are saved by sheer mercy and grace.

Maybe I should delete all of the above and just write (and repeat each hour) an eight-word anti-perfectionism creed: There is one God. I am not Him.


     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.



Only Broken Disciples Find Grace to Be Whole

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” said the servant girl.

Peter, standing near the fire, startled, began backtracking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and slinked over out into the entryway.

But the girl is speaking again, not keeping her opinion to herself: “This fellow is one of them.” Again Peter denies it, but the meddlesome girl has struck the match, and the flames are spreading. Others chime in, “Of course, you’re one of them, for you’re a Galilean.”

Yes, a Galilean fisherman, to be exact. He certainly knew some knots, and he didn’t have to reach all that far back to pull up some “nautical” terms. He cursed and swore, “I do not know the man!”

When his Lord needed him the most, Rocky crumbled, and he thundered about the man he loved more than anyone else in the world, “I tell you, I don’t even know who this man is!”

Then the sound of a rooster crowing struck his ears for the second time, even as the words attesting to his cowardice hung in the air, and he was assailed by the memory of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “You will all deny me.”

As the whole bunch indignantly protested, one loud voice had rung out above the rest. “Lord,” Peter had opined, “even if all the rest of these deny you, I never will!”

Oh, be careful, Peter! Tread lightly, disciples then and now! We are never more dangerous or more in danger than when we’re feeling more “spiritual” than others nearby.

In that courtyard, Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him: “I tell you the truth, today—this very night—before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”

As the rooster’s raucous call echoed away, another sound replaced it. Peter’s own sobbing. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and the rock was crushed.

On the miserable scale of human foul-ups and faithlessness, this was no small failure.  But Christ does his best work not when we’re fat and sassy and so “spiritual” we have to tie rocks to our feet to keep from ascending prematurely. No, he lifts us up when we’re broken, and we know it.

After the resurrection, Peter and crew have gone back to fishing. The risen Lord has given them a miraculous catch and cooked breakfast for them.

Then Jesus gazes at Peter. Three times he asks, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Three denials by the fire in that wretched courtyard. Three affirmations by the campfire by the sea. And three times Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.” And, yes, Peter would.

Jesus loves this broken disciple far too much to let him wallow in his woundedness. Healed with a kind of wholeness he could never know when he was cocksure of his own strength, he was filled with new gratitude, new love, new wisdom, and mercy enough to share.

Now rolling down his cheeks are tears of joy as his Lord has lifted him higher than he could ever rise when he was sure he’d never fall.


You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And special news: An amazing, exciting, and inspirational story written by Capt. Red McDaniel, Scars and Stripes: The True Story of One Man’s Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam, has now been narrated by Curtis as an audiobook. You can purchase and download the book, or listen to free sample, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, or iTunes.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.

That God Loves Ordinary People Is Extraordinary Indeed!

God loves ordinary people, and that is one of the most amazing and hope-filled truths of the Christian faith.

It is a truth no other world religion is strong enough to handle. What kind of God would so lower himself?

It is a truth that religion of the self-centered, do-it-yourself, toxic type, as opposed to that which focuses on a real relationship with God, can hardly afford to consider lest its true colors show.

God loves ordinary people.

That frightening truth was Exhibit A in the Pharisees’ case against Jesus. Pharisees are hard people to make happy. As Jesus noted, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Matthew 11:18-19).

Maybe we still find the Lord’s choice of friends a bit troubling. We worry about his reputation.

We shouldn’t.

I don’t believe Christ was a glutton. But I’m glad he evidently enjoyed good food as one of God’s excellent gifts.

I don’t believe he was a drunkard, but I’m glad that when the time came to make wine, Christ made the best and shared it as a good gift from God.

I doubt it’s the Almighty who is in question when we catch ourselves being “nicer” or more scrupulous than God.

Did you hear about the old gentleman who, when he learned that Jesus turned water into wine, said, “Well, the Bible says he did, and so I believe it, but I’d have thought more of him if he hadn’t.” (Hmm. Maybe that’s why the hallmark of some misguided “religion” is that it spends so much time trying to turn wine back into water. To change the metaphor, it’s far more comfortable with cold tables of stone than with the living Spirit of God.)

Similarly, I suppose we can make allowances for Christ’s choice of companions. The Pharisees once scowled and pointed to a party that took place when Jesus was calling Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle. He had to go where Matthew was, right? Even if he wasn’t comfortable there, right?

Well, yes. So the Lord has a good excuse. We can be okay with Christ eating and drinking with “sinners” as long as he doesn’t enjoy it, right?

I could be wrong, but I’m afraid the truth is far more scandalous—and wonderful—than that. I’m afraid the Pharisees, wrong as they were, were right: God not only loves ordinary folks, he likes them! He actually prefers their company to that of the “high and holy.” What kind of God is that?!

If that is true, and if God is completely good, then genuine “goodness” is not the cold and scrupulous, thin and sterile, thing many folks, religious or not, have often thought it to be.

Maybe real goodness is not all about “Do this, but don’t do this,” the kind of rules that keep religious folks feeling religious and non-religious folks glad they aren’t religious.

Maybe the real purity and holiness God wants is something far deeper than either group thinks. Maybe real goodness is deep and full and rich, filled to the brim with joy and life, the very life of God, and a person truly in love with God is filled up with the wine of God’s genuine joy in a way that folks truly in love just with themselves as they center either on their “religion” or on their own earthly appetites and desires, can never be.


      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.


A Court Can Judge Actions, But Only God Judges Hearts

Being very suspicious of our own motives is wise. Not only are we not qualified to judge others, as we easily evaluate them too harshly, we often do a poor job of judging even ourselves, tending to give ourselves way too much slack. I’m trying to keep that in mind in what follows.

In the news recently was the report that someone painted a racial slur across the front gate of one of the homes of a famous athlete. For whatever difference it makes, which is none, this mansion is worth $21 million. Motive check: Is it possible I included that fact because I’m greedier or more covetous than I think I am? It’s more than possible that I can’t imagine a universe where anyone makes that much money for playing with a ball, even uncommonly well. But nobody should be spray-painting offensive words, graffiti, or anything else across anybody else’s home, shack, or mansion. Additional motive check: Does some insidious racism color the “hate crimes” opinion I’ll express below? I honestly don’t think so. (My dream presidential candidate is a woman of color.)

The sprayed-on word was a truly offensive racial epithet, a word that needs to go away forever. Of course, defacing someone’s property is already illegal, but I have two questions. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse morally? Yes! That this sort of poisonous atrocity happens is disgraceful. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse legally? It does. But, forgive me, I very much doubt that it should.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Though that train, legally speaking, is already far down the track, I think it’s heading for a wreck that will hurt us all.

I did not say I advocate hate. Far from it. I didn’t say this crime wasn’t odious. I certainly didn’t say that many crimes already prosecuted as hate crimes, many far worse than this one, aren’t repugnant.

But defacement of property, vandalism, assault, rape, murder, etc., are already illegal. Conviction carries penalties, as it should. The whole idea, though, of a class of crimes and penalties that are worse because the perpetrator was thinking mean, nasty, hateful, and horrible thoughts, is a move in a frightening direction.

Who determines what constitutes a mean, nasty thought? Citizens in the old Soviet Union could find themselves locked up as “insane” if they expressed thoughts the government found unsuitable. In the United States, for all of our history (except for these days on college campuses), the right to free speech (and thought) has been a dearly-held blessing of the highest order. I may think your “speech” is horrible, vulgar, disgusting, and/or idiotic, but I hope I would be willing to suffer for your right to hold that position, even as I think you or society will pay a high price for such gravely mistaken ideas.

Crimes are already illegal. No government—however good, bad, or despotic—deserves to be trusted with the power to decide what constitutes hateful thinking. The consequences of giving the state that power are more than a little frightening.

It’s the state’s job to punish wrongdoers for criminal acts, not for hatred in their hearts. We can be sure, though, that the latter will not go unpunished. We can trust our God, the final Judge. He knows all of our thoughts, all of our motives. And Jesus has warned us all (read the Sermon on the Mount) that hatred or lust or greed will twist, imprison, and kill our souls a long time before we commit a hate-motivated crime.


     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.


Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough


One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.



      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.

“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”



Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.


       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.

“Pride Goes Before Destruction,” Said a Very Wise Man


prideNo surprise, but the words of Scripture have just been validated yet again in my life.

I promise, I’d not been tempted upon the arrival of February, which is a full two weeks past the time most folks break their resolutions, to congratulate myself on keeping any of my New Year’s resolutions. You see, one New Year’s Day many years ago, I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions.

As tribute, no doubt, to my incredible self-discipline, may I say that, though I’ve faltered a time or two, that resolution I have religiously kept. It and I have dwelt together in complete harmony these many years.

But I was tempted nonetheless to be a bit haughty concerning one minor achievement thus far in this young year. I realized a day or two ago that, contrary to my usual practice of ruining checks in January (yeah, we still occasionally use the printed kind), by inscribing the wrong year on them, I’d not written 2016 on a single 2017 check.

Yes, but—and now please begin reciting with me Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,”—as I’d been patting myself on the back, I opened an email note from my fellow editor brother. Guess what?

Well, wait to guess for just a moment. I need to set up this confession just a bit more.

As a writer, editor, copy editor, and proofreader, I was taught the Eleventh Commandment with its three sub-points: Thou shalt edit, copy edit, and proofread.

In our modern world, the flurry of straight to the Ethernet ebook publishing only underscores that need. Lots of stuff gets “out there” way too quickly. Lots never should have been out there. But mediocre writing can be made almost passable by the Eleventh Commandment, good writing can be made better, and great writing can be made truly top notch.

And yet I’ve seen stuff that even some major houses publish in ebook form that, it seems, nobody bothered even to proofread. I’ve on occasion narrated a book for audio publication—and discovered that I must have been the first person ever to read through it. Typos, errors, bloopers all over the place. Not to mention that even a quick run-through by an editor could’ve tightened it up nicely. A pet peeve. Can you tell?

Okay. Please begin the recitation again. “Pride goes before destruction . . .”

That note from my brother? He just thought he’d mention that the January 2017 issue of the monthly devotional magazine we’ve been editing for decades made it through four proofreadings and nobody caught the fact that somebody (ahem!) set its date, page two, to proudly proclaim, “January 2016.” But, hey, I messed up no checks. Just several thousand magazines.

“. . . a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s possible that a resolution to be more humble might not be completely out of order.


      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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