Tag Archives: peace

A Real Question: “How Much Is Happiness Worth?”

“Happiness is worth a lot to me,” a good friend, colleague, and mentor once told his boss as he made a decision that would lead to his leaving the company.

“Well, so what? Isn’t happiness worth a lot to everybody?” his boss replied.

“No,” my friend replied truthfully and I think with unusual wisdom, “it is not—not to everybody.”

I’ve thought of that exchange often. My friend’s words may mean more when I tell you that he is very motivated and one of the better businessmen I know.

I haven’t conducted any polls, scientific or otherwise, to shed light on the percentages involved, but I’d speculate that more people than not so “naturally” equate “bigger and more” with better and happier—a bigger title, a bigger salary, more responsibility, more prestige, more power, increased “upward mobility,” etc.—that they hardly even consider that “bigger and more” might not mean “happier.”

It may. Aside from the fact that none of us can actually “make” anybody happy and that people who really want to be unhappy are almost always really good at it, sometimes, though not nearly as often as we think, bigger and more actually is better.

I have known some remarkably unselfish and praiseworthy folks who seem absolutely gifted by God in leadership, business skill, organization-building, etc., who have honored God in everything they’ve done. And they seem happy to me.

But every bit as impressive to me are folks I know who have realized that, in this decision or that goal, if they didn’t believe God was calling them in one direction or the other, if it was more a career choice than a moral choice, more a geographical choice than a spiritual choice, they recognized that real happiness often lies in living “peaceful and quiet lives” and “being content with what you have.” I can hardly imagine two admonitions that would more squarely slap our sick society full across the face!

But what good, after all, is a bigger house if the job you had to take to pay for it means you’re never home?

A very common and oft-repeated error some people make, author Philip Gulley writes, is to “mistake contentment for stagnation.”

Trust the Lord for your true contentment. Do your job “as honoring the Lord.” And I suspect that more than a few opportunities will come your way for advancement.

But be sure to look them over carefully and prayerfully. Not every opportunity for advancement is an opportunity for increased happiness or real contentment or genuine service. Even if this world can’t begin to understand Christ’s words, you believe them: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Happy is the person who knows that more money, more power, more prestige does not necessarily mean more genuine happiness.

 

  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.

Advertisements

The Song of Christmas Is a Song of Hope

Hope. One of the most beautiful of words, hope is very near the heart of this season.

For me, the Christmas-singing season usually starts in earnest about the second week in December. I start listening to Christmas music sooner than that, and I’ll usually sing one or two Christmas programs earlier, but the sleigh really gets moving in that second week. And whenever I sing those songs, at the center of the music is hope.

I hope I won’t mess up by forgetting the words or, worse, playing fast and loose with the pitch. I hope nobody’s ears will begin bleeding before I’m done. I hope nobody will throw anything.

But the hope I have in mind is much deeper than that.

From the time I set up the equipment, climb onto the stool, and start filling the mike, it is hope itself that I really want to start flowing from the speakers. I know that sad songs have their place in this world. I’ve not forgotten that the writers of the Psalms at times wrote songs of lament.

Even as we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” we know Christ comes as our ransom; a heavy price will be paid. But we still sing his coming, and our tears are mixed with joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy.

You see, sad songs and hopeless songs are not the same. The “psalms of lament” always end on a note of hope: “We cry now, and for very good reasons. Hear us, O Lord! But we know where to bring our tears, and we know who will wipe them away. We know that joy comes in the morning, and we know from whence it comes!” In that is real hope, and genuine hope is always stronger and longer-lasting than meaninglessness and despair.

If you want to find a “singer” to continually wail about the ugliness of life or wallow as a victim and scream about life’s unfairness, spreading bile and accusation and even filth, you’ll need to find someone with no hope. Sadly, they’ll not be hard to find.

Hope is my reason to sing, and nothing is more hopeful, more joyful, more full of love, than the Child who entered our world in that tiny form at Bethlehem. If His light is within us, then every twinkle on every tree, or glimmer of every icicle, or sparkle of every child’s wide eyes bears witness to Bethlehem’s eternal joy.

Sometimes during a Christmas performance, I’ll introduce and sing some special songs, some (I hope) beautiful music perhaps new to my listeners’ ears to help them see yet other glimmers of His hope and joy, and that’s fun.

Sometimes I’ll talk to an audience about a song they’ve long known and tell them its story that they probably didn’t, and then I’ll sing it anew.

But often I think my favorite part is simply to sing in the background of the conversation and food and laughter the songs folks know and love, the songs that wrap softly around each of us, warm us up, and quietly say to our souls, “It’s back, that lovely Christmas hope, and if I’m not home quite yet, this music tells my soul, I’m closer, and I’m loved.”

And so I sing. You’d be surprised how easy it is to watch and revel in the hugs and smiles, laughter and warmth, hope and joy, to be thanking God for the blessing of filling these ears, and still be singing. The trick during those times is to let the music waft through unobtrusively, to sing mostly what they know and delight to welcome back, the old song-friends that hold hands with this Christmas and sweet Christmases before. They have a common Ancestor, these Christmases, singing His song of hope in His every son, every daughter.

 

 

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

 

 

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.


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.

 


Our Souls Need Real, Not Counterfeit, Rest

For many of us, one of the hardest things we ever do is doing nothing. Incredibly difficult, disciplining ourselves to find some regular time to do nothing is the best way to make the doings that we do, when the time is right for doing, worth something once the doing’s done. When we never really rest, we just end up done in, and much of the doing becomes dry dust bereft of real meaning.

If you found it difficult to make your way out of that last first paragraph, it’s because it’s its own frenetic illustration of our lives, bouncing so rapidly from one “doing” to the next, and the next, and the next, that it almost never stops. The Brits call a “period” at the end of a sentence a “full stop.” And an occasional full stop is exactly what we desperately need.

At least, our Creator seems to think so. He thought that a regular time to rest was important enough for the well-being of the humans he created in his image that he devoted one of the Ten Commandments to it. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Dallas Willard once observed that “the command is ‘Do No Work.’” What that means, he says, is as simple as it is difficult: “Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing.” And, knowing us well, he says, “Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.” (And texting!)

Oh, but we do jerk. We do squirm. And we have a very hard time just “making space” even for a few moments.

What is “urgent” crowds out the truly important. (How many texts do you get in a day that  deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word “important”?)

What is loud floods our ears continually and drowns out the silence that can fill our souls with meaning if we just stop long enough to let it in.

What is garish and glitzy blasts our eyes with counterfeit color and flash-blinds us to the real beauty and joy we could see all around us if we’d just be still long enough (and unglue our eyes from our screens long enough) to look around and see it. But most of the time we’re moving so fast with our thumbs or our feet that life itself becomes a dreary blur.

I think it was Dallas Willard again who commented that rest and diversion are not the same things. We all enjoy some occasional diversion. A “run fast and play hard” vacation at times is fine, but don’t be surprised when you come home more tired than when you left, and your soul is still hungering for some real rest.

Living life continually at high speeds is unsafe. Wrecks happen and people get hurt. Relationships suffer as we bump into each other and crash into solid objects like exhaustion and reality. We weren’t made to run this fast, this continually.

And so our bodies, our minds, and the objects and people we bump into often end up forcing us to stop, whether we like it or not. I wonder how much depression, migraines, gut maladies—and on the list goes—are really our bodies/minds saying, “You won’t stop on your own, fool? Pull over. I bet I can stop you for a while.”

As always, our Creator is telling us the truth. Our souls desperately need some genuine rest.

 

 

     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.


Thinking About Thinking Can Be Difficult

I’ve been trying to do some thinking—which is harder than I thought. I’ve tried it a few times before, but what’s made this latest attempt particularly difficult is that I’ve been trying to think about thinking.

This is Alan Jacobs’ fault. A Baylor University professor, Dr. Jacobs has recently written a book entitled How To Think. I figured he wrote it because as a college professor grading thousands of student papers, he sees firsthand how rare it is for real thinking to occur. But a better clue to the book’s purpose is its subtitle: “A Survival Guide for a World at Odds.”

You don’t have to think about it much to realize that lots of us don’t think much. But almost all of us think that folks who disagree with us socially, politically, religiously, etc., are folks who don’t think much at all—or at least not very well. It turns out that we have more in common with those folks than we think: none of us think enough about trying to recognize even the iceberg’s tip of the biases we all bring with us to our own thinking.

Jacobs has a name, by the way, for “those folks.” He calls them “repugnant cultural others” or RCOs, for short. We all have RCOs, and we all are RCOs for somebody else.

Here’s the rub. We don’t like those “other” folks. We actually do find them pretty repugnant. It doesn’t take long to think about the way hard-line Republicans feel about dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, for example. Then pick out any of a jillion other groups or issues and, well, there you have it.

We don’t understand those folks; we don’t like those people. We don’t plan to understand those folks; we don’t plan to like those people. Which means we almost always succeed in our plan. This all means, of course, that we don’t know each other, and we don’t intend to. Knowing each other just a little, we might like each other even less, but . . . well, we might be surprised to find that we actually do share a few likes/dislikes. Chocolate, or something.

Sadly, disastrously for any kind of dialogue, we listen to social or other foes for about two seconds before in our social media-ravaged minds, we hit Like or Dislike and start mentally (or actually) tweeting. Jacobs recommends that we listen to each other for a few minutes, all the while being vigilantly on our guard lest we immediately enter “Refutation Mode.” That’s when we quit listening and start formulating our own arguments. Then he suggests waiting for almost an eternity—five minutes (twenty-four hours is better)—before beginning an assessment of the other person’s opinion.

By the way, true and false are real deals. Some other folks’ convictions really are grounded in truth; some are truly false. Yes, and the same is true in the mirror. But we’ll come a lot closer to learning something when we realize that we all have a lot to learn—particularly from folks we’d love to never listen to.

If we don’t think we have any biases that at times foul up our own thinking, Jacobs suggests a quick perusal of a Wikipedia article, “List of Cognitive Biases.” It is, as he warns, depressing to see how seriously affected our thinking is by biases that have almost nothing to do with the issue at hand. Oh, we still may be correct on the issue. But being aware of our tendency to be biased can produce a couple of real blessings: better thinking and deepening humility. Both make for fewer rifts and better relationships.

Hmm. It seems that I remember Jesus telling us to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. And didn’t St. James say something about being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19)? I’m thinking that’s wise counsel.

 

     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.


“Short Words Are Best” and Three Are Best of All

“Short words are best,” asserted Winston Churchill, “and the old words when short are best of all.”

So may I suggest three—very short and very old which when lined up and strung together are the best three that could possibly be.

GOD IS LOVE.

These words are chiseled into the rock, woven into the fabric, of the universe. More than that, if anything could be more, they are living and implanted by the Author of life into its every cell, resonating in every breath and heartbeat. How could we not feel the life of those three short words pulsing all around us? Ah, perhaps in part because they are so much around us that we live in them and swim in them like fish enlivened by but largely oblivious to the very thing that gives them life.

God is love.

Note that in this short, old, and every morning new, equational sentence, the verb, the multiplier, and the fulcrum is IS, to BE. Yes, eternally. And, yes, of course, the “great I AM” will always be and will always be exactly what He always is, love.

Those three words mean that as long as our Father wills the universe to be, the stars to twinkle, the worlds to spin—if packed in every grain of sand on every sea-washed beach was a million years and all of those mini-mega-grains were stretched across creation at attention in single sand-soldier file—the dance of the cosmos, the symphony of space, and the music of the spheres, will still play on because God is GOD, and God always IS, and God will always be LOVE.

The order of the short word-cars on this magnificent train matters immensely. “God is love” is a breathtaking stream flowing with the life of the Creator and wash-singing, joy-splashing, over every rock and crevasse of the universe. “Love is god” is an idolatrous sludge defiling its worshipers and leaving a black trail of death, desolation, and the tears of despairing children in its sad and slimy wake. The first sings with the life of the Creator; the latter stagnates and festers in the stench of death-ridden darkness.

And, yes, in a fallen, sin-sick, and sadly twisted world, darkness is real and too often seems utterly pervasive. But no eclipse is forever. The sun’s corona glows around the blackness, impatient to blaze again unfettered, and we have the promise of Eden’s Creator that one day unending joy will again be the watchword of the universe. The first Adam fell, and we see the wreckage and the pain, but Adam’s word is not the last.

Because of the three short words that find their fruition, culmination, and crowning glory in the one Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Does it sometimes, even often, seem unbearably dark? One Word “shines in the darkness” and will banish it forever, all because of the three short words: God is love.

 

     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.


Storms on the Sea of Galilee and in Robert Lee, Texas

 

“Quiet! Be still!”

Those words from Christ did the job that day in the midst of the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4). Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when his terrified disciples had disturbed his repose.

“Master,” even the seasoned seamen had opined, “don’t you care that we’re about to head to the bottom and drown?”

It certainly sounds as if the Lord was not particularly pleased at being roused. His question for the disciples: “Don’t you have any faith at all?” (The Message).

And to the wind and the waves, he casts a stern gaze, as if commanding an unruly child, “Enough! Be still!”

If Christ had been a supposedly enlightened modern parent, oblivious to the fact that a properly and lovingly administered spanking in the face of willful defiance is not even in the same universe as child abuse, and unaware that much closer to real abuse for parent, child, and everyone else unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, is the common situation where the parent rarely expects to be obeyed, if at all, until the parents have “reasoned” the child, themselves, and everyone around them into a truly dangerous state of utter frustration and exhaustion . . . Well, I suspect the stormy sea would still be tossing and the awful wind still roaring, the boat long since at the bottom of the sea and all aboard drowned but thankful for finally finding some blessed relief.

But the elements argued not at all with their Creator. The storm was immediately stilled, and the disciples were immediately amazed: “Who is this? The wind and the sea at his beck and call!” (The Message).

For a couple of days this week I’ve been about as far away from the Sea of Galilee as it’s possible to be. The only body of water nearby is Spence Reservoir which in the last few years has managed to get from less than 1% “full” (which is pretty darn close to empty) to being now, I think, at a staggering 14% full (86% empty). A disciple, or anybody else, wanting to put a boat out on that lake today will find it a challenge, the forlorn boat docks bone dry and about a day’s journey from anything wet. I’m sure you could still drown in the lake, but you’d have to be pretty serious about it.

My brothers and I, spending a few days at my grandparents’ old   home place in Robert Lee, Texas, have dealt this week with a rare but frustrating “stormy” situation. Dead dry but maddeningly constant and raging, crazily high winds have for two days just about blown us off the acreage. We’re all pastors. My estimation of these fraternal colleagues would have increased immensely if even one of them could have stepped outside, looked up, sternly pronounced, “Enough! Stop it!” and achieved some success. Alas, none of these “clout-less” clergymen even tried.

I’m heading home. It’s finally a beautiful day. The wind has tired out and shut up. High time.

In the midst of storms it’s good to remember that one day the Lord of the universe will command and all tears, all fears, all storms will be over. Finally and forever. The  Cross says our Creator has the clout to get it done.

 

 

    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.


What Does Christmas Really Mean?

 

16DCC-Church-Christmas 2014-08

“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings,” writes Henri Nouwen. “Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.”

Christmas is choosing for a change to take a look through the right end of the telescope and thrilling to the sight of God’s work written large rather than cringing before a universe shrunken, shriveled, and constricted, bounded on all sides by the nearsighted view of mortals almost as blind and dull as me.

Christmas means that the real question is not, “What must I do to be saved?” Not such a bad question for a jailer back in Philippi scared stiff about losing his head because of almost losing his prisoners (Acts 16). But the far better question for me is, “What has God already done to save me?” Christmas means finding that answer all wrapped up in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Christmas means bringing the most precious of gifts to the Baby King not to enrich or impress him or add to the net worth of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who gives me the gift of my every breath, but simply because I love him and want to joyfully place before him the best that I have.

Christmas means finding a fleeting moment of sanity when I’m less full of myself and more filled with Heaven as I focus not on me but on the God of all life and joy.

Christmas means that instead of trying to save humanity theoretically through my unceasingly serious efforts, I sit down with one or two giggling and very specific pint-size children or grandchildren and tell a story about how once upon a specific time in Bethlehem a star twinkled and angels sang, and then I hum them to sleep with “Silent Night.”

If I’ve got Christmas right and know the real story, then Christmas also means I’m free to laugh with the little ones and tell them old new stories about how Scrooges get over taking themselves too seriously and what happens on “The Night Before Christmas.”

Christmas, for me, is realizing that the wonderful writer G. K. Chesterton discovered something as important as the law of gravity when he wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” It was through pride, he wrote, that Satan fell, and “the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.” Christmas means that sugar plums always win over sneers, that the deadly self-serious always crash and burn, and that angels aren’t the only ones lifted into flight by Joy.

Christmas means that though you may get a tiresome tax form in January, all you have to do is look up on a Yuletide night to see that Bethlehem always beats Caesar and that the twinkling tinsel of Heaven’s stars all point forever to the One brightest, the One eternal.

 

      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.


Election 2016 Is Finally Over! Now What?

 

election-2016-3

Wow. Like it or loathe it, what happened on Election Day 2016 was one of the most amazing events in America’s not-really-very-long-yet history.

Long before November 8, this election cycle was feeling agonizingly lengthy–yea, verily, almost eternal–and things were shaping up, well, interestingly, to say the least.

Once we muddled through the conventions, more than a few folks across the political spectrum found themselves fervently wishing that “none of the above” was a valid ballot choice. Lots of folks felt that the presidential options being offered were decidedly non-presidential, even appalling, a real choice but one on the level of choosing between a root canal or a rectal exam. Not a choice likely to bring much joy.

Voting is an incredible privilege. But it’s not fun to feel like pushing a button or coloring in an oval for either candidate would necessitate some serious finger scrubbing or maybe even amputation to remove the resulting stain. More than a few folks left the voting booth sad and angry that a great nation could be offered such a rotten choice.

Real respect and trust for the candidates was at a record low for a record high number of voters. In the days leading up to the election, one leading presidential candidate was being FBI-investigated again for, at best, a serious lapse in judgement and, at worst, a criminal act. And the other candidate? Well, when his running mate (both running mates were rated far more favorably than their candidates) wasn’t hiding in embarrassment, he made a comment about this flawed but “good” man, and columnist George Will wryly asked, “What would a bad man look like?”

Time marched on. Election Day came. And just when it seemed that one candidate would be justified in the measuring the White House for new drapes, and the other would have to settle for life in a tower and not in a white mansion, . . . well, you know what happened. I’m still sleep-deprived from watching it unfold–and it “unfolded” down through the “down ballot” races, too.

It’s still unfolding. You can pick from a long list of adjectives to describe it, but “fascinating” is one. Evidently many Americans, most of us in one way or another, are just fed up and ready, politically speaking, to light a match to the whole thing.

It is, however, a very good idea to remember that if you burn something down, you have a responsibility to build something better in its place. However we voted, the election is over. Though I absolutely affirm the right of anyone to peacefully make their opinion known, I’ve never felt a need to march in protest if my candidate didn’t win. It’s over.

It is a good time, on all sides, for some humility. And grace. And the wisdom and civility to talk to and try to hear those with whom we disagree. I think I saw in Donald Trump’s face during his acceptance speech something that might almost have been sincere humility. A weight much heavier than Trump Tower has just been placed on his shoulders. I pray for wisdom, for wise advisers, for humility, and grace. The kind that sort of weight might produce.

All Americans should pray that our new president will do well. For Christians, praying for him is not just a good thing, it’s a command.

I thought it was nice to see our soon-to-be president hosted in the White House by our present president. It felt good that they were civil. The kids like it when the parents quit fighting and actually talk. I think our Father, our King, likes it, too.

 

       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.


So What’s Your Contentment Number?

 

IMG_4646

One to ten scale. One, terrible; ten, incredibly good. Here’s the question: In general, in your whole life, how content are you?

This is not a trick question. The first number that pops into your head is almost certainly the “right” one. Stop to think about this too long and you’ll mess it up. So . . . what’s your contentment number?

Play it close to the vest, if you wish. Your number is yours. I might tell you mine, if you ask; I might not. But I’m pretty sure I know one apostle’s “number.”

“I’ve learned by now,” he basically said, “to be quite content whatever my circumstances. . . . Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Phil. 4, The Message).

The Apostle Paul would say, “Ten! I am a completely contented man, and it’s all because of Christ.” Wow!

Most of the time, I think I score pretty high. But it bugs me that I’ve wasted any time being discontent. I have no good excuse. Neither, by the way, does anyone else, though many, many folks have far better excuses than I do.

The hard fact is this—I don’t make the rules here, or I’d probably be tempted to ease up on this one—the poorest, most genuinely downtrodden, picked on, unfairly treated, sad soul you ever met, doesn’t get a pass on this, a waiver authorizing life as a “malcontent,” a “person characterized by being discontent.”

In this fallen world, lots that is bad, unfair, terrible, rotten, and not right, happens. In Scripture, I find many places where God looks at humans with mercy, compassion, and love. But not a single verse where God tells anyone that it’s okay to live with a chip on their shoulder, that in such an extreme case, discontentment makes perfect sense. I can find plenty of places where grumbling is clearly shown in God’s view to be far worse than a mistake; it’s a sin—even a capital crime.

God’s will for us—we may be sure of this—is that we live lives characterized by contentment rooted not in circumstances but in Him. When your digestion isn’t all that good and your back hurts. When your hair is turning gray and your body is getting old.

When your teenager is driving you crazy and may even have broken your heart. When your boss hasn’t given you or anyone else a real compliment since the Truman administration.

When your bills are coming in more regularly than your paycheck which is effectively shrinking. When the newest car in your fleet should be driven straight to a dumpster.

When the company where you’ve worked for twenty years has just been bought and, in the midst of their “Don’t worry! Just work harder and be happy” scripted pep talks, they just laid off one of your friends six months before his retirement, and you’re probably next.

I told you, I don’t make the rules. Nor did I say that I’m even close to being good at this myself. But when the Apostle Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18), it really is the Holy Spirit’s recipe for our highest good. I didn’t say it was easy.

And I’m not telling you my number just yet.

 

 

   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.


%d bloggers like this: