Tag Archives: prayer

“I Wish My Smart Phones Were a Little Smarter”

I wish my phones were a little smarter—both the smart phone that lives in my pocket and is too often screwed into my ear, and the landline phone whose cordless babies are strewn all over our house.

Both phones are pretty amazing. The one in my pocket will do math calculations, connect to the Internet, check my email, give me compass headings and altitude, show me star constellations and planet positions, scan barcodes and QR codes, analyze Wi-Fi signals, take and edit pictures, and serve as a remote control for my television.

It will let me shop on Amazon, read Kindle books, listen to Audible audio books, serve as a GPS, play movies (sad as the little screen is for a big screen flick), keep ten tons of contact info, help me keep in touch with social media (if I’m dumb or addicted enough to want to be more in touch with the foolishness on social media than I already am), keep memos for me, play music (pretty underwhelming on its teeninsy speaker), serve as a dictionary for me to look up words like “teeninsy,” help me check snow depth and quality at selected ski areas, serve as an electronic Bible with about 1,045 versions, and hook me up with daily Scriptures and prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.

That phone will take my pulse and blood pressure (I think it’s mostly guessing at the latter), scan documents (fairly poorly), serve as a virtual reality computer (with goggles attached), become a flashlight, keep my calendar, schedule, and project times, become a small whiteboard, morph into a metronome, make a stab at helping me write songs, keep photos and records of business and other receipts, record voices, give me the weather, identify birds and plants (pretty poorly), give me guitar chords, tune my guitar, let me play a staggering variety of games from flying F16s to shooting turkeys and birds with bad attitudes, and even “flip a coin” for me (a “decision roulette wheel”) if my wife and I or a grandchild or two are having a hard time picking a restaurant.

If I let it, it will also do me the questionable service of being sure I’m never fully present at a family meal or gathering because I’m playing with my electronic tether and phubbing (phone snubbing) the flesh-and-blood folks in my vicinity.

My smartest phone is smart, for sure; if I were smarter, maybe I could figure out if I own it or if it owns me. Smart or not, it or its owner often displays shockingly bad manners and almost no discipline at all.

It won’t yet brush my teeth, install piercings, or remove tattoos (surely the hottest dermatological business opportunity on the horizon). It talks too much, but it is nonetheless pretty darn smart.

Oh, and it will also make and receive calls and texts. Even some that matter.

But, I repeat, my phones need to be smarter. I live on the edge. I mean, on the edge of a time zone and border. I’ve found the right settings, but they won’t stay set: my smart phone is not smart enough to remember what time zone it lives in. And now my new cordless landline phone is having the same dumb problem.

In the midst of all of this smart technology, the most amazing avenue of communication is not just smart, it’s also wise, and it’s universally available and completely free with a great signal.

It’s called prayer.

 

      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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“I Will Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills”

 

Something about the mountains my soul needs regularly and loves always. There’s just something about gaining altitude, heading up!

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills,” writes the psalmist as he beautifully affirms that all of his “help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121).

Reading the Gospels, I feel some sweet altitudinal affirmation when I read about Jesus “going up on the mountainside” to pray. Of course, we can pray and receive strength from our Father at any and all altitudes. But “up” seems a particularly good direction to go for the strength needed to deal with life back “down there.”

It’s no accident that it was up on a “high mountain” that Jesus was “transfigured” before the wide eyes of Peter, James, and John as that clear, crisp mountain air blazed with God’s glory.

What’s really needed, of course, is for us to ask God to help us live with our eyes open. But life just seems to run a lot better when our eyes are pointed in an upward direction.

Even in the muck and the mire of a sin-sick and fallen world, if we can find the strength to look up in the midst of the darkness, we see God’s stars, and their silvery light spells hope.

When our souls are oppressed by the weight of 24-hour news, much of it bad (and at least 23 hours more than we need), if we’ll just wash our hearts out with beautiful music, we’ll find that music can be God’s blessing to lift us up, if only for a few moments, to a much higher, more beautiful place.

When we’re disappointed and hurt by human failures—not least, our own—and we’re feeling bent over under the accumulated weight of the weakness that has appalled us yet again, often that’s exactly when God’s Spirit can use our bending to be the first step toward our bowing. Then in worship our eyes are lifted up to the sinless One dying to carry all of our sins—past, present, and future—away from us forever.

To accept that sacrifice and live in the light of that truth is blessing and uplift indeed, in the highlands, the lowlands, or the plains.

But I find myself especially “lifted up” and thankful to have opened my eyes in the mountains on this particular morning, the start of almost a week in the hills. And it’s easy for me to echo the words of John Muir: “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”

Yes, the mountain peaks seem to point up to God like the spires of a cathedral.

The majesty of the mountains reminds us of the majesty of God.

The seemingly timeless face of a mountain reminds us of the timeless permanence of God.

The enormity of the mountain reminds us of the vastness of God.

The awesome power of the mountain reminds us of the unshakeable strength of God.

Yes, indeed, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.”

 

      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 Hard-to-Spell Prophet Points to Hard-to-Beat Faith

 

So, tell me, have you read Habakkuk lately?

You know, in the Bible. The Old Testament. One of the prophets.

The English major part of me has paid attention to this prophet only rarely and then only to try to remember if his name, which sounds vaguely like a variety of something legal in Colorado but federally frowned upon, includes two Bs and two Ks or one B and three Ks.

It’s the latter. Like the World War I vintage song I remember singing around the campfire with the Boy Scouts: “K-k-k Katy, beautiful Katy, / You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore…”

That song was a run-up to my still-favorite-Boy-Scout-song we crooned about Dutchman Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Its best line: “All the neighbors’ cats and dogs / will never more be seen; / they’ll all be ground to sausages / in Johnny Verbeck’s machine.”

But I digress. (Ya think?)

When the Bible major part of me read that prophet’s “book” years ago, I was rather surprised—and then awed by Habbakuk’s—I mean, Habakkuk’s—incredible, and unfailingly honest, faith. I’d not really spent much time in the Psalms, or, for that matter, the other prophets, or grappled enough with the nature of real faith. I still thought genuine faith was mostly unquestioning, always serene, content, and nice. Habakkuk put the lie to that nonsense. (Read the prophet’s “book.” Three chapters short, it’ll take less time to read than a Reader’s Digest article. And by all means, read it in a modern translation.)

You’ll quickly notice that Habakkuk is not a happy camper. First, he’s intensely frustrated that God seems slow to see his nation’s situation, hear his prayers, and do something. Habakkuk is appalled at his nation’s (Judah’s) sinfulness and is pleading with God to come and bring justice. For a long time, no answer. But then…

Oh, but then God answers. And Habakkuk hates the answer. Yes, the Lord says, I’ve seen the rampant wickedness and injustice, and I intend to deal with it decisively with the kind of eye-popping punishment that will cause the whole world to take notice and be appalled. Here’s how: I’m sending the Babylonians, the fiercest pagan army in the world, to be my whip and wreak havoc. (The Babylonians are about to run Judah right through Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Only worse.)

“But, Lord,” Habakkuk complains, “how can you do this? Those idolatrous cutthroats, those bloodthirsty Babylonians, are far worse even than my terribly wicked nation! How is this fair?”

And God answers. Just wait, Habakkuk. Justice and mercy will both prevail. Just wait until the end of the story. This is not the end. Trust me. And wait.

Waiting is the hard part. Waiting in those many times when God seems silent… Waiting in those times when, well, if this is God’s answer, we might have preferred silence.

Habakkuk makes the choice of real faith, faith with its eyes open: God is God, and I am his. Come what may, I will trust him.

“Even if the sheep die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3).

 

        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.

 


“Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord!”

 

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It’s amazing how often we can find ourselves within the pages of the biblical Book of Psalms. Consider Psalm 130.

I hope we’re not in this psalmist’s sandals often, but anyone who has lived very long can empathize with him. Hurting and almost hopeless, he writes, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” And then he reveals something about the nature of this fallen world, the nature of needy humans, and the nature of our mighty and merciful God.

The rendering in The Message well paints the picture: “Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cries for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.”

A Latin term has at times served as a title for this psalm: De Profundis. Something that is “profound” is deep, and the word used for “depths” here has to do with deep waters.

The psalmist is saying, “I’m in trouble! I’m sinking in the deep waters. I’m headed down into dark oblivion! I can’t get myself out! Dear God, help!”

When you’re going down, it’s not a time for polite words: “If you don’t mind, would you help me, please? Ever so sorry to be a bother, but I really believe that I may be drowning.”

In Uganda, in 2007, my wife and I visited our sons who were then in Uganda, and son Joshua and I went rafting down the Nile. We had great guides, and most of the trip was incredibly beautiful. But part of the descent was through what has been called “five of the greatest kilometers of big volume white water on the planet.” (That famous section is lost now, submerged under waters piled up behind the new—in 2012—Bujagali Dam. I’m so glad we rafted it when we did.)

As we came to the Class 5 rapid named Silverback, we knew we’d be tossed out of the raft—yet again. But we wanted to ride it as long as we could. Outside the boat in that class of white water it is surprisingly difficult to get your breath even if you’re on the surface—and we soon weren’t. Cast into the depths and carried off underwater in different directions, we later both confessed that for several long dark moments, we thought drowning was not unlikely. (In the accompanying photo, Josh  & I are in the front of the raft, and headed, in every sense of the word, down.)

“O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you!”

You don’t have to go rafting down the Nile to understand the psalmist. Life has tumbled in, and gone are the illusions that we can handle it ourselves with our strength, our bank account and investments, our professional expertise, our uncommon common sense, our noble character. No! We’re going down, and we’re fresh out of wise words and self-help strategies.

Our words are cut down to three: “O God, help!” From the “depths,” we recognize God as our only help, our only hope. No longer foolish enough to assume we deserve anything, we plead instead for sheer mercy.

In the Lord, both we and the psalmist find forgiveness and mercy and hope. And we praise Him: “My soul waits for the Lord / more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

We can trust our God. He won’t leave us in the depths.

 

 

     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.

 

 


“How to Triple Your Answers to Prayer”

 

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A “teaser” on the front of the little magazine touted an article inside: “How to Triple Your Answers to Prayer.” I’m wondering what might be prescribed.

Incantations? A caldron filled with a steaming potion featuring eye of newt, tongue of frog? Could I get more answers to prayer (answers that I like) if my technique was better or my recipe more precise? Is the bottom line the number of really “good” answers I get and catalog? I’m pretty sure I’d like the guy who said that any Christian who says to another believer undergoing pain, “If you had enough faith and prayed as you should, you wouldn’t hurt,” needs very badly to be hit over the head with a baseball bat to help him test his own theory.

I believe St. James when he writes that God’s people sometimes “don’t have” because they “don’t ask” or “ask wrongly.” A right attitude is important.

But the bottom line on prayer is nothing that can be quantified, measured, or cataloged. Thank God for heartwarming answers. But, most of all, thank God for the growing and soul-warming relationship that time in prayer builds between you and the Father who gave you life and wants to spend time with you, his child.

To a skeptic watching you bend the knee, you’re just talking to yourself. Prayer is worthless, he thinks, because he sees it producing no practical results. But to you, child of God, and to your Father, it is precious and would be no more precious if you could accurately catalog 143 direct “results.”

The same thing is true for the same reasons regarding our worship. In a society that values nothing unless it produces measurable results—the bigger, the better—why worship?

To get recharged spiritually.

To have fellowship with God’s people.

To be able to leave to serve.

To “fill up” so we can do all sorts of obviously beneficial stuff and carry on all sorts of programs, the kind that can be measured and look good in church flyers and bulletins.

Well, I’m all for those “results” and more. But we worship for one reason that overshadows any other and needs no defense: we worship to glorify the God who is absolutely worthy and deserving of all praise.

An old kind of pragmatic legalism says, “You can only be saved if you do enough to be worth saving.” A modern kind just as seductively says, “Your prayers and your worship are only worthwhile if they produce visible and measurable results.”

Both ideas are as wrong as they are, in the final analysis, cruel. Our prayers and worship are precious to God not because they’re so good at producing impressive results. They’re precious to God because we’re his precious children, completely loved and accepted by our Father already.

In that knowledge, we worship and pray. And living in that knowledge, we find that God has indeed provided “in advance” plenty of good works for us to do, some of which can probably be listed in a church bulletin, but lots of which don’t look particularly “religious” at all. But the marvelous fact remains: God loves and accepts us before we’re able to do a single one.

Our Father is amazingly impractical that way.

 

 

      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.


A Reminder That God’s Light Is Always There

 

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As if it happened yesterday. That’s how clearly I remember the experience I’m about to relate. Not wanting to make too much of it, I’d hate to make the opposite mistake by failing to say to the Giver, thank you.

By the way, the weather guy is predicting ridiculously high winds and detestable blowing dust today. He didn’t say “ridiculous” and “detestable,” but they will be. Around here, weather folks rarely ever miss when they predict wind and dust, apart from which, our climate would be almost perfect, which I suppose is like saying that Jack the Ripper would’ve been a fine guy except for the unfortunate murderous streak in his nature. Anyway, living here we deal with it.

In this fallen world, trouble is like blowing dirt in west Texas; it goes with the territory. And we all go through seasons when the difficulty is particularly painful.

My family and I have been incredibly blessed, so as I give you the background to my simple story, I don’t mean to whine, just to tell the truth. It was the sort of time everyone faces from time to time. You’ve been there (or, sorry, if you’ve not been, you will). The difficulty driving you nuts tends to be the last thing you think of when you go to bed and the first thing you think of when you wake up. That’s the bad news; the good news, and you’ve probably also learned this, is that such times force you to more prayer. And prayer, even when it may well have more to do with desperation than “righteousness,” is not at all a bad beginning and ending of the day.

But even prayer has its temptations. Lengthy prayers in the midst of some difficult times can be a mistake. Short ones are the ticket. The long kind too easily become just one more way you allow yourself to wallow in the mud rather than to trust in the Almighty.

So I waked up that day and, true to form, picked up the problem. I wandered into the living room, sat on the hearth, and, frustrated at myself for being so faithless and, truth be told, impatient with the Almighty’s seeming slowness to deal with the difficulty, just breathed a rather ticked off petition, “Oh, Lord, can you just get us through this!?”

And that’s when—that’s exactly when—as the whispered words were still hanging in the air and barely out of my mouth, the deliciously warm, blindingly brilliant shaft of sunlight blazed through the window and hit me in the face.

It was both amazing and surprising, and not. From several mornings’ experience, I knew that, at that exact time, the sun and our windows are lined up. The sunlight washes over the cross hanging in our window and emblazons in a field of flaming gold yet another cross, its shadow, on the opposite wall.

So most of what happened was really no surprise; it was just, once more, breathtakingly beautiful. But the light hitting me in the face, right at that moment? A complete surprise.

I’d not call it a miracle, just a very nice gift and much-needed reminder that even in windblown, dark times, God’s children live in the warmth and light of the cross. Sometimes I need to be hit in the face by the light of his brilliant beauty to make me remember that it’s always there.

 

       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.

 


“Do You Believe in Prayer?”

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I’m not sure I believe much in prayer.

Now, hold on! Taking that statement out of context might ensure I’m never tapped to be pastor of a mega-church. Good! A blessing for all concerned! And if it shakes up the “Expect a Miracle!” plastic piety crowd whose answers to pain and suffering are strings of pious platitudes, fine. I’ve had my fill of such.

As the umbrella title of this column/blog is “Focus on Faith,” I ask, “Who or what is the focus of our faith?” My answer is, “God.” In that very literal sense, the answer is not “prayer,” it is God.

But I’m not always so picky or prickly. If I’m asked, “Do you believe in prayer?” I usually just truthfully say, “Yes, I do,” without being a jerk and over-explaining. But what I mean is, “I believe in God, and in his Son, who taught us by word and example to pray deeply and often and expect to be heard, believing that it matters. Yes, I pray.”

But I do not believe in approaches to prayer that are more akin to rabbit’s foot magic and witch doctor superstition than the faith we see in the Bible. They are so unlike Jesus’ example and teaching about prayer, and seem to me thin, wispy, and, at heart, cruel, no matter how popular they are.

I can’t talk about faith for long without talking about prayer. And I can’t talk about prayer long without talking about the problem of pain and suffering. The answer to both centers on trust in God. But real answers and real trust are never easy, however strong our faith.

Even a little honesty about prayer is a breath of fresh air. C. S. Lewis, great defender of the faith and serious “pray-er,” in the midst of writing profoundly on the subject, admitted frustration, realizing that his whole day had a feeling of holiday about it once his morning prayers were dutifully done! Such candor comforts me far more than the stories—some mostly true—of great people of faith who regularly prayed for 25 hours a day, 26 on particularly busy days.

If you prefer moonshine and stardust to harder and more genuine faith, don’t read Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? But I love his biblical and faith-building view—especially what he writes about Jesus and prayer: Jesus prayed. We learn much about praying from the way he prayed, what he prayed for, what he didn’t pray for, and the way he dealt with his Father’s yes—and no.

Did Jesus believe in prayer? Yes! If you mean that he believed so completely in his Father that, whatever the answer, talking with his Father was more important to him than food or shelter or breath itself!

When I pray, I ask for the moon. Like Yancey, I believe that miracles happen, but, by their nature, rarely. I also remember Christ’s cross, Paul’s thorn, and . . . Sometimes the answer rocks me on my heels because it is so delightful. More often, it rocks me more profoundly and sends me beating on my Father’s chest before I collapse in his arms of love.

“Oh, respectfully, Lord, did I not make myself clear? I did not in the least want “power to get through this.” I wanted around this!

Sometimes I almost wish there were a formula, so if I got it right, I’d get the right answer. But that’s magic, not faith. I don’t need a better rabbit’s foot; I have what I need, a Father who loves me completely. To him, I’ll pray. With gratitude. Love. Hope. And sometimes anger and hot tears. And he’ll love me still.

 

      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.


Telephonically Speaking, Society Has Turned a Corner

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I wonder when we turned the corner? Telephonically speaking, I mean.

Once upon a time having a cell phone was a very cool thing, a “status symbol” even. (Hey, I remember when having a telephone with push buttons and not a rotary dial was cool.)

The first cell phone I ever spied looked like spy Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. Remember him? Ahead of his time, he was the klutzy TV series “secret agent” (Get Smart was the series, even though it helped us get smarter not at all) who’d take off his shoe, stick it up to his ear, and make a phone call.

The obviously “high maintenance” gal I saw years ago parading through a hospital waiting room didn’t look like Maxwell Smart. She looked like somebody well worth avoiding, but she did have a big beige plastic thing, something on the order of a man’s Size 11 shoe, stuck up to her face. She was talking into it and seemed keen on everyone noticing, which I guess we did.

Many moons have passed since then. Now even the most intelligent yard dogs and the most not-so-smart humans (not just Maxwell Smart), either have a cell phone or a cell phone has them. That’s why it’s been years since you’ve had a simple meal when everyone at the table was fully present and not focused on a phone. Most folks don’t mean to be impolite; the young ones have never seen anyone actually try to eat without a phone.

It might not make the list of time-honored spiritual disciplines, but on the modern list should be this grueling exercise: consider going to a meal occasionally and leaving your phone switched off or in the car.

Unless you’re a brain surgeon or hooked up to NORAD and the president and the Pentagon require your immediate concurrence should they want to launch nuclear missiles, most folks will find that the world will keep on spinning for an hour or so even if they’re un-tethered from their phone. Bad news will be just as bad an hour later and good news will be an even nicer surprise.

But I warn you: the first time or two you try it, you may feel a little shortness of breath, some tightness in your chest, and perhaps a little free-floating anxiety. Counseling and medication are available should such symptoms continue or worsen. Others (very few, but some) have chosen to travel this one-hour “phone-fast” road before; you’re not alone.

Yep, we’ve turned a corner. The time was when having a cell phone was a status symbol. Now I’m told the real status symbol is NOT having a cell phone. It’s having “people” whose cell phones have them. They make and take the calls you never have to. Hmm.

Some days I’d like to give my phone to the dog, as long as she’d promise to give it back when the grandkids are calling.

I wonder how our Creator does it? He stays on the line all the time, always awaiting our call. Whenever we want to talk about anything at all, he considers that very good news.

 

     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.


“Lord, I Believe! Help My Unbelief!”

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Two little twin boys recently walked up to our house with their mom and little sister. They could hardly wait to show us their two buckets filled with several layers of . . . woolly worms! Woolly caterpillars. The kind that seem to be everywhere right now. Pretty cool little creepy crawlies, those worms! Pretty cool little guys, those great little twins!

Now catch this woolly transition: Woolly worms are one thing. Woolly thinking about faith, and particularly about faith and prayer, is another.

The “prayer of faith” is a biblical term. But both prayer and faith get twisted pretty often by flashy TV preachers and their bunch into something much more akin to magic and superstition than Christianity.

What I’m thinking of is the very common, very mistaken, notion that praying with the kind of “faith” that is the key to “powerful prayer” means working ourselves up into some highly emotional and extremely subjective state so that we can make a desperate request of God absolutely expecting him to answer with exactly what we want. We’re most likely to get exactly whatever the “it” we want is, this approach says, if we “amp up” our “faith” so as to bar the doors of our minds to any possibility of our not receiving “it.” If we don’t get “it,” then the purveyors of such “faith” tell us that we just didn’t “believe” hard enough, and we must work harder to banish all doubt.

Such an approach is unbiblical, mistaken, and often, arrogant and cruel. As C. S. Lewis once wisely wrote, this kind of thing “is not faith in the Christian sense; it is a feat of psychological gymnastics.”
For a picture of real faith, and for a real corrective to the other sort, Lewis points us to the Son praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” The perfect Son. The perfect Father. The perfect prayer. Perfect faith. And the answer was No.

And may I point you to another amazing picture of another poignant scene? Another father. Another son. Another prayer.

The son is terribly afflicted by an evil spirit. (The disciples have struck out on casting it out.) The father “prays,” asking Jesus, “If you can do anything,” (it’s the same Greek root word for Jesus’ request to the Father: “if it be possible”), “heal my son.”

Jesus replies, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible [the same word again] to him who believes.”

I love that father’s response: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” And, despite faith-flaws and weakness, the answer to this father is Yes, and this son is healed.

We have a Lord who counts our honesty about our weakness—even our weak faith—as much more valuable than our ability to build in ourselves some emotional state that supposedly excludes all doubt.

Faith in God, even a little faith, much smaller even than the “mustard seed” sort Jesus also taught about, is still real faith. Perhaps faith in the quality of my ability to believe is also faith of a sort, but it’s the wrong sort. It’s faith focused in me, not faith focused on God.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Your Call Is Very Important To Us”

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“The Nine Circles of Customer Service Hell.” That’s an article by Jay Steinfield, CEO of Blinds.com, who, with apologies to Dante and his original “nine circles of . . .” asked the question for phone-holding customers everywhere: “Your customers are the cornerstone of your success. So why offend them?”

I had time to scan the article as I was stuck in Hades in what Steinfield calls the third circle: “Hold, hold, hold.” After three tries, I’d made it past the “never-ending voice mail phone tree” (the first circle) and had my account number ready (second circle: repeat same number three times).

I had my recorder ready. When they said, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes,” I’d respond, “It not only might be recorded, Bucko, it IS being recorded. Feel free to record on your end, too.” For the quality of this column, I wanted to record the idiocy.

I was told that the wait time for the next “Customer Service Specialist” would be 6-10 minutes. Wondering if more special specialists would be especially faster, I almost hung up. But my curiosity trumped six minutes of annoying music. I was thanked for my (nonexistent) patience and was surprised not to hear the cheery voice give the usual lie: “Your call is very important to us.”

No, it’s not. If it was, you’d be darn sure a human, and one of your best and happiest and most proficient ones, always answered your company’s phone and put your best foot forward.Always. Can’t afford to? Really? Can you afford not to?

The company that had me basting on the hook in the third circle is not a real company that has to care about real customers and worry about really going out of business. They’re a governmentally-created “authority” crammed full of bureaucrats and minions.

If you have a toll road, somebody has to collect tolls. And some folks have to live and work where tolls are regularly collected. I’m sorry. And I’m glad I don’t.

I got a bill for $2.86 a few weeks ago. $1.43 to get on. $1.43 to get off. I’d not been in that city for months, maybe years. But my license plate (at least) was there for about ten minutes. Two years ago. The ancient bill came in an envelope proclaiming, “Prompt Payment Required.” Bureaucratic humor? No such thing.

It’s what we’ve come to expect, but it always surprises me. A real business with customers with a real choice would go broke, and a better business would fill its place. But no.

I’m paying the $2.86. Plus $10 for being a month slow while I laughed at them for being two years slow.

When I finally did get a human on the line, I just said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I felt sorry for her, a really nice kid. She explained the software change that now makes it possible to go back and bill visitors like me infinitesimal amounts for old travel. She could have said, “I work for idiots who spend fortunes for PR and image consultants and shoot themselves in the foot for $2.86 a pop as they tick off non-customer customers.”

In God’s kingdom, you can expect better service. Your prayers to our Creator go right to the top. No waiting. Your prayers really are “very important to him” because you are. He’s your Father. Not a bone-headed bureaucrat lost somewhere in the nine circles of . . .

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2014 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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