Focus on Faith

“I Think I Made a Mistake” 

“I think I made a mistake.”

Those, I’m told, were the words on a note a dying 20-something-year-old wrote to his nurse before he expired. He was referring to his, as it turns out, suicidal decision to attend a “COVID party.”

I’m tempted to write, “Duh.” But it’s bad form to “duh” a guy who admits his own unforced error and pays such a high price for his own idiocy. And it’s not like the rest of us are immune to occasional stupidity and subsequent pain.

I write those words with a grimace. Well, with a computer, grimacing. Not a grimacing computer. A grimace on my face facing the computer. I am, at present, not writing or thinking very well.

I’m about an hour and a half away from a root canal, my first brush with that particular sort of dental calamity. At this point, I am ready to embrace the experience with the excitement of male and female lead lovers in a movie rushing toward each other on a “meadow run.”

Yes, right now, I am more than prepared to endure that worse than fingernails down the chalkboard, worse than boot on a cat’s tail caterwauling, worse than the latest poor-pitiful-me screams of society’s professional victims, worse than the hole-in-the-radiator hose agonizing whistle, worse than the bullet in the helicopter gear-box wailing high-pitched death-grind . . . I’m more than ready to endure all of that—and add in some delightful burning smells, some tasty chemical flavors, some tuchus pucker dental chair dancing, and more delights . . .

I’m ready for all of it, and will, yea, verily, write a check for the fun of enduring such multifaceted pleasure, if I can just get my dentist, my friend, to stab needles into my gums and inject a gallon or so of deadening juice, embalming fluid, or whatever the crud it is that they use to render one’s gums, teeth, jaw, and mouth numb and insensate. I’d prefer to be totally knocked out and sleep for a week, but it’s not an option.

I went in for a simple tooth-cleaning a couple of weeks ago but mentioned a tooth that was becoming a tad hot/cold testy. My friend and dental professional gave me the good news. Probably a root canal. But give it a few days. See how it feels.

A few days was all it took. So I called and scheduled an appointment. Next Monday, 10:20 a.m. Not an emergency, right? You’re not hurting badly, right? Right. We’ll call if we get an earlier opening. Okay.

So, last week, I officiated at a big funeral on Tuesday. Big funeral on Wednesday. (Two really good guys.) Wednesday, the tooth folks call. They could make a slot for me and my rebellious tooth on Thursday. When? 8:00 a.m.

Not much of a morning person ever, I know that I will be toast on that particular Thursday at 8:00 a.m. Funeral. Funeral. Root canal. Bam. Bam. Bam. No. No. No.

It’s not hurting that bad. Thanks, but I’ll wait until Monday.

Mistake. Mistake. Mistake.

I’m now an hour away from the anaesthetizing goop. Bring it on!

And I’m wiser.

“The right time is now; today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). On most days, I’d tell you that the Apostle Paul is most certainly saying nothing at all about dental work. Today? I’m quite sure that he is.

To the palace of dental delights, I am ready to go. And I resolve never to put the trip off again. Bring on the joyful sounds. The merciful needles.

Now, please.

With apologies to the Apostle Paul, “Behold, now is the day of dental salvation.”

 

You’re invited to visit my website–and especially to check out my new podcast, http://www.CurtisShelburne.com/podcast!

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

“Sure Am Glad No Microphone Is Open in My Head!” 

Wow, it’s a good thing nobody can hear what I’m thinking right now. An “open mike” transmitting from my brain might show how incredibly jumbled it is today! I’m sure the funeral directors’ and, of course, the families’ minds are every bit as jumbled. It’s been a flood. But it’s never easy. And multiple services this week.

I’m thinkin’ . . .

The trick with anybody’s job, I guess, is that, if you do it right, it looks simple, and even if it’s “game on” in your head, thoughts are careening everywhere, and mental and real notes are stacking up.

Two funerals to officiate at. Two great guys. One of them my opposite number as we’ve grandfathered the same sweet granddaughters. I sure wanted those girls to have us both a lot longer. I hurt for the grieving families. With the families, sure am thankful the suffering is over. But these losses are gonna hurt us all a lot. But I can’t spare the luxury of dwelling on that right now.

Seen the families. Got great help from both. Great stories. Sweet, not bitter, tears. I judge the wounds to be very clean. No doofus fussing about somebody’s rocking chair or throttling their own shrivelled souls money-grubbing. These guys were both rich in what matters. Their families know it. Any inheritance that matters, they already have. Priceless.

Small in the whole scope, but my job’s a bunch easier since both families are the sort to stay in their lanes, let funeral directors, officiants, know clearly what they want, and let us do our job. (And everybody’s job, like it or not, is harder now with the COVID-19 mess. Sure would be nice if nobody got sick! All we can do is all we can do. Sure would be nice if everybody tried to be kinda careful, mainly to try to take care of everybody else.)

Both funeral homes are home-owned, top-notch, and have already coordinated scheduling together. So good!

Now to put the stories together. Both such good guys. So much good to say. Try to say for all the family/friends what each would like to say. But pick carefully. You don’t have forever. Don’t filibuster. Most of all, try to give God’s word of comfort. What are good Scripture texts, one for each of these good men? Lord, if you’ve got a preference, I don’t expect a note attached to a rock, but could you please . . . ?

Both men of faith. The real deal. Such good guys! So easy to love. So easy to like. Such real fathers, just like their Father. James was a talker and you were his friend even if you just met him. Dewey was a fixer and could make anything run right and run better and would do anything for you. One main Scripture each. What should I pick? What would the Father who delighted in them say? Try to say it. Better start lining up some words. Focus.

Do obituaries first. Obits always take the most work and time, even after the family has done a good job.  NEVER just read names/dates. Use what the family gives as framework.

Before doing obits, nail down orders of service. One two nights ago. One last night. Get songs/music rounded up. Downloaded. Talk to music leaders. Talk to singer me.) Make sure songs and tracks are rounded up and lined up. Make sure sound system is ready. Don’t forget a cord or you’ll be sorry. Talk to audio/video folks at two churches. Communicate with three folks who will be speaking at one service. Line up a “line of defense” song on playlist just in case needed. Bring tripod if needed for Facebook Live. Get pics. Make sure dinner at our church is progressing. (Those gals are amazing.) Help set up tables. Replace ice maker filter and buy ice if that doesn’t work. Get slide show DVD.

Did I say it already? Focus! For once in your life, even though the night is peacefully quiet, try to write a funeral message during daylight. Or you could just do what you always do, fool, and stay up half the night so it’s fresh on your mushy mind.

Man, I’m glad nobody can hear these thoughts. But God’s blessing is going to come in all of this. It will.

Now, let’s just love each other like these two guys taught us to. Like our Father taught us to.

Now, park your rear in the chair and write.

Oh, did I remember to get the song lyrics?

Now, really. I mean it. Write.

Oh, crud! Did I leave this mike on!?

 

You’re invited to visit my website–and especially to check out my new podcast, http://www.CurtisShelburne.com/podcast!

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Embracing Tunnel Vision Means Losing Vision 

Idealists, and, specifically, idealists who are also zealots, scare me. Laser-like focus not only cuts, it blinds. Even if a person is “correct” on an issue, tunnel vision is by definition partial loss of vision.

Idealistic zealots think that the only way to get what they really want—and what they really want is the only result they’ll accept—is by getting all of what they really want. And a significant percentage of them believe or act as if reaching their goal justifies any means of getting there.

It does not. We can “win” at all costs, trample on what is precious, adopt wicked and slimy methods, rationalizing that the result will be something good—and lose miserably even as we scrawl a “W” in the win column.

Zealots generally pigeon-hole the people they deal with as either enemies or friends, nothing in between. In older days, and still in some cultures, an enemy would simply be knifed and removed as a problem; in “civilized” society today, an enemy is just “cancelled.” A friend is expected to help in the knifing or cancelling, and everyone else is ignored.

What that means in practicality is, surprisingly, that those on opposite sides of an “issue,” but those who realize they must settle for some middle ground in order to make any progress at all, may actually be closer to each other than zealots on both far ends. At least, they don’t reach for knives or make every effort conceivable to “cancel” each other. They realize they must talk and, yes, compromise, to get anything done. They might even be able eat an occasional meal together, learn something from each other, and inquire about each other’s families—even as they roundly disagree on many issues, and yes, remarkably, issues that matter deeply to them.

In the above context, “compromise” is a very positive word. But a zealot, wearing his “all or nothing” blinders, will always see compromise as cowardice and treachery. He’ll often get “nothing,” which in a (like it or not) pluralistic society like ours is probably what, I’m tempted to say, he deserves. Even if I agree with him on the issue.

Months ago now, we got word that the member of Congress from our district was coming to my town to meet and speak to his constituents. I actually like him. I trust him more than most politicians. But politics, politicians, and parties have seemed to me increasingly pathetic and, along with many folks, I’ve become increasingly tired of the whole thing and, yes, cynical. In the interest of mental and spiritual health, I almost just stayed home.

But I went. And I’m glad.

I got to ask one question. And I got to see one glimmer of hope.

I don’t recall the exact words, but I asked him privately, “I’ve never met our president; you have. Sooner or later, every president faces a crisis that tests his character, integrity, and wisdom. When the test comes, will our current president have what it takes?” He answered and, I think, meant it. The crisis has come, and we’ll all be answering in November. If you think you know my answer, I’ve written this poorly. I will only say that I expect November to be every bit as much fun as a colonoscopy sans anesthesia. Cynical, right?

But the glimmer of hope? It came during an otherwise pretty predictable speech as our congressman told us that among his little family’s closest friends in Washington is the family of another congressman on the other side. They almost always vote differently, but, personally, they enjoy warm friendship and respect.

That, my friends, is a glimmer of hope, the kind “zealots” will never be able to embrace. The kind that might actually accomplish something when coming together as fellow humans, as different as we are, is the only way to really stand.

Oh, I care about issues, and I care deeply about voting in ways that I believe most likely to honor my King. But hasn’t Christ always cared much more about hearts than issues? Yes, oh, yes.

A zealot will never understand that. His heart won’t let him.

 

  You’re invited to visit my website, and I especially hope you’ll check out my new podcast at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com/podcast!

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Dealing with Drips, Crickets, and a Pandemic 

“The drips and the crickets.”

My brother Jim has long said that those are the sorts of things that finally drive you “over the edge” when you’re already under stress.

Along the same line, we might recall an agricultural metaphor: “Well, that was just the straw that broke it!” The old wagon or cart or trailer or pickup was handling the load of straw pretty well, maybe just showing a little stress as the weight was piled on, and then someone dropped on one more straw. Just one. A little thing. But one straw too many. And that’s when the axle broke and the whole thing crashed down.

Crrrraaaaash!

Or drip, drip, drip . . .

Or chirp, chirp, chrip . . .

“Stridulating,” by the way. That, I’ve discovered, is what crickets are doing when they make that “chirping” sound.

I almost wrote, “chirp, chirp, chirp.” Yes, with a period at the end. The Brits call a period a “full stop.”

But there’s the point. There’s no “full stop” to it! The maddening sound doesn’t stop; it just goes on and on and . . .

I suppose the aforementioned “crash” is a sort of stop. Just not the sort you want.

The crashes come in different forms and severities.

The kids are playing, really as they pretty much always do, but the noise just seems to get louder and louder, and that’s when you blow up.

Your spouse didn’t mean to say anything to tick you off, but suddenly and seriously ticked off you were, and you felt like your head blew up just before you shot your mouth off, thereby shooting yourself in the foot. Shots fired.

Your aging auto fleet has been needing regular patches and fixes and $100 bills plugged into leaks and rattles for months, but finally one rattle trap needs fifteen C-notes shoved into its transmission. That’s when your fuse blew.

Maybe it’s just a rough stretch for your family. Or rough sailing at work. Or maybe it’s a more than bumpy patch for the whole country and beyond.

Maybe it’s been one of those days, or one of those weeks, or, just maybe, a particularly long stretch like a year—say, 2020—that shall “live in infamy.”

We’ve all had bad days when we found ourselves needing most of the next day to retrace our steps and apologize to the folks we ran into, or across, or over the day before. We’d used harsh words. Skewered someone with sharp tongues.

And our world sees way too many incidents all of the time where tempers flare and fists fly—or a trigger gets pulled. Road rage. Physical abuse. Workplace violence. Relational dysfunction and mayhem.

What happens when a pandemic is added to the mix? And when people who rightly think they have “free speech” wrongly choose to become mobs who loot and vandals who tear down statues (and ought to be in jail)? When dealing with real social problems becomes venting rage rather than seeking solutions? When, in one way or another, whether it’s a “slight” or a mask (or a loud opinion about a mask) or a bump or a word or a smirk or a good law or a stupid law or a text or a tweet or a load of self-righteousness or a wad of “virtue signaling” or any of a million ways to try to exert some control over what we’re having precious little success controlling as our whole world seems out of control, or . . .

Well, it doesn’t take many drips or crickets to lead to a crash. Burn-outs. Burn-ups. Blow-ups.

And people get hurt. They end up wounded and wounding. Bleeding and drawing blood. Hurting and hurtful. Sad and angry.

What to do? You tell me. Right now! Because I’m fed up! Okay. Breathe.

I might suggest a stroll. Some silence. Some deep breaths. Even a little time doing something you love even if you can only find a few minutes each day.

I’d suggest remembering very specifically who you love.

A hug. (Virus be hanged.) A prayer. A walk. A talk with someone who builds you up.

Think about what’s still good. Tell someone thanks. Take a nap. Turn off a screen. Watch a sunrise or sunset. Pet a dog. Or a cat if you’re desperate.

Read what God says about being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” and ask for his help to be sure you “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” That means, don’t go to bed mad. But did I mention your spouse? Should I mention or apologize for mentioning that you’ve got a license for stress relief?

Give some grace. Right now might be good. Receive some grace.

God is not short of grace, of power, of peace, of love, of comfort. We need it, and our God promises to give it. Yes, in the midst of drips and crickets, frustrations and fears, and even the occasional pandemic.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website, and I especially hope you’ll check out my new podcast at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com/podcast!

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“I Guess the Turtle Was Right” 

Well, I guess the turtle was right, and rain was on the way. If you can’t trust a turtle, the epitome of slow, faithful plodding, who can you trust? Not flighty or flitting, manic or depressive, just one step at a time dependability—that’s the ticket, turtle!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple of days ago, I looked through a window at the back of our house and spied, trudging across the property in a generally southerly direction, a fine example of Terrapene ornata, otherwise known as an “ornate box turtle.” Better yet known in “these here parts” simply as a turtle because, “ornate” or not, this species of turtle is the only kind I’ve ever seen here. Confirmation came when iNaturalist, a great “app” you can get for your phone to help easily identify all sorts of flora and fauna, nailed this guy as a “North American box turtle sometimes referred to as the western box turtle or ornate box turtle.” Yep. Terrapene ornata.

A little more reading and I’m kinda thinking “this guy” may be a gal and, very likely, no spring chicken. These creatures can easily live for decades. Who knows? This may be the same individual my grandkids saw lumbering across the same terrain almost a year ago. Turtles “all look alike to me,” says me, betraying shocking species-specific prejudice and appalling insensitivity.

Ah, but you can’t expect too much from me. I’m no genealogist, but what I’ve read strongly hints that my Shelburne ancestors were fiercely true to the British crown, and maybe even that some of the bunch who’d made their way to this side of the Pond chose to be “Loyalists” who went to Canada rather than lift a sword or musket against King George III a couple of years after all that fine tea was dumped into Boston Harbor. So I’m tainted. If I could find a statue of me, I’d pull it down in shame.

But the sackcloth and ashes, statuary graffiti and soul-grinding guilt will have to wait for another day. (Maybe Thursday, 2:00 p.m.?) The topic now is turtular weather prognosticating. And, honestly, I’m not sure if the turtle deserves bragging rights or not. From what I’ve read, this kind of turtle is quite fond of rain and tends to be more active after a good reptile-washing downpour (which may wash amphibians, too, but a turtle is not one, I may confidently proclaim as I feel all “woke” now regarding turtles).

Obviously, the turtle knows he’s wet after a rain, but what I’m investigating now is whether or not turtles are among the creatures who know instinctively that a frog-washer is coming. I’ve been told by at least one farmer that when he sees turtles out turtling about, he figures rain is likely on the way.

Thus, I say, I guess the turtle was right. If my farmer friend is right. We’ve had, for two sweet days in a row now, at least a little bit of rain each day. Turtles are not the only folks who feel better after rain, and I thank the Lord for it.

Back to our ancestors. Maybe some of them should have thought more about it before they chose to build in what is basically a desert. Still, it’s mostly been a good life here, even if the water’s always been short above ground and is getting a lot sparser below ground. And these days, goodness knows, our ancestors could use a little slack and some appreciation. The kind we’re all, whoever we are, if our “species” is “human,” sure to need ourselves down the line.

 

 

      Hey, folks! My new “Focus on Faith with Curtis Shelburne” podcast is now available! I’d love for you to check it out and, if you’d be so kind, subscribe! Episodes are available for the “clicking” over to the right, right here on my WordPress site, also at CurtisShelburne.com, and on most podcast players!

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“Time for Bed, Child! Go to Sleep!” 

The segment actually aired several years ago, but I still remember a fascinating piece 60 Minutes produced on sleep. (About sleep. Not while sleeping.)

Since sleeping is one thing I’ve always been particularly good at, I was immediately interested. Even professionals can hone their technique, so I was happy to tune in. May I share a bit of what I learned?

In 1980, a study was done using rats who were kept awake indefinitely. After five days, they began dying. They needed sleep as badly as they needed food. All mammals do.

Modern folks in our society have been a little snooty and dismissive about sleep, as if needing to snooze at all is something of an embarrassment, a luxury we could likely do without if we weren’t lazy and unmotivated.

Not so. Not even close.

Recent studies show that sleep is every bit as important to our health as diet and exercise, and that we need 7 1/2 to 8 hours of it each day. The lack thereof seriously impacts our memory, our metabolism, our appetite, and how we age. A study at the University of Chicago School of Medicine restricted the sleep of young, healthy test subjects to four hours a night for six consecutive nights. At the end of that time, tests showed that each subject was already in a prediabetic state (which would be naturally reversed when they resumed sleeping normally).

The same test subjects were also hungry. Lack of sleep caused a drop in levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our brains when we’re not hungry.

A lack of sleep? No problem. If you don’t mind being fat and sick. One researcher said that sleep deprivation should definitely be considered a risk factor for Type II diabetes.

The program host went on to mention studies done all over the world linking lack of sleep to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke—not to mention the mood swings that make sleep-deprived people “hell on wheels” to harmony in their homes and workplaces and whose brain activity on MRIs mimics that of the severely psychiatrically disturbed.

To those who say they have trained themselves to do fine with little sleep, the researchers simply reply, “Nonsense.” For a day or two, artificial “counter measures” such as caffeine or physical activity may mask the problem, but it is cumulative and real, and it can’t be hidden for long.

“People who are chronically sleep-deprived, like people who have had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations,” says Dr. David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It’s a convenient belief,” he says. But he issues a standing invitation for “any CEO or anyone else in the world” to come to his laboratory and prove it.

We easily adopt society’s lie that our true worth is in what we produce. We’re so impressed with ourselves, our indispensability, our strategies and plans. We quit “wasting time” by sleeping much. Then the wheels come off even as we slog on physically and emotionally as if through molasses. And the God who is real Rest and Peace but who Himself never needs to sleep, chuckles and says, “Time for bed, child. Go to sleep and let me do within you what you can’t do for yourself.”

I think there is a lesson in that, but right now I need a nap.

 

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! A link to my NEW PODCAST is there, and also right here on my WordPress site. Why not check it out?

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“Please Join Me for a Walk Through a Mine Field” 

By writing today’s column, I am breaking a promise, one that I made to myself. I didn’t make myself take an oath aloud or sign anything. I suppose it was less a promise than a mental warning not to stroll into any mine fields.

The topic is difficult and highly-charged, a tough one for any of us to deal with wisely and rationally and one where many folks seem to opt quickly for foolishness and irrationality. The best of writers could be easily misunderstood on this subject. I am nowhere near the best of writers. Add to this the fact that loud folks who want to misunderstand in order to be louder and angrier almost always succeed.

But I hereby invite you along for a stroll into a mine field. I really hope we’re seeking understanding, respect, and peace. The Lord promises great blessing to peacemakers, but they can also expect flying shrapnel and subsequent wounding from both “sides.”

What, you might ask, could make a pandemic even less pleasant? And now we know: social and racial unrest.

I suspect that most of us also know that, enjoyable or not, “conversations” about tough issues like race and justice are discussions we need to be able to have and can be positive, if we really listen to each other.

But we did not need looting, burning, and rioting; it is wrong, weak, cowardly, criminal, and indefensible, and I am very sure that the vast majority of people of all races in our land are in agreement on that.

I think most of us, whatever our color, believe that what happened to George Floyd was abhorrent and wrong.

I think most of us believe that it’s a matter for tears that in our land any parent of any race should have to give their teenagers “the talk.” (The much earlier talk about sex is hard enough.)

I believe that I have a lot to learn about the challenges faced by my friends of other races and that trying to learn is worth some effort.

I believe that a lot of what we see as racial differences are also, and maybe on an even deeper level, economic differences. My own experience is that I have very little trouble at all talking to, respecting, understanding, and loving friends of different races who are similar to me (or “above” me) economically and educationally. Some of the folks I’m thinking of are among my dearest friends, and some are family members. This does not absolve me from trying harder to understand folks from other races who are poorer economically and/or educationally. (In my experience, it’s every bit as hard for me to understand and communicate with “poor white” as it is “poor choose-a-color.”)  But we all need to try harder.

My own belief is that much of the unrest and hurt we see most obviously in some of our nation’s largest cities can be traced directly to seeds sown years ago when societally we ran to embrace the selfish and false “freedom” that resulted in massive numbers of fatherless families, illegitimacy, and the many bitter fruits of poverty. And the pernicious result was exacerbated by failed social and economic policies from the left that promise compassion and end up promulgating cruelty.

I also believe that you have every right to disagree with me. You have not only a Constitutional but God-given right to do so, a right that I should cherish and be willing to defend. And “free speech” is rapidly becoming an even larger part of the current “discussion.”

As free people we should be able to talk peacefully about our beliefs, even if they’re diametrically opposed, and whether or not they are in line with the latest opinion polls or the views of the media or the self-righteousness and virtue-signaling of the social and political right or left. (Are those two qualities not easily recognizable by their smell as being of the same substance?)

I believe that any “culture” that would actively “cancel” speech and thought is a culture for cowards, brutes, and immature fools. How can we understand each other if we don’t listen to different views? And who will decide whose opinions expressed in speeches, books, movies, etc., are views that our evidently very delicate ears can handle?

As it happens, I found myself agreeing with and appreciating Jason L. Riley’s Wall Street Journal column (6/17/20; his stuff is always worth reading, and his opinion is always thought-provoking). In “America Has a Silent Black Majority,” Mr. Riley (who is black) quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s words in a 1970 memo to President Nixon that there “is a silent black majority as well as a white one” that “shares most of the concerns of its white counterpart.” Fifty years later, Riley says, this is still true.

“Most black people,” he writes, “know that George Floyd is no more representative of blacks than Derek Chauvin is of police officers. They know that the frequency of black encounters with law enforcement has more to do with black crime rates than with racially biased policing. They know that young black men have more to fear from their peers than from the cops. And they know that rioters are opportunists, not revolutionaries.”

Riley writes that, though there’s nothing wrong with a national conversation about better policing, “blaming law enforcement for social inequality” is “not only illogical but dangerous.” He goes on, “Unsafe neighborhoods retard upward mobility, and poorly policed neighborhoods are less safe.” And he closes, “A conversation that doesn’t acknowledge that reality is hardly worth having.”

I think he’s right on target. But maybe the even larger issue these days is how willing I am to acknowledge and defend your right to think otherwise. A lot of people have given their lives to help preserve our right to live in freedom. Freedom without free speech is not freedom.

The best and most loving, the strongest and gentlest, most truly wise and most completely peaceful Man of all died completely unjustly to bring all of us, of every race and nation, genuine freedom.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Even in a Bad Year, a Good Father Is a Priceless Gift 

In the midst of this roller coaster year and its blur of events and emotions, we’re speeding toward Father’s Day. As I find myself thinking of my father, my thoughts quickly turn in immense gratitude to my Father for giving me such an incredible gift, my earthly father.

If anyone asked me for the name of the best man I have ever known, I’d not have to pause a nanosecond before replying, “G. B. Shelburne, Jr.” My dad.

I’ve said that many times, not because I feel haughty about it. That would be ridiculous. I say it in what I hope is deepest humility because the gift utterly amazes me, and I recognize that it’s worth far more than gold. What did I do to merit the gift of such a father? Nothing at all, of course. It was pure grace. Total blessing. Absolutely undeserved and “undeservable.” And worth more than all the gold in the world.

I don’t come even close to always living up to what Dad taught me. But what he taught me and showed me, what I watched him live out in his day to day life, is always in my mind and never far from me. It’s very practical. Examples abound, and maybe never more than right now.

In the midst of the present health pandemic, the social and political pandemonium, and the economic and pervasive uncertainty, I ask myself, “What would Dad do? How would he respond?” And I realize that as I ask this question, I might as well just ask, “What would Jesus do?” That’s the kind of man he was.

Would Dad tremble in fear before the virus? Of course not. He would behave wisely, and in attitude and action point people toward the Source of real hope and health for the present and “the hereafter.”

In the face of racial conflict, social unrest and mistrust, Dad would love and respect God’s people of any color. He would do what he did—willingly preach for any church except a church that would exclude other races. He would teach God’s word to anyone willing to listen, and he would particularly love teaching in Spanish.

Dad would sympathize with and love folks who told him about their fear for their children because of their race. He would also model respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who do a thankless job well. Dad would never be able to understand why anyone would “take a knee” during our national anthem, but it would warm his heart to see citizens and police officers kneeling together.

Dad was much too wise, much too gentle, and much too strong to be anything but appalled that anyone would even consider participating in or making excuses for looting or burning. For that matter, Dad would never agree that getting what you want politically, even if the “end” is good, justifies using low or coarse behavior against your adversaries as a means to reach that end.

In short, as we come to this Father’s Day on this difficult year, from the bottom of my heart, I thank my Father for my father and for the incredible blessing that knowing him has made it so much easier for me to know Him.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“To See Real Strength, Look Into the Face of a Farmer” 

A glance through the window on the other side of the room tells me that we’re “in for it” again.

It’s mid-morning and the trees are already waving their branches maniacally, flailing arms raised in surrender, as the wind lashes them unmercifully. They seem to know that they are facing another withering day of wind-scourging, aided and abetted by blistering, unrelenting, sap-boiling, life-sapping heat.

The calendar says that it’s not officially summer yet. But the window and the trees are issuing a bleak and soon-to-be scorching sort of warning. Like the trees, I feel ready to surrender.

I’m weak. If you want to see strength in the face of a drought’s merciless onslaught, look into the face of a farmer.

If you’re not a farmer and you glanced into his barn at a pallet loaded with bags of seed, and if your life depended on correctly guessing the cost of the seed in those bags, I’m guessing you’d miss it by a factor of three zeros. Rich life is in that seed, dormant but real. The life is the miracle and our Creator freely gives the life. He also has given us men and women who have gained the knowledge and ability to be able to enhance that seed and multiply its blessing for a world much in need of it. That part does not come cheap, but when that seed grows, it’s green and rich and beautiful, full of potential and blessing.

But I look through the window again. I’m not standing out in the midst of the wind’s assault, waiting for the blast furnace to fire up again, knowing that we’re heading into another day, another week, with no rain. I’m not loading heavy bags—they might as well be filled with silver dollars—into planters, knowing that, barring some meteorological miracle, each seed is being plunged toward death by asphyxiation in dry dust.

No, I’m not a farmer, and though I respect and appreciate and love a bunch of farmers and farm families, just looking through the window today reminds me of how little I really understand about the way of life that makes it possible for me to live. Even to me, planting in a drought seems pointless. But that’s what the insurance rules require, and to have any chance at all to live long as a farmer, you must not only know how to grow things, you must understand, though it breaks your heart and goes against every fiber of your being, why for far too many years, seed has to be planted just to die.

Jesus once told a parable about seed; it was really a parable about souls (Matthew 13). But telling it showed that our Lord completely understands both. He understands seed. He understands souls. And he understands a farmer’s soul. He keeps planting seed, and he keeps planting in hope. He knows that at the end of the day he’s one day closer to the time when he’ll tuck that seed into the ground, the rain will fall, life will conquer death, and what grows will be beautiful.

Yes, in farming and in all of life, in times of difficulty and drought, we’re still one day closer . . .

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“What Can We Know Right Now, and How Do We Feel?” 

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet,” wrote the man we know as the prophet Amos (7:14). He said that he was just a shepherd and a caretaker of sycamore trees when he was called by God to deliver the Lord’s message.

I understand. I’m a “non-prophet” myself. And right now I’m “sucking air” on delivering anyone’s message, even as a deadline for this column is racing down the rails toward me.

Newsworthy current events are currently plentiful.

We just successfully launched two astronauts into space and to the International Space Station without the humiliating need to hitch a ride on a Russian launch vehicle. This is progress, and the public-private partnership between NASA and commercial entities is a fine thing. (I wish we’d try it with TSA and a trillion or two other government agencies.) I feel good about this.

The Covid-19 pandemic is still pandemicking and causing an incredible level, a mind-boggling variety, of stress—physical, emotional, and economic—pretty much everywhere. (“Everywhere” is the “pan-” part.)

But the situation “everywhere” varies widely. They have over 2,500 cases in a couple of not-far-off counties where some of my kids/grandkids and two of my brothers live. Yet one son says he personally knows only one person who has it; one brother says he knows of two. In the county where I live, we had zero cases for weeks; now we have 21. I know personally one person who has died due to the virus. He lived in the same state, hundreds of miles away. I know a couple of folks in New York City who have been dealing with the virus assault there.

Most of us where I live have been trying to be careful, but until recently, it seemed pretty unreal. I always took my mask with me into the grocery store; it always stayed in my pocket.

How to feel about this all right now? Worried? Ticked off? Scared? “Over” it? Tired? Sick of it but not sick? Well, ya feel the way ya feel, but it feels weird when your feelings are all over the place. When you don’t know how to feel, you mainly feel bad.

And now. Now comes the brutal killing of George Floyd and the subsequent mayhem, and here’s the “non-prophet” aspect of this column.

Last week’s column was entitled “It’s Almost Never Wise to Trust a Mob.” It dealt with some pandemic reactions. I asked about when a crowd becomes a mob, when a protest becomes a riot, how long it takes “righteous indignation” to become mindless anger, when protesters are high-minded and brave and when they are misbehaving malcontents and professional victims.

And then a week later in Minneapolis, a police officer put his knee on a suspect’s neck and the man died in custody. I didn’t know white police officer Derek Chauvin’s name. I didn’t know black suspect George Floyd’s name. But we know the names now.

The pictures and video I’ve seen are appalling. I don’t know if they tell the whole story, but the story they surely seem to tell is abhorrent. I don’t know if Floyd committed the crime he was accused of, but I know he didn’t deserve to die. I know that I wish race wasn’t a factor. I know that people jumping on cars, burning and looting, are thugs with no excuse, no matter their race, and they demean those they claim to “speak” for. I know that I wish we weren’t all—black and white and all races—so quick to believe in caricatures of others instead of seeing the image of God in all.

But how do I feel, and how do you, watching the pictures of the mayhem? My emotions are many. Mostly sad.

But I do know this: I know that people of good will of all races, people who aren’t interested in joining mobs, can and do learn to respect and love each other. I know it happens, and I suspect that it happens most regularly among Christ’s followers. I’m thankful for that.

I know that we need to hug each other, virus be hanged.

 

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

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.