The late comedian (he'd poke fun at that description) Mitch Hedberg was like a lot of modern comedians. He was at his best and funniest when he was telling jokes even my grandmother would find clean.
I've wondered why guys like George Carlin, one of Hedberg's mentors and a master at mining the nuggets of fun embedded in so many of our common English words and phrases, felt a need to dredge down into the gutter when their clean stuff was so funny anyway.
I found a Hedberg joke last week that fit my situation as I'd spent a lot of time messing with broken stuff. If the stuff on the fritz had been more like escalators, I'd have been fine.
Hedberg wisely notes that "an escalator can never break; it can only become stairs." Consequently, he says, you should "never see an 'Escalator Temporarily Out of Order' sign, just 'Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the inconvenience.'"
I like the logic.
I finally replaced what was once a nice kitchen faucet but had been frozen and calcified by our hard water. (The old and new faucets were similar; both of them cost twice what I thought they should, and, if I'm lucky, it'll take the same nine years or so before this new one meets the same fate.) Instead of replacing it, maybe I should have just re-labeled it as a fountain, an immovable water feature.
From the faucet I went to the lawn mower. I thought I just bought that thing. (Yeah, six years ago, I notice now.) But it's been unwilling to start. So I got out the wrenches, pulled stuff off, squirted carburetor cleaner into various holes and jets, got gas all over it and me, and pulled the cord (which I'd fixed after I pulled it earlier and it pulled out), and voila! — the mower lives! Maybe I could have saved time by just calling it a push cart, gluing a basket on the engine, and buying a new mowing machine. Nope.
I admit that there's a certain amount of pleasure that comes from actually fixing something and not just labeling escalators stairs. But the list of stuff I'm supposed to try to fix just seems to keep getting longer.
I'm afraid too many of my sermons could do with some fixing, the kind Hedberg was thinking of when he said, "I'm gonna fix that last joke by taking out all the words and adding new ones." That kind of fix might help this column, too.
Some things are, sadly, very hard to fix.
I know some folks with calcified hearts that I wish I knew how to fix. Fixing a faucet turned to stone is easier.
I know some folks who've lost their spark, whose joy is on the fritz. Fixing a mower is easier.
We're all broken in one way or another. I hope we know where to go for the only real fix: the cross. Jesus' sacrifice. Made one time for all forever. No expiration on this warranty. No worries that the fix will itself go bad. No pseudo-fix just relabeling brokenness.
Done. Fixed. Forever. For real. Forgiven. Empowered. Wow.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at