For God’s Kids, the World Is Always Expanding

It’s a good thing when your world expands. When I was a child living at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, my world expanded one sidewalk at a time. My younger brother and I were great adventurers. His mighty steed was a red and white tricycle. Mine was orange and white and slightly larger. All it took to turn the trikes into motorcycles was an index card or two and a couple of clothes pins.

We would ride out from the porch and pedal down to the hill that was the driveway slope to the street. If you did it right, you’d pedal faster than a gerbil chasing his tail on a treadmill and then, just at the top of the slope, you’d lift your feet off the pedals and let gravity hurl you down the slope. And you’d clutch the handlebars hoping to properly negotiate the turn to the sidewalk at the bottom.

Once on the sidewalk, the real adventure began. At first, we were restricted to just the walk in front of the house. Then we were allowed to venture on over to the Harrises on one side and the Roaches on the other. (Roach. It’s sort of a shame that it was the top of their fencepost Jim blew off a few years later when we began to experiment with a chemistry set and branched out to minor explosives. Life is unfair enough to anyone named Roach.)

A little later, we were allowed to pedal on down past the Klaus’s house (Mom & Pop Klaus owned the A & W Root Beer drive-in on 6th Street. Great folks!) and beyond.

Somewhere along the line we added new horses to our stable of rides. Lee Meadows, a really nice gentleman who worked at the old Northwest Texas Hospital (where Jim and I were both born), donated to the cause an old four-wheeled frame that probably came off the bottom of a hospital meal cart. We laid plywood on the top and learned to spin it for some serious centrifugal excitement as we launched down the hill.

Skates were fun, too. At first, they were the kind you stuck to your street shoes using a skate key (which was always lost). Then we pirated the wheels from old skates, nailed them to 2 X 4’s, and tried skate-boarding. Those boards were a far cry from today’s immaculately-engineered marvels that seem to barely touch the ground at all. Any pebble would stop our thin steel wheels cold, with unpleasant results.

Then came bikes, and our world began expanding by city blocks and then down and around West Hills Park. And then we were push- or roll-starting an old VW Beetle whose starter was on the fritz.

The rest is history. We’re in our 60s now and our world is still expanding.

What a shame if God’s people fail to explore and serve past four walls, or the city limits, or national borders, or denominational lines, or even time itself. God’s kids are part of a very large Kingdom indeed. How sad if we allow our own sometimes stunted minds to make it seem small when the world itself and time can never truly constrict it.

 

      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.

 


For Real People, Doing Everything Right Is Not a Real Option

A good many folks believe that, if you do everything right, you might live to be well over 100.

Two glaring presuppositions shine forth from this belief. One is that you actually might want to live to be “well over 100.” Not me, thanks.

The other most obvious problem is actually two falsehoods for the price of one—that it’s possible to “do everything right,” and that you will.

Under “doing everything right,” well, there’s a lot to check off. Most folks will tell you to spend a lot of time in physically demanding gerbil activity. (Careful, though, the sleep experts will tell you that if you short your sleep to make excellent time going nowhere on, say, a treadmill, you’re likely hurting yourself more than helping yourself.)

And you can probably forget about drinking any milk that a cow would actually recognize or claim. And definitely forget cheesecake or ribeyes.

Ironically, you may have to spend more time thinking about food—carefully cataloguing what you can’t eat—than the average glutton who just eats everything in sight. (I’m not arguing for either extreme.) Some folks will consider a particularly persnickety approach trendy or cool; probably more of your friends and family will just be driven crazy by it and find trying to eat with you more trouble than it’s worth.

And the lengthy “doing everything right” list goes on.

I readily admit that following a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition is a good thing. Do it, and you’ll likely live longer and better. Get crazy about it and you’ll drive yourself and everyone around you nuts (but this is sure: all concerned will live lives that certainly seem a lot longer, even if they’re not).

Here’s the problem, though. Even if it were possible to “do everything right,” one microbe that didn’t get the memo, one weak blood vessel, one errant gene first passed on by your great-great-grandfather, can quickly mess up your plan.

Ah, and what about folks who are sure that they can “do everything right” morally? I think I worry about them even more.

This example is extreme, but I laughed when I read this in Dave Shiflett’s Wall Street Journal review of Mark Stein’s book The Presidential Fringe: “Leonard Jones, standard-bearer for the High Moral Party from 1848 to 1868, promised voters that they would never die if they would live a faithful and fully moral life. He was apparently a good man, but when his time came he croaked like a toad.” That must have been embarrassing.

I vote for living a moral life. Defy any of the Ten Commandments often enough, and you’ll end up in pain with lots of bruises far more serious than even the ones people get by trying to defy the law of gravity. You’ll bless yourself and many others by heeding the words of our Creator. But if you think you follow them perfectly, you’ll bless the rest of us best by staying far away.

Some of the best wisdom God gave us came through the Apostle Paul in this straight truth about how crooked we all are: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). And so, because we all need saving, and nobody gets life right, the apostle goes on to say, God sent his Son, our Savior.

Focusing on ourselves is a treadmill approach to life. (It’s actually idolatry.) Focusing on Him means finding genuine freedom and joy, finding our best selves by getting out of ourselves.

 

 

        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.

 


Watering Weeds Is Fools’ Work

Recently, I watered a weed. “Big deal,” you say, “most folks in your neighborhood, mortals whose lawns are not perfect, water weeds every time they water. What makes you special?”

No, you don’t understand. For a few weeks in the summer, I singled this weed out and watered it. It had popped up in a planter among some pretty little flowering plants of another variety. But it looked to me a little like some plants I’d ensconced there in a previous season, or, I thought, it might be a type of purslane. So I watered it along with its neighbors.

One day I came home to find that plant rudely plucked and tossed out into the yard by my wife, left to dry up and die and be sucked up into a mower run by a mower. (English is odd, isn’t it? The operator of a mower is both running the mower and is the mower.)

I picked the poor thing up, potted it, placed it in the back yard among other pots of plants, including a pot of purslane, and watered it.

“You are watering a weed,” my wife said.

“I don’t think it’s a weed,” I said.

“It’s a weed,” my wife said.

“I think it’s a type of purslane,” I said.

“It’s a weed,” she said.

Not convinced, I continued watering it. For two or three weeks, maybe a month, I watered it. And it grew. It prospered. But, increasingly, and soon obviously, it began to grow in a gangly, ugly, and—I’m afraid this might be truly said—malignant fashion. Even then, it looked like it might eventually flower, but, before sporting any flowers, it began to develop some hairy, spiny, prickly-looking extrusions along its tendrils (not a purslane sort of thing to do). One might mistake a strikingly beautiful lady for a former Miss America, but if she begins to sprout hairy growths on her snout, one’s opinion might need to be altered to align with reality.

It was a weed.

I hate it when my wife’s right. Which is the vast majority of the time.

So I hereby confess to late-learning a valuable lesson: watering weeds is a fool’s errand.

True, but I’m not lacking in foolish company.

When we continue making slight variations of the same dumb mistake, we’re watering weeds.

When we leap before we look and jump into a hole we’ve jumped into before, that’s watering a weed.

When we choose to be our own victims, bludgeoning ourselves with the same bad choices with which we’ve beaten ourselves before, we’re watering a weed.

When we go to the same places (geographically or mentally), poison ourselves with the same toxins (substances or bad attitudes), continue to surround ourselves with pseudo-friends as rudderless as we are (maybe even not that bad but not interested in being better or encouraging anyone around them in being better), we’re watering weeds.

The result is completely predictable. If we water enough weeds long enough, we’ll end up with a yard or, worse, a life, full of them, all of the good plants choked out. And weeds grow more quickly than we’d think.

From sad experience, I urge you to water only what you really want to grow. Ask for God’s help to know the difference between grassburs and flowers, and to pull up what’s worse than worthless. At the very least, don’t water weeds.

 

 

      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.


“Well, You Got Old, Too! I Give Up!”

“Well, you got old, too! I give up!”

That was the greeting offered to me recently by a cherished (and dare I say?) old friend who is one of my respected predecessors in my present (for almost 35 years) pulpit.

In his Gospel, St. Luke tells us that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and “greeted” her, Mary was “deeply troubled and wondered what manner of greeting this might be” (1:29).

The Bible writers almost never waste words in describing events, but my suspicion is that Mary was deeply troubled even before the perplexing greeting. With few, if any, exceptions in the Bible, folks who see angels are scared almost to death; their first worry is not that the angel’s introductory remarks are unusual. The angel always has to proffer some version of “Fear not!” prior to delivering God’s message. Gabriel will get to the “fear not” part in the very next verse.

All that to say that, ever since I received it, I’ve been (mostly) smilingly pondering “what manner of greeting” my friend’s recent salutation might have been. I’m afraid I know.

You see, I’ve just celebrated another birthday. (I celebrated two, actually. My oldest granddaughter and I were born one week less than 50 years apart. Our larger family got together this year for Christmas and our two birthdays on the same day.)

The good news is that I’m still kicking and, if our clownish politicians (both sides of the aisle) don’t screw it up further, Social Security and Medicare may ere long be within my reach.

Back to the greeting proffered by my friend.

It was three days after my birthday. Along with a host of others (“host” is a preacher word which should be interpreted as “a big bunch”), we were both at the funeral of an amazing mentor, colleague, and friend, a veteran minister, 99 years old, who had loved and pastored, taught and inspired, all who were gathered that day and so many, many more. My own father had died 20 years (to the day) before this good man and, had he lived, would have been 106 just a few days before this service. Both “knights” in God’s kingdom, they loved and respected each other deeply, and when time came for each to be laid to rest, well, those were sweet times, mighty convocations of gratitude when many gathered to thank our High King for such lives.

Yes, the beauty and significance of this occasion was profound. In the midst of it, though, a side point. I know and love deeply so very many of those who were present that day. I just don’t see many of them very often. (One or two commented on my beard; I’ve had it for almost 30 years.) So, not to be unkind here, may I just say that I had noticed that many were looking a good bit older than they did when we last enjoyed each other’s company.

Ah, but the picture one carries in his head of oneself often defies what he sees in the mirror. I’ve wondered what pictures of themselves the human gerbils on the treadmills at 24-hour gyms see as they toil along vainly—and maybe even somewhat valiantly—trying to trample on the clock and defy gravity. I am trying to get used to seeing my Granddaddy Key looking back at me from the mirror, but that still is not the picture of me I see in my own head.

“Bodily exercise” is of “some value,” the Bible says, but “training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

An event such as I’ve described, and the verse just quoted, leads me to another Scripture. If we want to gain “a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist says, our prayer should be, “Lord, teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90).

That will put a “You got old, too!” greeting in perspective and make it much less “troubling.”

 

 

      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.

 


“How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going?”

Well, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?

Oh? Sorry. I didn’t mean to touch a sore spot. I suppose nothing is a much sorer spot for humans than having to face the fact that we don’t measure up even to our own standards, much less to God’s. The spirit indeed is willing. We want to do better. Be better. But the flesh is ever so weak. Which is why I’m increasingly unimpressed with human resolutions and will power and more and more amazed by our Father’s power as we trust him and not ourselves.

We need to keep in mind who we are. We’re all prodigal sons and daughters.

Do you remember Christ’s story in Luke 15, the story of “The Prodigal Son”? Remember how that young fool demanded his inheritance, ran off from home, and partied it all away? This Jewish young man ended up slopping hogs (not a great job for anyone, but particularly loathsome for a “Jewish young man,”) and hungrily wishing he could eat what they ate. Remember how he “came to his senses” and decided to return to his father? Remember how all along the road he rehearsed his speech of contrition? Remember how he realized that he didn’t deserve to be accepted even as a slave much less as a son? Remember his joy as through sheer mercy and grace his father ran to meet him, embraced him, put a signet ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and threw a party because the son that was lost was now found? Oh, yes, and remember the older son grinching about his father’s grace?

We are all prodigal sons and daughters. And never more in need of grace than at the times we grouch about the Father’s giving grace to others. The difficult part of our prodigal experience is the walk back to the Father as we realize that his grace is our last, and only, hope. The wonderful part is feeling the warmth of his embrace and realizing that his grace is not only all we have, it is all we need, and it is freely, deeply, willingly given.

It’s a costly gift, you know.

Once the Father had another Son who left home on an infinitely longer journey for a much holier reason. Old as the universe, that Son became young to see a world reborn. To give it life, to give it grace, he lay his life down.

To give prodigals like us the gift of grace cost the Father the blood of his firstborn Son. And now the most expensive gift of all, the one we could never possibly afford but the one, the only one, that will answer our need, is given for free. It’s ours if we trust the Father enough to accept it.

The only resolution that ultimately matters is the decision to trust the Father and accept his embrace.

Shhh. Not too loud now. Don’t tell the older son, but when God’s kids come home, there’s always a big party in heaven.

 

 

       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.

 


“I Know These Things About the New Year”

As I write this week’s column, can I just admit from the outset that I’m not sure I should be writing this week’s column? At least, not on this topic. I could easily come off as grouchy and pessimistic, depressed and depressing. Better to keep my mouth shut.

But I’ll give it a shot. Writing, that is. I’m not disciplined enough to shut up.

You see, just a few days ago we blew right into and right past the eighth day of Christmas, better known as New Year’s Day. Personally, I care more about the former designation than the latter.

A few months ago, I was driving my truck, which I love, down the highway when the odometer rolled over past 100,000 miles. I’ve hit insects that made more of an impact; I didn’t notice any stutter or glitch or alarm at all.

The same was true on New Year’s Eve a few nights ago. My first breath in the new year felt exactly like my last breath in the old one. At least, I think it did. Since I’d been asleep an hour or so, I didn’t notice. No, I didn’t see the big ball drop in New York (via TV or otherwise). I’d much rather have a root canal than be in that crowd in person. (But I feel the same way about attending the Super Bowl in person. I’d love to win tickets to that “event” so I could sell them, seek mountain snow, rent a cabin, and read a good book by a fire.)

I’ve wondered if our God notices very much the turn of calendar pages. Off the cuff, my first reaction is a snort and a No. But I have to quickly modify that response. He certainly is divinely, intimately, marvelously, aware of the “times.” He sent his Son into this world “when the time had fully come.” And that was exactly “when Quirinius was governor of Syria” and “during the time of King Herod.”

When we wonder what kind of year this new one will be, we might well spend some serious time pondering the time when Jesus was born. Joy, as in “good news of great joy,” was off the chart for angels and some shepherds and, later, a few wise men. But—and this is not the stuff of Christmas cards—so was sorrow for the mothers of the boy babies and toddlers Herod would slaughter in Bethlehem. Heaven knew that hope and boundless joy, love itself, would triumph, set free by Mary’s sweet birth-tears. But only the God of the universe could also completely feel the hot bitterness of the tears of her bereaved Bethlehem sisters and know that Love’s sacrifice would one day redeem even their own. I believe God’s heart was the only heart more broken than theirs. And how could they understand that then? How deep will be our vision into God’s plan as we see events unfolding this year?

So what do I know for sure at the beginning of this new year? I know I’ve got a new medical deductible. I know that taxes will soon be due. I know this year’s politics will be depressing. I know I’ve got an incredible amount to be thankful for and that I’m not as thankful as I should be. (I’m working on it. Hugging grandkids really helps!)

I know that some things will get better. Not as many things as I’d like.

I know that some things will get worse. More things than I’d like.

I have no crystal ball to tell me which will be which. That is a blessing.

I also know that, if we don’t despair, God can grow our faith more in hard times than in easy times. (I don’t like that truth.)

I know that God is good in all times, loving in all times. I know that faith in my Father is always a better choice than bitterness and cynicism.

And I know that at the end, because God is the Father who allowed his own heart to be broken to save us, love and laughter and joy will win.

I know that I’ll need you at times to remind me of that. And I’ll try to do the same for you.

 

 

      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.

 

 


A Look Inside the Mangers of Our Minds

“There is holiness to memory,” Philip Gulley writes in his Christmas in Harmony, and “a sense of God’s presence” in what Gulley calls the “mangers of the mind.”

Perhaps the memories in the manger center on wonderful moments in a decades-long line of Christmas Eve services or the particular way your family lit the Advent candles each year. Other memories in the manger almost certainly focus on Christmas joys, as commonplace as they are special, all wrapped up in the way your mother always orchestrated the trimming of the tree, or the way your father handed out the gifts on Christmas morning, or your family’s favorite egg nog recipe or your clan’s most treasured Christmas stories and shows, movies and music.

From the oldest in the family for whom Christmases now seem to roll around at a once-a-week rate to the youngest little one just learning to focus on the sparkle of the Christmas lights and herself lighting up the family on her first Christmas, everyone has those memories, lovingly placed in the “mangers of the mind.” And each of them is itself a gift from the One who is the greatest Gift ever given and the real center of every joy.

So much beauty.

So much joy.

What is remarkable is that so much of it is all wrapped up just like last year and the year before, or the year 30 years before.

Woe to the family member who messes much with the recipe!

The Christmas Eve package-openers will likely always look askance at the Christmas morning package-openers.  The one-at-a-time-while-everyone-watches package openers will always harbor grave doubts about the Cretans who tear into all the presents, every man for himself, all at the same time. Each group will always wonder about the other, what’s wrong with people who would be so crass as to open their presents in that unauthorized way, at that unsanctified-by-time time?

Why are we so bothered—yea, verily, offended—by anyone who dares to fiddle with our Christmas customs?

Because you don’t lightly mess with memories lovingly laid in the mangers of our minds. Yes, the Infant slumbering in the first manger is by far the holiest resident of all, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the memories lovingly placed in the other mangers of our minds aren’t precious in their own right. In their own ways, they point beautifully toward Him.

Too often we think that what we really need to change our lives is something new, something exciting. But Philip Gulley reminds us that “the occasions that change the least are often the very occasions that change us the most.”

 

 

       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.


“The Red Hat in a Gray-suit World”

“By the way, I’m not doing Christmas cards. If you want them sent, you’ll have to do it.”

According to Sam Gardner in Philip Gulley’s delightful “Harmony” series, it was the same “fight” every year. Sam, pastor of the Harmony Friends’ Meeting (Quaker church) would buy four boxes of Christmas cards at Kivett’s Five and Dime and lay them on the dining room table with the address book nearby.

On this particular year, nothing happened. So he moved the cards into the bedroom, placing them near his wife Barbara’s side of the bed. A day later, he found them relocated to his side with a note on top: “I wasn’t kidding.”

Sam’s a smart guy. I’m surprised he hadn’t figured out years ago that the only “safe” way to send Christmas cards to his parishioners was to put one in the newsletter so as to be utterly democratic about Yuletide best wishes. Any other approach is fraught with danger.

The Gardner’s Christmas card list was growing at an alarming rate. The main category comprised of the church membership list was especially large. It was easy to get in the directory. Even the repairman who had come to fix the church freezer just before the church ladies’ annual Chicken Noodle Dinner fundraiser for Brother Norman’s Shoe Ministry to the Choctaw Indians was rewarded with honorary membership. (Not a single noodle was lost.)

Once you were in the directory, well, there you were. To ever be removed took something very serious, something like a death certificate signed in triplicate. Non-attendance and non-giving would not do it. If you drove past the church once a month and smiled, you were on the list, like it or not.

All of which meant that the Gardner’s Christmas card list was beginning to look like the IRS roll and likely included a few folks long since deceased.

But the handwriting was on the wall, not yet on the cards, and so Sam got to work. And Barbara, after a compromise, helped. Sam would write the inside, she’d address the outside, and he’d do the stamps.

It was going well until Barbara read the one to the freezer repairman.

“‘We love you’? You wrote that on every card? Isn’t that a bit over the top? What’s wrong with ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Thinking of You’? The freezer guy will get a confusing message, Mr. Loverboy, and feel like he and his wife need to invite us over, and then we’ll have to invite them over—me, cooking—and . . .”

“If you remember, you told me to write the cards.”

It’s a sweet annual argument, Sam says. His wife, modest and traditional, argues for just a bit of reserve while he maintains that God, instead of sending a lawyer to ‘define the limits of love,’ sent His Son.

After all, Sam tells his good wife, “Christmas is not the time to hold back. It is the bold stroke, the song in the silence, the red hat in a gray-suit world.”

And so it is. Indeed, it is.

 

     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.


Thank God for Shepherds and Stargazers!

Thank the Lord for shepherds and stargazers!

While muckety-mucks in Rome were trying to figure out new and improved ways to shake even more shekels from the pockets of the subjugated populace and further filch the meager bread of the common man, the Highest of Kings was pretty much ignoring Rome. The true King was dispatching a troop of angelic hosts, any one of whom would be stronger than an assembly of all of Rome’s best troops, to appear before shepherds.

Shepherds!?

Yes, shepherds. Minimum wage kinds of folks Caesar would have completely ignored if he hadn’t wanted them on the tax roll.

And isn’t that just like the King in whose kingdom the janitor waxing the floor and whistling “Amazing Grace” could easily be a wealthier man and a truly mightier citizen than the CEO scurrying off to attend yet another “success” seminar, completely unaware that the janitor he bumped in the hall has already found success and could teach him where to find it if he’d stop and listen and learn? But he doesn’t have time to stop. Or to learn.

And don’t forget the stargazers, the night sky watchers with their faces turned upward focusing on another sort of heavenly host while Rome’s bean counters had their noses buried in ledgers, figuring taxable income, gross national product, and formulating plans to try to squeeze twice as much work out of tired employees for half as much pay. Bureaucrats never change. You can be sure they were looking for ways to further complicate anything they could “improve” that had once been simple, and struggling with such momentous questions as whether shepherds and bakers both had to file the same Form CCLXI-revised or if Form CCLXI-EZ would do.

At Bethlehem, God reminds us that almost everything we take for granted about power and prestige, success and status—not to mention “generally accepted accounting principles”—in the kingdoms of men is in God’s kingdom beautifully, wonderfully, delightfully, topsy-turvy if not altogether ignored.

As Max Lucado writes, “Were it not for shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.”

Yes, indeed. Thank God for shepherds and stargazers!

 

 

      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.


“Will We Be Ready for the Real Joy of His Coming?”

Zero to sixty. That’s how fast this year we revved up the Thanksgiving sleigh, slid “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” slammed down the turkey and dressing, and, before the tasty bird was even digested, hitched up the red-nosed reindeer, jingling all the way.

My head’s spinning, and my feet are having a very hard time catching up with the calendar. Christmas will be here before we know it, and, lest we take measures, before we’re genuinely ready to observe it. In about ten minutes, even the part that most loudly demands our time and attention will be packed into some big boxes and shoved under the stairs or hoisted up into the attic. It will be done. And we will be done in.

Then comes January, lit off with a sparkler or two, featuring loud parties and artificial joy, all the more plastic and phony compared to the genuine joy of the glory explosion that only the God of the universe could have sparked (oh, so quietly for an explosion) at Bethlehem long ago. The glory of one angel, much less an “angelic host,” appearing to a few startled but immensely blessed shepherds trumps an electrified ball appearing to a million mindless folks at a hyped up pep rally any day.

But hot on the heels of December, January will have arrived. And January blues. And January clearance sales. And January merchandise returns.  And January tax forms. And January bills for stuff we really didn’t need that we bought with money we really didn’t have.

The turkey will be long gone. And the reindeer’s red light will be out, or at least invisible, since the FAA doesn’t require a light (any color) on the south end of a reindeer headed north.

Our heads will be spinning again. And we’ll wonder, how did we get here? Man, that was fast!

I know of no way to slow down the passage of time (though I could preach you a sermon or two that would certainly seem to slow it down). I think the real task for Christians is to participate each moment in God’s redemption of time. That’s the wisdom of our predecessors in the faith, and I’ve always found that there’s much more wisdom to be gained from dead people than from folks who just happen to be breathing right now. Their experience is that we can ask God to help us squeeze the meaning, the joy, and even the sorrow, out of each moment’s fruit, and thus find blessing.

I’ve always loved Christmas, but I’ve found that for the meaning and joy of Christ’s coming to fill every star and light, smile and gift, I need to intentionally find some quiet time in the weeks and days before its arrival to ask God to help me be ready. Personally, I love the tradition of observing the Advent season (the word has to do with “coming”) during which Christians centuries ago (at least from the fourth century) set aside time to use Scriptures and prayers and readings to help “prepare the way” into their hearts. I seem particularly drawn to words and songs that bless my soul now even more as I realize they were written and sung first by many generations of souls now gathered to the Author of their faith. In faith, one day I will be, too.

In the meantime, with them I ponder Christ’s coming. His first. His second. And I pray for the Father to help us not waste this precious time, his gift to us right now to prepare the way into our hearts for the coming of that greatest Gift.

 

       

      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.


%d bloggers like this: