“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

snow-dragon-01

Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     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.


Warning: Grumble at Your Own Risk

 

 

grumbling

Grumbling is risky business.

Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell—the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.

Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its very nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person—be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . .  Whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better! What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”

Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the very same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the very last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.

And grumbling snowballs—not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.

I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again—grumbling is risky business.

If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort, and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant  grumble where once resided a warm human heart.

Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna! They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The Cook, and his staff.

Both as punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.

When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger! Grumbling Is Very Risky Business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.

 

        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.


“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”

 

control-freak

Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.

 

       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.


“Pride Goes Before Destruction,” Said a Very Wise Man

 

prideNo surprise, but the words of Scripture have just been validated yet again in my life.

I promise, I’d not been tempted upon the arrival of February, which is a full two weeks past the time most folks break their resolutions, to congratulate myself on keeping any of my New Year’s resolutions. You see, one New Year’s Day many years ago, I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions.

As tribute, no doubt, to my incredible self-discipline, may I say that, though I’ve faltered a time or two, that resolution I have religiously kept. It and I have dwelt together in complete harmony these many years.

But I was tempted nonetheless to be a bit haughty concerning one minor achievement thus far in this young year. I realized a day or two ago that, contrary to my usual practice of ruining checks in January (yeah, we still occasionally use the printed kind), by inscribing the wrong year on them, I’d not written 2016 on a single 2017 check.

Yes, but—and now please begin reciting with me Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,”—as I’d been patting myself on the back, I opened an email note from my fellow editor brother. Guess what?

Well, wait to guess for just a moment. I need to set up this confession just a bit more.

As a writer, editor, copy editor, and proofreader, I was taught the Eleventh Commandment with its three sub-points: Thou shalt edit, copy edit, and proofread.

In our modern world, the flurry of straight to the Ethernet ebook publishing only underscores that need. Lots of stuff gets “out there” way too quickly. Lots never should have been out there. But mediocre writing can be made almost passable by the Eleventh Commandment, good writing can be made better, and great writing can be made truly top notch.

And yet I’ve seen stuff that even some major houses publish in ebook form that, it seems, nobody bothered even to proofread. I’ve on occasion narrated a book for audio publication—and discovered that I must have been the first person ever to read through it. Typos, errors, bloopers all over the place. Not to mention that even a quick run-through by an editor could’ve tightened it up nicely. A pet peeve. Can you tell?

Okay. Please begin the recitation again. “Pride goes before destruction . . .”

That note from my brother? He just thought he’d mention that the January 2017 issue of the monthly devotional magazine we’ve been editing for decades made it through four proofreadings and nobody caught the fact that somebody (ahem!) set its date, page two, to proudly proclaim, “January 2016.” But, hey, I messed up no checks. Just several thousand magazines.

“. . . a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s possible that a resolution to be more humble might not be completely out of order.

 

      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 Little Story About Some Heavy Chains

 

oldsnowcar

“Wow! This box is heavy!” asserted my wife as she lugged in a box dropped on our porch by UPS. Immediately, I knew what it was, and that she was right. You see, a box of chains (not of the jewelry variety) is usually heavy.

Our annual family ski trip is right on the horizon. Before our four sons left the nest, a ski trip every year or two was often a very significant financial undertaking for our family, but, as my wife and I had hoped, it was great time together and an investment we’re very glad we made.

In my opinion, not much is more beautiful than snow, more fun than skiing, and more of a hoot than laughing as we rehearse in front of a fireplace in a warm cabin true tales of the time when Uncle [any of four names will do] made a really bad decision involving “catching air” and moguls, or PawPaw (what was he thinking!?) took a little jump off a ski lift (it wasn’t that high, really, but he won’t do it again). No worries. We don’t laugh at anything truly life-threatening.

One of the added benefits of family ski trips is that the only way to get down the hill is to ride up it first. That usually means sitting on a chair lift. That usually means sitting with somebody else. That usually means somebody you love. And that usually means talking. It’s good time, the favorite time of the year for lots of us, including a passel of sweet little snow-swishing bunnies and cool-looking pint-sized downhill racers.

“We” have grown. The trip now involves a fleet of vehicles, a cabin the size of a small hotel, and enough equipment for the U. S. Olympic Ski Team.

Back to the box. Yes, chains. Snow chains. “You’ll need chains,” the fine folks we’ve rented the cabin from have said. Several times. And I believe them.

Last year was almost my last year. Halfway up the hill to the “that year’s” cabin, I figured out that our minivan was only going halfway up. When it stopped, I opened the door and very carefully and very unwisely got out to survey the situation. That’s when the van started moving again. A slow (way too fast) slide downward.

Then a quick decision. Jump away? Jump back in? Quick computation. Quick answer: My carcass wouldn’t pass gently under that door. On that ice, a jump wouldn’t be away; it would be down and under. Thankfully, I made good on my one chance to jump back in. Stupidly slammed my foot on the brake (which, of course, did no good at all), but rode in, and not beneath, the van to an eventual stop.

After the hearts of participant and spectators got started again, and after frozen and bloodied fingers (mine) got a rotten pair of chains put on, the rest of the trip was, for me, mostly fun and uneventful.

So . . . new snow chains.

Just before my son and I practiced, on a dry driveway, putting them on my vehicle, my little grandson put them on himself. He rattled around the living room looking and sounding like a miniature Marley’s ghost.

Come to think of it, there’s a right time to rattle around with chains on if you’re headed up a steep, icy hill. But the best way to make the journey through life itself is with faith in the One whose sacrifice removes chains of the heaviest sort once and for all.

 

     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.


“If Everybody Had a Father Like I Had a Father . . .”

 

Shelburne Portrait

I wrote most of the words below less than twenty-four hours after I got word that the kindest, gentlest, strongest, and best man I have ever known had passed away. He was my father.

Though many thoughts were racing through my mind, I realized that, if everybody had a father like I had a father, well, lots would be different in this world.

As I’m writing now, on January 15, 2017, I realize that Dad would have been 104 today. And every day, I realize with even more gratitude to God how true these words were and are.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever have to walk out the door or crawl into bed wondering if his father loved and wanted him.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever go to bed worried that his father might not really love his mother.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no son or daughter would ever see his father raise his fist or even his voice in anger.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no one would have to ask how it is possible to be strong and gentle, just and loving, all at the same time.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, nations would not fight nations, families would not fight families, and Christians would never fight Christians, because we would all rather be hurt than be hurtful. And the hurts that are part and parcel of human existence would never be hurts we inflicted upon each other.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that the way to real happiness is to love the Father of all and the Son who died to save us.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that, even with all the church’s imperfections, the Bride of Christ is still the finest family of all, and that in her warmth is found spiritual nourishment and fine fellowship and genuine love.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, good times would be even better and bad times would be more bearable, because of the unfailing love of our fathers.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, well, there would still be problems in this fallen world because we would all still be sons and daughters of our father Adam, too.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would grow up knowing a lot more what their Father God looks like and acts like and loves like.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would know the Father’s love largely because of their father’s love.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, this world and life itself would be much, much better.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, I might not know what a fine father I had. And, not knowing that, I might not know what a Father I have, and that the best Father of all is your Father, too.

 

       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.


“I Can’t Rightly Say, But It Sounds Like . . .”

 

fragranceofchrist

In his delightful book Jayber Crow, author Wendell Berry has one character tell this little tale about another one:

“Fraz Berlew was drunk and wandering. He wandered into a saloon down at Hargrave. The saloonkeeper was out and the place was empty. Fraz just helped himself to a considerable portion of the merchandise, and wandered on.

“When he wandered back again the saloonkeeper was there. He said, ‘Fraz, did you come in here and drink up a bunch of my whiskey while I was gone?’

“And Fraz said, ‘I can’t rightly say. But it sounds like me.’”

That little story makes me think—not about Fraz Berlew but about you. And about me.

It’s one thing for a saloonkeeper to miss some of his stock, see an ol’ boy wander through, and immediately recognize the culprit, even if the culprit’s not absolutely sure he is the culprit! It’s another for someone to see or hear of an act of kindness, generosity, largeness of spirit, and immediately think, “I’m not sure who did that, but it sure sounds like . . .”

What a great thing if folks are tempted to make that kind of statement about you!

“Hey, did anybody see _____ wander through our workplace here? Everybody seems happier than usual today. I’m not sure she was here, but it sure seems like she might have been.”

“Did anybody see ______ come through our home? I’m not sure he was here, but today the members of our family have just seemed more accepting of and thankful for each other, and I just thought ___ had probably been here.”

“Was ______ here today in our [home, business, school, office, church]? So-and-so was really feeling down, dirty, and depressed because of [insert So-and-so’s sin, failure, burden, weakness, sorrow], and [he, she, or me] is so much better, I was pretty sure _______ must have spent some time here.”

I could go on, but you get the picture, don’t you? You can quickly think of some folks whose names fit into those blanks very well. They are people who just spend some time in your home, walk through your office, visit your classroom, worship with you at church—people whose lives somehow intersect with yours perhaps in very small ways—but wherever they are, life somehow seems better, more filled with color, more joyful, more worth living, and more filled with grace and hope, no matter how dark or gloomy the day might have seemed before they passed through.

I think the Apostle Paul would say that such people have about them “the aroma of Christ.”

“Was _____ here today?”

“I can’t rightly say. But it sure seems like it because today this place is better, more gracious, more filled with hope than it was before.”

 

      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.


“On the 8th Day of Christmas” God Gave to Us–A New Year!

 

twelve-days

For years now I’ve been trying to get my head right about the New Year’s “holiday.”

And there we have it. Tripped and skinned my knee on the problem right there in my first paragraph. New Year’s Day is indeed a holiday, but, if you ask me, the closest it gets to being a “holy” day is that it’s the eighth day of Christmas. Now that I will celebrate. (No maids a-milking required.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like days off for pretty much any reason not related to sickness or death. Most of us could use more of them, not less. We’d work better on the days we’re “on” if we were disciplined enough, or fortunate enough, to get more days “off.” As a wise person (John Lubbock) wrote long ago, “Rest is not idleness.” And God gave a commandment about it. I like holidays. I just tend to like the truly “holy” holidays the best. (I’m an Earth Day Scrooge, too, but that’s another story.)

New Year’s Day and I have long had a rather dicey relationship. I think the relationship started a bit of a downward slide right about the same time my theology began to make some much-needed movement in an upward direction. God’s “good news,” the gospel, is the best news of all because it centers in what HE has done through Christ, not what WE have done. The gospel is not just another of humanity’s dreary multitude of self-improvement programs. God’s grace really is amazing. If we could earn it, it would not be grace. And not even close to “amazing.” Just business as usual in this world.

What we’ve just celebrated—what happened in Bethlehem—is all about something that only God could do, something that our Creator, out of amazing love, actually did. It’s an incredible gift! It is for us, but it could not by any stretch of the imagination be produced by us. We can’t create it; we can only in joyful humility accept it.

If we’re not careful, New Year’s finds us waving around our little sparkler, prattling about all of the resolutions we make as we focus largely on our own power, looking yet again at life through the wrong end of the telescope. All full of ourselves, we flick our little lighters, making about as much real light and producing as much warmth as Bob Cratchit’s little pseudo-fire produced before Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation issued in more coal and genuine warmth. (What a delightful story!)

Christmas centers on the most amazing gift of the Father, the Baby miraculously sent from Heaven and into this world at Bethlehem. New Year’s? Well, sparklers and a man-made fake crystal ball mechanically winched down at Times Square seem a bit anticlimactic since God has already come down! Now THAT was an event!

But wait a minute! I’m preaching straight to me when I say that our Lord specialized in taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Water to wine, remember? What if, as the new year dawns, we ask our God to help us open our eyes and focus on the amazing ways He makes every day, every moment, holy, as we receive each of our days, each of our breaths, as gifts from Him?

May this new year be filled with such days, such times, in our lives!

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


What Does Christmas Really Mean?

 

16DCC-Church-Christmas 2014-08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Father’s First Birth Announcement Goes to . . .

 

Shepherds-CKS01

This Christmas I find myself wondering, yet again, about those Bethlehem shepherds.

It’s possible, of course, that the Almighty chose these particular sheepherders as recipients of the angelic birth announcement of his Son because they were a sheep-shearing cut above the other sheep guys in the region.

Maybe they were better-dressed than most, draped in new camo robes ordered from Zimfela’s Catalog complete with Velcro-secured mesh pockets for their ZX-7 night vision sheep-finding goggles.

Perhaps they were unusually prosperous shepherds, the sort who could afford a clean-robe-a-day laundry service; hence, if you were downwind and one was headed your way, your first clue would be visual or auditory, never olfactory.

Maybe, before entering any respectable domicile following their shepherd shift, they were careful to switch from their field sandals to high-dollar Habakkukstock footware lest they track in . . . something.

It’s even possible, I suppose, that the Lord God chose these particular fellows because they were unusually educated and articulate. Perhaps a couple or three of them were actually Aramaic majors who’d had a hard time finding lucrative employment after college but at class reunions, even though they were less well-sandaled than their Business major classmates, could take solace in the fact that they understood more about the meaning of life.

Or maybe the Creator chose them because they were, against all stereotypes, remarkably religious sheepherders. Sure, their work made it hard for them to attend worship services in town, but they never failed to hold regular devotionals during each of their shepherd shifts. Granted, it had been a bit more complicated since zealous young Zebulun, on vacation a couple of months ago, had wandered into a trendy mega-synagogue in Jerusalem. Now they were holding two devotionals an evening, one traditional and the other contemporary.

I suppose all of that is possible. But if you’re selling it (which is unlikely), I’m probably not buying.

What I really think is that our Father who brazenly, scandalously, seems to prefer ordinary folks over the boring and tedious, plastic and air-brushed, hang-your-own-halo, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, super-spiritual crowd (always religiously first at the scene of any crucifixions)—chose these guys to be first at the scene of his Son’s birth precisely because they were . . . wait for it . . . ordinary.

I have no beef with these shepherds. Far from criticizing our Father’s choice, I find it laugh-out-loud delightful.

The heavens were torn open. The angel announced. The heavenly host sang. To an audience of guys who smelled conspicuously like the south ends of north-facing sheep, to gents whose manners and language were far from genteel, who were quite capable of describing recalcitrant sheep in colorful terms, and who’d heretofore been most likely to find angels only at the bottom of a wineskin.

For that Bethlehem birth announcement, God chose shepherds! Ordinary folks. Like us. Can you imagine anything more extraordinary?!

 

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

 

 

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.


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