Monthly Archives: April 2014

“I Go to Prepare a Place for You”

Robert Lee-JLS

“Place” matters.

When God created humans, he did not fashion us as disembodied spirits; he gave us bodies formed of matter, and a place in which to live. In fact, we do well to remember that Christianity is the only world religion that teaches the resurrection not just of the spirit, but of the body—an amazing “spiritual” body, yes, but a body nonetheless (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Our Creator gives wonderful hints in Scripture not just of a glorious future, but of an amazing place: “new heavens and new earth.”

Perhaps it was author and pastor Eugene Peterson whose words about this first hit home with me. Each one of us is born not just into this world but into a place in this world, a “locating” of ourselves that affects us deeply.

Just the tip of the iceberg is another author’s contention that even politically, folks living in cities and crowded places tend to focus more on law/regulation and folks living in wide open spaces focus more on freedom. “Place” shapes us and our perceptions and values.

Most folks who know me and my extended family very well know that my brothers and I, all four of us pastors, have for many years met twice a year at our maternal grandparents old homeplace. That small town (Hey, small towns, thank the Lord, remain the biggest and best parts of our nation!) and the little house there are precious to us. I promise you, though, most folks with no ties to that place would take one look at the house and drive on down the road to a motel.

For over 20 years, twice a year (over 40 “meetings,”) we’ve gathered at that place, come together for strength, rest, counsel, and fun, to recharge so as to have something to give back in our daily ministries and vocations.

It’s been rather amazing that for four guys, the nature of whose work means being always “on call,” the times when funerals, pastoral needs and crises, etc., have torpedoed the Robert Lee gathering have been fairly rare.

Last week’s Robert Lee gathering was, sadly, an exception. Two of us, the young troublemakers, just couldn’t pull it off this spring. I managed to get over to the old place for a few precious hours one day. Even more than usual, I found myself thinking of the blessing that place with my brothers has been, and of some lessons time has taught.

When I step through that old gate, I’m setting foot onto the place where my Key grandparents lived almost all of their lives. Joys. Sorrows. Times of great happiness. Times of deep and agonizing perplexity. Life. With God’s help, they made it through.

I see still piled by the wire fence around the “patch,” Grandmother’s collection of little rocks with hollows in them to be filled with her little cacti. Her life, and Granddaddy’s life, in this place affect me every day in many ways that I know and more that I do not. The place that molded them still shapes me.

I look back over the “brothers’ gatherings” there. We always bring laughter. We’ve also brought tears. Carefree times. Careworn times. Great times. Difficult times. But all times together. All those times in that place, more than enough to make it for us holy.

I remember Dad being there with us. And I thank his Father and ours for that place.

I’m so thankful we serve a Lord who has promised, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

The perfect place.


      You’re invited to visit my website at!

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

“You Can’t Just Turn on Creativity Like a Faucet”


“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood,” said Bill Watterson who drew the great Calvin and Hobbes comic strip for ten years. And he went on, “What mood is that? Last minute panic.” My kind of guy.

Near as I can figure, I’ve been writing this weak column weekly since July 1993. Over 20 years. Twenty years of very regular deadlines. And around 1000 columns. Since its beginning, it has morphed also into an e-mail column, a newspaper web column, and a blog. (When I started, a blog was an intestinal blockage.)

To the cries and moans of scads of fans, Watterson ended his column after 10 years. He wanted Calvin and Hobbes to go out while he was still at the top of his game and had fresh things to say.

Neither of those valid concerns has stopped me yet. (Writers who run out of things to say need to remember that reading comes before writing and has a great deal to do with thinking new thoughts. To have anything worth saying, it’s important to read things worth reading.)

Watterson is a very private guy, so I doubt he’d join a club for procrastinators. But if somebody will form one, I promise to join once I get around to it.

“Last minute panic.” That’s exactly the mood in which I write most of my stuff. Columns, sermons, lists of other stuff to put off doing, etc. A deadline is about the only spark that will ignite any weak flame I possess.

I don’t understand why. My friend is the sportswriter for our newspaper. It’s pretty much required that sports events have to happen before he writes about them. I’m under no such constraint.

Theoretically, I could write a month or a year ahead of time. My brother has been at this a lot longer than I have, and I’ve even heard him talk about writing extra columns during one Christmas to be ready for the next. I find that sort of discipline as appalling as it is mystifying.

Of my 1000 columns, I’m betting 10 may have been written a week early. Well, with this one, make that 11. And you see how worthless it is. I rest my case.

I despise deadlines, but I’ve gotta have them. The Monday deadline for my column drives me nuts. Like most pastors, I’m brain-dead on Monday mornings. I’ve said everything I know, and a little more, on most Sundays. But we’re not the New York Times, and we don’t get to pick our printing “slot,” so Monday morning often finds me in sweat pants and a t-shirt, with an IV drip of coffee, staring at a blank computer screen.

Yes, dear reader, but this is Tuesday as I write, and this column is almost two weeks early. What discipline!

Not really. My truck battery is dead (my fault). I’m stranded at home while it charges. I’ve already taken out the trash. Filled up the hummingbird feeders. Watered the plants. Seriously thought about writing next week’s column. But to put that off, I wrote this one instead. It’s too long. I’ll edit it later.

“When the time had fully come,” at just the right time, God sent his Son. I’m glad he didn’t put it off.


    You’re invited to visit my website at


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

An Amazing Week Begins With an Amazing Ride

triumphal entry 01

It is an astonishing scene, that journey God’s Son makes to Jerusalem as the last week of his earthly life begins. God in the flesh is walking toward Jerusalem. And the Lord of all creation is about to do something that will astound the universe.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, he will be hailed as a conquering king. The Great Commission will come later. But on the day we now know as Palm Sunday, he simply commissions two disciples to head into a little village and lead out a young colt, a young donkey, to serve as the bearer of the King.

I have preached many Palm Sunday sermons, but the one I felt most qualified to preach was a sermon I tried to give from the perspective of the donkey!

We are specifically told that this was a “young” donkey that had never been ridden before. I doubt you need to be an expert in donkey-training to know that just climbing aboard such a beast and managing to stay mounted with no previous donkey training or preparation for the beast at hand would itself be, apart from divine intervention, quite a feat. But the Lord of creation is Lord also of all four-footed creatures.

I don’t know why, of all the pilgrims in Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene would later be chosen to carry the cross of Christ. And I don’t know why Jesus chose this particular beast to bear him into Jerusalem. I understand that it wasn’t unusual in those days for a conquering king returning victorious from battle to ride on a donkey. In that sense, a donkey was a royal beast. I may not be much of a cowboy, but I’ve been happily living in rural America long enough to know that a donkey is not a mule. Yet, as a fellow hailing from Muleshoe, Texas, I don’t have much trouble seeing some nobility in a donkey.

I’ll bet it was a fine specimen of donkeyhood. This blessed beast is dedicated for the use of the King of the universe. It was never enough to take to the temple for sacrifice just any old lamb. You didn’t take just what you could easily spare. You didn’t give a half-blind, half-dead, mangy beast; you gave your best to God. We probably should think about that when we catch ourselves giving just what we can easily spare and not miss. A sacrifice we can easily afford is no sacrifice at all.

This young beast is dedicated to God. What he is doing, what he is allowing to be done to him and with him, is something completely new. For him this is not business as usual.

Even though I may be a donkey myself at times, I can’t claim any insight into their heads. I’ll hazard a guess, though, that until this moment, this beast did not know that he would be honored above all beasts. On that Sunday centuries ago, what God would do with that little donkey—something completely new, completely amazing—was a prelude to a week full of astounding events.

And the Sunday coming up? It would be a day the like of which this world and universe had never dared imagine in its wildest dreams.


     You’re  invited to visit my website at!


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

Ten Rules for a Good Clean Fight

boxing gloves

Mark it down: all couples sometimes fight.

If you’d prefer, I could spin that a tad: “All couples sometimes have serious and somewhat warm discussions.” That is nothing but normal, and may even be healthy—far better than the immature, toxic, and utterly unfair “I’m clamming up,” passive aggressive, silent approach no adult (or child) should be allowed to get away with.

I got this outline years ago from friend and colleague Lyndon Latham. I’m not sure where he got it, but there’s a boatload of wisdom in “Ten Rules for a Good Clean Fight.”

1) Before we begin, we must both agree that the time is right (Jeremiah 6:14; Psalm 141:3). Early in the morning or late at night are probably bad times. And why mess up a good meal?

2) We will remember that our only aim is deeper understanding (James 1:19-20). Remember that you love one another. Take turns speaking but mostly, listen! Your mate may just need to blow off some steam. But if you know you’re wrong, just admit it. If you’re always right, you’re “wrongest” of all. And one wise man smilingly told his son who’d ticked off his girlfriend: “You can be right or you can be happy. Not both.”

3) We will check our weapons often to be sure they are not deadly (Matthew 5:21-22a; James 3:6). Phasers should be set to “stun” and not “kill.” You know your mate, weaknesses included, better than anyone else. You can hurt your mate more than anyone else if you so choose. Don’t!

4) We will stick to the issue (Proverbs 10:19). No exhaustive lists of each other’s faults. And never in a fight use the words “always” or “never.” They are always unfair and never true. Use “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements.

5) We will lower our voices one notch instead of raising them two (Proverbs 15:1). A shouter deserves to lose.

6) We will never discuss or reveal private matters in public (Proverbs 10:8). Duh!

7) We will never involve the children in the battle (Proverbs 10:12). NEVER fight in front of the kids or enlist their aid.

8) We will never resort to violence (Proverbs 29:11). Anger properly vented is not bad, but violence is absolutely off-limits.

9) We will discuss an armistice whenever either partner calls “halt” (Ephesians 4:26). Listen! When your mate signals, “Time out,” stop. Some discussions will take longer than one session. One couple’s signal is: “Let’s refer this to the committee.”

10) When we have come to terms, we will put the issue away until we both agree that it needs more discussion (Matthew 5:9). Some things you can agree on quickly. Some things you will never agree on. Don’t back your mate into a corner and force agreement where there is none. If you’re the more forceful spouse, this means you especially need to avoid the former temptation and take care of, rather than manipulate, your mate.

Let the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13) be your constant guides.


*Risk management disclaimers: #1: If you think I’m writing this because of any discussion  my wife and I are presently having, get real. I’m not that much of an idiot, and my life is not that boring. #2: If you think I’m writing this because of any fuss any couple I presently know is presently having, nope, and I direct you to the previous sentence.


    You’re invited to visit my website at!


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

%d bloggers like this: