Monthly Archives: May 2014

Some Things Are Well Worth Remembering

Memorial Day 01

Monday is Memorial Day.

The holiday had its beginning after the Civil War and was set aside as a day of remembrance for both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in our nation’s bloodiest war.

Of course, the remembrance has been expanded to include all of those who have died while serving in our armed forces. (Veteran’s Day honors all, living or dead, who have served.)

Some things we do well to remember.

We do well to remember that freedom is not a commodity bestowed by any nation or government, however benevolent; freedom is the gift of God freely given to every human being created in his image.

We do well to remember that the responsibility of nations is to safeguard the freedom-gift God has already given.

We do well to remember that freedom is not a commodity to be confiscated or denied by a despotic nation or government; freedom is the birthright bestowed by our Creator.

We do well to remember that the freedom God has embedded in human hearts  not only survives, it can thrive even in the hearts of those living under outward imprisonment and persecution.

We do well to remember that the freedom which is deep joy and delight to those who cherish it even in the midst of oppression spells failure and destruction to those who live in deep fear of it.

We do well to remember that the same freedom which warms, ennobles, and inspires free hearts instills terror and doom in atrophied and twisted souls frenzied in their futile efforts to quell its tide.

We do well to remember that God’s gift of freedom, so precious that it makes life worth living, also makes life worth laying down so that others may live in its light.

We do well to remember the deep truth of our nation’s “Declaration of Independence,” that we are “endowed by our Creator” not only with life, but with liberty, God’s gift, and the gift of no other.

We do well to remember that the most precious blessings we have enjoyed in this nation have God’s gift of freedom as their life-giving root, their strong foundation.

We do well to remember and acknowledge that a deep love of freedom, though it lies in the hearts of all people, is particularly embedded in hearts of those living in a land built unashamedly on a foundation of freedom.

We do well to remember that those who scoff at God, deny his existence, flaunt his will, and deride anything he calls precious, are free to do so precisely and only because they live in a land whose founders honored God as freedom’s Source.

We do well to remember that thousands of men and women have died so that freedom which is the precious birthright of hearts may also be the outward reality of seemingly ordinary lives.

On ordinary days, national holidays, all days—we do well to remember.


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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.

“Do It Again, PawPaw! Do It Again!”


“Do it again, PawPaw! Do it again!”

It could have been any of a jillion fun things grandkids and grandparents like to do, but it happened to be a trampoline game we call “Crack the Egg.”

I think there’s a real game with real rules, but we cut straight to the fun. One young little brave giggly person sits cross-legged in the middle of the trampoline, and then one heavier older person (that would be me), stands near the middle of the mat, and . . .

One quick little semi-jump sends the trampoline mat and little person down a bit. Then a more serious jump timed for just the right moment powers the launch. Little person goes giggling up into the air; PawPaw person catches little person in a bear hug on the way down. (The trampoline mat serves as a safety net, but I’ve not missed a little person catch yet.)

Don’t tell the little folks, but I’m beginning to see a couple of problems. First, the little folks are, at an alarming rate, turning into bigger little folks. Second, for a couple of days after the trampoline fun, let’s just say that from my lower back’s perspective, the game is not “Crack the Egg,” it’s “Compress the Vertebrae.” (I’ve had to slow down on “seat drops.”)

But a little pain is worth it if it produces such delightful giggles and that wonderful affirmation: “Do it again, PawPaw!”

Thank the Lord indeed, “delight” and “joy” are drinks from God’s well that will never run dry.

The “delight-full” G. K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy (1908), wrote that it’s because of their “abounding vitality” and spirits that are “fierce and free,” that children will cry, “Do it again!” until the adult under their command almost drops dead.

Why? Because of their backs! No, we’re talking about the kids here, and why they keep pleading, “Do it again!”

Because, Chesterton postulates, the kids are strong in a way that God himself is strong and grown-ups are not. God and children are “strong enough to exult in monotony.” They find genuine joy in delightful repetition, and joy is never boring.

So Chesterton says, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.”

All daisies seem pretty much alike to most of us, but the God who makes “every daisy separately,” has “never got tired of making them.”

“It may be,” Chesterton writes, “that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

My kids all say that I’ve grown a lot more childlike since the grandkids have been coming. (They actually said “childish” and something about Dad’s “losing his mind.”) I just think their arrival has made me a lot younger, except for my back.

What a delightful thought: Our Father, the source of all Joy and Delight, is younger than us all. I plan to be among those one eternal day giggling and begging, “Abba, do it again!”


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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.

“Can We Come Back After We’ve Been Broken?”


Can we “come back” after we’ve been broken? That’s the question.

Anything columnist Charles Krauthammer writes is worth reading, so I wasn’t surprised that his recent book Things That Matter, a compilation of some of his best columns, is filled with gems of uncommon sense.

Krauthammer tells an amazing “come back” story from the world of baseball (the game is a great metaphor for life) and then makes his point. Every life, he writes, has a moment when “the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter” has fallen.

His example is the story of a young pitcher on the way to incredible success who crashed, burned, lost it all, and then . . . (Get the book.)

But “catastrophe” doesn’t just come to pitchers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a master at cover-your-tail-section “risk management.” Guess what? Life is risky and can’t be completely managed.

The “catastrophe” comes. We’re broken. Then, as Krauthammer writes, “what distinguishes us is whether—and how—we ever come back.”

The good news is that, if we’re not destroyed, we’ll come back better. And once we learn (shock!) that we’re mere mortals and not “a cut above” ordinary people, then ordinary people, others who have been broken, will seek us instead of running from us.

Alas, an easy way to learn what God teaches us through brokenness and tears is not available.

In no other way will we learn to give compassion that is real and not condescending.

In no other way will we meet grace that is genuine and not Satan’s lie: “Work harder (like me), and you won’t really need much grace.”

In no other way will we learn to extend real mercy.

People who have been broken are the least likely folks to break others. Aware that they’ve received rich mercy as a free gift, they extend it quickly and graciously to others. When we’re still among the unbending, unbroken folks, blissfully (for now) unaware of how much mercy we need, we are misers where mercy is concerned, as if giving such a precious gift somehow reduces our own supply, rather than actually enriching and expanding our hitherto pinched off spirits.

Only people who have been broken can be much help to broken people. Our Father wants us to be able to give the gift he has given us. But he knows—oh, how he knows—how much giving real mercy costs.

We all put Jesus on the cross. But we do well to notice that the folks whose throats were hoarse from crying, “Crucify him!” were folks filled with faith in their own righteous holiness. Unbroken folks. And thus dangerous and most willing and likely to break others. “Spiritual” folks are always the first to show up at crucifixions.

And yet Christ’s brokenness saves us. And in our own we learn to truly experience and extend his mercy.

“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).


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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.

“Mom Knew That Love’s Growing Season Is Forever”

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Mother’s Day is just a few days away, but my memories of my mother don’t need any calendar or greeting card company’s prompting.

Memories rushed in yesterday with particular power because I was doing something Mom would have dearly loved, something she taught me to do, with someone she never met but who she would love with incredible love, someone I can hardly wait for her to meet.

I was planting flowers with our little five-year-old granddaughter Brenley.

We were taking a chance. I know this. To plant anything in our country before Mother’s Day is to walk on the wild side and live dangerously.

But plant we did. Out in the back yard. We dug down into the soil of two whiskey barrel planters, set in our plants, and watered them with water from our rain barrels.

We were standing there, our hands covered with mud, Bren holding the “loppers” as I showed her where to separate our “cuttings.” And we had time to talk.

That’s one of the best things about planting stuff together. You’re working for a common goal, looking forward to what God will do to make the world and your little corner of it more beautiful, and you get to talk while you’re doing it. We dull grownups need to spend all the time we can talking with little people. They know what’s really important.

And that’s when it hit me: “Bren, your MawMaw Shelburne, my mom, would have loved this! She loved to plant things and watch them grow, and she’d REALLY have loved doing this with you!”

Memories flooded in, countless times in my childhood when Mom would take my brother and me out to the back yard, and we’d dig, and plant, and water—and talk. Mom was Rembrandt and her yard was her canvas. I think the only things she loved more than her growing plants were her growing kids and grandkids. So she just grew them all together.

A lot of what Mom knew about growing things, she learned from her parents.  Grandmother Key was always on the lookout for rocks with hollows in them, perfect planters for her little cacti. For larger planting projects, the instrument of choice, both for Mom and Granddaddy Key was a grubbing hoe. I remember setting the plants out and then “grubbing” little dams around them to hold the water in. I remember playing with plastic Army men around those dams, earthen barricades prone to frequent flooding. Drowning was far more a danger to my troops than any enemy action.

Granddaddy was much more rancher than farmer, but he certainly knew how to grow things. And I’m not sure who loved those rare and precious collaborative gardening times more, the father or the daughter. One thing was clear: they loved the time together.

Mom knew that Paradise was a garden, a place to grow love. And love grows forever.


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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.


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