Monthly Archives: January 2015

Telephonically Speaking, Society Has Turned a Corner


I wonder when we turned the corner? Telephonically speaking, I mean.

Once upon a time having a cell phone was a very cool thing, a “status symbol” even. (Hey, I remember when having a telephone with push buttons and not a rotary dial was cool.)

The first cell phone I ever spied looked like spy Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. Remember him? Ahead of his time, he was the klutzy TV series “secret agent” (Get Smart was the series, even though it helped us get smarter not at all) who’d take off his shoe, stick it up to his ear, and make a phone call.

The obviously “high maintenance” gal I saw years ago parading through a hospital waiting room didn’t look like Maxwell Smart. She looked like somebody well worth avoiding, but she did have a big beige plastic thing, something on the order of a man’s Size 11 shoe, stuck up to her face. She was talking into it and seemed keen on everyone noticing, which I guess we did.

Many moons have passed since then. Now even the most intelligent yard dogs and the most not-so-smart humans (not just Maxwell Smart), either have a cell phone or a cell phone has them. That’s why it’s been years since you’ve had a simple meal when everyone at the table was fully present and not focused on a phone. Most folks don’t mean to be impolite; the young ones have never seen anyone actually try to eat without a phone.

It might not make the list of time-honored spiritual disciplines, but on the modern list should be this grueling exercise: consider going to a meal occasionally and leaving your phone switched off or in the car.

Unless you’re a brain surgeon or hooked up to NORAD and the president and the Pentagon require your immediate concurrence should they want to launch nuclear missiles, most folks will find that the world will keep on spinning for an hour or so even if they’re un-tethered from their phone. Bad news will be just as bad an hour later and good news will be an even nicer surprise.

But I warn you: the first time or two you try it, you may feel a little shortness of breath, some tightness in your chest, and perhaps a little free-floating anxiety. Counseling and medication are available should such symptoms continue or worsen. Others (very few, but some) have chosen to travel this one-hour “phone-fast” road before; you’re not alone.

Yep, we’ve turned a corner. The time was when having a cell phone was a status symbol. Now I’m told the real status symbol is NOT having a cell phone. It’s having “people” whose cell phones have them. They make and take the calls you never have to. Hmm.

Some days I’d like to give my phone to the dog, as long as she’d promise to give it back when the grandkids are calling.

I wonder how our Creator does it? He stays on the line all the time, always awaiting our call. Whenever we want to talk about anything at all, he considers that very good news.


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Copyright 2015 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 Older I Get, the Wiser My Father Becomes”

Shelburne Portrait-small

I’ve long ago discovered the truth of the old adage: The older I get, the wiser my father becomes.

January 15, 2015 would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. January 9 was the fifteenth anniversary of his death.

I’m immensely blessed to be able to say I have few, if any, regrets about what was said or left unsaid between us. Dad well knew how much I loved and respected him.

But there are a few things I’d really like to tell him again. Once again, I’d like to say, thank you, Dad, for always giving exactly the wisdom and the love that I needed even when I was too young, inexperienced, and immature to know how very young, inexperienced, and immature I really was. If I could, I’d say once again . . .

Thank you, Dad, for all the precious gifts you’ve given.

Thank you for faithfully loving my mother.

Thank you for faithfully loving God’s people, Christ’s church.

Thank you for loving God himself with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Thank you for the fact that your love of the Father colored beautifully every other love of your life.

Thank you, my earthly father, for your love which made it so easy to believe in the love of the Heavenly Father.

Yes, and I’m seeing, oh, so clearly, Dad, how that heavenly love means fulfilling very practical earthly obligations and duties.

I learned long ago whose name goes on that blank on so many medical and college and loan forms where it says simply, “Responsible Party.” Being “responsible” is not easy, which largely explains why so many fathers today fail to be. You shouldered the load. Thank you.

You knew what it’s like to be the one charged with picking up the pieces when the car breaks, the dog bites, the bill’s due, or the wheels come off in so many ways.

You knew all about paying to fix crooked teeth, saying a few words over the grave of a family pet, loving all your children but giving extra love at a particular moment to the child who particularly needs it most.

You knew when loving well meant “picking up the pieces” and when loving wisely meant expecting me to learn to clean up my own mess.

You were the strongest man I have ever known in all the ways that count, strong enough to be truly gentle.

You were the kindest man I have ever known, merciful even when those around you were being unfair and unmerciful.

You were big enough, wise enough, Christ-like enough to know when to laugh and when to cry (unashamed of laughter or of tears), when to direct and when to discipline, when to speak and when to listen, when to wait and see, and when to wrap up a child in a father’s embrace.

I’d give a lot for your embrace right now, Dad. Just a hug from the man whose gracious life and whose unfailing love has given life to me, and to mine, and opened my heart to love.

So, Dad, I just wanted to say once more, thank you. And may the Father of us all give wings to this “thank you” and whisper in your ear once more my thanks for the gifts and the love you have given me, your son.


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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

As the New Year Unfolds, Humans Face a Choice


A mother sits in the bed holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder and in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. And she wonders. She wonders who he will be and what he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little one’s life journey.

Mary sits holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder, in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. He is the most amazing child ever born and his is the most amazing birth. The angel has told her who he is and has given her his name, but Mary still wonders at all the angel has not said. She wonders who this little miracle called the Son of God will be and what in God’s miraculous power he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little One’s life journey. This little One who flung the stars across the canvas of the universe. This little One, this Almighty One, who has chosen to become small and weak to make us strong.

And so even Mary, the mother of God, joins mothers in all times and in all places, and the rest of us as well, as we gaze at the known and we wonder about the unknown. As new parents, we hold the little answers to a nine-month-long question in our hands, and the reality dawns on us that, though now we see the little one whose coming we had longed for, this little sleeping answer to our prayers brings more questions than answers. We thank God for what is, that the great I AM has called into being one more little human being, one more wonder. But we wonder what will come.

And what is true of our little ones, and what was true even of Mary’s little One, is true of this new year we’re just beginning. And it’s true of every new year we’ll ever begin; every one of them an adventure because life itself is an adventure. We don’t know, we can’t know, exactly what the new year will hold.

2015 will bring for each of us some wonderful and surprising joys. It will also hold some deep sorrows. Such is the patchwork of life. I have experienced more blessing and joy myself than any 1000 people have any right to, and yet I know how easily I give in to fear and anxiety, how I tend to focus on sorrows and not joys. I need so badly what we all need—God’s help to face the future with a faith-born depth of peace and joy and gratitude that only comes from learning to trust the Author of life.

Writer Kenneth Wilson tells of living as a small boy in a big, old, dark, multi-story, creaking and rattling house in Pittsburgh. At night the old dwelling could be a scary place. One evening his father read him a bedtime story and then asked, “Would you rather I leave the light on and go downstairs, or turn the light out and stay with you for awhile?” Wilson says, “I chose presence with darkness, over absence with light.”

It was a very good choice. In the face of an unknown future which sometimes seems dark because we see with weak and human eyes, choose to trust God and live daily in his presence.


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Copyright 2015 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 Seasons Change, But the Lord of the Seasons Does Not


Seasons. I love living in a place where we get them all. (Altitude. That’s the ticket to ride if you want all four full on.)

I’m unrepentantly partial to the one that includes roaring fires, snow, and Christmas. But each holds its own particular hue and beauty, and I’m on mostly good terms with them all.

Seasons come. Seasons go. No surprise. But the changing colors, varying for each of us within the changing seasons, do surprise me a bit. It’s not just winter or summer or . . . It’s that particular time in winter or summer when you and yours . . .

I know what to expect, for example, as autumn gives way to winter. The candles lit too rarely residing “off-season” in the fireplace feebly reminding us that it is a place for fire, are pushed aside, packed up, and put away as wicks give way to logs and flickers give way to blazes. Every year in front of the hearth I celebrate as the fireplace gets down to the business God intended.

I’m more than willing to croon a tune in any season, but December brings the best opportunities to sing the best songs and make a little music particularly in step with His. Singing and joy are gifts of God all wrapped up together and never more beautifully than when we celebrate the Gift.

So in December, I sing and sing and . . . as we get further into the season, services multiply, preparatory candles are lit, hope and expectations rise up anew as (I always hope) snow falls down, the gifts pile up around the tree, and then, for me, a candlelight service or two, and Christmas Day, and suddenly, even as the twelve days are adding up, a bit of a new season comes within the season.

And that’s where I find myself, as I’m writing on this fifth day of Christmas. It’s deliciously cold. One good breath of air will remind you that you’re alive, and the smell of the burning oak and pinion makes you glad that you are. The kids and grandkids are coming in a few days, so gifts are still piled around the tree. The Christmas train at the tree’s base is becalmed by a blizzard of presents, but the grandkids will soon dig it out. And some good Methodist friends and colleagues who know about the twelve days of Christmas will, ere long, give me one more chance to sing its songs and help me gently tuck this season into bed yet again.

The task, I think, is to learn to let the Lord lead us into each season, and the seasons within them, with open hands and hearts, to learn their lessons anew, to savor their particular joys, and, on a more somber note, to hold on to his hope as we (not often, I pray) pass through dark times within some seasons that seem completely bereft of warmth. Winters of that sort no one likes, but—Lord, help us believe it when we can’t feel it—even their dark cold is no match for his warm light; one day it will be banished forever.

The seasons, the years, change. But walking with us through each season and every time within it, is the One who does not change. Thank God indeed!


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Copyright 2015 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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