Monthly Archives: May 2015

Some Lessons Preached Loudly by Silence

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More than once since a recent Community Palm Sunday service, I’ve wished I’d not preached a sermon recommending some silence (introspection, reflection, quietness). I knew at the time how badly I always need some, but I didn’t plan to go overboard with it.

Then came April 12.

I’ll long remember that day. First and by far most important, it was the day I performed the baptism of my granddaughter Brenley. An incredibly sweet moment.

But it was also the day laryngitis laid me low, as it never has before, and I fervently hope never will again.

I’d sung three or so hours the day before. Didn’t strain anything. But by that evening, some diabolical combination of a virus and allergies nailed me. I was supposed to preach, baptize, and sing at Bren’s church. I gave my manuscript to my son and asked him to read it, managed to squawk out enough words to perform the baptism, and we’ll do the singing later. Boy, was I silent! And not happy about it.

Jesus talks about a “cup of cold water.” At the house later, Bren suddenly was at my side placing on my throat a plastic bag she’d filled with ice chips. Such a sweet nurse!

To shorten the story, I’ll just say that at the doc’s later, he said he thought I’d be fine, but, “How about trying to avoid unnecessary talking for the next ten days? I know you’ve got some stuff you can hardly cancel, but try some vocal rest. Don’t answer. Just nod your head.”

“Yeah, Bucko, how about this: you try not using your hands for ten days!? Just nod your head.” But he was right.

It’s been interesting. Here are a few things I think I’ve learned.

We talk too much, and it’s difficult to curtail our talk. St. James is right: we can tame all sorts of creatures, but “no man can tame the tongue” (3:8). It does makes good sense, and it’s great discipline, to lock it down for a little while.

By the way, “vocal rest” is difficult discipline, but it’s just half of the “silence equation.” Noise comes from two directions: the things we rattle about, and the things that rattle about (around) us. Your best bet, if you’re trying to be silent, is to find some solitude. Not only is some occasional “alone time” also balm for our souls, being silent is a lot easier by yourself.

The only place I can imagine going where they really understand the discipline of silence is a monastery. I’m not planning to enter one. Protestants are probably not their prime candidates. But many are kind enough to accept visitors, and I’m not kidding, wherever we can find it, I think most of us might find a few days of that kind of silence to be golden. We’d be amazed at what we’d learn. Some things—about silence and about so much else we desperately need to know—can only be learned in silence.

Apart from that, if you’re trying to be quiet in a crowd, good luck. It’s tough in both directions. Lest folks think you’re depressed, I’d suggest you smile more than usual. That’s probably good anyway. As is listening more and saying much less.

James, again, is the one who counseled, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19). Shh! Let’s listen to him!


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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.


Facebook, Privacy, Location Settings, and Souls

social media addiction

Does privacy matter to you? It does to me.

That’s why I find it annoying, and not at all comforting, or helpful, or efficient, if I’ve “Googled” a question—“Why can’t Americans produce really creamy chocolate?”—to come back in ten minutes and find that everywhere I go on the Internet, ads for chocolate pop up.

Privacy. This is one of a number of reasons I continue to have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Yes, I probably get too analytical about the weird use of the word “like” and the devaluing of the word “friend,” an amazingly elastic word even before Facebook stretched it to the breaking point.

And, if you look up the definition of “narcissism” (a good word pointing to a bad affliction, and a word I’d vote onto the list of hardest-to-spell words in English), I’d not be surprised to find under the definition: “see Facebook.”

Facebook can be so much fun, and so incredibly annoying. I’m worried about me (see “narcissistic”) when I find myself liking it or disliking it too much. It deserves neither. I do know this: If the idea of not signing on for a few days makes me short of breath, I very badly need to take a “media fast” and unplug for a time. (The same principle applies to Instagram, Twitter, or any of the other cyber-offerings that we allow to own us as cyber-twits.

But among my other visceral responses to Facebook (and just about everywhere else we go on the Internet) are the privacy concerns. I just clicked on “Places” on my Facebook page and was not particularly pleased to find that a number of the “places” where I’ve been in the last few months were listed there.

Nope, now shame on you for thinking that I’m talking about 20 pins marking visits to Billy Bob’s Bar, Bait, & Booze Joint or Nana Peel’s Birthday Suit Burlesque. I did not visit those places. But Facebook helpfully tells me how many times I’ve been to nearby cities, hospitals, and restaurants. Thanks? Are the “places” supposed to appeal yet again to my narcissism? I want people to know I’ve been there because it’s cool to go there? I won’t hold my breath.

I was glad to find that my “page” is evidently set so that the “Places” tab is visible only to me. But I’d be happier if Facebook didn’t know, either. Where I’ve been is none of their business.

By the way, if you’re on Facebook (and this is just one of a bunch of privacy issues involved), you might want to check your “Places” setting. If you don’t want your “tracking” information visible to everyone who has access to your page, then in the Facebook app on your mobile device, click on the “Check In” pin, and tell it to “Turn Off Location Services.” (That will not turn off your GPS on the mobile device.)

But by far the most dangerous places we go have nothing to do with the Internet or Facebook. They’re in our own heads. Self-centeredness. Hatred. Bitterness. Envy. Cynicism. Lust. Vanity. Greed.

If our Facebook pages showed where we truly have been, and how many times, I hope places like Joy, Beauty, Love, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Mercy, Laughter, and Worship would show up most often.


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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.

A “Typo” Is a Hairy Wart on Miss America’s Nose

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Typos are the bain of my existence.

Better make that “bane.” The word comes from Middle and Old English, and has to do with “a cause of misery or death.” It’s roots indicate “murderer,” “destroyer.” “Bain,” I’m told, is a French word for “bath.” And, yes, a cold bain is a bane.

Of course, a sentence such as my first in this column would not be so much a typo as a simple mistake in usage. Or, worse, a blind spot in English skill and knowledge. Or, more sinisterly still, the bitter fruit of a politically correct “education” that puts chicken scratching from an unusually articulate cannibal in a loin cloth and drinking warm blood from his uncle’s skull on par with the writings of Shakespeare. (Just take a look at some university course catalogs and weep. And, yes, I know that most of this paragraph is composed of sentence fragments, and I just started this sentence with a conjunction. Get over it.)

Some typos are just funny.

I was checking out some lyrics for a record I’m hoping to make this summer (“record” is still correct; it’s short for “recording”), and an Internet article offered from that romantic classic, “The Way You Look Tonight,” this lyrical line: “with your smile so worm.” If you prefer your beloved with an intestinal parasite instead of a warm grin, well, there you go. Some people like turnips, and I don’t understand that, either.

Perusing some old issues of The Christian Appeal, a devotional magazine I edit, I ran across three typos in five decades. I know we’ve committed many more, but I dare anyone to find a publication more typo-free. We’re almost neurotic about producing a clean magazine. Typos that slip through are as welcome as a hairy wart on Miss America’s nose, but I do suppose they fulfill one function: they argue for some humility.

I smiled when I read in one of our old issues a friend’s account of a typo in a very early edition of Handel’s Messiah. The mistake occurred, as typos often do, in the worst possible spot. Right in the midst of the great “Hallelujah Chorus,” instead of the immensely reassuring line, “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” something very troubling indeed was reported: “the Lord God omnipotent resigneth.”

Who could blame him?

For, you see, errors in living occur with much greater frequency and far more serious consequences than errors in publication.

After I’d sent to my senior editor brother some page proofs I’d just completed for our devotional mag’s most recent issue, his e-mail came back: “First time ever in all these years, I found not one typo.” As always, I read through again. And found one.

I appreciate and honor good editors. But thank the Lord indeed for sending not an editor to catch our mistakes but a Savior to wash away our sins.


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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.

It’s May, and Here Comes Mother’s Day!

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I might as well confess: I like writing Mother’s Day columns and crafting Mother’s Day sermons almost as much as I like eating asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower.

I know those veggies are supposed to be good for you; I just have a hard time imagining the poor starving soul who first took a look at a cauliflower plant and said, “Hey, Billy Bob, you know what? I think you could eat that stuff.” Yeah, you could probably eat milkweeds, dandelions, and crabgrass, too, but why would you really want to? If you toasted them long enough, you could probably make croutons out of grass burrs, but what’s the point?

Careful now. On the advice of my attorney, I should mention that nothing in this column should be taken to in any way imply, suggest, or indicate any smidgeon of doubt or even any mental reservation regarding the advisability of a day set apart to honor those dear ladies hereinafter in this document referred to as mothers.

No kidding. Really.

I’m all for mothers and motherhood. And I think that setting a day aside to honor them in a special way is, yea, verily, a good idea. I even spent time one time co-authoring a gift book honoring mothers (and thereby learning that greeting card publishers pretty much have that base covered).

But though there are some heartwarming blessings that come to pastors who serve in one church for a long time (Easter Sunday—I can hardly believe this—marked my thirtieth year here!), a preacher’s gotta be more creative than I am to come up with thirty new ways to say, “God loves moms, and I agree with him!”

But he does, and I do. I’d just like to be able to find a new and better way to say it!

What I need is a new way to say that I could spend my whole life praising God for his gift to me of a loving mother, and it wouldn’t be long enough to adequately thank him for such a blessing.

What I need is a new way to say that the poorest person on earth is still rich if he, like me, has never had to go to bed a single night wondering if his mother loves him.

What I need is a new way to say that I thank God with every breath of every day that my mother loved me enough to love God and my father even more than she loved me—and that’s saying a lot.

What I need is a new way to say that, even though Mom’s been gone for almost twenty-five years, her laugh, her touch, and her love are as real to me as my next heartbeat.

What I need is a new way to say that my life, my children’s lives, my grandchildren’s lives, and the lives of generations yet unborn will be blessed because my mother was the right kind of lady, the right kind of mom.

I still need a sermon idea. But I thank God for giving me what I needed more—a great mom.


       You’re invited to visit my website at!



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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