Monthly Archives: January 2016

“Send Me Some Money, and I’ll Set the Record Straight”

 

 

election2016

One of the folks running for president just sent me a nice note. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day.

No, it’s now actually about every other day that I find notes in my email in-box from several presidential candidates.

Better make that “candidates for president” since they’re not all, in my opinion, particularly presidential. And, to be more accurate and keep political science majors happy, better make that “candidates for their party’s presidential nomination.”

I get notes from different candidates (they seem to have decided that sharing their lists makes sense), but so far the email notes have come from only one political party. I figure the other party has profiled me (accurately) or may just be a little (understandably) skittish about email right now.

Anyway, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to get that most recent note, particularly since the candidate counts me as “one of his closest and most loyal supporters.” (If that’s true, he’d better park his bus.) The note was urgent, he says, for at least two reasons.

First, the present front-runner (the guy whose hair is as mysterious as a televangelist’s and seems to defy gravity and any other logical explanation) has been saying some really unkind things about him, and he (the candidate who feels so very close to me and values my friendship) needs to “set the record straight.”

Second, setting the record straight is not cheap. The guy who’s sure he’s my guy is coming up a little short of his goal. Make that $340,970 short, to be exact.

I feel bad about his difficulty, and I feel worse because I’m pretty sure I won’t be sending any money his way. As selfish as this may sound, I’m about $2 million short of my own goal. Now that he’s given me the idea, I may consider writing emergency email notes to my closest and most loyal friends asking them to help remedy my own tragic shortfall.

Seriously, I can only imagine how much money it takes to fund a presidential campaign. Even for a guy with his name attached to a tower, it’s gotta be something more than petty cash. And I figure folks ought to be able to give their own money to whomever they wish. Since it takes little more than a pulse these days (and sometimes not even that) to be a registered voter, why shouldn’t it be just as easy to write a check to a candidate who desperately needs to “set the record straight”?

It just depresses me to think that the handlers of most of the candidates from both parties seem to think the folks they’re asking for money are all idiots.

When the time comes, I’ll vote. I’ll likely have to hold my nose when I do it. It’s pretty hard for me to imagine these days that anyone I’d really like to see as president is even remotely electable.

But in all of this, it’s a good idea to try to keep some sense of balance (and humor). Read a very little history and you’ll find that craziness in presidential elections is nothing at all new.

Most of all, it’s a great idea at all times to remember that our real King easily trumps presidents and plastic presidential candidates any day.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No campaign donations requested, though if you wanted to buy a CD, that’d be okay! 😉

  

 

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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The Worst Spiritual Disease Is “Thinking One Is Well”

 

 

God reaching man

In G. K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” stories, Father Brown is a curious and engaging little priest who often finds himself cast in the unlikely role of detective.

In one story, a friend visiting with Father Brown is describing to the clergyman a strange new religion, one of the popular sort that in 2016 is still very strange and still very popular for no very strange reason. It is, he says, “one of those new religions that forgives your sins by saying you never had any.”

No surprise, that kind of “religion” then or now is the sort where faithful followers often claim, loudly and religiously, to believe in no religion and in no particular God, by which they usually mean that they find it most convenient to worship the god under their own hat.

When Father Brown’s friend goes on to remark that the “new religion” claims “of course” that it can cure all manner of physical diseases, the little priest/detective asks simply, “Can it cure the one spiritual disease?”

Smiling, his friend asks, “And what is that?” And Father Brown replies, “Oh, of thinking one is quite well.”

The little priest/detective has detected this pivotal truth from at least two sources.

First, from Scripture. In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says that he writes to tell readers how they may obtain the “righteousness of God.” He spends the first three chapters showing us why we need it, and in Chapter Three hammers his point home no fewer than three times. No one is “righteous” apart from God. “All have sinned.” All have “fallen short of the glory of God.”

Secondly, Father Brown has not been living life with his eyes closed. Looking inside and looking outside, he knows that every person has within himself more than ample proof of a “sinful nature” that wants its own way more than it wants God’s—or anyone else’s.

He knows that humans are not creatures who, left to themselves and given all the advantages of a good upbringing, a nice environment, and a fine education, will naturally become nicer, kinder, gentler, and more likely to play fairly with others. Naturally, they are not nice. Humans are not angelic beings whose haloes just want a little straightening and shining up; humans are fallen creatures badly in need of redemption. Real healing comes, not from raising their inherent goodness to a higher level, but when they lower themselves to receive God’s gift of healing for their inherent fallenness.

Yes, the worst spiritual disease is “thinking one is quite well.” Ironically, it’s this “high” and terminally naive view of humanity that has so often opened the door for utter inhumanity. Evil never reigns more completely unchallenged and cruelly than when, blind to the evil inside ourselves and the human race, we fancy ourselves far too advanced, intelligent, and enlightened to see recognize humanity’s need for real healing from outside of itself.

Ultimately, we must choose to trust the Creator or to naively trust fallen humanity. The latter folly ends up being very cruel indeed.

A little priest told me. And he’s right.

 

 

       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.

 


What Happened to Those Christmas Shepherds?

Shepherds-CKS01

Christmas is over. Not just the day, but the real twelve-day season. (It’s actually January 6, Epiphany–that points to God’s light, the star, Gentiles, and Wise Men–as I’m writing.)

Last night at home our decorations started coming down. This evening we’ll pack away more of the seasonal beauty as our sweet, warm little church will be undecorated and, for a few days, uncharacteristically depressing.

Last evening I packed away the electric train that journeys around our tree. My wife took the lights and greenery off of the mantle. The Christmas cookie jars are headed off to wherever Christmas cookie jars go “in the bleak midwinter.”

The midwinter is never bleaker than after Christmas. I’m a winter guy in love with snow (not blizzards) and fireplaces, good books and sweaters. But I always hate it when the Christmas lights go out.

I plugged in our tree this morning for its last hurrah. When I pull the plug, I will be officially, once more, as far as I can get from Christmas. Rats.

My thoughts now, not very “Christmasy,” are nonetheless about Christmas events. I’ve been thinking about those Christmas shepherds.

“Christmas” shepherds they certainly were. It’s not hard for me to imagine other shepherds who might have found illusory angels at the bottom of wineskins. But these were, I’ll wager, the only shepherds this world has ever seen whose eyes were blinded by angel light and whose ears were filled with angel song. The only shepherds angel-sent to find God’s baby Son cradled in a feed trough in Bethlehem.

I wonder what they did with the sheep, but when these sheep-herders paid attention to the angels that lit up the skies, they traveled light to Bethlehem, unburdened by any need to be the most religious of the religious, or more “right” than is healthy or happy. They were not power-dulled CEOs of the corporate sheep pen. Just run of the sheep mill shepherds. Good for them. These guys are easy to like.

To Bethlehem they went. To the stable. Look in the manger they did, and they found the wonder-full thing they were seeking.

What I wonder now is what came after. What happened in the hearts of the shepherds when the angel skylights faded, when that first Christmas was over, and when they went back to their fields? They’d seen, heard, received, experienced, “good news of great joy.” What lasting difference did the Light of that one night make in their lives once they were back for days and months and years watching witless sheep in the dark?

I’m asking about the shepherds and the difference Christ’s coming made in their lives. It’s far too daunting a question for me to ask of the mothers of Bethlehem whose baby sons King Herod would murder when he heard of that same coming of the real King.

Somehow, if the angels’ message really is good news of great joy, it has to be such deep and real joy that it lasts when decorations go back in the box, angel lights in the fields fade out, shepherds get old, and even—it breaks my heart to think of this—when babies’ mothers mourn.

If the Light that shines is real light, it has to shine brightly in the darkness, as far as you can get from Christmas. If it does, and only if it does, God’s coming is never as far away as it sometimes seems.

 

 

      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.


As 2016 Dawns, We Face Joys, Sorrows, and a Real Choice

 

2016 New Year

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, and 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, very literally 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, 2016, this new moment in time on whose verge we stand right now. As is each year, and as is life itself, this new year will be literally an “adventure” precisely because we don’t know exactly what it may hold. But we can be certain that 2016 will hold for each of us some wonderful and surprising joys. It will also hold some deep sorrows. Such is the patchwork of life. But I hope we face it all with a faith-born depth of peace and joy that only comes from knowing and trusting the Author of life and living in his presence.

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 good choice. In the face of an unknown future which sometimes seems dark because we see with weak and human eyes, let’s choose to trust God and live in his presence.

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And a blessed & happy New Year to you!

 

 

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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