Monthly Archives: November 2016

Whiffle Sniffles, a Little Lad, and a Thanksgiving Tale



It wasn’t much of a tale, the story I told a tearful little tired-out almost-two-year-old as I rocked him to sleep for a nap on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

A little nap and a little sleep were what little Garrett’s parents and grandparents had in mind for my wee grandson, though he didn’t think much of the idea. Mom and Dad are quite capable of getting the job done, but I don’t get a chance to rock this little guy nearly as often as I would like, so, although I could have wished that the lad was somewhat quieter and less tear-stained at the hand-off, the rocking chair beckoned and I asked for the task.

Since he was crying already, I figured the worst thing that could happen would be continued or ramped-up crying. And I like rocking.

Come to think of it, one of my sweetest memories from last Christmas was holding that same sweet munchkin (smaller but in the same tired-out and teary condition) as we both rocked to sleep in the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree. (I was soon 90% asleep and almost faded out before he did. When PawPaws rock little grandpeople to sleep, that’s always a real possibility.)

So . . . I launched into a story about Gar-Bear’s tree house.  (We often call Garrett “Gar-Bear,” “Gar” rhyming with “Bear.”)

It seems that in Garrett’s yard was a beautiful tree with its spreading leaf-draped branches open so wide that it was crying out, “Gar-Bear, put a tree house in me!”

Sniffle! Pause. Yowl! Sniffle! Howl! [Breath.]

“[Breath]” seemed like a good time for me to describe the hammer and nails, the wood, and the tools used in building Gar-Bear’s tree house, so I did, and as we got started building the floor, howls and yowls tapered off a bit.

Sniffle! Sniffle! [Breath.]

From the “in the air” ground floor, we moved on up to the walls, complete with some nice windows (not much point in a tree house you can’t see out of), a roof, and a railed observation deck [Sniffle! Pause . . .] with a working non-toy telescope.

A whiffle sniffle just as I was beginning to describe how Gar-Bear’s tree house can morph into a ship at sea, a castle on the moor, and more fine things.  But then . . .

Silence. Gentle breaths with an occasional tiny post-storm mini-shudder. Then complete calm and “all is well” as our rocking chair rounded the outer banks and sailed into the land of Nod.

In future stories, I’m pretty sure that Gar-Bear’s tree house will indeed become a vessel at sea. We’ll see. (Possibly crewed by Garrett and eight or more cousins.) Or it might be fun to have the tree talk and give suggestions to the little builder about the magic house being built in its branches.

But writing this story about that story and my sleeping grandson is making this grandfather sleepy again. I love the way the little guy settled down in my lap. I think I’ll take a page out of his book and plot a course toward my pillow and my Father’s arms, in deep gratitude for some sweet rest following a really sweet Thanksgiving.

Who knows? My Father may tell me a story while I’m snuggled down into his warm embrace.


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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.

A Vice President-Elect, a Theater, and an Ambush



When Vice President-elect Mike Pence walked into the theater to watch the Broadway play Hamilton recently, he was not Abraham Lincoln and it was not Ford’s Theatre, but Mr. Pence walked into an ambush. He might have smelled trouble immediately upon entering. The air was thick with self-righteousness.

The actions of the booing and churlish crowd are utterly indefensible upon any grounds. If as a child I’d been caught in such behavior, my mother, unhampered by “progressive” ideas, would have delivered a speech and a liberally applied spanking to a son she refused to let grow up as a boor and a brat.

That the speech prepared beforehand by the cast to be delivered to Vice President-elect Pence was civilly presented means that the ambush was a tad less brutal than most. But it was still an ambush, premeditated and perpetrated by hosts upon a guest in their “home.”

The backdrop, of course, was the recent election. Columnist George Will well describes its outcome: “a loser who deserved to lose and a winner who did not deserve to win.”

But we did have an election. And we did have an outcome. And it is high time to behave.

I find myself wondering what it would have been like to be singing or preaching at a venue in which, some eight years ago, Vice President-elect Biden was in attendance. I’m not a fan. But I honestly cannot imagine ambushing the man in a theater or church where I had any control. If the crowd started booing him, I can easily imagine delivering a speech—but it would not be to him.

Self-righteousness short-circuits civility, and brutish arrogance is no more the temptation of the right than it is the left.

Whether we lean right or left, it’s no surprise when our most seriously held political opinions become so entwined with our moral convictions that it’s hard to separate them. At times, they can’t be separated and shouldn’t be. At other times, more often than we think, they can and should. At all times, demonizing those we disagree with is only effective if we wish to become demons.

I well remember listening to a sermon presented by a seriously left-leaning guest preacher at a church I was visiting. He prefaced his comments by expressing a desire for us to understand that he was not being political; he was just standing for God’s truth. I had no trouble imagining a right-leaning preacher at a church down the street stepping into a pulpit and giving exactly the same preface. Both would pass lie detector tests as both prepared to preach their politics.

I’m sure the audience members booing VP-elect Pence in that theater felt that the gravity of the moral injustice just perpetrated in the election, and the more serious evils they are sure will soon be unleashed, made their behavior justifiable, even necessary. In a different time and a different theater, perhaps their equally zealous counterparts on the opposite side might feel the same way. Both would be wrong.

And for Christians the question is as always: how would our Lord behave? What would he say?


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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.

Giving Thanks Is a Genuine Debt We Owe to God




If we wish to absolutely insure that we will never be thankful people, that we will always be morose and bitter, self-centered and selfish, and utterly miserable, the very best way to successfully sabotage our own happiness is to always center on our own rights, avoiding any thought of our own responsibilities. Or, better yet, to center completely on our own rights and think incessantly about the responsibilities of others or society itself toward us.

Of course, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve bearing a remarkable family resemblance to our First Parents, at least in their most negative characteristics, we have a long and sordid history of taking exactly the approach I’ve just mentioned. Adopting that sort of an attitude is incredibly easy in a society with magazines proudly emblazoning their bankrupt philosophy right along with their name, SELF, and where “Have it your way!” is at least as much a personal motto for many as it is a slogan for selling hamburgers.

When we think about it, well, maybe we shouldn’t be at all surprised that an attitude that is at heart completely selfish is the default mode for human beings who deny or ignore the Creator, all the while breathing His air but refusing or neglecting to bow to thank Him for it.

Ultimately, if we don’t give thanks specifically to God, well, whom do you thank? And why?

“It must be odd,” author Cornelius Platinga once observed, “to be thankful to no one in particular.”

If giving thanks is simply a matter of our picking and choosing a few folks or institutions to whom we’ll deign to be thankful for a few things . . .

If giving thanks is simply at heart the sort of personal preference and choice (like mayo or mustard on your burger; take it or leave it) we make out of our fine moral character and good upbringing, and the choice has no serious consequences . . .

If giving thanks is anything less than the very real and genuine debt we creatures properly owe to our loving and powerful Creator . . .

Well, then I can easily see why we would spend most of our time thinking about the rights, privileges, and stuff we somehow “deserve” rather than the thanksgiving we owe to God.

If we adopt that attitude, and if we think of God at all, we’ll think of him either as a heavenly slot machine mechanically dispensing the good things we deserve or, when things don’t go our way, as the One to whom we can address all of our complaints and grumbles.

But Christians should know better. We serve a King who laid aside all of his rights and lowered himself even to die so that we might have the blessings of sons and daughters of Heaven. Dare we talk about our rights and grinch and grouse like ungrateful, immature, and churlish peasants?

No. Not in the presence of our all-loving and completely unselfish King.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.Curtis!



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.



Election 2016 Is Finally Over! Now What?



Wow. Like it or loathe it, what happened on Election Day 2016 was one of the most amazing events in America’s not-really-very-long-yet history.

Long before November 8, this election cycle was feeling agonizingly lengthy–yea, verily, almost eternal–and things were shaping up, well, interestingly, to say the least.

Once we muddled through the conventions, more than a few folks across the political spectrum found themselves fervently wishing that “none of the above” was a valid ballot choice. Lots of folks felt that the presidential options being offered were decidedly non-presidential, even appalling, a real choice but one on the level of choosing between a root canal or a rectal exam. Not a choice likely to bring much joy.

Voting is an incredible privilege. But it’s not fun to feel like pushing a button or coloring in an oval for either candidate would necessitate some serious finger scrubbing or maybe even amputation to remove the resulting stain. More than a few folks left the voting booth sad and angry that a great nation could be offered such a rotten choice.

Real respect and trust for the candidates was at a record low for a record high number of voters. In the days leading up to the election, one leading presidential candidate was being FBI-investigated again for, at best, a serious lapse in judgement and, at worst, a criminal act. And the other candidate? Well, when his running mate (both running mates were rated far more favorably than their candidates) wasn’t hiding in embarrassment, he made a comment about this flawed but “good” man, and columnist George Will wryly asked, “What would a bad man look like?”

Time marched on. Election Day came. And just when it seemed that one candidate would be justified in the measuring the White House for new drapes, and the other would have to settle for life in a tower and not in a white mansion, . . . well, you know what happened. I’m still sleep-deprived from watching it unfold–and it “unfolded” down through the “down ballot” races, too.

It’s still unfolding. You can pick from a long list of adjectives to describe it, but “fascinating” is one. Evidently many Americans, most of us in one way or another, are just fed up and ready, politically speaking, to light a match to the whole thing.

It is, however, a very good idea to remember that if you burn something down, you have a responsibility to build something better in its place. However we voted, the election is over. Though I absolutely affirm the right of anyone to peacefully make their opinion known, I’ve never felt a need to march in protest if my candidate didn’t win. It’s over.

It is a good time, on all sides, for some humility. And grace. And the wisdom and civility to talk to and try to hear those with whom we disagree. I think I saw in Donald Trump’s face during his acceptance speech something that might almost have been sincere humility. A weight much heavier than Trump Tower has just been placed on his shoulders. I pray for wisdom, for wise advisers, for humility, and grace. The kind that sort of weight might produce.

All Americans should pray that our new president will do well. For Christians, praying for him is not just a good thing, it’s a command.

I thought it was nice to see our soon-to-be president hosted in the White House by our present president. It felt good that they were civil. The kids like it when the parents quit fighting and actually talk. I think our Father, our King, likes it, too.


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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.

A Closet-cleaning May Be a Personality Inventory



I usually love to be home. I’m rarely ever able to be at home as much as I like. But today I needed to be somewhere else.

You see, the closet was being cleaned, and the cleaning lady was ruthless. It doesn’t help that I’ve been carrying on an affair with her for over 41 years.

I admit that my side of the closet has been getting more than a little cluttered. But I’ve been consistent. I’ve applied to the closet the same philosophy that has served me well in the garage for over 30 years. If I might possibly need it, I keep it. And, regarding clothing, like faithful ol’ Deets in “Lonesome Dove,” I’ve never been “one to give up on a garment because of a little age.” That, my friends, is good stewardship. Frugal, it is.

It’s been years since I wore a flannel shirt. But I kept two just in case. They’re now gone. Off in today’s whirlwind.

I have a few denim shirts that I like to wear—one at a time—over a Henley shirt if I’m working outside in the winter, cutting wood, burning stuff in the fire pit, or just enjoying sitting out and breathing crisp air. So what if one had a smoldered hole in the pocket where some doofus dropped in an old pipe that still evidently had a puff or two left in it? I figure it was my wife’s former husband’s. But that shirt’s history now.

I’ve got ties, quite a rack of them, that went out of style years ago. That means they’ll soon be back in style. Never one to miss out on a fashion wave (I wave as the waves go by), I plan to keep them. These days I rarely wear a tie except at weddings and funerals and other occasions of sorrow. But when six-inch wide ties come back in style, I’m ready. Looks like I’m set to go, too, regarding color/pattern options since evidently you can now go into your closet in the dark, pick any tie, any shirt, stripes on top of zigzags on top of polka dots, and you’ll fit right in.

I suppose a closet and what’s in it is a bit of a personality assessment of the person who hangs, stacks, and folds the stuff residing there. I’m not sure I’m warm and fuzzy, but I promise you, any garment I’ll wear for long this winter will be. Soft. Comfortable. Bigger rather than smaller, if it’s a choice.

My closet shows my open-mindedness about color as long as it’s blue, burgundy, black, or gray (the soft, natural, cotton kind). I’m not much interested in brown, orange, or yellow—except the  brown turtleneck shirt retired with honor almost ten years ago when my brand new firstborn granddaughter’s inked feet were “stamped” on it courtesy of a great nurse (her great-aunt).

The cleaning gal ran across a ski jacket or two. A couple of motorcycle jackets. A favorite t-shirt and sweatshirt (or a few) so mellowed with wear that only anorexic moths would even try for a bite. Some garments are memory repositories, and many need a year or ten to get them really ready to be comfortable.

I considered hiding a garment or two so as to help the cleaning lady maintain a positive state of mind. She really has worked hard. The closet looks great. I just can’t find anything.

I’m thankful to serve a Lord who “knows just what I need,” who wisely tells me what to “put on” and what to “cast off,” and who has “clothed” me in the best garment of all.


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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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