Monthly Archives: January 2017

“Pride Goes Before Destruction,” Said a Very Wise Man

 

prideNo surprise, but the words of Scripture have just been validated yet again in my life.

I promise, I’d not been tempted upon the arrival of February, which is a full two weeks past the time most folks break their resolutions, to congratulate myself on keeping any of my New Year’s resolutions. You see, one New Year’s Day many years ago, I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions.

As tribute, no doubt, to my incredible self-discipline, may I say that, though I’ve faltered a time or two, that resolution I have religiously kept. It and I have dwelt together in complete harmony these many years.

But I was tempted nonetheless to be a bit haughty concerning one minor achievement thus far in this young year. I realized a day or two ago that, contrary to my usual practice of ruining checks in January (yeah, we still occasionally use the printed kind), by inscribing the wrong year on them, I’d not written 2016 on a single 2017 check.

Yes, but—and now please begin reciting with me Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,”—as I’d been patting myself on the back, I opened an email note from my fellow editor brother. Guess what?

Well, wait to guess for just a moment. I need to set up this confession just a bit more.

As a writer, editor, copy editor, and proofreader, I was taught the Eleventh Commandment with its three sub-points: Thou shalt edit, copy edit, and proofread.

In our modern world, the flurry of straight to the Ethernet ebook publishing only underscores that need. Lots of stuff gets “out there” way too quickly. Lots never should have been out there. But mediocre writing can be made almost passable by the Eleventh Commandment, good writing can be made better, and great writing can be made truly top notch.

And yet I’ve seen stuff that even some major houses publish in ebook form that, it seems, nobody bothered even to proofread. I’ve on occasion narrated a book for audio publication—and discovered that I must have been the first person ever to read through it. Typos, errors, bloopers all over the place. Not to mention that even a quick run-through by an editor could’ve tightened it up nicely. A pet peeve. Can you tell?

Okay. Please begin the recitation again. “Pride goes before destruction . . .”

That note from my brother? He just thought he’d mention that the January 2017 issue of the monthly devotional magazine we’ve been editing for decades made it through four proofreadings and nobody caught the fact that somebody (ahem!) set its date, page two, to proudly proclaim, “January 2016.” But, hey, I messed up no checks. Just several thousand magazines.

“. . . a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s possible that a resolution to be more humble might not be completely out of order.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Advertisements

A Little Story About Some Heavy Chains

 

oldsnowcar

“Wow! This box is heavy!” asserted my wife as she lugged in a box dropped on our porch by UPS. Immediately, I knew what it was, and that she was right. You see, a box of chains (not of the jewelry variety) is usually heavy.

Our annual family ski trip is right on the horizon. Before our four sons left the nest, a ski trip every year or two was often a very significant financial undertaking for our family, but, as my wife and I had hoped, it was great time together and an investment we’re very glad we made.

In my opinion, not much is more beautiful than snow, more fun than skiing, and more of a hoot than laughing as we rehearse in front of a fireplace in a warm cabin true tales of the time when Uncle [any of four names will do] made a really bad decision involving “catching air” and moguls, or PawPaw (what was he thinking!?) took a little jump off a ski lift (it wasn’t that high, really, but he won’t do it again). No worries. We don’t laugh at anything truly life-threatening.

One of the added benefits of family ski trips is that the only way to get down the hill is to ride up it first. That usually means sitting on a chair lift. That usually means sitting with somebody else. That usually means somebody you love. And that usually means talking. It’s good time, the favorite time of the year for lots of us, including a passel of sweet little snow-swishing bunnies and cool-looking pint-sized downhill racers.

“We” have grown. The trip now involves a fleet of vehicles, a cabin the size of a small hotel, and enough equipment for the U. S. Olympic Ski Team.

Back to the box. Yes, chains. Snow chains. “You’ll need chains,” the fine folks we’ve rented the cabin from have said. Several times. And I believe them.

Last year was almost my last year. Halfway up the hill to the “that year’s” cabin, I figured out that our minivan was only going halfway up. When it stopped, I opened the door and very carefully and very unwisely got out to survey the situation. That’s when the van started moving again. A slow (way too fast) slide downward.

Then a quick decision. Jump away? Jump back in? Quick computation. Quick answer: My carcass wouldn’t pass gently under that door. On that ice, a jump wouldn’t be away; it would be down and under. Thankfully, I made good on my one chance to jump back in. Stupidly slammed my foot on the brake (which, of course, did no good at all), but rode in, and not beneath, the van to an eventual stop.

After the hearts of participant and spectators got started again, and after frozen and bloodied fingers (mine) got a rotten pair of chains put on, the rest of the trip was, for me, mostly fun and uneventful.

So . . . new snow chains.

Just before my son and I practiced, on a dry driveway, putting them on my vehicle, my little grandson put them on himself. He rattled around the living room looking and sounding like a miniature Marley’s ghost.

Come to think of it, there’s a right time to rattle around with chains on if you’re headed up a steep, icy hill. But the best way to make the journey through life itself is with faith in the One whose sacrifice removes chains of the heaviest sort once and for all.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“If Everybody Had a Father Like I Had a Father . . .”

 

Shelburne Portrait

I wrote most of the words below less than twenty-four hours after I got word that the kindest, gentlest, strongest, and best man I have ever known had passed away. He was my father.

Though many thoughts were racing through my mind, I realized that, if everybody had a father like I had a father, well, lots would be different in this world.

As I’m writing now, on January 15, 2017, I realize that Dad would have been 104 today. And every day, I realize with even more gratitude to God how true these words were and are.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever have to walk out the door or crawl into bed wondering if his father loved and wanted him.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever go to bed worried that his father might not really love his mother.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no son or daughter would ever see his father raise his fist or even his voice in anger.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no one would have to ask how it is possible to be strong and gentle, just and loving, all at the same time.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, nations would not fight nations, families would not fight families, and Christians would never fight Christians, because we would all rather be hurt than be hurtful. And the hurts that are part and parcel of human existence would never be hurts we inflicted upon each other.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that the way to real happiness is to love the Father of all and the Son who died to save us.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that, even with all the church’s imperfections, the Bride of Christ is still the finest family of all, and that in her warmth is found spiritual nourishment and fine fellowship and genuine love.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, good times would be even better and bad times would be more bearable, because of the unfailing love of our fathers.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, well, there would still be problems in this fallen world because we would all still be sons and daughters of our father Adam, too.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would grow up knowing a lot more what their Father God looks like and acts like and loves like.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would know the Father’s love largely because of their father’s love.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, this world and life itself would be much, much better.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, I might not know what a fine father I had. And, not knowing that, I might not know what a Father I have, and that the best Father of all is your Father, too.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“I Can’t Rightly Say, But It Sounds Like . . .”

 

fragranceofchrist

In his delightful book Jayber Crow, author Wendell Berry has one character tell this little tale about another one:

“Fraz Berlew was drunk and wandering. He wandered into a saloon down at Hargrave. The saloonkeeper was out and the place was empty. Fraz just helped himself to a considerable portion of the merchandise, and wandered on.

“When he wandered back again the saloonkeeper was there. He said, ‘Fraz, did you come in here and drink up a bunch of my whiskey while I was gone?’

“And Fraz said, ‘I can’t rightly say. But it sounds like me.’”

That little story makes me think—not about Fraz Berlew but about you. And about me.

It’s one thing for a saloonkeeper to miss some of his stock, see an ol’ boy wander through, and immediately recognize the culprit, even if the culprit’s not absolutely sure he is the culprit! It’s another for someone to see or hear of an act of kindness, generosity, largeness of spirit, and immediately think, “I’m not sure who did that, but it sure sounds like . . .”

What a great thing if folks are tempted to make that kind of statement about you!

“Hey, did anybody see _____ wander through our workplace here? Everybody seems happier than usual today. I’m not sure she was here, but it sure seems like she might have been.”

“Did anybody see ______ come through our home? I’m not sure he was here, but today the members of our family have just seemed more accepting of and thankful for each other, and I just thought ___ had probably been here.”

“Was ______ here today in our [home, business, school, office, church]? So-and-so was really feeling down, dirty, and depressed because of [insert So-and-so’s sin, failure, burden, weakness, sorrow], and [he, she, or me] is so much better, I was pretty sure _______ must have spent some time here.”

I could go on, but you get the picture, don’t you? You can quickly think of some folks whose names fit into those blanks very well. They are people who just spend some time in your home, walk through your office, visit your classroom, worship with you at church—people whose lives somehow intersect with yours perhaps in very small ways—but wherever they are, life somehow seems better, more filled with color, more joyful, more worth living, and more filled with grace and hope, no matter how dark or gloomy the day might have seemed before they passed through.

I think the Apostle Paul would say that such people have about them “the aroma of Christ.”

“Was _____ here today?”

“I can’t rightly say. But it sure seems like it because today this place is better, more gracious, more filled with hope than it was before.”

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“On the 8th Day of Christmas” God Gave to Us–A New Year!

 

twelve-days

For years now I’ve been trying to get my head right about the New Year’s “holiday.”

And there we have it. Tripped and skinned my knee on the problem right there in my first paragraph. New Year’s Day is indeed a holiday, but, if you ask me, the closest it gets to being a “holy” day is that it’s the eighth day of Christmas. Now that I will celebrate. (No maids a-milking required.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like days off for pretty much any reason not related to sickness or death. Most of us could use more of them, not less. We’d work better on the days we’re “on” if we were disciplined enough, or fortunate enough, to get more days “off.” As a wise person (John Lubbock) wrote long ago, “Rest is not idleness.” And God gave a commandment about it. I like holidays. I just tend to like the truly “holy” holidays the best. (I’m an Earth Day Scrooge, too, but that’s another story.)

New Year’s Day and I have long had a rather dicey relationship. I think the relationship started a bit of a downward slide right about the same time my theology began to make some much-needed movement in an upward direction. God’s “good news,” the gospel, is the best news of all because it centers in what HE has done through Christ, not what WE have done. The gospel is not just another of humanity’s dreary multitude of self-improvement programs. God’s grace really is amazing. If we could earn it, it would not be grace. And not even close to “amazing.” Just business as usual in this world.

What we’ve just celebrated—what happened in Bethlehem—is all about something that only God could do, something that our Creator, out of amazing love, actually did. It’s an incredible gift! It is for us, but it could not by any stretch of the imagination be produced by us. We can’t create it; we can only in joyful humility accept it.

If we’re not careful, New Year’s finds us waving around our little sparkler, prattling about all of the resolutions we make as we focus largely on our own power, looking yet again at life through the wrong end of the telescope. All full of ourselves, we flick our little lighters, making about as much real light and producing as much warmth as Bob Cratchit’s little pseudo-fire produced before Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation issued in more coal and genuine warmth. (What a delightful story!)

Christmas centers on the most amazing gift of the Father, the Baby miraculously sent from Heaven and into this world at Bethlehem. New Year’s? Well, sparklers and a man-made fake crystal ball mechanically winched down at Times Square seem a bit anticlimactic since God has already come down! Now THAT was an event!

But wait a minute! I’m preaching straight to me when I say that our Lord specialized in taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Water to wine, remember? What if, as the new year dawns, we ask our God to help us open our eyes and focus on the amazing ways He makes every day, every moment, holy, as we receive each of our days, each of our breaths, as gifts from Him?

May this new year be filled with such days, such times, in our lives!

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


%d bloggers like this: