Tag Archives: Bible

“My Mother Was a Daughter of Encouragement”


One of the most important leaders, and one of the very finest men, in the early days of the Christian church was a man named Barnabas. This good man’s name meant “son of encouragement,” and he blessed the church by living up to his name.

If Barnabas was the “son of encouragement,” I’m quite sure that encouragement’s daughter was my mother. Mom died twenty-five years ago (hard as that is for me to realize), but her encouragement lives on.

Near my desk sits one of the last birthday cards I received before Mom’s passing. In her uniquely beautiful hand (I’ve never seen more beautiful script) are written these words: “We love you so much! Every day we thank God for you and all you have meant to us and to the family. You are so sweet, so gentle in a manly way, so caring, and just so very special. Every day we pray God to bless you, to guide you, to give you strength, and, always, to be so very close to you. Love, Mom.”

May I hasten to admit that my mother’s opinion of me was much inflated! But that was another of her gifts to me. She looked for the best in me and my siblings, and her praise helped us to reach for the best in ourselves. Every day I thank God for her love and encouragement which are still as real to me as breath.

Mom gave me lots of precious gifts. She gave me life. She taught me to love words. And she nurtured in me faith in the One who gives life direction, purpose, and joy.

From my earliest days, she read to me, immersed me in and taught me to love the great stories from the Bible. She was smart, too. When my younger brother and I were small, she’d read the wonderfully paraphrased stories from books like Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible, rather than bore us out of our minds with words we could not understand. We never thought “The Bible” and “boring” were words that went together. I still have the pictures from A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories indelibly etched in my mind. (Those books and many others are still available. One of the very best more recent children’s Bible story books is The Story for Children (Lucado, Frazee, & Hill).

Mom was sure that since God gave us the capacity to laugh, we ought to use it. She taught me that to be serious about God means to refuse to take ourselves too seriously and that laughter washes away pomposity and repels Pharisees.

Mom taught me that people are more important than issues and that folks ought to be careful about thinking that their molehills are God’s mountains.

She gave me so many good gifts, but surely one of the best was her unfailing encouragement. No matter how long I live, I’ll be “playing to her”—not in a pathetic attempt to measure up, but joyfully sure that, whatever I accomplish, she’d be the first one to say, “Well done!”

I hope you’ve received the gift of encouragement from your parents. More important, moms (and dads), I hope you’re giving this beautiful gift to your own sons and daughters every day.


       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.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the Constitution, and Scripture


antonin scalia

Ninety-eight to zero. An impressive score in any game. And one unlikely ever to be seen again with regard to our nation’s Supreme Court. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. His Senate confirmation vote? 98-0.

When Justice Scalia, 79, passed away this week, our nation lost a brilliant legal mind, a man whose incredible intelligence and breadth of knowledge coupled with a deftly-wielded pen and wry wit to produce amazing results. Friend or foe, no one who spent time with Scalia ever left unimpressed and neutral, wondering how Scalia’s argument could have been made more skillfully or, many would say, more delightfully. Boring, dull, lifeless? Neither Scalia nor his positions ever were.

An astounding agility of mind paired with a quick smile and a predilection for laughter is an amazing combination, particularly if your most vociferous opponents find smiles and laughter very challenging. Listening to a recording of his speech in 2005 at the Woodrow Wilson Center, I kept having images of a black-robed cherub smiling, turning phrases incredibly, and about to get into delightful mischief.

Scalia has been described as a “strict constructionist” in interpreting the Constitution. He eschewed that term, arguing not for a strict or a loose interpretation, simply a “reasonable interpretation” centered on what it actually meant when it was written. He preferred the term “originalist,” by which he meant an increasingly small number of judges, lawyers, professors, and anyone else whose approach to the Constitution is “to begin with the text and give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people.”

Scalia said that was the orthodox position for many years. Not now. Now the prevailing view is that the Constitution is a changing, evolving, “living” document, which is convenient if you wish to give it almost any meaning at all, based perhaps on the latest opinion polls: “The Constitution didn’t used to mean that, but it does now.” Hogwash, said Scalia.

To beaming grammar school students proudly parroting, “The Constitution is a living document,” Scalia had news: No, it’s not; it’s dead. But also more news to mitigate the sorrow: It was never alive. It was and is a dead, though amazing, document that meant what it said and still does. Scalia’s reading it this way sometimes maddened both liberals and conservatives. A very good sign, I think.

For American Christians like me, does such a discussion of how to properly read the Constitution have anything to say about how we properly read the Bible? I think so.

The short answer is, we first make the effort to understand the kind of document it actually is. Parts of the Old Testament, for example, are literally “law,” setting forth a specific code of conduct. But the New Testament bears witness to a living Lord who relates to his people not on the basis of law but through a life-giving Spirit. What difference does that make? All the difference in the world.

I’ll miss Justice Scalia, as will our nation. I like the way that incredible mischief-making Constitution-loving “cherub” forced us to actually try to think.



     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.

Pope Francis’ Visit Points to the “Great Divide”


Grand Canyon 01

Pope Francis is here. By “here,” I mean, in the U.S.A.  By “is,” I mean right now as I write on the first day of autumn 2015. I pray that his visit is a blessing.

What? You’re surprised that a Protestant pastor would pray for the Pope? Why wouldn’t I? His leadership and decisions affect over a billion people. Yes, I am a Protestant, meaning basically that I “protest,” as in, “am not comfortable with,” some beliefs and practices of Roman Catholicism; but, by the way, I also “protest” plenty in the religious tradition in which I was born, and some folks there would certainly “protest” me. Forgive me if I smile and see some balance here.

Okay, back to the Pope.

I don’t think Pope Francis is planning to visit our Grand Canyon, but he’ll certainly be visiting face to face a far bigger canyon, one he deals with every day.

You see, one of the largest and deepest “divides” in our world centers on authority and the nature of truth. People on each side of that canyon seem almost completely incapable of understanding folks on the other side.

Most people, at least in the western world, and virtually all of the mainstream media, cannot understand how anyone, from the most common worshiper to the Pope himself, can believe in a standard of truth and authority that comes from beyond themselves and is not open to change, no matter how they feel about it.

Our society looks at opinion polls and the latest trends for what it believes. Even a majority of the Supreme Court justices seem to like that approach these days with the Constitution. It’s very nice if you find yourself and your own opinions in line with the most recent and most popular polls and trends.

This Pope is well liked. Polls show that most Americans in general have a “generally favorable” opinion of him. Me, too. (I could wish he’d say less about climate change and more about the slaughter of the unborn.)

The fact is, he and I, and anyone who believes that truth is rooted in an unchangeable God and not in polls and trends, stand on the same side of the canyon. We may disagree on which truths are unchangeable, which the Bible attests to, and what place church tradition plays. But, strange companions though we may be, folks like the Pope as head of the Catholic Church, and Pastor Billy Bob down at First Protestant Megaplastic Megachurch, and anyone who believes in a divine standard of truth, are on the opposite side of the canyon from folks who seem to think that as soon as an opinion poll shows that most folks would like the sun to rise in the west, or would prefer fifteen wives, then, well, let’s just make it so.

So the Pope is always assailed by folks who don’t understand why he doesn’t just modernize and get up to date with the majority of popular opinion since the majority is always right, right?

But the Pope, and many Christians, many who differ with him hugely on some points, share this belief in common: What is true, what is right, is rooted in an unchanging God. That which is most genuinely and deeply true in the universe God created will never change because He will never change. No matter what I think about it.



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



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 Owner’s Manual for Life: Refer to the Son


I like seasons, and I’m particularly pleased to live in a place where the seasons are distinctly different. Lest I’m ever accused of being less than politically correct, I hereby affirm that I’m in love with seasonal diversity.

I will say, though, that as much as I like green growing things, I find that grass with snow on top of it is a lot less trouble than the fast-growing stuff. I much prefer skiing to mowing. But ’tain’t the season for skis. They’re shoved lovingly under the bed. The lawn mower is now oiled up. And—I do like this part!—the barbecue grill is ready to go.

That took a little doing this year. When I opened the grill a few weeks ago, stuff started falling off the lid. Rusty stuff. I frugally figured I’d just clean it up, replace some parts, and grill right on. Then I touched a burner pipe. It fell apart. Along with a few burner covers and a grate or two. Okay, more parts required.

But when I put the pencil to it and pondered the engineering necessary to install a few of the new parts, the answer was obvious: “Do Not Resuscitate.” Attempts otherwise would be, to change the metaphor, “perfume on a pig.”

So . . . a new grill. Same brand. Same configuration. Dual gas/charcoal. This time I ponied up for the optional “smoke box” and, with scenes of rust fresh in my mind, also purchased a grill cover.

The nice lady at the store asked if I’d like one already assembled, mentioning with a tired look that it took her two days to put hers together. I was tempted. But such is not the Shelburne way. If something later malfunctions, an explosion ensues, and I make an ash of myself, I’d like to have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the one who blew it. Up, that is.

Assembly did not take me two days. But it did take 33 steps.

The grill was manufactured in China, but the company is obviously owned by somebody with barbecue credentials. And, contrary to what we’ve come to expect, they were smart enough to hire instruction writers who are fluent in English. I even smiled when I saw a label on the smoke stacks: “If you can see this, you’ve put this together wrong. This goes inside.” I’d have felt even more at home and akin to the company owners if it’d said, “Whoa, Pard! If yer readin’ this, that dog won’t hunt! Ya just backed the cow out of the barn south-side first. Try ’er agin!”

Of course, the instructions include the usual lawyer litter. I’m not supposed to attempt putting this together if I’m missing any of my parts. Also, I’m supposed to perform a spray water/detergent leak test every time I light this thing. Right. If you hear of my incineration, you’ll know I forgot. But I’m assured that noticing some smoke is normal.

The Owner’s Manual for our lives is more straightforward. The Author pretty much brings it all down to this: If you have any questions about how your life should be assembled, just look at my Son.


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



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 “Pop of Death” and Finding God’s Instructions


I started writing this two weeks ago, hoping that before I finished it, I’d know the end of the story. tvrepair

It was a Sunday afternoon. That means the dog and I had an appointment for a nap, but man’s best friend was away visiting other family and friends, including her real owner, so I had carried on by myself and, still somewhat in a post-nap fog (a surreal state not to be confused with prayer or holiness), was working a little on the computer.

The television had been on. Earplugs, handy little things I usually carry with me for moments when life needs to be improved by silence, had worked well during the nap. But now I was listening and watching a little, a bit hooked by the show featuring people neither my wife nor I much liked doing stuff neither of us much cared about. (Pretty much a definition of TV these days.)

Not much else in television’s wasteland was much better, but as another episode was cranking up, I retreated to the kitchen bar to keep on playing with some work.

Some minutes later, I heard a distinct POP! And my beloved exclaimed, “Uh oh! I think the TV just died.” To which I injudiciously replied, “Good.”

I think she scowled at me. I know I would have scowled at me. But I did a little more of what I was doing, drank in a little silence, and then “Googled” the brand of our TV and “pop.” That returned a ton of hits featuring the phrase “pop of death.” This was not encouraging.

Long story short, I kept searching the Web for diagnosis and “how-to” notes. (If YouTube has a good video on it, I’d be willing to try performing a simple appendectomy on someone I’m not particularly attached to, should the need arise. (Come to think of it, with the coming health law tsunami, that may be . . .)

I found good instructions, got help lugging the now-dimmed household idol off its exalted altar, took out thirty screws, detached some ribbon cables, removed the “main board,” ordered a new one from eBay, and pulled down from an upstairs bedroom a postage stamp-sized temporary TV replacement. And waited.

I’m thankful for good instructions. I’m grateful for the experience of others who’ve already sailed down waters I’m trying to navigate. And, though my kids make fun of me for heading straight to the Internet whenever the computer glitches, the dog eats chocolate, my tooth comes uncrowned, etc., I’m thankful that information is easily available. Why wouldn’t I search for it and use it?

By the way, if you want to gain access to our Creator’s wisdom, you know a great place to go, right? On your table, in your pocket, or on the Internet, it’s called the Bible. Every page points to the Son through whom this world derives meaning and purpose and hope. Its words point to the Word.

I spent several days wondering if that new main board would work once it showed up and I put it in. It did. You never have to wonder about God’s promises. They always work. And the warranty never expires.


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


Copyright 2013 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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