Tag Archives: blessing

“What Can We Learn in the Midst of This Mess?”

Like most humans with a few years on them, I’ve had an occasion or a few (not too terribly many) to mention to the Lord that, in this distress or that difficulty, I have at least two requests. Jesus did, after all, teach us to ask, so I do.

First, I’d much prefer to avoid the mess altogether. What I have in mind is not “strength to get through” this or that tough thing. I’d prefer a nice pass to get around it; I really don’t want “through” it.

Second, if I must go through the distress (did I say that, with all respect, I’d very much rather not?), I desperately need my Father’s help to trust his love and providence. And, if this blasted thing must be lived through, I need divine help to learn something worthwhile from it. As hard as it is to live through pain, it would be even worse to waste the opportunity to get something of value from it.

I’m not tempted to call my attitude one of great faith or exemplary courage. I’m a pretty run of the mill human, and I can live with that.

So I wasn’t too surprised to hear myself praying, in the midst of the present pestilence, for the Lord to please get us out of this wretched mess but, if it can’t be over, say, yesterday, to please teach us some valuable lessons in the midst of it. I think he has. And, though it’s still a wretched mess, I think most of us have already been surprised at some of the blessings that have come in the midst of the difficulty. It might do us a good bit of good to write a few of them down and thank God for them, even as we beseech (that’s a word pastors use for “ask”) him to pull us through that which is truly painful and difficult and frightening.

I’ll pause this for a moment so you can start your list. You can add to it later. [Please pause here.]

Among the items on my own list is one word: humility. I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use a good dose of it.

We’re hearing a lot these days from experts. Pretty much every day. I’ve never been wise enough to need a lot of knowledge to adopt an opinion, but these folks have done the work and the study and had the experience to have opinions that actually are worth something.

That fact makes me particularly appreciative of a few of this slew of experts who have candidly said that, though they have done their best to make educated estimates regarding many aspects of this pandemic, what they know and are learning each day is, well, new, and much must be re-evaluated.

I appreciate that, and I bet you do, too. Just give us your best shot, Dr. Expert. Give us your educated opinion based on the knowledge and experience you’ve amassed in the past and the facts you have today. If that needs to change tomorrow, just tell us. That kind of honest humility we very much appreciate. It makes listening to you and trying to follow your best advice in a difficult situation a lot easier.

Right now, yea, verily, at this very moment as I write (and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t change by the time you read this; I’m sure it soon will), in my county we have not a single confirmed case of Covid-19. At this moment, were I unwise enough to actually want to contract the virus here, I’m not at all sure that I could. That’s now. That’s here. This moment. But this is far from true in so many places in our land and our world where the virus is now raging. I pray for all who are already dealing with serious pain.

So when the experts and those who govern us tell us that, even at present in a county like mine, social distancing, etc., is important, I believe them, and I appreciate their efforts to try to slow down the spread of this thing and help us get through this. I’ll try to show some humility and some appreciation and do what I can do to help. I hope we all will as we navigate through this serious threat to our health and our economy.

I don’t know what the exact situation is where each of my readers live, but we’re all dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I am certain, though, that my Father has plenty to teach me in the midst of it.


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



Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

To Be Truly Meek Is to Be Truly Strong

To be truly meek is to be truly strong.

The Bible says regarding one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known that the man Moses was the meekest of all the men on the earth. But in the Hall of Fame of Meekness (call it the Hall of Fame of Humility, if you wish), I’ve been privileged to know several individuals who deserve to be included. Among the greatest of the humble, in my opinion, was my father.

If you’ve been blessed to have such a father or grandfather or mentor, you’ll know firsthand how wrong our society is to equate meekness with weakness or sheepishness, a kind of “Mary’s little lamb” sort of thing. We know that Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” But that’s every bit as hard for our world to believe as “blessed are the poor.”

Can you imagine a large corporation giving classes in “meekness” training? No, it’s “assertiveness” training. We have, sadly enough, magazines named SELF; you’ll never find one on an adjoining shelf named, NO, YOU FIRST.

Meekness is a quality you can’t afford, our society screams.

Meek people get run over.

Meek people are doormats.

Meek people never make it to the top—and, of course, our society never stops to ask if the price paid to get to “the top” is a price worth paying.

But, as is so often the case, our society is near-sighted and wisdom-parched.

Real meekness, genuine humility, is quiet but filled with wisdom when it speaks. It thrives in a soul shaped by character, integrity, prudence, and civility. It is at the same time gentle and incredibly strong. Wherever it is found, it is a rare and beautiful blessing.

My father was a gentle man, strong in all the ways that matter and last. The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians, “Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (6:10). And “in the Lord” is where Dad’s strength lay.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could be gentle. He had nothing to prove.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could quietly trust in God. He had no reason to be loud.

Dad’s strength was in the Lord. And so he had no reason to quarrel with those who opposed him.

Anyone who thinks he fully understands Christ’s Sermon on the Mount could well use more meekness, more humility. We probably see now only dim glimmers of the beautiful reality Christ has in mind when he says that the meek will “inherit the earth.”

But surely at least this much is true. When the loud and arrogant, the bullies and the braggarts of this world are putrefying in well-deserved decay, their fifteen minutes of fame over, God is promising that the strength and wisdom of the genuinely meek will endure and continue to be a blessing.

I would very much like to live in a world where God has put people like Moses and my father in charge, where the meek rule by God’s power and blessing.

Yes, indeed, that’s a world in which I’d love to live. It’s a world in which I plan to live.



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



Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“May I Introduce You to Lancelot Andrewes?”



Lancelot Andrewes. Recognize the name? Probably not. But Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626) was Bishop of Winchester (Church of England), a member of the committee of scholars whose task it was to produce the King James Version of the Bible, and “probably contributed more to that work than any other single person.”

For the information above, and almost everything else in this column, I’m indebted to the very capable James Kiefer for his biographical sketch of Andrewes’ life.

Kiefer’s work shows up regularly in “The Daily Office from the Mission of St. Clare,” an online devotional site and mobile “app” based on the venerable Book of Common Prayer, the incredible centuries-old work whose words still find their way, whether we know it or not, into Shakespeare, into pretty much all traditional marriage ceremonies, into many, many of our church services, into many funerals, etc.

But that’s another story. Suffice it to say here that the BCP is a devotional, liturgical, historical, and English treasure, originally published in 1549, sixty-two years before the King James Version was finished in 1611! I tend to gravitate toward the 1979 BCP revision, and I enjoy most the morning “Daily Office” which includes Scripture readings and prayers. I like the continuity, the discipline, and the knowledge that these are prayers Christians have prayed in worship and individually for, literally, centuries, along with, of course, reading the Scriptures given for each day. To the prayers, I add my own on the days I use this resource (and I don’t every day; the flesh is weak, and I’m a lousy example for daily devotional-keeping).

All of the above to explain where I found the information on Lancelot Andrewes, who, Kiefer writes, was “a master of English prose, and learned in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and eighteen other languages.” But particularly fascinating to me are some excerpts from Andrewes’ personal notebook of “Private Prayers,” published after his death.

The words and “order” of his devotions are beautiful and, no surprise, seem “formal” to us, words affirming faith, confessing sin, rendering praise. But I especially like his many and varied simple words of “thanksgiving” for life, rationality, citizenship, education, gifts of grace, “calling, recalling, and further recalling,” “longsuffering towards me,” for hope, for the “fruition of good things to come,” “for parents honest and good,” for “teachers gentle,” and “colleagues likeminded,” “hearers attentive,” “friends sincere,”  “for all who have stood me in good stead by their writings, their sermons, conversations, prayers, examples, rebukes,” and even “wrongs.”

As he closes, he wonders how he can adequately give thanks to God for all His benefits. And he ends with, “Holy, holy, holy,” praising the eternal God who “hast created all things” and for whose “pleasure they are and were created.”

I love this glimpse into the private devotions of a “long-ago-gone-on” father of our faith who blessed and still blesses God’s people in ways he might never have dreamed. May God continue to multiply the blessings, large and small, of lives lived for Him.


      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.

“I Can’t Help It! I’m the Victim of My Genes!”


CurtisCare andFeeding02

Aha! It’s genetic! I’ve been reading about the several-years-old discovery of a “fidgeting” gene.

When I’m talking on the phone and my wife, rather discourteously, hollers at me, “Put that pen down! You’re driving me crazy!” she’s referring to my unconscious click-click-click-click-clicking of the writing instrument in my hand. And she’s betraying intolerance toward a man who is simply the hapless victim of his genes.

I’m wondering if pack-ratting is genetic, too. In any case, it’s another trait my mother passed on to each of her offspring.

My garage, I admit, is dangerously overloaded, but my sister, who lived in Houston, could have survived ten years of hurricanes with just “supplies on hand.”

I once suggested to one of my brothers that he’d need to deck himself out in high priestly garments if he wanted to safely enter his garage. When, once a year, Israel’s high priest entered the Most Holy Place to offer sacrifice, he was to go in with bells sewn onto the bottom of his robe and a rope tied to his leg. If he touched the Ark of the Covenant and was fritzed, or was somehow otherwise dispatched while officiating near the holiest core of that holiest place, the bells would quit tinkling and they’d drag his carcass out by the rope. (Turns out, the rope part of this is probably fictional, and the bell part likely for the Holy Place and not the Most Holy Place. But you get my point.)

Truth be told, the garages of the other siblings, including me, for sure, are not much better. My poor heirs.

But it was not in the garage, it was actually in a box of stuff up in our closet, never opened, inherited from my sister’s stash, who got it from my mother’s hoard, that my wife recently found a pile of congratulatory notes from age-old family friends (mostly long-since passed on) and the hospital instructions regarding the care and feeding of “Boy Shelburne.” That would be me.

The booklet was professionally printed, used by Northwest Texas Hospital (the original one) in Amarillo, and filled in, the specifics handwritten, by a conscientious nurse.

I’m not sure if Mom & Dad followed all the instructions properly or not, which may explain some things. I do know that it included a formula for my formula, consisting of condensed milk, Karo syrup, etc. What’s not to like? And it specified feeding me every three hours, a health practice, on the advice of that nursing staff, I’ve tried to continue all of my life. (Oh, and Mom was instructed to wear an apron when feeding me. If that’s required, lots of babies are in serious danger. And good luck trying to buy an apron. Out of style in every sense, and I’m weeping at the political incorrectness of the very thought! Trust me.)

By the way, people with the fidgeting gene are supposed to be naturally thinner than those without it. With my strict diet (I never eat anything that doesn’t taste good) and my feeding schedule, I’m thankful for that gene. Still, I evidently don’t fidget nearly enough.

Oh, this is funny. I just stopped to stare into space and figure out how to land this column—and caught myself jockeying my knee up and down like a sewing machine needle. Left seems to be this fidgeter’s knee of choice.

Genes. They are for most of us a mixed bag, both blessing and curse. But the worst curse we inherited from Father Adam. And the most amazing blessing, incredibly costly, is made available, free upon request, by the Second Adam who bore our curse, God’s own Son.


      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.

“Blessing” and “Luck” Are Not the Same Things


fortune cookie

Fortune cookies. Like most folks, I’m quite willing to pop one open and chow down on it at the end of a Chinese sort of meal.

Like most folks, I look at the little piece of paper inside.

Like most folks, except for the kind of people who actually pay “palm readers” and “psychics” as an alternative to stuffing their money down a toilet and taking a chance with plumbing bills, I usually pay no attention at all to the poorly worded little messages inside. But . . .

I still remember one I pulled out years ago that would quickly catch anybody’s attention, kick-start some introspection, start a belly laugh, or make a person pack and leave town: “That which you thought was secret is known by all.” Whoever wrote that one was in a weird mood.

Just the other day, I cracked open a fortune cookie and read this: “You will have good luck and overcome many hardships.”

Hmm. Just how many hardships can a really lucky person bump into, overcome, and still be considered a very lucky person?

Being a pastor, I tend to mull over the theological implications of everything from a “good morning” to, yes, even fortune cookie “wisdom.”

“You will have good luck . . .” Well, okay. I like “good” much better than “bad.”

But a friend and mentor, Eddy Ketchersid, taught me something years ago. A ministry intern, I did some simple task at the church and spouted, “Well, I had good luck with that!”

Eddy smiled, “It might have been a blessing and not luck.” Christians should use the word “luck” sparingly, if at all; most of what the world chalks up to “luck” are blessings from the hand of God, better filed under “God’s love” than “good luck.”

But the cookie’s words went on: You lucky person, you! You’ll “overcome many hardships.”

I don’t like hardships. It just takes a windy, brown, dusty day to make me surly, and on days when I’m dealing with, or my family is facing, a certifiable “hardship,” I’m very disappointing.

Like almost all of our society and most fat, lazy, and selfish western Christianity (which holds an utterly inadequate view of suffering), I tend to equate the most blessed life with the life that endures the least pain. I know not to trust most of them, but I’m tempted to buy the message of TV preachers who pawn off a “magical” view of Christianity as “self-help” where you dump all the right ingredients, “principles,” into the pot, and a life of health and wealth and blessing pops out.

Oh, we like our witch doctors. We want lives of unbroken blessing. Heaven here. Never mind that such an approach forgets about Christ’s cross, focuses on us and not God, and is at heart cruel, implying that if you suffer, you just didn’t cook the recipe right.

But change a few of the cookie’s words, and suddenly it speaks profound truth to God’s people: “You will have great blessing and overcome many hardships.” Yes, both. Not because of luck. Because of your Father.

The Apostle Paul said it like this: In “all these things [hardships] we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).


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


Copyright 2014 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 Just a Fact, But a Fact It Is . . .”

school 01

It’s just a fact, but a fact it is, that the teachers who most influenced my life early on were Methodists.

San Jacinto Elementary in Amarillo, Texas, was evidently a hotbed of Methodism. Or maybe it was just that my primary school path there was colored by the presence of three of them. Someday I’ll write another column and give Baptists and Church of Christ folks and Lutherans, etc., some well-deserved good words for their blessing in my life. But today, these fifty years after they taught me, I’m thanking God for three “Methodees,” as Franklin Roosevelt smilingly called their breed.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Vera Carmody. I thought she was old and fierce. But she couldn’t have been what the Bible describes as “full of years” because she had a great many left to fill up. She lived to be 1000 or so. (Actually, 101! Born in 1899; died in 2000!)

But I was right about the fierce part. (Lucille Ball’s red hair was just a sparkler compared to Mrs. Carmody’s fireball red!) Mrs. Carmody was fiercely devoted to teaching first-graders not only how to read but how to live. She checked our hair, our teeth, and our fingernails, as well as the notebooks where we pasted pictures of apples for A, bananas for B, etc. I’d still like to see some trendy educational egghead try to tell Mrs. Carmody that kids could learn to read worth squat and not be taught phonics. She’d swat the prof’s hand with her legendary ruler, sit his tail in a chair, and enforce silence in the room until he sounded out whatever word she prescribed for his cure.

I don’t know if Mrs. Carmody believed that “every child can learn.” But I’m sure she believed every child in her classroom darn well would learn—or else. Fierce? Oh, yes! She fiercely loved us all. Methodist, she was.

And then there was Mrs. Maxine Faulkner. Third grade. I learned the “Lord’s Prayer” not at church where I should have, but in Mrs. Faulkner’s third grade class. We stood and recited that prayer, along with the Pledge of Allegiance, every morning. We had no idea how much damage we were doing to the Constitution of these United States. (I’m kidding. And crying.) I remember singing as she played the piano. By the way, she played the piano for her Sunday School class two months before she died. Also age 101! Methodist, she was.

Setting the tone for the whole school (all six grades) was one of the finest men I’ve ever known, Mr. Robert Birchfield. I will always think of this big, kind, gentle, amazingly strong and loving man with deep affection and gratitude. A father to us all, what a smile he had! What a hug! What a man! Methodist, he was.

All three of these folks were members of Amarillo’s Polk Street United Methodist Church. No particular point here—other than what a nice thing it is for any congregation when folks think of their members and “blessing” in the same thought—I’ve just always had very warm feelings toward Polk Street UMC and these three fine “Methodees.” I owe them much.

Christians, they were. Unashamedly so. Committed to Christ and thus committed to little children like me.

I hope I’ve made them proud. I know I thank God every day that folks of deep faith, and these three of the Methodist variety, have been such a blessing to me.


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

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Jacob & Esau: A Tale of Two Brothers

The big, hairy, red-skinned man threw his arms around the neck of his brother and wept. He hadn’t seen the man for over twenty years, and the emotions welled up within him and overflowed.

His brother was emotional, too. He was scared spitless! The last time the one had spoken to the other it had not been with loving words. In fact, Esau had promised to throttle Jacob at the first opportunity! Jacob was fully convinced Esau had meant it.

What a change in the attitudes of the two men! And Esau noticed another change almost at once.

“Whose are all these, brother?” Esau asked, motioning toward Jacob’s four wives, twelve kids, and large flocks. Jacob had done well!

Esau hadn’t done badly, either. The four hundred armed men accompanying his brother had not escaped Jacob’s notice! Esau, too, was a wealthy man.

But the changes in the two men went much deeper than their balance sheets. Some men would have cut Jacob’s throat. On sight. On site. And not without some real justification. Years before, Esau would have. And he’d have blessed any man who’d handed him a sharp knife for the task. But not now. He’d grown beyond that.

And Jacob? Here was a changed man indeed. When Esau had last seen Jacob, this moments-younger twin of his had been working hard to live down to his name. Jacob. The “supplanter.” The grabber. The lying, conniving cheat. Jacob had cheated his brother. He had coldly but effectively lied to his blind old father. He had not been much of a man.

But Jacob was no longer Jacob. Now he was Israel, a new man.

On the night before this meeting with his brother, Jacob had met a man who frightened him far more than Esau! He had met himself. As Jacob had wrestled with the angel of God, he had wrestled with himself. He’d been forced to decide whether or not a life lived without God’s blessing was worth living. He’d made his decision and held on to the angel who could have unmade him with a word. He’d taken the chance, for once, in an unrigged game. And he was blessed.

When he limped away from the battle, he was no longer Jacob the cheat. Now he was renamed by God himself—Israel, one who wrestles with God, and one who “prevails” and wins God’s blessing.

Few of us wrestle with angels, but we all wrestle with ourselves. In one way or another, we all come to the place where we are faced with the same decision Jacob faced.

Is God’s blessing the most important thing in our lives? Is having a relationship with him worth everything? Is it worth more than life itself?

No one can answer “Yes!” and remain unchanged.




Copyright 2012 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: