Tag Archives: Christ

The Good News Is That “Jesus Paid It All”

Here’s a tale of two sweet songs and, with them, a life-crucial lesson.

The first song is a heartwarming ballad performed by Phillips, Craig and Dean, one of my favorite singing groups.

“A scene so familiar at the old five and dime / A little boy waited his turn in line . . .”

With excited eyes twinkling, he’s holding in his hand the candy he’d been saving his money to buy. The girl at the register smiles at him as he forks over the handful of coins but then winces; it’s not enough. Kind-hearted, she’s not sure what to do. But that’s when a stranger standing behind the boy in line speaks up and saves the day: “Whatever he’s short, just take it and add it to mine.”

“I’ve got you covered / I’ll pay the difference / You don’t have to worry at all / Whatever the cost is, I’ll go the distance / If you fall I will catch you / You know I won’t let you feel like you’re there all alone / I’ve got you covered.”

It really is a sweet song. A few measures in, and we become that little boy. We’re really him already. We’ve been there. We know how he feels. And soon we’re thanking the Lord for that kind “stranger.” An eye-blink later, we realize that the merciful stranger is our Lord, and we’re beautifully reminded of what he’s done for us.

I love the song. In fact, I added it to my own repertoire years ago and perform it whenever I can. I like it so very much that I can get so caught up singing the sweet story that I dream past a mildly tricky entrance or two and miss the train! It’s one of my favorites for sure, and I don’t mean to be picky.

But here’s a point we’d better not miss. If we do, it’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve missed the truth of the good news, the gospel, of Christ, and we’re well on our way to being sad Pharisees.

In walking with us through our lives, Jesus does indeed lift us up whenever we fall. When our strength is not enough, his is very much there for us. That’s the truth of this song and why I love to sing it.

But let’s not push the song too far. When on the cross Christ takes on himself all of our sin and guilt, he doesn’t just “pay the difference.” The wonderful truth is in the title of another sweet song: “Jesus Paid It All.” All! He really did!

If we catch ourselves thinking that salvation itself is a matter of me doing my part and Christ “paying the difference,” we’re denying the cross, the depth of our need, and the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. And we very much need to spend some serious time grappling with the Apostle Paul’s amazing words in Romans and Galatians.

We also need to read Ephesians 2 and believe the apostle when he says that salvation is not at all a matter of works we do. If it was—oh, he knows humanity—we’d be “boasting,” figuring that we’d put at least part of the money on the counter. We’d never know the real price, and we’d live in constant anxiety and fear—no real joy, peace, or confidence—never knowing if even the small price we’d paid was enough (and always tempted to compare the price we think we’ve paid to the price we judge that others around us are paying). That way of life is self-centered, not Christ-centered. It is a way of condemnation, not a way of salvation. It is exhausting and futile, terrifying and gospel-denying.

Thank God indeed, Jesus paid it all. Christ’s people live their lives to honor him. They live into the good works Scripture says he has created for them to do (Eph. 2:8-10). Not to pay the price. Because the price has already been fully paid. The difference is just, well, all the difference in the world.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 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 Shortest Distance in the World

The shortest distance in the world is the space between hero and heel.

On that first Palm Sunday the cheering crowd lay palm branches in Christ’s path as he entered Jerusalem. By that Friday we call “Good,” how many of those same voices were crying, “Crucify him!”?

Jesus was not surprised. The prophet had said long ago that God’s servant would be “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3). And we’re told that Jesus “knew what was in man” (John 2:24), that he knew humans “inside out” and “didn’t need any help seeing right through them” (The Message).

But it had to hurt. On Sunday, a crowd is praising; on Friday, a crowd is cursing.

On Sunday, they’re praising the one they hope will inaugurate an earthly kingdom and shed the blood of the hated Roman conquerors. On Friday, they’re screaming for the blood of the one whose spiritual kingdom seemed short of swords and firepower.

But Jesus was not surprised. Soon he will look out over the city (foreseeing her doom) and weep, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who bring you God’s news . . .” (Matthew 23:37).

Now Entering Jerusalem: Hometown of [Supply Prophet’s Name] read the signs put up by the Chamber of Commerce. No fine print mentions the names of the upstanding citizens who’d years ago put the prophets to death. “The shortest distance . . .” Short and selective memories, too.

But what if Jesus had just agreed to be the kind of king they wanted? Judas probably could have saved his blood money. James and John could have taken seats as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, though the Romans might not have let that “kingdom” last long.

Yes, but if Jesus had simply listened to Satan, agreeing to bow before the Prince of Darkness in exchange for worldly power, Rome would’ve gone down! I wonder how many despots today, not to mention their predecessors already moldering in history’s dust bin, would grab just such a deal? (Or name any size tyrant, any size venue.) What if Christ had chosen to call legions of angels to take him off the cross and destroy the world (he knew that he could), well, talk about power!

What if, like the crowd in Jerusalem, we prefer Jesus to be the kind of king who’ll give us everything we want—easy lives, health, wealth, success, political clout, etc.? And what if he doesn’t?

The crowd wants a revolution. Judas wants one, too. Right now! Peter pulls out a sword to fight. And Jesus, with power completely beyond the understanding of power players and blowhards, shakers and movers, fighters and king-makers, is so strong that he lays down his rights even as he lays down his life, and he dies to do the will of his Father and save weak and selfish rights-mongerers like . . . us.

We’re curse-hoarse from yelling “Crucify him!” as he quietly refuses to be the kind of king we want. Nailed to the cross, held not by spikes but by quiet love-filled might that puts the world’s “mighty” utterly to shame, he shows himself to be exactly the kind of King we need.

“Therefore, God has exalted him to the highest place . . . that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . .” (Philippians 2:9-10).

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“No Statute or Regulation Shall Be Enacted Into Law Unless…”

As I write this week’s weak column, Texans are one day away from the 2018 state primary election. I’m too late to add one more ill-fated proposition to the list of mostly D.O.A. propositions already on the ballot.

But I’d like to submit this one: “No statute or regulation shall be enacted into law unless two existing laws or regulations are rescinded, removed, deleted, trashed, shredded, deep-sixed, done away with, gone.”

I should’ve floated that idea to some political candidates while they were still in moon-promising mode. They’ve been pretty busy sending out mailings, littering the landscape with signs, and making television ads. Most of the latter require a big cowboy hat (cattle are optional), a pickup, a shotgun or three, a promise to out-conservative fake conservatives, and a pic of the family praying before a meal or heading to church—all sandwiched between vicious attack ads that should make a pagan blush. Most of these folks seem to think voters are idiots, and we voters have done precious little to disabuse them of the notion.

We may all lose, but some candidates will eventually win, and I wish the winners would consider the proposition I’ve mentioned. Why? Because having too many laws is the surest way to erode respect for the law. We do a lousy job even of trying to keep God’s Ten, but we’ve got so many laws now that even normal people (Donald and Hillary and special prosecutors by the boatload are not normal people) can’t get out of bed without breaking a law before breakfast. If your faith is in government, you may find this state of affairs reassuring; I do not.

I loved a recent Wall Street Journal commentary by attorney Mike Chase who has so far posted a thousand laws, one a day, on Twitter at @CrimeA-Day. He’ll never finish (he says that in 1982, the Department of Justice tried to count the total number of federal crimes and gave up), but reading these is a hoot, and here are a few.

It’s a federal crime to transport a toy torpedo bigger than 23mm in diameter.

It’s a federal crime (hereinafter IAFC) to sell “egg noodles” that aren’t ribbon-shaped.

IAFC for a hamster dealer to put a hamster on an airplane without enough for the afore-mentioned rodent to eat and drink during the flight.

IAFC to market as “wing drumettes” any bird part that is not the humerus of a poultry wing.

IAFC to sell antiperspirant that “lasts all day” unless it reduces armpit sweat by 20% over 24 hours.

IAFC to import honeybee semen if it’s not Australian, Bermudan, Canadian, French, British, New Zealand, or Swedish bee semen.

IAFC to engage in Canada goose population control by shooting geese from a parked car, but not if you’re missing one or both legs.

And so on, ad infinitum ad nauseam ad heehawingum.

I admit that human kingdoms need some laws, but the Lord Jesus has told us that in his kingdom, two are enough: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m thankful that Christ’s sacrifice means that, while his people are confessed law-breakers without a single self-justifiable leg to stand on, we’re forgiven sinners with two good legs to dance on as we praise God forever for his mercy and grace.

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Why Does Finding Real Rest Require So Much Discipline?

Why is resting so hard?

One definition, “freedom from activity or labor,” surely makes “rest” sound rather appealing, maybe even like something we should try on occasion.

Just a brief Internet search will result in scads of wise quotations on the benefits of rest. Some sound almost like a sop to Type-A hyperactives who won’t say “Good Morning” unless it fits into their business plan and the utterance is duly scheduled. Charles Spurgeon was not among that group, but he told the truth when he said, “In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”

Some quotes are simple and wise: “Rest is not idleness,” wrote John Lubbock, “and to lie sometimes in the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

Someone took a few of those words and, understanding our tendency to actually feel guilty if we ever rest (how incredibly dull, stupid, and full of ourselves we are!) wrote, “All rest is no more idleness than all sex is adultery.”

The research keeps stacking up. Sleep less than six hours a night for a couple of weeks and our performance scores will plummet, our blood sugar levels will rise, our waistline will expand, we will actually begin to show levels of psychosis, and (this one is my own observation) we might even begin to compulsively and irrationally tweet in the middle of the night. Run long enough without rest and someone in your family will be the “barometer” who first begins to reflect the stress and begin to be in “distress.” Count on it.

Oh, and by the way, the Creator of the universe thought rest important enough that he gave us a commandment along that line. Disregard the truth at the heart of any of those Ten and a price will be paid. The principle at the heart of this one, no matter what pseudo-Bible scholars may say as they quibble about Sabbath, is no different.

Because he loves us, God tells us to take time to rest. Really rest. The kind of rest that means significant time for praying, playing, sleeping, filling up, soul-growing, recreating, thanking, breathing, not producing, just being. Taking time to rest may be one of the most faith-filled God-honoring activities of all as we follow his loving command, believe his promises, stop, and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help.

Let’s be honest. More often than not, we have a very hard time finding the kind of discipline it takes to intentionally pursue this kind of rest. Obstacles abound, mostly between our ears, but also many things not bad but just incredibly unbalanced in our lives.

Jobs. Especially the more we confuse what we produce with our value; the way we make a living, with our life.

Phones. The more panic we feel when we’re away from them for five minutes, the more desperately our souls need to be away from them for much more than five minutes.

Electronic “balls and chains” in general. Unplug!

And, oh yes, balls. All shapes and sizes. We’re masters at making even our “fun” with them a grueling amount of stress-filled work.

And have you noticed? We’re so terrible at resting that we often make even our vacations utterly exhausting, about as relaxing as a forced march in wartime.

Unless we’re in complete denial (we may be; addicts always are), the problem is obvious. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it lurks near the heart of much of the soul-distress, the depression, the lack of joy, the loss of purpose, and the fractured relationships littering so many lives. As individuals, families, and a society, we pay a staggering price for our refusal to listen to the One who made us, to take time to truly rest, to let our souls breathe.

We need his grace and power in all things—even and maybe especially to have the real strength and uncommon wisdom it takes to find and fill up on regular times of genuine rest.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


When Dust Returns to Dust, What Kind of Wealth Matters?

Wealth. How varied and strange are the uses of that word.

More often than not, when we use the word “wealth,” we’re talking about money, a necessary commodity, for sure. But measuring wealth is not as easy as it might seem. A boatload of financial wealth, if allowed to possess us, may amount to less than a nanoparticle of the wealth that matters, the sort that frees us. (Oh, and this is tricky. A grasping, greedy soul can be throttled by much or by little.)

Surely you don’t have to think long to call to mind some folks the world labels “successful” simply and only because they have money but who are utterly pathetic and appalling by any other standard. Wealthy, are they? Well.

If you have more dollars or dinars, more pesos or pounds, more shekels or shillings, more francs or marks or rupees or yen, than anyone else in the world, you will most certainly be called wealthy. Your life will be quite different from that of the poorest person on the planet—right up until one millisecond after both hearts stop and both souls are launched toward the only accounting that really matters.

But back in this world, some other accounting may actually continue for a bit.

The first spreadsheet will be a short one. “Amount of money dead filthy rich guy (or gal) or dead pitifully poor guy (or gal) takes to grave” will be zero. Naught. Zilch. Nada. May I press that truth home? The zero for deep pockets guy will look exactly the same as the zero for no pockets guy.

The heirs of our hypothetical not-breathing folks may be arranging for their bodily passage to putrefaction to be first class or coach, but it won’t matter a worm’s eyelash to the honoree whether he’s boxed in hand-waxed cedar (cushioned in comfort) or Amazon-recycled cardboard (stowed in a bag amidst those white packing “ghost farts”). Eventually, dust is dust is dust and pretty much just dust. Beautiful cemetery or pauper’s field, million-dollar mausoleum or a fish’s belly in the bottom of the sea, the location will matter not in the least to the deceased.

But another inventory and another sort of spreadsheet will be left behind in hearts that remain beating. Perhaps this inventory will be counted by tears of gratitude. By warm memories. By smiles. By a life well-lived. By a large soul that valued relationships far more than things and planted seeds of joy and love, mercy and trust, in all the good hearts it touched, seeds that will bear sweet fruit for generations to come.

In God’s economy, rich folks and poor folks and all the many more folks in between can all possess the wealth that truly matters and lasts beyond the grave. “Treasures in heaven” begin to be accumulated when we treasure what truly matters right here. If we’ve not given ourselves away to our Creator and to those we love before we leave, what we leave behind will only be dust.

It will matter not whether kings and queens attend our send-off. The sweet tear of a grandchild we taught to love the One who will bring us together again forever, and the “well done” of the Author of life who walked with us all of our life and receives us now, will be worth immeasurably more. Wealth indeed.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“There Is Nothing New Under the Sun”

“There is nothing new under the sun,” writes the wise man in Ecclesiastes (1:9).

That argues for knowing something about what has already taken place under this old sun. And that means learning, and learning means reading. Three cheers, for sure, for math, science, and technology, but, however proficient we are with them, if we’re willfully ignorant of history, we’re just technologically advanced (and very dangerous) fools.

You see, the same challenges keep cropping up in this old world. At their deepest level, the waters every generation must navigate have been traversed before. George Santayana long ago told the truth: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Along this line, I think I’d like to propose legislation that requires high level elected officials to spend at least an hour a day reading history. They can easily prune the time from what they’d normally spend fund-raising or generally blathering, and (this is scary) reading a book might be a new experience for many of them. Why would we ever trust anyone willfully ignorant of the past to try to plot a course for the future?

By the way, pastors who know nothing about church history are every bit as frightening as the politicians I’ve just taken a swing at. The mountains Christians of all eras have made from molehills are the very same ones ancient Christians shoveled up to trip over.

This morning I enjoyed another of James Kiefer’s brief biographical sketches, this one on the life of Church of England Archbishop William Laud (born 1573).

Kiefer writes that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, some Christians in England (Puritans) objected to clergy and choir members wearing a garment called a surplice. Cassocks (a garment normally black and floor-length) were okay, but these folks strenuously objected to the wearing of the surplice, “a white, knee-length, fairly loose garment with loose sleeves” because it was not specifically mentioned in Scripture and because it had been a custom of Roman Catholics. (It’s basically the same thinking, Kiefer notes, that caused Puritans and their many descendants to object to Christmas and a host of other practices.)

Archbishop Laud felt that the garment was nonetheless “seemly and dignified,” but the Puritans persisted to protest religiously, stinkily, loudly, and even violently. One group of Puritans broke into an Oxford chapel one night, stole surplices, and stuffed them “into the dung-pit of a privy.” This was just one issue, but Laud, increasingly unpopular, was eventually imprisoned and hanged as he prayed for peace and an end to bloodshed. (You can sing this story to the tune of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Archbishops.”)

Until I read that, I didn’t know a surplice from a surplus. It was new to me, but the “rock” upon which those folks wrecked is no new danger to navigation. The Puritans were neither the first nor the last to try to twist the New Testament into a book of codified law. The Apostle Paul warned ages ago (read 2 Corinthians 3) that if we seek salvation through stone-cold law rather than through God’s Spirit, we’ll end up fussing, fighting, and wrecking our souls on tables of stone. That course, trusting in a code rather than a Savior, has never led to life and joy and peace; it can’t, and it never will.

No, there really is nothing new under the sun. I doubt we could make any truly new mistakes even if we worked incredibly hard at it. But it would be nice, and a God-honoring move in the right direction, to try to avoid stumbling over so many old ones.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Questions as We Sail into a New Year

Well, we’ve done it again. Managed to blunder on into another new year.

Hmm. I wonder why just now I said “blunder”? Amazing how just a few letters carelessly tossed together can affect the taste of the whole word’s salad.

I could just as easily have said “wander” or “stumble” or even “stagger.” None of the above would have been much nicer or more optimistic, I’m afraid, and I apologize for that. The flavor of those words is rather pointed out by that word “optimistic” which is precisely what they are not.

If the captain of the vessel upon which you are sailing is heard early in the morning to grouchily exhort the helmsman, “See to it, Smythe, that you don’t blunder onto any rocks near the shore today,” well, that’s not a very inspirational thought for passengers who’d on the whole prefer to face the voyage with higher hopes than avoiding a bone-crushing fatal wreck on unseen reefs and a cold gruesome death by drowning.

Whether your journey is by train, plane, or automobile, you’d generally hope, I’m sure, that the engineer or pilot or driver referring to the day’s travel would be judicious in his or her use of such uninspiring words and sentiments. You’d generally like to think that the journey had some sort of plan to it and that those charged with its execution had at least a modicum of expertise and skill with which to execute the plan and conduct a pleasant, rewarding, and eventually successful trip.

Oh, yes, you’d like to think so. But therein, I suppose, lies the question. Is this journey we’re all on actually going somewhere? Is there a point to it? Are we on course or just adrift? And who, pray tell, is doing the steering?

I’m wondering a bit right now about the course of this column and where it’s tending. It’s possible that in the next few paragraphs I may completely answer the questions just raised, queries that have found their way into human minds ever since our ancestors had leisure to quit running from saber-toothed tigers and pause in the breath-catching to think loftier and more complicated thoughts. If I do blunder, wander, or stagger into profound answers, I’ll be surprised. I will say, though, that I think the answers center on the nature of the journey, the passengers, and, most important, the Captain.

For my part, I believe that the journey has a point and a destination. That the Captain has given us such freedom to make real and consequential course decisions along the way is sobering. (Entering this year with two loud out-sized “characters” bantering about the size of their nuclear buttons is not particularly encouraging.)

I think the Captain—the best and wisest of all—has given us a “seaman’s manual” to help us in plotting a wise course and to show us how other travelers have sailed. The whole point of the manual is to point us to his best gift, an ever-present Guide who sails with us, for whom no storm has ever been a match, and in whose strength a wonderful destination is sure and secure.

I, for one, need to be reminded to sail with much more real confidence, joy, and hope than might be my natural inclination or warranted if I were my own master. My Captain can steer me past all blunders and through all sorts of seas safe into Port, and that’s a hope-filled truth to shine a warm light on the whole voyage.

By the way, may I suggest that you turn to the manual and read Psalm 121? Great words for travelers all along the journey!

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Thank God for Shepherds and Stargazers!

Thank the Lord for shepherds and stargazers!

While muckety-mucks in Rome were trying to figure out new and improved ways to shake even more shekels from the pockets of the subjugated populace and further filch the meager bread of the common man, the Highest of Kings was pretty much ignoring Rome. The most powerful of all earthly kingdoms was less than nothing compare to His. The true King was dispatching a troop of angelic hosts, any one of whom would be stronger than an assembly of all of Rome’s best troops, to appear before shepherds.

Shepherds!?

Yes, shepherds. Minimum wage kinds of folks Caesar would have completely ignored if he hadn’t wanted them on the tax roll.

And isn’t that just like the King in whose kingdom the janitor waxing the floor and whistling “Amazing Grace” could easily be a wealthier man and a truly mightier citizen than the CEO scurrying off to attend yet another “success” seminar, completely unaware that the janitor he bumped in the hall has already found success and could teach him where to find it if he’d stop and listen and learn? But he doesn’t have time to stop. Or to learn.

And don’t forget the stargazers, the night sky watchers with their faces turned upward focusing on another sort of heavenly host while Rome’s bean counters had their noses buried in ledgers, figuring taxable income, gross national product, and formulating plans to try to squeeze twice as much work out of tired employees for half as much pay. Bureaucrats never change. You can be sure they were looking for ways to further complicate anything they could “improve” that had once been simple, and struggling with such momentous questions as whether shepherds and bakers both had to file the same Form CCLXI-revised or if Form CCLXI-EZ would do.

At Bethlehem, God reminds us that almost everything we take for granted about power and prestige, success and status—not to mention “generally accepted accounting principles”—in the kingdoms of men is in God’s kingdom beautifully, wonderfully, delightfully, topsy-turvy if not altogether ignored.

As Max Lucado writes, “Were it not for shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.”

Yes, indeed. Thank God for shepherds and stargazers!

 

        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.

 


May Christmas Open Our Eyes to Real Gold

It’s always good, but never better than during these holy days, to recognize the difference between genuine gold and the sort that blinds fools (and all of us when we’re foolish).

You probably remember that alchemy of old was the attempt to turn common metal into precious gold. Most blacksmiths, I suppose, were content enough to ply their useful trade and hone their craft, and their communities daily reaped the benefit of their art in iron. Alchemists ultimately benefit no one, and we’re all alchemists when we find ourselves endlessly chasing pots of gold labelled “When We Make It Big,” “When We Arrive,” “When We’re Really Successful,” “When We Have All We Want,” when . . .

Notice that the pot of gold is always like the carrot on the stick in front of the proverbial donkey’s nose. Notice that the “when” of dangled success and proffered happiness is always in the future and never in the now. Notice that, self-blinded, even if we knew where we were going in our race to have always more, and blindly bowing to our creed that more is always better (we’re not sure why, but it must be, right?), we’d never know when we’d arrived even if we got “there.”

Odd it is, how a contented blacksmith finds gold that no one can take away and a gold-seeking alchemist, even one in a business suit or a fancy car living the “good life” spending all of his never-enough gold on himself and whose life’s highest goal is that he not lose too many golf balls, ends up with a life that rusts and blows away.

The closest the Virgin Mary ever got to gold was to hold in trust the amazing gift one of those truly wise men gave as an offering to her infant Son. What a sweet miracle it was that those fellows were given eyes to recognize the star they should follow, the fruition of the journey its light directed, and the baby King worthy of all worship in its glow. “When we arrive” never arrives for gold-worshipers, but “when” becomes “now” and rich indeed for gold-givers. They make the right journey. They worship the right King.

But long before that wise man brought gold, Mary’s heart was genuinely golden. The angel Gabriel’s message took her breath away, but pure was the heart that his appearance and his words almost stopped.

Glittering with God-glow, Mary goes to see her also-astounded and glowing kinswoman, and Elizabeth’s soon-to-be-born son, also God-promised and long-prophesied, leaps inside his mother as if he can’t wait to begin his proclamation. Ah, John, it won’t be long, but first Mary’s full-term time will come and more angels will visit to do their own God-commissioned proclaiming, to light up the sky with golden glory, and to sing praises with tongues of light.

Fools chase gold, frantically hoping to find it “when.” Mary and her children have already found it in their hearts when they respond to God and his promises right now, “Yes, Lord, I believe. May it be to me as you have said.”

 

     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.


“Christmas Seems to Come Around Once a Week”

Years ago, when a friend and church member who was well into his eighties told me that for him Christmas seemed to come around about once a week, I believed him.

But now, having tasted life at sixty, I’m getting Jay Butler’s point even more clearly. I might not say that Christmases seem to flit by “once a week,” but they surely do seem to come around far more quickly than they did when I was a child (or even, say, 25 or so).

You don’t have to tell me that the rate of m.p.h. (minutes per hour) really doesn’t change. Or that the whole thing is an illusion.

I understand that, though the moon certainly looks a lot bigger when it’s right above the horizon, it’s actually the same size always. I’m a very scientifically-oriented person. I realize that lunar green cheese doesn’t really expand or contract nearly as much as a quick glance might lead us to believe.

And, no matter how “slow the moments go,” or seem to, when you’re in love “for sentimental reasons” (says that sweet old song), minutes are minutes made up of sixty seconds strung along at exactly the same rate whether you’re gazing in eternal bliss into the eyes of your sweetie or gripping chair arms in unending agony as your dentist performs a root canal.

The reality, of course, is that the blissful moment only seems eternal and the cursed agony only seems unending. The sands of time actually drop through the glass at a fixed rate.

We know the reality, but we also know that it doesn’t feel real. Of course, if we trusted our feelings—the unhappiest and most dangerously unstable people in the world always do, and I hope you know better than to make that mistake—we’d swear that our fun/happy times fly by while our sad/painful times drag on forever.

An Internet search regarding this phenomenon led me to an article in The Observer which pointed me to psychologist and journalist Claudia Hammond’s intriguing book, Time Warped. I’d thought that the perception of the frequency of the Christmas season’s arrival had to do mostly with the varied frames of reference, the obviously different chronological perspectives, of, say, a four-year-old and an eighty-year-old. Yes, in part.

But Hammond points to a “holiday paradox.” As they’re being lived, special times seem to fly by, but their memories last much longer than the “ordinary” times that seem to drag endlessly but whose memories fade in a heartbeat. The ordinary times we zip through on autopilot. The special times in which we do new things and create new experiences are rich in lasting memories. For good reasons, your memory of a sweet event one Christmas will last a lot longer than what seemed like an eternal bout with your last cold, even though Christmases seem to fly by. (I’m not doing the book justice. It’s a good read.)

How long did God’s people of faith wait for that first Christmas? Almost forever, it seemed. But at just the right moment, “when the time had fully come,” God sent his Son and hope that will truly last forever.

I love Christmas. I’m okay with Christmases coming around very quickly. But I want to squeeze the juice out of every moment. I know now that I shouldn’t waste a single moment of Advent expectation/preparation and deep Christmas joy.

 

     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.


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