Tag Archives: Christ’s love

One Size Never Fits All

One Size Never Fits All

By Curtis K. Shelburne

One size never fits all. If you’ve lived for ten minutes or so, I probably don’t need to tell you that.

But one of my brothers just sent in a text to the rest of his brothers a photo of a government form designed by some nameless bureaucrat or committee of bureaucrats or building burgeoning with bureaucrats (of the sort some folks would like to place in charge of the part of our nation’s healthcare the government doesn’t already control). Form 1040-V (“V” for “voucher”) includes the payment voucher taxpayers are supposed to use if they mail in a check or money order to pay any additional dollars they owe at the end of the tax year.

In some ways, the form, really short by governmental standards, is helpful. Since it’s not long, I assume they put in only information they think is particularly useful and important for the wide variety of folks who mail in payments.

For example, the amount on the right side of your check should be in this format: $XXX.XX. Taxpayers are asked not to use dashes or underlines or slashes. None of this, please: “49/100.”

But the paragraph that my brother circled in the pic he sent to the other three of us gives some information he found especially helpful: “No checks of $100 million or more accepted. The IRS can’t accept a single check (including a cashier’s check) for amounts of $100,000,000 or more. If you are sending $100 million or more by check, you will need to spread the payments over two or more checks, with each made out for an amount less than $100 million.”

I’m glad Gene read that in time, lest he write one single check, fire it in, and inadvertently break a valuable IRS rule. He may need to send two checks. I just hope he gets the number format right and doesn’t use a dash.

This, by the way, proves what a wise accountant once told me. He certainly believed that taxpayers should pay what they owed, but he gave this valuable advice: “Curtis, remember these are bureaucrats [meaning that they barely still have a pulse]. Don’t think that any of this is personal with them. They don’t care if you owe ten dollars or ten million dollars, they just want the right blank filled in on the right form.” ’Tis true. (Yes, let’s hurry to give them the healthcare. That’ll be great.)

It surely is easy to inadvertently break rules. In the midst of this Covid-19 mess, I’ve found myself walking the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the grocery store (against the arrow) on several occasions. Then the only choice for a person of high character (not me, I’m afraid), is to turn around or walk backwards.

Businesses, and churches, in my state are starting to open again. But I’ve been surprised to be surprised that “one size” can’t work for them all. With masks and weird, but mostly sensible, accommodations, it’s going to be a bit strange and less comforting than we’d like for all of us, I suspect. But “all” of us are different.

Our small church “opens” next week. I’m glad, but figuring out how to do this is necessarily, may I say, a serious pain in the tail section. But it’s harder for a mid-sized church a few blocks away; it will take more planning and more time to pull off. And for the large church 100 miles away that another of my brothers serves, well, they’re not even close to being back. Too many folks for one building even if they have a bunch of services. And their area’s virus numbers are presently going crazy. They don’t know when they’ll be able to meet even in masks and each congregant doused in disinfectant. (Just kidding about the last part.) If this mess gets any more complicated, please just mercifully drown me in Lysol.

One size never fits all. That knowledge makes me especially thankful that our Creator knows each of us completely and individually. He knows exactly what we need and how we feel every moment. He even knows the number of the hairs on our heads.

And he never asks us to fill out a form. The love we need to go on in this life and beyond, far beyond $100 million in value, all comes from our Father to us.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne! No mask required.

 

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


“The Red Hat in a Gray-suit World”

“By the way, I’m not doing Christmas cards. If you want them sent, you’ll have to do it.”

According to Sam Gardner in Philip Gulley’s delightful “Harmony” series, it was the same “fight” every year. Sam, pastor of the Harmony Friends’ Meeting (Quaker church) would buy four boxes of Christmas cards at Kivett’s Five and Dime and lay them on the dining room table with the address book nearby.

On this particular year, nothing happened. So he moved the cards into the bedroom, placing them near his wife Barbara’s side of the bed. A day later, he found them relocated to his side with a note on top: “I wasn’t kidding.”

Sam’s a smart guy. I’m surprised he hadn’t figured out years ago that the only “safe” way to send Christmas cards to his parishioners was to put one in the newsletter so as to be utterly democratic about Yuletide best wishes. Any other approach is fraught with danger.

The Gardner’s Christmas card list was growing at an alarming rate. The main category comprised of the church membership list was especially large. It was easy to get in the directory. Even the repairman who had come to fix the church freezer just before the church ladies’ annual Chicken Noodle Dinner fundraiser for Brother Norman’s Shoe Ministry to the Choctaw Indians was rewarded with honorary membership. (Not a single noodle was lost.)

Once you were in the directory, well, there you were. To ever be removed took something very serious, something like a death certificate signed in triplicate. Non-attendance and non-giving would not do it. If you drove past the church once a month and smiled, you were on the list, like it or not.

All of which meant that the Gardner’s Christmas card list was beginning to look like the IRS roll and likely included a few folks long since deceased.

But the handwriting was on the wall, not yet on the cards, and so Sam got to work. And Barbara, after a compromise, helped. Sam would write the inside, she’d address the outside, and he’d do the stamps.

It was going well until Barbara read the one to the freezer repairman.

“‘We love you’? You wrote that on every card? Isn’t that a bit over the top? What’s wrong with ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Thinking of You’? The freezer guy will get a confusing message, Mr. Loverboy, and feel like he and his wife need to invite us over, and then we’ll have to invite them over—me, cooking—and . . .”

“If you remember, you told me to write the cards.”

It’s a sweet annual argument, Sam says. His wife, modest and traditional, argues for just a bit of reserve while he maintains that God, instead of sending a lawyer to ‘define the limits of love,’ sent His Son.

After all, Sam tells his good wife, “Christmas is not the time to hold back. It is the bold stroke, the song in the silence, the red hat in a gray-suit world.”

And so it is. Indeed, it is.

 

     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 for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Thank You, Mom, for Being Glad That God Made Me”

Sunday is Mother’s Day. May I hasten to say that having a Mother’s Day is a good thing. I am sincerely pro-Mother’s Day and pro-moms. Good ones deserve far and away more honor than they receive, and I’m happy to have some part in helping bestow some of that honor.

But as a preacher who has stood in the same pulpit now for 34 years, I’m finding that preaching on Mother’s Days is getting a bit harder. It’s my own lack of imagination, I know, but I quickly preached most of the really obvious Mother’s Day-type Bible texts, and so I’ve been floundering on Mother’s Days for, say, twenty-two years or so.

It’s a little late this year, but what I’d suggest for the future is that each of the local pastors nail together about five minutes’ worth of a potential Mother’s Day sermon. Then we’ll get these clergy-types together, have a “preach off,” and let the assembled clerics vote on the winner who will then be commissioned to finish his sermon.

Then, you see, when Mother’s Day rolls around, all the churches and preachers could meet somewhere for worship together (which is probably what we ought to be doing all the time anyway if we weren’t so faithful to Scripture and theologically careful—which being translated means “terminally near-sighted, biblically illiterate, capsized by our sinful natures, and incredibly pig-headed”), and the winner of the Muleshoe Area Mother’s Day Sermon Contest can preach his masterful homily to the whole wad of us. I guess it will never happen, but it makes perfectly good sense to me.

Anyway, what I’ll share with you now, in a Mother’s Day vein, is a little piece I once wrote for a gift book on moms (that never found a publisher). It’s entitled “Glad That God Made Me”:

“Asked why he loves God, a little fellow named Nick standing in a little church opened his mouth and gushed simple little words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Mom, when I’m with you, I’m a little child again, and again I remember some deep truths, truths that children know so easily and so naturally, truths that adults spend most of their lives relearning. And were Nick’s proffered question mine, well, what might I say?

“I might say, ‘I love God for making this beautiful world.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making mountains and trees and streams.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making the people he’s put around me.’

But were Nick’s question mine, I hope the little child in me—given life and love and laughter through your love—for I’m still your little child, you see—would open his little mouth and gush the simple words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with still unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Thank you, Mom, for giving me birth, for giving me love, for being glad that God made me.”

 

 

     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 for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Unselfish Love: A Real Gift That Matters

Uh oh. It seems that the date for this column should probably indicate its content. Rats! If the whole thing reads like it was written by a Valentine’s Day grinch, I should just plead guilty.

It’s almost certainly good for husbands like me to have a deadline that calls for something on the order of flowers, gifts, candy, seriously over-priced cards, etc. I have difficulty appreciating the Madison Avenue manipulation, but I don’t doubt that clods like me need the shove.

It’s not particularly what the pseudo-holiday has turned into that bugs me; what really bothers me is the reminder that so much in our society that masquerades in second-rate song lyrics and steamy TV as “luuuuuv” bears no resemblance to the real thing.

I listened as a famous singer on a TV morning show opined that he and his wife had just split up because “the sparkle wasn’t there anymore.” He was way past fifteen, so “puppy love” was no excuse. He evidently had actually believed too many of his own songs and was confusing love with “warm fuzzies” and body heat, the kind of “luuuuv” that bears precious little resemblance to genuine commitment that really means “in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer.” The love god was originally an old Greek one, Eros, as Sheldon Vanauken (“The False Sanction or Eros”), C. S. Lewis, and I’m sure others, have noted. Eros has never lacked for worshipers.

Bowing before this god, our society has unleashed a demon who offers easy sanction for anyone wishing to commit almost any wrong, shatter any vow, break faith with God and society, and, in the sordid process, break the hearts of countless spouses and children. And the “luuuuv” god blesses the whole mess brought on by unvarnished selfishness.

How does our society respond? When we should turn away in nausea or shed tears, we turn to tabloids and gossip magazines that glamorize the carnage.

God help us to be both wise and merciful. When we fail in our marriages to love as we should—and we fail often—may we turn contrite hearts to our spouses and our God as we seek his grace and seek renewed power to share with each other our Lord’s genuine mercy and forgiveness and love. If we can’t share those things with our mates, I doubt that what we’ll share with others will be worth very much.

Oh, and let’s be merciful, too, to those who have fallen and failed seriously in this regard, and whose genuine sorrow shows that they know it, lest we find ourselves looking down our noses when we need to look inside and realize that we too are totally dependent upon mercy and grace every moment.

Fellows, you really ought to invest in a card and maybe some flowers or candy, too. (My wife prefers cash.) But your gift will mean a whole lot more if your beloved knows that behind it is the kind of genuine, unselfish love that helps with dishes and diaper-changing before it forks over the flowers.

 

      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 for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


That God Loves Ordinary People Is Extraordinary Indeed!

God loves ordinary people, and that is one of the most amazing and hope-filled truths of the Christian faith.

It is a truth no other world religion is strong enough to handle. What kind of God would so lower himself?

It is a truth that religion of the self-centered, do-it-yourself, toxic type, as opposed to that which focuses on a real relationship with God, can hardly afford to consider lest its true colors show.

God loves ordinary people.

That frightening truth was Exhibit A in the Pharisees’ case against Jesus. Pharisees are hard people to make happy. As Jesus noted, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Matthew 11:18-19).

Maybe we still find the Lord’s choice of friends a bit troubling. We worry about his reputation.

We shouldn’t.

I don’t believe Christ was a glutton. But I’m glad he evidently enjoyed good food as one of God’s excellent gifts.

I don’t believe he was a drunkard, but I’m glad that when the time came to make wine, Christ made the best and shared it as a good gift from God.

I doubt it’s the Almighty who is in question when we catch ourselves being “nicer” or more scrupulous than God.

Did you hear about the old gentleman who, when he learned that Jesus turned water into wine, said, “Well, the Bible says he did, and so I believe it, but I’d have thought more of him if he hadn’t.” (Hmm. Maybe that’s why the hallmark of some misguided “religion” is that it spends so much time trying to turn wine back into water. To change the metaphor, it’s far more comfortable with cold tables of stone than with the living Spirit of God.)

Similarly, I suppose we can make allowances for Christ’s choice of companions. The Pharisees once scowled and pointed to a party that took place when Jesus was calling Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle. He had to go where Matthew was, right? Even if he wasn’t comfortable there, right?

Well, yes. So the Lord has a good excuse. We can be okay with Christ eating and drinking with “sinners” as long as he doesn’t enjoy it, right?

I could be wrong, but I’m afraid the truth is far more scandalous—and wonderful—than that. I’m afraid the Pharisees, wrong as they were, were right: God not only loves ordinary folks, he likes them! He actually prefers their company to that of the “high and holy.” What kind of God is that?!

If that is true, and if God is completely good, then genuine “goodness” is not the cold and scrupulous, thin and sterile, thing many folks, religious or not, have often thought it to be.

Maybe real goodness is not all about “Do this, but don’t do this,” the kind of rules that keep religious folks feeling religious and non-religious folks glad they aren’t religious.

Maybe the real purity and holiness God wants is something far deeper than either group thinks. Maybe real goodness is deep and full and rich, filled to the brim with joy and life, the very life of God, and a person truly in love with God is filled up with the wine of God’s genuine joy in a way that folks truly in love just with themselves as they center either on their “religion” or on their own earthly appetites and desires, can never be.

 

      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.

 


“He Was Gathered to His People, Old and Full of Years”

 

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What my wife had in mind, a long time ago now, was simply to collect and display some old family photographs. Specifically, she wanted me to scan an old photograph of my maternal grandparents, a little picture that has long sat on a shelf in my study at the church. So I did.

I knew I’d had that little framed photo for a very long time, but I’d forgotten just how long. When I carefully pulled it out of its frame to place it on the scanner, I noticed the handwritten inscription on the back of the picture. I recognized the distinctive hand immediately. It was Grandmother Key’s writing, for sure.

“To Curtis Kline, 1965. Granddaddy and Grandmother Key.”

One look at that script launched me on a trip down Memory Lane. I remembered my little grandmother’s gentle but raspy voice and how she always called me “Curtis Kline.”

You know how names work. They morph a bit. To a couple of brothers and a few friends, I’m “Curt.” To some of my larger family, I’m “C. K.” And I come to “Curtis” just fine.

But to Grandmother Key, I was always “Curtis Kline.” And, as I saw that fountain-penned script, I could almost hear Grandmother saying to my mother, “This is for Curtis Kline for Christmas, and here’s one for Jimmy.”

You see, I’m pretty sure my younger brother Jim got one, too. And I’m sure his would be inscribed to “Jimmy.”

Looking closely at that picture, I was also struck by the fact that, though I’ve always looked something like Granddaddy Key, the resemblance is definitely increasing. The mouth. The eyes. Well, the whole face.

And, yes, increasingly, the white hair! I never knew his hair to be any other color. He had all of his hair, thick and full, but he ran out of pigment early. For as long as I remember, Granddaddy’s hair was snowy white cotton.

Granddaddy ranched and trucked all of his life. He died in 1975. Six years later, in 1981, Grandmother followed. But Grandmother and Granddaddy don’t seem that long gone. They’re still a big part of who I am every day.

I’ve always sort of liked the way the writers of some books of the Old Testament, after they’ve told the story of someone’s life, will say something like this: “And he was gathered to his people.” Sometimes they add this further description: “old and full of years.”

I don’t think I’m all that old yet. I will admit that claiming to be “middle-aged” is becoming a little tougher than it once was. I’m 58 now. It could be the middle, I suppose, but I very much doubt I’ll make it to 116. At least, with all of my heart, I hope not. Enough really is enough, and I’m looking forward to something much better.

I’ll admit it! I’m in the process of filling up with years, but I don’t think I’m quite full just yet.

But, you know, being “gathered to my people,” in God’s good time, strikes me as not at all a bad thing.

 

      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.


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