Tag Archives: faithfulness

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.

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Epitaph: Love Is Always Greater Than Power

cross-sunset2

This morning in The Wall Street Journal I read a well-written obituary by James R. Hagerty focusing on a woman who so loved to be in the spotlight that her former husband—she had four and divorced four—simply said, “To say that [she] loved publicity would be a massive understatement. She lived for publicity.”

Hagerty wrote, “More than 30 years before she died, she had her own tombstone engraved,” noting on it that “her father was a prominent neurologist and that she was recognized at White House press conferences by several presidents.”

Hagerty says that in a 1996 People magazine article, she simply said, “The main thing is to keep my name out in front.”

I do not intend to mention her name. You won’t know it anyway, and it will soon be forgotten. But I admit that I’ll have a hard time forgetting what Hagerty says this woman wrote on her own memorial: “Power is greater than love, and I did not get where I am by standing in line, nor by being shy.”

I suppose when she wrote that pathetic line, she could hardly imagine that “where I am” could mean anything other than “in the spotlight.” For much of her 89 years, she lived for power and fame. Where did she get? She got to the place where “where I am” means “in the grave.” And then what happens to such a shriveled soul?

I read that obituary this morning. Then this afternoon I drove down to our little town’s First Baptist Church to attend the funeral of a man whose name I’m privileged to mention and whose service I felt it was an honor to attend, “Sonny” Byrd. Most of us just called him Mr. Byrd.

I didn’t know that Mr. Byrd’s first name was actually Levanather. I’ve still not heard anyone take a stab at pronouncing it, but, if I’m doing that right, I kind of like it. It has a dignity about it. Just like the man, married 57 years to his “sweetheart” and committed to his Lord.

I didn’t get to know Mr. Byrd nearly as well as I’d like to have, partly because he was such a quiet, gentle, “always there but never loud” presence in our community that I guess I thought he always would be. I figured he had many stories to tell, and I hoped one day to be able to sit down, drink coffee with him, and hear some of them. He was here for 60 years; me, for 33. Surely there was time. And then there wasn’t. Not in this life, but I hope in the next.

I felt almost presumptuous attending the funeral, mostly because—my own fault—I didn’t know him well enough. But what I knew, I respected. He cut a striking figure, a man carved out of rich ebony, clad in crisp coveralls and a cowboy hat. He worked so well, so hard, with dignity and the kind of soft-spoken gentleness that is only found in those who are genuinely strong with the kind of soul-strength that the loud will never understand, much less, possess. I can’t imagine anyone less interested in the limelight, but when I heard of Mr. Byrd’s passing, I knew our community had lost the kind of person to whom any community owes a debt that can’t be paid. At the funeral, it became clear that lots of folks felt that way.

It’s probably a mercy to him that he could not hear what was said at his service because the last thing in the universe he’d have wanted was for his name to be “out in front.” I have no idea what will be written on his tombstone, but it might well be this: “Love is always greater than power.”

And that is literally God’s truth.

 

 

     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.

 


A Rule That Will Bless Us: No Whining Allowed

[Note: One of the sweetest and best ladies I’ve ever known, Vernell Cotten Nance, my mother-in-law, just passed away. Maybe this is a good time to reprise this column from August 2012.]

My mother-in-law has just moved from her apartment down and around the corner from our house, where she moved around five years ago, to assisted living in a community about 75 miles away.

I don’t like it much. I know—we’ve all heard the jokes about mothers-in-law. And, yes, I’m afraid we’ve all seen some who deserved both to be the brunt of jokes and to be drop-kicked a blessed distance away.

But by far most of the mothers-in-law that I’ve known actually do the job quite well and are a major blessing. And I’m convinced that mine is the best of all. Vernell simply amazes me, and from the first moment over 37 years ago when it began to look like I might become her son-in-law, I knew for sure I was getting the better end of the bargain.

I would describe her first as Christlike, and that means loving and unselfish and grateful and winsome and . . . all sorts of good things. I could talk for a very long time about all the good things she is.

But one thing keeps occurring to me, and it centers on what she is not and never has been. She has never been a whiner. (I wish I was more like her!)

Dr. Charles Siburt, a truly amazing Christian man, professor, minister mentor, church fuss mediator, etc., passed away recently, and a friend of mine remembered him saying this: “There is no way to modulate the human voice so as to make whining an acceptable sound.”

My mother-in-law would have liked him. Vernell is one of the most patient and forgiving people I have ever known, but my wife, truly her daughter in this respect as well, will tell you that her mother has never had much patience for whining or whiners. Juana remembers, for example, coming home from school as a child and starting to fuss about a situation, another student, or a teacher.

“Now, Juana . . .” her mother would say, and then give a lesson on “Why We Don’t Whine, Why Whining Is Obnoxious, and Why You Are Never Allowed to Become a Whiner.” She didn’t actually give the sermon a title, but that’s what the lesson was. For most of the rest of my wife’s childhood, two words were all her mother had to say to silence completely any whiny utterance: “Now, Juana . . .”

The gift Vernell gave her daughter has been passed on. My sons and I know quite well that if we feel like whining, we’d better look elsewhere than to the wife and mom who loves us too much to let us get in the habit of emitting whiny sounds.

Vernell has buried two fine husbands, and she genuinely grieved, but I’ll always remember what she said: “I don’t like this, but if I were the only one this had ever happened to, I might have a reason to complain.” Wow.

She will be happy in her new home. You can count on it. She plans to be.

It’s okay for us to be sad that she won’t be as close by. Healthy tears are allowed. Just not whining.

 

 

     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.


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

 

Shelburne Portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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


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