Tag Archives: fathers

The Best Father Is the Father of Us All

Christians are commanded to confess their sins “one to another.” So, here goes. I hereby confess that I have at times succumbed to the temptation to be a kind of Father’s Day answer to Christmas’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

As a father, I’m perfectly pleased to see the day coming; it’s as a preacher that I can get grinchy about it. Father’s Day is tough.

Every year, here comes May, and here comes Mother’s Day. Fine. I don’t begrudge our moms the first spot in these quasi-holidays. Good moms have much more than earned much more than a Sunday a year when we honor and encourage them in their ultra-important role. From a preacher’s perspective, it’s not hard to find in the pages of Scripture a bunch of world class moms. (Granted, after you’re on your thirty-second such sermon in the same church, it’s a tad harder.)

But then hardly a month rolls by, and it’s Dad’s turn. Father’s Day seems to have some roots way back in the Middle Ages, though the American version is mostly a “Johnny-come-lately-we-probably-oughta” afterthought to Mother’s Day. The dad under my hat enjoys the day. If some of the kids/grandkids come, and I get to cook a steak, catch a nap, and veg a bit, I’m happy.

As a preacher, the day is good news/bad news. Children’s sermons can be difficult. Too many kids have slugs for fathers. It’s no secret who the “sexual revolution” lets off way too easy, and who pays the high price for “free love” with no commitment.

For the day’s sermon, well, really great fathers in the Bible are depressingly hard to find. And bad ones are bad for the same reasons bad dads have always been bad. A deadbeat is a deadbeat in any time period, whether he is the equivalent of the guy whose kids go hungry while he pays for his next tattoo or a guy who is a Fortune 500 exec who gives his kids absolutely everything but himself.

Joseph, Jesus’ “step-father” was an exceptionally fine man, but he drops out of the picture pretty early in the Gospels. Pretty desperate, I once preached a Father’s Day sermon using Jonadab, son of Rechab, as an example of one of Scripture’s finest fathers. But his name and his interesting story are pretty obscure (see Jeremiah 35).

Almost all of the greatest men of Scripture were fathers, but maybe the Father’s Day lesson that looms largest from Scripture is cautionary: Greatness in other areas in no way guarantees greatness as a father. Dads, if “success” comes at the expense of our children, it’s an awfully steep price not worth paying. As has been said, it’s pretty pathetic when a “‘big shot’ at the office isn’t even a ‘pop’ at home”!

Most preachers have figured out that they can “get away” on Father’s Day with just a kindly tip of the hat to good dads. A whole sermon is not required. (Don’t try that on Mother’s Day!)

Honestly, with so many deadbeat dads a dime a dozen, a good dad really does stand out. And the best example of fatherhood in Scripture is worth more than all the rest. It’s no accident that Scripture, from one end to the other, portrays God as the Father of us all. Absolutely loving. Absolutely merciful. Absolutely gracious. And always there for us all. What a Father!

 

     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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A Grandfather’s Voice Points to Many Fathers

 

George B Shelburne-01

It’s been an interesting Monday morning.

The dog and I were sitting in the recliner. My laptop computer was living up to its name. My column/blog deadline was looming. Waiting for words to start showing up on the blank computer screen, I was really waiting for the adrenaline rush that my sadly undisciplined brain seems to require. Coffee is an aid, but no sure cure. The deadline usually does it.

In the meantime, as I found myself piddling around, procrastinating, perusing some files on the computer, I somehow wandered into the “Family Audio” section and clicked on an old file labeled, “Big George 1972.”

And that’s when I heard the voice of my paternal grandfather, G. B. Shelburne—we called him “Big George”—who died in 1975, recorded by my oldest brother in 1972 at the old house in Stanton, Texas.

In the fourteen-minute recording, Big George, a longtime lay preacher and church elder who over the course of 40 years held pretty much every non-elected position available in the City of Stanton, Texas—city secretary, water commissioner, city judge, etc.—shared a little family history.

He partially solved the family “mystery” of “G. B.” as he said that “George” was the name of his mother’s oldest brother and that “Beatty” (spelling?) was the name of the doctor who “presided” (his word) at his birth.

Oddly enough, what I found most interesting was the story he told of a spanking administered to my great-grandfather by my great-great-grandfather sometime in 1870.

Great-great-grandfather Shelburne had come home to Alabama in 1865 after his service in the Civil War. His son, Tom, my great-grandfather, was born that same year. Tom’s father died when the boy was only five years old. That would be 1870. The incident Big George told about, that his father Tom had told him about, took place that same year and was one of the only memories Tom Shelburne had of his father.

As the story goes, my great-great-grandfather had just finished filing a hand saw in the blacksmith shop he had on his Alabama farm. Five-year-old Great-grandfather Tom had been playing in the shop. His dad laid the saw up on top of his workbench and said, “Now, Tom, don’t you bother that saw. I’m goin’ out.” Tom told his son, my grandfather, later, “I had such a curiosity to try that saw that when Father came back in, I was tryin’ it over a plow beam, and he give me a paddlin’ fur it.”

Funny. That old story of my great-great-grandfather’s warming Tom’s tail section actually seemed to warm my great-grandfather Tom’s heart, too. He lost his father way too early, but he never lost the sure knowledge that he was loved by him.

It’s a great blessing to me to hear my grandfather remind me that I stand in a long line of fathers who dearly loved their sons (and daughters). The best blessing of all is to know that all of God’s children are loved by the best Father of all.

Yes, and the Bible reminds us (Hebrews 12:6, etc.) that some discipline is involved in love!

 

 

      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.


In Court with “Lions and Tigers and Bears” and a Promised Forever

 

Kendall-2 Court 021916

“I’m all in, Kendall Briley.”

Even when I said it, I was sure she already knew. She’s had my heart since I first held her and was privileged to take her sweet big sister to the hospital to meet her just hours after her birth.

Just six months old, she’s captured the hearts of her little family, and her larger family complete with doting grandparents, giggling cousins, and more, from the very first. But Friday, after we’d made the trip to the district court in Fort Worth to have the judge make the adoption official, seemed like a good time to tell her again.

I’ve been to some other courtrooms, of course. Thus far, none that I was dragged into. But no matter why you’re there, they’re pretty serious places. Impressive old stately buildings. Lots of stairs. Dark wood. Rails. Sombre benches. Bailiffs. Black-robed judges. Gavels pounding out life-changing verdicts and decrees.

And then there’s this. I’m an English major. I think that’s good for the soul; it has been for mine. But most English majors realize at some point that one of the only ways the major could ever be remotely lucrative (for whatever that’s really worth) is if it launches you into post-graduate studies and a career in law. Since I’ve never been interested in anything lucrative, I opted as a post-graduate for more English. Couple that with a “career” in ministry and, there you have it. But sometimes I wonder . . .

For lots of reasons, courtrooms fascinate me, even as they tend to be pretty grave, serious, daunting places. They’re also places outside of which people do a lot of waiting. So on Friday we were inside a courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, waiting outside a courtroom.

Even the waiting was unusual that day. We cooled our heels with about nine other extended families, each gathered with and focused on some wee mostly six-month-old folks dressed in their best, cutest little outfits, being addressed in wide-smiled baby talk in turn by each of the adoring members of their court entourage.

I’d been enjoying pacing around with our own little princess in my arms when I snuck a look into “our” particular courtroom and saw, of all things, a bailiff placing thirty or forty stuffed animals on the wooden rails at the front. Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!—all around the judge’s bench! (Mostly bears.)

Ninth in line, we watched eight other families called up to the front as the parents “testified” by answering the same questions. The word “forever” came up a lot. Verbal assents by the parents. Smiles. Some tears. Then the judge held each baby surrounded by the families and smiles and love and sweet tears. Lots of pictures. But the best will always be in my memory.

I don’t know how much you’ll remember about that day, little Kendall. But we’ll tell you about it many, many times, I’m sure. God has known who you are forever and always loved you. Now the court has pronounced, “This is your name.”

And may I say once more for your folks, for your family, for your family in Christ, and all who love you, “We’re all in, girl. Forever.”

 

     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.


Some Father’s Day Reflections on Fathers

Shelburne Portrait

Well, here comes Father’s Day. Honestly, I don’t much need a calendar, a card company, and a proclamation or a few for me to wax reflective about fathers and fatherhood.

I’m a fellow who thinks that perhaps the most poignant verse in all of Scripture is the heart-rending cry of the great king who was also a father and would have cast aside a thousand crowns to save his son: “O Absalom! My son, my son!”

For that matter, I’ll even admit to leaking a quiet tear or two toward the end of more than a few episodes of my favorite TV show Blue Bloods. Why? Because this “police show” actually centers on family, is bold enough to portray a family’s Christian faith respectfully, and, most of all, focuses on a father’s relationship with his kids. That’ll get me every time. Besides that, Tom Selleck and I are obviously peas in a pod.

The special day for fathers is fine, but I rarely take a breath on any day without realizing that way up high on the short list of the best blessings the Father put into my life is my father. That I would be the son of the finest man I have ever known is a gift of pure grace. I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t, and don’t, and couldn’t, deserve it in the least.

If you’ve had that same kind of blessing, and I hope you have, then you know the proper response for that kind of father is humility and eternal gratitude to the Father of us all. You had a giant step forward from the moment of your birth in experiencing and learning about the love of your heavenly Father. No small blessing, that.

But I hope you know that you DO have the best Father of all, no matter the quality of your earthly one. And, if you’re part of Christ’s Body, the church, the blessing is multiplied as he has promised “fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters” far beyond our merely human allotment! What an amazing family! All because of our amazing Father.

Fathers, and all of us, hear a lot these days about teaching kids to believe in themselves. I know what folks mean, and, yes, low self-esteem can cause a wad of problems. But I wonder if we’re not coming at this, as usual, from the wrong way around.

G. K. Chesterton was right when he said that if you want to find someone who completely and absolutely believes in himself, all you have to do is find the craziest inmate in the asylum. Truly sane people believe in Someone much bigger than themselves.

My father took care of my “self-esteem” issues by getting the focus right himself. It would never have occurred to Dad to waste time navel-gazing, agonizing about whether or not he believed in himself. My father was far too busy helping his family, and many others, believe in the Father of us all, the One who absolutely loves, values, and counts each child as precious. “Self” esteem is pretty thin stuff compared to knowing for sure that your Father esteems and delights in you.

 

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

 

Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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