Tag Archives: God the Father

“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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How Much Does God the Father Love All His Children?

father 01

God loves his children so completely that he could not possibly love us more and he will never choose to love us less. We are absolutely secure in that love. Why is that so hard for us to believe?

It’s as if we were an orphan in 18th century England who has been bought out of the poorhouse, taken out of the sweatshop, by the kindest gentleman in the world. We’ve traded our rags for the finest clothes and our swill for the finest food. We’re almost afraid to close our eyes at night for fear that we’ll wake up and find that our redemption from poverty has all been a dream.

We see all the luxuries and privileges that go with what the kind gentleman says is our new position, but it just seems too good to be true. And there are many tell-tale signs that we really don’t even believe it yet ourselves. We sleep on the floor and not in the bed. Surely that bed is too good, too soft, too plush for gutter snipes like us.

But still the kind gentleman urges us to take up our place in the household—to eat his food, ride his horses, sleep in that beautiful bed, read his books, listen to his music, walk in his gardens, and he tells us that as the adopted son in this household and estate, all of these things are not just his, they are ours. We can hardly believe it! We begin to try to think of ways we can earn our keep, but nothing we could do would ever even begin to be enough.

Slowly, though, the gift of sheer mercy and grace and love begins to work its way quietly and deeply in our souls. And we awake one morning to realize that the kind gentleman has sometime in the night lifted us from the floor where we were lying and placed us in the soft bed that he calls ours.

As morning dawns, we’re almost unconsciously smelling breakfast smells. Our eyelids are starting to flutter as the door opens quietly, and, thinking we’re still asleep, he says quietly, “I love you, child.” As we come fully awake, we look into his face and are met with eyes full of pure love, more beautiful than the song of the birds in the garden just outside our window, softer than even the thickest down comforter, warmer than the morning sun streaming through the windows.

We’re almost surprised to hear our own little voice say, “Father.” And suddenly we realize that, though we could never in a lifetime of lifetimes earn the gifts that he has given, we have just given him the only gift we could ever really give, the gift that means more than life itself to this one who has given us new life. We have given him our love.

And though we’ve already felt grateful to him, now since that bright morning, our gratitude is deeper, richer, and more filled with joy. And whenever we eat his food, and ride his horses, and walk in his gardens, we know more deeply than ever before how truly they express to us his love. We know that every glimmer of love and joy and laughter in our lives lights up his heart with joy.

For he loves us so completely that he could not possibly love us more and he will never choose to love us less, and we are absolutely secure in his love.

 

       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.


The Owner’s Manual for Life: Refer to the Son

grill

I like seasons, and I’m particularly pleased to live in a place where the seasons are distinctly different. Lest I’m ever accused of being less than politically correct, I hereby affirm that I’m in love with seasonal diversity.

I will say, though, that as much as I like green growing things, I find that grass with snow on top of it is a lot less trouble than the fast-growing stuff. I much prefer skiing to mowing. But ’tain’t the season for skis. They’re shoved lovingly under the bed. The lawn mower is now oiled up. And—I do like this part!—the barbecue grill is ready to go.

That took a little doing this year. When I opened the grill a few weeks ago, stuff started falling off the lid. Rusty stuff. I frugally figured I’d just clean it up, replace some parts, and grill right on. Then I touched a burner pipe. It fell apart. Along with a few burner covers and a grate or two. Okay, more parts required.

But when I put the pencil to it and pondered the engineering necessary to install a few of the new parts, the answer was obvious: “Do Not Resuscitate.” Attempts otherwise would be, to change the metaphor, “perfume on a pig.”

So . . . a new grill. Same brand. Same configuration. Dual gas/charcoal. This time I ponied up for the optional “smoke box” and, with scenes of rust fresh in my mind, also purchased a grill cover.

The nice lady at the store asked if I’d like one already assembled, mentioning with a tired look that it took her two days to put hers together. I was tempted. But such is not the Shelburne way. If something later malfunctions, an explosion ensues, and I make an ash of myself, I’d like to have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the one who blew it. Up, that is.

Assembly did not take me two days. But it did take 33 steps.

The grill was manufactured in China, but the company is obviously owned by somebody with barbecue credentials. And, contrary to what we’ve come to expect, they were smart enough to hire instruction writers who are fluent in English. I even smiled when I saw a label on the smoke stacks: “If you can see this, you’ve put this together wrong. This goes inside.” I’d have felt even more at home and akin to the company owners if it’d said, “Whoa, Pard! If yer readin’ this, that dog won’t hunt! Ya just backed the cow out of the barn south-side first. Try ’er agin!”

Of course, the instructions include the usual lawyer litter. I’m not supposed to attempt putting this together if I’m missing any of my parts. Also, I’m supposed to perform a spray water/detergent leak test every time I light this thing. Right. If you hear of my incineration, you’ll know I forgot. But I’m assured that noticing some smoke is normal.

The Owner’s Manual for our lives is more straightforward. The Author pretty much brings it all down to this: If you have any questions about how your life should be assembled, just look at my Son.

 

      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.


“It’s Lovely to Let Out the Light, But…”

blitz blackout

It was 1945, a big and tough year in a line of extremely difficult years for a globe that had been squeezed in the clutches of world war.

Death and destruction had been the order of the day for way too many days. Whether it’s on a school playground or an entire world, when bullies are taking over, something beyond “a good talking to” (during which the bullies rally their forces, take more territory, and laugh at the talkers) finally has to be undertaken; if not, tyranny wins, freedom loses, and the weak are crushed by the cruel as the dangerously naive, blind to humanity’s fallen nature, wring their hands, weep, and wonder why.

In The Last Lion, their fine book on Winston Churchill, William Manchester and Paul Reid share a 1945 anecdote from Mollie Panter-Downes, longtime London correspondent for The New Yorker.

Victory in Europe would be joyfully declared on May 8, but old habits were dying hard. On May 7, “a predawn thunderstorm broke over London” with such a realistic “imitation of the blitz” (Hitler’s bombs raining down on London) that “many Londoners started awake and reached for the bedside torch” (flashlight) they’d become accustomed to keeping in their blacked-out bedrooms for use during each night’s raid.

“Nerves were still raw” even though Hitler’s V-2 rockets had been grounded since late March. The blackout had been lifted “after 2,061 consecutive nights of darkness.” London’s streetlights, now allowed, “failed to flare” when “the switch was thrown,” and though “most Londoners took down their heavy blackout curtains (which they converted to black clothes and funeral coverings,) they pulled their old curtains closed out of habit.”

One five-year-old girl who had never known any other kind of life, asked her mother, “It’s lovely to let out the light, but how shall we keep out the dark?”

It was a great question then and now. Hitler, the deranged “little corporal” and mass murderer was finally dead. Without the Russians, the war could not have been won, but they were led by Joseph Stalin, himself a monster who would kill more people even than Hitler. In May 1945, the Cold War was looming, dark and dreadful.

Plenty of dark times still oppress this world and threaten to engulf our lives. “How shall we keep out the dark?”

Well, we can be sure that God’s light lives in and warms our hearts even in dark times.

We can claim Christ’s promise to live in his people, affirming John’s words: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

We can refuse to trust life, a priceless gift but as literally impersonal as a rock and with no more ability to care for us. We can choose to trust God, the Author of life, the stable Rock always worthy of our trust, the Father who loves us completely. He created light, and he is far stronger than darkness.

In him, we can safely open the curtains.

 

     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.


The Best Father of All Is the Father of All

Shelburne Portrait-small

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I’ve found myself thinking of Dad more than usual. That’s saying something because I already think of him every day.

My father was the finest man I’ve ever known, and being his son is undoubtedly the second finest blessing of my life, which has been filled with blessing.

The most noteworthy thing about our best blessings is this: They are undeserved. They are gifts of God’s grace.

Of the many conclusions that can be drawn from this grace-truth, two are obvious.

1) What did I do to be born my father’s son? Not a thing.  So . . .

2) Why should I ever allow myself to be even remotely prideful about being his son? Refer to #1.

I have never drawn a breath of this world’s air at a moment when I had to wonder if my father loved me with all of his heart. I wonder what life on this globe would be like if all sons, all daughters, could, with deep gratitude, say the same thing? It would be infinitely better! It would almost be heaven.

If, like so many, you didn’t have that blessing, I’m sorry. Neither you nor I can change that now. But we can do two things that will make a world of wonderful difference, change both the present and the future, and have beautiful and eternal consequences.

First, whatever relationship we fathers have had with our own dads, we can be very sure that our sons and daughters (and grandsons and granddaughters), of whatever age, know we love them deeply.

I know that’s not always as easy as it sounds. The fathers we had are, well, the fathers we had. For good or ill, in ways that are delightful or daunting and depressing, and maybe all of those things at once, we fathers tend to be fathers like our own fathers were fathers. No surprise.

But a second truth can change everything. Refer to the second paragraph of this column. Being the son of the finest man I’ve ever known is, I’m sure, the second finest blessing of my life. But the best blessing of my life is one that you and I share: We are the children of the finest Father of all.

That means each of us has a Father who loves us completely and whose love we can share with our children and their children.

As children of our Father who is love, we are loved. Always.

As children of the best Father of all, we are accepted. Always.

The wounds so many people bear because of deeply flawed fathers find healing through the best Father’s sacrificial love and the wounds his Son willingly bore on a cross so that through faith we could truly be children of our Father.

By the way, once we realize that we’ve already got a perfect Father, it’s probably good to realize that earthly fathers can be far from perfect and still be amazingly fine gifts from the Father of us all. I’ve known some dads who I thought should be horse-whipped. I’ve known more who could use a little slack. It’s cheaper than a tie but better even if it’s harder to give.

 

        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.

 


Pious Pete Declines to Attend the Father’s Party

 

prodigal son 01

Someone has called Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son “the Gospel within the Gospels” as in it Jesus tells us the story of us all, and the story of God’s love.

You know the story.

A father has two sons. The younger son—immature, rebellious, and headstrong— impetuously demands his inheritance, takes off to a “far country,” and proceeds to heartily party until his dad’s shekels are spent and the party plays out. In the midst of a post-party famine, he finds himself starving and in such bad shape that he’s glad to land a job feeding pigs. One dark day he catches himself envying the porkers who are eating better than he is.

That’s when the prepositions start improving. Once full OF himself, the younger son “comes TO his senses” and realizes he needs to go home TO his father and beg to be taken back not as a son but as a hired hand. Hired hands eat better than pigs.

His father sees him coming while he’s still a long way off, and from then on in the parable, the predominant note is JOY as the father runs to throw his arms around his son, his “lost” son who is found.

Before the now-much-wiser lad can finish his “just make me a hired hand” speech, the father orders up a robe and sandals and a signet ring, and he calls for a feast and the best of parties.
Joy abounds! Except . . .

Except in the heart of the older son who never left home but instead, as he puts it, stayed at home to “slave away” for the father. “And,” pious Pete whines, “you never threw me a party!”

Wonder why! This sad-sack is one of those folks who can put a damper on any party and lower the temperature in any room just by showing up.

The guy probably has some good qualities, but he’s the sort that makes you wonder, “Ya know, if heaven’s full of folks like him, . . .” Don’t worry. It’s not.

I admit it: I don’t like him, not least because all too often, I’m afraid I look way too much like him. He’s long on the kind of “virtues” that give the term a bad name, and I suspect he’s a bit short on vices. Vices are bad in many ways, but they do have the worthwhile effect of reminding us that we’re human.

Good Puritans and genuinely good human beings are not, thank the Lord, the same cats.

The young son? Him, I like. Once he’s come to his senses. At one time, yes, he had a mistaken view of real fun and real life. Early on, he had a warped view of joy and looked for it in all the wrong ways and places.

But at least he was looking for it. At least he knew life was something to be loved. Now he knows why. Now he knows where love and life come from: his father. Now he smiles more, laughs more, and drinks more deeply from real joy. He’s found the real party, and his father is the one throwing it!

Henri Nouwen is right when he says that it’s a lot harder to come home when you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the good son, and you’ve never left.

The younger son made lots of mistakes. The older son is living a mistake. And he’s missing the party.

 

      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.


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