Tag Archives: grace

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to submit this one: “No statute or regulation shall be enacted into law unless two existing laws or regulations are rescinded, removed, deleted, trashed, shredded, deep-sixed, done away with, gone.”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


What Sets Christianity Apart? Grace!

Author Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference, scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs that set Christianity apart from other world religions.

As they debated some important possibilities, C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and he was told that they were asking what Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions might be. He answered, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Yancey continues, “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

We could never be saved by our own effort or by keeping any law, as St. Paul makes clear.

“We all [sinned], all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5, The Message).

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yes, and that’s a good sign! Real grace always sounds that way as it amazes those who receive it. Read the Gospels! You’ll find a lot of smiling, amazed people there. (Watch out for the Pharisees, though; they never smile. No surprise. Toxic religion never leaves its adherents anything to smile about.)

Real grace is always a little and maybe a lot scandalous. If no one thinks you’re too gracious, you’ve probably not felt and internalized enough of the grace of God yourself. If our churches aren’t regularly accused by some folks of being too gracious—too loose, too accepting, too free from law—that’s a very bad sign. It almost certainly means we don’t understand how much grace we’ve received and how rich is God’s supply. Read the Scriptures! The Good News, the real thing, the real Lord, has always scandalized people by the depth of his love and mercy.

If you’re God’s child, you don’t have to live a fearful, tentative life. Indeed, how dare you!? You don’t have to be careful lest you exhaust God’s amazing resources by being too loving, too gracious, too joyful, too free. God’s supply of love and grace, joy and freedom, is boundless!

You don’t have to live like the “one talent servant” in Christ’s parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Terrified that he might make some mistake and tick off his master (whom he misjudged completely), he made the worst mistake of all, not loving his master.

If we’re living lives cowering in fear, afraid to dance before our God because we might miss a step, we’re making the biggest mistake of all, not knowing and loving our Father as we should—the Father who continually amazes his children by the depth of his love and mercy, his grace and joy, and the genuine freedom that only he can give.


     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.

Repeat Regularly: “There Is One God; I Am Not Him”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” I opined, in an “Aw, shucks!” sort of feigned shame tone, as I tried to hide the weird contortions required to pat oneself on the back.

But twisted pride is one of perfectionism’s pernicious symptoms. Perfectionists like to think they are a cut above ordinary folks. We have, we think, higher standards, work with more diligence, and see more clearly than pretty much everyone else.

Granted, low standards, lazy workers, and the lousy outcomes produced by such are not hard to find. But those ills are never cured by perfectionists; if anything, they are made worse. Even folks who do an average to slightly above average job just want to give up under the incessant pressure of a perfectionist’s thumb; folks on the lower end of the scale won’t even try.

Perfectionism’s thinly-veiled arrogance, along with out-of-balance priorities, and deep (and sick) need to be in control, spells death to any sort of genuine contentment and pushes family, friends, and co-workers, away. Perfectionism sucks the air out of any room and throttles healthy relationships. And perfectionists are sadly unable to see perfectionism’s malignant imperfection.

Yes, its pride is stinky. But the real rot at its heart is the poison of fear, the soul-throttling terror of never being able to measure up, which leads to frantic effort—never ceasing, never resting, and, of course, never succeeding—to be completely in control.

In the final analysis, perfectionism is idolatry, and idolatry always fails. Since we are incapable of being in absolute control of our own lives—and were never meant to be—we fail at being our own gods. And since others were never meant to acknowledge us as their gods, we fail at forcing those around us to “have no other gods before us.” Bowing down to the true God is freeing; bowing down to a perfectionist is enslaving and utterly exhausting. Eventually, the slaves will revolt. The spouse has had it. The kids’ act out or get sick. The co-workers quit.

Based on miserable insecurity and fear, not on “high standards” as the perfectionist likes to suppose, perfectionism never works. “Good enough” will never be “good enough” under a perfectionist’s reign. No victimless malady, it will render both the sufferer and those who suffer the sufferer miserable.

And forget the myth that perfectionism is productive. Study after study has shown the truth one song-writer put into words: The way to write a really good song is to write a good many bad ones. Living life in a fear-based, frantic attempt to produce perfection really means not producing much at all (and certainly not enjoying the process).

Anne Lamott has written, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

For Christians, the truth is even more serious. Perfectionism is a denial of the gospel, a slap in the face of the Savior, as perfectionists live and act as if they need no saving at all, certainly not as much as ordinary folks. But to accept Christ’s sacrifice requires admitting our utter inability to save ourselves. It’s only when we confess our powerlessness, weakness, and imperfection that he enables us to throw off the fear, futility, and idolatry of perfectionism, to embrace his deep peace and joy and live truly gracious lives in the sure knowledge that we are saved by sheer mercy and grace.

Maybe I should delete all of the above and just write (and repeat each hour) an eight-word anti-perfectionism creed: There is one God. I am not Him.


     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.



Only Broken Disciples Find Grace to Be Whole

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” said the servant girl.

Peter, standing near the fire, startled, began backtracking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and slinked over out into the entryway.

But the girl is speaking again, not keeping her opinion to herself: “This fellow is one of them.” Again Peter denies it, but the meddlesome girl has struck the match, and the flames are spreading. Others chime in, “Of course, you’re one of them, for you’re a Galilean.”

Yes, a Galilean fisherman, to be exact. He certainly knew some knots, and he didn’t have to reach all that far back to pull up some “nautical” terms. He cursed and swore, “I do not know the man!”

When his Lord needed him the most, Rocky crumbled, and he thundered about the man he loved more than anyone else in the world, “I tell you, I don’t even know who this man is!”

Then the sound of a rooster crowing struck his ears for the second time, even as the words attesting to his cowardice hung in the air, and he was assailed by the memory of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “You will all deny me.”

As the whole bunch indignantly protested, one loud voice had rung out above the rest. “Lord,” Peter had opined, “even if all the rest of these deny you, I never will!”

Oh, be careful, Peter! Tread lightly, disciples then and now! We are never more dangerous or more in danger than when we’re feeling more “spiritual” than others nearby.

In that courtyard, Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him: “I tell you the truth, today—this very night—before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”

As the rooster’s raucous call echoed away, another sound replaced it. Peter’s own sobbing. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and the rock was crushed.

On the miserable scale of human foul-ups and faithlessness, this was no small failure.  But Christ does his best work not when we’re fat and sassy and so “spiritual” we have to tie rocks to our feet to keep from ascending prematurely. No, he lifts us up when we’re broken, and we know it.

After the resurrection, Peter and crew have gone back to fishing. The risen Lord has given them a miraculous catch and cooked breakfast for them.

Then Jesus gazes at Peter. Three times he asks, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Three denials by the fire in that wretched courtyard. Three affirmations by the campfire by the sea. And three times Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.” And, yes, Peter would.

Jesus loves this broken disciple far too much to let him wallow in his woundedness. Healed with a kind of wholeness he could never know when he was cocksure of his own strength, he was filled with new gratitude, new love, new wisdom, and mercy enough to share.

Now rolling down his cheeks are tears of joy as his Lord has lifted him higher than he could ever rise when he was sure he’d never fall.


You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And special news: An amazing, exciting, and inspirational story written by Capt. Red McDaniel, Scars and Stripes: The True Story of One Man’s Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam, has now been narrated by Curtis as an audiobook. You can purchase and download the book, or listen to free sample, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, or iTunes.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.

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.


“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”



Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.


       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.

“Pride Goes Before Destruction,” Said a Very Wise Man


prideNo surprise, but the words of Scripture have just been validated yet again in my life.

I promise, I’d not been tempted upon the arrival of February, which is a full two weeks past the time most folks break their resolutions, to congratulate myself on keeping any of my New Year’s resolutions. You see, one New Year’s Day many years ago, I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions.

As tribute, no doubt, to my incredible self-discipline, may I say that, though I’ve faltered a time or two, that resolution I have religiously kept. It and I have dwelt together in complete harmony these many years.

But I was tempted nonetheless to be a bit haughty concerning one minor achievement thus far in this young year. I realized a day or two ago that, contrary to my usual practice of ruining checks in January (yeah, we still occasionally use the printed kind), by inscribing the wrong year on them, I’d not written 2016 on a single 2017 check.

Yes, but—and now please begin reciting with me Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,”—as I’d been patting myself on the back, I opened an email note from my fellow editor brother. Guess what?

Well, wait to guess for just a moment. I need to set up this confession just a bit more.

As a writer, editor, copy editor, and proofreader, I was taught the Eleventh Commandment with its three sub-points: Thou shalt edit, copy edit, and proofread.

In our modern world, the flurry of straight to the Ethernet ebook publishing only underscores that need. Lots of stuff gets “out there” way too quickly. Lots never should have been out there. But mediocre writing can be made almost passable by the Eleventh Commandment, good writing can be made better, and great writing can be made truly top notch.

And yet I’ve seen stuff that even some major houses publish in ebook form that, it seems, nobody bothered even to proofread. I’ve on occasion narrated a book for audio publication—and discovered that I must have been the first person ever to read through it. Typos, errors, bloopers all over the place. Not to mention that even a quick run-through by an editor could’ve tightened it up nicely. A pet peeve. Can you tell?

Okay. Please begin the recitation again. “Pride goes before destruction . . .”

That note from my brother? He just thought he’d mention that the January 2017 issue of the monthly devotional magazine we’ve been editing for decades made it through four proofreadings and nobody caught the fact that somebody (ahem!) set its date, page two, to proudly proclaim, “January 2016.” But, hey, I messed up no checks. Just several thousand magazines.

“. . . a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s possible that a resolution to be more humble might not be completely out of order.


      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.

“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.

“I Can’t Rightly Say, But It Sounds Like . . .”



In his delightful book Jayber Crow, author Wendell Berry has one character tell this little tale about another one:

“Fraz Berlew was drunk and wandering. He wandered into a saloon down at Hargrave. The saloonkeeper was out and the place was empty. Fraz just helped himself to a considerable portion of the merchandise, and wandered on.

“When he wandered back again the saloonkeeper was there. He said, ‘Fraz, did you come in here and drink up a bunch of my whiskey while I was gone?’

“And Fraz said, ‘I can’t rightly say. But it sounds like me.’”

That little story makes me think—not about Fraz Berlew but about you. And about me.

It’s one thing for a saloonkeeper to miss some of his stock, see an ol’ boy wander through, and immediately recognize the culprit, even if the culprit’s not absolutely sure he is the culprit! It’s another for someone to see or hear of an act of kindness, generosity, largeness of spirit, and immediately think, “I’m not sure who did that, but it sure sounds like . . .”

What a great thing if folks are tempted to make that kind of statement about you!

“Hey, did anybody see _____ wander through our workplace here? Everybody seems happier than usual today. I’m not sure she was here, but it sure seems like she might have been.”

“Did anybody see ______ come through our home? I’m not sure he was here, but today the members of our family have just seemed more accepting of and thankful for each other, and I just thought ___ had probably been here.”

“Was ______ here today in our [home, business, school, office, church]? So-and-so was really feeling down, dirty, and depressed because of [insert So-and-so’s sin, failure, burden, weakness, sorrow], and [he, she, or me] is so much better, I was pretty sure _______ must have spent some time here.”

I could go on, but you get the picture, don’t you? You can quickly think of some folks whose names fit into those blanks very well. They are people who just spend some time in your home, walk through your office, visit your classroom, worship with you at church—people whose lives somehow intersect with yours perhaps in very small ways—but wherever they are, life somehow seems better, more filled with color, more joyful, more worth living, and more filled with grace and hope, no matter how dark or gloomy the day might have seemed before they passed through.

I think the Apostle Paul would say that such people have about them “the aroma of Christ.”

“Was _____ here today?”

“I can’t rightly say. But it sure seems like it because today this place is better, more gracious, more filled with hope than it was before.”


      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.

When Christ Was Born, the Situation Was Normal


Cross-Advent 01

In some ways, the world just a few moments before the birth of Jesus in that Bethlehem stable was almost exactly the same as the world just a few moments after his birth.

The state of the stable, and the inn out in front of it, and Bethlehem, and Judea, and Rome, and the whole wide world, was pretty much the same. As they say in the military (well, sort of as they say), it was one big SNAFU. The Situation was absolutely Normal. It was All Fouled Up.

The government was pretty much like governments have always been—happiest when people are standing in long lines getting crunched by bureaucracy and about to be burdened by one more tax to keep the crunching wheels crunching.

Joseph’s probably been working his fingers to the bone trying to make a living, and now he gets to take days and weeks and maybe even months off—all of which is death to productivity and income—so the bureaucrats can fill out one more form with his and Mary’s name on it. Now he’ll have more taxes to pay and less money to pay them with. Nobody’s more effective than the government at keeping really small businesses—say, a carpenter shop—really small.

Actually, all of this stuff with Mary had pretty well sapped him lately of much ability to concentrate and work very effectively anyway. First, he was so shocked and perplexed that he didn’t know how to feel. Then he was worried sick. And then he got the visit from the angel. Yes, that was a wonderful thing, a marvelous comfort, an amazing experience. But if you think seeing an angel, even one with good news, isn’t incredibly unsettling, it’s obviously been a day or two since you’ve seen one.

Then the tired carpenter gets to make the trip to Bethlehem with his very pregnant wife who is simply exhausted—not to mention enormous and well along toward D-day, by the time they get there. No cheap tickets left on Mideast Airlines. No tickets at all. So they get to go by donkey (which hospitals’ O.B. departments ought to keep tied out by their parking lots; they’re cheaper than I.V.s and Pitocin and are pretty much guaranteed to get things going).

Mary’s just about had it (literally), but they get to the Bethlehem Inn, and the place is overbooked. They end up stuck out in the stable, stomping around in the straw (which Joseph knows will have his allergies in full bloom before you can say Gesundheit!).

And then Mary’s birth pains are becoming very regular. Even first century folks don’t need the New England Journal of Medicine to tell them what that means. This baby is coming! And he’s coming right here, right now, “ready or not, Joseph!” in barn straw that was the real thing, not sanitized stuff for a manger scene.

The situation in the world and in that Bethlehem stable that night was normal—the same as usual in many ways—fouled up with lots going wrong.

But with the Baby’s first cry, the world would never be the same. And God was making sure that one day, all that is wrong with this world could be made right.


You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne! If you’d like to purchase some music, or just listen to some–hey, there’s lots of Christmas music there–you’d be welcome! And a Christmas special is . . . any combination of three CDs for $35 plus shipping. Email me at ckshel@aol.com or use the contact form on the site if you’d like that “special” discount! Merry Christmas! 



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.



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