Tag Archives: humility

Thank God When We Avoid “What Might Have Been”!

Have you noticed? When something bad, sad, and tragic happens, we agonize, “Dear God, how could you allow this?” But, too often, when we see something bad, sad, tragic avoided, we fail to give thanks.

If you are my auto insurance agent or my wife, please stop reading in 3-2-1. Now.

I like San Antonio. But a few weeks ago, we headed that way, were almost there, rounded a bend on the wet expressway, and were greeted to a sea of red brake lights much too close that I saw almost much too late. Close call.

Yesterday afternoon, I was again on the way to San Antonio. Just me. And driving a new (to me) truck that I just bought and have already fallen in love with.

(Are you still reading, dear wife? Stop now!) I don’t want my judge wife to pull my license. And I really don’t want her to send one of our kids to San Antonio to take away the keys and drag me home.

I decided just to follow the GPS lady. I’ve seen three gals get in a fight in our vehicles before. One is the “nav” system gal. One is the GPS gal who lives in my phone. The other is the lady in the copilot’s seat. I miss her, but two gals giving me directions on this trip are enough. When they say, “Recalculating,” it doesn’t sound like, “Nimrod, why didn’t you turn!”

The trip to San Antonio entails miles of two-lane roads and miles of four-lane/Interstate driving. And this year it’s gorgeous! Bluebonnets galore!

Big trucks are the hazard on the Interstate. Passing is the hazard on the two-laners. (I love the new signs on some roads that let you know a passing lane is coming, so just wait a sec!)

So . . . yesterday I’m on a two-lane road. I’ve got a Bubba-truck behind me. Too close. If Bubba can see past his eyebrow ring, he’s looking for 90 mph or so. We’re moving about 70 in hill country, stuck behind an 18-wheeler. Fairly heavy oncoming traffic. I can live with 70, but I’m sick of bookends Bubba and Big18. I was tempted to toss the former a little minor (and safe) brake light scare to get him to back off, but I didn’t.

Finally! Here comes a passing lane. The big guy slides over. I’m going for it, for sure. But ten feet or so into the shortest passing lane in this hemisphere, a sign on the right says it’s going away. Are you kidding!?

I should mention that we’re headed up a hill. I can’t see if there’s oncoming traffic, but three lanes should be plenty. (Mistake.) As I’m about to pass Big18, his left blinkers come on. It’s either abort or all in. (What will Bubba do?) Split second decision. Foot down! New truck floored! V8 roars! Three lanes turning into two. Now I see four cars coming on at light speed! Oh, give me a break and use a little shoulder, Big18! Two and a quarter lanes now. Needle threaded. Inches to spare. Start heart. Breathe. Wait for big guy to lay on his horn. He should have.

Having survived, I’ve replayed this, looking for reasons why this wasn’t mainly my fault, but… Several bad things came together at once. It could’ve been…

I wonder. How many times in life do varying degrees of fatigue, impatience, ignorance, foolishness, and just human frailty come together to issue in great pain? And sometimes no one meant evil. But serious hurt came.

How many of those times do we avoid safely, and we don’t even know we had a close call? But I know this: When we do see what could’ve been and that it was avoided, it’s a really good time to give serious thanks and drink a good dose of humility.

 

 

     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.


Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 


When “War” Comes to Worship, All Sides Lose

I try to avoid ever firing any shots in what have been called the “worship wars.”

“Worship” and “war.” Those two words together, not held at arm’s length from each other by a conjunction, form a jarring contradiction.

We know what the Apostle Paul would say because we know what he did say in Philippians 4:2 to two squabbling gals named Euodia and Syntyche (who some wit has christened Odious and Soon-touchy). He doesn’t describe the “issue” or take sides. He just says, “Get along.” The mere fact that Christians were fussing was shameful, as out of place as a cow patty on a cheesecake. It still is.

Our Lord Jesus went to the cross, completely emptying himself, laying aside his own will, out of his love for his Father and us. How ludicrous, how deeply wrong, it is for those saved by his sacrifice to refuse to sacrifice their own rights—maybe even to shoulder the unbearable burden of singing a song or two that we might not like but that might very much bless someone else?

I wonder. In times of persecution, do people worry and fuss about such minutia? I wonder how long we could endure the real thing if our idea of suffering is to sing a song we don’t like or endure a service with the thermostat set a bit too high or too low for our personal comfort. (Oh, it’s impossible to ever get that one “right.”)

I do understand why some fine pastors I very much respect and some great churches have chosen to offer separate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, particularly when the whole congregation can’t fit into the building at the same time anyway. I’d likely do the same thing. But, ideally, I much prefer a “blended” worship where we sing a variety of styles and thereby inch up on something called sacrifice. Or love.

As the disparity between styles widens, though, I admit that “blended” is a challenge. “God of Our Fathers” cries out for an organ. “Kumbaya” equivalents, soundly Trinitarian (that’s good) with three hundred verses (fine for the first 150), need a guitar (and maybe a campfire). And the latest coolest Christian Luv Radio Top 40 or sorta sacred rap songs call for calisthenics, maybe some amazing riffs, and perhaps a good deal of other jumping about. It can be a tad jarring to go straight from some of these into others of these.

Yes, and I suppose church folks have always been like all folks. Everyone is somewhere on a continuum from dyed in the wool and pretty much calcified traditional (danger: ossified folks bend poorly and break easily) to folks burdened by carrying about a heavy load of coolness (danger: cool marches on, and we look silly chasing it). The fact that the former folks on one side of that continuum have usually paid the freight and are the reason the church exists perhaps should at least not be totally forgotten but never brandished like a club.

But the One who truly paid the price, the Reason the church exists, is Jesus. And if we ever catch ourselves fussing about worship, we’ve already lost the fight and are utterly defeated. Claiming to see better than our brothers and sisters in Christ’s family, we’ve already poked out one eye and are half-blind and stumbling; we’ve lost the focus of all worship, and we are denying the Cross. Then whether we’re doing so with a pipe organ, a cappella, or a heavy metal guitar makes precious little difference.

 

 

     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.


“Unless You Become Like Little Children . . .”

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So said the Lord Jesus to his disciples as he “called a little child to him.” No doubt, one of my favorite things about our Savior is that the children seemed to always flock to him. When his apostles tried to shoo the kids away, opining to their parents that the Lord was far too busy to mess with little folks, Jesus quickly disabused his disciples of that way-off-the-mark notion.

In fact, as he laid his hands on the children and blessed them, Jesus had those intriguing words for his followers: “Unless you become like little children . . .”

My back hurts, and I’m a little achy today. Not bad. Just a little. Some trampoline time, some rolling-around-on-the-floor time (thank the Lord our floors are carpet-covered and not bare!), some doing fun experiments sitting on the concrete (no carpet) in the garage time, some lift-them-up-and-hugging-them time, some crawling around in the living room sheet-constructed cave/castle time—all of these contribute to some soreness. But mostly, it all adds up to wonderful memories for grandparents and grandkids alike, a sweet recipe for one beautiful little word: joy.

Our deepest joys are usually best just experienced and accepted with deep gratitude to their Giver, but some reflection is also occasionally in order.

Why does time with the little folks so renew our souls even as it tests our backs? A million reasons, I’m sure, but . . .

Unconditional love. You learned about that holding your newborn children; you learn even more about it with their children. You for them and they for you. Just spending time together adds up to sheer delight. No strings. The upstretched arms of that little 18-month-old mouthing “PawPaw”? Worth more than gold! You can live for a month just on one smile, and a giggle will make it two.

Purity, simplicity, and trust. The littlest folks have no qualms about “asking” for what they need, be it bottle or “blanky” or diaper change or nap on your chest. What looks bad in adults and, may I say, completely pathetic in high-officed politicians—neediness and almost no impulse control—is not only okay in the littlest folks, it’s appropriate and shows their absolute trust in us. As God cares for us all, continually doing infinitely more for us than we can possibly know, we gladly provide for the little ones he’s put in our care.

Wonder and joy. Everything is new to them. Everything is beautiful. Everything is full of wonder. That grass beneath the trampoline is a magical forest filled with mythical creatures. Those Christmas lights are as beautiful as twinkling stars. And PawPaw is a noble and valiant unicorn (with wings) who doesn’t at all mind being christened Buttercup if the little folks are doing the naming.

Long after we’ve grown to adulthood, it’s one of God’s most beautiful surprises to use little folks to help us grow back into children and much more like the Son who so delights in them and us.

 

 

     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.

 


Giving Thanks Is a Genuine Debt We Owe to God

 

gratitude

 

If we wish to absolutely insure that we will never be thankful people, that we will always be morose and bitter, self-centered and selfish, and utterly miserable, the very best way to successfully sabotage our own happiness is to always center on our own rights, avoiding any thought of our own responsibilities. Or, better yet, to center completely on our own rights and think incessantly about the responsibilities of others or society itself toward us.

Of course, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve bearing a remarkable family resemblance to our First Parents, at least in their most negative characteristics, we have a long and sordid history of taking exactly the approach I’ve just mentioned. Adopting that sort of an attitude is incredibly easy in a society with magazines proudly emblazoning their bankrupt philosophy right along with their name, SELF, and where “Have it your way!” is at least as much a personal motto for many as it is a slogan for selling hamburgers.

When we think about it, well, maybe we shouldn’t be at all surprised that an attitude that is at heart completely selfish is the default mode for human beings who deny or ignore the Creator, all the while breathing His air but refusing or neglecting to bow to thank Him for it.

Ultimately, if we don’t give thanks specifically to God, well, whom do you thank? And why?

“It must be odd,” author Cornelius Platinga once observed, “to be thankful to no one in particular.”

If giving thanks is simply a matter of our picking and choosing a few folks or institutions to whom we’ll deign to be thankful for a few things . . .

If giving thanks is simply at heart the sort of personal preference and choice (like mayo or mustard on your burger; take it or leave it) we make out of our fine moral character and good upbringing, and the choice has no serious consequences . . .

If giving thanks is anything less than the very real and genuine debt we creatures properly owe to our loving and powerful Creator . . .

Well, then I can easily see why we would spend most of our time thinking about the rights, privileges, and stuff we somehow “deserve” rather than the thanksgiving we owe to God.

If we adopt that attitude, and if we think of God at all, we’ll think of him either as a heavenly slot machine mechanically dispensing the good things we deserve or, when things don’t go our way, as the One to whom we can address all of our complaints and grumbles.

But Christians should know better. We serve a King who laid aside all of his rights and lowered himself even to die so that we might have the blessings of sons and daughters of Heaven. Dare we talk about our rights and grinch and grouse like ungrateful, immature, and churlish peasants?

No. Not in the presence of our all-loving and completely unselfish King.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.Curtis Shelburne.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.

 

 


God’s Grace: It’s Good News That’s Tough!

 

worshiping 01

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!”

Grace, the real thing, is precious almost beyond belief. It’s cool water to a man dying of thirst. It’s life and health to a woman who a week before was lying feverish on her deathbed.

Grace really is amazing!

But what even Christians, and maybe especially Christians, often fail to realize is how very tough it is, too.

Yes, it’s amazingly good news, this news flash from Heaven that though we were all sinners condemned to death, convicted criminals languishing on death row, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

It’s amazingly good news that “God raised us up with Christ” so that for all eternity and to the amazement of the entire universe he could “show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:6).

And there’s no catch.

There’s no fly in the ointment. No hook under the worm. No fine print. No “real sinners need not apply” clause.

So how can this wonderful thing called grace, the most beautiful gift ever given, still be as tough as nails?

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.” No boasting. Period.

You see, grace is indeed the free gift of God. Grace means for us life and joy and peace. Grace really is amazing!

But, make no mistake, it can’t be earned, not even a little bit. It comes completely from God’s side of the equation. Do I in any way deserve such a gift? No! Thank God, deserving doesn’t even enter in, and to dare to use the word “deserve” in the same paragraph with words praising God for his mercy and grace is a slap in the face of the Almighty, a denial of the cross, and a backhanded attempt to breathe life into an arrogant and self-righteous spirit that really must move out and die before grace can enter in to give us life.

Yeah, I know. When you really think about it, it gets kind of scary. If this grace business is true, then God might let almost anyone into heaven. He might forgive folks who really, unlike me, aren’t as obviously good and religious and among his favorites. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think that God still feels like Jesus seemed to feel when he walked this globe, that not only did he spend time with “sinners” who knew they had no hope except for God’s mercy (but who knew the joy of finding it), he really enjoyed that time more than time spent with Pharisees. Could that be true?

Grace won’t leave me a single wobbly leg to stand on if I want to make my stand on rule-keeping “righteousness” and my own goodness. But if I focus on God and get over myself, I’ll find to my everlasting amazement that “the God of all grace” has given me two very good legs to dance on.

 

 

      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.


“God Has Forgiven Me, But I Can’t Forgive Myself”

brokenheart

“I know God has forgiven me; I just can’t forgive myself.”

I hear people say that. To my shame, I probably have also. I’m almost 51% sure that most folks mean well by it. But I’m 100% sure it’s among the most wrong-headed, arrogant, and idolatrous statements we could ever make.

Do we think it sounds humble? “God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself”? How could that conceivably be confused with humility?

It’s completely encased in arrogant pride as, while we acknowledge that God can and does forgive the sins of others, we’re sure our own sins are so much worse than theirs that, though God has forgiven us, we can’t manage to do the same for ourselves.

Are we really such a better (or worse) class of sinners than the run of the mill, ordinary sort? Are our standards (here comes the idolatry) higher even than God’s who says that through his Son, we’re forgiven?

Will we say, “Thank you, but I doubt that even the blood of your Son can forgive me, Sir. Instead of accepting charity, I choose to wear (if I can find them) a hair shirt, sack-cloth and ashes, and a dour expression. Instead of accepting your gift and focusing on your Son, I’d rather, if you don’t mind, go on gazing at my own navel, allowing the universe to be bordered north, south, east, and west by “I, me, myself, and mine,” and go on playing the victim. If you don’t mind . . .”

Oh, get over it. God minds!

Whatever we intend, this false humility is a stinky thing, a slap in the face of God, a denial of the cross. It can be nothing else.

But someone opines, “I can’t forgive myself. I know God says I’m forgiven, but I don’t feel forgiven.”

Two points. First, why would we ever think we could literally forgive ourselves? Jesus said it: “Only God can forgive sins.” If we’re his, he has done the forgiving at appalling cost; our only choice is to accept the gift or not.

Second, though our Father cares how we feel because he loves us, feelings, for folks as self-centered as we are, easily become our most popular idol. But they’re wrong about as often as they’re right. And they make a rotten god.

If God says we are forgiven, then we are, no matter how we feel. I may feel in my heart of hearts that the moon is green cheese; my feelings won’t change reality at all. But my feelings about forgiveness will affect my ability to live a joyful, gracious, unselfish, and fruitful life.

The Apostle John writes that God is greater than our “anxious hearts” and “self-debilitating criticism” (see 1 John 3:19-20, The Message).

You can’t forgive yourself? So what? If you’re God’s child, accept the gift and dance with joy! Or hold it at arm’s length and wallow around enjoying your role as a poor, pitiful victim. The first choice is life and joy. The second is as boring and tiresome as it is deadly. The first is heaven; the second, hell.

Refusing forgiveness is a lot of things, all bad; the one thing it absolutely is not is humility. God sent, God gave, his Son so we could get over ourselves.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! I’m pretty sure some Christmas music is waiting there, as well as some potential gifts!  😉

 

 

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.


A Need for Sleep and a Need for Humility Share the Same Pillow

Zzzs 01

I’ve slept since then, so I don’t remember when it aired, but several years ago, 60 Minutes did an interesting story on “sleep.”

Sleeping is one thing I’ve always been very good at. But if anyone has pointers, I’m willing to listen. What I heard was fascinating.

Modern folks in our society have been a little snooty and dismissive about sleep, as if needing to snooze at all is something of an embarrassment, a luxury we could likely do without if we weren’t so lazy and unmotivated. Not so!

In 1980 a study was done using rats who were kept awake indefinitely. After five days, they began dying. They needed sleep as badly as they needed food. All mammals do.

Recent studies show that sleep is every bit as important to our health as diet and exercise, and that we need 7 1/2 to 8 hours of it each day. The lack thereof seriously affects our memory, our metabolism, our appetite, how we age, and, it seems, if we drive ourselves and/or others crazy (my phrasing here).

A study at the University of Chicago School of Medicine restricted the sleep of young, healthy test subjects to four hours a night for six consecutive nights. At the end of that time, tests showed that each of the subjects was in a pre-diabetic state, which was naturally reversed when they resumed sleeping normally.

They were also hungry. Lack of sleep caused a drop in levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our brains when we’re not hungry.

Cheating your sleep? No problem. If you don’t mind being fat and sick. One researcher said that sleep deprivation should certainly be considered a risk factor for Type II diabetes. The program host went on to mention studies done all over the world linking lack of sleep to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke—not to mention the mood swings that make sleep-deprived people “hell on wheels” to harmony in their homes and workplaces, and whose brain activity on MRIs mimics that of the severely psychiatrically disturbed.

To Type A folks who think they’ve trained themselves to do fine with little sleep, the researchers reply, “Nonsense.” For a day or two, artificial “counter measures” such as caffeine or physical activity may mask the problem, but it is cumulative and real and can’t be hidden for long.

“People who are chronically sleep-deprived, like people who have had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations,” said Dr. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It’s a convenient belief,” he says. But he issues a standing invitation for “any CEO or anyone else in the world” to come to his laboratory and prove it.

We easily adopt society’s lie that our true worth comes from what we produce. We’re so impressed with ourselves, our indispensability, our strategies and plans. We quit “wasting time” by sleeping much. Then the wheels come off even as we slog on physically and emotionally as if through molasses.

And the God who is real Rest and Peace but who himself never needs to sleep, chuckles and says, “Time for bed, child. Go to sleep and let me do within you what you can’t do for yourself. I’ll spin the world a few rotations without your help.”

I need to ponder the lessons in that. But right now, I need a nap.

 

        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.


“If You Want To Know What a Man’s Like . . . “

 

IMG_2559

I just wanted a good story, nothing especially profound, as I was reading one of J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books a few years ago. But from the mouth of one of her characters came this bit of wisdom: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

If you wonder about the quality of Pious Pete’s piety, go to a restaurant with him and see if he turns into a demanding, unwilling-to-be-pleased jerk, snaps at the staff, and tip-stiffs the server.

If you want to know if the CEO of the company believes the mission statement about “valuing all employees,” it might be good to notice if he knows the name of the janitor who cleans his office.

A Santa who doesn’t at least make some effort to know the names of his elves’ spouses and kids (and the real Santa better know ’em all!) is just a loud fat glory-hound on a sugar high. He needs his red tail section kicked down to Central Shipping low in the Pole for a week to see how the little guys live while he’s flying around in the Mark V fly-by-wire sleigh.

The real tests for most of us aren’t off at the North Pole or even down at the office. They come close to home. The guy who sits in his recliner barking orders at his wife, or gets hoarse shouting at the kids who know to avoid him in his “moods,” who has never washed a dirty dish or changed a dirty diaper in his life . . .  The gal who fancies herself more “spiritual” than most folks around her but who most folks around her are happy to avoid . . .

Those folks needn’t wonder if they’d pass the faith-test that would come with serious persecution; faith-tests come every day, and the most important are the ones we don’t recognize as tests at all, the ones that catch us by surprise. Who do you hold the door for at the Post Office? Who do you just walk by and never “see”?

I’ve failed most of those tests often, I’m sure. But as I’ve been singing a bunch during this season, one of many surprises has been a reminder I needed. At several events, as I’ve been setting up or tearing down, guess who were the only others there? The serving staff also setting up, cleaning up, or already re-configuring the room for the next of a jillion hot-on-their-heels Christmas gatherings. Those workers are as human and flawed as the rest of us, and I’m sure they have their share of Grinches, but I have found myself amazed at the Christmas spirit of such folks who work longer, harder, and for less return than most of the folks they serve.

I love all the “Merry Christmases” I’ve received this year. The words are a simple gift, and only cost a very little breath to give. But perhaps the most precious “Merry Christmases” I’ve been given this year are the heartfelt wishes kindly and generously given by these hard-working folks as I’m headed out their door.

Hmm. That calls to mind another Servant. Another Gift.

 

     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.


An Odd Calendar and “Merry Thanksgiving!”

 

turkeyxmas

I’m writing this column between meals on Thanksgiving weekend. Our family’s absolutely gargantuan meal is still coming, sandwiched between meals that are just really amazingly big, and I’m sitting in a food-induced stupor pondering the calendar.

The calendar is playing some tricks on us this year. Thanksgiving and the turkey, dragging their heels, showed up way late, which means that Advent/Christmas will be upon us way early. By Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend and December will have crashed right into each other, a bit of a wreck with ramifications. If you’re a retailer, you’ll have six fewer days to “re-tail” this year. If you are, say, a guy who has just recorded a Christmas CD, that means six fewer days to sing Christmas concerts (and it’s six days closer to post-Christmas singing depression).

And, yes, if you’re a pastor planning a variety of seasonal church and worship activities, services, sermons, etc., well, it might be helpful to know that this year when the wise men show up it probably won’t be with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. More likely they’ll be bringing turkey, dressing, and giblet gravy.

It is, you know, simply because three gifts were mentioned the first time around that we just assume those first wise guys were a trio. If that first Christmas had been as close to Thanksgiving as this one, I figure our Christmas cards would be featuring an additional wise fellow, the song would be “We Four Kings,” and one more little guy in a church Christmas pageant would need to borrow his dad’s bathrobe to dress up for the journey down the church aisle to Bethlehem under the star up front.

I’m betting that somebody’s wise wife would have packed his camel bags with some cranberry sauce as a gift to go along with the other three guys’ tasty offerings. And that makes four. Four gifts. And four wise men.

Anyway, it’s leftover turkey and dressing for lunch this Sunday, after the service where we light the first Advent candle. Merry Thanksgiving!

But maybe this year’s calendar crash is not as much of a clash as I first thought.
You see, Thanksgiving reminds me that no matter how hard I’ve worked, the most noteworthy thing about my life is how completely needy and poverty-stricken I am when it comes to saving myself. The blessings I need the most are blessings straight from God, blessings that only he could give, blessings that I could never earn, deserve, or procure myself.

Guess what? Here comes Christmas with much the same lesson, written large: “Get over yourself, pilgrim! The Gift given to save you is God’s Gift, not one you could ever have given or even imagined. You can’t improve it, add to it, or in any way deserve it. You can just accept it.”

Peanut butter and jelly. Turkey and dressing. Joy and thanksgiving. Some things just go together. A good lesson from an odd calendar.

 

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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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