Tag Archives: mercy

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.

 


A Court Can Judge Actions, But Only God Judges Hearts

Being very suspicious of our own motives is wise. Not only are we not qualified to judge others, as we easily evaluate them too harshly, we often do a poor job of judging even ourselves, tending to give ourselves way too much slack. I’m trying to keep that in mind in what follows.

In the news recently was the report that someone painted a racial slur across the front gate of one of the homes of a famous athlete. For whatever difference it makes, which is none, this mansion is worth $21 million. Motive check: Is it possible I included that fact because I’m greedier or more covetous than I think I am? It’s more than possible that I can’t imagine a universe where anyone makes that much money for playing with a ball, even uncommonly well. But nobody should be spray-painting offensive words, graffiti, or anything else across anybody else’s home, shack, or mansion. Additional motive check: Does some insidious racism color the “hate crimes” opinion I’ll express below? I honestly don’t think so. (My dream presidential candidate is a woman of color.)

The sprayed-on word was a truly offensive racial epithet, a word that needs to go away forever. Of course, defacing someone’s property is already illegal, but I have two questions. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse morally? Yes! That this sort of poisonous atrocity happens is disgraceful. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse legally? It does. But, forgive me, I very much doubt that it should.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Though that train, legally speaking, is already far down the track, I think it’s heading for a wreck that will hurt us all.

I did not say I advocate hate. Far from it. I didn’t say this crime wasn’t odious. I certainly didn’t say that many crimes already prosecuted as hate crimes, many far worse than this one, aren’t repugnant.

But defacement of property, vandalism, assault, rape, murder, etc., are already illegal. Conviction carries penalties, as it should. The whole idea, though, of a class of crimes and penalties that are worse because the perpetrator was thinking mean, nasty, hateful, and horrible thoughts, is a move in a frightening direction.

Who determines what constitutes a mean, nasty thought? Citizens in the old Soviet Union could find themselves locked up as “insane” if they expressed thoughts the government found unsuitable. In the United States, for all of our history (except for these days on college campuses), the right to free speech (and thought) has been a dearly-held blessing of the highest order. I may think your “speech” is horrible, vulgar, disgusting, and/or idiotic, but I hope I would be willing to suffer for your right to hold that position, even as I think you or society will pay a high price for such gravely mistaken ideas.

Crimes are already illegal. No government—however good, bad, or despotic—deserves to be trusted with the power to decide what constitutes hateful thinking. The consequences of giving the state that power are more than a little frightening.

It’s the state’s job to punish wrongdoers for criminal acts, not for hatred in their hearts. We can be sure, though, that the latter will not go unpunished. We can trust our God, the final Judge. He knows all of our thoughts, all of our motives. And Jesus has warned us all (read the Sermon on the Mount) that hatred or lust or greed will twist, imprison, and kill our souls a long time before we commit a hate-motivated crime.

 

     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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Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough

 

One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.

 

 

      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”

 

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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 . . .”

 

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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

 

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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.

 

 


Election 2016 Is Finally Over! Now What?

 

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Wow. Like it or loathe it, what happened on Election Day 2016 was one of the most amazing events in America’s not-really-very-long-yet history.

Long before November 8, this election cycle was feeling agonizingly lengthy–yea, verily, almost eternal–and things were shaping up, well, interestingly, to say the least.

Once we muddled through the conventions, more than a few folks across the political spectrum found themselves fervently wishing that “none of the above” was a valid ballot choice. Lots of folks felt that the presidential options being offered were decidedly non-presidential, even appalling, a real choice but one on the level of choosing between a root canal or a rectal exam. Not a choice likely to bring much joy.

Voting is an incredible privilege. But it’s not fun to feel like pushing a button or coloring in an oval for either candidate would necessitate some serious finger scrubbing or maybe even amputation to remove the resulting stain. More than a few folks left the voting booth sad and angry that a great nation could be offered such a rotten choice.

Real respect and trust for the candidates was at a record low for a record high number of voters. In the days leading up to the election, one leading presidential candidate was being FBI-investigated again for, at best, a serious lapse in judgement and, at worst, a criminal act. And the other candidate? Well, when his running mate (both running mates were rated far more favorably than their candidates) wasn’t hiding in embarrassment, he made a comment about this flawed but “good” man, and columnist George Will wryly asked, “What would a bad man look like?”

Time marched on. Election Day came. And just when it seemed that one candidate would be justified in the measuring the White House for new drapes, and the other would have to settle for life in a tower and not in a white mansion, . . . well, you know what happened. I’m still sleep-deprived from watching it unfold–and it “unfolded” down through the “down ballot” races, too.

It’s still unfolding. You can pick from a long list of adjectives to describe it, but “fascinating” is one. Evidently many Americans, most of us in one way or another, are just fed up and ready, politically speaking, to light a match to the whole thing.

It is, however, a very good idea to remember that if you burn something down, you have a responsibility to build something better in its place. However we voted, the election is over. Though I absolutely affirm the right of anyone to peacefully make their opinion known, I’ve never felt a need to march in protest if my candidate didn’t win. It’s over.

It is a good time, on all sides, for some humility. And grace. And the wisdom and civility to talk to and try to hear those with whom we disagree. I think I saw in Donald Trump’s face during his acceptance speech something that might almost have been sincere humility. A weight much heavier than Trump Tower has just been placed on his shoulders. I pray for wisdom, for wise advisers, for humility, and grace. The kind that sort of weight might produce.

All Americans should pray that our new president will do well. For Christians, praying for him is not just a good thing, it’s a command.

I thought it was nice to see our soon-to-be president hosted in the White House by our present president. It felt good that they were civil. The kids like it when the parents quit fighting and actually talk. I think our Father, our King, likes it, too.

 

       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.


“It’s Not the Square, It’s the Quilt”

 

 

quilt

A number of analogies would probably work.

It’s not the chapter; it’s the book.

It’s not the note; it’s the song.

It’s not the song; it’s the symphony.

But I think I like this one best: It’s not the square; it’s the quilt.

I’ve officiated at, helped with, or attended, too many funerals this week. Funerals on top of funerals. And more that I’d have attended if it weren’t for the others.

In a real sense, all death is unnatural and reminds us that we live in a fallen world. But some deaths are, in this fallen world, a merciful release from pain and suffering.

Several of this week’s were that kind. The families still feel the sting of loss and separation, but their loved one (or ones) lived good, long lives, and the release came truly at the right time. In other cases, though, no. The death seemed almost unbearably too soon. So utterly wrong.

That many deaths and funerals, of whatever sort, force you to think seriously about life. And here’s a thought—not particularly profound by any means but true—that pushed its way through this week of many funerals.

When we look back over a life in review, what we notice is not the square, it’s the quilt.

Yes, quilt. People used to make them. Still do. Not just a comforter (though I like those). Or a blanket. (Hotel rooms need more of those.) Or a “blanket throw” for your recliner. (It takes two to make one good one of adequate size.)

I mean quilts. Hand-made. Made with skill. And, often, with love. Always made of many “squares” stitched together.

When I think of the folks whose lives we’ve honored recently (and many more before), and when we think of the quality of those lives, I don’t find myself centering for long on one small or transitory part, even if it was important. We focus instead on the whole.

Hence, my point. It’s not the square, it’s the quilt.

That doesn’t mean the squares are not important. Where the person lived. What he studied. What she did for a living. What were some of the best moments of his life, and how he handled them. What were some of the worst times of her life, and how she handled them. What she was proud of. What he was ashamed of. What he liked. What she didn’t like.

My analogy doesn’t mean that the little or daily stuff, or intervals and incidents, long or short, in life don’t matter. They matter immensely because every decision, each moment, fit together to form a life.

But when it’s all said and done, it’s not the square, it’s the quilt. Even King David had a couple of ugly squares in his. But Scripture’s comment on the whole quilt? He was truly “a man after God’s own heart.”

Quite literally, by God’s grace, the life of Christ in a person living in covenant with God colors every stitch of the quilt, every atom of the fabric. The squares, imperfect as they are, are stitched together, held together, washed in, of all things, his blood.

And the quilt is beautiful.

 

      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.

 


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