Tag Archives: mothers

“My Mother Was a Daughter of Encouragement”


One of the most important leaders, and one of the very finest men, in the early days of the Christian church was a man named Barnabas. This good man’s name meant “son of encouragement,” and he blessed the church by living up to his name.

If Barnabas was the “son of encouragement,” I’m quite sure that encouragement’s daughter was my mother. Mom died twenty-five years ago (hard as that is for me to realize), but her encouragement lives on.

Near my desk sits one of the last birthday cards I received before Mom’s passing. In her uniquely beautiful hand (I’ve never seen more beautiful script) are written these words: “We love you so much! Every day we thank God for you and all you have meant to us and to the family. You are so sweet, so gentle in a manly way, so caring, and just so very special. Every day we pray God to bless you, to guide you, to give you strength, and, always, to be so very close to you. Love, Mom.”

May I hasten to admit that my mother’s opinion of me was much inflated! But that was another of her gifts to me. She looked for the best in me and my siblings, and her praise helped us to reach for the best in ourselves. Every day I thank God for her love and encouragement which are still as real to me as breath.

Mom gave me lots of precious gifts. She gave me life. She taught me to love words. And she nurtured in me faith in the One who gives life direction, purpose, and joy.

From my earliest days, she read to me, immersed me in and taught me to love the great stories from the Bible. She was smart, too. When my younger brother and I were small, she’d read the wonderfully paraphrased stories from books like Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible, rather than bore us out of our minds with words we could not understand. We never thought “The Bible” and “boring” were words that went together. I still have the pictures from A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories indelibly etched in my mind. (Those books and many others are still available. One of the very best more recent children’s Bible story books is The Story for Children (Lucado, Frazee, & Hill).

Mom was sure that since God gave us the capacity to laugh, we ought to use it. She taught me that to be serious about God means to refuse to take ourselves too seriously and that laughter washes away pomposity and repels Pharisees.

Mom taught me that people are more important than issues and that folks ought to be careful about thinking that their molehills are God’s mountains.

She gave me so many good gifts, but surely one of the best was her unfailing encouragement. No matter how long I live, I’ll be “playing to her”—not in a pathetic attempt to measure up, but joyfully sure that, whatever I accomplish, she’d be the first one to say, “Well done!”

I hope you’ve received the gift of encouragement from your parents. More important, moms (and dads), I hope you’re giving this beautiful gift to your own sons and daughters every day.


       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.

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


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“I’m all in, Kendall Briley.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Happy 100th Birthday to an Amazing Mom!



On August 15, 2015, Wilma Jean (Key) Shelburne, my mother, would have been 100 years old.

Now this gets dangerous. As an English major, I’m delving into what for me is higher math. But Mom passed away in 1992, over 23 years ago. Amazing that it’s been that long! She was 77.

The grandson born on her birthday, my son, just turned 32 on their birthday. He was 7 when Mom passed away. If some of my math won’t fly, I’ll not be surprised, but time surely does. And, no surprise, I still miss my amazing mom.

I suppose that in one way or another most of us “play to our mothers” all of our lives. Whenever cameras pan across cheering crowds, the signs folks hold and the words they mouth are, more often than not, “Hi, Mom!”

It’s no accident, on a much more poignant note, that many survivors of bloody battles tell of hearing the wounded and dying lying between the battle lines in “No Man’s Land” crying out for their mothers.

Anything we do, whatever we accomplish, no matter how sweet the success, is for most of us sweeter when we know our moms know about it. Moms are, after all, our biggest fans. They are the leaders of our cheering sections, the un-elected but unimpeachable presidents of our fan clubs.

I’m no exception. In a couple of weeks, my third recorded album, a music CD entitled “For Sentimental Reasons” will be in my hands, and I’m pleased and thankful about that. (I hope some other folks want it in their hands, too!) But it would be an even sweeter experience for even more “sentimental reasons” if I could play the record for Mom. She’d like it. A lot.

Mom was, to borrow author Joyce Landorf Heatherley’s term, one of my very top tier “balcony people.” Always encouraging, supporting, cheering, inspiring, motivating. Always loving.

I know she loved the rest of her kids, too. Fiercely. But let’s be honest here. My surviving siblings just need to face the fact that Mom & Dad’s first three kids were basically a practice group, and that when, seventeen years after the birth of the third, #5 came along, it was clear that he was brought on board primarily just to be a companion and playmate for #4 who was, may I humbly say, sort of the culmination, sweet spot, and focal point of the whole process. Even if I did show up as a “Now, dear husband, don’t forget to breathe when I tell you this” surprise.

My little mama was amazing. Smart. Spunky. Faith-filled. Articulate and great with words. She laughed easily when the time was right, which was often. Sometimes she laughed when the time wasn’t “right” but some wise and wry soul needed to laugh to clear the air of nonsense. She was the defender of the underdog and the scourge of the sanctimonious. She taught us not just to know the Bible but to know the Savior.

I don’t know what other amazing blessings God bestowed on August 15 way back in 1915. But the one I know about was enough to make it a really, really fine day.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!  By the way, click “Play” on the bottom of the Home Page for a song sample from the new album! 



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

It’s May, and Here Comes Mother’s Day!

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I might as well confess: I like writing Mother’s Day columns and crafting Mother’s Day sermons almost as much as I like eating asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower.

I know those veggies are supposed to be good for you; I just have a hard time imagining the poor starving soul who first took a look at a cauliflower plant and said, “Hey, Billy Bob, you know what? I think you could eat that stuff.” Yeah, you could probably eat milkweeds, dandelions, and crabgrass, too, but why would you really want to? If you toasted them long enough, you could probably make croutons out of grass burrs, but what’s the point?

Careful now. On the advice of my attorney, I should mention that nothing in this column should be taken to in any way imply, suggest, or indicate any smidgeon of doubt or even any mental reservation regarding the advisability of a day set apart to honor those dear ladies hereinafter in this document referred to as mothers.

No kidding. Really.

I’m all for mothers and motherhood. And I think that setting a day aside to honor them in a special way is, yea, verily, a good idea. I even spent time one time co-authoring a gift book honoring mothers (and thereby learning that greeting card publishers pretty much have that base covered).

But though there are some heartwarming blessings that come to pastors who serve in one church for a long time (Easter Sunday—I can hardly believe this—marked my thirtieth year here!), a preacher’s gotta be more creative than I am to come up with thirty new ways to say, “God loves moms, and I agree with him!”

But he does, and I do. I’d just like to be able to find a new and better way to say it!

What I need is a new way to say that I could spend my whole life praising God for his gift to me of a loving mother, and it wouldn’t be long enough to adequately thank him for such a blessing.

What I need is a new way to say that the poorest person on earth is still rich if he, like me, has never had to go to bed a single night wondering if his mother loves him.

What I need is a new way to say that I thank God with every breath of every day that my mother loved me enough to love God and my father even more than she loved me—and that’s saying a lot.

What I need is a new way to say that, even though Mom’s been gone for almost twenty-five years, her laugh, her touch, and her love are as real to me as my next heartbeat.

What I need is a new way to say that my life, my children’s lives, my grandchildren’s lives, and the lives of generations yet unborn will be blessed because my mother was the right kind of lady, the right kind of mom.

I still need a sermon idea. But I thank God for giving me what I needed more—a great mom.


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



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


As the New Year Unfolds, Humans Face a Choice


A mother sits in the bed holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder and in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. And she wonders. She wonders who he will be and what he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little one’s life journey.

Mary sits holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder, in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. He is the most amazing child ever born and his is the most amazing birth. The angel has told her who he is and has given her his name, but Mary still wonders at all the angel has not said. She wonders who this little miracle called the Son of God will be and what in God’s miraculous power he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little One’s life journey. This little One who flung the stars across the canvas of the universe. This little One, this Almighty One, who has chosen to become small and weak to make us strong.

And so even Mary, the mother of God, joins mothers in all times and in all places, and the rest of us as well, as we gaze at the known and we wonder about the unknown. As new parents, we hold the little answers to a nine-month-long question in our hands, and the reality dawns on us that, though now we see the little one whose coming we had longed for, this little sleeping answer to our prayers brings more questions than answers. We thank God for what is, that the great I AM has called into being one more little human being, one more wonder. But we wonder what will come.

And what is true of our little ones, and what was true even of Mary’s little One, is true of this new year we’re just beginning. And it’s true of every new year we’ll ever begin; every one of them an adventure because life itself is an adventure. We don’t know, we can’t know, exactly what the new year will hold.

2015 will bring for each of us some wonderful and surprising joys. It will also hold some deep sorrows. Such is the patchwork of life. I have experienced more blessing and joy myself than any 1000 people have any right to, and yet I know how easily I give in to fear and anxiety, how I tend to focus on sorrows and not joys. I need so badly what we all need—God’s help to face the future with a faith-born depth of peace and joy and gratitude that only comes from learning to trust the Author of life.

Writer Kenneth Wilson tells of living as a small boy in a big, old, dark, multi-story, creaking and rattling house in Pittsburgh. At night the old dwelling could be a scary place. One evening his father read him a bedtime story and then asked, “Would you rather I leave the light on and go downstairs, or turn the light out and stay with you for awhile?” Wilson says, “I chose presence with darkness, over absence with light.”

It was a very good choice. In the face of an unknown future which sometimes seems dark because we see with weak and human eyes, choose to trust God and live daily in his presence.


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


Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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