Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Genuine Happiness Is Never Found By Focusing on Self

 

One In C. S. Lewis’ account of his early life, Surprised by Joy, Lewis begins by writing about the two family strains that had come together to give him life. On his father’s side . . .

By the way, Dr. J. D. Grey, for many years pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Church, used to tell the story of a little lad who lived a long way from his paternal grandmother. When the boy went with his father to the railway station to pick her up, she hugged him and said, “Young man, I’m your grandmother on your father’s side.” To which the lad replied, “That may be, but you won’t be in the house ten minutes before you figure out that you’re on the wrong side!”

On his father’s side, Lewis descended from Welshmen: “sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and to tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal and who had not much of the talent for happiness.”

Lewis’ mother, however, like her family, was a woman of “cheerful and tranquil affection.” Her people “had the talent for happiness in a high degree” and “went straight for it as experienced travelers go for the best seat in a train.”

You’ve probably noticed long ago that not only is not everyone happy, a good many folks seem to possess little or no “talent” for happiness at all.

I don’t mean to be cynical, and I don’t think I’m telling you something you don’t already know, but you probably can’t make unhappy folks happy no matter what you do, and I suspect it’s unwise to waste too much time trying.

Some folks are unhappy at work. They’re unhappy at school. They’re unhappy at the Little League park. They’re unhappy at the grocery store, at the church, at the bank, and at the barber shop. See a pattern?

The sad fact is that unhappy people tend to spread their unhappiness like chicken pox in a kindergarten class; it seems to be a sad law that unhappy people never seem closer to a twisted sort of happiness than when they’re busy making other people unhappy. Misery does indeed love company.

Until unhappy folks make a decision to be happy, they won’t be. Not only can you not make them happy, if you spend a good bit of your time trying, you will only succeed in becoming the unhappiest of all. Even if you get a little fleeting smile out of them if you stand on your head and stack a dozen or so BBs on your nose, they’ll suddenly remember that they knew somebody back in Kansas who was able to do the same thing except he stacked two dozen BBs in the air sideways while singing “Climb Every Mountain.”

People who want to be unhappy almost certainly will be. So what to do?

Be sure you’re not one of them. (Focusing on Christ and on others and on your blessings and not on your own navel will go a long way toward producing happiness under your own hat.) Love them by behaving in Christlike ways toward them. Pray for them. Model thankful and joyful living as you thank God with every breath that he has taught you how to find happiness by focusing outside yourself.

 

      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

 

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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.

 

 


An Icy Road Here Does Not Mean an Icy Road Everywhere

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“Are you crazy?!”

That was the reaction of our Amarillo kids as my wife and I loaded up to head home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“Do you not want these grandchildren you love so much to grow up with two sets of grandparents? Don’t drive home!”

Normally, we can make that trip blindfolded. The problem is boredom. But the problem Saturday was ice. Not snow. Freezing rain. Ice. Lots of it.

Did I mention it was Saturday? They come before Sundays. As a pastor (Protestant with kids!) I decided long ago that I’d vote for an even trade between Saturdays and Sundays. Just switch ’em.

I like Saturdays (except for Saturday nights), and I love what happens on Sundays (though I also love Sunday nights; they’re as far as you can get from Sunday mornings). I just think Saturdays (especially the nights) would be improved by following Sundays. I won’t bore you with all of my reasons for thinking such nonsense, but . . .

Christians would go to church whenever Sundays happened. (At least, as many of them as go to church now.) Pagans would still have what they count as two Saturdays and the two evenings before them on which to misbehave and create mayhem. So I can’t see that the switch would much alter anyone’s plans.

It won’t happen, of course. I doubt even a current presidential candidate who, for votes, would promise to turn the moon into cheesecake could make it happen.

So Sunday was barreling down the track like a runaway train. Chasing Saturday. And Saturday in Amarillo was covered in ice.

I’d spent an hour or two helping one son try to shovel ice off the driveway. Snow’s easier. Another son had been on duty driving a fire truck on the ice. No fun at all.

Interstate 40, heading west, had been closed. Nobody up north of Amarillo was going anywhere. Churches were canceling or altering service schedules.

I’d heard of ice-wrought power outages back home, 95 miles southwest, I wasn’t hearing anything about road closures, cancellations, etc.

So we loaded up and slid that direction. Slowly. Carefully. One lane most of the way. Then, about 30 miles out, some clearing.

I drove into the church parking lot to check things out and turn up the heaters inside. I’d been dreading getting to shovel more sidewalk ice. But . . .

But though it was cold, and ice was covering trees and roofs, the walks were mostly just moist or dry! I stopped. My wife and I gazed through the windshield, and I just said, “This feels weird.”

We’d waked up at the North Pole, but now . . .

God cares how we feel. But it’s a mistake to let “ice” in one patch of your life’s journey convince you that the whole universe is icy. Our view is skewed by the weather under our own hats. It’s wise to take our own view into account; it’s very foolish indeed to completely trust it.

Only our Creator sees reality perfectly clearly. If you’re navigating an icy road right now, you’d be wise to let him chart the course, deal with the storm, and get you home.

 

 

       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.


“Give Thanks in All Circumstances”

 

thankful01 “O most gracious God,” wrote the eloquent sufferer, “on this sickbed I feel under your correction, and I taste of humiliation, but let me taste of consolation, too.”

John Donne, poet and priest, so wrote in one of his “devotions” in 1623. In Christianity Today some fifteen years ago, Philip Yancey shared a brief edited, somewhat modernized, excerpt of Donne’s “Devotions.”

As Yancey explains, Donne had fallen seriously ill. Not unreasonably, he assumed he had contracted the bubonic plague, the scourge filling graves with masses of people during those dark days. The “Black Death” had made its presence unmistakable. London’s church bells tolled “dolefully,” and Donne wrote his famous poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” reminding his readers that the loss of anyone is a loss to us all. So, don’t ask “for whom the bell tolls,” he penned, “it tolls for thee.”

In his “Devotions” (as Yancey shares them), Donne writes of all the blessings God has given.

“Nature reaches out her hand and offers corn, and wine, and oil, and milk; but it was you [God] who filled the hand of nature with such bounty.”

Donne thanks God for the blessings that come from fruitful labor, and he acknowledges that, no matter how hard and well the laborer has worked, it is God who guides and “gives the increase.”

He thanks the Lord for friends who “reach out their hands to support us,” even as he acknowledges, “but your hand supports the hand we lean on.”

I’m continually amazed at how suffering is used by some as Exhibit A against God, at the very same time as others, passing “through the fire,” eventually come out with faith strengthened and “tempered.”

On his sickbed, Donne writes, “Once this scourge has persuaded us that we are nothing of ourselves, may it also persuade us that you are all things unto us.”

In striking contrast to the verbal drizzle of those who promise health and wealth to the faithful, or to those whose “faith” is in consumer religion as long as it “meets their [most shallow] needs,” Donne reminds us that when God’s own Son on the cross “cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ you reached out your hand [Lord,] not to heal his sad soul, but to receive his holy soul.” And Jesus surrendered his soul to his Father in trust.

Donne would recover. His sickness was not the plague. But before he knew the certainty of the outcome, he was certain of his hope: “Whether you will bid my soul to stay in this body for some time, or meet you this day in paradise, I ask not.”

But he wrote his confidence: “I can have no greater proof of your mercy than to die in you and by that death be united in him who died for me.”

Following the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) is not even a little easy. But if our lives show that our faith is in God—not in luck or our own power or circumstances—we will learn that easy lives and blessed lives are not the same thing. And not just our own faith will strengthened and affirmed, and not just our own lives will be blessed by that trust.

 

      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.

 


An Entitlement Mentality Is Deadly to Souls

 

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“This entitlement mentality is going to kill our nation.”

Repeatedly, we hear modern-day “prophets” mouthing that combination complaint-diagnosis-warning. I take no pleasure in believing that those “prophets” are very likely right.

Paul Harvey used to warn, “Self-government without self-discipline will not work.”

The entitlement mentality of those who make heavy demands while failing to shoulder any responsibilities is poison. And I hate what happens to the souls of those who adopt “victim-hood” as their identity.

I hate it even worse when I see that entitlement mentality creeping into my own soul. Like a bum hitching a ride on a freight train, that sick way of thinking steals its way onto my heart. I may not see it jump on, but I can know it’s there when I catch myself grinching and grousing because of something I don’t have but wish I did, something I used to have but don’t have now, something I have but feel I should have much more of. My joy is being derailed.

I can know for sure that the greedy and grinchy intruder, a poisonous parasite, has attached itself to my soul when I find myself often asking with deep poignancy, “Am I happy?” thereby ensuring that I won’t be, can’t be.

Real happiness is a by-product of living a life not centered on self, a life genuinely focused on others and the Giver of life.

A self-centered, inward turned, navel-gazing, “poor pitiful me” sort of life makes its own life a hell and issues in a hellish existence for those around it. With eyes locked in a selfish death-gaze, it can’t know happiness. In truth, real happiness is the last thing it wants. It opts instead, in a thousand twisted, sick ways, to slavishly suck all the bitter poison out of living life focused inward.

To look outward and center on the well-being of others would be to find health and healing, but the price for happiness—to turn its back on self—is a price it is absolutely unwilling to pay. Literally, here and hereafter, it would rather focus on self in hell than on God in heaven.

Before he healed a sufferer, Jesus once asked, “Do you want to be healed?” It was a real question. And this real question comes to each of us. Do we want to be happy?

Take some time. Think about it. Answer truthfully. Saying “yes” will mean giving up perpetually playing the victim. It will mean focusing on what we have, not on what we don’t. It will mean genuinely, in practical ways, caring more about others than ourselves. It will mean giving up claims to what we love to think we’re entitled to, realizing that even the things we are sure we’ve earned by our hard work or pedigree or excellent character are, in fact, not our “due” but are God’s gifts.

In his fine book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg writes simply but truly, “You can’t be grateful for something you believe you are entitled to. And without a grateful heart, the soul suffers because the soul needs gratitude.”

An entitlement mentality doesn’t just kill nations. It kills souls. To choose to be grateful is to choose life and happiness.

 

      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.

 


Ready or Not, Here Come the Holidays

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A fine old gentleman and member of the first church I served “solo” was pushing 80 years old pretty hard when he pointed his amazing mane of thick white hair my direction and intoned, “Curtis, at this point in my life, it seems like Christmases roll around about once a week.” With my own head of mostly gray hair turning snowy, I’m beginning to see what he meant.

For a four-year-old, waiting a fourth of his life for Santa’s sleigh to slide back seems like waiting for an eternity. For older folks, well, let’s just say it’s getting a lot easier for me to imagine that for an 80-year-old the holidays seem to fly by like telephone poles past a car window.

But I still look forward to them, and, not least, their food!

I rarely get tired of turkey, and I almost never get tired of dressing loaded up with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce. (I love my wife’s family, but you have to watch those folks. A day or two after Thanksgiving, they get tired of turkey you can chew. Somebody cranks up the food processor, and what’s left of the turkey-bird becomes “salad” which, mercifully, no turkey would recognize as kin. I like turkey better before it hits the fan.)

And Christmas foods? Ah, what’s not to like? I cooked for most of the holiday one year and made a Christmas meal I think Charles Dickens would have approved of complete with a stuffed goose, a plum pudding, and loads of trimmings. (Cheesecake, too. That doesn’t figure much into a Dickens Christmas, but it always figures into mine.) Chase dinner with a good hot cup of Earl Grey tea or dark coffee, a nice fire, a comfortable chair, a great old movie or a better old book, and, well, I love it!

It’s great to be with family again for a few days—even if your family has grown, the house hasn’t, and you’re stacked like firewood. And speaking of wood, most family trees have a few nuts, but even us nuts like to be with folks from the same tree for a bit.

I’m partial to the occasions when most folks come healthy and you have a fair chance of making it through the long weekend without the uncommonly prevalent common cold or a 24-hour stomach virus (that you’d swear lasts for a month) exploding through the family like a four-alarm fire at a fireworks factory. Having tried that, I can testify that “healthy” is more fun.

Our family clusters over jigsaw puzzles (nothing less than 1000 pieces, thanks) and games. I like word games. When I was growing up my family of English majors played Scrabble as blood sport. Little kids (and PawPaws) romp and wrestle and drive the parents crazy. Little kids (and PawPaws) make up their own games since they get bored trying to sit through entire TV football games.

I’m thankful for families, for food, for fun, and for the Giver of all good gifts who has so graciously given these. Yes, the holidays seem to be rolling around more quickly than ever, but I’m glad they still come.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! While I don’t wish to rush the turkey in the least, you’ll find a free download there of one of my favorite Christmas songs. Just go to the “Store” and my album “One Christmas Night.” The free song is “Mary Sweet Mary.”

 

 

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.

 


An Odd Calendar and “Merry Thanksgiving!”

 

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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.

 

    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.


Thanksgiving, Winter Storms, Turkey, and Snow

 

IMG_4001Thanksgiving will soon arrive, but the ice and snow of our first winter storm have outpaced the turkey.

So here’s my question as I write on this frosty Saturday evening: When is a weekend snow event simply a meteorological occurrence and when, if ever, is it a test of faith?

After over 30 years in ministry, mostly in areas where we have real seasons and snow (which I love), here’s my vote: Snow’s snow. If you want to elevate the weekend white stuff to test of faith status, be my guest. But as a test of faith, it’s a very poor one—something worse than a paper cut and much less serious than a hemorrhoidal condition. A test of faith? Nah. Not snow.

The church leaders I work with do well with this, I think. Our decision about services tomorrow will be much more about ice than theology.

That said, faith and theology do slide in here a bit. In my experience, folks who most know that they can fully trust Christ’s completed sacrifice on the cross are folks who most often show real faith in practical ways. They attend. They give. They help and encourage. They’re neither too “spiritual” to do real work or too lackadaisical to be counted on. (I’ve seen World War II vintage folks in hospital beds who were just about to flatline who’ve rallied evidently just to write one more tithe check! Committed? Oh, yes!)

But I’ve also noticed that the most faithful folks are often also among the most genuinely thankful for a Sunday when the Lord dumps a ton of snow on us, evidently expecting us to sleep late, toss a log on the fire, use good sense, and praise Him for a real surprise Sabbath rest.

I admit it. I always hope we get buried by a really big weekend snow once a year—so big that the “cancel or not” decision is easy. I figure folks who habitually skip church if the barometric pressure isn’t right or there’s a heat wave in Mozambique get plenty of chances for Sunday sleep. The rest of us deserve one, too. My thanksgiving on that Sunday could hardly be more heartfelt. If you think I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, well, tell me some real news.

It’s probably my carnality that makes me wonder if it’s because we’ve been short of persecution, real tests of faith, that we’d ever see snow as a faith freeze-test: “Neither rain nor sleet nor snow, and I’d probably handle a lion in the Coliseum or being burned at the stake, too. Maybe better than you.” (That last part is Satan’s favorite.)

Persecution may indeed come. If I feel a weird need to rush it, I figure I can always buy a plane ticket and go recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud in a mosque in, say, Iran. That should do it.

But I doubt I need to look that far for faith tests. How about getting up to help my wife do the dishes? Or changing a smelly diaper. Or a stinky attitude. Shoveling snow for a widow. Giving more than I can easily spare. Non-glitzy tests of faith abound. Right here. Right now. No snow required.

I’m fine with whatever decision we make about cancelling services tomorrow. So are our church leaders. No wonder I like working with them.

Snow’s just snow. Unless…I find myself looking down my cold and drippy nose at folks who see the white stuff and make a different decision—either way—than me or mine. Then snow has become a faith test. One that I’ve failed.

 

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

 

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.


“Let Us Not Give Up Meeting Together”

 

thanksgiving 003As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m reminded that one of the best blessings enjoyed by the community in which I live is the spirit of goodwill and unity which generally prevails among the churches and pastors in our area. No small blessing, that’s a big reason I like living here.

The community worship opportunities, such as the community Thanksgiving service on the horizon, warm my heart and give me hope. What a witness to believers and unbelievers alike who are sadly accustomed to division in this world but surprised by unity. What a blessing when God’s people come together to celebrate that which unites us.

It may also be a command, by the way. No kidding.

Christians will remember that we are commanded to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4). And, though we treasure the beautiful “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ that truly deserves that title is the Lord’s beautiful and poignant prayer for unity in John 17.

Christ was serious about unity. A lot more serious than many of his followers have been. Church history through the ages (and our own sad experience) points to lots of teapot tempests over all sorts of obscure Scriptures, fusses undertaken while the combatants, “biting and devouring each other,” ignored the Lord’s very clear, very plain, plea for unity.

But the passage I have in mind right now is not Ephesians 4 or John 17 or any of the other “landmark” passages on Christian unity. No, it’s Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You thought that was about going to church, didn’t you? Well, it probably is. I’m quite sure that in principle it applies to our attendance at worship in our own congregations. We’ll bless ourselves and our fellow worshipers by being committed enough to Christ to be serious about being at worship. If we become lax in that regard, our faith is in more serious jeopardy than we might think. (See the next few verses, Hebrews 10:26-31, if you doubt that.)

But, if you do a little study, you’ll find or recall that in those “early church” days, Christians in a given community met in “house churches,” small groups all over the area. (Hmm. I guess in that regard it was a lot like us. No big signs, though.) Did they ever all come together, all of the house churches with each of their pastors (collectively, the “elders” of that city)? I don’t know. It’s an interesting possibility, though. Those whose hard study has earned them a right to a worthwhile opinion say that church history is murky about those details.

But I know it’s good for us to do that once in a while. I wish we did it a lot more often.

It just might be a command. It would certainly be a blessing. Whenever it happens even for a little while, it’s a good thing.

“Let us not give up meeting together.”

 

       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.


Giving Thanks to No One in Particular Must Feel Strange

 

Everybody I know, except turkeys (take that any way you wish), likes Thanksgiving. What’s not to like?

I’m sure there are people who are utterly alone for whom Thanksgiving is a difficult time. If, by the way, there were no other reason to be part of a church family, and I think there are many, the need for human companionship is itself a pretty good one! Even a person who is not at all sure about the claims of Christianity, but who doesn’t want to be lonely and alone, would do well to attend a church where an honest and unpretentious doubter would at least be made to feel cared for and loved. Thank God, there are many such churches!

Those who have to be at work on Thanksgiving may find it more difficult than most of us to enjoy the day as it was intended.

Those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones or weeping over the death of a marriage, those who have chosen to nurse a bitter spirit rather than their relationships, those who are dealing with deep depression and hurt, those in the midst of caring for loved ones who are seriously ill, I am sure may find Thanksgiving difficult.

But for most of us, Thanksgiving is a great time! It reminds us, even in the midst of some pretty difficult times, that we have much, much indeed, for which to be thankful to the Giver of all good gifts.

Ah, but what about those who don’t acknowledge the beneficence or even the existence of the Giver?

Understand, I don’t mean to be harsh. I have known some fine people who were skeptics—honest agnostics who, as the term implies, were truly searching and simply didn’t know what to believe. (The lion’s share of atheists, on the other hand, tend to be louder and less rational. They have an axe to grind and some reason why they really can’t afford for God to exist.) For such people, Thanksgiving must be a bit of a strange time. As author Cornelius Platinga observes, “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to no one in particular.” Giving thanks “to whom it may concern” seems like pretty thin “gratitude.”

Though the holiday is not, of course, one that comes from the ancient Christian calendar, it is uniquely and deeply rooted in faith. Faith that this world is no accident. (I don’t have enough faith to believe otherwise!) Faith that men and women are created in the image of a personal and loving God. Faith that all of the bounty and beauty, the love and joy, that fill our lives come from Someone who is the Wellspring, the Source.

Bible scholar A. W. Tozer put it this way: “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and not be poorer but richer for having made it.”

Let’s give thanks!

 

 

Copyright 2012 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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