Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

From the Turkey to the Manger

I’m writing on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving. Though most of us still have a bit of turkey left, we’re well on the way through the “My, what a wonderful bird!” stage and on into the “Let’s slap a hunk or two of turkey between bread” stage. We’ll soon belly up to Stage III: “Okay, let’s grind up what’s left and make turkey salad sandwiches.” Not for me, thanks. I’m okay with the first two stages, but I’ll pass on the third. After the poor bird hits the fan, I’m not much interested in him.

And now, though Madison Avenue started weeks ago (it’s a wonder Santa doesn’t end up skewered by a witch on a broom since some stores jump into Christmas almost before Halloween) and some folks are getting a jump on things by stringing and plugging the lights in a tad early, it really is time to start thinking about pulling out the Christmas stuff.

We’ll soon pull the plastic made-in-China tree out of its box and get busy, and it will be beautiful yet again. Still, I’m glad I grew up when getting the tree meant going to a tree lot, almost freezing but warming up over a wood fire lit in a 55-gallon drum, crunching snow underfoot as we walked down the rows of trees to pick just the right one, and then tying it onto the top of the family car to get it home. It smelled wonderful. It smelled like Christmas, and I love that smell.

For years, each year at about this time, I tempted fate by hanging over the eaves of our two-story tall house to put up the Christmas lights. A nose dive off a single story dwelling would be no fun, either, but there’s a word for a swan dive off our roof: FATAL. So nobody was happier than I was when I decided to build and light up some fiberboard shepherds who, along with their sheep, hang out just about halfway up the front of the house and who, I am relieved, pleased, and need to think, would look odd surrounded by additional Christmas lights.

Storyteller Garrison Keillor says that the folks in his Lake Wobegon town charged with setting up the city’s Christmas decorations at about this time each year still curse the volunteer handy man who built the decorations years ago out of 3/4-inch plywood! My fiberboard shepherds aren’t that heavy, and hanging those gents is a lot more fun than hanging string after string of lights at high altitude.

So I guess I’m about ready for the transition from “We Gather Together” and “Over the River and Through the Woods” to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”

The “early church” of the first century was way too early to know anything about Thanksgiving American-style, but they could teach us a lot about giving thanks in general. The heart of their thanksgiving was this Advent sort of truth, a truth that bridges the gaps between all seasons: “For God so loved the world that he sent his Son.”

Which means he loves you. And me. A thought which makes it even easier to be truly thankful for that turkey, stages one, two, or even three.

 

       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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Thanksgiving: A Time for Giving Thought to Gratitude

“The worst moment for an atheist,” writes G. K. Chesterton, “is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

Though any season is a great time for gratitude, Thanksgiving certainly lends itself at least to some thinking about the subject whether we’re believers, agnostics, atheists, or anything-else-ists.

Even an unusually intelligent golden retriever might do well to ponder on Thanksgiving morning the fact that somebody makes sure that food shows up in his bowl and water in his dish (and, well, for goodness’ sakes, what a nice meaty bone! Wonder what’s the occasion? Woof!). At least a little wag of the tail might be in order, I’d think, and I’m betting it would be more than a little one, since dogs seem to know instinctively that tail wags and gratitude are not items they need to hoard lest they run short.

More than “man’s best friend,” humans have, it seems to me, both a higher responsibility to think and to thank, and a much more serious temptation not to.

I’m told that the word “thank” comes from an older word related to “think.” And, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “thank” is “related phonetically to ‘think’ as ‘song’ is to ‘sing.’” So it would seem that even a very little thinking on our part would issue in “a profound sense of gratitude” and a great deal of thanksgiving. Our hearts really do have a song they should be singing, a song of thanksgiving! “Count Your Many Blessings” was a far better song title than “Think and You’ll Be Thanking,” but it really does come to the same thing.

What’s ironic here, and worth noting, is that those of us who seem to have the biggest boatload of blessings are often the very folks who are least likely to be genuinely thankful. Our “thanking” often suffers because our thinking is snotty, shoddy, and fatally flawed.

We tend to think that anyone else who has worked as hard as we have would naturally have as many blessings as we do.

We tend to think that anyone with a corresponding level of intelligence could certainly have made the same sorts of wise or profitable life or business decisions we’ve made.

We tend to think, though I hope we’d not say it, that we’re a “cut above” average and thus more deserving than others. When we say “blessings,” we mean something more akin to “wages, benefits, or dividends.”

We tend to forget how much we have that no one can possibly earn.

We tend to forget about inconvenient items that no one can control such as bad genetics or pesky microbes or crazily dividing cells or hurricanes or dictators or senseless crimes or market meltdowns—and so much more.

Healthy, happy, and more than well fed, it’s good that we’ve not bought into the self-defeating victim mentality that is such a scourge in our society, but buying into the “I’m my own god” mentality is just as deadly to genuine gratitude—and to our souls. We’ve not created a single breath of our own air or spun this world an inch, much less given ourselves life.

It’s a good time to do some good thinking and thus to be moved to lots of thanking. Most of all, it’s a good time to genuinely thank God and try not to confuse him with the dim-witted pseudo-deity under our own hat.

 

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.


Some Clues That the Holidays Are on the Way

Well, it’s official! The holidays are on the way. The calendar says so, of course, but other clues abound.

I just spent a day singing Christmas songs for folks at a great Christmas craft bazaar. I’ve often fussed about “rushing the season” and worried that Halloween goblins and Thanksgiving turkeys are increasingly at risk of being run down by out of control and out of season Christmas sleighs, but a Christmas bazaar in early November is not rushing the season; it’s right on time.

So I got a chance to tune up, sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Thanksgiving” (just kidding), and get myself ready for the soon-to-come prime time Yuletide crooning. Fun!  (I could only, that early, bring myself to sing “Christmas Must Be Tonight” once, but I’ll be singing it with gusto a good many days before it becomes literal!)

You don’t need a calendar to see leaves turning. It seems to me that our area foliage has never been more deeply crimson and glittery gold. Do your leaf-looking early in the afternoon, though. Daylight Saving Time is gone again, and it’ll be getting dark ten minutes or so after lunch. (Still kidding, but DST’s demise is indeed another clue.)

Ah, and here’s a clue. The toughest flowers of all have arrived. When other plants retreat, seek shelter, and hide in the greenhouse, here come the pansies in full bloom, daring the frost and snow.

Not much fun, but a clue nonetheless . . . flies are relentlessly trying to become houseflies indeed. They can’t freeze fast enough to suit me, but the soon-to-be-deadsters are mounting a full-on autumn assault.

Yes, but the best clue of all at our house is that the candles have been banished from the fireplace, and we’ve just had the first fire of the season. I love it! I like living in an area and at an altitude where fireplaces are much more than decorative. I know that in lots of homes, the fireplace and the TV are battling for “focal point” status. My vote is firmly cast for the former, and it’s one of my favorite features of this time of year. It’s burning now! Big clue!

Along that line, my wife and I are like most couples thermostatically speaking—wired differently. She likes thin bed covers and a fast-moving ceiling fan; I like cover that’s six inches thick and right up to my nose, the better to help me seek refuge from the ever-present fan. I’ll wait another month (for an ice storm and/or snow) before my seasonal plea for the down comforter has any chance for a fair hearing. But, the annual comforter kerfuffle notwithstanding, I take comfort in the fact that life has a way of balancing out. She can turn on the fan; I can build a fire.

All of this—thermostatic skirmishes and all—is as predictable as the seasons themselves.

Calendars are fine. But I like these additional clues that, right around the chronological corner, seasons are coming in which we’ll thank Someone larger than our turkey-gorged selves and rejoice that a Heaven-filled manger proclaims that love and hope are always in season.

 

      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.


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.


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