Monday, February 27, 2006

Nuggets 8: Married to an Unbeliever

When we walked into Roy's living room, we saw something we never expected to see.

One night, fifteen years earlier, Maria told her husband Roy that she had just been baptized. Roy groaned and turned his face toward the wall. Maria saw in that moment how hard her path would be. But she had read from Peter that a man who doesn't believe the word may be "won without words" by the Christlike attitude and behavior of his wife. Maria decided right then that she would be the best wife a man ever had.

We met Roy and Maria through missionary friends in Malawi. Roy was a gentleman and quite sociable but had no time for religion. He was christened as a baby but had no faith of his own. Briefly when Roy had cancer surgery he began to read the Bible and talk about his soul. But as he got well he lost interest. When the couple retired to Cyprus, I wrote him a letter: "I won't force anything on you, but we love you. If you ever want to talk about your relationship with Christ, we are ready."

Years later Roy and Maria came to see us during a tour of America. Almost immediately Maria said, "Roy wants to talk to you." Roy wanted to give his life to Christ, but being a proper British gentleman, was embarrassed about getting all wet in a baptistry in front of his friends. I said, "Roy, maybe one of the reasons God gave us baptism was to test our humility and obedience." Roy promised to think on it that night. Next morning he was ready and I baptized him. A few years later Ruth and I visited the couple on Cyprus. As we entered their living room, there beside Roy's recliner were his Bible and concordance. The couple was hosting a house church.

1 Peter 3:1-6


Copyright 2006 by G.B. Shelburne, III. May be freely reproduced or forwarded for non-commercial purposes provided content is unchanged and this copyright notice is included. These shepherding messages are sent to members and friends of New Beginnings Church (, to students and alumni of South Houston Bible Institute (, and to other interested persons. TO UNSUBSCRIBE, hit "Reply" and type the word "Remove" in the message area. TO SUBSCRIBE, email

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Friendships—Handshakes and Hugs

The north winds blew across the Texas Panhandle swept into Abilene and pierced wool coats as if they were T-shirts. This past week, I spent a few days on Abilene Christian University’s campus. The chilly weather no way mirrored the warmth of friends reuniting after months or years of not seeing each other.

On campus, a booth-filled gymnasium was transformed into bookstore and information outlet for many ministries. A women’s group had a stall and sold homemade pies. The immediate area was furnished with plenty of tables and chairs and became a central meeting place for friends. Sitting alone a few times, I witnessed longtime friends reuniting. Warm bear hugs and handshakes between men, and among the women, squeals and 90-degree-Farenheit smiles—they became the room’s thermostat.

In our culture gone mad with noise and a variety of distractions, quiet moments with friends bring refreshment. My days with dear friends reminded me of Jesus and his companions who experienced this camaraderie. The frenetic days of Jesus’ ministry were balanced by withdrawing with his friends to deserted places.

Jesus, the Son of God, is the answer to noise pollution of my life. Because of crowds and their almost constant neediness, Jesus often traveled to uninhabited areas (1:45). No doubt, Jesus loved the crowds, but to garner strength, he spent time in prayer or with an intimate group of friends. In his story, I see the restorative power of such times.

While here on earth, Jesus had a flesh and blood body and his needs reflect needs of humanity. His physical body required rest, and his mind and heart required respite. God’s love and message are capable of reaching through the clatter of daily routine. But I find it difficult to distinguish the call of God when the blast of a television is in the background. In the last few years I felt a need to shut out noise that I can control. Of late, I made a conscious effort to weed noise from my environment. I used to turn on a morning newscast, but that no longer happens. I used to listen to talk radio every few days. I’m weaned from the airways.

Me, myself, and I are not that great of a companion, but in the silence, in the quiet, my friend Jesus is given a better opportunity to abide with me. He is Bread, Sanctuary, Life and Light. He fills in the dark gaps in my life.

The quiet and ordered environment I desire has not been perfected, and I doubt it will be while dwelling on earth. Of course, not all life-intrusions come by way of noise. Some don’t have decibel ratings, but they keep us from an intentional time with God and friends. Unsolicited junk mail is one that comes to mind. My on-going goals are to free myself from such life-trappings, to have more time for retreats with family and friends.

The word “companion” is formed from two Latin words: com/with and panis/ bread. Those we break bread with are companions. I love the times when friends arrange to meet in someone’s home. Pat, Doris, Betty, Mary Jo, Sherri, and Kay, bring their offerings of fruit salad, baked chicken, and bread. Conversations percolate through meal time, through breaking bread.

Of course, the best friend is Jesus who is a constant attendant. He assists at 2:00 A.M. or noonday. This Prince of Peace owns time, he is the time keeper. Always near, he is ready with a quiet meal for a friend. He is the meal, the one who always brings the bread—Jesus, the Christ.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.

Kindness may seem a vague word, one covering a variety of niceties. But thoughtfulness is not hazy or unclear. The week of February 14th is designated as Kindness Week by Congress. This week is celebrated with compassionate acts and emphasizes practicing consideration year round.

In 1993, Dr. Chuck Wall, heard a news commentator describe a horrible event as “just another senseless act of violence.” That’s when he presented his college class with a challenge. He encouraged them to go out and commit a “random act of senseless kindness and write about it.”

But Dr. Wall’s motivational story started earlier than the college assignment. In junior high and high school, his grades weren’t that good. He was treated as if he didn’t have learning capacity. Finally diagnosed with severe onset retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Wall said, “I was so relieved.” He went home and told his parents, “The only thing wrong with me is I’m going blind!”

He enrolled in college, and the first semester would have failed except for one young man’s help. With the growing obstacles of RP, he maintained a C average and received his degree. He went to graduate school, completing three Masters with a 3.95 grade point. Finally, he received his Ph. D. with a 4.0, all because kind people helped him.

Media reports often focus on upsetting news—murder, bankruptcy, theft, gang violence, rampant street drugs. Because of technology, a tragedy can happen in Budapest, Hungary or Bogotá, Colombia and we hear about it immediately.

Most who receive such news don’t have personal resources or connections to alleviate massive suffering. But many hands, in imitation of God’s grace, compassion, and bountiful love (Jonah 4: 2), can lessen misery a world away. Closer-at-home generosities such as casseroles for the sick and letting a driver “go first” brighten neighborhoods.

I recall a simple act of charity that cheered me. While shopping, I reached for a bottle of salad dressing, a specific brand we like. Beside the bottle someone had propped a coupon—not outdated—for the exact flavor I was about to buy. Because of thoughtfulness for another, an earlier shopper saved me 50 cents. I wrote my first letter to an editor about that simple gift.

Though blind, Dr. Chuck Wall had a vision for a struggling world, where benevolence could make a difference. Charles Kuralt said, “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” This week, this year, celebrate big heartedness.

Pour the milk of human kindness into the world’s tin cup.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bow the Knee

Earl Williams had quadruple bypass surgery and his first hospital stay. At the hospital, he assumed a different role. Instead of parking in the ministers’ reserved area and visiting the sick, he lay in an airy hospital gown receiving visitors. His sweet wife Barbara recalled the many kindnesses from staff, family and friends.

Folks rallied to “bless,” serve, Earl and Barbara. The word “bless” means to kneel or to bow the knee. In Genesis the 12th chapter, God made promises to Abram, and God used the word “bless” in at least two distinct ways.

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you: I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The Hebrew archives at explains, “The idea of blessing may come from several factors including that of bending the knees to give or to receive.” Both elements of giving and receiving are present in Genesis 12. First, God bowed his knees and served Abram’s clan, and eventually through his lineage gifted the entire earth with the Savior. Abram believed God’s promises, appreciated his provisions, and in turn bowed his knees in service to family and foreigners.

Abram bowing his knee to serve God and contemporaries is easily imagined. However, the concept of God on his knees meeting my very real needs is more difficult to visualize. From the earliest days, God served, expressed his all-out love. The Creator seeded the earth and set up an atmosphere to support it. For thousands of years, God nurtured, but humans bit the hand that fed them. From the beginning, God planned to complete the demonstration of his love.

God’s kneeling-to-give and his extravagant measures to woe us to him, culminated in Jesus. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14: 9). On the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus, God in the flesh, showed his disciples the “full extent of his love” (13:1).

Jesus and his disciples settled to dine, but street grime journeyed to the table on their feet. Instead of waiting for a servant, Jesus got up, took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around his waist.

After pouring water into a basin, Jesus knelt and one at a time lifted 24 dirty feet. Wash and dry. Wash and dry. John. Andrew. James. Bartholomew. Judas. The cleansing wasn’t over in a moment. Jesus moved from man to man, foot to foot. He physically touched each disciple.

What thoughts did Jesus have as he washed each foot? Was he also saying goodbyes, for the men’s sake? Would they recall the moments when God held their feet and washed the dirt of earth away?

Would they remember him kneeling, lower than them? Would they remember looking down into his eyes? He didn’t look like a king. He didn’t look like Lord of heaven, Lord of earth. He looked like a servant.

When Jesus reached for Peter’s foot, Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me . . . later you will understand.”

God’s lavish love is not limited by protocol. God bowed his knee to Abram, so Abram could “be a blessing.” Today, God still bows his knees in service. With prolific love, he kneels and heals. He kneels to wipe sins away.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


The word "inspire" means to breathe or blow (into) to draw or inhale into the lungs; to instruct by divine influence, to instruct or affect with a superior influence, to animate a person.

The etymology of the word is Latin inspirdre: in--in, into; spirdre--to breathe

A writer quoted her pastor, and his saying probed my motives for projects: "If you manufacture your own platform, you will have to manufacture your own anointing."

Benjamin Franklin also inspired me this past week: Printer, statesman,inventor Ben contributed to society. A few of his inventions were "[s]wim fins, bifocals, a glass armonica, watertight bulkheads for ships, the lightning rod, an odometer, and the wood stove (called the Franklin stove)."

He refused to apply for patents on any of his inventions because he wanted everyone to benefit from those, not just a few.

His example inspired me to quit charging my husband for cooking supper.

This past week, who or what came like a breath of fresh air into your life and roused up courage, awakened a dream, imbued strength, or lifted consciousness to a higher ledge? Who last inspired you?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spear Forgivings

In 1956, missionaries Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully made contact with an isolated Waodani tribe in Ecuador. The tribe lived by a code of revenge, and Waodani children grew up learning "they would spear and live or be speared and die." Out of every 10 adult deaths in the Waodanis, six are believed to have died from spearings.

This past week my family watched the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor, released in October 2005, a story of sacrifice, death, forgiveness and redemption. In 1956, the five men had made successful contact with the Waodani, and had taken guns along, but decided if they were confronted they would not use them because "we are ready to go to heaven and they are not."

After a few days, of talking with three of the Waodani, the missionaries failed to make regular radio contact with their base. News quickly reached the states about the missing men, and across the United States farmers, clerks, and dignitaries awaited word from the jungles of Ecuador. A search party was sent into the remote area.

Within a few days newscasts reported the fate of the five men. Their speared bodies were found in and near a river. The yellow plane, the modern missionary mule, had been hacked by machetes. A short time later and by God's grace, the families of the slain men made contact with the Waodani tribe. This tragedy of such magnitude resulted in stories of mercy and salvation. Some of the surviving families even lived among the Waodani for years.

The award winning documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor is on DVD, available for rental or purchase. Actual footage in one scene details the baptism of one of the slain's daughters. When a teenager she wanted to be baptized, and she told about the water-grave. "I was in the same water where Dad's body had been thrown. And on either side of me were the two men who in their youth had killed Dad. All I knew was I really loved those guys."

Another movie chronicling the events, End of the Spear, rated PG-13, is appearing in selected theaters. In this movie, the story of the 1956 slayings is told from the Waodani's perspective. Steve Saint, son of slain missionary Nate Saint, has lived with the tribe and he wanted the story told from their viewpoint, too. At first the Waodani wouldn't give their permission for the filming of a movie, and then Steve Saint told them about the Columbine High School killings. The tribesmen were astonished that in our advanced culture people are also killing innocent people for no reason. The Waodani then said yes to a movie about the spearings, hoping their story would help others.

Although Jesus is not mentioned in the movie, it is evident that his love prompted the forgiveness and love fostered between the families of the slain and the Waodani. Movie viewer Doug Kenny said: "Like grass growing through concrete, there is no stopping what Christ's love can do. The movie is a gift for today."