Sad and glad. At this moment, I am both.
This afternoon I completed the editing and page creation for the final issue of The Christian Appeal devotion magazine. I’ve served as the managing editor for the little monthly magazine for almost forty years (forty as of September 2023). A very little math is the only kind of math I ever do, but I’m pretty sure that, when I sent the files to the printer today for the June issue, it was Issue #472 for me.
That’s quite a run, though it’s less than the sixty years this issue marked for Senior Editor Gene Shelburne, one of my older brothers. Gene took over as editor of the magazine in 1963 and molded it into its present form. Of course, it has changed a bit during the years, but its primary focus as a Christian devotional magazine has always been to honor Christ, point to him, and encourage the faith of its readers.
The magazine has always been a part of my life, in one way or another. (I was six years old in 1963.) But, to fast forward, in the fall of 1983, Gene called me one day to ask if I’d consider joining him in the effort and becoming managing editor—conceiving the issue themes, assigning and editing articles, writing articles, and laying out the pages. He’d teach me, continue to write many essays and articles, and oversee fund-raising and circulation (two aspects I’ve always avoided like the plague, but he’s good at.) I said, yes.
So, for all of these almost forty years, my brother and I have worked together in this ministry. We both agree that working together has been an incredible partnership and blessing. I’ve enjoyed my part, and he has enjoyed his.
I feel very good about our mission and our content. Of course, some of those older issues look, well, old. They are. And so are we. Not all deal with issues in the way we would today. But, on the whole, I think it’s a very creditable and high-quality body of work. I could write a great deal about some of the utterly amazing writers. (All the issues will remain available at ChristianAppeal.com.)
Aside from feeling very good about our content, I like writing and editing. I’ve grown (at least, a little) from the wet-behind-the-ears editor I was when Gene brought me on. And I’ve always enjoyed building pages. As I punched SEND this afternoon to fire the files to our utterly trustworthy printer in Amarillo, I remembered the old days when I sent the paper “dummy” layouts to the printer via the U.S. mail. I remember marking all the copy (traditional proofreading marks) and working through the galley proofs. I remember cutting and pasting and the smell of rubber cement. The whole process took almost forever. And then came computer page-making. What a game-changer! I loved it, and still do.
A bit of a side note here. I dare anyone to publish a magazine with as few errors as we’ve let slip through over the years. Gene and I are both pastors (and our churches deserve a huge amount of credit for allowing us to make this ministry part of theirs), but we are also English majors, and, though proofreading is just plain hard work, we’ve done it, going over each issue scrupulously. We both take typos and such dull stuff as subject-verb agreement very personally. And I can put you to sleep talking about leading and kerning and discussing the merits of various typefaces, not to mention discussing programs like QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, etc.
For many reasons, when we realized that the June issue this year would mark sixty years for Gene, it seemed like a good time to lovingly put the magazine to bed.
I found myself procrastinating even more than usual as I worked on the final issue. I don’t need a counselor to tell me why.
Too often, I’m tasked with officiating at the funeral service for a dear friend. The time comes to start writing, but to work on the service will make the loss real. It will also mean straining to do my job, which is to find and express the right words for us all. No words will be good enough, but, with God’s help, I eventually must get to work and, misty-eyed, try. So I do.
And that’s the way I’ve felt about our final issue. It’s time to lay this longtime friend to rest, and Gene and I do that with full hearts.
Of course, a sense of loss is genuine, but far outweighing the loss, are real joy and deep gratitude for God’s blessing and for the faithful support our readers, collaborators, and many contributors and friends have given generously all along the way.
Not least, I’m thankful for patience and support of my wife and family. This little magazine has been a serious part of their lives, too. Will I be able to sit on the couch without a computer in my lap? Go to bed when normal people do? Will my wife and I go on a vacation without me always saying, “I just need to get this issue finished first”?
I’ll soon know. But I’m truly grateful for forty years of working with words about the Word incarnate and getting to share those with some great folks. The last issue is in. I’m headed to bed.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.