Knowing When the Time Is Right

“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4).

Ten words in English. Thirteen in Greek. Packed full of enough wonder to fill the universe. I’m baffled by even the first phrase, and that’s the easier part.

A quick Internet search for “discerning the times” (it has a religious/biblical connotation) turned up a few good articles on plotting a wise course in our lives and culture.

I should also report that the majority of articles the search brought up didn’t pass my smell test. I think it takes very little discernment to know to be wary indeed of self-proclaimed “end of time” gurus, esoteric seminar speakers, and prophecy conference advertisements. “Hold on to your wallet and back away slowly; the circus is in town!”

I always find myself backing away whenever anyone begins using “God told me” or “the Lord has revealed to me” language. I suspect that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” by verbally writing checks with his unauthorized signature is at least as serious as using his name in a curse or punctuating conversation with “Oh” or “My” and attaching the name of the King of the universe. Anyway, the folks in my life whose spiritual maturity I most respect almost never use “spiritual-speak” to signal spirituality.

For most of us, knowing “when the time is right” for life course changes, even in rather small matters, can require wisdom, reflection, study, good counsel, and, yes, prayer. Then we make a decision and take action.

For more than a few decades, one of my brothers and I have been editing a little monthly devotional magazine. (We’ve both been blessed to serve churches that are supportive in this.) My brother Gene will soon have been editor/senior editor for 60 years. Almost 40 years ago, he asked me to come on board as managing editor. We both have written many issues, edited a few jillion articles by others, proofread our eyes out, and much more. For 20 years, he did it all. In our work together, he’s done the fundraising, circulation, and all the business. I’ve done the issue themes, planning, editing, layout, and design. (The fun part.)

I remember Gene’s passing to me what is now a bona fide historical artifact: a large bottle of rubber cement, complete with brush. Gene taught me how to conceive issue themes, assign and edit articles, and lay out an issue completely by hand—creating dummy layouts, cutting and pasting, and indicating typefaces, sizes, etc., all in handwritten notes, marking galley proofs, cropping/sizing photos, indicating colors and screens, and sending it all in multiple mailings back and forth to our printer.

I once started developing some TMJ (jaw) issues and realized that I’d been holding pens in my mouth as I was working on the layouts.

Then came—oh, thank you, Lord—the days of computer page-making and QuarkXPress and then Adobe InDesign. The whole thing done on my computer screen. Rubber cement and dummy layouts retired. Almost heaven!

I enjoy creating pages, adjusting fonts and lines (kerning, tracking, and leading), working with photos (Photoshop), and playing with designs. Editing on-screen. I like this even though I’m reminded regularly of how much I don’t know about this craft.

Some simple math reveals that I’ve created around 475 issues over the years. That’s a bunch of deadlines. I’m usually late (in every sense). For some reason, I do most of my editing and layout work in the evenings, often late in the evenings, laptop computer in lap. My family has been understanding.

So here we are. Gene’s tenure, 60 years. Almost 40 for me. It’s been a blessing for us brothers to work together and work well together. It’s been a good thing. But even good things end. So, when? That was a hard question. We’ve wrestled with this, but we think 60 years of publication is a nice number. Our swan song will be the June 2023 issue. At least, that’s our plan.

Do I need to tell you that this is a bit like burying a friend? But that’s where this “discernment of the times” thing comes in. We began to realize that ending on a high note and with a great deal of gratitude to God for writers, donors, readers, and encouragers of all sorts is the best way to end. I won’t bore you with more of our rationale. But this decision, at a good and un-pressured moment, feels right and appropriate.

For all of us, it’s true to say that good things have beginnings, but they also have endings. Knowing “the times” is important. Who knows what amazing new beginnings the Publisher of us all has in mind for you and for me?

“When the time has fully come,” I’m confident that we’ll know.

You’re invited to visit my website at, 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 2022 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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