Monthly Archives: September 2012

Some Thoughts on Lawn Care, Sabbath, and Trust

 

I just finished an unusual yard-mowing experience.

As usual, mowing and trimming is about a three-and-a-half hour job. We’re not talking here about a polite little postage stamp-size lawn. This is a 10,000 square foot yard, acreage that in some cities would pass for a park or a game preserve, complete with man-killing hills of a variety described on topographical maps by terrain experts as “darn hills,” sort of. Anybody who ever tries to mow this lawn will soon adopt the more specific term.

The only thing unusual about today’s lawn-taming experience is that it’s Sunday. In the space of almost thirty years, I could count on one hand the Sunday mowings.

For religious reasons, I don’t mow on Sundays. After leading worship and preaching, I’m religious about partaking of a good lunch and keeping the appointment my dog and I have with the couch for a really good nap. Then I’m religious about relaxing and enjoying the rest of the Sunday as much as possible. “Enjoy” and “mow” don’t belong in the same sentence.

But my wife and I are trying to get away for a few days and this was my only window of mowing opportunity. So I mowed.

I didn’t like it. (Well, how unusual is THAT?) I mean, I didn’t like the Sunday aspect of it. It just felt (this is a technical theological term) sort of pagan-ish. Your pastor starts mowing his yard on Sundays and the next thing you know he’s sacrificing cats out behind the house and muttering dark incantations. (Rest assured that no cats were harmed during the mowing of this lawn and the only incantations uttered were under my breath as I mowed the hills.) I felt like I should maybe duck behind a bush as my neighbors drove by, especially the ones I knew were headed to services!

Seriously, I really don’t think I cut up any commandments too badly by whacking grass today. After all, Christ has freed us from bondage to rule-keeping pseudo-righteousness. Anyone who honors God and still wants to mow his yard on Sunday will get no mean looks from me.

But I’m not planning to mess up more Sundays this way; I’d rather the yard be shaggy. I do plan to reflect more on the whole idea of Sabbath. Just a quick look at the New Testament makes it clear that self-righteous rule-keeping about such things leads to stinky religion that takes us farther from God, not closer.

But the principle of rest and balance and “re-creation” involved in the idea of Sabbath is indeed from God, something he meant to bless us. It’s a little like tithing. God won’t force you to honor him in that way, but the blessings that come when you do are gifts he wants to give, gifts you’d otherwise miss.

Christians honor the Lord, on Sundays or at any time, by intentionally taking some time to rest in him and be still. Sunday afternoons tend to be great times for me to open my hands to receive a blessing from the Lord as I trust him to spin the world for a few precious hours without my help. He spins it just fine even if my yard needs a trim.

 

 

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.

 


Mis-identification Can Have Consequences–Good or Bad

 

If my younger brother and I had both been football coaches, we’d probably call each other sometime on Saturdays to discuss how things went at the games on Friday night. 

As it is, since both of us are pastors, we often check in with each other on Sunday evenings for post-service analysis just to make sure neither of us was injured by a sermon that landed badly and that no one in either congregation was thrown into a potentially fatal coma by a sermon that seemed like it would never land at all. So last Sunday evening it wasn’t unusual that Jim and I were on the phone discussing the day.

But I was surprised when he asked me if I’d bought something at La-Z-Boy Furniture in Amarillo last weekend.

Well, yes, I replied. I’d done a “concert” at my mother-in-law’s assisted living home on Friday afternoon, and we’d stayed over to watch our granddaughter Brenley’s first T-ball game. Post-game activities included brunch at McDonald’s, and, as fate would have it, the La-Z-Boy store was next door.

We had at home a perfectly good twelve-year-old recliner. Yes, it had popped a spring recently, but I’d created a pseudo-spring with a ratcheting tie-down strap. I thought it was good for another twelve years, but that was not the prevailing view. So, La-Z-Boy, here we come!

Jim wasn’t there. He wasn’t even in town on Saturday. How’d he know I’d been dragged into a furniture store?

The short answer is that it’s hard to hide the fact that we’re brothers. I’m always a little surprised by this, but it’s happened before. Some folks, friends of his, were also at the store, saw me, did a double-take, and tried to figure out if I was Jim, looking a little better than usual, to be sure, and younger and more ruggedly handsome, but maybe Jim on a particularly good day. (He didn’t put it that way, but I’m sure that’s what they said.)

Jim’s friends had decided I wasn’t him when they also saw some little people who were obviously my grandkids. The kids were playing on remote-control recliners and campaigning that we buy such. Nope. We avoided the electric chairs. I hope the new recliner I’m sitting in now is good for thirty years. When I purchase a piece of furniture, I buy hoping that I’ll do it right and thus never have to do it again.

But the near miss in identification, me almost being ID’d as Jim, got me thinking. If I decide to rob a liquor store (or what some consider worse, actually buy a nice pinot noir in one), it probably shouldn’t be in Amarillo if I love my brother.

Carrying the logic on out a ways, since Christians are supposed to be, as the original word implied, “little Christs,” people who look like the Lord, act like the Lord, have attitudes like the Lord’s, well, let’s hope folks can look at us and actually be on target when they think we look a whole lot like Him.

In the meantime, if you see me doing something despicable, be assured it’s not really me. It’s Jim.

 

 

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.


A Long Surprising Train of Wonderful Blessings

 

Well, we had a great “Listening Party” last Sunday!

I didn’t know what a Listening Party was until Darrell Bledsoe, my friend and producer of my new music CD, said several months ago, “Curtis, when the album’s ready, we need to have a Listening Party.”

“A what, Darrell?”

“A party where we invite folks to come just listen to the CD as we play it on a good sound system and we talk about each of the songs. It’ll be a great time!”

And he was right.

Among the many things I’ve learned making this album is why it’s a great blessing to have the right producer. Any writer, no matter how experienced, needs an editor, a second set of eyes, to help hone the work he’s already done and make it better. And I know now how true that is for music as well—and, come to think of it, life; we all need mentors, teachers, counselors, trusted friends, to help us be better than we could ever be on our own.

Obviously, very early in making a record (yeah, I’ve learned that’s still a good term; it’s short for “recording” whether it ends up on vinyl or polycarbonate plastic), you need a list of songs. I knew pretty well which songs I wanted on this CD, but when it came time to “nail down” the list, Darrell said, “We need to get some variety in here. Curtis, you need a barn burner!”

“A what? Darrell, I don’t do barn-burners.”

Well, okay, I’ve done some fast, zippy, rip-snortin’ songs with quartets and other groups, and had fun, but solos? Nope.

His reply, as I heard it, was, “Curtis, you’re a crooner. That’s your basic style. Fine. That means you have no problem helping people gently drift off to sleep; somewhere on this album, you need a song to wake ’em back up!”

He was right!

“You know what? I think it’d be fun if you’d sing ‘Long Black Train’!”

“Huh? Can you play it for me? [He did.] You’re kidding, right? [He wasn’t.]”

Well, long train—I mean “story”—short, that country-western song by Josh Turner (in Johnny Cash style) is on my album.

At first, my reaction was, “No.” Then my reaction was, “I’m not sure I can.” It would mean surrendering my English degree, clothespinning my nose, and getting as many as six syllables out of words the good Lord intended only to have one.

At one point, I found myself standing out by a railroad track with a digital recorder in hand trying to get “train sounds” to record at the first of the song (I can only imagine what the engineer thought I was about to do). We found a lot better train sound online, and a great engineer—sound, not train—actually “tuned” the whistle to my song’s key! (Two more blessings, by the way. The owner/engineer and assistant engineer at the studio who are amazing and so much fun to work with.)

All of this reminds me again that one of God’s best blessings is not one but many—the many people God graciously puts into our lives to help make us and our work and our lives so much better than we could ever be alone.

 

  

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.


“Thank You, Lord, for the Blessing of Quiet Stillness”

 

What a day this has been! What a whirlwind week, one more whirling seven-day blur.

I sit now in the stillness of my study at the church, thankful for the quiet—and for a few precious moments of peace. At this moment, I’m glad to be alone for a little while, filling up with the kind of strength and blessing that only comes in the quiet. Surely we can learn something important, something that can genuinely bless us, when we remember that our Lord Jesus, after busy days of teaching and healing and activity often went away by himself to “a solitary place.”

I don’t sit still and just enjoy such quiet peace nearly as often as I should. I’ve often laughed and said that one of the reasons I enjoy preaching and leading worship is that I’d hate to have to sit still during a whole service. Yes, I laugh. But there is more truth in that than I care to admit. Like so much of our society, I rarely sit still, and that’s not only a shame, it’s a fact that hurts us all more than we can imagine.

We live such frantic lives, hardly conscious of the high price we pay for that pace. We’d have to think about it to calculate the price, and to really think requires some time, which is precisely what we don’t seem to have.

We’re so like the man frantically driving down the interstate highway whose wife, the official navigator, wakes from a nap and asks, “Dear, where are we?” To which query the harried helmsman replies, “I don’t know, but we’re making great time!”

It’s a good question.

What direction are we going? It’s important that we know. I wonder if one of the primary reasons so many folks in our society refuse to ever slow down, to ever sit still, to ever be quiet, is that we’re frightened of the thoughts we might think if we just had time to think them—thoughts about our purpose, our direction, our values. I can well understand why many folks in our terminally shallow culture might be frightened of such thoughts, but Christians shouldn’t be.

It’s been anything but quiet this week in my life—and I’d not be surprised if the same thing is true of yours. And don’t misunderstand: I thank God for the strength and health and opportunity to engage in productive activity. But it ceases to be truly productive or worthwhile when it just becomes constant motion.

At this moment, Lord, I thank you for the stillness. Give me your wisdom to avail myself of it more often for only in stillness is true wisdom born. As your Presence hovering over the vast pool of possibility at this world’s dawning brought forth life and beauty, may your Spirit give birth in this stillness to worthwhile and meaningful depth of thought and of being so that when the time comes to speak, to act, our words and our actions carry with them depth of genuine meaning and wisdom and love. The kind only forged in stillness.  

 

 

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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