Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

 

“Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” CD Cover-One Christmas Night-cover_Page_1-small

Well, it’s no secret that I love the white stuff in general and Christmas in particular. But it was a little unusual that, at the end of September, I’d be sitting on a stool up at the front of the church, playing “Let It Snow!” and eleven more Christmas songs for a nice bunch of folks who knew it wasn’t Christmas yet. I’m usually the guy fussing about those who rush the season, hang tinsel before Halloween, and fly past Thanksgiving with barely a glance at the turkey.

But this year I’m the turkey who’s just recorded a brand new Christmas album (CD), “One Christmas Night,” and we were gathered for a “Listening Party” and album debut as we played the songs and my producer, Darrell Bledsoe, and I told a few of the “behind the scenes” stories of the recording.

The whole “making music” process is fascinating, amazing, incredibly difficult, and . . . absolutely some of the most fun I’ve ever had!

One thing is now very clear to me: to get what we shared Sunday all digitized to files, made into a disc, and wrapped up in a nice package, well, that takes the best efforts and amazing talents of lots of folks.

Having an album out by Christmas means starting way before Christmas and singing Christmas songs all year. I’m fine with that!

Picking the songs. Getting the songs “charted” by and for the musicians. Recording the instrumentals. Getting special vocal arrangements. Recording the lead vocals. Arranging and recording the background vocals. Designing the album cover and “liner notes.” Mixing. Mastering. Manufacturing.

I could talk for hours about each of those steps and more. I enjoy telling those stories, not to mention describing the studios and people involved all along the way and even the mikes and sound boards, etc. I love this stuff! It’s magic to me! (I just try to stop talking before folks’ eyes glaze over.)

But most impressive to me is the number of talented people it takes to produce something you want to be beautiful and a blessing. (May I mention that you can take a listen at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com?) I’d love to tell you about each one of these friends who are so good at what they do that they have no need to be loud about it.

The Apostle Paul was not talking about recording a Christmas album. He used a different metaphor when he said that Christ’s church is a body functioning beautifully and in harmony when each “member” of the body is submitted to the Head (Christ).

I pray that, because lots of folks worked very well together, the music we’ve recorded is a blessing to many and that God’s joy fills every note. I know for sure that when Christ’s people, his church, honor him and use the gifts he has empowered in each, the result is beautiful indeed.

Forgive me, but I’m already wanting some beautiful snow!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! It does have new pics and sample tracks from the Christmas CD!

 
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.


The “Pop of Death” and Finding God’s Instructions

 

I started writing this two weeks ago, hoping that before I finished it, I’d know the end of the story. tvrepair

It was a Sunday afternoon. That means the dog and I had an appointment for a nap, but man’s best friend was away visiting other family and friends, including her real owner, so I had carried on by myself and, still somewhat in a post-nap fog (a surreal state not to be confused with prayer or holiness), was working a little on the computer.

The television had been on. Earplugs, handy little things I usually carry with me for moments when life needs to be improved by silence, had worked well during the nap. But now I was listening and watching a little, a bit hooked by the show featuring people neither my wife nor I much liked doing stuff neither of us much cared about. (Pretty much a definition of TV these days.)

Not much else in television’s wasteland was much better, but as another episode was cranking up, I retreated to the kitchen bar to keep on playing with some work.

Some minutes later, I heard a distinct POP! And my beloved exclaimed, “Uh oh! I think the TV just died.” To which I injudiciously replied, “Good.”

I think she scowled at me. I know I would have scowled at me. But I did a little more of what I was doing, drank in a little silence, and then “Googled” the brand of our TV and “pop.” That returned a ton of hits featuring the phrase “pop of death.” This was not encouraging.

Long story short, I kept searching the Web for diagnosis and “how-to” notes. (If YouTube has a good video on it, I’d be willing to try performing a simple appendectomy on someone I’m not particularly attached to, should the need arise. (Come to think of it, with the coming health law tsunami, that may be . . .)

I found good instructions, got help lugging the now-dimmed household idol off its exalted altar, took out thirty screws, detached some ribbon cables, removed the “main board,” ordered a new one from eBay, and pulled down from an upstairs bedroom a postage stamp-sized temporary TV replacement. And waited.

I’m thankful for good instructions. I’m grateful for the experience of others who’ve already sailed down waters I’m trying to navigate. And, though my kids make fun of me for heading straight to the Internet whenever the computer glitches, the dog eats chocolate, my tooth comes uncrowned, etc., I’m thankful that information is easily available. Why wouldn’t I search for it and use it?

By the way, if you want to gain access to our Creator’s wisdom, you know a great place to go, right? On your table, in your pocket, or on the Internet, it’s called the Bible. Every page points to the Son through whom this world derives meaning and purpose and hope. Its words point to the Word.

I spent several days wondering if that new main board would work once it showed up and I put it in. It did. You never have to wonder about God’s promises. They always work. And the warranty never expires.

 

   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.


“Your Identity Remains Unchanged”

 

cup-grandkids

An e-mail subject line just caught me by surprise: “Your identity remains unchanged.”

Really? I guess that’s good to know. I’ve wondered.

How much does a person’s identity change over the years? How much of who we really are is changed simply by the accumulation of years and experience? How much of our genuine identity is changed just by making the journey across life’s mountaintops and through its valleys, as we’re lifted up by deep joys and disheartened by deep sorrows? How much is just rubbed down or polished smooth by the day-to-day relentless tumbling of the sand grains of the years? What’s eroded and lost? What’s brightened and beautified? What will be left and how will it have been changed?

How much of what makes me “me” changes not much at all? How much would be almost unrecognizable to someone who knew the long-ago “me”?

I just picked up my coffee mug. (I’m not so foolhardy as to try to write without coffee.) Looking at my grandkids’ sweet photo on that cup, I fervently want to believe—I do pray—that the sweetness of those spirits, the pure laughter, and the sparkle in the eyes, will still be there when the years have piled up and they’re playing with their own grandkids and savoring sweet smiles and laughter and joy, and when they’re praying the prayer I pray right now that the kernel of that beauty and joy is something that grows and deepens over the years and never becomes lost or twisted or marred.

We are not our bodies, even though we have them. Yet even the ways our physical bodies change, but remain the same, is mind-boggling. As others have eloquently noted, our bodies are like waterfalls. The cells that make them are always changing, but the DNA inside ensures that though we’re changed by age and the cells we have are not the ones we started with, we have the “same” bodies. Amazing.

How much more mysterious is the soul, the part of each of us that makes us unique creations of God? As a Christian, I believe that God’s Spirit living inside us as we’re submitted to Him, continually cleanses our spirits, renews us, re-makes us, refreshes us, re-creates us into the persons He would have us be. And in mystery and in joy, as He molds us ever more deeply into His image, we become increasingly our truest “selves.”

I have far more questions than answers here. But I think the answer, deeply mysterious and filled with joy, is that for me to become more fully the self God made me to be is to find my identity in the One whose identity never changes.

By the way, that e-mail note was from a company supposed to keep me safe from identity theft. I now see that it said, “Your identity information is unchanged.”

If what I’ve just written is true, the worst identity thief is not a human one. And the Creator and Protector of my true identity is Divine.

 

    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.


Some “Pre-tripulation” and Post-vacation Thoughts

 

Coming home after vacation is “the agony and the ecstasy.” hummingbird 01

I’ve heard of folks who always come home renewed, and, in some fine ways, that is surely true of us. That’s the “ecstasy.”

On the other hand, as much as I love home (immensely!) and love the fact that being home means being back close to family and friends, am I the only one who, as the mountains recede in the rear view mirror, finds that sight and loss of altitude a little depressing?

Getting back into the swim of things has a little “agony” about it, but we do, and we find that we’ve come home with a little more perspective and some new energy. As truly good as it was to go, it’s also truly good to be back.

When I’m in what my younger brother calls the “pre-tripulation,” exhausting myself so I can take off and be “renewed,” I remember the words of the amazing Zig Ziglar. He gave a great speech about living every week as if it were the week before vacation. If we got that much done during “ordinary” weeks, wow!

Ya gotta love Zig, and I miss him, but he forgot to say that, if we all worked that hard all the time, most of us would die early, go insane, or drive everyone around us crazy! It’s a pace we weren’t designed for. Still, Zig’s right, and we can learn something from that week.

But some fine lessons also show up during the blessed event itself!

Your life is not all about your work. If it is, even if it’s great work, it’s a poor life. I learned last week that even hyperactive hummingbirds stop and sit more than I realized. I don’t know what they think while they’re sitting, but I do know that incredibly little thinking ever takes place among my own species if we never stop.

I hope that on your time away, you consciously try to shelve not only your duties (they’ll be there when you get back) but also a good many of your worries and concerns (they’ll be there when you get back). You’ll deal with them better if you don’t deal with them always.

When you get home, be careful which ones you strap on again. Ask for God’s help and wisdom to know which ones you need to work on, and which ones you can’t change anyway and need to leave with him. You’ll need his help with that, but this is, after all, his prescription (“Take no anxious thought for the morrow”), and it’s help he has already promised to give. “Cast your cares upon him.”

At 9,500 feet or so, I noticed again how brilliant the stars are. Old Job called the Pleiades and Orion by name. And the psalmist wrote about the stars. I don’t know what he worried about, but he derived comfort from looking up at them. God has kept those same stars burning all this time.

The psalmist’s cares fizzled out long ago. So will yours and mine. But from the other side of God’s starry canvas, we’ll still be wrapped and enfolded in the arms of the One who flung the stars across the sky.

I think about that kind of thing more when I’m away. I need to think of it more when I’m home.

 

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.


Some High Country Lessons for the Journey

 

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Mountain people or lake people. Most people (except the few ambi-altitude, as in “ambidextrous,” folks I know) are mostly either one or the other. Wherever they live, if given half a chance, they’ll tend to gravitate toward one or the other.

I love the beauty from both directions, but it’s the mountains for me (and I get streams and mountain lakes tossed into the bargain). My wife and I started this week as I was preaching and singing at a wonderful community church in the mountains at Red River, New Mexico. What a start!

I’ve been singing Christmas songs all year (the Christmas album comes out this month!), so even though it’s barely September, I’m already in a mountain snow mood. (I always am! “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”) My favorite time of year is when our family heads to Red River for a few days of high country laughing, skiing, playing, soaking in beauty, and enjoying snow-time together. The someone who said that nothing in nature is more beautiful than snow is someone who is right.

So I’m sitting here now in Red River with a noon deadline for this column, and I’m thinking about . . . let me see . . . snow! As long as I’m thinking about it, may I share, in no special order, some lessons all wrapped up in the mountain white stuff?

1) In life, it’s important to ski the part of the mountain you’re on. We all get tired sometimes and scared. But wasting time staring down a steep hill helps not at all. You can’t ski the whole slope at once, and you don’t have to. Don’t try. Jesus put it this way: “Take no anxious thought for the morrow.”

2) Everybody falls sometimes, but falls are rarely fatal, even though they may hurt. Since Jesus took the fall for us all, grace wins the day!

3) When you fall, get up, and when someone offers to help you, let them! Jesus not only has offered, he wants to live in you, giving you resurrection power to go on.

4) The journey is better when shared. Scores of elk are more beautiful when you see them with people you love. Feeding ducks on a mountain pond is better with grandkids. Sliding down snow is more fun together. Riding up the slope is better together. Even falling hurts less when you hear the laughter of someone you love who’s seen you bite the mountain but they know you’re okay. Count on dinner being more entertaining as the story of your crash is retold! The church, by the way, is God’s people making the journey together.

5) Mountains don’t just happen. Someone amazing created the beauty of the hills, the joy of the falling snow. (I can hardly imagine the “faith” it must take to believe otherwise.)

6) If it’s genuine joy, it’s God’s joy. The view from the mountaintop. Grandkids’ smiles. God’s well never runs dry. He delights in giving it away.

The psalmist cast his vote long ago: “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills!” Me, too! And to the God who made them.

 
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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