Monthly Archives: August 2014

“Your Call Is Very Important To Us”


“The Nine Circles of Customer Service Hell.” That’s an article by Jay Steinfield, CEO of, who, with apologies to Dante and his original “nine circles of . . .” asked the question for phone-holding customers everywhere: “Your customers are the cornerstone of your success. So why offend them?”

I had time to scan the article as I was stuck in Hades in what Steinfield calls the third circle: “Hold, hold, hold.” After three tries, I’d made it past the “never-ending voice mail phone tree” (the first circle) and had my account number ready (second circle: repeat same number three times).

I had my recorder ready. When they said, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes,” I’d respond, “It not only might be recorded, Bucko, it IS being recorded. Feel free to record on your end, too.” For the quality of this column, I wanted to record the idiocy.

I was told that the wait time for the next “Customer Service Specialist” would be 6-10 minutes. Wondering if more special specialists would be especially faster, I almost hung up. But my curiosity trumped six minutes of annoying music. I was thanked for my (nonexistent) patience and was surprised not to hear the cheery voice give the usual lie: “Your call is very important to us.”

No, it’s not. If it was, you’d be darn sure a human, and one of your best and happiest and most proficient ones, always answered your company’s phone and put your best foot forward.Always. Can’t afford to? Really? Can you afford not to?

The company that had me basting on the hook in the third circle is not a real company that has to care about real customers and worry about really going out of business. They’re a governmentally-created “authority” crammed full of bureaucrats and minions.

If you have a toll road, somebody has to collect tolls. And some folks have to live and work where tolls are regularly collected. I’m sorry. And I’m glad I don’t.

I got a bill for $2.86 a few weeks ago. $1.43 to get on. $1.43 to get off. I’d not been in that city for months, maybe years. But my license plate (at least) was there for about ten minutes. Two years ago. The ancient bill came in an envelope proclaiming, “Prompt Payment Required.” Bureaucratic humor? No such thing.

It’s what we’ve come to expect, but it always surprises me. A real business with customers with a real choice would go broke, and a better business would fill its place. But no.

I’m paying the $2.86. Plus $10 for being a month slow while I laughed at them for being two years slow.

When I finally did get a human on the line, I just said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I felt sorry for her, a really nice kid. She explained the software change that now makes it possible to go back and bill visitors like me infinitesimal amounts for old travel. She could have said, “I work for idiots who spend fortunes for PR and image consultants and shoot themselves in the foot for $2.86 a pop as they tick off non-customer customers.”

In God’s kingdom, you can expect better service. Your prayers to our Creator go right to the top. No waiting. Your prayers really are “very important to him” because you are. He’s your Father. Not a bone-headed bureaucrat lost somewhere in the nine circles of . . .


    You’re invited to visit my website at!
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Christians Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

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It’s been a very long time since I sat in a classroom in the Old Main building at Abilene Christian University and listened to Dr. Lemoine Lewis lecture on church history.

Dr. Lewis knew whereof he spoke. Harvard-educated and with more knowledge, wisdom, and experience in the tip of his little finger than I had in my whole body, his eyes sort of glazed over as he began telling stories as if he were seeing pictures from another world, though it wasn’t another world he was seeing at all— just another time and another place so real to him that he made them real to us.

It was like he was there, transported back almost two thousand years. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he had indeed been there and seen those things in person. He had been teaching at ACU since several decades before, when my mother and father had been students there (and Mom was 42 when I was born!).

Dr. Lewis must have graded on the most serious curve those halls of learning ever beheld. I always took pages and pages of notes, trying in vain to jot down names and dates but mostly trying to record the stories he told. When I took his tests, I knew for sure I’d failed miserably, yet somehow I always passed.

His tests scared the bejabbers out of me. But his stories enthralled me. I’ll never forget, for example, Dr. Lewis telling us the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp, a student of the Apostle John, later became Bishop of Smyrna.

Old Polycarp could have saved his own physical life simply (simply?) by denying Christ and swearing allegiance to the Roman Emperor, but, faced with that choice, this was his response: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?” And he died, burned at the stake. As Dr. Lewis told the story, tears rolled down his cheeks.

I’m pretty sure I deserved to fail that class. The grade was a gift. But the best gift Dr. Lewis gave his students was in helping us connect to giants of our faith that we had never known. He inspired me to search for, to long for, more connection with giants across the centuries, and across oceans, and across denominational divides.

We are no smarter than were the ancient followers of Christ and certainly no more faithful. Only chronological snobbery of the worst ecclesiastical sort coupled with vast ignorance would make us think that Christianity has somehow arrived with our generation, or our denomination, or a group of folks fifty years ago, 200 years ago, 10 or 15 centuries ago, or whenever.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. And whether they’re named Paul, or Polycarp, or Martin Luther, or John Wesley, or . . . toss in many lesser known names of folks who’ve blessed you and lifted you up in your faith. Lemoine Lewis would be on my list. And G. B. Shelburne, Jr., and Joe Harbin, and Tom Langford, and Tennie McCormick, I’m so thankful for the way God has blessed us with their lives and their stories.


     You’re invited to visit my website at!



Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“Hi, I’m Curtis, and I’m a Worry-holic”

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“Hi, I’m Curtis, and I’m a worry-holic.”

That’s the way I’d introduce myself at a Twelve Step program for worriers and anxiety addicts. And maybe there are some. Programs for worriers, I mean. I should check on this.

But come to think of it, I’m already involved in one. It’s called the church. Not everyone there is a worrier, but more than a few fit the bill. People just like me who wage a daily battle with worry and are as prone to reach for it as an alcoholic is to reach for a bottle when the stress piles up. Or when the sun comes up.

We read the Apostle Paul’s command, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6), but we botch it so often that we’re tempted to despair. We worry about worrying.

For some of us, it would be real progress if we could say with Charlie Brown, “I’ve adopted a new philosophy: I only dread one day at a time.”

Like many alcoholics, I seem every now and then to make a good stab at success. For a few days (or minutes), I can almost follow that divine injunction: “Have no anxiety about anything . . . .” I’m best at it when I’m asleep, or, this works for me, when I’m singing.

Sometimes I think it might even be more than half true to say that, as I’m getting older, maybe in some areas I’m learning, by God’s grace, to deal with worry at least a little better than I once did. Maybe I’m seeing a little improvement. (But count the “maybe’s.”)

Then too often I seem to wake up wallowing in worry, and any idea of slight progress melts like morning dew. It was mostly an illusion. And, yet again, I can’t believe what a poor showing I’ve made, that once again I’m a casualty in the war with worry.

Pick any front in the war. Satan can lob anxiety missiles our way from any number of directions.

Finances. Groceries and gas, your “out-go,” are going up at a rate steadily ahead of your income.

Marriage. Mars and Venus sometimes wobble in their orbits. Collisions, almost cosmic for some folks, can happen.

Work. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it. You love it. You hate it. You . . . worry about it.

Parenthood. Count on it: the anxieties popping up in this most fertile field for worry are perennials.

Health. The doc says you must de-stress, a prescription guaranteed to immediately add significantly to your stress.

But Jesus seems serious about it when he says, “Do not worry about your life” (Matt. 6:24a).

The Apostle Paul not only commands, “Don’t be anxious,” he says, “Pray!” And he adds a great promise: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God’s promised peace, the real thing and not our feeble attempts at calm, is exactly the strong “guard” lots of us need in the battle. Each day. Each moment.


         You’re invited to visit my website at!

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Singing in the Rain”? No! Singing in a Sandstorm!


April 27, 2014. I’m no good with dates, but I’ll remember that one.

The big event tied to the date was in Lubbock, Texas. Since I live in Texas—“a whole other country”—and not a polite little itty bitty “state-let” where you can reach out your arms and touch two state lines, and since I live only seventy miles away from Lubbock, I make that trip a bunch.

But I was headed into Lubbock from the east, which is unusual. Been singing in Abilene and enjoying old friends and family there.

I also remember the day’s color—a really nasty brown. Were it not for the wind in this area, I think our climate would be just about perfect. Come to think of it, even some wind by itself isn’t all that objectionable. But we don’t have it by itself. We have it with dirt in it. Highly objectionable. And I don’t remember a worse dust storm than the one gripping and gritting us that Sunday.

The closer we got to Lubbock, the more faith it took to imagine a city on the horizon. We could barely see the brake lights right in front of us—brake lights getting closer. slowing, moving off to the side of the road, even stopping.

I was NOT stopping. I had no desire to lure an eighteen-wheeler up our mini-van’s tailpipe. So we eked, oozed, lurched, crawled on. Finally, we made it through the worst of the airborne dirt and into a dreary dirt-assaulted Lubbock.

We drove to my brother’s house so I could put on a white shirt (instantly turning the collar brown) and a black suit. I needed to look a little more like a singer from the 50s or 60s, which shouldn’t have been hard for a 1957 model guy.

We headed over to a Lubbock treasure, the Cactus Theater, so I could practice crooning a couple of tunes—one Nat King Cole and one Tony Bennett, believe it or not—with the band.

Those guys are amazing. Nat and Tony, yes, but I mean the band. No doubt in my mind that if anybody messed up, it would be the crooner. Don Caldwell, owner of the Cactus, put a bow on things with a great sax solo during “The Way You Look Tonight.”

The sandblasted but courageous crowd was a bit short, but I felt button-bustin’ proud to be “working” (if you can call that work) with folks who would put on the same great show for a handful or a packed-house-full.

And I got to sign the wall. Yep! Backstage. In black marker. Note to self: If you ever get to sign another backstage wall, write a little bigger.

For me it was a fun and memorable April evening—brown or not. And I’m reminded yet again simply to be thankful to the One who is the Source of the real music of our lives as he leads us on our journeys down lots of roads we never expected to travel to places we never expected to get to see.

I wonder if in heaven you get to sign your name backstage? We’re certainly told about a very important Book, and you definitely want your name there. But our Lord’s the One doing the writing.


      You’re invited to visit my website at! (Come to think of it, you’ll find there a little sample of the song mentioned above.)


Copyright 2014 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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