Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Wise Answer to a Thought-provoking Question

Surely everyone who spent much time growing up in the western world in the 20th century knows a universal law which is almost as time-tested as the Law of Gravity. It is this: Thou shalt not throw out old National Geographic magazines. Doing so may not be illegal; it is just not something that civilized people of good upbringing would ever do.

In fact, I can’t remember who I heard propounding this theory—maybe a leading scientist like Garrison Keillor—but I think it explains rising waters and land subsidence at our coastlines far better than global warming. The theory is that the oceans are not rising at all; the continents are slowly sinking due to the weight of all the National Geographics stored in people’s garages.

The garage is where I’d go as a kid to read when I got bored and was fresh out of Sugar Creek Gang books. That’s where the old National Geographics were.

Right beside them were shelves of old Reader’s Digests. Anyone who would throw a stack of RD’s away might not be as depraved as a person who’d throw away National Geographics, but I still wouldn’t trust such a person with small children.

I’m well aware that Reader’s Digest is not recognized far and wide as our culture’s most respected repository for fine literature. But what do I know? I’m an old English major. And you may read that however you wish. It might mean that I’m well on the way to being old. It might also mean that I much prefer English literature that’s stood the test of time and been around for a long time. It might even mean that my literary tastes are so ancient that I still much prefer poems that rhyme.

But whatever his or her tastes in literature, anyone who is too high brow to enjoy a run through Reader’s Digest’s “Laughter, the Best Medicine” is too full of themselves.

That’s very likely the RD feature I was aiming at when, a few years ago, I ran across an article entitled, “Answered! Life’s 25 Toughest Questions,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas who writes their “Ask Laskas” column. And I really liked her answer to this question: “Do you have to love your job?”

Part of her answer: “No. Love your children, your spouse and your country. Love your parents, your neighbor and your dog. Loving is too important an emotion to attach to the way you make a living. But it’s OK to strive for satisfaction.” And according to her research, a majority of folks do find job satisfaction, which is nice to know.

In my list, I’d put “Love the Lord” first, and I’d add, Love your church.” But I like what she says. And she made me think a little.

Christians are supposed to do a good job at work, working “as unto the Lord.” But that does not mean approaching our work as if it was our Lord.

When you work, work well. I do hope you really like your work. But don’t forget to go home. The folks there are worth your love.

 

      You’re invite to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 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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A Storage Philosophy for Garages, Closets, and Hard Drives

“I might need that.”

Step into my garage, my office, my shed, or my closet, and you’ll quickly discover that those four simple words are the guiding philosophy of most of my life and all of the spaces I occupy.

Those four words are the reason I’m convinced that the best rental property imaginable these days is not made up of lots and houses folks have acquired to rent to other folks to live in. No. The best rental property is not designed for human habitation at all; it’s built for people to use to store the stuff that’s about to literally bury them in the habitation in which they do live. My facility would be called “Because You Might Need That” Storage.

That popular philosophy/disease being what it is, people will clean out a garage or a spare room or an office, and then decide to rent storage space for a couple of months until they have time to go through all the junk.

A year later, of course, the stuff’s still stored, and the meter’s still running. Later still, the heirs of the original packrats will likely be on Social Security before they find time to don hazmat suits and dig through the archaeological waste accumulated by their progenitors. More than likely, they’ll then open the door, take one look at the detritus, and decide to pay the rental fee for a couple more months until they psych themselves up to tackle the mountainous mess. An eye-blink later, it’s a year later. The meter is still running.

All of this points to the fact that most of us have way too much stuff, a large percentage of which should have long ago been labelled “garbage” and relegated to a landfill. But we don’t toss it; we store it. Why? Repeat the four words.

A glance at my computer’s “desktop” will confirm that those four words also constitute my digital philosophy. I’ve got a new computer arriving in a few days, so I’ve been deleting old files and programs. I still need to find time to look through a file labelled “Old Files” that I created and moved from the computer that preceded this one five-and-a-half years ago. What I’ll probably do is start off digitally packing and tossing, and then I’ll mutter, sigh, and create a new folder called, maybe, “Old Files 2.” It’s the equivalent of packing one room at your old house, throwing up your hands, and then just letting the professional movers pack it all, trash still in your waste baskets, moving everything, garbage and all, to the new one. You can always sort through it later, right? And who knows? [Insert the four-word mantra here.]

I’ve found a program and a cable that promise to seamlessly move everything from the old machine to the new one, all settings intact. Is that a blessing or a curse? I really should make some decisions about which forty of the forty-five pictures of our five-year-old grandson’s first birthday that I keep. But, sure as the world, if I delete five, I’m afraid that I’ll wake up and realize, well, you know. So I just ordered a massive hard drive (so I can pack the trash cans, too). More storage. That’s the ticket.

No wonder Jesus warns, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where old hard drives crash and new operating systems corrupt” (Matthew  6:19, mostly).

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“I Wish My Smart Phones Were a Little Smarter”

I wish my phones were a little smarter—both the smart phone that lives in my pocket and is too often screwed into my ear, and the landline phone whose cordless babies are strewn all over our house.

Both phones are pretty amazing. The one in my pocket will do math calculations, connect to the Internet, check my email, give me compass headings and altitude, show me star constellations and planet positions, scan barcodes and QR codes, analyze Wi-Fi signals, take and edit pictures, and serve as a remote control for my television.

It will let me shop on Amazon, read Kindle books, listen to Audible audio books, serve as a GPS, play movies (sad as the little screen is for a big screen flick), keep ten tons of contact info, help me keep in touch with social media (if I’m dumb or addicted enough to want to be more in touch with the foolishness on social media than I already am), keep memos for me, play music (pretty underwhelming on its teeninsy speaker), serve as a dictionary for me to look up words like “teeninsy,” help me check snow depth and quality at selected ski areas, serve as an electronic Bible with about 1,045 versions, and hook me up with daily Scriptures and prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.

That phone will take my pulse and blood pressure (I think it’s mostly guessing at the latter), scan documents (fairly poorly), serve as a virtual reality computer (with goggles attached), become a flashlight, keep my calendar, schedule, and project times, become a small whiteboard, morph into a metronome, make a stab at helping me write songs, keep photos and records of business and other receipts, record voices, give me the weather, identify birds and plants (pretty poorly), give me guitar chords, tune my guitar, let me play a staggering variety of games from flying F16s to shooting turkeys and birds with bad attitudes, and even “flip a coin” for me (a “decision roulette wheel”) if my wife and I or a grandchild or two are having a hard time picking a restaurant.

If I let it, it will also do me the questionable service of being sure I’m never fully present at a family meal or gathering because I’m playing with my electronic tether and phubbing (phone snubbing) the flesh-and-blood folks in my vicinity.

My smartest phone is smart, for sure; if I were smarter, maybe I could figure out if I own it or if it owns me. Smart or not, it or its owner often displays shockingly bad manners and almost no discipline at all.

It won’t yet brush my teeth, install piercings, or remove tattoos (surely the hottest dermatological business opportunity on the horizon). It talks too much, but it is nonetheless pretty darn smart.

Oh, and it will also make and receive calls and texts. Even some that matter.

But, I repeat, my phones need to be smarter. I live on the edge. I mean, on the edge of a time zone and border. I’ve found the right settings, but they won’t stay set: my smart phone is not smart enough to remember what time zone it lives in. And now my new cordless landline phone is having the same dumb problem.

In the midst of all of this smart technology, the most amazing avenue of communication is not just smart, it’s also wise, and it’s universally available and completely free with a great signal.

It’s called prayer.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Good Hearts Have Room for Lots of Good Songs

 

I keep thinking that the folks up, way up, at the Red River Community House (Red River, New Mexico, elevation 8,650 feet) will one day wise up and get tired of us, but they haven’t yet. So this Sunday morning my wife and I were at RRCH on yet another of a nice string of Labor Day/Red River weekends.

I helped lead worship at the Community House this morning, and I’ll be singing a concert there this evening featuring some of the great old “American Songbook” songs,” the ones lots of us have in our memories resonating with the velvet tones of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, and on we could go. And on we do go as those sweet tunes live on.

I’m not sure how sweet my tones will be, but not much is better than getting to croon a tune when your lungs are filled with crisp mountain air, your heart is uplifted by the smiles of friends and warm music, and everyone there is being enfolded into the loving embrace of the sturdy log timbers of a building that’s been a community treasure since it opened in 1940.

Count on it, the open rafters at the Community House have heard these tunes many times before. Come to think of it, at least two of the songs I’ll sing tonight were top hits at some point during the 40s, and most were still favorites.

“For Sentimental Reasons” is a great song—even better, I think, when paired with Nat King Cole, who is pretty much always my favorite. (Tonight I’ll definitely be singing one of his signature songs, “Unforgettable,” though Irving Gordon didn’t write it until 1951. Had Gordon gone with his “working title,” which was both bad English and a bad title, I doubt we’d be singing, “Uncomparable.” But as it is, wow!).

“I’ll Be Seeing You” is another of the 40s tunes. It’s a romantic melody for sure, but it became a love song not just for lovers but for parents and families and siblings and anyone sending a loved one off to war and to an unknown future in terribly difficult and uncertain times. The quintessential song of World War II, this love song was almost a whispered prayer, too, and often accompanied by tears.

I was singing some of these sweet songs at a retirement home several years ago when a dear lady approached me to say, “I remember going to New York City to be reunited with my husband who’d been sent back to the States on a hospital ship. Together again, we danced to those songs.”

It would be a compliment of the highest order if a dance broke out tonight (as has happened many times before at the Community House) and some members of that “greatest generation” were leading out. For so many years, they led us so well.

A bridal shower is being held at the Community House right now. A new life-song is evidently being written. In a couple of hours, we’ll be there sharing some old songs. I like that.

New lives and old lives. Old songs and new songs. My grandkids are bringing in some great new ones, and they also really like some of the songs PawPaw sings, too. Good hearts have room for lots of good songs, old and new.

That’s what “community” is about, right? Sharing what is precious.

Starting this day off at the Community House with Christians of all sorts praising the God of us all. Ending the day there with more sweet songs.

I call that precious indeed.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 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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