Monthly Archives: February 2020

“I Love You for Sentimental Reasons . . .”

“I love you for sentimental reasons . . .”

Yes, indeed, and I love singing that sweet old song and so many more of the “Great American Songbook” songs, songs like “It Had to Be You,” “The Very Thought of You,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and my favorite of all, “Unforgettable” (unforgettably rendered by Nat King Cole in tones of velvet).

Old songs for sure. In order, above—1945, 1924, 1934, 1936, and 1951.

I love them so much that I went to Nashville to get some unforgettable musicians to record some world-class tracks, record a little myself, and make some music, not least because I want my grandkids to learn a little about this legacy of sweet music that is theirs, too.

Add this to the other projects I’ve recorded, and my grandkids will probably have plenty of cupcake platters, small Frisbees, and leaky saucers once I’m gone. Their imaginations are the only limits for the way those things could be used. But it’s been worth it. All told, I’ve sold a few thousand and hope to sell a few more. No gold or platinum records. But I’ve supported my music habit, done a few hundred program/concerts, and loved it!

All to say . . .

I like to sing anytime. “Christian” music (more about that in a minute). Christmas music (let it snow!). Even a song or two that walk a bit on the “country” side. (That was a surprise.) And more.

But I’ll confess that the biggest surprise to me has been singing these sweet old American classic “luuuuv” songs. If anybody had told me ten years ago that a couple of weeks ago I’d be singing such songs for a good-sized group of nice folks at a Valentine’s Banquet at a Baptist church in San Angelo, I’d have laughed and maybe burst into song. Something on the order of “The Very Thought of THAT”!

I’ve been a little surprised to find that the time right around Valentine’s Day would have been much on my radar at all. Just ask my wife. But it is! And the music, and the nice folks who enjoy it, have been the reason.

For sure, at a banquet such as that one (it was so much fun!), I’ll sing a song or a few specifically about the best love of all, a song with words about God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s best gift.

But here’s a principle I hope we always remember.

All real truth is God’s truth. All genuine beauty is God’s beauty. All that really is truly good comes from the Father. If it’s genuinely good, joyful, and loving, it’s God’s, and we should thank him for it.

These truths are worth pondering and discussing as the ripples from this basic reality reach out into the whole “pond.” Even into some old songs.

I know, the songs I chose to record are “syrup-py” by design. Nightingales sing. Moonglow brings on swoons. Hearts go pitter-patter. Throw in a saxophone, and you’ll slide right out of your seat. And it’s all fun and built into the DNA of the genre. I savvy “poetic license.” (I admit that a couple of songs I looked at and chose not to record had lyrics that I just thought were a little “over the top.” Syrup has its place; “love as a god,” though . . .)

But “Christian” music (and art and literature, etc.) is not just music with religious-sounding words—or even any words at all; it’s music that moves our souls, lifts us (to gratitude, laughter, tears), washes over us with beauty, taps (often poignantly) into what is deeply joyful, sorrowful, lovely. It touches our souls. And sometimes, it just delights us with a few sweet measures of fun. All of this honors the Artist who is the real Source of all beauty.

For sure, when the time is right, let’s sing “Amazing Grace.” Let’s play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” And, yes, let’s smile, our beloved’s hand in ours, as we hum, “Unforgettable.” And let’s not forget to give God thanks for them all.

 

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

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Reality Is Hard, But Denying Reality Is Harder

Dealing with reality can be hard, but it’s better than the alternative which looks easy and turns out to be much harder.

In Jesus’ famous parable of “The Two Builders,” he talks about two gents who both did the hard work of building houses. Yes, but only one, the “wise builder,” did the harder work of building his on the right foundation, one of rock; the “foolish builder” built on sand. Both houses looked fine—until “the rain came down, the streams came up, and the winds blew and beat against” those houses. The house built on rock stood the test; the house built on sand fell with a great crash. The moral of the story: don’t build a house in California anywhere near mud, fire, or flood!

No. The moral of the story, Jesus tells us, is that a life built on the truth of his words (he’s just finishing his “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew 5-7) will be a strong life that will stand even in the midst of great trial.

Storms eventually assail us all. When they come, we discover the truth about the quality of our foundations. Was laying the foundation quick, cheap, and easy? Okay. Until the storm comes and, unable to stand the test, what we built falls quickly. The collapse is expensive and may even be fatal. Nothing about the crash is easy.

If only we’d listened! If only we’d invested in reality, built on truth, trusted the One who built this whole universe and tells us the truth about living in it in a way that is fulfilling and “successful” in the deepest sense.

Reality is hard. But denying it is ultimately much harder.

I once spent a little time—it felt like hours—a fathom or a few under a Grade 5 rapid called “Silverback” in the Nile River, near Jinja, Uganda. Among several problems one encounters after having parted company with a perfectly good raft and being cast into the depths is, literally, not knowing which way is up. The Nile neither knows nor cares about how you feel about that stark question, but this much is sure: not all answers are equally correct. Only one squares with reality. In this situation, the very sensible rule is that you not to try to swim toward the surface. Instead, you relax and trust the reality of two of this world’s unbreakable laws: the laws of gravity and of buoyancy. They are real and strong and your life jacket, obeying them, will invariably propel you upward if you’ll be still. Underwater in the Nile is not at all a good place to try to beat or deny the reality of the laws of physics.

It’s no skin off the “nose” of the law of gravity if we choose to ignore its reality, but it may be more than a little skin off of ours. Beliefs have consequences.

I once asked a class of smart kids this question: Does everyone have a right to his/her own beliefs? Of course, they answered, “Yes!” resoundingly.

Then I asked a follow-up question: “Is every belief of equal value?”

That’s when the class got interesting. No matter how undemocratic or unpopular it might be, the obvious answer is “no.”

Every person in this world is of immense value to our Creator, no matter his/her belief. But beliefs that are based on what squares with reality are, by their very nature, worth more than beliefs that fly in the face of reality.

C. S. Lewis once opined that we’d raised a generation too “mentally modest” to believe the multiplication tables.

And a few generations later, we’ve raised some folks who find even the reality of their own chromosomes, which no amount of surgery can truly alter, too confining.

You and I can discuss the various merits of preferring dark over milk chocolate or a blue pickup over a maroon one. You can choose differently than me on such questions and live in this universe quite successfully.

But truth and reality are deeper than tastes or trends. A person who sincerely wants two plus two to equal five is going to need either remedial math or a different universe; he’s not likely to be very happy in this one.

And if we want to live in a place where people who murder, lie, steal, covet, break faith, etc., find real fulfillment and genuine joy, well, wherever that place is, it’s not this world.

When our Creator tells us “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not,” he’s telling us the real truth about successful living in this very real world. He’s pointing us toward foundations that can stand up to reality.

 

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

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


For God’s Kids, the World Is Always Expanding

It’s a good thing when your world expands. When I was a child living at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, my world expanded one sidewalk at a time. My younger brother and I were great adventurers. His mighty steed was a red and white tricycle. Mine was orange and white and slightly larger. All it took to turn the trikes into motorcycles was an index card or two and a couple of clothes pins.

We would ride out from the porch and pedal down to the hill that was the driveway slope to the street. If you did it right, you’d pedal faster than a gerbil chasing his tail on a treadmill and then, just at the top of the slope, you’d lift your feet off the pedals and let gravity hurl you down the slope. And you’d clutch the handlebars hoping to properly negotiate the turn to the sidewalk at the bottom.

Once on the sidewalk, the real adventure began. At first, we were restricted to just the walk in front of the house. Then we were allowed to venture on over to the Harrises on one side and the Roaches on the other. (Roach. It’s sort of a shame that it was the top of their fencepost Jim blew off a few years later when we began to experiment with a chemistry set and branched out to minor explosives. Life is unfair enough to anyone named Roach.)

A little later, we were allowed to pedal on down past the Klaus’s house (Mom & Pop Klaus owned the A & W Root Beer drive-in on 6th Street. Great folks!) and beyond.

Somewhere along the line we added new horses to our stable of rides. Lee Meadows, a really nice gentleman who worked at the old Northwest Texas Hospital (where Jim and I were both born), donated to the cause an old four-wheeled frame that probably came off the bottom of a hospital meal cart. We laid plywood on the top and learned to spin it for some serious centrifugal excitement as we launched down the hill.

Skates were fun, too. At first, they were the kind you stuck to your street shoes using a skate key (which was always lost). Then we pirated the wheels from old skates, nailed them to 2 X 4’s, and tried skate-boarding. Those boards were a far cry from today’s immaculately-engineered marvels that seem to barely touch the ground at all. Any pebble would stop our thin steel wheels cold, with unpleasant results.

Then came bikes, and our world began expanding by city blocks and then down and around West Hills Park. And then we were push- or roll-starting an old VW Beetle whose starter was on the fritz.

The rest is history. We’re in our 60s now and our world is still expanding.

What a shame if God’s people fail to explore and serve past four walls, or the city limits, or national borders, or denominational lines, or even time itself. God’s kids are part of a very large Kingdom indeed. How sad if we allow our own sometimes stunted minds to make it seem small when the world itself and time can never truly constrict it.

 

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

     

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


For Real People, Doing Everything Right Is Not a Real Option

A good many folks believe that, if you do everything right, you might live to be well over 100.

Two glaring presuppositions shine forth from this belief. One is that you actually might want to live to be “well over 100.” Not me, thanks.

The other most obvious problem is actually two falsehoods for the price of one—that it’s possible to “do everything right,” and that you will.

Under “doing everything right,” well, there’s a lot to check off. Most folks will tell you to spend a lot of time in physically demanding gerbil activity. (Careful, though, the sleep experts will tell you that if you short your sleep to make excellent time going nowhere on, say, a treadmill, you’re likely hurting yourself more than helping yourself.)

And you can probably forget about drinking any milk that a cow would actually recognize or claim. And definitely forget cheesecake or ribeyes.

Ironically, you may have to spend more time thinking about food—carefully cataloguing what you can’t eat—than the average glutton who just eats everything in sight. (I’m not arguing for either extreme.) Some folks will consider a particularly persnickety approach trendy or cool; probably more of your friends and family will just be driven crazy by it and find trying to eat with you more trouble than it’s worth.

And the lengthy “doing everything right” list goes on.

I readily admit that following a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition is a good thing. Do it, and you’ll likely live longer and better. Get crazy about it and you’ll drive yourself and everyone around you nuts (but this is sure: all concerned will live lives that certainly seem a lot longer, even if they’re not).

Here’s the problem, though. Even if it were possible to “do everything right,” one microbe that didn’t get the memo, one weak blood vessel, one errant gene first passed on by your great-great-grandfather, can quickly mess up your plan.

Ah, and what about folks who are sure that they can “do everything right” morally? I think I worry about them even more.

This example is extreme, but I laughed when I read this in Dave Shiflett’s Wall Street Journal review of Mark Stein’s book The Presidential Fringe: “Leonard Jones, standard-bearer for the High Moral Party from 1848 to 1868, promised voters that they would never die if they would live a faithful and fully moral life. He was apparently a good man, but when his time came he croaked like a toad.” That must have been embarrassing.

I vote for living a moral life. Defy any of the Ten Commandments often enough, and you’ll end up in pain with lots of bruises far more serious than even the ones people get by trying to defy the law of gravity. You’ll bless yourself and many others by heeding the words of our Creator. But if you think you follow them perfectly, you’ll bless the rest of us best by staying far away.

Some of the best wisdom God gave us came through the Apostle Paul in this straight truth about how crooked we all are: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). And so, because we all need saving, and nobody gets life right, the apostle goes on to say, God sent his Son, our Savior.

Focusing on ourselves is a treadmill approach to life. (It’s actually idolatry.) Focusing on Him means finding genuine freedom and joy, finding our best selves by getting out of ourselves.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


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