Tag Archives: Christ

“It’s Almost Never Wise to Trust a Mob”

Mobs. I never have cared much for them.

Personality—mine, that is—explains part of this. I’m not particularly freaked out by large crowds, I just don’t enjoy them and am happy to avoid them. It’s not a phobia. (“Enochlophobia” is “fear of crowds,” I’m told.) It’s a dislike.

I don’t enjoy what often seems mindless and is most certainly loud, and those two features tend to cluster around big crowds like flies around a dung heap. Peace is good. Quiet is precious. And the sounds we choose to fill our lives with (when we have a choice; we often don’t) should be an improvement over silence. (I wonder about a society that is afraid of silence, but that’s another subject.)

We’re told repeatedly in Scripture that Jesus often went out by himself to pray. Even God’s Son needed some time away from the ever-present and always needy crowds, which leads me to think that we might need some, too.

I like the music metaphor. Notes only have meaning and beauty because of the space between them.

To have something to say when we speak, we need some quiet time when we don’t have to speak. To be able to nurture others, we need souls able to go deep and fill up in the quiet. To pray. To read. To think. To breathe.

The time will come soon enough when we’re back in the crowd. Maybe if beforehand we’re still and quiet enough, we’ll have something worth sharing and a soul God-built strong enough in the silence to handle the soul-stifling noise that so often assails us.

All to say, crowds can be loud. Ah, but here’s a question for you: what’s the difference between a crowd and a mob? Let’s think quietly for a moment.

Well, not every crowd is a mob. Crowds may be loud; mobs are louder. But mobs are not just particularly loud crowds; they’re not even just mindless, frenzied crowds. (Those are called “fans.” Sorry.)

Mobs are crowds on steroids, including all the side effects. Mobs are loud, fickle, and downright dangerous. You see, even if their “cause” is not an inherently bad one, a mob is much more quickly described as “angry” than a simple crowd might be. “Deep anger” multiplied by “many folks” is gasoline just waiting for a spark.

Granted, it’s not impossible for a mob to begin with some “righteous” indignation. But it easily becomes just indignation and soon slides right on down into anger.

Some mob members are professional complainers and like nothing better than a good riot; they are misbehaving malcontents of the sort our national media loves to spotlight. People with sense who are not spoiled brats or professional victims, folks whose parents raised them to value civility, are in greater supply but are usually a lot quieter and, being generally occupied with worthwhile duties and pursuits, are less likely to be photographed shouting and with fists in the air.

I know. Some protests are worthy. I’m thankful and humbled when people who love freedom raise their voices together courageously to speak truth to Communist thugs or other dictators for whom truth is deadlier than bullets.

But I’m thinking here of mobs of a different sort.

Personally, I’d be slow at present to trust internet mobs, for example, who are careful about social distancing and quarantine but ranting that only fools would open up their states right now. We don’t all live in New York City.

But neither do I trust mobs who are carefully not social distancing, standing side by side, and screaming in front of state capitol buildings, “Open Up Now!” Shouting throws the human brain into neutral.

Of course, mobs are nothing new. Surely, anyone who has read the Gospels has wondered how many of the folks in that famous crowd shouting “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday were the same ones in the mob crying, “Crucify him!” on Friday.

It’s rarely wise to trust a mob. And it’s almost always unwise to join one.

 

     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.


“Judge Not, O Ye Masked or Mask-less Ones!”

“Sheltering in place.”

Just for the record, it might be worth mentioning that “sheltering in place” is what we’re not doing.

Forgive me, please. I am far too much in love with freedom to turn anyone over to the Covid-19 police. I won’t be scowling at you if I meet you pushing your basket the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the supermarket. Besides that, it’ll probably be me swimming upstream; I seem to be clueless when it comes to noticing arrows on floors.

Nor will I cast a masked smirk at you if I see you mask-less behind your cart, becalmed in the aisle, not moving in any direction as you “ponder in place,” wondering whether store brand green beans are as good as Libby’s (pretty much, yes) or generic peanut butter is as tasty as Peter Pan’s (not even close.) In the state where I live, you can still make your own decision about that. Not peanut butter. Masks.

So far, I’ve consistently chosen to take a mask with me every time I’ve gone to the grocery store. And I’ve consistently chosen to keep it in my pocket. Mostly because we’ve had just handful of Covid-19 cases in our county and half a handful have already recovered. I know this could change quickly, and that’s probably a good reason to wear a mask at the store. Would I wear a mask in a store in New York City? Yes, indeed. Would I wear a mask at a store in a much smaller less virus-besieged city if everybody else in the store wore a mask? Probably so. We may not have achieved “herd immunity,” but I’m still part of a herd.

In this strange time, what is a customer saying if he or she walks into a store or church or “essential business” liquor store masked or mask-less (and is not robbing the latter)? I mean, what’s he saying in a city where no laws are in place about masks or, for that matter, whether you can buy a 32-ounce soda?

I don’t know. And neither do you. I think we’d be wise to “judge not, lest ye be judged.” We don’t know if the masked person is sick, medically compromised, careful, neurotic, wise, scared, smart, smug, self-righteous, considerate, “virtue-signaling,” a wonderful and thoughtful human being, a jerk, or a lot older than the unmasked potion of their face looks. And we all know wise medical folks who tell us, “Here’s the evidence thus far, and here’s what I’d recommend.” Resounding Yes? Resounding No? No, not terribly resounding. So mask-wearers and non-mask wearers are usually best advised, I think, to wear some humility. It looks good on us and protects us from an affliction worse than Covid-19 anytime, even as we’re not sheltering in place.

I’m not the English usage police, either. I think I can live with occasionally turning “shelter” into a verb. But “sheltering in place,” as I understand it, actually means to stay in the closet until the bullets quit flying, or not sticking your nose out of the storm shelter until the tornado has flown away and the “all clear” is given. It must be terribly difficult, but you’re not  technically “sheltering in place” even if you’re going stir-crazy staring at your over-priced and claustrophobia-inducing apartment walls in New York City, but still putting on a mask and emerging occasionally for some useful purpose like buying food or just to take a walk to avoid full-blown psychosis.

To borrow a musical metaphor, “sheltering in place” is fortissimo and only a few measures long. “Stay at home” is forte and can seem like forever. And “safer at home,” a nuisance and not a storm shelter, is semi-forte and certainly not normalissimo (don’t look either of those up).

Misuse the term if you want to, but if you start out at -issimo don’t blame me if you want to get a lot louder and have already limited your linguistic options. I promise not to call storm troopers from the EUP (English Usage Police).

I’m about to mask up. Always do when I mow the yard. But, as I write, our county’s Covid-19 cases are passing two handfuls. A mask at the store, even if you don’t intend to rob the place, is making more sense.

But “judge not” makes the best sense of all.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required or even suggested.

 

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


“Our Church Went Back to Church on Sunday”

Our church went back to church on Sunday. Our governor had said that we could, within some Covid-19 guidelines. Our little bunch chose to wait a week longer than required, and, just speaking for me, myself, and I, I’m glad we waited.

One size does not fit all, though we’re all trying to plot a way through this mess. Backseat drivers are already plentiful, and, though toilet paper was hard to come by a few weeks ago, I suspect, once we get a bit past this present pandemic crisis, we will be buried by a surplus of hindsight for years to come.

It seems to me that the top national medical folks we’ve heard from have done very well. I think my state’s governor and the mayors in my area have handled a tough situation admirably.

And so, when we got to the point here that churches were given, not the “all clear,” but the opportunity to meet together again, with precautions in place, we did. We just waited an extra week. I have friends at area churches who met the first Sunday they could. I have friends and colleagues at churches who have needed to wait two weeks. And I have friends and colleagues at other churches in other towns who either can’t resume meetings yet because their churches are too large to effectively follow the guidelines, or they are located in areas where the virus is presently spiking.

What this all means is that, though we’re all dealing with this mess and share plenty of experiences in common, we may be at slightly different points in the journey.

Not second-guessing anybody else at all, I’m glad we waited a week. It took that long to try to figure out how to do, in the midst of a pandemic, this thing that we’ve done every Sunday for decades. And I might as well admit it, spiritual giant that I am, though I’ve really missed worshiping together, I knew we’d be “back” eventually, and I didn’t mind recording one more Sunday service on a Thursday night and having one more sort of two-Saturday weekend. (Am I really just a barely housebroken pagan at heart? Probably so. If you’re surprised, you obviously don’t know me.) I know God wants his people to meet for worship. I know we need it. And I love it. But if my Father minds me filing as “a little bit of a blessing in the mess” a few Sunday mornings of genuinely quiet rest, well, I’d be very surprised. (In fact, I now think I’d lobby for a once ever seven-year Jubilee year, an Old Testament allusion, where we had seven Sundays of total Sabbath rest.)

Being “back” would be good, I knew, but I also knew it would be a bit weird. Enough masks for a bank robber/burglars’ convention. An odd inclination to want to remove somebody’s appendix. And, if we took any liberties, expecting the Covid-19 police to show up with tape measures and super glue or staple guns to permanently mask us up, even in a county with, so far, less than a handful of confirmed cases. And, yes, I know we need to be wise, even if being wise may feel a bit silly. We don’t want more cases, and we’ll probably have more, like it or not, so, yes, we need to be careful.

I’ll be interested in comparing notes with others who have or soon will go back to church. Not everything felt silly.

Some of the changes made us think more about what a blessing it was simply to be together. We thought more than usual about each member’s special place at the Table and in the Body—both those who were there and those who weren’t yet. We lingered on the front lawn visiting and laughing (and desperately wanting to hug).

What was the same as it had always been seemed somehow more precious. What was altered seemed more deeply filled with meaning.

We’re enjoined by the Apostle Paul to “discern the body.” Maybe we did. Maybe more than ever on Sunday. His Body.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required!

 

 

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

 


Resurrection Hope Shines Brightly in Dark Times

As most of our friends and parishioners know, my brothers and I, all four of us preachers, head to Robert Lee, Texas, a couple of times a year to spend some time together at the old home place of our maternal grandparents. We were supposed to be there last week, but the Covid-19 virus, national and state authorities, and our wives clipped our wings.

The Coke County Ministerial Conference. That is what I call our usual biannual get-togethers. I’ve derived far more ministerial benefit from those gatherings than any more formal pastors’ conference I’ve ever attended. We always have a great time, and I hope a few months from now we get to make up this missed one.

Summer? Yes, but that reminds me of one of our gatherings a few years ago. We probably should have taken turns preaching sermons to each other warning of hell. We were there a bit later in the spring than usual; afternoon temperatures were already hovering obscenely around 100, and we were roasting. Add a little—actually, a lot—of wind to that, and it was seriously hot.

It was also dangerously dry. I didn’t see any brimstone, but the fire danger was extreme. Not many days before we got into town, a chance of fire had become the certainty of fire as a major wildfire threatened the towns of Robert Lee and Bronte. Some of our family there had to evacuate their homes, and our cousins were among a big bunch of folks who had joined in to help get the blaze under control.

One report mentioned that the residents of the nursing home (I’ve sung there many times) just across the creek from my grandparents’ old place was also evacuated during that crisis. Part of the area threatened was out near Paint Creek (around eight miles out of Robert Lee) and the little cemetery where my parents and grandparents and many other family members and dear friends and others are buried. The fire ended up sparing the cemetery and the two aforementioned towns, but it burned a huge amount of land. Scary, to say the least.

That fire was contained, put out, and became a memory a long time ago. But fires belong on a list of the kinds of crises common to the human race. Along with earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts. Guys with questionable theology and a flare for writing can always stand to make a lot of money lining up those sorts of things in books and making questionable claims about Bible verses. People have been doing that, in one form or another, for centuries. Oh, and right now a writer with a flare for such can add in a very scary virus pandemic.

The Covid-19 mess is on all of our minds. It is a dark and difficult time, for sure. But in Easter’s brilliant light shines the hope of God’s resurrected Son. When the virus recedes and fades, Easter hope will remain.

Sunday is Easter! Even in the midst of the present distress. In Pope John Paul II’s words is still deep wisdom: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” That’s true even if the ground shakes, or smoke is in the air, or a virus is assaulting the world. Prayer is called for, along with Resurrection hope.

 

 

     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.

 


“What Can We Learn in the Midst of This Mess?”

Like most humans with a few years on them, I’ve had an occasion or a few (not too terribly many) to mention to the Lord that, in this distress or that difficulty, I have at least two requests. Jesus did, after all, teach us to ask, so I do.

First, I’d much prefer to avoid the mess altogether. What I have in mind is not “strength to get through” this or that tough thing. I’d prefer a nice pass to get around it; I really don’t want “through” it.

Second, if I must go through the distress (did I say that, with all respect, I’d very much rather not?), I desperately need my Father’s help to trust his love and providence. And, if this blasted thing must be lived through, I need divine help to learn something worthwhile from it. As hard as it is to live through pain, it would be even worse to waste the opportunity to get something of value from it.

I’m not tempted to call my attitude one of great faith or exemplary courage. I’m a pretty run of the mill human, and I can live with that.

So I wasn’t too surprised to hear myself praying, in the midst of the present pestilence, for the Lord to please get us out of this wretched mess but, if it can’t be over, say, yesterday, to please teach us some valuable lessons in the midst of it. I think he has. And, though it’s still a wretched mess, I think most of us have already been surprised at some of the blessings that have come in the midst of the difficulty. It might do us a good bit of good to write a few of them down and thank God for them, even as we beseech (that’s a word pastors use for “ask”) him to pull us through that which is truly painful and difficult and frightening.

I’ll pause this for a moment so you can start your list. You can add to it later. [Please pause here.]

Among the items on my own list is one word: humility. I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use a good dose of it.

We’re hearing a lot these days from experts. Pretty much every day. I’ve never been wise enough to need a lot of knowledge to adopt an opinion, but these folks have done the work and the study and had the experience to have opinions that actually are worth something.

That fact makes me particularly appreciative of a few of this slew of experts who have candidly said that, though they have done their best to make educated estimates regarding many aspects of this pandemic, what they know and are learning each day is, well, new, and much must be re-evaluated.

I appreciate that, and I bet you do, too. Just give us your best shot, Dr. Expert. Give us your educated opinion based on the knowledge and experience you’ve amassed in the past and the facts you have today. If that needs to change tomorrow, just tell us. That kind of honest humility we very much appreciate. It makes listening to you and trying to follow your best advice in a difficult situation a lot easier.

Right now, yea, verily, at this very moment as I write (and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t change by the time you read this; I’m sure it soon will), in my county we have not a single confirmed case of Covid-19. At this moment, were I unwise enough to actually want to contract the virus here, I’m not at all sure that I could. That’s now. That’s here. This moment. But this is far from true in so many places in our land and our world where the virus is now raging. I pray for all who are already dealing with serious pain.

So when the experts and those who govern us tell us that, even at present in a county like mine, social distancing, etc., is important, I believe them, and I appreciate their efforts to try to slow down the spread of this thing and help us get through this. I’ll try to show some humility and some appreciation and do what I can do to help. I hope we all will as we navigate through this serious threat to our health and our economy.

I don’t know what the exact situation is where each of my readers live, but we’re all dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I am certain, though, that my Father has plenty to teach me in the midst of 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.


Tweet Quote: “The Coronavirus Panic Is Dumb”

Oops! I doubt he cares, but it looks like a billionaire toy maker for cool kids just got himself into a bit of a bind. (He makes high-priced and over-hyped electric cars—he can keep those, as far as I’m concerned—and some seriously cool rocket ships.)

All Tesla CEO Elon Musk did to generate knee-jerk howls was to tweet elegantly and articulately, “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”

Not everybody disagreed. I’m told that he got a million “likes” almost immediately. Make that a million and one because, for what it’s worth, I agree with him. I won’t be “tweeting” any responses, though, because, whatever the evidence that the sky is falling because of the coronavirus, a boatload of evidence points to the fact that Twitter is for twits.

Oh, my good friend Elon (just kidding) and I would, I’m sure, agree that health authorities, and the rest of us, certainly need to exercise some wisdom and take precautions. It might not usher in world peace, but it would certainly be a better world if more of us would wash our hands a good deal more often, try not to sneeze on other people, stay home when we’re sniffing and snorting, and just generally try to keep our mucus to ourselves.

All of that would help some, surely, with the coronavirus. It might slow down cold viruses a bit, too. And getting a flu shot won’t help with the coronavirus, but if the present media hyperventilation reminds and motivates folks to get the shot, well, I suppose that flu numbers might go down even as big-bad-bugaboo numbers go up. If Elon and I are wrong and panic is indeed called for, I’m sure I’d rather have only one virus at a time.

But there’s that operative word: panic. It’s not “reasonable measures” or “wise precautions” or “good public health responses” that are dumb; it’s panic. And that’s why I find it hard to disagree with my bosom buddy’s five-word tweet. (Coronavirus is one word. No hyphen. Panic is no good excuse for improper spelling and punctuation.)

Ah, but here’s the problem, and this is why the tweet prompted some howling. When Joe Blow goes on un-sneezingly to work, listens to reasonable advice, but changes channels and watches re-runs while talking heads are unable to talk about anything but Covid-19, well, no one gets too upset with him if he shrugs his shoulders a little and just soldiers on.

But when a billionaire with easy access to the best doctors and healthcare and, should the need arise for such, the poshest quarantine quarters, seems to lecture commoners on “coronavirus panic,” it doesn’t come off very well—even if he’s correct.

Time will tell who’s right, I suppose. I figure vindication will come for those of us who just choose to wash our hands more and hyperventilate less.

I do know this: When the King of the universe wanted to take miraculous measures against the “virus” of sin, he didn’t tweet from on high, he sent his Son right down amongst us, completely able to “empathize with our weaknesses” and “tempted in every way, just as we are,” yet “without sin.” Why? “So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4).

 

 

      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.

 


Coveys of Quail, Columnists, Politicians, and Covid-19

Quail. I have nothing at all against those birds. I enjoy looking at them. I’ve fed a few. Raised a few. Shot a few. Eaten a few. I enjoy them on every level, from my eyeballs to my taste buds. So I don’t mean to slander these fine birds when I say that their images should be woven into the logos of the world’s leading stock exchanges.

Or maybe instead the exchanges could use in their logos images of a bunch of frightened old women leaning on walkers. But that would be grossly unfair to elderly females, most of whom I’ve found to be savvy, courageous, and wise. Come to think of it, most of that breed cower and whine less than any other group you’d care to mention.

Anyway, if you’re looking for courage and fortitude, don’t look to find it in any of the world’s stock exchanges during, say, your average epidemic. If you haven’t looked at your retirement account lately, I’d suggest you wait a few months, or a year or two, to let the quail get over their cowering and covey up again. Even if the sky really has fallen by then, you’ll have time to make peace with it. (My deep apologies for herein mixing metaphors of quail and Chicken Littles, but I’m scared out of my mind. Can’t you tell?)

Of course, what at present has the national news media ecstatic and the stock market falling to its knees in terror is a virus, a “coronavirus,” namely, Covid-19. The Wall Street Journal’s headline today: “Disease Takes Toll on Companies.” But it’s not yet the disease taking a toll; it’s fear of the disease.

In that publication’s weekend edition, one columnist (who I like) conjectured that, while this thing is nothing to sneeze at, irrational fear of it will do a lot more damage than the disease itself. I understood his point to be: wash your hands, get out from under the coffee table, don’t stand in lines with hordes of other quail buying face masks, have the good sense and decency to stay home when you’re sick, and get on with life.

Another columnist (one of my favorite), writing a few pages away, while basically agreeing with the first, expressed a gut feeling that this thing and its impact is “going to be bad.”

Take your pick.

The most informative article I’ve read yet is by Matthew R. Francis (Popular Science, “Just How Contagious Is COVID-19?” 2/28/20). He looks to well-established epidemiology. An R0 (“R naught” or “basic reproduction number”) enumerates how many people will be infected by one infected person. Flu is usually 1.2; this virus seems to be “above 1.4 but below 4.” Measles is 12-18, which is why it’s crazy, if not criminal, not to vaccinate!

He also mentions the CFR, “case fatality rate,” and says that, though the “seasonal flu” has a low CFR, so far in this flu season almost 30,000 Americans have died from flu. He writes that estimates now are that the CFR of this new disease is 1.4 per cent (14 per 1000). And he cites serious research that shows that “city-wide quarantines” and “travel bans” don’t help much. They may slow down the spread, but it’ll spread anyway, do what it will do, and be done. I read that to mean that, if you’re a Christian and, on a particular Sunday morning, you find that the barometric pressure in Bolivia is right, your dog seems healthy, and it’s completely convenient, it probably won’t hurt you to go ahead and go to church.

I guess we’ll see how this all goes.

Forgive me while I make everyone mad, but I’m not presently ready (it’s the Monday before “Super Tuesday,” as I write) to place too much trust in the two guys presently “leading” in our two Keystone Cop political parties. “Controlling” a pandemic? One can’t control his own cell phone and the other recently felt compelled to give a nice “shout out” to a totalitarian murderer for “literacy” efforts. Our political prospects are enough to make you want to take a good sniff of Covid-19 or a large dose of Corona (not the virus).

I admit that, as I watched a news program yesterday, I found the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to be sensible. (I hope he has time to do some good things before he is inevitably thrown under the bus.)

But I find these words more reassuring: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

 

     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.


“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.

 


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