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Faith Is the Key to Any Enduring Foundation

If you know me, any of my three brothers, or, heaven help you, all of us, you know that our grandparents’ old place in Robert Lee, Texas, is dear to our hearts.

Granddaddy Key built the house in 1928, and, long story short, in 1974, after Granddaddy had passed away and, partly to ease our Grandmother’s mind as she made the transition to the nursing home just across the creek, my brother Gene bought the place. For seven years, it was occupied by various tenants whose rent helped pay for it, but, truth to tell, were otherwise about as helpful to home upkeep as goathead weeds in the once-pristine lawn.

In 1981 or so, Gene was able to bid the last tenant, “Farewell, and don’t let the door hit you in the tail section,” and bring in some even less savory sorts—his three brothers. For those first years, we actually did some serious manual labor here, and the place eventually became such a showplace that, after we put carpet down, my younger brother and I became reformed characters and had to quit spitting sunflower seeds on the floor, sweeping up once at the end of the trip (good stewardship of time and effort). If anybody ever vacuums now, I’ve never caught him at it, but since nobody spits seeds on the floor, there’s not a lot of need for persnickety housekeeping.

We love this place that, filled with wonderful memories, has affected our lives far out of proportion to its size and (nonexistent) grandeur. My brother Gene even wrote a great book about it (The Key Place, Leafwood Publishers, 2015), filled with the kind of lessons that perhaps a “key” place in your life might hold, too. The book’s well worth the read!

Long ago, we got the place in nice enough shape that we love to come here, and (don’t read too much into that conjunction) our loving and long-suffering wives are happy for us to come and even happier that they don’t ever have to. For (gasp!) thirty-seven years, twice a year all together, we four brothers, all pastors, have been coming. For a number of sweet years before his death, our father, also a pastor, came with us. In short, the blessings we’ve received at this place can’t be bought at any price.

I’m sitting at the old original table at the Key Place this Sunday evening. For maybe the second time in all these decades, I’m here first. The only other time I recall this happening, I walked in to find that some incredibly nasty insects had arrived first, been fruitful and multiplied, and taken up residence. It was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I engaged the enemy, my brothers later joined the battle, and we won. The post-traumatic stress has become manageable enough that I decided, these years later, to take a chance once more and get here first.

I’m glad I did. I unloaded my truck, sat for a while out near the unlit fire pit which will be wonderfully ablaze tomorrow night, and just breathed in the beauty of a deliciously cool and still autumn evening. The country still smells like the recent rain.

I finally came inside to sit at the old original kitchen table, think about what I might write for this column, and eat a quiet dinner. Of course, Grandmother’s corn bread was not available. But the meal I brought chilled from the big city and enjoyed here by myself is a dish I don’t suppose this table’s ever hosted in its 90 years. I’ve eaten goat here with Granddaddy and family. But never sushi. Grandmother and Granddaddy would love my being here. I doubt they’d much appreciate the meal.

Time and tastes, years and generations, keep rolling on. But the deep faith in God that was the real foundation undergirding everything my grandparents built here is still real and sure, true and unchanging, timeless in all times.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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 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.

 


Notes from the Coke County Pastors’ Conference

Robert Lee-JLS

As I write this column, I’m attending the Biannual Coke County Pastors’ Conference.

“Biannual” is not one of my mother tongue’s brightest children. Wishy-washy, and depending on which authorities you consult, it can mean either “occurring twice a year” or “occurring every two years.” “Semi-annual” and “biennial” already handle “every two years.” I need “biannual” to pay for its keep, quit playing it both ways, fully adopt the best verdict, and mean “occurring twice a year.”

The Coke County Pastors’ Conference occurs twice a year. Biannual.

But if you call Coke County to inquire about the conference, most folks—county, clergy, Chamber of Commerce, and the smartest yard dogs—won’t know anything about it, even though it’s been happening biannually for well nigh 30 years.

That’s probably because the conference leaders, four of them, billed on all advertising as having accumulated collectively 175-200 years of ministry experience, are all my brothers, sons of G. B. and Wilma Shelburne. And we are the full roster of planners, speakers, attendees, and target audience members.

Oh, and I exaggerated a bit about the advertising; honestly, there is none, though we do send each other notices about the upcoming event each time around, including inquiries as to whether any one of us has a pending funeral (we’ve accumulated two since we’ve been here this time), wedding, church meeting, etc. Anything that might affect conference attendance. (And it better be a very good reason!)

The conference is held at the lovely and historic Key Place in Robert Lee, Texas. Well, we think it’s lovely, though our wives would pay good money not to stay here. (They’d likely engage in pernicious behavior, vacuuming and such). But it is certainly historic, our Granddaddy and Grandmother Key’s old home here.

Some sessions are held at the old kitchen table. Same table as a thousand years ago when we were kids except now we’ve got a light fixture on the ceiling above the table, not just old wires holding a socket and bulb with moths and other flying insects in continual orbit.

The best sessions are night meetings around the fire pit in the back “patch.” (“Yard” would be far too pretentious.) On one side is the pecan orchard. One tree is hardly an orchard, but this sole survivor is grandfathered in. On the other side is a densely-brushed creek, surely home to some interesting neighbors we never see.

In the midst of other serious business at the conference, we manage to confer some on, well, pretty much everything.

Granddaddy Key was a wise man. When he planned and built this humble Key Place in 1928 he blessed far more folks than he could imagine.

I wonder. What might the Father of us all have in mind even for this little place when “the heavens and earth” are all made new? And when our Lord says he has gone to prepare a “place” for us, that sounds exciting to me. All God’s family together.

I doubt we’ll need to do much conferring. Just some amazing praising!

 

    You’re invited–yea, verily, encouraged–to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

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.


“I Go to Prepare a Place for You”

Robert Lee-JLS

“Place” matters.

When God created humans, he did not fashion us as disembodied spirits; he gave us bodies formed of matter, and a place in which to live. In fact, we do well to remember that Christianity is the only world religion that teaches the resurrection not just of the spirit, but of the body—an amazing “spiritual” body, yes, but a body nonetheless (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Our Creator gives wonderful hints in Scripture not just of a glorious future, but of an amazing place: “new heavens and new earth.”

Perhaps it was author and pastor Eugene Peterson whose words about this first hit home with me. Each one of us is born not just into this world but into a place in this world, a “locating” of ourselves that affects us deeply.

Just the tip of the iceberg is another author’s contention that even politically, folks living in cities and crowded places tend to focus more on law/regulation and folks living in wide open spaces focus more on freedom. “Place” shapes us and our perceptions and values.

Most folks who know me and my extended family very well know that my brothers and I, all four of us pastors, have for many years met twice a year at our maternal grandparents old homeplace. That small town (Hey, small towns, thank the Lord, remain the biggest and best parts of our nation!) and the little house there are precious to us. I promise you, though, most folks with no ties to that place would take one look at the house and drive on down the road to a motel.

For over 20 years, twice a year (over 40 “meetings,”) we’ve gathered at that place, come together for strength, rest, counsel, and fun, to recharge so as to have something to give back in our daily ministries and vocations.

It’s been rather amazing that for four guys, the nature of whose work means being always “on call,” the times when funerals, pastoral needs and crises, etc., have torpedoed the Robert Lee gathering have been fairly rare.

Last week’s Robert Lee gathering was, sadly, an exception. Two of us, the young troublemakers, just couldn’t pull it off this spring. I managed to get over to the old place for a few precious hours one day. Even more than usual, I found myself thinking of the blessing that place with my brothers has been, and of some lessons time has taught.

When I step through that old gate, I’m setting foot onto the place where my Key grandparents lived almost all of their lives. Joys. Sorrows. Times of great happiness. Times of deep and agonizing perplexity. Life. With God’s help, they made it through.

I see still piled by the wire fence around the “patch,” Grandmother’s collection of little rocks with hollows in them to be filled with her little cacti. Her life, and Granddaddy’s life, in this place affect me every day in many ways that I know and more that I do not. The place that molded them still shapes me.

I look back over the “brothers’ gatherings” there. We always bring laughter. We’ve also brought tears. Carefree times. Careworn times. Great times. Difficult times. But all times together. All those times in that place, more than enough to make it for us holy.

I remember Dad being there with us. And I thank his Father and ours for that place.

I’m so thankful we serve a Lord who has promised, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

The perfect place.

 

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

 
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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