I woke up in my Key grandparents' old house in Robert Lee, Texas, this morning. My maternal grandparents had the good sense to live here all of their lives. A couple of times a year, for over thirty years, my brothers and I have gathered here, a gaggle of pastoral Shelburnes somewhat off-duty.
I like to wake up here, even though the rooster who lives across the "patch" could use a short "For Dummies" course on "Ways and Means of Knowing When the Sun Actually Rises." His vocal apparatus could do with a little lubrication, too. But I've grown fond of him. Roosters crow in all sorts of places, but whenever I hear one announcing a new day, I think of Robert Lee.
I like that, too, by the way. The name itself and the venerable general. You don't have to learn much about General Lee to figure out that he was one of the finest men this land of ours ever produced (ironically, I'd argue that Lincoln and Lee were very close together up near the top of that list).
I stopped for just a moment here to listen to church chimes. So far, I've only heard the hour, which is chime enough this early. I hope that later they also launch into some beautiful hymns, as they've done for decades. There's been a "changing of the chime guard" church-wise. We'll see if the new chimers have the great taste in hymns the old ones did.
I'm not interested in providing ammo for any "worship wars." There's plenty of room in worship for high quality hymns and high quality "praise songs," and followers of a crucified Lord should be thankful for an opportunity to crucify their own desires occasionally by singing a song that blesses someone else.
But wisdom is called for. There's a right time and place for a variety of songs to be sung or played. Maybe in a difficult time even "You're the Hang-nail of My Life" or "Thank God and Greyhound She's Gone" might be sung with deep feeling, but not at church, please.
Seriously, it's not just a taste thing. One of Charles Wesley's or Fanny Crosby's songs is truly more spiritually valuable than, say, one of the "poor pitiful me" Depression-era tunes. One verse of "Crown Him With Many Crowns" or "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is salve to a soul rendered anorexic by a diet of camp songs of 27 verses (Trinitarian though they may be with the words "love," "joy," and "adore" shifted in and out.) Ah, but don't forget the beautifully meaningful modern stuff like "How Deep the Father's Love" and "As the Deer." They'll stand the test of time and enrich our souls when the thin stuff has long since faded away. Sometime we need a swim in deep water and shallow just won't do. Sometimes we need to praise God and not just praise praise.
Uh oh. That's a fine Christmas hymn the bells are chiming. But it's April. Some fine-tuning may be needed.
One great old hymn reminds us, "Change and decay all around we see," but then points us to the One who does not change. I see plenty of evidence of change and decay around me this morning, but some combination of good memories, crowing roosters, and chiming bells, and the fact that I don't wake up here every day seems to help me focus here in a special way on the One who does not change.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at