Some thoughts on a four-word discovery

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

The best discoveries we make in life are not about anything new; we make them when we finally “see” something that has long been much at work but hitherto unexamined and taken for granted — sort of like gravity.
Unless we’re falling in the shower, gravity is the kind of major blessing we take for granted even as we’re deriving great benefits from its existence. It was at work a long time before Sir Isaac Newton got hit on the head with the apple, but he appreciated it a lot more after that apple bumpling. (Sorry.)
 Right now, I’m thinking of a foundational belief that I’ve long held but never spent much time looking in the face. What makes me even happier about this discovery is that I think I’ve also discovered a way to put it into four simple words, no small accomplishment for a wordy wordster.
So here’s the four-word discovery that dropped nicely onto my dense head.
Fret sounds are wonderful.
I’ll try to explain.
When you listen to a great guitarist, what you rarely notice, unless you listen specifically for them, are what I’m calling “fret sounds.” They’re the unbidden sounds a guitarist makes as he slides his fingers up and down the strings across the “frets” on the instrument’s neck.
Poor technique might cause fret sounds of such quantity and volume that they’d become the focus and detract from the beauty of the music. But what they really are is an integral part of the beauty of the music made by the most gifted guitarists this world has ever seen. Their presence makes the music more, not less, beautiful because they show that it’s real.
That, you muse, is a life-changing discovery?
Yes, it is. Pick whatever metaphor you please, but fret sounds are wonderful. Brush strokes are beautiful. In music, art and life.
That particular giggle. That unique wink or twinkle. That snort when you laugh. That bent ear or crinkled sense of humor. That funny way of seeing lots of things as funny. That bit of healthy irreverence that loves life and lots of it and trusts God enough not to be embarrassed about that. That “flaw” that shows you have blood in your veins and are not perfectly plastic or plastically “perfect.”
Some politicians (notice that they all dress alike?), puritans (notice that they don’t trust color?), and pharisees (notice that they can’t laugh?) who prefer plastic clones to people with blood, might call “fret sounds” flaws.
But the God who made you loves to hear you play and revels in the “fret sounds” that make you, you. His eyes twinkle, and from the Father’s heart of deepest joy, he laughs out the best laugh of all, calls you by name, and announces to Heaven, “Just listen to that child play.”

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at