Tag Archives: God’s creation

“The Mountains Sing Together for Joy”

My wife and I were in Colorado recently. Living on the aptly named “high plains” of Texas, at a tad over 3,800 feet in our particular part of those plains, we’ve got a pretty good start on altitude already. But I discovered long ago that my soul requires regular doses of much higher altitude, the kind that comes only with mountains.

I love mountains in general, but I was ready for a good dose of some Colorado mountains. And, of course, if you want to go up Pikes Peak, and that is exactly what we wanted, and if that incredible peak has not wandered off or been misplaced, Colorado is your destination. If you also like trains, and I do, a Cog Railway ride up Pikes Peak wonderfully answers both needs: mountains and rails. A win-win situation.

The history of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, “the highest railroad ever built in the USA,” and the description of the engineering involved is pretty incredible. On the way up the hill we learned that most “normal” trains bump into the laws of physics and are unable to handle grades of more than about 4%. I’m told that 3.3% at Raton, New Mexico, is the steepest grade in the U.S. for “normal” trains. Because of the Cog Railways “cog” system, a gear-like intermesh between track and locomotive, those trains can climb up grades as steep as 26%.

You’d have to work hard to find vistas and scenery more incredible than the mixture of green and granite, azure blue and gleaming snow, adorning those hills and peaks. What I particularly like are the switchbacks where a passenger turned photographer finds himself literally rounding the bend and gasping at the beauty of each new scene stretching to the horizon.

Oohs and aahs and wows echo through the train car, and you find your mind almost derailed as it was still trying to wrap itself around the magnificence of the last vista, but now you’ve chugged up and around and, voilà!, our Creator has painted another masterpiece before the paint was dry on the last one!

I found myself thinking of the folks who had made their way up that mountain long before the train was available. The trip, I’m told, was a two-day affair on a mule, if the weather and the mule cooperated and all went well. It was after Zalmon Simmons, “inventor and founder” of the famous mattress company, made the trip on a mule in the 1880s that “there has to be a better way” led to the beginning of the construction of the cog railway in 1889. For chronological snobs (like most of us), that’s a reminder that “modern” and “amazing feats of engineering” are not terms that have to be coupled on the same track.

Coming down Pikes Peak is at least as much a challenge for the trains as going up. Redundant brake systems and procedures are checked often, for which I was thankful.

Going up, coming down, rounding the next turn—we never know in life exactly what is coming. Amazing beauty. Deep joy. Searing pain. This challenge or that obstacle.

But we can rest assured that our Creator is good, all-powerful, and all-loving. In their Creator’s presence, the “mountains sing together for joy” (Psalm 98:8). They always have. They always will.

And our God forever sings with joy over his children.

 

     You’re invited 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.

 

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“I Will Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills”

 

Something about the mountains my soul needs regularly and loves always. There’s just something about gaining altitude, heading up!

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills,” writes the psalmist as he beautifully affirms that all of his “help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121).

Reading the Gospels, I feel some sweet altitudinal affirmation when I read about Jesus “going up on the mountainside” to pray. Of course, we can pray and receive strength from our Father at any and all altitudes. But “up” seems a particularly good direction to go for the strength needed to deal with life back “down there.”

It’s no accident that it was up on a “high mountain” that Jesus was “transfigured” before the wide eyes of Peter, James, and John as that clear, crisp mountain air blazed with God’s glory.

What’s really needed, of course, is for us to ask God to help us live with our eyes open. But life just seems to run a lot better when our eyes are pointed in an upward direction.

Even in the muck and the mire of a sin-sick and fallen world, if we can find the strength to look up in the midst of the darkness, we see God’s stars, and their silvery light spells hope.

When our souls are oppressed by the weight of 24-hour news, much of it bad (and at least 23 hours more than we need), if we’ll just wash our hearts out with beautiful music, we’ll find that music can be God’s blessing to lift us up, if only for a few moments, to a much higher, more beautiful place.

When we’re disappointed and hurt by human failures—not least, our own—and we’re feeling bent over under the accumulated weight of the weakness that has appalled us yet again, often that’s exactly when God’s Spirit can use our bending to be the first step toward our bowing. Then in worship our eyes are lifted up to the sinless One dying to carry all of our sins—past, present, and future—away from us forever.

To accept that sacrifice and live in the light of that truth is blessing and uplift indeed, in the highlands, the lowlands, or the plains.

But I find myself especially “lifted up” and thankful to have opened my eyes in the mountains on this particular morning, the start of almost a week in the hills. And it’s easy for me to echo the words of John Muir: “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”

Yes, the mountain peaks seem to point up to God like the spires of a cathedral.

The majesty of the mountains reminds us of the majesty of God.

The seemingly timeless face of a mountain reminds us of the timeless permanence of God.

The enormity of the mountain reminds us of the vastness of God.

The awesome power of the mountain reminds us of the unshakeable strength of God.

Yes, indeed, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.”

 

      You’re invited 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.


A Lesson from Sloth, Murder, Adultery, and a Water Tower

 

The list of what we know as “The Seven Deadly Sins” dates back to the fourth century and, of course, has its basis in the teaching of the Bible.

One of the seven was Sloth. A one-word paraphrase is inadequate but useful: laziness.

We’ve all known some folks beset by such, people who begrudge the effort it takes to breathe, much less to do anything resembling work. Like all sins, this one carries with it a sad list of its own punishments, consequences that hurt not just the slothful person, but also those who deserve better from him.

And yet a wise man once said something to the effect that all idleness and rest is no more sloth than all sex is adultery.

You see, God was saying nothing at all against sex in marriage and everything FOR marriage and faithfulness and strong families with happy and secure children when concerning adultery he said, “Thou shalt not.” That’s generally held to be Commandment Number Seven. No matter what our society says, we cannot make our own rules and break that commandment (or any of the others) without painful consequences to ourselves and those we should love more than ourselves. Of course, God’s forgiveness is available and real, but real forgiveness does not remove all of the real and intensely hurtful consequences.

All God’s commandments are like that. They are rooted in his very nature. Nowhere in God’s vast creation will you find a place where murder will not hurt you, where lying enlarges your spirit, where disrespect to parents blesses your life, where covetousness does not shrink your soul, etc. These laws from God are not simply the “flavors” he chose on one particular day; even God cannot change them because they reflect his nature, and they are as real as the law of gravity.

It’s been interesting lately to watch the water tower near our house as workers have been climbing all over that massive structure in a serious refurbishing project. Their various lines and cables and safety harnesses indicate that those folks (whose job I do NOT want) are very much aware that the law of gravity is not to be trifled with. Flaunt it, and serious pain or death will be the inevitable consequence.

All of that to say that the Almighty was not recommending laziness when he gave us Commandment Number Four: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Like all the other commandments, it predated the ritual laws of the Old Testament and points to truth and principles everlastingly true.

We can talk about those principles and applications and interpretations, but at the very least, we can know that even the Creator “rested” after creation. His commandment that we take some time for recreative rest and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help is meant to bless us. If we ignore it, the consequences to ourselves—and to those around us—may not be quite as obvious, but I think we can be sure they are just as real and painful as those which follow when we shoot a neighbor, run off with his wife, twist words into lies, or take a nose dive off the nearest 150-foot water tower.

 

      You’re invited 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.

 

 


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