Tag Archives: mountains

“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.


“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

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Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     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.


Some High Country Lessons for the Journey

 

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Mountain people or lake people. Most people (except the few ambi-altitude, as in “ambidextrous,” folks I know) are mostly either one or the other. Wherever they live, if given half a chance, they’ll tend to gravitate toward one or the other.

I love the beauty from both directions, but it’s the mountains for me (and I get streams and mountain lakes tossed into the bargain). My wife and I started this week as I was preaching and singing at a wonderful community church in the mountains at Red River, New Mexico. What a start!

I’ve been singing Christmas songs all year (the Christmas album comes out this month!), so even though it’s barely September, I’m already in a mountain snow mood. (I always am! “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”) My favorite time of year is when our family heads to Red River for a few days of high country laughing, skiing, playing, soaking in beauty, and enjoying snow-time together. The someone who said that nothing in nature is more beautiful than snow is someone who is right.

So I’m sitting here now in Red River with a noon deadline for this column, and I’m thinking about . . . let me see . . . snow! As long as I’m thinking about it, may I share, in no special order, some lessons all wrapped up in the mountain white stuff?

1) In life, it’s important to ski the part of the mountain you’re on. We all get tired sometimes and scared. But wasting time staring down a steep hill helps not at all. You can’t ski the whole slope at once, and you don’t have to. Don’t try. Jesus put it this way: “Take no anxious thought for the morrow.”

2) Everybody falls sometimes, but falls are rarely fatal, even though they may hurt. Since Jesus took the fall for us all, grace wins the day!

3) When you fall, get up, and when someone offers to help you, let them! Jesus not only has offered, he wants to live in you, giving you resurrection power to go on.

4) The journey is better when shared. Scores of elk are more beautiful when you see them with people you love. Feeding ducks on a mountain pond is better with grandkids. Sliding down snow is more fun together. Riding up the slope is better together. Even falling hurts less when you hear the laughter of someone you love who’s seen you bite the mountain but they know you’re okay. Count on dinner being more entertaining as the story of your crash is retold! The church, by the way, is God’s people making the journey together.

5) Mountains don’t just happen. Someone amazing created the beauty of the hills, the joy of the falling snow. (I can hardly imagine the “faith” it must take to believe otherwise.)

6) If it’s genuine joy, it’s God’s joy. The view from the mountaintop. Grandkids’ smiles. God’s well never runs dry. He delights in giving it away.

The psalmist cast his vote long ago: “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills!” Me, too! And to the God who made them.

 
Copyright 2013 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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