Tag Archives: Psalm 121

January Is a Good Time for Looking in Both Directions

Well, here we find ourselves again in January, and maybe some reflection is in order.

On the one hand, author Thomas Mann is right: “Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” So a new year? January? Big deal.

On the other hand, I’m always a little surprised when 12:01 a.m. of the new year rolls around and there’s not even any perceptible “bump” indicating that our wheels have run over a chronological curb. Even so, the seasons of the year each do have a discernible character, and I like that.

I like seasons, and I like living in a place where weather-wise, they are pretty obvious. It’s strange. I don’t tend to like change, but I like the changing seasons. I particularly like the fact that there is so very little change each year in the way that they invariably change. I like the particular character with which the Creator has endowed each season, and winter just might be my favorite.

I know nothing about Edith Sitwell, but I think she captures for me winter’s winsomeness: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

There it is: “the time for home.” I like that.

One of my sons recently reflected on the time our family had together at Christmas, and what he said delighted me and may well have been the best Christmas gift I received. He said, “You know, it was really nice to be home. You and Mom have made it a really enjoyable place to be, and that’s true for all of us, from the little ones to all the rest.” I love that, and am immensely thankful for it!

Home matters to me, and there is no place I’d rather be.  Maybe that’s why I can think of nothing better (as long as the cupboard is full and there are some good books, old movies, and firewood available), than being snowed in for a few wonderful days. The only way, it seems to me, that we ever have anything much worthwhile to offer to the loud and bustling world outside is when we spend enough quiet and rich time inside, being gently reminded of who we are and Whose we are. That’s true of our homes, I think, and I believe it’s also true of our minds and our spirits.

January gets its name from the Roman god Janus who was depicted on Roman coins as two-headed, looking both ways, backward and forward.  He was the keeper of gates and doors.

Wisdom lies in spending the right amount of time looking in both directions. God is still the Lord of both our “coming in” and our “going out.” He is the God of all times, all seasons, both “now and for evermore” (Psalm 121:8).

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Advertisements

“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.


%d bloggers like this: