High and Lifted Up

Road Leading to High Mountains

Isaiah 6:1: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

I don’t know that many of us think about escalators and elevators. They’re there and we use them, and a few people aside who have claustrophobia or a fear of falling, most of us think they’re convenient. Evensong Bells thinks an elevator in this building would be a gift from God, and while God’s time is best, my hope as someone who plays bells and, as part of the job, schleps cases around when we play in the front of the sanctuary or take our bell songs on the road. It takes either two bell players to carry one of the two largest cases, but Jim Harris can carry both at once. He is one strong man. And here ends the commercial from Evensong.

I’ve always been fond of any device that can transport me to a higher level be it airplane, funicular, ski lift, rescue basket, and of course escalator and elevator. (I’m talking physically being lifted up here–hold on for the spiritual transport. You’re on your own for the emotional version.

Now, if you’re claustrophobia and must avoid elevators, I can’t help you much. But I can do something about fear of an elevator cable snapping as it seems to in the movies and a car packed with people falling to their horrible demise. In our local writing group, Write by the Rails we had a visitor one evening who was an elevator inspector. Normally we go around at the end of the meeting and talk for a few minutes about what we’re doing and what help we may need, if any. When our guest’s turn came up, someone asked about falling elevators such as those we see in disaster movies. His answer was that it’s physically impossible for an elevator in good repair to fall because of the way they’re designed. Think about—how many times is there a story about an elevator falling with multiple fatalities on the news? I can’t ever remember seeing one. Not that that proves anything, but if you find out about such an accident, please let me know.

Escalators fascinated me from an early age. If I had to choose between them and elevators, I would choose the moving steps. The engineering is fantastic, and while you’re more likely to be injured on an escalator, if you tie your shoes, watch where you’re putting your feet and hold on to the handrail, you’ll be fine. (The preceding announcement was brought to you by your mom, who also wants to remind you to wear a raincoat, eat healthy food and not talk to strangers.)

On teacher workdays in elementary and intermediate school, our mom would take my brother Ron and me to what was then called Parkington and now Virginia Square. Parkington was so called because of the large multi-story parking garage behind the multi-story Hecht Company building, whose façade was made up of large glass windows. It was an imposing sight and sported escalators which, while new and made of steel, lacked the soul of the ones in a store at our next stop, McCrory’s in Clarendon. For most of my pre-high school career, they had wooden escalators. I wish I could tell you what kind of wood they used, but I didn’t develop an appreciation for different kinds of wood until high school. The escalators at McCrory’s were old and funky, and our mom would leave us to ride the escalators up and down while we shopped. We would have ridden all day had she not threatened to leave us and see how much we would enjoy walking the thirteen miles to our house in Fairfax. Somehow, we managed to never make that walk, which would have spoiled a nice day of riding elevators.

Now, it seems to me that sometimes God lets us carry the heaviest hand bell cases over all kinds of terrain, including high mountains. At other times, he provides a nice wooden escalator to take us to new heights. And at other times, we have those rapid breathtaking ascents as we do in one of those glass elevators that pop out from the building and we feel there’s nothing holding us up but the floor. All these experiences are part of the journey we’re on, and whether we’re toiling up the mountain on foot or riding in style to the top the God who created us and loves us so much is there with us and ahead of us. Thanks be to God for God’s eternal presence and care!

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Dining Alone

Dining Alone

I don’t know if you have occasion to do much by yourself, including eating at a restaurant alone. Some people don’t like to do anything alone and have problems being themselves, while others, of course, prefer to be alone. As someone like that, I would still have to say that I don’t like eating out in public by myself. It feels awkward, even if I take a book. I do see people regularly come in to eat by themselves carrying a book. I try to see what they’re reading or even ask them what the book’s about because I can be nosy like that.

We were at Aston Avenue Diner for lunch Tuesday, and I saw three people come in alone with a book. Now, I didn’t have a chance to quiz them on their reading preferences, which I found disappointing, but after all into every life a little rain must fall. The people sat down and contentedly read their books after they had ordered. I’m always glad to see people reading. Readers are, after all, good-looking, intelligent and kind to small animals.

As we were leaving, I had an idea: I’m sure there are people who sometimes find themselves having to eat alone, and maybe they would like to go to a nice restaurant from time to time. My idea is that the restaurant could offer what the railroads call “community seating.” If the table seats four and you’re with someone else, you’ll be seated with someone you don’t know. My dad and I experienced this the summer we took a train to San Francisco. Even a shy person like me found it a good way to meet some interesting people. Of course, we also met some people I didn’t want to see again, but you pays your nickels and takes your chances. Anyhow, the restaurant could offer community seating for people who want it. Or, to make it work, they could require everyone to sit with someone else. I have to confess that I wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant which required me to sit with someone I didn’t know, but that’s just me. Some of you might like that, especially when the choice is between sitting with someone you don’t know and sitting with a book. Come to think of it, don’t look for this concept to be implemented any time soon.

The spiritual application for this is, I think, that as Christians, we are never alone even when we are. God is always with us, and we are part of a community of believers. So, while we may feel alone at times, we never truly are. That is part of the great Good News and part of being the family of God. Praise God for his presence and for his placing people in our paths to bring us company and comfort!