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!


Are You Afraid to Die?

Girl and Man Walking
Today’s post is courtesy of Connie Moser, local writer and community activist. I think you’ll find her story touching and inspiring.  Thank you, Connie, for allowing me to post your writing.

Are You Afraid to Die?

I must have asked that question 20 times while walking with my Grandpa. We often “Went for a Walk”. When he asked me if I wanted to go for a Walk, I thought in capital letters, like it was the title of a book. My Grandpa was one of the smartest people I knew. He wasn’t “book smart.” I don’t think he even finished high school because he was born in 1899 and enlisted in the Army during World War I. I think he may have lied about his age because he fought in that war, was shot and captured and spent time in a prison camp before returning to Jeffersonville, Indiana.

He had several shrapnel and bullet wounds and the scars in his shoulder and leg were rough and the edges were jagged, as you can imagine from surgery in a prison camp. He didn’t talk about that much, although I peppered him with questions, especially after we would watch a war movie on television. He always just told me, “When it’s time for you to go, you’ll be ready.”

On our walks, we often traveled through the cemetery because Grandpa knew lots of people there. Some of the stones were beautiful, especially in the Catholic section. I never had the creepy feeling that kids often experience. I didn’t shriek or “e-w-w-w” if I accidentally stepped on a grave. I think my Grandpa made me understand there was nothing there beneath my feet. Just a box in the ground and the person whose bones were still there no longer existed.

Catholic school had Mass every morning, and of course I went on Sundays, too. The sisters and priests painted a different picture, filling my imagination with people in heaven, seated near Jesus, dressed in white robes, looking healthy and happy. I had a pretty hard time understanding how they could look like that in heaven if their bones were still here on earth. Still, the clergy didn’t scare me about dying, either. I thought it may be pretty cool to live in the clouds, with or without a harp.

In all the intervening years I’ve never become afraid of dying. I am afraid of pain or a long suffering illness. My biggest fear about dying is not actually dying, it’s about living my last days dependent on others. So many things about the end of life are not about dying, but actually are about living poorly.

A friend of mine, Kathie Conn has begun a movement here in Prince William County that has already achieved popularity elsewhere. It’s called a Death Café, and if that sounds morbid to you, I assure you it is not. It is simply an opportunity to talk about death in a way that won’t freak you out or make you say, “e-w-w-w-w”!