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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Finding What We Seek

Seek and Find

 

Jeremiah 9:12-13: Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked for something and it turns out it was right there all the time, but not where you expected to be. Let me explain. I was rehabbing the screen door on the Rock cafeteria at our church last week, and wanted to replace the hardware cloth that protects the screen portions of the door. If you don’t know what hardware cloth is, it’s neither hardware nor cloth, kind of like the children’s string figure game, cat’s cradle. I did that for a child once, and she said, “I don’t see a cat or a cradle.” In truth, it doesn’t look much like either one. I’m pleased to report that Jacob’s Ladder does look like I imagine the real one did, except it is made of string. Not much climbing on that ladder.

Anyhow, hardware cloth is a kind of minor-league fencing material, made from wire (the hardware part) which are welded together in a lattice pattern (that’s the very loosely woven cloth part). It’s used to present a barrier to small things like rabbits or ducks. It won’t stop a tank, but few things will, other than another tank. Mercifully, we don’t have too many of those coming at the Rock kitchen door.

So, since hardware cloth comes in rolls, my first task was to unroll it. It’s very stiff, and the roll is held in place by a wire wrapped around it. I could see the wire, and surmised that it had a beginning and end somewhere (most things do, except for those that are eternal, which wire is generally not). I further supposed that the ends of the wire were twisted together at one end of the roll, which was a reasonable supposition. It was also incorrect. I couldn’t find the closing at either end. So, not wanting to take all day to open the coil of hardware cloth, I started cutting the wire at various places with some metal shears. Soon I had bits or wire flying through the air. ( I was wearing safety glasses while I was doing this, and so should you when you are cutting wires or using a striking tool. Everyone loses when we play games with safety.) As the hardware cloth, freed of its restraining wire, started to uncoil, I noticed the juncture of the wires was in fact not at either end, but in the middle, where I had not been looking for it.

All this, I thought, had to have a spiritual dimension. And it doesn’t. Sometimes we are looking for fulfillment or happiness or meaning and we think we know where to look while, as I found out, we don’t. It is when we are engaged in the work of the Kingdom that we find what we are seeking, and that is the presence and spirit of Jesus Christ. As Albert Switzer famously wrote near the end of his book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus,

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

Amen. Seek and you will find.