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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Facts and Theories

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John 14:6: Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

I don’t know how you feel about facts. Maybe you are a Sergeant Joe Friday type and want “just the facts. M’am.” Perhaps you’re more a theoretical person. I believe this world needs both kinds of people, and you can put me down as theoretical or moonstruck or absent-minded or whatever you wish.

The most dramatic example of this collision of two worlds came when I was student teaching with Helen Leach at Oakton High School in 1970. Helen is an editor now for The Manassas Observer. You may hum “It’s A Small World After All” at this point if you wish. Anyhow, as a graduate student, I was full of theories (and other things). Whenever Helen and I were talking about some issue, I’d say something like, “Well, there’s a theory that applies here.”

And Helen would say, “I’m sure there is.”

“What’s the matter, Helen? Don’t you believe in theories?”

“No, I don’t. I believe in facts.”

We never did resolve our differences, but we both survived student teaching and went on to long careers in which we didn’t traumatize too many students, in spite of many of them deserving it richly.

 Anyhow, this pertains to the present situation in that I still like theories and testing them out no matter how crackpot and benighted they may seem or be. Take the idea (that I read on the internet so I knew that it was true) that turning off your car engine at stoplights and at other times when you’re idling saves gas. I tried this method on both my cars for a tankful of gas and found my mileage was worse, probably because of the gas used by restarting the engine. So facts overcame theory in that case. It should have worked, but it didn’t.

 And so, you’d think that would discourage me from trying to prove any more theories correct. You’d be wrong if you thought so, because I started thinking that if I drove at or below the speed limit and not like a banshee late for a goat sacrifice and coasted whenever possible or prudent, I’d save gas. And money. And the environment. It could be a trifecta of theorizing.

 And I’m here to tell you that it worked! My Impala, which normal gets 17.6 mpg, got 20.1 using this method. I haven’t quite rule out a tank on the Mazda, but I’ll tell you about it when I do.

 I was telling our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Joanne Hazlett this, and she commented that that’s the way they learn to drive in England, where gas (or petrol) costs four times what it does here. So, I now call this method of driving the Hazlett Method. Be sure to tell Joanna when you see her.

 And so, in this case, facts proved the theory. I’m glad they did, because the bigger kids are starting to make fun of me and beat me up at recess. Being beaten up is a fact I can’t handle.

 Theologically, I think that this pertains because Jesus was not just a theory or an idea or a sprit or a concept. His presence here on Earth was a fact, as was his death on the cross, his resurrection, his teachings, the love of God, the provision for each of us at God’s hand and the community of brother and sisterhood under the benevolent care of the Creator. Let us praise the God who created all tings for facts—and for theories.