Continuing Upward

     “He makes my feet like hinds' feet, and sets me upon my high places.”  Psalm 18:33

 My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; though some may dwell where those abound.  My prayer, my aim is higher ground.  Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on Heaven’s tableland, a higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

There are those who can live with the things they don’t believe in; they are giving up their lives for something that is less than it can be.  Some have longed for a home in a place of inspiration, some will find the emptiness inside.  By giving it all for the things that they believe, they believe.  Maybe it’s just a dream in me.  Maybe it’s just my style.  Maybe it’s the freedom that I have found.  Given the possibility of living up to the dream in me, you know that I’ll be reaching for higher ground.

     Both sound just a little bit similar, don’t you think?  Do you recognize these lyrics?  The first is from the familiar hymn, written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. “Higher Ground”.  The second is also titled “Higher Ground”, written and performed by John Denver.  The message seems pretty clear.  Life’s mountain stands before us, but many refuse to climb it.  They choose to just settle where they are, never aspiring to go further; to reach higher and see what opportunities lie in store for them.  Why would anyone want to just settle?
     God meant for us to climb higher.  He meant for us to keep the summit within our goal.  He meant for us to keep those dreams alive.  Granted, not all dreams are obtained exactly how we may have planned.  However, we may find so much more that the Father blesses us with, when reaching our goals tends to take a different route.  Those are the unexpected gifts.  That is God’s way of giving us a little “bonus” for keeping our aspirations alive.  When we tend to slip and fall back downward, we just steel our wills and become more determined to keep climbing.  Sure, we may have to recover a bit from the slip.  We may have to take a little time to regain our strength, but we press onward.  Instead of saying, “I’ll just stay right here.”  We should be saying, “I got this far and I’m ready to see what is up ahead.”
     Life is certainly showing me a different route to the summit, then I had planned and plotted before.  Being the journeyman that I am, you know that I map out my routes along the trails.  Be that as it may, unexpected detours come up, pushing us to take a slightly different way, while still moving toward the goal.  That is having complete trust in God as our Guide and Navigator. 
     For my family and I, we will all be reaching for higher ground.

These Old Boots


     “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.  A cord of these strands is not quickly torn apart.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

    These old boots.  Dirty.  Dingy.  The leather was scuffed up by countless days of stomping around the ground, being covered with kicked up clouds of dirt and cut grass.  Signs of wear and tear starting to show.  What a comfortable pair of boots. 
     I believe everyone can relate to what I am saying.  Now, it may not be a pair of footwear, but we all have something that is “broken in”, perfect the way it is.  Nothing is meant to change about it.  It is part of our comfort zone.  We like it the way it is, just because.  Change is not required.  Like an old, tattered blanket it has stood up through the test of time and still keeps us warm.  Why would we want to mess that up?  The answer is: there comes a time when that particular “comfort” no longer applies.
     While I am definitely going through the process of vast changes in my life: relocation to another state (I’ve never lived anywhere outside of Texas), adjustment to a new house, and more importantly becoming part of a new family.  As wonderful and exciting as all of that is, there are some things about the “old pair of boots” that just won’t fit into this new life.  What I am referring to is the comfort zone of how we function, both mentally and psychologically.  The willingness to leave behind the life of “being single” to begin a life of “togetherness.”  It takes a realization that everything that has scuffed and layered upon those old boots cannot remain.  Those factors may have made those boots comfortable for the wearer, given the circumstances, but they just won’t last in the new situation.
     What do we do then?  Do we toss the boots out?  Not necessarily.  As I spent time, one day last week, cleaning and re-polishing these boots, I was learning a valuable lesson about myself.  I meticulously worked the saddle soap into the leather, overlapping strokes with the cleaning brush.  I observed how the soap and brush began to sweep away the bits of earth that had obscured the true outer layer of the leather.  I noticed how much difference there was, the part that was being cleaned versus the untouched surfaces.  I was brushing away everything that was hiding what was underneath.  Then, I applied the polish.  Now, the polish wasn’t to change the surface into something different.  It was merely applied to enhance the original color.  The polish hid the scuff marks that worked their way into the surface.  The result: a restoration of the boots’ natural look.  While still bearing signs of wear, they had that familiar shine, nothing blocking that from view.
     I removed everything that had set the precedent of those leather creations, creating a clean slate.  In looking forward to uniting hearts of a family, I needed to go back to my “natural form”, not allowing everything that tended to hide my emotional and psychological self from rising to the surface.  Let’s face it: being married and hiding your true emotions from your spouse…NOT COOL!
     As looking to God renews our spirit (Isaiah 40:31, Romans 12:2), allow your spouse to renew your true nature.  Moving forward, you will make new marks upon those old boots.  They will be different from what covered them before.  Also, remember that you both will need to take time to clean and polish, from time to time.  That will help you stay true to yourself and to your spouse. 

The Grand Finale


     “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”  Matthew 26:2

     People attempt to rationalize God in human terms, causing them to sway from what God expects them to utilize in wisdom.  God intended for us to remember the time when Jesus was crucified.  Why?  That was the turning point in the war between good and evil.  It was a significant part that was God’s plan, to show Satan that he cannot defeat God’s plan.  In His death, Jesus gained a great victory over Satan, canceling our debt and rendering the corrupt rulers and authorities powerless (Colossians 2:14-15).  All they succeeded in was destroying a body, a physical form.  It released Jesus from His human limits, having already fulfilled the necessity of taking a human form.  Having understood what it meant to be a human (Heb. 5:7-9) He was fulfilling the one ultimate purpose: to become our Salvation (Heb. 2:9, Matt. 26:26-28, 1 John 3:8, Matt. 20:28).  Clearly, throughout the scriptures, God promised salvation, a second chance.
     Jesus is remembered for the many wondrous works that He performed, while on Earth.  He healed many, converted new believers, and taught valuable lessons.  Again, His legacy was not to come, until the end.  All of these were a prelude to His one, true purpose:  Defeat Satan and show us the pathway to Heaven.  This is why we are allowed to understand when it took place.  As important as it is for us to remember every day, God gave us the opportunity to mark the time that it actually took place.  We know that His arrest, trial, and crucifixion happened in the days leading to the Passover (Matt. 26:2, Mark 14:1, Luke 22:1, John 18:39).  In our calendar, Jesus died on the preparation of the Sabbath, a Friday.  The Friday before Passover.  Passover is marked as the 15th day of the second month; late April by today’s calendar.  The bible also states that He died at approximately 3:00pm; the equivalent to the Julian calendar’s ninth hour of the day (Matt. 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37).  This was God’s crucial moment to burn into the memory of the people.
     Now, let’s look at the date of Jesus’s birth.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Jesus was born on…anyone?  Anyone?  Of course, the room should be silent because, there is no answer.  Yes, we have a holiday (my favorite) that people use to celebrate His birth.  Where did they come up with that date?  Not the bible.  Why?  We were not meant to know the time of His birth.  God put His Son on this earth to fulfill the promise of salvation.  That happened at the end of Jesus’s earthly life, not the beginning.  Human nature causes people to try to solve or declare the time our Savior was born.  Truthfully speaking, God doesn’t want that information in my head.  He never intended for me to celebrate His Son’s birthday.  He intended for me to follow His teachings and put to good use the purpose of His suffering. 
     When it comes right down to it, what should we be reminded of?  I believe that the scriptures remind me that I have an opportunity for Jesus to intervene on my behalf.  I have the choice to live as God has commanded, so that Jesus will stand in front of me, at the day of my judgement, hiding my flawed spirit and showing only His purity to the Father. 
     Amen anyone?