Thursday, September 18, 2008

Keeping the Mountains in My Heart

In three and a half months I will retire after 44 years of ministry! Is it possible? Where did the time go so quickly? The last few weeks since I officially announced my decision to finish, pull up stakes and return to the Ozarks of my birth are also going so quickly that getting ready to go seems an impossible task to accomplish. But "going back to the mountains" of my beginnings is on my mind a lot, not only in trying to find a place to buy, but just because the "mountains" have never left my heart. For me the saying is true that "you may take the boy out of the hills but you can't take the hills out of the boy." Sometimes when I speak to children, I show them a "pretend limp" and tell them that I was raised in the hills and since I've been living in more or less "flat" country, I limp because early on I wore one leg off walkin' around the mountains at home. I tell them that we learned to plow "one direction around the hill" for if we turned around, the mule would fall over because his legs were shorter on one side than the other. Sometimes I get a "REALLY?" response that tickles me. Anyway, back to my thought. I'm not particularly fond of leaving friends and work here that I have grown to love, but daily more conscious and eager to "get on home" to the hills.

When I think about that, I am reminded of my desire that my spiritual roots would be so deep that even when I walk in the shadows of the valley or the humdrum of the "plains" of life, my heart's vision of the mountaintop with my Lord would be as believably clear. I know the truth is that more than any physical roots my spiritual ones belong in His Presence on those heights, with all the promises and joy they possess.

How is it then that I allow those feelings to evaporate so easily when I descend from heights into the valleys and plains of His will? The great Christian writer, Oswald Chambers, says of such, "we must learn to live in the ordinary 'gray' day according to what we saw on the mountain." It is an act of my will to keep faith with the mountain vision, even when every step reminds me I walk in lower realms. The vision that possessed Abraham was not the impossible here and now of worldly eyes, but the utter dependability of Him Whose sight and will are from a perspective even higher and more glorious than an Ozark mountain or an Everest ever could be! Thus, though my steps may falter a bit, my heart is challenged to ever walk strong and tall in Him Who is the Lord of the mountain, and the valleys, as well. Two passages are good reminders of the same idea. John 12:36 "While you have the light, believe in the Light..." and Romans 4:16-24, "faith of Abraham...before Him Whom he believed, even God, Who quickeneth...and calleth those things which be not as though they were...who against hope believed in hope...staggered not...being fully persuaded...if we believe..." Truly, regardless of where we are physically or spiritually, our faith in God makes any valley a mountain experience.

For those of you who do not come from "the hills", let me assure you you do, for where your heart draws you to your roots is your own Ozark mountains. They just look different! The same truth applies, however. Here's a few lines I've written on the subject:

Lord, my heart yearns for the mountains,

For it's there that vision's clear.

There the truth of God's a fountain,

Filling heart, erasing fear.

Now, I know my realm's the valley,

For it's there where hearts need light,

And I know that I must rally

My own heart to give theirs sight.

So, Lord, help me keep Your Presence

Like a mountain in my heart,

So when pressed by valley recrudescence,

I'll walk by faith to help theirs start.

Be encouraged, fellow valley pilgrims! "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." (Psalm 23)


Jo said...

I can relate! After 31 years of living away from the Ozarks, I moved back 11 yrs ago, and have never regretted it. Of course there are people and places in the PAC NW that I miss, but the Ozarks is, and always has been "home" to me.
Hurry home, Bro!
Love ya'

Mich said...

I needed a reminder of "home" today. It was a day!
Thanks for the encouragement, DAD!
Love ya!