Look At Those Hills!

We love the Smoky Mountains. The hills and the peaks are magnificent to us. We go there once a year. After going through Maryville on the way towards Townsend, we catch a better glimpse of our destination ahead. We go, not as tourists, but to rest ourselves. We venture out one day–but the other 6 days are spent in the cabin. And I was think how refreshing those mountains are. But something, rather SOMEONE, just reminded me: “Oh, really? What about the ONE who made those mountains? Reckon He has anything to do with it?”

And I immediately thought of Psalm 121 and Verses 1 and 2: “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Mountains are part of life–both those found in nature and those who rise up in life’s difficulties. As we face mountains, whether they are the beautiful ones like those in the Smokies, or the ones more rugged and difficult, there are two ways of looking at them; as I was just reminded.

We can look at them and think they are going to define us. That they will ultimately either rise us up to the peak, or send us crashing down to the bottom. When those mountains are made of pain, suffering, difficulties, and challenges rise up–we falsely think we have only two choices. We can roll up our sleeves and give it our best try. But most of us are not mountaineers. Or, we can bow down in surrender and believe (again falsely) that we are defeated by those mountains.

But there’s a third choice. We can look for help–but not just anywhere. Look to the God who created the beauty of the Smokies, the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, and every other mountain made of rocks and dirt. If He can make such beauty (sorry, I don’t have enough faith to believe such beauty and majesty happened because of some big explosion) then He is more than able to help you when those ginormous mountains of pain and problems rise up like it’s Goliath. And He is willing! Though He did not make those mountains of problems and pains–if we look to Him and ask for His help by surrendering completely to Him, then one of two things will always happen. Either the mountain collapses in front of you like Goliath did before David, or His strength will turn you and I into mountaineers.

What’s An Apple Pie Without Apples?

Love without the corresponding actions is an apple pie without apples.

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What’s an apple pie without apples? Or a banana pudding without bananas? Or a meatloaf without meat? The answer? One could say, “It’s not the same.” This is true–but let’s dig a little deeper. The correct answer is: “They are not!” Without apples, it’s not an apple pie! Without bananas, it’s not banana pudding. Without meat, it’s not meatloaf. What’s my point this morning, other than making you crave these and other foods?

Love without the corresponding actions is an apple pie without apples. BUT…when we love in ways that touch another human heart with kindness, care, and concern–it puts the apples back into the pie; the bananas back into the banana pudding; and puts the meat back into meatloaf. John had something to say about this: “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. “ (1 John 3:18 The Message)

This week I have been reminded in powerful ways the value of love when others (as The Message puts it:) Practice Real Love! This morning we are packing our bags to go back to my childhood home as we prepare for my sister’s visitation and funeral–and to help share the burden of my Dad–who shared my burdens when I was hurting.

And I am once again overwhelmed with the love of others. Your prayers, comments, messages and phone calls–are powerful means of God’s grace in my life in a season when I am needing them most. There are a few who haven’t reached out to me that I thought would–and it only adds to my pain. But to you who are reaching out, who are practicing real love–are helping ease that pain and hurt as well. And until that day we are all in The Eternal Kingdom–you will never know how much YOU are helping me in this season.

PS: I will be taking a couple of days off from blogging. And in the immortal words of General Douglas McArthur, “I shall return!” And it’s because of those who practice real love.

It Depends On Where You Are

God offers us wisdom, courage, and strength to get through the mountains of difficulties we face.

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Newfound Gap, 20 January 2021, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Debbie and are back in the Smoky Mountains. It’s one of our favorite places. We haven’t missed many years coming here. Usually we would go in November, around our anniversary. This year we decide to come in January. The primary reason was in the hopes of it being cold and seeing snow, something rarely seen in West Central Alabama. It’s something wonderful to be sitting in a hot tub on a cold night.

It’s been cold at our cabin, but not cold enough for snow. So, this morning we went to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast (another tradition) and drove up the mountains in search of snow. And it didn’t take all that long. Remember me writing that it wasn’t cold enough for snow at our cabin? Well at Newfound Gap, it wasn’t only a good bit of snow, it was BITTERLY COLD! It is a gap in the mountains and the wind was really cold. Though the sun was shinning, the wind was blowing snow from the trees. That mountain was different from the mountain where our cabin is located. We could from our cabin that there was “snow in them thar mountains”, and we were not disappointed. It looked better up close than from a distance. And this leads me to my thoughts this evening.

Perspective is everything–how you see life as it happens in real time. But you know that. My perspective–OUR perspective changed when we stopped looking at the snow from a distance and saw it up close and personal. You can check out some other pictures on my Facebook Page. And right now I’ve been thinking about a song. It’s not played on the radio; no CD; it’s not on Apple Tunes; and it’s not heard on Sirius, or Spotify or any other music service. It was written before all of this technology. It’s Psalm 121. The first 2 verses go like this:

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

Whatever I need, whenever I am weak, wherever I am fearful, there is only one place for me–and for you. The mountains around me today, the result of God’s creative power, assure me that my help comes from THE ONE who made these mountains–mountains that offer us a brief respite from God’s calling on our lives. They remind us that God has taken care of us, IS taking care of us, and WILL continue to take care of us.

It’s interesting, at least to me, that this Psalm is part of the Songs Of Ascents. They were sung by travelers on their way to Jerusalem. The mountains in front of them we difficult and treacherous. But someone was thinking beyond those mountains–even beyond the mountain where Jerusalem, their destination, was situated. Difficult and treacherous–does that sound familiar to you?

Do you feel life as it is happening right now is difficult and treacherous? Where is your hope? Your job? Your business? Your spouse? Your boyfriend/girlfriend? Your financial accounts? Your education? Your intelligence? Your wit? Your politics? Your choice of addiction? Your __________ (fill in the blank)? How’s that working out for you? Truthfully, is it really helping, or just delaying?

The Psalmist knew his help came from a much higher source–the Creator! God offers us wisdom, courage, and strength to get through the mountains of difficulties we face. If HE created this beautiful place (and He did), if HE placed HIS Image in us human beings (and he did), then HE will guide you through any and every difficult moment. Do you question the validity of my statement? The listen to the rest of the song:

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

 The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.  The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.