For Every Hill…

For Every Hill I’ve Had to Climb

by American poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer
(1863—1940)

For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat
My heart sings but a grateful song—
These were the things that made me strong!

For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years,
And for the hopes that lived in vain,
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow!

‘Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate man’s will to strive;
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep man’s will alive.
O’er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.

My response to:
Word of the Day Challenge prompt: SOLACE

The Partnership

Many years ago a husband and father died, leaving his wife the burden of raising their six children. How could she face the challenge of financial as well as parenting responsibilities?

Placing her dilemma in God’s hands, she carried on, not only parenting their children but adopting twelve others along the way and raising them all to be decent people and good citizens. Someone asked her one day how she managed to keep it all together. She always always appeared so relaxed in spite of her busy life, surviving on a “bare necessities” budget.

“Oh, I’m in a partnership,” she told the questioner. “That keeps me going.”

“Oh, really? What kind of partnership and with who?”

“After my husband died I told the Lord that I’d do the work and He could do the worrying. I haven’t had a worry since.”

Do you have a partnership like that?

I’ve retold this story from one I read in an Our Daily Bread devotional booklet from the ’70s.

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

What Do I Have to Lose?

One day as I was mingling among the multitudes at the mall a passing T-shirt caught my eye. In bold black and white it declared, “Compromise is for Losers.”

I eyed the bearer of such anti-diplomacy. Was this his life’s philosophy, the rule he lived by? No doubt he thought he was making a statement, “Don’t mess with me.”

Losers of what, I wondered?

Truth? We should never compromise the truth, nor our honesty, our integrity, or our purity. Did the young man wearing the T-shirt have these in mind?

If I were to compromise with sin, I’d lose my self-respect. I’d feel degraded and guilty. If I fudged around with the definite “Thou shalt nots” of the Lord, I’d lose His blessing in my life and gain an uneasiness in my soul. If I say “okay” when in my heart I know the real answer should be “no”, this can be compromising with sin.

Or was he thinking of principles? Possibly. But whose principles? Would it be so bad if I lost some of my own understanding about how things should be done, my own sense of right and wrong? Does it hurt to be a little bit flexible on these at times?

So what might I gain by a compromise?

In the areas of my life where opinion, understanding and preference hold sway, a compromise could well benefit me. I’d lose my rigidity as I bend to someone else’s methods. In doing so I might well learn a better way, see things from a new perspective. Discover why a certain approach works when I was so certain it wouldn’t.

I’d lose at least a little of my pride and admit I might not have the best light on the subject. I’d have to abandon the “My way or the highway” attitude if I wanted to reach a compromise with someone.

I might have to abandon self-righteous indignation and gain better relationships. If what this person said or did was an affront to me and my nose is out of joint, I’d have to snap it in place again before I could reach a truce with her. At times I’d have to admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve seen where a “No compromise” philosophy of life means “No real friends.”

Yes, it’s true. Compromise is for losers — and there are some things we really could stand to lose in order to gain something better.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…”
I Corinthians 1: 26-28

Our Father the ATM?

One morning as I knelt down to pray, my mind was occupied with all my shortcomings. The cup was definitely half empty; I felt so needy, so deficient in the virtues a Christian wife and mother should possess.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I began, “please grant me more patience and more wisdom in dealing with situations that come up. Help me to understand Your will, Lord, and grant me the grace to do what I know is right. Bless me with that ‘meek and quiet spirit’ a Christian should possess, as I relate to my family. Help me to be more cheerful and encouraging.”

And the Lord answered me too clearly. He said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”

That shocked me out of my ‘poor and needy’ mood. I realized that, yes, that’s exactly what I was saying. I was calling God my Father, but instead of talking to Him sensibly, affectionately, as a child would talk with a parent, I was treating Him like a spiritual-virtues ATM.

How would I feel if my child would come to me and say, “Mom, give me my dinner… and buy me some new clothes… and do my laundry… and clean up my room, and…”

These are all very legitimate needs, but wouldn’t I long for some more meaningful conversations with her? Don’t I enjoy hearing about her day and listening to her ideas, hopes, plans? Wouldn’t I also appreciate hearing a “Thanks, Mom, for everything you do” now and then?

Is my Heavenly Father any different?

Since then I’ve tried to keep in mind as I pray that He is my Father, not my ATM.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100: 2-4

Song for My Brother

I wrote this article twenty-some years ago and stashed away a hard copy. Now as I’m digging around in my “filed and forgotten” I came across it.

I Dreamed of My Brother

Early one morning I had a dream. I dreamed that I was walking along a path and I came upon a man sitting and singing a song. I paused to listen to the words and this is what he sang:

Somewhere I have a brother, though his face I’ve never seen,
But in my mind I see him as he walks on hills of green,
and in my heart I love him and I’m going to see him soon…”

As I listened, I realized that this was my song he was singing, one I had written about my little brother who died some hours after birth, when I was three years old. Mom tells me that on the day of his funeral I cried a lot. That I don’t remember, but I do remember the family gathered in the old farmhouse and the little coffin Uncle Tom made sitting on a table, holding the newborn.

Then in my dream I turned around and looked at the horizon. Far off in the distance I could see those hills of green and I could see him walking there. But he was too far away; I couldn’t see his face. I woke up with the melody of that son still ringing in my ears.

Many times over the years I have thought of my little brother. At the time of this dream he was the only one of our family who’d gone on and was waiting for me in Heaven. At times when the going gets rough in this old world below, my thoughts often turn to him waiting up there. I don’t want to disappoint them by losing out. I don’t want him to be the only one of us who made it to heaven.

Years have passed since I had that dream. My niece. Barb, and others in the family have joined him up on those hills of green. Now I often think of those waiting and pray that I can join that family circle on those green hills.

“Out on the hills of that wonderful country,
happy contented and free
loved ones are waiting and watching our coming.
Heaven holds all to me.”

As I went about my work the next morning my mind was still on the words of that song. I decided to adapt it with more of a thought for today. Here’s my “earthly” version:

Somewhere I Have a Brother

Somewhere I have a brother though his face I have not seen
but in my mind I see him as he walks through fields of green
and in my heart I pray for him as I go along my way,
that we can both be faithful so I’ll meet him some glad day.

Somewhere I have a brother though his face I’ve never seen,
for he lives quite far from me with an ocean in between;
and in my heart I love him, for the Father’s love we share,
and I’m sure he’s also praying for his brothers everywhere.

Somewhere I have a brother and I almost see his face,
for just like me he’s part of this global human race;
just like me he cries when hurt and laughs when life is fun
and just like me he’s tired when his working day is done.

Somewhere I have a brother and his hopes are just like mine:
to have a home in Heaven when we reach the end of time;
to be among the faithful when the Saviour’s face we see. (Judgment throne we see)
Somewhere I have a brother and I think he’s just like me.

One Little Patch

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” I Corinthians 12:26

The Apostle Paul is telling us that when one member of the body suffers, the whole body will feel it. I learned this first-hand one day when my tympani, or eardrum, received a tiny patch. A few hours after the deed was done my whole head was suffering with that little spot.

When I was in my thirties I had tubes put in my ear drums so I wouldn’t have to live with tympani-rupturing infections. The tubes remained for years until one by one they fell out, leaving little holes. My ear specialist deemed it wise to patch these holes, one at a time.

Into the operating room I went. He snipped a bit of skin from the back of my ear and tacked it over the hole, then he packed something into the outer ear canal to hold the patch in place.

This procedure called for a general anesthetic, which meant my whole body had to bear with the little member. I couldn’t eat or drink before surgery; my stomach grumbled about that. Coming out of the anesthetic after surgery my stomach felt queasy and my head felt fuzzy and unbalanced. My feet had extra work to keep my woozy body upright when the nurse insisted I take a short walk around the room. Later in the evening I suffered with a cross between a headache and an earache. All because of one microscopic piece of skin.

Thankfully the operation was successful, the site’s healed nicely and I no longer have a hole in that eardrum.

The Apostle Paul was speaking of the Church, referred to as the earthly body of Jesus Christ. As we become members of that holy body of believers, “knit together in love,” when one suffers everyone feels it. Every member has a place to fill, a work to do in the body, and if one is weak or AWOL others have to make corrections for him or her. I appreciate how much my fellow Christians bear with my faults.

We all have some weaknesses and irritating habits others need to bear with. Some Christians are recovering from past emotional damage. They may be fearful and suspicious. We’ve all been scarred by the consequences of temptations we’ve yielded to. And we’re not surrounded by people who always speak kind, edifying words. Gossip and harsh words from family, neighbours and co-workers may wound us. Plus, the Bible warns us that our enemy hurls “fiery darts” our way and some of them hit tender spots.

Unlike medical men, God makes repairs without knocking the his children out. If we are willing and obedient to follow directions, He brings us into situations that strengthen our weak areas and gives us courage in spite of our shortcomings. We can be serving Him to the best of our ability, still He constantly performs those small surgeries necessary to cure our hurts, fears, frustrations. Over time He skillfully removes our “baggage” without crippling after-effects.

This healing, straightening process is called sanctification. Like “Be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet.”

I’m glad the doctor is finished with my ears. I’d be absolutely delighted to never need any more repairs, big or small. But I trust the Lord will keep on operating on me, so I can be an effective member of His Church.

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5