Thursday, December 23, 2010

I will lift mine eyes to the hills

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

These are the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, glowing pink and purple as the sun sets, and the light leaves the desert below.  I can see these mountains from everywhere in town, and I find myself looking up at them often.  Sometimes clouds gather among the peaks, even when the rest of the sky is clear and dry like a blue glass.  The angle of the sunlight on these rocky pillars on this shortest day sets them in sharp relief, and as the day passes, the shadows move into the canyons and over the heights, so the mountains never look the same from one day to the next.

The desert surrounds the city, and a short drive in any direction is the silence, the dried, prickly beauty of the plants, the rocky soil carved by rare but violent rain storms into wrinkles and rivers of only rocks and sand. 

This place is very like where Jesus learned to build with wood, and it occurred to me that if He needed a way to learn how to be human, building things out of wood is a good place to start.  I spend much of my time working with wood these days, and what with splinters, the frustrations of splitting out or trying to muscle a less than perfect stud into a wall, learning carpentry is certainly a humbling experience.  Jesus could presumably make a door or a chair as easily as he turned water into wine or multiplied the loaves and fishes, just by wishing it so.  But instead He chose to learn submission to the grain and knots in wood,  to select the right piece of wood, to scrape and sand to a nice finish.  Unless you can do miracles, there is no way to “Lord” it over wood.  A good parallel with how we get on with people, and how we move through our lives.  Going with the grain, selecting well, bringing mountains of patience and looking always to increase our skills.

In the quote at the top, from the 121st Psalm, the second half of the phrase about help coming, is often translated as a question.  Is our help coming from the mountains?  From Zion or Jerusalem?  From on high where the angels are multiplying into a heavenly host, from God himself?  It’s hard in this time to imagine a cherubic cavalry galloping to save us, so the question mark seems more appropriate.

Instead, I look up to these mountains, to see what they look like right now, but also because looking up means I am neither looking down, at what work I am doing, nor around at the minutiae of life, nor at the people around me with their needs and prickles.  Up where it’s quiet, and peaceful, where my soul can be rebalanced.

Today, the sun is up just a little bit longer, so winter will pass again.

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, and a New Year of possibilities, prosperity, and peace.

Nitey nite,


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