Higher Than That

Higher Than That 150 150 Paul Phillips

As if all of creation is following the calendar hanging on the wall, the temperatures are dropping to suit the season. The north wind already blusters, tugging on the leaves of the trees in my yard, urging them to fly.

Soon. Soon, they’ll fly.

I sat on the porch with a warm cup of coffee a few moments past and wondered why the melancholy mood seems to be descending like a cloud. It does every year now, when the seasons make the turn toward colder temperatures and bare limbs on trees.

It hasn’t always been so.

I listen absent-mindedly to the wind chimes at the northern backside of the house and then to the ones beside me on the southern porch as they take their turn to spin and shimmy in the chilly breeze. The progression of the blowing wind reminds me that the years have come and gone in just the same way. The waning year reminds me that life too, wanes.

With the years have come so many life events. Joyous and sad, they also take their turns, blowing in and then out again. I might as well try to stop the north wind as to hold back the memories.

I have seen babies born and old folks die. Before my eyes, both have happened. I didn’t turn away from either. Both have brought tears. Tears of heartache and joy.

Children have grown; friendships, too. The children left, but came back with others of their own. Friends have come and gone, and then come again, some of them. Life has had its sadness, but also, in great measure, its joy.

And yet, among my memories, especially now, the melancholy shoves aside the joy.

For some reason I see, in my mind’s eye, a scene from a Greek myth I read as a child. Most will remember it, the story of Pandora and the box she was forbidden to open.

The pain and evil she loosed on the earth changed it forever. Only a weak and ineffective hope was left behind as a salve, a bandage for the open, bleeding wound.

The Greeks and Romans offered, in their attempts at explaining humanity and deity, a weak copy of the reality of a Creator who actually gave hope, real hope to His children, His creation.

How easy it is for us, like the ancients, to let our eyes fall to man and the created world, expecting salvation, but finding only weakness and death. We begin to attempt to explain all we see and experience, framed in our human frailty and knowledge.

Weakly, we grasp at the wisps of hope the world offers, thinking it will stave off our unhappiness and certainty of what follows the coming of Autumn.

We build empires, which merely crumble and dissolve beneath our feet. We follow political leaders who make promises with their mouths, but then take action from their base, evil hearts.

Wealth bellows its virtues, only to disappoint. Youth begins to slip from our grasp and hope flees. We chase health with every gym membership and dietary supplement we can find, only to discover ourselves trapped in ever weakening frames.

Magazines are read; books purchased. Surely someone will find the secret before it’s too late for us!

We set our sight too low. Far too low.

Did you ever stand in the dark of early morning, out in a valley, awaiting the dawn? I remember mornings—brisk Autumn mornings, not unlike those I’m waking up to now—when I sat awaiting the sun, and the beauty that would follow its rising.

Looking out across the valley, I could see only pitch blackness. They say it’s always darkest before dawn and then, I could believe it. But perhaps, I was looking too low. I should look up—up on the rise of the surrounding hillsides. Surely, from that height, light would ascend and creation would shine.

The hillsides disappointed. Every time.

Even the hilltops themselves were of little help. Possibly, I could make them out, silhouetted against the sky as they were. But, the light didn’t emanate from them.

I had to lift my eyes even higher—up to the sky, where the sun would rise.

There! Even before the sun arrived, the light shone upward from behind the dark horizon. Above the valley—above the hillsides—towering even above the hilltops—the sun began its daily circuit above.

The Psalmist knew it. As he sat in the valley of despair, he lifted his eyes up to the hills, but found no help there. Where—where would his help come from? Only from God. (Psalm 121:1,2)

High above the valley—from a dizzy height above the mountains—God reaches down to aid His own.

We would wander in the darkness forever, chasing a weak and futile hope. In our foolishness, we believe that the evil loosed in the world cannot ever be defeated. Or worse, we think we can unseat it with our New-Age we-are-gods-ourselves mantra.

Death will follow. As surely as winter follows Autumn, death follows evil and error.

He gives us a Hope that is far better than any we could ever fabricate or imagine.

A Savior who makes all things new.

The power of Pandora’s box is broken in Him. Our Hope has the power to give us new life.

He promises us heaven.

Soon. Soon, we’ll fly.


Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips is a writer, a fifty-something grandfather, and follower of Christ. He's also a legend in his hometown, having been "owner, janitor, and gofer" of Whitmore's Music in Siloam Springs, AR since 1985. Follow Paul's blog, He's Taken Leave (www.hestakenleave.com), where he weaves nostalgic stories of life and faith.

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  • So, so beautiful, Paul. I was standing there with you in the early morning dawn with my eyes trained to the sky. What a great reminder–we need to look higher, up to the sky, to our Creator. Lovely words, sir.

  • Paul,
    You paint such a beautiful picture with your pen! I love everything you write, but this one is my favorite…yet.

    It evoked so many emotions, but one thing, in particular, stood out for me. I’ve been a “wanna be” jogger for several years. When I jog, I often recite scripture. I look up to the hills near my house and with each step, I huff and puff, saying, “I lift my eyes to the hills—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2. This is one way I center myself. It brings life into perspective especially since as I grow older, my knees won’t allow me to run as far!
    This work of yours helps bring perspective and hope which is found only in Jesus Christ.
    Blessings to you, dear brother.