Climb It

Is that it?  I expected more.

There have been any number of nights over the last couple of weeks when I’ve sat and wondered.  Surely, I missed something.

I have written every Christmas season for the last few years about the Candlelight Service at the local university.  I’ve been privileged to play my horn in the brass prelude for the beautiful service several decades now.

A few years ago, I said the evening never fails to overwhelm, to lay my heart open before the Creator of the universe.  I never expected less.

I think it was less this year.

Oh, it wasn’t the fault of any of the performers or of the conductor.  The performances were wonderful.  Skillful even.  Well-prepared and talented, there was no fault to be found with any of the participants.

Still,  the big moment never came.  Three nights, I did my part and returned to my seat to listen to the end. 

It was nice.  Christmas-y.

But, there were no tears.  No ecstasy.  No wow! moments.

I did notice that, without it being planned, the first song—and the last—from the stage each night were the same song.  It wasn’t all that wonderful—just odd.

Go Tell It On The Mountain.

Our brass group played it to start the evening—a nice catchy version of the old spiritual.  It was fun.

The main choir sang a version of the song to finish their stage performance, upbeat and catchy as well.  It was fun.

I wasn’t moved by either version.  Not this year.

I’ve spent the year trudging along.  Manual labor and too many steps—every day. 

Somehow, after all the aching muscles and sore feet, I was looking forward to the euphoria of being carried away.  Kind of like a Calgon moment, if you know what I mean.

I did have the same thought in my head as I left each night.  I wondered if there was a reason the music on stage started and ended with the instructions to go and tell it on some mountain.  

I’ve said it at Christmas before:  There are no accidents.

Sometimes, I have to have things pounded into my thick skull.  I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, you know.

I packed up my horn the last night of the program and headed out into the cold to walk the few blocks home.  I was disappointed.

Nothing.  There were no visions, no spine-tingling solos, no ancient conductors who reminded me of the original Conductor.  Just a catchy version of an old spiritual.  A kid’s song, if you will.

It got worse.  I walked home in the cold and had the defining thought for the whole affair.  I even had Siri write a note for me on my phone as I walked.

To tell it on the mountain, one has to first climb the mountain.

Well.  There’s a bit of encouragement.  I’m getting old.  I’m already tired.  And, now I’ve got to climb another mountain.  And, probably another one after that.

Hmmm.  Does it seem as if I’m complaining?  It does, doesn’t it?  Perhaps, I am.

I’ve thought about this for awhile and I want a chance to defend myself.  I want to excuse my churlishness, my complaining.

Haven’t I done enough?

Somehow though, I’m remembering that He climbed a mountain or two in His time on earth.  Walking absolutely everywhere He went, He carried the good news, the gospel, to all who needed to hear—and experience—it for themselves.

He climbed the mountain in Samaria to sit by Jacob’s well and give living water to the woman there.  (John 4:4-26)

He sat on the mount and pronounced blessings to those who would listen to and heed His words.  From that mountain, He gave them, in essence, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5-7)

He went one day with a few of his followers to the top of another mountain and somehow met with a couple of men from history.  (Mark 9:2-8)

And then, there was that day He plodded, bloodied and beaten, to the top of the hill where He would die for the sins of the whole world.  (John 19:17-18)

This was a mountain He had been climbing since before the beginning of time.  From the foundation of the earth, He was ordained to climb to the top of that hill and be raised high above it.

It is the mountain He was born to climb.

This Baby we celebrate, with all our pageants and all our concerts—all our lights and all our decorations, was born to climb that mountain and declare good news.  To all people.

I suppose I might be able to climb another hill or two.

I don’t know how beautiful my feet are, but the prophet Isaiah suggested they would be by the time the task is completed.

To tell it on the mountain, one has to first climb the mountain.

To tell it on the mountain, one has to first climb the mountain. Click To Tweet

He did.  The Baby, born in a stable.  The Man, carrying living water.  The Lamb, taking away the sins of the world. 

He did.

Time for me to start climbing again.

You coming with?



How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
    the news that the God of Israel reigns!
(Isaiah 52:7 ~ NLTHoly Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)


Down in a lowly stable 
the humble Christ was born, 
and God sent us salvation 
that blessed Christmas morn.

Go, tell it on the mountain, 
over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain 
that Jesus Christ is born.
(Go Tell It On The Mountain ~ American spiritual ~ adapted by John W Work ~ Educator and historian)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Beautiful. Really?

I didn’t expect my feet to hurt quite so much.

When we awoke in the morning, the day stretched ahead with only the promise of leisure and enjoyment.  A relaxing weekend of driving through the countryside seeking old bridges had prepared us for nothing like the actual ordeal.

One of the bridges we sought, the Lovely Lady and I, had eluded us up till then.  It occurred to us that we might need to leave the comfort of the pickup truck to find this one.  We were up to the challenge.

I thought we were up to the challenge.

I never figured on wading across the river.  I never intended to take off my good shoes, much less my socks.

Still, once the decision was made, there was no question in my mind it could be done easily.  In hindsight, the arrogance of ignorance is laughable. 

Only, I wasn’t laughing.

It was done, but it was touch and go for a moment or two.

You never heard such moaning and complaining in your life.  The pain could still be felt more than twelve hours later.  Fifteen feet across the waterway on the jagged flint rocks was more than enough to leave bruises on the bottoms of my tender soles, the like of which I’ve never experienced.

I used to go barefoot everywhere I went.  Hot pavement, rock driveways, wild overgrown fields?  All could be run across with no effects to be felt at all.  I’ll grant you it was fifty years ago.  Still, in retrospect, I’m ashamed of my performance.

My feet let me down.  For those few moments, they were the most important thing in my life.  Nothing mattered more than getting to the dry strand on the opposite shore, where I could sit down and replace my socks and shoes.  Nothing.

Feet!  How is it that something so unattractive and so mundane could demand the attention of every other part of my being?  

For those seconds, I didn’t think about how hungry I was.  I stopped worrying about the horseflies that buzzed about, ready to sting.  The little seed ticks which would torment later were not even a blip on the radar screen.

My feet were in extreme pain!  They needed relief. Immediately.

The promotion from lowest on the priority list to extremely urgent came as quite a surprise.

I was still mulling that over later as, fully shod and with walking sticks in hand, we made our way down into the little hollow in which the lost bridge was to be found.2016-05-30 11.38.17

There was a day when the structure was the most important part of someone’s life.  The craftsmanship and unimaginable hours of toil necessary to build the little stone arch took all the attention of the men who built it, nearly one hundred and seventy years ago.

Every stone had to be cut by hand, chipped and formed by hammer and chisel, before being laid in place.  Each one rested, without mortar, between neighboring stones which eventually would reach up to form the arch that wagons would drive across, horses and mules would gallop over, and even in later years, automobiles would ease up and over to avoid the rushing water below.

At one time, the bridge was a necessity, as well as a thing of beauty.  Almost certainly, the folk who used it praised the forethought of those who had planned and carried out its construction.  That day is long past.

The celebrated structure is nothing more than a dim memory to most.  Not even that to many others.  The folks living on the farms around about are as likely as not to be unaware of its very existence.  I know, because I asked them.

There is no road that leads to it today.  No one maintains the integrity of the bridge at all and it is likely to collapse completely very soon.

Yet, it once stood as a proud testimony to craftsmanship and hard work.  No one who passed that way failed to recognize the importance of the little bridge to their freedom to travel east and west across the waterway with ease.

What once was essential is now irrelevant.

My aching feet, however, are a different story.

You know, I normally pay little attention to my feet.  But oh, how important those two ugly things at the ends of my legs seemed to me in the middle of that river.

The Savior thought feet were important.  He spent some of His last moments on earth with his followers making sure their feet were clean. (John 13:1-17)

Taking on the role of a servant, He reminded them that even those seemingly unimportant things were of great import to Him.

He washed their dirty feet.  Their stinking, road-worn feet.

It should be so for us today, also.  Our Savior turned the world upside down.  He did it so we would turn the world upside down.

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. (Matthew 20:16)

If we want to be great, we must learn to be servants. (Matthew 20:26-27)

Feet, for all their disadvantages and dishonor, perform an essential function.  We count on them to get us from Point A to Point B.  When they fail to answer the call to duty, we instantly understand their significance.

Did you know the prophet describes them as beautiful when they are carrying the Good News?  Somehow, I think I might have chosen a different description, but there it is—How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that bring good news.  (Isaiah 52:7)

Beautiful.  Feet.  Beautiful.

Bridges are nice.  They make life easier.

But, bridges crumble and decay.  People forget they ever existed.

Our service is a legacy that will last far beyond our years on this earth.

Perhaps, it’s time to take care of the things that really matter.

When we bend to serve, we lend aid to the King of all Creation.

Feet might be a good place to start.

He bent to serve us.

How can we do less?




What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
(Augustine of Hippo ~ Roman theologian ~ 354-430)


But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
(Romans 10:14-15 ~ NLT)







© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.