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  • Jeff Chacon

Higher Ground

As I write this Wednesday evening, Tropical Storm Eta is about a hundred miles southwest of Tampa and heading our way, with an ETA (pun alert) of tomorrow morning before it makes landfall.


The storm already made landfall last week in Central America as a category 4 hurricane, then weakened to a tropical storm before hitting Cuba and the Keys and is forecast to hit Tampa with wind gusts of up to 70 miles an hour.


But the winds are probably not nearly as dangerous as the rainfall. This one’s a soaker, which could dump up to 6 inches of rain and cause 2-5 feet of storm surge along the coast.


For those of you in low lying areas that means possible flooding, and if it’s bad enough, that may mean heading for higher ground.


When the storms come, head for higher ground…


Hmm, sounds like good advice – both physically and spiritually.


That’s what David did when he faced the storms of life – he headed for higher ground.


“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” (Psalm 61:2-3)


I love how vulnerable David is in his prayers. It gives us hope – because he felt just as weak as we do sometimes – and yet God stayed close to him and answered his prayers.


“From the ends of the earth I call to you…” (vs. 2a)


Sometimes I feel so far from God. He’s never far from us – but it sure feels that way sometimes – especially when the storms of life slam into us.


“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint…” (vs. 2b)


Sometimes my prayers are not strong at all – they’re more like faint whispers. Like I don’t even have the strength to muster a faithful prayer – so a weak one comes out – more like a whisper than a prayer.


But know this: God hears our prayers even – maybe especially – when all we can muster is a whisper. Weak whispers are amplified to God, reverberating through heaven’s hallways.


“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I...” (vs. 2c)


That phrase really resonates with me:

“lead me” – I need God to take me by the hand and show me the way out.

“to the rock” – Lead me to a firm place to stand – a rock that no wind or rain can move.

“that is higher than I” – Lead me to the rock of God – an uncreated being who is higher, in every way, than I am.


Lead me out.

Lead me up.

Lead me to you, God.


Like the old hymn we used to sing at church called “Higher Ground”:


“Lord, lift me up and let me stand,

By faith, on heaven's table land,

A higher plane than I have found;

Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


My heart has no desire to stay

Where doubts arise and fears dismay;

Though some may dwell where those abound,

My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.


I want to scale the utmost height

And catch a gleam of glory bright;

But still I'll pray till heaven I've found,

"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”


(“Higher Ground”, by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1898. Music by Charles Hutchinson Gabriel,

1892)


“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” (vs. 3)


God is our refuge – sanctuary, shelter, protection – a strong tower we can always run to.


We just need to run to him – not to the false idols in our lives that offer refuge but come crashing down in the storm because they are built on sand. (Ouch, I’ve made that mistake plenty of times.)


That’s part of why I love this song by Barbara Streisand that I used to listen to years ago on my iPod (Google it if you’re under 20). It’s also called “Higher Ground”, and it makes us think about the idols we’ve fallen for that let us down, leaving us with an ache to be led up, and in, to the heart of God.


Walk me over this horizon.

Let the sun's light warm my face.

Once again, the times are changing.

Once again, I’ve lost my way.


Well the words of ancient poets

fall like dust upon my shoes.

Grief has robbed me of my vision,

turned my heart from higher truths.


So, take my hand and lift me higher.

Be my love and my desire.

Hold me safe and honor bound.

Take my heart to higher ground.


I have walked too long in darkness.

I have walked too long alone.

Blindly clutching fists of diamonds

that I found were only stones.


I would trade the world of ages

for a warmer hand to hold.

The path of light is narrow

but it leads to streets of gold.


So, take my hand and lift me higher.

Be my love and my desire.

Hold me safe and honor bound.

Take my heart to higher ground.”


(“Higher Ground”, 1997; sung by Barbara Streisand; lyrics by Stephen Hartley Dorff, George

Green, and Charles Agee)


Good stuff…


So, with the storm coming, don’t forget to stock up on water, make some hot cocoa (or cranberry tea like Lisa does), and stay safe in the strong tower of God’s higher ground.


“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” (Psalm 61:2-3)

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