On the hilltop

By J. D. Pendry

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (NIV)

Growing up in Southern West Virginia I was barefoot and shirtless most of the summer.  Unless I was playing baseball, or in the woods where shoes and shirts are required.  Oh.  White shirt and shoes also required for church.  I lived in a house without indoor plumbing.  Our water source was a well or a hand pump and sometimes fresh from a mountain spring.  No chemicals added.  Mom had an old washer with a ringer attached sitting on the back porch.  I carried buckets of water to fill up the washer and the rinse tub.  The sunshine and breeze dried the clothes.  In the winter, I remember snow flying and Mom’s reddened hands taking frozen denim jeans from the clothes line and thawing them behind our coal stove heater.

Have you ever sat on a hilltop on a clear summer night?  Looking into a deep blue night sky filled with millions of glittering stars occasionally highlighted by a streaking shooter?  It’s a calming site and at the same time quite stimulating.  It brings on an awestruck feeling that begins in the pit of your belly and wells up in your heart.  For me, it rivals the time I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  The beauty and vastness of God’s creation gives me perspective.  I long for the peace and serenity found on that West Virginia hilltop.

I’ve read and contemplated what’s referred to as the half-life of knowledge.  That’s the point where half of what I know or have learned becomes obsolete.  In today’s world, we know much more now than we new 10 years ago and the pace at which we are gaining knowledge is only speeding up.  To survive in our incredibly fast paced world, I have to remain relatively current.  In my drive to do that, I neglected care and maintenance of what endures.  My soul.  My value system.  My faith.  The enduring truth of Holy Scripture.

I spent much of my life trying to perfect the outside.  What others see.  For a long stretch, I was borderline fanatical about physical fitness.  I still try to maintain, but at a leisurely pace and for different reasons.  I grew from wayward teenager to crusty old lifer in a rule and standard driven highly competitive world.  It was a world requiring me to be the standard.  Not one searching for the benchmark, but one who is the benchmark.  I focused on the outside when I should have given equal, maybe even more than equal, time to the inside.  Oh, there was plenty of study and learning throughout all those years.  Ultimately, most all of it, pointed toward the exterior presentation.  It did not always balance with what was inside me.  It left me a little out of kilter at times sending me in directions away from my internal compass.  I lived in a fiercely serious world with little time put aside for appreciating the hilltop.

I’ve read so many non-fiction books from Mr. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change to Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God and almost everything in between.  Politics, self-help, history…  The cranial hard drive is chocked so full, I often wonder if there is an original thought running around anywhere inside my hillbilly noggin.  For me, that’s a serious pondering.  It points me toward a world where I’m, in actuality, historically insignificant.   Like most of the human race, at least as a single individual, history is not likely to remember me.  History records greatness, sometimes made up greatness, and horrid evil.  All of it defined by the composer.  The composer who as often as not is of questionable intellectual integrity.

I believe it was Covey I heard say this, but I won’t swear to it; when you’re lying on your death bed, you’ll not be wishing you’d spent more time at work.  I add to that many other places as well.  In part, he was talking about spiritual renewal.  And that’s the point.  Like you, I view the world based on what’s inside me.  My experiences, my knowledge, and even my ignorance.  The spirit of my soul.  I’ve always presented myself as I believed others expected me to be.  All of it coming from a learned, practiced persona.  The presentation filtering up through an imperfect soul cluttered with many unnecessary things.  A soul most definitely in need of the refresh button.  A cleansing maybe.  Possibly be more like that barefoot, carefree child running around the hills of Southern West Virginia.  Among other things, there were no politics there with all of its hatefulness and skullduggery to fill my mind.  Just God’s creation and feeling the creek bank mud between my toes.  Time spent appreciating the hilltop.

I usually don’t share my self-chats.  Today I break my self-imposed rule.  Downloading, I’m told, begins renewal.  Maybe a national renewal is past due.

© 2019 J. D. Pendry, J. D. Pendry’s American Journal, All Rights Reserved Email: jd@jdpendry.com

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