Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Climbing the Stairs

Not long ago I posted about the late Larry Norman. Last week I found myself singing an odd combination of songs. One was from Larry's first album, one that started a revolution in Christian music. The song was "Walking Backwards Down the Stairs." I had not thought of the song for a long time, but remembered that I had thought it was about growing complacent or lazy--"backsliding" as we said in my childhood church. Now, as the words drifted through my mind again after many years, I heard them in a very different way.

The other song, "Higher Ground" (also remembered from long ago) was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. and composed by Charles H. Gabriel.

One is about going down, the other is about going up. I found Larry's song, and then I found a bluegrass version of "Higher Ground" -- and I liked it, though I'd never heard it that way before.
The poem is my attempt to sort out conflicting feelings Singing both those songs for a week, I realized they expressed different parts of my heart longings. The italicized verses are the stanzas and chorus of "Higher Ground."

Micah 4:2 "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD.. .

Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Daunting stairways are
just a way to rise up higher!
Love and I run up the stairs!
Together we just cannot fall!
First alone and then with one
and two and three then four and more,
we link arms, and we go up.
We long for God, and higher ground!

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

As we together climb the stairs.
And others come and help us,
Breath catches in my chest and heart,
Not easy, running up these stairs!

Here come some “friends” with gifts and smiles,
And strong arms, and new vigor,
Come, let us climb the stairs with you
We’ll take you so much higher.

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.

Why is it now that those who climb
the stairs are growing fewer?
Why don’t we see we cannot rise
by pushing others downward?

My comrades on the stairs are less,
though others joined us on the Way.
And some don’t see, as they retreat,
they’re walking backwards down the stairs!

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Shadow Man, astride the stair,
contempt and pride are in your eyes.
What do you have to do with me?
You shall not stop me on my way!

Move aside and let me pass!
You know just who I am.
Child of the King and loved by God,
and who are you to block our climb?

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

The Shadow moves as we press on
And link our arms and hearts once more.
Yet feet are slow and stumbling now,
What became of hope and joy?

Salty tears flow down my face,
and once, then twice, I slip and fall.
Blood mingles with the tears and sweat.
We’re sick and weary---some have died.

I cannot see the top above.
The stairs grow longer as we go
Where is the Spirit in this pain,
this walking backwards down the stairs?

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.

The Shadow Man is back again,
delighting in our fear of death.
He thinks he’s winning as he laughs,
at pilgrims walking down the stairs.

Oh Water of Life, we pray to you!
Please come to us, the thirsty.
We’ll share the water giv'n to us,
and then, refreshed, keep climbing.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

There is no fear of death—no sting,
The Saviour won the battle!
And we will yet be bold and strong,
And climb again these stairs to God!

Jesus, my God and King and Lord,
awaiting our arrival,
feels sorrows for our loss, our grief,
but smiles to know we shall press on.
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.


Sally said...

wow- great words here. Isn't it interesting how God brings things together, he knows our hearts :-)

Truth said...

Years ago, I would have seen this as a backsliding song. But I see it very different now.

much2ponder said...

That song, "Walking backwards down the stairs" is a good description of how I have felt recently. it's like I feel I misses something somewhere and I need to go back and find that missing piece or something. It seems that the gaps of missing pieces are coming into place, and I am not moving backwards anymore, but my procession onward seems to be without the vigor and focus I once had. It is just different now, not bad, just different.

The poem is a good reflection of your heart...still praying for you