Up to the Mountain - Resurrected Again

At uncanny and apropos times throughout my life, too repetitively and perfectly to be due to coincidence alone, I have been resurrected again and again by a special song.

I first heard it nearly seven years ago at a church in Las Vegas, Community Lutheran, where I was serving as intern pastor, recently married and entirely in over my head at a church that ran more like a circus/performance art/incubator of incredible spiritual activity.

A friend from Minnesota came to visit and she told me: Your church is like American Idol.

It was, in a sense, in all the best ways.


In December in Las Vegas, on a not-so-chilly winter Sunday afternoon, I attended a Christmas concert and first heard this song, sung by the incomparable and inspiring Kristen Hertzenberg, accompanied by the pianist who made pianos dance and even organs come alive, the star who deigned to join us for worship whenever he wasn't touring on Sunday mornings, Philip Fortenberry.

Philip and Kristen's version is available here, and I highly recommend it. It's the one I have heard over and over again in these past seven years, seemingly sent to me from God in my randomized iTunes playlist in the car or at home, reminding me of the breadth and power and immensity and mercy and peace of God.

But Kelly Clarkson sings a pretty awesome version too, and you can see that on the YouTube link above. Go ahead - listen and watch - and I'll break down the lyrics below. Music, I believe, has the power to bring life and light into what can feel like the darkness and despair of the depths of life.


I heard Up to the Mountain on my way to church today, later than I'd planned. My 2-year-old son Josh had discovered how to leap from his crib rail to the top of the changing table and empty his diaper caddy on the wall - so as of Monday he was transitioning to a "big boy" bed, which meant no naps and little sleep for the whole family.

We were muddling along, as always, doing the laundry and writing the articles and designing the buildings (that's Ben) and eating and sleeping and living and loving - mixing in a new part-time pastoral call for me and treading the waters of Lent: the spiritual discipline of waiting and of withholding and maybe suffering, as we grapple with the death of God on the Cross.

I was driving and I heard those opening piano chords swell up again in my heart, pounding away, lifting my heart. God was there: there on the mountain, there in the death there in the grief, there in the fear, there in the valley, there with Martin Luther King, Jr.

There with me.

I want to take you through the lyrics, so maybe this song can lift you up the way it always does me. Thanks Kristen and Philip!

Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)

I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to
Up over the clouds
To where the sky was blue
I could see all around me
I could see all around me

I think here about God asking me to keep going - to keep striving to speak God's word and tell God's truth - even if it's unpopular or I'm tired. 

I think here about God asking me to come to him in prayer - asking me to remember God's presence and to come back to the mountaintop - as Moses did - as MLK did - as you did - as Christians have forever - to come back to see God and be filled and renewed for life in the world.

When you get up to that mountain and you talk to God, you can see things you couldn't see before: the beauty of the world, the kindness of its people, the fragility and wonder and hope of it all - even spring and melting, running water, renewing green life, and birds singing.

You see you aren't so big, and neither are your problems ... though they seem massive in the harsh, fluorescent glare of your living room.

Sometimes I feel like
I've never been nothing but tired
And I'll be walking
'Til the day I expire
Sometimes I lay down
No more can I do
But then I go on again
Because you ask me to

Here's the part where I'm singing right along ... preferably in the car so Kristen can drown out my off-pitch notes ... and I always sing my own version: Sometimes I feel like - I've been nothing but tired - and I'll be WORKING til the day I expire ...

Sometimes I lay down (at the end of the night, after bedtimes, wiped out, glass of wine on the nightstand)

No more can I do ... But then I go on again, because you ask me to

God asks me to keep going. So I will. 

Some days I look down
Afraid I will fall
And though the sun shines
I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice, oh
Oh, come and then go, come and then go
Telling me softly
You love me so

Up on the mountain I can see it all and see the sky and the sun and the beauty - but when I look down I remember to be afraid of what could go wrong, all the ways I could fail. I miss the light. Everything goes black. I close my eyes.

I hear God's voice. A whisper in the wind. I love you. The mountain is higher than the valley, and the valley cannot contain it.

The peaceful valley
Just over the mountain
The peaceful valley
Few come to know
I may never get there
Ever in this lifetime
But sooner or later
It's there I will go
Sooner or later
It's there I will go

God's peace is there. I can see it - just glimpse it - just taste it. In the moments when my son Josh runs up and hugs me tight. In the moments when big brother Jacob still squeezes my hand. When the Bible reading comes alive - and Jesus really is born and healing and dying and rising.

I only just glimpse the peace - sometimes. By a lakeshore or in my husband's arms or walking with my mom or running alone or Nespresso and doughnuts with a dear friend or on the couch with the boys. But just knowing that peace is there - that's the promise - that's the rest - it keeps us going up the mountain - and down again - because God asks us to.


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