2020 started with this inner desire to go higher with God than I have ever been. It was probably inspired by recently reading through the book of Exodus and my mind’s eye imagining Moses exerting himself over and over again to climb a literal mountain to be alone with God. What was the outcome? Well, he literally shone so brightly with God’s glory that his face had to be veiled. Can you imagine?
As I pondered this idea of going higher, I couldn’t help but consider how much time I spend teaching this concept to my horn students and how difficult it is for most to achieve. Having a sure and consistent high range is one of the markers of a great player and its an absolute necessity if you’re going to achieve success. Herein we find my first point.
We never go up higher by accident
Perhaps nothing you will do in your horn playing will be more deliberate than your ascension into the top octave of your range. People who are negligent will never get there. Players that won’t practice consistently will never get there. People who are afraid to fail will never get there. Consider the difficulty of scaling a mountain in the desert (as Moses did). Ascending is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily deterred. To ascend, expect effort, intensity, time and energy.
Players who won’t be consistent might have a few mountaintop experiences where they can play a few of the high notes and feel the related euphoria of success and achievement, but being able to play up there consistently requires daily work, daily effort, and daily practice. I think we can all recall moments where we had a mountaintop experience with God, but it was fleeting. In order to keep returning to the summit we have to exercise these daily disciplines rather than hoping for an experience to suddenly manifest with no effort on our part.
You’ll have to be teachable
In my early horn lessons, my teacher would invite me to “raise my ceiling,” by playing higher than I’d ever played. It was scary to strain my way up to the top of my range and reach higher, knowing eventually I would fall off one of the notes or royally crack one and it would sound terrible. But he was encouraging and I was willing and together over time we raised my ceiling.
In Isaiah 48:7 the Lord describes himself as the one who “teaches us to ascend.” What a thought! God himself as our teacher, coaxing us up onto higher ground. Here he is inviting us to rise and shine, encouraging us as we submit to his instruction.
Ask what’s not working and address it
Over Christmas break, one of my hard-working horn students emailed and said his high range wasn’t working so well. He wanted to know what I thought might be going on and how he could address it. His fundamental question came first from admitting there was a problem and that he didn’t know exactly what it was.
When is the last time you came to God and said, “So I have been trying to go higher with you God, but it doesn’t seem to be working. What am I not getting?”
In three sentences I was able to diagnose what the issue was and make simple recommendations to my horn student that set him on the right path. How much more so can God give us direction? In Habakkuk 3:19 God is characterized as the one who “makes us walk on our high places.” Perhaps our part is just going to him and saying, “Hey, I can’t do this on my own,” and in His divine wisdom He says, “Don’t worry, I know just what’s not working and how to help you fix it.”
Lay off the weight
We all know that real mountain climbers pack light. In a recent New York Times article about scaling Mount Everest the writer said, “To reach the summit, climbers shed every pound of gear they can and take with them just enough canisters of compressed oxygen to make it to the top and back down.”
As I pondered this idea of going higher with God I had to ask myself the question, “How serious am I taking this?” And the answer lies in how much weight I am trying to ascend with. There’s the mental weight of wrong thinking about my identity and who I actually am in Christ. There’s the clutter weight of just being over-committed and over-extended in areas where being fruitful is not likely. There’s the ego weight of wanting to do and be things because of what others think. There’s the emotional weight of old hurts and childhood scars that seem to want to weigh us down to the point of putting down roots right where we are- bitter ones. If we want to go higher, we have to shed every pound of unnecessary gear, just like the Everest climbers, keeping only what is absolutely necessary.
What we get by going higher
In conclusion, I think it is important to consider the question, “What do we get by going higher?” Moses went up Mount Sinai about eight times. During these trips he received instruction, warnings, promises, laws, words to share with those around him, and most importantly found himself in deep fellowship and relationship with God.
In Luke 14:10 Jesus himself says, “Friend, come up higher.” What a blessed invitation to closeness, intimacy and relationship. I don’t know about you, but I’m busy laying off some weights in the hopes of ascending with a boldness that steps past fear into a higher place with God.
2020 Copyright by Misty Tolle
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