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Attitude and Altitude

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite…’” (Isaiah 57:15)

For physical renewal I used to take visitors to our cabin for lunch in a historic inn near the mountain lake. Its small but charming eatery went through periodic name changes. One day it was The Raven, the next Attitude. Or perhaps it was Altitude, given its high elevation. I could never remember which was which, but learned soon that the lone waitress had a bad attitude despite the good food. There was only one time when she cracked a happy smile and offered a personal word. Two women had come from a funeral and raked the deceased over the coals with tongues lubricated with too much wine. A certain meatloaf recipe came up for heated discussion and the talk got so obnoxiously loud that my friend and I cast pleading looks in the direction of the waitress. “It’s quite a show,” she commented gleefully - and offered to bring us popcorn.

A quote of unknown precise origin signals this caution, “Adversity doesn’t create character; it reveals it.” The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped a vast community of crisis-distanced members of the diverse human family. Initially, the social glue of cooperation casts a glow of good will. When the novelty wears off, the “whine” of discontent begins to flow. Opposing voices get louder and the dispensers of sarcasm weigh in with a vengeance. The powerful and the powerless both get put on pedestals, or thrown under the bus. Vaxxers slug it out with anti-vaxxers. Surfers insist they’re most “at home” in the ocean. We pity the jobless and homeless and foodless and pitch in as much and as often as we can. When donor fatigue sets in and fatality numbers still rise, some spirits sink low enough to relate to a sobering Denis Leary quote, “I want you to take away the hope because that’s the thing that’s killing me.”

How low did Isaiah have to sink, one wonders, before he could offer the high hope of revival rooted in divine promise? He had answered God’s call after seeing “the LORD sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted…” (Isaiah 6:1-8) His rebel compatriots spurned the Holy One of Israel’s caring counsel and placed their hope in foreign nations that soon would fall captive to brutal Assyria. For “three years” the Lord had His servant Isaiah walk “naked and barefoot” in public, posing as a despised prisoner of war, to warn against the folly of pinning false hopes on doomed deliverers (Isaiah 20:3). What if the humble of spirit and contrite of heart today would experience true Revival and so become the leaven of hope in their hope-starved communities?

Vreni Schiess


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