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Friday, September 15, 2023
A view of the Pittsburgh skyline from the Monongahela Incline as seen in the immediate foreground.
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"When The Mountain Is Steep"
Message summary: At times the road will seem steep but God gives strength so that we may endure as we call upon Him.
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"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word" (Psalm 119:28). "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isaiah 40:29). "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees" (Hebrews 12:12).
For the last several days I was in Pittsburgh with my young friend Moses who turns 20 tomorrow. He was there to receive treatment for a shoulder injury. Pittsburgh is a beautiful city with several outstanding views. Our first skyline view was over 40 years ago when Brooksyne and I drove in from the west under the Fort Pitt Tunnel. When exiting the tunnel the city skyline appears before you and in our experience it was a complete surprise.
Pittsburgh is well known for its rivers. At the tip of downtown the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River. Pittsburgh is also known as the “City of Bridges” since there are a total of 446 bridges in the city.
But here's another lesser known factoid about Pittsburgh that I didn't know before preparing for this trip. It has the steepest street in the continental US.
I initially questioned this considering the steepness of a famous curvy street in San Francisco where there are about eight switchbacks in the 1000 block of Lombard Street. The natural 27-percent grade of this street was actually leveled slightly to 16 percent in 1922 when the city used cobblestones while paving the street. It affords a beautiful view of the city from the top.
But Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh is the steepest street in the continental United States. Although only 600 feet long it has an average grade of 30% over its length. There is even one short section that has a grade of 37%. Moses and I drove over to examine it and walked to the top, although I used the stairs that went up beside it, assisted by the railing. Public steps are another feature of Pittsburgh!
It's a cobblestone road and I just didn't feel like driving my car up with the extreme washboard effect but a car did climb it while we were there. It seems there were other curious onlookers but there were houses along the road as well and if you live there you probably get used to it, but I can only imagine what it's like in the winter!
The steep street prompts a consideration of "Press On", a song by Selah, which begins with this line:
When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall
At times the roads and the mountains sure seem steep.
Our first daily text is a candid petition from David, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” Many will identify with the colorful vocabulary of the KJV translation, “My soul melteth for heaviness.” The NASV states, “My soul weeps because of grief.”
Our third daily text comes from a section of Hebrews where followers of Christ are implored to be persevering. "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees" (Hebrews 12:12).
The chapter begins with a call to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us". This is one of the great Biblical texts describing the long-term nature of our service for Christ. The strenuous race we run is not a brief sprint but a life-long marathon. And this marathon has steep hills!
As we run the race for Christ sometimes everything seems to be going great; runners describe this by using the terms, “having the wind” or being “in pace”.
But at other times the going is really tough. It may be like the famed “heartbreak hill” in the Boston Marathon. These providential hard times are ultimately a part of God’s disciplinary work in our lives. We will groan in despair if our emotions and focus are solely fixed “at the time” upon our painful discipline. Instead we must, through eyes of faith, look ahead to the “harvest of righteousness and peace” that are a result of our unshakable walk with God in the shakable events of life.
Are your arms feeble or your knees weak today? Are you dealing with setbacks that weary you along the way or increase your fear of tomorrow?
Corrie ten Boom wrote, “Worrying about tomorrow will rob you of strength for today.” Who would know more about anxiety, setbacks and uncertainties than Miss ten Boom whose father and sister were executed during the holocaust and she herself was imprisoned in the concentration camps for saving hundreds of Jews.
Strengthen or lift up your arms today in faith and praise to God. This must primarily be an act of willful obedience rather than an emotional response. As you lift them up in obedience I believe you will experience the uplifting spiritual, physical and mental revitalization that Isaiah writes about in 40:29, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak".
Choose to gaze upon your permanent destiny and only glance upon your present difficulties. This will enable you to praise God with a sincere heart. Thank Him for the discipline He is bringing into your life to conform you to His likeness and to prepare You for the joys of heaven where sorrow, loss, pain and disappointment no longer exist.
In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we are encouraged and emboldened when we consider that in everything we experience You go before us preparing the way. Sometimes the mountain really seems steep and we can hardly catch our breath; it's hard to go on. We need your strength. As we fix our gaze on the eternal peace that awaits the faithful believer we can deal with the temporal conflict here and now. We wait upon You in prayer and faith so that we are renewed in our strength emotionally, physically and spiritually. We are thankful that You give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. And thank You most of all for renewing our spirit so that we can press on. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Press On" Watch video on YouTube Selah
Bicyclists race up (and fall) on Canton Avenue at Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen (Video)
We parked at the top of Mount Washington with stunning views overlooking the city and rode down and back up on the Monongahela Incline. It is a commuter route for residents who live on the hill to get to and from work in the downtown area. This view is going up, of course, so you can see how steep it is. The Monongahela Incline: A Pittsburgh Icon
This house is in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh near the place we stayed. Overall compared to many cities Pittsburgh seemed to be in pretty good shape wherever we went
In the course of getting lost driving around Pittsburgh we did drive up this steep cobblestone street (perhaps it was brick - not sure!)
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