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Climb Every Mountain

Over the last three months I was fortunate to be involved in the cast for the Porirua Little Theatre production of the Sound of Music. Opening night was 28th of October, which also happened to by my 50th birthday.  The season ran for 16 shows over 3 weeks.  It’s hard to describe the experience as it was quite overwhelming being part of a large story of hope, faith, and love – and watching the audience encounter the mystery of the story coming to life.

It was also a great privilege to share the stage with my son Isaac, who played Rolf. He taught me everything I needed to know to get by with my three minor ensemble roles and face my fears of stage fright.

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The Sound of Music made its debut in 1965. For over 60 years, it has entertained us with the heart-warming story of novice nun Maria and how she changes not just her own life but the lives of the Von Trapp family as well.

Originally, a musical stage play by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based on a true story, the movie depicts life in the late 1930s in Austria shortly before the Anschluss. The songs drive the plot and help convey a number of emotions, beliefs and desires. The story also has many themes including love, hope, faith, loyalty and patriotism.

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One aspect explored in the film (and original stage play) is the concept of Christian faith. At the beginning of the story, Maria is studying to be a nun at a convent in Salzburg. There a number of references to Maria’s faith made throughout the story.

The Will of God

The first theme of Christianity explored in the story is the will of God. God’s will or in other terms His plan for our lives is something all Christians strive to find. Before we try to find what his will for us is, we have to understand what His will is. One verse that perfectly sums up this is found in Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

In The Sound of Music, the question of God’s will for Maria’s life comes up when the other nuns tell the Mother Abbess that Maria is not suited to Abbey life (through the song “Maria”). Maria is summoned to discuss her situation with Mother Abbess and when asked a question by Mother Abbess, Maria responds accordingly…

To find out what is the will of God and to do it wholeheartedly — Maria

The above response is something all people contemplate at some point. Finding out what God’s will for your life is a hard task. We may already have an idea of what we think it is, just like Maria who believed that she meant to live out her life in the Abbey as a nun serving God. However, when her concept of what God’s will for her life is challenged she immediately tries to resist any suggestions that it could be wrong. She goes into denial mode and tries to get Mother Abbess to change her mind. Mother Abbess is steadfast in her resolve and when she explains the reasons why she needs to leave the Abbey for a short time, Maria reluctantly agrees.

The same thing can happen to us when faced with the possibility that what we thought was God’s will for our life may not be what God really wants for us. We have to pray and seek God to find out what it is, even when the answer may be something quite unexpected.

Climb Every Mountain

When faced with something totally unexpected, Maria chooses to run away and go back to the Abbey. She is afraid of what she is feeling and of an unknown future. The Abbey represents to her a known future and is a safe place where she doesn’t have to feel and deal with life’s problems.

Realising that there is a problem, Mother Abbess summons Maria. Maria eventually explains what has happened and Mother Abbess advises that staying in the Abbey will not solve the situation. Maria has a mountain that she has to overcome in order to be the person God wants her to be.

These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live  — Mother Abbess

Facing problems is all part and parcel of being human. As Mother Abbess tells Maria via song (Climb Every Mountain) that we have to go forward and climb those mountains that arise and find the shallow water crossings that will make the path to our dreams more easily accessible. Maria has to confront her feelings in order to live the life she was born to live.

Maria had to find the strength and courage to go back to the Von Trapp family home and deal with her problems. She soon realised that the mountain she thought was there was only a small hill.

I’d like to leave you with these words sung by the Revered Mother from The Sound of Music.  This is the final song in the musical that we all got to sing together for 16 performances. The last two verses sum up the whole story of the Sound of Music – a story of faith, hope and love. 

A dream that will need
All the love you can give
Every day of your life, for as long as you live

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
Until you find your dream

Photo credit: Porirua Little Theatre

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Climb Every Mountain is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. It is sung at the close of the first act by the Mother Abbess. It is themed as an inspirational piece, to encourage people to take every step towards attaining their dreams.

This song shares inspirational overtones with the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel. They are both sung by the female mentor characters in the shows, and are used to give strength to the protagonists in the story, and both are given powerful reprises at the end of their respective shows. However, as Oscar Hammerstein II was writing the lyrics, it developed its own inspirational overtones along the lines of an earlier Hammerstein song, “There’s a Hill Beyond a Hill”. He felt that the metaphors of climbing mountains and fording streams better fitted Maria’s quest for her spiritual compass.
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Recently I went rock climbing in Colorado Springs in the Garden of the Gods. I’ve been climbing before, however the beauty of this place was overwhelming as was the vertical rock that we climbed.

The Garden of the Gods red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC Native American people camped in the park. They are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Ute, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Lakota people

Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permit obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. The requirements are following the “Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines,” using proper equipment, climbing with a “buddy”, and staying on established climbing routes. Precipitation makes rocks unstable and therefore climbing is not allowed when the rocks are wet or icy. There are fines for unregistered climbers, and possibly rescue costs. Several fatalities have occurred over the years, generally because the climber was not wearing safety equipment or the equipment failed.

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Climbing mountains whether the are physical, mental or spiritual all require persistence and strength. The question is where you get strength from and how long you persist for. Both are required to get to the top. There are many valleys and mountains in our lives, we need to walk through and climb over. In Psalm 23 there is a map of how to walk through valleys, rest, and where to gain strength. Jesus teaches us much here about what we need through the valley to then climb the mountain.

May you this week take comfort that you are not alone in this quest. We can gain strength, courage, and fortitude to climb every mountain we face. May you value the journey for what it is, and know that you are still becoming.

Climb

When molehills feel impassable
Too tall and wide and high
Let me climb the mountain
That is higher than I

When life becomes too old
And the bigger story sighs
Let me climb that mountain
That is higher than I

When sadness eclipses hope
And joy is lost to lies
Let me climb your mountain
That is higher than I

When gardens start to crumble
And gods refuse to die
I’ll meet you on the mountain
As we climb so high

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