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This year, 2010, is the fortieth anniversary of the premier of John Denver's musical tribute to West Virginia as "almost heaven."
When I think of Denver's classic song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," (which was co-written with Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert) I think about the things that make West Virginia so unique. First, of course, is the kind and generous nature of the people of our beloved state. Next, I picture the beauty and serenity of our mountains. They seem sacred, and, in fact, mountains are a frequent location for events in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. It was on Mt. Sinai that God revealed himself to Moses and gave Him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16 and 20:17). God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land from a mountain. It was on Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal, and, on Mt. Ararat that Noah's Ark came to rest (Genesis 8:4).
Some of the most important teachings of Jesus, as well as the critical events in His life took place in the mountains. The Transfiguration of Jesus, one of the most important Miracles, took place on a mountain, probably Mount Tabor (Luke 9:28-43). It was on Mount Olives that Jesus instructed His disciples (Matthew 24:3). The third temptation of Christ took place on a mountain, so that Jesus could see the kingdoms of the world. (Matthew 4:8-9). And, of course, Jesus delivered perhaps His most important Sermon, the "Sermon on the Mount," from a hillside, where he also gave us the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 5-7). Jesus gave His life for our salvation and was crucified on a hill, Golgotha (Calvary).
Throughout the Bible, examples of the powerful and mystical significance of mountains can be found. For example, Isaiah 25:6 tells us of the celestial banquet on Mount Zion that is a symbol of eternal happiness, and the coming of the Kingdom of God. And one of my favorite passages from the Bible, Psalm121:1, reads: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."
Contemplating the use of mountains and hillsides as symbols in Holy Scripture, underscores what a special gift our mountains are for the people of West Virginia. Majestic, inspiring, and, at times, intimidating, our mountains remind us of the glory of the view after the challenge of the climb. Perhaps that is why West Virginians retain a stalwart and independent character, always inspired by possibilities and undaunted by difficulties.