Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A View from the Top, and Our Lives Together

I thought it would be just a hike.  It turned out to be much more.

This past Saturday, I took our dog Ella on a  hike in the hills above Hollywood, just a couple of miles northeast of our church campus.  Just a chance to exercise myself and our faithful Labrador.  But it seems God had more in mind.  That morning hike turned out to be an epiphany of sorts for me.  As Pastor Dan is taking some time off, he asked me to share my hiking reflections with you.  You know Dan; that guy who is always reminding us to "pay attention".  I'm trying.

I had heard that the view from the end of our hike was really great, but I had no idea how good it would be last Saturday.  You remember, at the end of last week we had several drizzling, rainy days, grey and uneventful; the sort of days that find you in a kind of sad funk.  Saturday morning started out grey as well at our house.  As Ella and I left in the car, I wondered if we would have to turn around because of more rain. 

But as we started down the trail at around 10 AM, the clouds began to part, and we hiked out to a promontory point in Runyan Canyon Park.  They call it "Inspiration Point".  As we walked out to the peak of the trail, the clouds had parted, and the sun felt warm on my shoulders.  Even Ella seemed to pick up the pace.  This was a stunning day.  Amazing.  Blue of sky, white of clouds, almost too bright to take in, even with sunglasses on.  A distant and clear view to Long Beach, Palos Verdes, and the blue Pacific beyond.  The city of legend.  Breathtaking.  Enough to make you weep; at this beautiful place God allows us all to live in, to work in, and in which we share our lives together.

Below us lay an amazing expanse of Los Angeles.  From Griffith Park, to downtown, from Koreatown to Westwood.  The City of Angels.  Under the parting clouds and warming sun, lay the home to over 3.8 million souls.  At that very moment, I remembered the title words of author Anne Lamont in her most recent book, written on the subject of prayer...."Help.  Thanks.  Wow!"   

Not just landscape and buildings lay before us, not just offices, homes, apartments, and freeways and people rushing to and fro.  Below us lay a teaming sea of ..... life!  Millions of stories of triumph and pain, of great joy and deep sorrow.  Daily struggles, little victories.  Those without homes sleeping in the underpasses and those with homes so big they get lost inside of them.  Struggling single moms, teens trying to figure out how they fit in, elderly who live alone without someone to care for them.  So many stories, so many lives.  So much emotion below there in this city, if you were able to really understand it, to comprehend all its weight and breadth in a moment, you would drop to your knees, overwhelmed by its sheer power.  

And above us, all around us, a God who knows the names and stories and struggles and joys of every last one of all of those lives.  A Savior who longs to connect to every last person down here in this amazing, messy, confusing, unruly city.  How will He ever make that connection?

I think it's often easy to forget why we are here together at Hollywood Presbyterian. I know enough to sense that sometimes my view of the world is too small, too myopic, too self-absorbed.  We get involved in our little "church lives", and forget the bigger picture.  We can't find our perspective, and we loose track of our unique place in this big city, forgetting that our job is to love others, mostly those outside our church walls, in an entirely uncommon way.  To love in a way that points clearly to Jesus and the amazing, breathtaking and abundant life He spoke of.  This is a key part of our life together; to love well.

The image of that mountain top hike will be with me for a while now.  It won't let me go.  Now comes the hard part, the gritty part, the day-to-day part, the loving part.  Living it out.  Making a difference.  Connecting.  Making this big old city smaller, one friendship at a time.  Getting up everyday, and heading out the door, going to the office, or school, or a meeting, volunteering, or a coffee or lunch with a long time friend or a new acquaintance.  Loving people.  

"Help!"  Lord, we cannot do this church thing without your Spirit guiding us daily.  Please help us, we can't do this alone.  We need your mercy.

"Thanks" for what you have done in our church for the last century.  Give us energy, fill us with hope, make us into people who know how to really love others.  Thank you for your amazing grace.

"Wow!"  Why did you choose us, of all people, to be the ones to become part of this grand old church in such a wondrous place?  We are humbled.  We don't deserve such an amazing chance.  But please, make us somehow worthy of this incredible opportunity.

See you in church.  Grace & Peace,

Steve Norris
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