Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Look around you… (September Creeksider)

The other day, my wife and I were hiking on Barn Bluff, just outside Red Wing, in Southeastern Minnesota. At one point, as we snaked along the path, moving toward the bluff’s peak, I looked to my right and there it was: A series of cliff faces, just yards away, reaching high above our heads. That may not sound like much to you, but their size and shape nearly replicated other cliffs I’d spent hours staring at and thinking about as a kid. Those cliffs were in Winter Park, Colorado (the ski mountain where I learned the sport), viewable only from the bottom of a dangerous run dubbed “The Chutes.” But while out of the way, for those fortunate enough to survive The Chutes, and wise enough to stop and look around, these cliffs, steep and spectacular, towering over the trees, were postcard beautiful. As a kid, I imagined they weren’t just cliffs, but seats, where God would choose to sit and relax, if God needed rest. An odd fantasy, I realize, but for whatever reason, those cliffs deeply moved me. Still do. So when my wife and I hiked near something similar, I made her stop and listen as I breathlessly, rapturously sermonized about how awkwardly meaningful those other cliffs were to me. When I finally shut up, I asked, “Have I told you this before?” She said, “You have, many times, but it’s okay.” Wonderful wife.

Anyway, it’d been awhile since I’d pondered that favorite bit of scenery, so I’m glad I thought to look around on that hike, rather than focus only on the loose rocks beneath my feet, or where we were headed. Indeed, that’s much the joy of hiking, right? You might plan your destination and pay close attention to not losing your footing, but the point is to enjoy the walk, appreciate the journey, soak in the wonder of your surroundings.

In time-honored Shane fashion, I will now use that experience as an unfinished metaphor for church. Namely, I suspect what I just wrote about hiking applies to our Christian life together. Like hiking, where we’re going and whether we’re getting there as effectively as possible are very important, something to think about constantly. But if we don’t enjoy the process, frequently look around us, we miss the point of doing church. For instance, sometimes worship leaders and preachers get so focused on saying the right thing, picking the right song, performing it just right, that we don’t look around to assess whether the worship makes an impact. Maybe not, and we should change course. Maybe so, in some way, and we should build on that. But we won’t know if we don’t look around.

Ditto with something that’s been recently on my mind- If we don’t constantly look around to learn about and enjoy our community, we’ll miss opportunities God puts in our way. By community, I mean two things. 1) Church folk; if you don’t look around church consistently, you’ll miss who’s there, who isn’t, who’s new, or who you just haven’t said, “Hi” to enough recently. 2) Where we live; if we don’t look around, we’ll miss who needs help, who’s too lonely or scared to seek it, or who’s doing something wonderful we can partner with.

Sometimes Christians get so focused on doing their thing and going their own way, they don’t look around. But God brought us to our communities for a reason: to help create God’s Kingdom in this place with these wonderful people. Like a great hike, that can be tiring, but the journey’s worth it, as much for the people you hike with and the sites you see as you go, as the place you end up.

So if you haven’t looked around your community- either church or home- in awhile, stop and look. You might see something new and wonderful, or be reminded of something you’ve long loved. After all, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, God is working to make goodness a reality in our midst. If we look around, we might find that happening. God might even use us to make that so for others.

Grace and Peace,

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