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The Rev. Richard C. Lamb: Down from the high places

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Driving up to Hubbard Hospice House recently, I was amazed once again at the city of Charleston below and the surrounding hills. What a view! It commanded my attention and led to a shift in thinking about the offerings of some high places in life: education, science, law, industry, social services. Their offerings are impressive!

Jesus' disciples were always playing "catch up" with the teacher from Nazareth. And just when they thought they had a "leg up," something happened that was gripping and beyond their understanding.

One day, Jesus led them up to a high mountain, and there he was transfigured before them (Matthew 17:1-9). Building a memorial seemed just the thing to do! But Jesus led them down from the mountain, back to ground level, where throngs of people filled the streets and where suffering and aimlessness were quite apparent. For the disciples, it must have been something of a letdown. Same old, same old! But that's where he wanted them to be, a living monument to faith, hope and love, caring for neighbor as for self.

We forget the enlightenment that we have received becomes a part of us for good reason. And for all the beauty of the earth, the high places that promise gain, God calls us to ground level where human needs are apparent and where vision is severely cramped.

Pitching one's tent with doctrine, with people who think like we do, is so amiss as to verbalize the intent of Jesus on the high mountain, "Come off it!"

There are many good opportunities in life and many of them are important. But if one is to stand in faith, inviting God's guidance, He will lead you to moments that are uplifting and informing, and where His loving interest rests -- on human life.

We often say we have to see to our living, to care of our family, to all our needs. True. But there should be room in the inn of our thoughts and wishes for what is dear to God -- showing compassion and mercy to others.

Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," is one of my favorites. He writes, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Dr. Lamb is parish associate at First Presbyterian Church, Charleston.


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