I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

— Psalm 121:1-8
New Revised Standard Version

Dear Friends,

You might consider this old news, since I was back leading worship last Sunday, but I have indeed returned from a wonderful vacation, rested and renewed. This year, in addition to spending some time at our cottage on the Vineyard, I was able to travel to California to see my family in San Diego and Newport Beach. It’s been 7 years since I’ve made the trek out to my old haunts. I very much enjoyed reconnecting with my West Coast relatives.

In San Diego, part of my daily routine was going for the kind of long walks I enjoy. I managed to put in about 30 miles in six days. It’s a very different experience than when I have Coco trying to drag me off into the bushes every few feet so she can sniff at the parade of canine visitors that have been there ahead of us. Free of the leash, I managed to cover a lot of territory, part of which you can see in the photo. This is a picture of Mount Soledad, which is just up the street from my cousin’s house.

Mount Soledad has some interesting history. According to Wikipedia, “there is an urban legend that in the 1930’s, a group of little people who appeared in Hollywood films such as the Wizard of Oz came to San Diego, where they built miniature houses on Mount Soledad.” It is also “the location of the last home lived in by Dr. Seuss.” But the story we are more likely to have heard is about the court case surrounding the cross. The Wikipedia article describes it this way…

Mount Soledad is topped by a large concrete Christian cross, first built in 1913, and since rebuilt twice. The third and current version was dedicated in 1954 as the Mount Soledad Easter Cross; the word “Easter” was dropped in the 1980’s. After the cross was challenged in court during the late 1980’s, it was designated a Korean War memorial. It became the center of a controversy over the display of religious symbols on government property. It was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in January 2011.… In July 2015, a group called the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association reported that it had bought the half-acre of land under the cross from the Department of Defense for $1.4 million. On September 7, 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a one-page ruling, ordering dismissal of the case and an end to all current appeals, stating that the case was now moot because the cross was no longer on government land. Both sides agreed that this decision puts a final end to the case.

I remember reading several articles about this controversy. Back when it was going on it made the national news and sparked conversations about the wisdom of placing crosses on local hilltops. Personally, I think local hilltops are lovelier without crosses––or homes, windmills or cell towers for that matter. When “I lift up my eyes to the hills,” I don’t need a cross to remind me of God. But neither do I object to a memorial meant to inspire reverence and respect. In any case, Mt. Soledad is a beautiful place. If you ever find yourself in San Diego in need of a vigorous walk and a breathtaking view, you might want to look it up.

Blessings,
Kevin

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