I took a drive this past week out to Paramount Ranch. If you’ve been at Conejo for a few years, you know that this is special place for many of us. Paramount Ranch is the setting for so many beloved stories on television and the silver screen. It is the place where I have taken friends and family to see the set of Dr. Quinn or other Westerns. It is the place where you could hike out and find the old M*A*S*H site. None of these things, however, are what make it special to Conejo. Paramount Ranch is the site of Cowboy Church. It is the place of the Greens and their horses, and kids enjoying free horseback rides. It is the place of kids’ games in the fields, of barbequed hamburgers, and great potlucks. It is also the place of scorching hot Sunday services when we all could use a little more shade, cold water, and any little breeze on a September afternoon. Still, it was magical and fun. For now, all these things are just great memories because the Woolsey Fire took the Western town down in a literal blaze of glory. All that was spared of the man-made Western props is the sparse train station and the old church. Everything else is a pile of charred wood, twisted metal, and rubble.
In the middle of the Western town stood a massive, ancient oak tree. This tree was the primary reason I took this trek to Paramount Ranch. I have always been impressed by the sheer size and majesty of this tree. I wanted to see how it fared through the flames. It is still standing–a testament to the will to live and weather any storm. It is severely burned, but looks like it is going to survive. All the buildings and fences that surrounded it are gone. Yet it still stands, broad and tall as ever. Not everything was destroyed by this fire. That is the essence of hope.
The hills all around Paramount Ranch are bursting with green, and the rolling knolls are blooming in yellow, orange, and purple. This past season, November through February, has been the most difficult period of disasters, both natural and human inflicted, that we have seen in the twenty-five years I have lived in Thousand Oaks. Still, life comes back. Regeneration reminds us that resurrection awaits its chance to shine in the periods of life that follow devastation. Life can be hard. There are dark days that seem like they last far too long. Still, God is good. To quote a beloved disciple, “…the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
If you need a glimpse of the beauty that is rising from the ashes, join us this afternoon at 2pm to walk the hills and enjoy what is happening. May it be a reminder to us all that God doesn’t just raise up the flowers of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow; He raises the sun each day and promises to never leave us. He created beauty in creation that regenerates to remind us of hope. Through this, I believe, God strains to remind us that we are all valuable and not forgotten. In the end, life wins…always.