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We are built for great things

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Last month my husband and I went to Charlotte, N.C., one of our favorite cities.

We stayed uptown — which I would call downtown, but what do I know? — right in the middle of all the tall buildings and skyscrapers.

I have a confession to make. I love buildings. I mean, I love, l-o-v-e buildings, like chocoholics love chocolate and pie-aholics love pie. Well, maybe not that much, but I love architecture and design, Gothic arches and flying buttresses.

One night during our trip we were out walking uptown and we passed the Hearst Tower building on N. Tryon Street, which happens to be my favorite of favorites of the Charlotte skyline.

As I tried the glass front door and found it unlocked, I told my husband, “I’m going in.” He said he’d be waiting with bail money to get me out of jail if I got arrested for breaking and entering.

I really love buildings.

When I walked inside the art deco style structure, tears came to my eyes. Seriously. It was that incredible, and other than walking into my church — modern French Gothic awesomeness — I’d never experienced such a reaction.

Of course, it could’ve been all the caffeine I’d consumed earlier, mixed with the excitement of being on vacation and up past my bedtime.

Right inside the door there was a man in a suit (who said the building was open because there were about a half-dozen restaurants and bars inside and, therefore, I wasn’t breaking and entering) who told me that the building was built in 2002 and that the bronze stairway and balcony railings had been rescued from Au Bon Marche, a 1920’s Paris department store.

I also learned that the 47-story skyscraper has a “reversed floorplate design,” which means it’s wider at the top than at the bottom, giving it an unusual appearance, adding to its coolness factor, in my opinion.

The man in the suit let me go upstairs, and I walked around, touching the marble and studied the lines and angles of metal and glass and mirrors. I had a camera with me, but I knew I couldn’t capture what I was feeling. I’ve since seen professionally taken photos of this building and they don’t do it justice.

Reading over these words, I realize how silly they sound, but this building stirred something in me. It thrilled me to be able to explore the handiwork of an architectural artist. I really, really love buildings.

When my church was building our sanctuary back in 2003, the day the huge pre-fabricated concrete walls went up a bunch of us came out to watch. As a huge crane hoisted the 92-foot wall in place we all ate hot dogs and cheered.

Over the next few months, I passed the church every day on my way to work, sometimes stopping and walking through the construction site.

One week some of the members got to take markers and write messages and favorite Bible verses on the floor before the carpet was installed. I wrote, “God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

The sanctuary was completed just before Christmas 2003. I still never get tired of counting the arches and marveling at how the red steel beams create a cross in the window.

Recently, my pastor commented that the reason we built such a beautiful building is because Jesus is beautiful. The building reflects his beauty.

My pastor also often says that we did not build the building for ourselves, but for the community, for those who will come some time in the future.

Each week as I walk into this magnificently simple yet powerfully artistic place of worship, I’m reminded that it’s God who is the master architect, who’s building his church worldwide, not with 92-foot slabs of concrete, but with people.

The apostle Peter called the followers of Jesus “living stones” used to build a spiritual structure.

So, not only do I get to explore my love of buildings whenever I go someplace, but as a Christian I actually get to be a building! And not just a building, but part of a city, a city on a hill, as Jesus said. The city of God, for all to see.

Truly, what more can a building geek like me ask for?

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at (352) 564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.