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Gary's Faith Walk

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Lessons from Creation

Surrounded this spring by God’s beautiful creation, I’ve been taught valuable lessons yet again about life and living.

For background, let me say that projects or major new activities sometimes stop me even before beginning. The scope, the size, the anticipated duration now and again seem so daunting that beginning just doesn’t happen. It is not a personal characteristic I’m proud of, but it’s honest.

So as the snow finally receded and spring deepened, I gazed out on far too much "fuel load" surrounding our house. You recognize the challenge! Snags under the Western Red Cedar. Deadfall at the base of the Douglas Firs. Downed Ponderosa branches from the winter’s wind. And, then there were the maple thickets! Not just the new branches shooting up in the warming air, but the dead thickets dense enough to force a bull moose to go around.

This project, this activity, however, took on a different quality. Perhaps it was the quiet of early morning. Perhaps it was the aesthetic quality of a more tidy forest floor. Certainly, there was the motivation of reducing the fuel for a potential August or September dry lightening fire.

The new lessons started small. Awake 30 minutes early, quickly pull on blue jeans and boots, take the coffee cup outside while grabbing gloves and a saw. Pick out the spot and, well, just start!

In the early days, the morning’s minutes of labor seemed hardly to make a dent. But, then this patch of forest floor was easier to walk through. And, that ugly dead thicket was gone, reduced to a pile of twigs and branches.

Stop times were fixed due to morning responsibilities of getting our son off to school and beginning the "real" work day. But, as the days passed and my enthusiasm grew I pushed wakeup an hour earlier, then an hour and a half, just to tackle more of the job.

Oh, the work isn’t done. The forest is a big place. But dedicating concentrated energy to a project or an activity again and again produces results! I don’t need to be stalled even before beginning due to the enormity of the task. Step by step. Piece by piece. Thicket by thicket. One branch or trunk at a time.

The challenges in my faith walk are sometimes similar to those of the overloaded forest. But, the life lessons of the spring apply just as well.

If my spirituality is to deepen, it takes discipline. Just as clearing deadfall required me to roll out of a warm bed early each day, so I must be disciplined in my faith journey. Regular prayer, bible reading, and creating a space for quiet and solitude are key to the journey. As these disciplines become more and more a part of my daily life my desire to increase their share of time grows.

What began as an exercise in forest management has now become a daily pattern, arising ever earlier to enjoy the quiet and tend to the needs of the land. If my body still needs the same amount of sleep, I must forego late nights of mindless television dulling my brain. This is the lesson that personal habits and patterns can change. And, a new pattern of living can emerge.

And, finally, I have learned anew a most simple truth. If I am to change, I must want to change. It doesn’t come by breathing or hoping. Change in my behavior only happens if I truly want it.

I’m grateful for the demands of the forest. And, I have learned again that creation has lessons to teach in each season of the year.

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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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