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Gary's Faith Walk

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The beauty of our North Country cries out to us in this spectacular summer of 2008. We are simply surrounded by the majesty! From the beckoning peaks of the Selkirks and the Cabinets to the waters of the rivers and the lakes, we are wonderfully drawn to play in, protect, preserve, and pass on God’s creation.

In my exuberance for this particular summer, I owe a huge debt to my Lutheran brothers and sisters who’ve taught me a new word: earthkeeping. Oh, certainly, I have used similar words or phases in the past. “Eco-justice” and “peace with the earth” come to mind. But there is something about the action and responsibility implied in “earthkeeping” which truly resonates with me.

The resource “Awakening to God’s call to Earthkeeping,” offers a precise definition. “Earthkeeping is a term being used by many people of faith to describe the nature of our responsibility to care for creation. It springs from our wonder, awe and gratitude for God’s wisdom, creativity, and blessings that fill the natural world. It also grows out of our dismay and concern for the degradations and “groaning” of God’s good creation. Faithful earthkeeping involves extending the justice, peace, reconciliation, hope, and love of Christ to all creation.”

From an individual perspective, countless daily decisions give us the opportunity to care for the earth. Higher fuel prices have us driving less or with greater planning. A byproduct of this enforced conservation will be a very modest reduction in our nation’s contribution to global warming. At every turn, we are reminded of ways to save energy in the home. From replacing our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents to turning down the temperature in our water heaters, the ways to be an earthkeeper abound.

From an organizational perspective, we are blessed with an array of institutions where we can invest our time, talents, and resources to preserve and enhance the wild country and the creatures living there. The organizations take many forms, but these and others provide pathways for earthkeeping that go beyond what we can accomplish as individuals alone. Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation focus on enhancing the habitat and the sport associated with specific species.  The Nature Conservancy with its Idaho and Montana affiliates and the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy model ways of bringing together the interests of individuals, communities, business, government, and partner organizations to preserve our land and water resources. Advocacy, education, and citizen action are the hallmarks of the Idaho Conservancy League and the Montana Wilderness Association. While maintaining a state-wide perspective, their members live out their mandate in projects specific to regions and eco-systems. A single-focus organization like the Rock Creek Alliance is dedicated to protecting our watershed and the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area from Revett Silver Company’s proposed Rock Creek Mine.  \Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness seek the  permanent protection of this pristine roadless area through formal wilderness designation by the U.S. Congress.  

In my faith walk, the imperative to be an earthkeeper is powerful. It is more than protecting habitat for bull trout, grizzlies, or woodland caribou. It is more than my love of walks along lupine and larkspur lined trails. It is more than the joy of an osprey feeding her young in a high nest or the fleeting glimpse of a yellow, red, and black western tanager atop a ponderosa pine. I know that human societies cannot flourish unless natural systems flourish too. So, when I ponder the Lord’s requirement in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” my responsibilities extend beyond human community and must include all the creatures that call this place “home.”

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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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