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Gary's Faith Walk

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To everything there is a season... and those seasons prepare us for the future

Leaves on the nine bark have turned rust orange. Tree top squirrels have worked feverishly dropping summer grown pine cones. And most of the hucks that were going to be picked have been picked, leaving the remainder for critters with whom we share our North Country home.

There is change in the air. Night air is just a bit crisper. Sundown is just a bit earlier. All around us we are surrounded by signs of the inexorable shift of seasons.  

Perhaps it was a flashback re-listening to the great Pete Seeger classic “Turn! Turn! Turn!” sung gloriously by the folk rock band, The Byrds. Perhaps it was the full realization of the major changes in my own family circumstance this year. But no matter what the impetus, my spirit has been drawn to the poetry of the Old Testament text in Ecclesiastes.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

One modern commentator on this ancient text describes the author as “the most real of the realists of the sacred writers.” This realism is what touches me. My heart still aches at the death of my wonderful mother-in-law earlier this year. Her passing is juxtaposed with the boundless joy of the birth of our first grandchild just three months ago. We’ve just said goodbye to our youngest child in Missoula as he begins his first year at the University of Montana. And, we have just said hello to new neighbors who share our love for the creation which surrounds us in forest and meadows. Indeed, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

In my faith walk, the teacher who wrote the poetry of Ecclesiastes provides a structure in which moral decision making is required. As one life circumstance is cast against another life circumstance, there is “a challenge to be wise, to be ethical, to discern when one’s actions are in keeping with God’s time and then to act decisively.”

The season upon us is filled with decision points for the nation and for us as individuals. The choices we make in November will shape the war in Iraq, our energy future, our response to global warming, our immigration policy, the future of health care, and on and on. As individuals our decisions are benchmarks of what we really believe. The vehicle we drive, the number of trips we take, our participation in volunteer organizations, our individual care for the earth, our very participation in the democratic process itself, and on and on.

Changing seasons call us to prepare for the future. They call us to choose wisely among possibilities which are presented. As I turn, turn, turn I pray for the wisdom that my choices reflect God’s will for us and for me.

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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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