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Gary Payton's Faith Walk

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Gary Payton's Faith Walk

Perhaps home speaks most deeply of relationships

The fire crackles in the wood stove. Moist birch leaves raise their smell from underfoot on morning walks. And the snow again settles on Baldy Mountain, Schweitzer, and the peaks of the Cabinet Range. I cannot tell you how very good it is to be home in our North Country as fall becomes winter.

To say that I have been “on the road” a bit is quite an understatement. For most of September and October I’ve had the privilege of visiting churches in Idaho, Washington, and Ohio sharing the story of God’s mission in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland and of the renewal of churches there. Sermons, pot lucks, conversations across restaurant tabletops all gave me the opportunity to share with folks from 22 different congregations. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.

After a long and demanding journey is there anything quite like the hugs from those you love, the stretched out and settled in feeling of your own bed, or the renewal of the daily rhythms of life? To me, all these things speak of the joy of homecoming. 

To be home is to be embraced. The embrace begins with the drive across Long Bridge, past well known shops, along familiar streets and up the ridge toward our house. Rounding a bank of mailboxes, there are letters addressed to me from people I care about. Then the gravel road where I pulled knapweed in the summer at last brings me into view of our home. Walking inside, I’m physically embraced by the love of my wife, surrounded by pictures of children and our grandson and memories of past times together. Home is more than a place. It’s knowing and being known; loving and being loved. 

Wise Augustine, an early Christian leader, observed that our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in God. Perhaps home speaks most deeply of relationship. I have a special relationship with the trees and boulders, mountains and water which surround me at home. I also have life-giving relationships of love with my family which are rooted in this place. In my faith walk, all this brings me face to face with that deeper sense of home, my existence and resting within God’s presence. 

Oh, my travel was not without its highlights: pounding ocean surf on the Washington coast, a pod of orcas swimming gracefully off the San Juan Islands, and the sight of skilled fisherman casting again and again into the gently moving Boise River. God was present in these fresh encounters with creation and with my time meeting new people while sharing God’s work in foreign lands. But there’s an amazing sense of homecoming as I round the last curve and familiar lights welcome me back to this particular place in creation and the love of my family. All this lovingly calls me back to awareness of my true home in God.

Soon, we’ll share the time-honored feast of Thanksgiving. It is a time of gathering with friends and family and perhaps folks we do not yet know, of sharing the goodness of special food, but most of all sharing care and laughter and love. It once again reminds me, “Welcome 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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