Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 1 "Serving with" Our Creator -- Article #2 Child-Like Faith

I’m amazed at what I can learn from our grandchildren.  This week, our daughter saw her daughter, Della, walking barefoot in the backyard.  Della had fashioned a broken branch into what she later termed her “hiking stick.” As you can imagine, this was impressive to her grandpa.  Within 24 hours, six-year-old Della, and her twice-as-old sister, Kiara, had joined me to hike in a nearby state nature preserve, Johnson Woods.  Of course, we each had to bring along our trusty hiking sticks just like Della.

Granddaughter, Della, leading our hike at Johnson Woods
I’ve relished the opportunity over the years to point others to the wisdom and workings of God’s creation, but this day was one of two days in May of this year that was exceptional. Earlier this month, Kiara had invited me to help her study for her 6th grade science test.  But instead of sitting down at her desk or kitchen table, she insisted that we drive to a woodland near her school.  Turns out her science teacher had introduced her class to this woodland on a recent science field trip.  Bravo to her teacher!

I must admit to being skeptical of Kiara’s motives in inviting me to help her study in this way.  I have many memories of being invited to assist young scholars with their science projects only to find them playing me for quick and easy answers to avoid the focus necessary for real learning and appreciation of the creation.  But, my granddaughter was serious about this trip because she had already decided during her first experience in the woods with her science class that grandpa would enjoy it, too.  Furthermore, her focus upon learning ecological principles was unwavering as she led me along the forest trails with her review sheet in hand.  This experience was such a blessing, I was inspired to reflect as follows:

Hiking in a Spring Forest--
with My Granddaughter Kiara

Grandpa, you must see it, she said.
My teacher took us
into the woods near our school.
You’d really like it; let’s go.

But for awhile, I was too busy.
“I’m helping your dad
with some important things,” I said.
Maybe tomorrow we can go.

“But Grandpa, my science test,
It’s tomorrow,” she pleaded.
“You can help me—it’s about plants,
and soil and water.  See my notes?”

Later, I consented to go,
And I’m so thankful I did.
We drove to the school.
The woodland welcomed us.

She pointed to an opening
in the forest edge.
“Here’s the trail,” she said.
“This looks wonderful,” I replied.

Surrounded by the beauty
of Mayapple and Violets,
we had science to learn.
We blended the two quite well.

“Plants are producers,” she said.
Using sunlight and carbon dioxide,
they make food for herbivores,
and they, in turn, for carnivores.

“Look, the trail’s flooded,” she points.
“This water will evaporate,
and condense again as rain.
Then, runoff or go to groundwater.”

Granddaughter, Kiara, during our science hike.
I marveled at Granddaughter Kiara’s attentiveness toward the creation around her—wildflowers soaking in rays of sunlight filtering through the Spring tree canopy, fallen logs in the midst of decay which replenishes the soil, and standing water finding its way to points deep within and beneath the root zone.  Each component of this woodland ecosystem became a placeholder for Kiara’s growing understanding of this corner of God’s creation.  We connected clouds and vernal pools to the hydrologic cycle; green leaves, photosynthesis, and fallen logs and leaves to the carbon cycle; and clover and lawn fertilizer to the nitrogen cycle.  I sensed that she was gaining in understanding of the “bigger picture” while at the same time experiencing an awareness of being in the presence of something much bigger than she could fully comprehend.  Indeed, Kiara’s measured words and long pauses to look around her made me realize that, although I may have a more extensive knowledge of the workings of the creation, there is much about it that I also do not understand.

Could it be that many of us who profess to have an adult understanding of ecology and related sciences would do well to reflect on our own scientific and faith journeys since grade school science classes.  Jesus said, Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18: 3-4).  Jesus taught the disciples to pray along the lines of, Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6: 10).   Christ is teaching that spiritual conversion and a humble disposition are essential to citizens of God’s kingdom including all who wish to be God-honoring stewards of creation? 

In Part 1, Article #1 of our “Fundamentals of Conservation” series (See Oikonomia, April 30), we emphasized the importance of first being reconciled with God so that enmity can be exchanged for intimacy.  This is not to say we should ignore our responsibility as stewards of the Earth,  Instead, as we walk closely with God and “abide in the vine” without which we can do nothing (John 15: 5), we begin to acquire God’s great heart for both lost mankind and for His groaning creation (Rom. 8: 19-22). 

What better disposition to walk intimately with God than that of a child full of awe and wonder at creation, motivated to learn more about its workings, and receptive to the notion of conservation-- “serving creation” as stewards by “serving with” God.  For this reminder, I thank my granddaughter to whom I dedicate this blog entry.

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