Get Out There

On Labor Day, we took advantage of an unexpectedly cool morning to take a hike at Turkey Mountain, our urban wilderness area that has recently been in the news for the encroaching outlet mall development that has been planned. I read recently that the George Kaiser Family Foundation purchased the remaining land for sale around the wilderness area and pledged to keep it undeveloped so that the area could continue to have a buffer. I’m thankful for the philanthropy of the Kaiser Family, not only in this case, but in their continuing support of our partner organization, Kendall-Whittier, Incorporated, their sponsorship of the Youth Mentoring Program at Kendall-Whittier Elementary that KWI developed and then “sent off to college” when University of Tulsa took over management of that program through the True Blue Neighbors Program, and GKFF’s investment in our neighborhood.
As I was there enjoying the wilderness with my kids and Lara, I thought about the resource that such places are to the public. It reminds me of Wallace Stegner’s quote about the National Parks, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Wilderness provides a place for us to unplug our brains from the constant barrage of artificial stimuli. The light you see filtered through the leaves is from the sun, not a light emitting diode. The birdsong you hear comes from the living lungs of a bird, not a videogame soundtrack. The breeze you feel on your face comes from the movement of the wind—the movement of the earth itself, not the movement of the air conditioner circulating chilled air through your house. The whole experience puts you in touch with the actual—it reacquaints us with the living, breathing, singing world that we insulate ourselves from on a daily basis.
This is one reason I will lead us on the fourth year of a “Season of Creation” during September. As a three-year lectionary cycle, we are for the first time revisiting some themes that we did in 2011. Forest, Land, River, Wilderness, and the blessing of animals will be our themes once again. I think that having this dedicated season of focus helps us remember that the natural world is a powerful amplifier of the spiritual life. When we unplug from our usual diversions, we plug in to the “Great Spirit” as God is known in many Native American traditions. Though Christians are about cultivating an ethic for justice, we are also about cultivating an experience of beauty and depth to undergird that commitment to justice—so The Season of Creation is not just about “environmental advocacy,” it is about celebrating the wonder of the natural world and simply appreciating what is out there. I hope you’ll spend some time in the outdoors during this season as a way to really “get into it.”