Leave No Trace
By Scott Harper
My family had a wonderful vacation recently over the 4th of July. When we all get together with our children and spouses, we make up eight. My wife and I also tacked on a few days, just the two of us, up north in the area of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It was really just fabulous. The views from many elevated spots are truly breathtaking.
I am very grateful to serve a church that welcomes pastors taking vacation and I am particularly grateful for those who hold down the fort while we are gone. It is noteworthy that our family also really likes doing this together. I am very aware that to have these coalesce simultaneously is really wonderful.
I want to strongly encourage people to take time away. Away time that really works, transcends the norm in some way, and fills the soul with the goodness of God. When it is with family, we can catch up and invest in that relational tank that creates relationships of deep value and meaning. It is also just really great to have fun with people we care about and love.
While on vacation I had an amazing conversation with a park ranger about the endangered bird, the piping plover. The park rangers had partitioned off the nesting area along the Lake Michigan Shore of the piping plover to protect these small beautiful birds from intrusion by vacationers, no matter how well intended they may be.
My conversation with the ranger was profoundly inspiring. She related that when the Park opened up in 1972, 12 pairs of piping plovers were present on North Manitou Island. Since that time, the park has recorded a total of 80 pairs. The efforts of the rangers are working! They are doing outstanding work as only about 4000 of these beautiful birds live in the US. So the birds multiplied over 500% in that time period in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. I absolutely loved that the ranger I spoke to had transferred her passion to her 7 year old grandson. His favorite animal was not the lion, tiger, or bear, but - you guessed it - the piping plover.
I share this story to encourage believers to be the best stewards of the earth they possibly can be. Often when I walk in the woods, I will bring a bag to pick up trash along the way. It is a God-honoring thing to do this. The Bible teaches that “the earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof”. (Psalm 24:1) Paul teaches us in Romans that the beauty of the earth proves the existence of a creator. (Romans 1:20)
When believers don’t enter this space, we are not being good stewards of His creation. We send the message that believers do not prioritize this. To tell people that Jesus loves you but treat his earth life a garbage dump strikes me as hypocritical.
So take that time away. Get with your special people. Honor the beauty of God’s creation. The motto of the National Lakeshore is “Leave No Trace”. Take a child hiking, fishing, or hunting – but leave nothing behind and leave within the child’s heart the passion to love God and love His creation.