The Ozark and Ouachita National Forests, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yosemite National Park, Nantahala National Forest, and the Buffalo National River are all places that have inspired me to become an advocate for God’s creation. I step into these temples with humility.

They ARE God’s creation. If already in your mind you have an image of El Capitan or Half Dome at Yosemite or Big Bluff on the Buffalo, you have the BIG picture, and it’s often these features that grab our heart and bring us back to these amazing places. It IS the big picture that lured me, but it’s the detail now that continues to bring me back over and over. Not only to the BIG places, but in my yard and everywhere I go.

“My heart sings” to borrow a phrase from our pastor, when I see the first wildflowers on the forest floor in late February and hear the first migrating warbler, vireo or purple martin in the spring. How does all this happen? I have NOTHING to do with the success of bird migration or wildflowers blooming. They are a joy that I feel deep in my soul. God’s creative work restoring my soul.

With each spring season I learn more about all that’s alive in the natural places. I have an insatiable curiosity. I have also learned the threat facing all these creatures and places. Climate change, developmental sprawl and loss of habitat, and greed for more stuff all impact these creations God has made. We are all a part of the problem.

My faith journey started early in the church and has progressed to this day to realizing how critical it is for us to love the natural world. Not just for our own sake, but for the diversity of the flora and fauna. We are contributing to loss of diversity in all living plants and animals. Some of this has been caused because we were unaware. No longer is that an excuse.

I am totally driven to “love God with all my heart, mind , soul and strength.” In my heart, mind, soul and strength I want to protect places, provide habitat and educate myself on how to intervene on the behalf of those places and creatures that don’t have the voice. “Love my neighbor” would include these special places. For it’s the natural world that feeds our soul, teaches our mind, fills are heart and restores our strength.

One of my biggest joys is sharing my uncontrollable God-given excitement for the natural world. In that context I want to include some specific things I do to create a “home” for our non-human friends. If I step on some toes in things I say, well, consider that part of the education.

Flowers/plants in photo: purple phlox, Rue Anemone, Jacobs ladder, trout lilly.

  1. Go outside- take 5 minutes(or more) and listen, watch, be aware. What do you hear? What do you see? Look all around-at the ground, in the trees, behind the bushes…who lives there? What colors do you see? We need to see/know our neighbors in order to love them.

  2. If you want to know more about what you heard and saw, consider downloading an app or buying/borrowing a field guide(these give details of the plants and animals all around us). There is no shame in enjoying the natural world and not knowing the specifics, sometimes just being in the presence is all that is required.

  3. Plant NATIVE plants. These are the plants that insects and birds use for their food source. Our native plants are being lost with habitat destruction. There is a push to encourage home owners to plant these very important plants(– common types of native plants; Arkansas native plant

  4. Abandon chemical fertilizers and herbicides. Not only are many a petroleum based product, they drain to our water supply and can be harmful to native flora and fauna. Having a chemically-aided “perfect” looking lawn is not in keeping with “love they neighbor.”

  5. Put up a bird feeder, including humming bird feeders.

  6. Educate yourself through the organizations who have taught me-National Audubon Society, Ozark Society, The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Conservation Association, etc.

  7. Leave leaves in place when they fall. This is where insects and caterpillars(the food of birds) live.

I also want to share some of my heroes who I have learned from and who have inspired me.

  1. Neil Compton who started the Ozark Society which led the fight to save the Buffalo River from two dams. This year is the 50th anniversary of the signing of this river as a unit of the National Park Service making it Buffalo National River.

  2. John Muir instrumental in saving Yosemite National Park

  3. Aldo Leopold-Sand County Almanac

  4. Rachel Carson-Silent Spring

  5. Doug Tallamy-Bringing Nature Home

  6. Roger Tory Peterson-Peterson Field Guides

  7. All of the people who have fought to protect sacred lands, national parks, free-flowing rivers

My solid base is my strong belief in a God who loves all of creation and who designed us all to love the life around us and to share this joy with our neighbor.

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