Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Summer of "Re-Creation" in our National Parks

This year is the centennial celebration of our National Park Service. Marsha and I have had the privilege this summer to visit three of our great parks. In May, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Earlier this month, we made our first visits to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, both in Wyoming. We had a great time!

There is so much to recommend. The peaks of Grand Teton are majestic. The quiet Jenny Lake will calm your spirit. The history of "Mormon Row" is very interesting. Yellowstone is an icon for the beauty of the American West, and the crowds of foreign tourists you encounter there will confirm this. As an Oklahoman with family of Native American heritage, the sight of vast bison herds thriving again on native prairie grasses connects me to a history that is being preserved.

One of my favorite spots is the Moraine Park Valley of Rocky Mountain National Park. Formed by the mighty power of a glacier descending from the mountains, this meadow today is a place of peace. Elk call it home, and fly fishermen walk the Big Thompson River which meanders through it. The peaks of the Rockies literally crown this beautiful valley. Sadly, none of the photos I took capture the sense of being there. I guess that means I'll have to go back!

These national parks left me with three gifts to take home.

First, witnessing the awesomeness of creation calls me back to the awesomeness of the Creator. We are small and He is great. We are temporary and He is eternal. We struggle and His purposes prevail. This truth can get hidden in our daily routines.

Second, I came home with the gift of gratitude. Our National Park Service reminds us that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Leaders cast vision and benefactors sacrificed to preserve the 59 national parks in our nation. The critics were vocal and the political fights fierce but the Roosevelts and Muirs and Rockefellers prevailed. This is true leadership, and we owe them our gratitude.

Finally, my park visits encouraged me in how much can be accomplished even in difficult circumstances. Many of the facilities we enjoy in the national parks today were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. From 1933 to 1942, during the most difficult of times that we now call the Great Depression, two million workers constructed conservation projects across the nation and in 94 national park and national monument areas. These unemployed men needed the work, and the $30 a month they earned mostly went back home to support their families. Rather than give up on progress during these dark days in our nation, we chose to construct a solution that returned to men the dignity of work while completing necessary projects that provided infrastructure for the nation's future.

What a "re-creation" it has been this summer: to return awestruck by God's creation, grateful for all we have inherited, and encouraged by what is possible even in difficult circumstances!