One of the campfire songs my family of origin often shared during my formative years was Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land”. We sang that tune all across the USA as we traveled with our parents each summer on a two or three week trek, leaving our Indiana home right after the completion of the 4-H fair and returning in time to start school. I’ve thought of that song the past couple of weeks as I took a trip to the West coast with my own family and once again enjoyed the beauty of our home land. In fact some of the lyrics coincided with our travels “from California” and the “Redwood Forest”.
Guthrie’s song wraps up with the phrase “this land was made for you and me”. Think of that – the gift of the land, for our benefit and our enjoyment. There’s something very steward-centric in that thought that finds its origin all the way back to the Creation story of Genesis. We (humankind) were given the stewardship of the land. We were also given the land’s beauty as a means of God’s revelation to us.
How can one watch the sun set over the Puget Sound and not attribute such beauty to the Creator? Or, how can you walk above the fog along the Oregon coast and not fathom the imagination of God’s creating spirit? Or, how can you walk amidst the tall Redwoods and fail to consider the One who crafted it all from out of nothing?
I noticed as we traveled the land that there were many others out enjoying it too. We saw families, couples and individuals hiking, taking pictures, picnicking and playing. The wonder of the land was being noticed and appreciated. Folks were pushing pause on the fast forward pace of life to relish in nature and one another.
One of my favorite encounters happened in an Oregon coffee shop where I entered into conversation with two cyclists stopping to warm up and rest along the Pacific Coast highway. These men had to be in their mid-70’s and were wearing full cycling gear. They were on a 50 mile ride that day, fighting strong head winds, and enjoying the sunshine and sights, along with their day in the saddle. This land is their land . . . .
Our time at the American Baptist Churches Mission Summit – the most ethnically diverse denomination in this land – was a reminder of the diversity of the human family. We are the richer for such diversity as we worship, study, and share in mission with persons who’s origin may have been from the far reaches of the globe, but who call this land home. Later in the week I remember this as I listen to the variety of languages being spoken while we tour San Francisco, or sample the fares of Portland’s internationally flavored food trucks. How diminished our land would be if we were all alike in looks, language, tradition and experience. . . . this land is their land too.
Coming to our Indiana home, fresh from the sights and sounds of places much more exotic and busy, I grab my road bike and head out for a ride. My path takes me through familiar roads and the countryside of Bartholomew county – part of our nation’s bread basket. I notice how the crops have grown in just two weeks – how tall the corn is and how much fuller the soy bean fields seem. And I’m thankful for the land – this land that is so familiar and beautiful in its own way. Here’s how Guthrie put it:
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me.