Today’s Author: Carol Swanson

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” expresses the heart of Amos’s preaching.  How do you hear these words?  

I know I have often thought of them as a bit threatening—like a flash flood roaring down a canyon or wadi, washing away everything in its path. The first time I led a backpack down to the Havasupai Indian Reservation to Havasu Falls (part of Grand Canyon, west of the national park), it was just a few days after a flash flood had swept through, erasing parts of the trail. We heard stories of how those camped below the falls had to scramble up the sides of the canyon to save themselves. The waters subsided after many hours, but what a scare for them.  Amos wanted to warn Israel that there would be consequences to their lack of concern for the poor and needy. He was expelled by the official priest for his message. (It turns out he started something new—He was the first prophet to have his words written down and saved.)

Now I’d like to share another story to reflect on these words of Amos. Last week Diane Dodge and I drove up to Crex Meadows to view the sandhill cranes—that’s the best place to view them, we were told.  Neither of us were familiar with Crex Meadows just north of Grantsburg, WI.  As we approached the town, we could see a few cranes flying above the harvested fields, some landing to find a few morsels.  Just north of town we found our way to the Visitor Center where we learned a little about the history from their displays and picked up a brochure and map. 

Crex Meadows is part of a sandy plain created when the glacier retreated 13,000 years ago, leaving an ancient lake called Glacial Lake Grantsburg. Later, perhaps over centuries, it became marsh land. Fast forwarding to the late 1800s, Euro-American settlers wanted to farm. They cleared land, stopped natural wildfires, and drained the wetlands, which “drastically altered” the land and “many of the original native plants and animals were significantly reduced or completely disappeared,” according to their website.  Meanwhile, farming was not successful.  Between 1912 and 1933, the Crex Carpet Company used prairie grasses to weave carpets until the popularity of linoleum bankrupted them. During the depression people tried draining and farming again, but they failed. A sad history of the stewardship of the land, of habitat, of God’s creation. 

The state started purchasing tax delinquent land in 1946, thus beginning Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Refuge. Lots of work was needed to restore the wetlands and brush prairie habitats. “Dikes were constructed to flood drained marshes. Since then, 23 miles of dikes were constructed to create 29 flowages.” These managed flowages keep the wetlands healthy, sustainable. Restored prairie boasts over 200 kinds of plants, prescribed burns maintain prairie habitat. Wildlife is now abundant: “270 different kinds of birds, nearly every mammal found in Wisconsin…reptiles, amphibians, and insects”—including 15,000 sandhill cranes, some of which Diane and I hoped were still around to see close up. 

Here I would like to quote Pastor Peter’s sermon, for social and ecological justice isn’t just concern for human beings, it is for all of creation. “There is no justice for us while justice is denied to our neighbors [including living creatures, creation]. But there is hope of course, and it’s readily available whenever we work towards God’s vision for the world. Taking responsibility for our neighbors’ welfare isn’t just expected, it’s required. And in this responsibility, we experience the life-giving power of being formed in relationship. This is the water that rolls down in an ever-flowing stream that nourishes all creation.” 

Diane and I had a wonderful late afternoon, communing with nature, viewing Dike Ponds and wetlands. Trumpeter swans swimming in pairs, greater sandhill cranes standing on long stilted legs in the reeds, beaver lodges and one huge beaver swimming close by.  And then as the sun was starting to set, many lines of cranes came winging in from different directions, floating down on outspread wings like parachutes, long legs reaching for the earth, and greeted by waiting flocks voicing a trilling welcome. As the sunset became more vivid, we moved the car to another pond to watch more cranes coming home for the night, more swans swimming in the colored reflection. Such experiences reform, renew, our relationship with nature. Thanks be to God. 

The greater sandhill cranes will be migrating south to the Gulf now that the snow and ice are arriving. We wish them safe journey. 

Dear Loving Creator, you have given us an amazing home, this Earth. It is home for all your beloved creatures. Help us to see how our lives are interconnected with them and with their well-being.  Please give us wisdom and courage and creativity needed to bring justice and healing to the land, to all your creatures, including us. Restore our sense of oneness, our sense of wonder and beauty for all creation. Amen. 

“Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday contact Pastor Peter.