In July, my spouse Tim and I had a couple of weeks of vacation in Montana. It was wonderful to have time with friends and family, to read and explore the area, and to catch up with each other after a few intense but good post-Sabbatical months.
One of the unexpected treats was a tour of the summer part of a cattle ranch.
This ranch has acreage in the Jefferson River valley, and the cabin we rented was on a corner of that part of the ranch. They also have summer acreage up in the Centennial Valley, at 6700 feet with only dirt roads (and poor cell phone service). It’s a remote 50-mile-long valley with incredible views, lakes, and a lovely river meandering through. They offer tours of the summer ranch and we took them up on it. It was an amazing day of hearing from and traveling with Andrew, the Ranch Manager, a gentle, salt-of-the-earth cowboy, as well as a professional manager of a huge operation. It was fascinating to hear from him of his love of the land, respect and care for the cattle, commitment to sustainable practices, and his own grounding on the earth. His work was not a job but a way of life. And he was committed to making the world and all he encountered better for his presence.
Andrew talked about some ways his commitments run a little counter to the normal attitude of the neighboring cattle ranchers, yet how much he values them as neighbors. He mentioned in passing sacrifices he, his family, and his ranch make from time to time in order to do the right thing, and how that’s just part of the big picture.
It reminds me that we all have an opportunity, a call, to live with grace and integrity. To care for each other and those we touch. To show God’s love to humans and other creatures, and the plants and land. To see the ways we are all part of Creation and that Creation is a part of whatever we do. Our response can be gentle rather than dominant. It doesn’t happen just in church, or just in the mountains. It can happen with connections and relationships anywhere. Grounding and grace can undergird and inspire.
I left our time in Montana with deep gratitude for the time and for Andrew. He reminds me that God’s love and grace exist wherever we might find ourselves. I’m planning to hold onto that reassurance and inspiration. God is good indeed.