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Originally published Friday, April 19, 2013 at 6:00 PM

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Earth Day is a time of thanks for what we’ve been given

Here’s my “grateful list” for Earth Day.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Faith & Values

The little girl looked up with a sparkle in her 4-year-old eyes that said, “I’m about to pull off something grand.” It was time to recite Genesis 1:1, the Bible verse she’d been memorizing. Her pastor, my husband Don, and I waited patiently, with encouraging smiles on our faces.

“In da beginning, God created ...” Her words trailed off and for a moment she looked perplexed. Nearby, her mom bent down, ready to jog her memory and coach her on. “Yes, honey. That’s good. God created ... what?”

A flash of knowing restored the preschooler’s countenance to total confidence as she blurted out, “Dirt!”

Well, yes. That’s one way to put it. While they may debate just how it happened, most people of faith believe this Earth is God’s creation. On Monday, many nations around the globe will celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. I chuckled at the way I heard one radio announcer remind his listeners about this event a few years ago: “It’s Earth Day. Thanks for visiting!”

His words were more accurate than he may have realized. Though we get the privilege of living on Planet Earth for a few short years, none of us will be here forever. We’re just visiting. And there’s a certain etiquette required of visitors. When I’m a guest in someone’s home, I treat what is there with extra care and try to leave things like I found them — or better.

I’m grateful to use what the homeowners have provided for me, but I respect what it’s cost them to do so, and try not to be greedy. I know other guests are likely to follow me — sleeping where I slept, eating where I ate, enjoying the same hospitality shown to me — so it’s important to leave things as nice as possible for those who come after.

I want to be that kind of “visitor” during my stay on Earth, too. Psalm 24:1 (New Living Translation) says, “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Like a gracious, hospitable host, God has stocked this world with lavish beauty, a vast selection of life-giving provisions, and innumerable reasons why visitors almost never want to cut their stay here short.

Unfortunately though, humans are not always good guests. We can thoughtlessly destroy the beauty, greedily gobble up more than our share of the resources, and leave a lot of garbage behind in the process. More and more, I’m realizing how faith and stewardship go hand in hand. And stewardship is best cultivated in soil rich with gratitude. I take better care of the things I appreciate.

So here’s my “grateful list” for Earth Day:

• Thank you to the farmers who toil tirelessly (OK, maybe you do get tired) in the dirt. Your unrelenting efforts through season after season — despite droughts and downpours, ravenous insects and receding crop prices — make it possible to fill our mouths and stomachs with delicious and nourishing bounty. Every visitor to Planet Earth owes you, big time.

• Thank you, also, to the landscapers and backyard gardeners like my mother and my husband who love to get their hands dirty. In the process you create beauty for all the rest of us non-green-thumbers. I ooh and ahhh at the brightly colored flower beds, neatly manicured lawns, and lush hedges you create. While I may cut the roses, drinking in their sweet fragrance as I arrange them in vases, you planted, watered, fertilized, fought the aphids and braved the thorns — and proclaimed that you loved every minute of it.

• Thank you, fellow visitors, who care enough to act on this devastating fact: More than 900 million people around the world will still be hungry when they go to bed tonight. Of the thousands who starve to death each day, most are children. And I’m so proud of people like my friend, Cubby Graham. Cubby recently left a great job and a host of friends to move across the country to work for an organization called charity: water (www.charitywater.org). He did this because he’s passionate about helping to bring clean drinking water to the 800 million people still living without it.

• Thank you to the scientists, legislators, park rangers and ordinary citizens who take the care of this world seriously and try hard to find ways to leave it a better place for the next set of visitors.

• Finally, thank you to God, our generous Host on this amazing planet. Despite its deficits and dangers, it is still breathtakingly beautiful even after some of us haven’t always been the best visitors. In the beginning, God created dirt ... What a humble, extravagant gift!

Happy Earth Day — thanks for visiting!

Jodi Detrick is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God). She is also a public speaker, an

author and a life coach. Readers may send feedback to faithcolumns@seattletimes.com

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