I’ll just come out with it; I loved the years when I was able to be a stay-at-home Mom. My kids are the best and I love spending time with them so I didn’t much like it when my adult children moved away from Erie. All three have moved for spouses and careers. I used to think that it’s the new global marketplace with its expanded opportunities that lured local kids to relocate and make their livelihood elsewhere. I was troubled by that until I read something in the story of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13 that changed my mind. God had called Abram to travel to a new land and settle there, which he did. But eventually the land could not support the growing herds of both Abram and his nephew Lot. So, they separated. I discovered that families shifting because of livelihood is not just a 21st century phenomenon. Much as I don’t care for my adult children moving away, there is consolation when they discover beautiful, interesting places. Places such as along the east coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the heart of the Great Lakes, the west coast and Hawaii. Over the years, delightful travels as well as the voice of my prayers have circled the country.
On a recent visit to Hawaii, I attended church. When meeting the pastor he said, ‘Oh, I know someone who’s been to Erie. He calls it Dreary Erie & the Mistake on the Lake.” Aghast, I responded, “Not any more, God is moving in Erie, Pennsylvania. We know it as “Gem City” the gem of the Great Lakes!” Actually, the first reference in print to Erie as “Gem City” was in an 1888 Erie newspaper. It gives a sketch of Erie in glowing terms, terms like: “Beautifully Located, Great Health, Wealth and Prosperity, Fine Natural Advantages and more!” However, somewhere in the following 70 – 100 years, these positive words were replaced with negative jokes. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the jokes half-way around the globe!
Do I speak the truth about Erie being a Gem City? Are you, like me, looking for and seeing, a more positive vibe in Erie? And why shouldn’t we speak well about something God created and called good? After all, He doesn’t make mistakes. Erie is not a mistake. God loves the land He created and called it good. I believe it is good because God has put something of Himself in it, as He did in all creation. The land reflects His character and beauty and He cares about it. It is a double insult to our creator when we speak ill of the land and do not care for it.
The land here is exceptional for a number of reasons; but one that stands out to me is that headwaters of two major watersheds spring from here. One to the north and one to the south. The International Lake Erie Watershed is to the north. Lake Erie waters flow over Niagara Falls, into Lake Ontario, and on through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the northern Atlantic Ocean. The French Creek Watershed to the south feeds into the Ohio Valley, to the Mississippi River then on to the Gulf of Mexico. Think about that, we live here on the land that divides these two watersheds. People influence what happens in their watersheds, good or bad, by how they treat the natural resources – the soil, water, air, plants, and animals. What happens in both our local watersheds also affects the larger watershed downstream.
May I suggest this is also true in the spiritual atmosphere. How we use the spiritual resources available to us will determine what happens in our spiritual atmosphere. Resources like; faith, hope, love, prayer, the truth of God’s Word, fellowship, rest, an attitude of gratitude, our voice, and more. Throughout history we see stories of the connection between God, people, and land. Especially how people’s attitude & relationship to God play a part in whether their land is increased and people are joyful or whether they are oppressed because of sin.
Common sense tells us that our own self-preservation depends on properly caring for the land and atmosphere in which we live. Good treatment of our immediate territory benefits everyone, even those “down-stream.” This makes our location, at the headwaters of two major watersheds of great significance. And yes, each of us actually has a part to play in the spiritual as well as the natural climate of where we live. How will your voice seed the spiritual atmosphere around you? Will you use your voice to speak words of blessing or curses on family members, neighbors, church leaders, school mates, work colleagues, and or government officials? When we realize that our voice has the power to bring life and health or death and destruction (Proverbs 18:21) it’s no wonder there is such a battle over words. Let’s use our voices to speak the truth of God’s Word, declaring what we see with eyes of faith. Do not let your voice of faith and kindness be muzzled. Hope in God, be kind, rest in His promise, and stir up zeal for the truth of His Word.
Pray with me: We praise and thank you LORD for bringing us to this land and we declare it as our own. Erie, Pennsylvania, city & county, is the place in which we are called to rejoice and use our voices to speak life into the atmosphere. We are grateful that Your thoughts for Erie are thoughts of peace and not evil, to give us a future and continuous hope. We bow our hearts before You and on behalf of ourselves and the people here we repent of the sins of our city & county. We ask You to forgive our sins and cleanse the land from all unrighteousness. Remove distress and violence, grow the economy and cause your people to develop their gifts as we lift our voices to saturate the atmosphere with praise to the Most High God!
Point of interest: the Erie County Conservation District maintains Headwaters Park at 1927 Wager Road, Erie. It’s a great place to take a walk and pray.
For more Gem City Stories go to https://prayerie.org/gem-city-blog/.