Scorching. Stifling. Suffocating. Pick your adjective. Temperatures in north Texas are expected to reach the 109-degree range this week, with the possibility of several record-setting days. Add to that the Saharan dust cloud that has traveled over 5,000 miles to torment those with respiratory issues, and we have a significant meteorological event taking place. I am writing from Siete Ranch this morning, and we missed the soaking rains that blessed surrounding areas last week. Without divine intervention, we will be in full-fledged drought conditions in a few days. Putting hay out in the middle of July to keep the cows fed is not in the business plan, but it will possibly be in the survival plan.
The problem with droughts is that they leave one with little or no control, and this is true of all the ways in which we experience arid conditions. Norman Mailer once wrote, “The hard part about (writing) is the mystery. You don’t know where it comes from, and so you don’t know what to do when it dries up.” As a preacher, I know the experience intimately. Any decent sermon requires a lot of work, but the really good sermon depends on a creative source that can’t be simply summoned. Jesus said that the wind blows and we neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. For him, the wind was synonymous with God’s spirit. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could control God’s spirit, or at least predict it?
Droughts, in whatever form, can be painful. One of the most vivid non-fiction books I’ve read in recent years is THE WORST HARD TIME: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THOSE WHO SURVIVED THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL. When I start feeling sorry for myself because of the minor drought we are experiencing at Siete Ranch, I will remember the life-altering decade of those depression-era farmers who lost their cattle, their crops, and sometimes their lives. But I will also try to recall the words of Jesus about how God’s spirit arrives as unexpectedly as it departs. In droughts of all kinds, including spiritual ones, we are called to trust that the source of the wind and the rain – the mystery of creation itself – is at work in our lives and in the world in ways beyond our understanding. The old king David, who faced his share of challenges, once captured this truth in powerful words that I have begun reciting every morning: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Rev. Don Underwood