Don and I are heading East on Saturday, taking the southern route on I-10 through Houston, to Mobile, then heading northeast until we get to Hickory, North Carolina. After a few days there we'll head further northeast to Philadelphia. I'm looking forward to seeing familiar landscapes along the way and friends when we arrive. But I wonder if parts of the trip, places we've often been before, will look foreign.
Usually we take the quickest route, or one that affords the most beauty, or maybe one we haven't used much. But this time we've been listening to the news as we huddle around the map, changing our minds every few hours. To get from "here" to "there" we have to cross the Mississippi River, but where is the safest place to cross? Most years it's not an issue, but this year the mighty river has flooded its banks, swallowing up communities and farmland for miles and miles. Images from Memphis (highway 40) and Vicksburg (highway 20) show 8 to 12 feet of water consuming homes, streets, entire neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, drought and wild fires have ravaged Texas. Here in San Antonio we hadn't seen a drop of rain since perhaps mid-February. Grass is baked and brown, trees are stressed again, and water rationing was imposed many weeks ago. Alabama was recently tossed around by horrendous tornadoes, Mississippi and Tennessee are under water, and Texas is begging the skies to break open and rain. With crops dying and the water table shrinking here, it's hard to believe that just two states over people are suffering from too much water.
The habits of rainfall are frustrating - too much in one place can bring death just as none in another can bring death. We would like to receive a goodly amount each year - enough to water crops, lawns, and flowers, but not so much that it floods homes and streets. From our perspective that would be fair and sensible. But nature does not heed our advice. Maybe some of our frustration stems from our lack of control over the matter. As adults, we are used to addressing problems, finding solutions, striving for success. But the rain does what it wants, not what we want, making us feel like children with no say in the matter. God sends the rain when and where it suits God whether or not we approve.
This morning the Farmers Market at Shepherd King closed early for a wonderful reason. Around 9:30 the skies darkened, thunder rumbled, and water descended from the heavens. (I'm sure the farmers don't mind trading one day's sales for a good rainfall.) It was the first rain here in more than three months and such a joyful sight! It felt like a holiday - an occasion for dancing and celebrating. Gracias a Dios! (Thanks to God!) The silty mud, however, slathered throughout those flooded southern homes will not be gone for weeks. Pie Jesu (Lord, have mercy).
In Matthew 5:45 Jesus says "(God) makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." What happens in the world does not revolve primarily around me and my situation, or you and yours. Certainly God loves us, but God also sees and knows much more than what concerns us. (In Isaiah 55:8 God says "for my thoughts are not your thoughts...") God is with those whose homes are under water - caring, providing, and comforting. God knows the seriousness of drought and responds to our prayers. But the world and God's intent for creation are bigger than merely "now" and "here."
So whether it is dry or soggy, whether it is hot or cold, with the psalmist let us "Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving... the LORD covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills... the LORD takes pleasure...in those who hope in his steadfast love." (Psalm 147)
Peace to all the earth,