Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12 (KJV)
In our arid corner of the southwest, life histories were measured by the “dry years” and the “wet” ones. I was born in a very dry year, but my sister’s birth year was memorable as the “time it rained so much.” My earliest memories are of great black “dusters” that swept down out of Colorado and Kansas and blew away our top soil. As the Dust Bowl engulfed our little community at Wild Horse Creek, many of our neighbors sold out and hit the “Grapes of Wrath” trail to California. Our isolated farm became even lonelier with empty houses all around us. It was a bitterly beautiful land in the best of times: fierce winters and fiercer summers with the sun blazing in the great inverted bowl that was our sky. Yet there were glorious sunsets and a “certain slant of light,” and these were the hills of home.
Remembering the story of Elijah, my favorite Old Testament prophet, I would climb up into the oak tree near our barn and search the skies, praying for a cloud “the size of a man’s hand.” “Where is the God of Elijah?” I often cried into the dry wind, “Please, please send us rain.”
But there was no answer.
Finally, defeated by repeated crop failures, we left the land and moved to the city. There, we lived in a tiny, drab apartment while my father labored long hours to earn enough to feed us and pay off the mortgage. It was a dreadful time: I missed the two roomed school out at Wild Horse, missed my friends. My clothes seemed all wrong for the city school, and, even if I made friends, I would be ashamed to bring them to our apartment. Even worse, like some terrible cosmic joke, the rain finally came in bucket fulls, day after dreary day of rain until I hated the sound and smell of it. Bitterness festered in my heart; I was angry at God and at my parents who had taught me to trust Him.
I don’t know what would have been the story of my life had not a godly neighbor befriended me and introduced me to a dynamic youth group at her church. (There had been no church out at Wild Horse Creek).
I enjoyed the social life and made new friends, became adept at tuning out the sermons--until the night we visited a larger church and heard a skinny young evangelist named Billy Graham. I listened to him intently. Perhaps it was his youthful earnestness–more likely it was because he sounded like my family who had migrated to the southwest from his Carolina mountains. He talked about prayer that night, assuring us it was not a magic wand, but a conduit to the heart of God. He assured us God loved us, had a plan for our lives and wanted to send “showers of blessing,” once our hearts were prepared to receive them. I began a life long pilgrimage that night; by the time I went away to college, my feet were planted firmly on the Solid Rock.
Today, I have grandchildren the age I was then. As I watch them struggle with disappointments and temptations, I share Brother Billy’s message with them and assure them God does have showers of blessings for His children–they just don’t always come the way we expect them to.
Ironically, my grandchildren and most of the choicest blessings of my life have come out of that painful move from Wild Horse Creek to the City–from that time when the “Heavens were brass” and God did not seem to hear my prayers, or to care about me.
Last night, I lay awake listening to the familiar patter of rain on our tin roof, remembering those long ago dry years, remembering the words of an old hymn:
There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way. (Daniel W. Whittle)
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