Time for parched foothills to seek divine intervention?

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman February 19, 2015 21:03
man reaching for sky

Turning heavenward … in shirtsleeves … in February


Now that we’ve gone O-for-January and not much better for February, maybe it’s time to rethink T.Y. Atkins’ proposal.

Summerville Elementary School’s principal went before the Tuolumne Utility District Board last June and suggested that prayer just might be the key to breaking the drought.

Uneasy TUD directors, as one might expect, stopped short of declaring a district-wide day of prayer or passing a resolution beseeching The Almighty to break down that stubborn ridge of high pressure.

Instead, they thanked Atkins for his concern and went back to rationing, rates and other stuff that typically does not require divine intervention.

Next came a barrage of criticism: Division of church and state, Atkins’ qualifications as a school administrator and the propriety of even suggesting a spiritual solution all came into play in the letters to the editor that followed. One correspondent cited a study that he swore (but, I’m guessing, not to God) proved that prayer actually worsens the chances of a sick person’s recovery.

This suspect study notwithstanding, the mounting drought desperation of 2015 may make more of us willing to give prayer a chance.

I’m no theologian and don’t even pretend to know how God handles the innumerable requests (well, he probably knows the number) that come up to him daily.  But before getting on your knees, I have a few things you might think about.

Triage – ER docs use it, treating gasping, vomiting, bleeding ebola patients long before getting around to that cranky guy with the sore throat. So wouldn’t God answer prayers for world peace, cures for cancer and worldwide disaster relief before getting around to a drought that’s costing Californians lawns, golf courses, avocados and walnuts?  Also, India, Brazil, Australia and China have their own very serious droughts. So maybe, like that grouch with the sore throat, we’ll just have to wait.

Conditions – If God knows anything about TUD (and he probably knows everything), he might ask us supplicants to come back after closing those golf courses, piping ditches, enlarging Lyons reservoir and patching up those leaky pipes under dozens of kitchens and garages. God, after all, helps those who help themselves.

Sports – What’s your prayer track record?  Mine is problematic: Back in 1984, I actually prayed that the Chicago Cubs would win the deciding game of the National League Championship series. Well, we all know how that turned out – and no wonder. God must have a special and probably very large scrap heap for sports prayers. And he may also put those who make those misbegotten pleas on some kind of Prayer Probation. Yes, the Giants won the 2014 World Series, but that had more to do with Madison Bumgarner than any skyward entreaties you might have made. So if you pray for rain and, say, for the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl in the same breath, you may be sent to the back of the line.

Big picture – Ten thousand years ago, the Sahara, Mojave and Sonoran deserts were lush, beautiful places with abundant water, vegetation and wildlife. But God had other plans: Possible prayers notwithstanding, the rains stopped and, over many millennia, deserts emerged. So do you dare question celestial plans spanning geologic ages? On the bright side: Phoenix, in the middle of that once-lush Sonoran desert, just hosted the Super Bowl. And, yes, that brought tens of thousands of high-rolling tourists and many millions of dollars into Arizona’s already booming economy. So, yes, God does work in strange ways.

Small picture – Maybe The Lord is punishing those marijuana-growing cartels, whose drip-irrigated, armed-thug guarded plantations persist in hidden corners of the Sierra despite the best effort of cops, narcs and federal agents.  But then why would Colorado and Washington, whose citizens voted to legalize weed, get any rain at all?

Final exam – How we humans handle crisis says much about our character and about how quickly we might deliver ourselves unto, and succumb to, temptation. If the drought persists for another year or two, God will quickly learn who among us will lend a pipe (a water pipe, cartel customers, not a pot pipe) to a neighbor whose well has run dry. He will also find out who will illegally siphon water from the TUD ditch  (who knew—except God, of course – that the murky waters that runs through our 150-year-old ditches might someday be coveted by thieves?).  In summary, it might pay off to look at the drought as a test we’d be well advised – both in terms of this world and the next – to pass.

Be careful what you pray for – Do you really want 40 days and 40 nights of rain? Well, me too, so I guess this is not an issue.

Big miracle – Speaking of rain by the bucket, do you remember 1991’s March Miracle?  December, January and February of that year were as dry as a bone, prolonging a drought that was well into its fifth year. But the skies opened on March 1, and over 31 days delivered the entire state a drought-drowning deluge.  But was this really a miracle? And when newspapers, TV stations and state agencies throughout California called it the “March Miracle,” did that amount to official acknowledgment of a Higher Power?  Just something to think about.

Small miracle – A word to anyone who prayed for that three-day weekend drenching we got earlier this month: Thanks for not praying for a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win at the same time.

Devil may care – And another word to the truly desperate. I mean those so hopeless that they might consider lobbying the Other Guy – you know, the one with the horns, the bloodshot eyes and the bad, burned skin.  Really, how crazy must you be to ask the ruler of Hell, where it hasn’t rained for, well, eternity, for help breaking a drought here in balmy California. Think about it: Where this guy lives makes the Sahara Desert look like a bad winter in Buffalo.

A prayer of thanks: No, I’m not kidding. We do have a drought, but who among us is ready to move to Bangor, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or pretty much anywhere east of the Mississippi?  Don’t all raise your hands at once. Instead, put those hands together and thank God you’re not there.

Copyright Friends and Neighbors Magazine, 2015






Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman February 19, 2015 21:03
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