On any given weekend, you are likely to find my wife and I scooting across the Kansas country-side.
It is not lost on us that the single most important element for this land is a variable over which no man has control - Rain.
The American economy has burgeoned in the last fifty years as we migrated from an agriculture-based economy to manufacturing, then service, and now an information processing-based economy. Small country towns that once thrived on the local agriculture are now virtual ghost towns. Other small towns have evolved into bustling suburbs as the focus of our economy and the locus of our dwelling has removed us far away from the fields where our breakfast, lunch, and dinner grow. Is anyone praying for rain?
“One Kansas farmer feeds 128 people... + You!”
(And thanks to American ingenuity, these signs are being updated to read 155 people!)
This road sign is snuggled between a wheat field and a barnyard in central Kansas. I love the sign, but it is terribly misplaced. I’d like to see that sign on an interstate in suburban Kansas City, or painted on the side of a warehouse in Los Angeles, or even broadcast as a public service announcement on a New York City television station. People need to be reminded that their food comes from somewhere beyond the grocery store shelf. People need to pray for rain.
As we recently cruised across our Kansas landscape, we listened to one of our favorite artists, Nanci Griffith. Nanci seems to hold similar awareness that the children of the suburbs are unaware of their dependence upon blessed rain:
Trouble In The Fields
Baby I know that we've got trouble in the fields
When the bankers swarm like locust out there turning away our yield
The trains roll by our silos, silver in the rain
They leave our pockets full of nothing
But our dreams and the golden grain
Have you seen the folks in line downtown at the station
They're all buying their ticket out and talking the great depression
Our parents had their hard times fifty years ago
When they stood out in these empty fields in dust as deep as snow
And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They'll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we'll work these crops with sweat and tears
You'll be the mule I'll be the plow
Come harvest time we'll work it out
There's still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields
There's a book up on the shelf about the dust bowl days
And there's a little bit of you and a little bit of me
In the photos on every page
Now our children live in the city and they rest upon our shoulders
They never want the rain to fall or the weather to get colder
It was a dark and stormy night… I walked into a restaurant and explained I was with a large party. While waiting for a suitable table to open up, the hostess made conversation with me by suggesting that the weather was very poor outside. I said that I thought the weather was great. She said, “Oh, you like this weather?”
“I like to eat,” I responded, “and I hope that the farmers who grew the food I am going to eat here tonight got some of this ‘poor’ rainy weather…. Don’t you?”
She found me neither insightful nor charming. Rain tamps down business at restaurants. She was concerned only with the bottom-line not the supply chain.
Perhaps worse than being ignorant of our dependence upon rain, we live in a culture that downright despises rain. Weather forecasts tell us how long the bright, sunny “good” weather will last until interrupted by rainy, stormy “bad” weather.
Jesus understood what my restaurant host did not. “He [God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45 NAS)
This verse is a good illustration of the flip-flop we have suffered in our “rain consciousness.” We tend to think “sun good / rain bad.” But here, Jesus teaches that God causes the sun to rise on the evil... as well as the good and He sends rain on the righteous... and the unrighteous, too. In Bible parlance, scorching sun is typically the plight of evil doers and rain is the reward of the righteous. (So too for the American Westerns I grew up watching. Can't count how many time Little Joe Cartwright almost died out in the parched desert, only to be refreshed by a trickle of water flowing down from the distant hills.)
Many readers will remember this line from an old hymn:
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry thirsty land
If you live in a “dry thirsty land,” you live with expectancy for the rains of heaven. Although the land of Israel is the context of writings of scripture, all of us live in such a land. Without rain, we are all doomed to a short, agonizing death in the desert.
Wise and productive farmers for millennia have irrigated their fields when rain was in short supply, but those wise farmers also know that rain is necessary to replenish whatever reservoir from which they draw their irrigation water. I can tell you for sure, farmers never cease to pray for rain. At best, the rest of us merely pray that farmers pray for rain.
One Kansas farmer… prays for rain… so he can feed
128 155 people... and You!