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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

With recent events across the nation, the deaths of several unarmed black men, the deaths of policemen, Just Mercy is an incredibly timely read. As I read, I came to a new understanding of just how the deck is stacked against poor criminals and poor criminal suspects in particular, even as I questioned the author’s perspective on the crimes he wrote about. Seemingly, according to Bryan Stevenson, there are no heinous crimes deserving of the death penalty, and there are only misunderstood and wrongly convicted persons on death row.

Notwithstanding the author’s preconceptions about the justice system and the death penalty, his book and the stories recounted therein are well worth reading. If you are a critic of the death penalty, you will find your views bolstered and supported. If you are a proponent of the death penalty as a just punishment in certain crimes, you will find your support for it challenged. And that’s a good thing. The imposition of execution in response to crimes of murder and rape should only be undertaken by a society and a justice system under very limited circumstances and after much consideration, if at all.

So, Bryan Stevenson tells in his book the stories of several clients of his Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. The story of one client, Walter McMillan, a black man who is sentenced to death for a murder he insists he did not commit. The book tells the stories of other death row prisoners who were helped, or not, by Stevenson’s EJI, but the thread that runs through the entire book is Mr. McMillan’s story of injustice, eventual freedom, and continued brokenness and struggle even after his release from prison.

Some quotes from the book show Stevenson’s perspective on mercy and justice:

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

“We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.”

“At the church meeting, I spoke mostly about Walter’s case, but I also reminded people that when the woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus, he told the accusers who wanted to stone her to death, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ The woman’s accusers retreated, and Jesus forgave her and urged her to sin no more. But today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion. I told the congregation that we can’t simply watch that happen. I told them we have to be stone catchers.”

Author John Grisham wrote about this book on Goodreads: “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story.”

The other scene in the book that impressed me was when the author, who also happens to be a black man, describes his own encounter with the Atlanta (I think) police. Because he was sitting in his own car outside his own apartment for an extended period of time, listening to music, the police stopped, ordered him out of the car, and searched and questioned him. That’s a scary experience, and apparently it’s one that happens repeatedly and disproportionally to people of color, especially black men. One more quote:

“Of course innocent mistakes occur but the accumulated insults and indignations caused by racial presumptions are destructive in ways that are hard to measure. Constantly being suspected, accused, watched, doubted, distrusted, presumed guilty, and even feared is a burden born by people of color that can’t be understood or confronted without a deeper conversation about our history of racial injustice.”

This book is a part of that deeper conversation, and it certainly made me think about some of my own presumptions and attitudes.

Dear John

I have a young friend to whom I would like to say some things. However, this friend, whom I love and esteem very much, doesn’t want to hear anything on the subject at hand, that is, Christianity. So, I thought I’d write “John” a letter here on my blog for three reasons:

1) John doesn’t read my blog, so I could write what I want to say and not offend.
2) I need an outlet for all the pent-up words that I want to say to John.
3) Maybe someone else would be helped or encouraged by what I have to say. (If you see yourself in the descriptions I give of my friend John, then I would imagine that someone who loves you would like to say these words or similar ones to you.)

Dear John,

You are a fine man. You have worked hard and learned much to become an outstanding student and an academic success. You are kind and fun to be around and a good friend. Because you have been given great gifts of intelligence and ability, and because you have put those gifts to good use, you have earned my respect and honor. You have long had my friendship and my love.

You are on the threshold of a new chapter in your life, and you are moving into the next phase of your career with confidence and with humility. All of your friends and family are so very proud of you and of all you have accomplished and of all you plan and dream of for the future.

And yet . . . this one thing you lack: you have left your first love, and your life is built on a foundation of sand. You once professed to follow Jesus Christ as a young adult. Then, later, you said you didn’t believe “any of that Christian stuff” anymore. As far as I know (you don’t like to talk about spiritual things), you now have a vague belief in God, maybe even in Jesus, but you don’t go to church and you avoid any discussion of spiritual truth. You’re a good man, but as far as anyone can see from the outside, you’re not a follower of Jesus. Jesus Christ is not the source of your life and of your direction in life.

Because I love and admire you, this lack makes me very sad. What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? I daresay that you have the potential to go far in either business or academia or any other area of endeavor you choose. You are super smart, and you work hard. But what is it all for? I don’t understand what meaning a life apart from Christ can have. In fact, I don’t mean to make anyone depressed, but apart from Jesus and a life founded and anchored in his work of forgiveness and redemption, nothing really has much significance or meaning for me.

In addition to giving my life and my decisions and my relationships meaning, Jesus Christ is the only one who has the right and the authority to rule over me and over you. We can evade that authority, and I have tried, but either Jesus was and is Lord of all, “very God of God”, or He lied or was self-deluded (Lewis’s famous tri-lemma). And if He is God, if He died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day, if He reigns over heaven and earth, then our petty successes (or failures) don’t really mean too much in the light of His glory and the honor that is due Him. We owe Jesus our very lives and every minute of our time and every ounce of the talents and abilities He has given us. Conversely, the lordship of Jesus is the only thing that gives meaning to our actions and decisions here on this earth. If I am serving Jesus, then it’s all worthwhile. If not, then nothing is worth much.

So, because all of this “Christian stuff” is self-evident and obviously true in my eyes, I don’t understand why you won’t follow Him. Is it because Christians have disappointed you in the past? Are you really going to let someone else’s failure keep you from the One who redeems all of our faults and failures? Is it pride? Are you trapped in your past denial of faith in Him and too proud to admit that He is Lord? Do you still believe that your intelligence, your talent, and your ethical behavior are enough to please God and make a good life for yourself? If so, I believe that you eventually will come to the end of yourself and see that you are not enough, that you need God’s mercy, God’s grace, and the forgiveness to be found only in Christ just as much as the rest of us do.

I don’t mean to sound self-righteous or to give you the impression that I know everything while you are blind. In fact, I have been just as blind to the great mercy of Jesus as you seem to be now, and even today I ignore Him, take His grace for granted, and fail to be the follower that He calls me be. Daily, I must repent and return to my first love, Jesus. Please, someday when you see clearly your desperate need for a Savior and a Guide, come along with me and look to Jesus. And if you outrun me to the foot of the cross and if you prove to more faithful, more Spirit-filled, more loving and kind and Jesus-centered, than I have ever been enabled to become, that will be just fine. I’ll be happy to follow you and try to catch up as you follow Jesus.

I can’t wait for us to join together in running after Him.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Nonfiction Books of Spiritual Encouragement to Read in 2016

I’d like to read the following books in 2016 as a part of my commitment to grow in my faith in God and my walk with Him:

1. Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More, Regret Less, Stare Down Your Greatest Fears by Margaret Feinberg. This is actually a Bible study workbook that goes along with a video series that we did at church this past fall. However, I wasn’t able to be there every week, nor was I able to actually complete the study in the workbook. So, I’m planning to borrow the DVD’s and make some time to do this study at home, maybe with some of my family.

2. Becoming a Woman of Grace: A Bible Study by Cynthia Heald. My Bible study group is studying this book starting in January, so I’ll be doing two Bible studies at once? And I hope to get an infusion from the Holy Spirit of both joy and grace.

3. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. I am intrigued by Mr. Moore’s writing on the internet. He seems to be a man who is closely aligned with my views, both politically and theologically. Anyway, I’d like to learn how to “engage the culture without losing the gospel.”

4. Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren Winner. I am not so sure that Ms. Winner and I would agree on all things, but her first book, Girl Meets God, was both challenging and engaging. I’m optimistic that this one would be also.

5. From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty through Church-Centered Microfinance by Brian Fikkert. I’m interested in creative thoughts about alleviating or even ending poverty.

6. Christian. Muslim. Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship by David W. Shenk. Seems timely.

7. George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd. Also timely, even though Whitfield lived over 200 years ago. We need a fourth(?) great awakening/revival in this country.

8. 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas.

9. The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpenter Brown. I love Chesterton and wonder who could have managed to live with him. Eccentric to the max.

10. The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus by Dallas Willard. I’ve seen accolades for this book everywhere. I wish I were gentle.

11. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski. I’m getting this book for Christmas (not here yet).

12. Restoring Beauty by Louis Markos. I started this book by one of Drama Daughter’s favorite professors at HBU, and then I got distracted by life. I want to go back and finish it.

13. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time.

So there’s the plan. One book of spiritual encouragement per month, plus an extra. I can’t wait to get started.

Called for Life by Kent and Amber Brantly

Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic by Kent and Amber Brantly, with David Thomas.

I’ll start out by telling what I missed in this story by Ebola survivor Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber. There’s nothing in the book about how Mr. and Mrs. Brantly came to know the Lord, nothing about their childhood, or their growth as Christ-followers, except in relation to their missionary commitment. I would have liked to have read more about each one of the couple’s initial salvation experience as a sort of a background to their experiences in Liberia. However, this book is not the book for that.

What this book does do well is tell the story of how Kent and Amber Brantly ended up in Liberia on the frontline of the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. And it tells in detail how Kent Brantly contracted Ebola himself and how he survived the virus that killed so many people in Liberia and in other West African countries. In the book, Brantly also gives God the credit for saving his life, while acknowledging that many people and circumstances came together to make it possible for him to receive expert medical care and treatment.

I was intrigued learn of the many factors that converged to make Mr. Brantley’s survival and healing possible and of the heroic actions of many missionary doctors and nurses and Liberian national doctors and healthcare workers in their team effort to combat the Ebola outbreak. It’s a good, inspiring story, and it made a good antidote to the darkness of the news story of death and destruction in Paris that dominated this past weekend’s newsfeed. I admire Kent Brantly and his fellow Ebola survivor, Nancy Writebol, even more than I did before reading this account of their faith in God and their tenacious fight against Ebola.

I recommend Called for Life. I needed some contemporary heroes to restore my hope, and I imagine you do, too.

Reading and Thinking on my Birthday

So, what have I been reading and thinking about on my birthday and the morning after?

I spent some time yesterday morning listening to Ravi Zacharias’ recent podcasts. That man is an inspirational speaker, preacher, and thinker. I enjoy listening to him speak much more than I enjoy his books, however, even though I like his books well enough.

Then, I read some in Walter Wangerin’s Paul: A Novel. It’s an interesting perspective, or rather multiple perspectives, on the life of the apostle Paul. The novel switches narrators every few pages from Luke to Timothy to Barnabas to James the brother of Jesus to Priscilla to Titus, maybe others. It’s rather disconcerting, but maybe not a bad idea.

Noel DeVries has a good post at Never Jam Today: we rest in Thee, and in Thy name we go.
Also this older post about the limitations of the “Charlotte Mason Method” of child training.

And this morning I read Julie at Happy Catholic on the feast day of St. Martha, and I was reminded to “choose the better part,” to choose Jesus.

I’m going to spend today working in my library, studying my Bible, praying, eating leftover birthday food (lots of leftover birthday food is here!), reading some more, paying bills, rejoicing in another day with Jesus. I wish you something similar for your day. I’ve learned to appreciate the mundane, event-less days as opportunities for joy and thankfulness.

She Is Mine by Stephanie Fast

“Stephanie Fast is the name she was given in America. She does not know her original name, birth date, or place of birth, other than that she is Korean. Because she is biracial, Stephanie Fast was abandoned, left in a strange place to fend for herself, likely to die of starvation, disease—or worse.

Stephanie has made it her life’s work to try to help rescue every orphan out there—terrified, hungry, hurting, abused. If you believe that how we treat the most vulnerable among us determines our own humanity you will want to read Stephanie’s book—you will want to get to know Stephanie’s story.”

The almost unbelievable and harrowing story of a Korean war orphan, abandoned by her mother and unknown to her American GI father, She is Mine is an amazing testament to the courage and endurance of the author, but even more to the grace of God in her life. Her website says “Stephanie’s story will leave you moved—and changed.” It left me moved, yes, and puzzled. I was puzzled by the mercy of God and by His sovereignty. Why was Stephanie spared the fate of another child she writes about in her memoir, a baby who died abandoned on a trash heap after seven year old Stephanie, or Yoon Myoung as she was known in Korean, had tried to mother her and save her life? Why was Yoon Myoung/Stephanie adopted by an American couple and brought to the U.S. while other Korean orphans languished in orphanages or scavenged on the streets? I don’t know, and author Stephanie Fast provides no answers to those troubling questions. She can only testify to the fact that God saved her, and “in every instance of my life, whether I knew it or not, there was a greater, higher, wiser power propelling willing hearts to rescue me.”

Maybe God is “propelling” us to rescue just one, or to help, and we are not listening?

I recommend the book, but I do warn you that Stephanie’s story is a very difficult one which includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, abandonment, and violence. Stephanie eventually is rescued, and her message is that there is hope. However, reading this book can be emotionally draining. Even if you don’t choose to read Stephanie’s story, please take this blog post as a cue to pray for Stephanie Fast and for the millions of orphans and abused children who are struggling for survival and hope even today as you are reading these words.

Stephanie Fast’s website.

Called to Love is a ministry designed to encourage and support adoptive and foster moms by providing an annual retreat.

Chosen International is a faith-based organization whose goal is to encourage teens who have been adopted to embrace God’s plan of adoption for their lives, and grow into spiritually and emotionally healthy adulthood.

Christian Friends of Korea: hope and healing to the people of North Korea in the name of Christ.

New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services. (adoption agency)

Kazembe Orphanage, an orphanage in northern Zambia run by my friends, the Morrow family.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson.

Prayer is a mysterious thing. Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., writes about answered prayers and unanswered prayers and prayer circles and praying through and specific prayers and dreams and life goals. I found the book inspiring, and as I indicated, somewhat mysterious. Appropriately enough. If I had prayer figured out, I would very nearly think that I have God figured out, and that would be presumptuous and unwise of me.

“Most of us don’t get what we want because we quit praying. We give up too easily. We give up too soon. We quit praying right before the miracle happens.”

“We shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God. If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you.”

“Sometimes the power of prayer is the power to carry on. It doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk through them. When you pray through, the burden is taken off of your shoulders and put on the shoulders of Him who carried the cross to Calvary.”

“Faith is the willingness to look foolish.”

“There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayers, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams. That is who He is. That is what He does. And the bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory. The greatest moments in life are the miraculous moments when human impotence and divine omnipotence intersect – and they intersect when we draw a circle around the impossible situations in our lives and invite God to intervene.”

“if God doesn’t answer the way you want, you still need to praise through. That is when it’s most difficult to praise God, but that is also when our praise is most pure and most pleasing to God.”

I am in the midst of a prayer journey with God, and it looks impossible. I’ve been asking him to do something, something good and right and big and important, for nigh on ten years now. So far it’s not happening. In fact, as far as I can tell, nothing is happening that moves us closer to God’s glory or my desires. However, I’m determined to keep praying, keep wrestling, until God gives me what I am asking or until I die and go to be with Him. And if I’m in heaven and my prayers are still not answered, I’ll keep asking there.

I think that’s what this book is all about, and that’s what God asks us to do in the Bible:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13

And if we know that he hears us—-whatever we ask—-we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:15

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16

The other thing I got out of this book was a new encouragement and vision for goal-setting.

“Goal setting begins and ends with prayer. God-ordained goals are conceived in the context of prayer, and prayer is what brings them to full term. You need to keep circling your dreams in prayer, like the Israelites circled Jericho.”

Maybe I’ll share some of my “life goals list” with you soon. What life goals has God given you?

Resurrection Sunday 2015

I’ve been trying to think of how I can share with anyone who reads this blog about the most important thing in the world to me. I love books. I think stories are very important; in fact, I believe we are made to think in story and feel others’ stories and live our lives as stories. When I read a really good book or hear a really good lecture or talk that reflects truth and beauty, I am not just entertained—-I am fed, mentally and spiritually. C.S. Lewis wrote, “[L]iterary people are always looking for leisure and silence in which to read and do so with their whole attention. When they are denied such attentive and undisturbed reading even for a few days they feel impoverished.” I guess I’m one of those “literary people,” and I tend to think we’d be better off if all of us were at least a bit “literary”. Nevertheless, as important as stories and books are to me, they are not the most vital center of my life.

I also love my husband and my eight children. I think of them and pray for them and text them and write letters to them and send them emails and talk with them and just live life with them almost all day long every day. My family is the thing that gives me energy and the thing that uses a great deal of my energy every day. I scheme and plan ways to bless them, and sometimes I get frustrated with them and try to change them or make them do what I want them to do, for their own good, of course. But underneath it all, I love them desperately. I would give my right arm for them. However, those nine people in my immediate family are not the center and support of my life.

My church and my homeschooling community are another very significant part of what makes me tick. I depend on the people in my church body and in my community of friends to pray for me and commiserate with me and comfort me in sorrow and rejoice with me in times of celebration. I discuss ideas with them, and they give me feedback that refines and sharpens those ideas to better conform to the truth and to reality. We all know that we are fallible people, and we try to give each other grace and mercy and forgiveness and a second (third, fourth, fifth . . . ) chance. I depend upon these people.

And yet, if you take away all of my church friends and my homeschooling friends and my neighbors and my Facebook friends, if you take away my fantastic Engineer Husband and every one of my eight wonderful children, if you take away all of my books and even my eyesight and my hearing so that I can never read or listen to another story, one thing would remain. Only one hope endures past stories, beyond family, transcending the communication and encouragement of friendship. Someday all of these other things will most likely be taken away from me. I may get so old that I forget all of the stories that I can’t read or hear anymore anyway. My family and friends can’t go with me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and in fact, some may precede me in going there. Then, when everything else is stripped away, it will be just me and Jesus. Just me and the God of the Universe who became flesh and dwelt among us and suffered and died for my sin and who gloriously LIVES so that I can live with Him for all eternity.

I hope you know Jesus, too. I hope you have turned your back on your sin and your idols and trusted Him for salvation and for forgiveness and for life. I hope that whatever wonderful, important, significant, good blessings you have in your life, you know that in the end it will be just you and Jesus. Or not. He calls you to repent (turn around), leave your fallible and flimsy God-substitutes behind, obey His unshakeable Word (The Bible) and look to Him for all that you need. It’s a good deal. You should jump on it because whatever you’re holding on to in the place of God, whatever is keeping you from trusting Him alone, whether it’s pleasure or stuff or family or friends or religious rules or intellectual pride or fame or fill-in-the-blank, only God satisfies. Only God forgives sin completely and forever through Christ. Only Jesus will be there for you when everything else is gone with the wind.

Happy Resurrection Day!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (II Corinthians 9:8)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The Abolition of Man, ch. 1, Men Without Chests

C.S> Lewis begins this essay with his thoughts about a textbook that he has received for review and that he thinks is pernicious in its influence and teaching. He calls the textboook’s authors by the pseudonyms Gaius and Titius.

“The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.”

Yes, indeed, schoolboys and girls are unaware of the subtext and foundational assumptions of their textbooks and their literature assignments—even when I try to make them aware. I find it harder to put assumptions into children’s minds, however, than Lewis assumes it is. Most of the books I use, at the younger levels at least, have “good assumptions”; however, I have found that the students are not thinking about the assignments at all unless I deliberately provoke them to thought, again and again. They are not taking in the assumptions in school assignments, good or bad.

Now the assumptions and implicit messages in song lyrics and television shows and movies are a very different matter. The students I know share many of the assumptions that Hollywood and the music industry are selling:

Sex is the most important part of a romantic relationship. No one waits until after the wedding to have a sexual relationship.

You should always follow your dreams, and ignore or demolish anyone or anything that prevents you from doing what you really want to do.

Marriage is confining and generally unhappy.

The universe exists to make me happy.

My conclusion is that bad assumptions that appeal to our sin nature are easier to sell and implant than good assumptions that make us into people of good impulses and decisions.

Showers of Blessing

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 18, 2005:

It was supposed to rain this afternoon here in Houston. No rain, however, and no one is disappointed. We can always count on having rain sometime soon, probably more rain than we want. It rains frequently in Houston.
In San Angelo where I grew up, it was a different story. We appreciated rain. Not far from the house where I grew up, there was a huge billboard with this year-round message: “Pray for rain.” There may have been a Scripture reference, too. The one I always heard in church when we were asked to pray for rain was 2 Chronicles 7:14:

.

. . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Sometimes we had so little rain that water was rationed. You could only water your yard on certain days of the week, and after a while, all the yards started to turn brown in the scorching summer heat. Droughts always seemed to come in the spring or the summer for some reason. A few people had wells, and they put signs in their yards so that no one would think they were cheating with their green grass: “Well Water Used Here.”

So we’d pray for rain, and the city would spend money to hire an airplane to go up and seed the clouds, if there were any clouds. But as often as not, the clouds that San Angelo paid to have seeded would move on to Big Spring or Midland or Abilene and pour down all that rain on one of those undeserving towns instead of raining on our parched lawns. The ranchers would start talking about how they were having to bring in feed for their sheep or cattle so they’d have enough to eat. Then we’d have a day of special prayer for rain, or maybe even a week of prayer meetings, asking God for those showers we knew we needed.

And when it did rain, we knew that our prayers had been answered. We knew that we were dependent on the grace of God and His provision, day in and day out. One rain wouldn’t last forever; we’d need God to provide over and over again, every year.

In Houston, we take the rain for granted. It rains all the time. We complain because it rains too much, and it messes up our soccer game or spoils the picnic we had planned. We need the rain here, too, but we don’t know it. God provides in abundance, but we don’t appreciate it.

Maybe everybody ought to live in West Texas for a while. I’ve been in Houston for almost thirty years, but I still love the rain. I like to go walk in the rain and soak it into my skin. I like to watch the rain come down in my backyard and see the drops bounce off puddles and plants. The showers are still a blessing.