In the Wake of Drought: What Remains

Spring speaks a different dialogue out here in the country. Its native tongue is the same: warmer days, sudden gusts of air like angels are breezing through, robes caught on branches then tugging free, chattersome birds competing for best lung and limb, dogs sunbathing and scratching their backs on the few stiff sprigs of dead grass leftover by winter. Though Spring bears such similarities every year, it still surprises and delights the delight-able. I want in the worst way to remain one of those.

 

Other things are new for me this year. New for me 6 miles from town. 17 miles from my small, man-scaped suburban yard of 27 years. The landscaping is mostly left to God out here and that makes it feel considerably riskier. Oh, I know it’s not. I know the right things to say. I’m just suggesting that it feels that way. For instance, He doesn’t appear all that adept at mowing and weed-eating and a bit more like Edward Scissorhands at limb trimming. His tools are mostly winds and rains.

 

Our area of the country experienced the worst drought in its history last Spring, Summer, and early Fall. Though we’ve had the enormous relief of winter rains, they tell us that this unwelcome desert-shroud has not lifted from us yet and will blanket us in our hot flashes for another half a year. We hope they are wrong. We so hope they are wrong.

 

My man was a servant of the land long before he had a single acre. He was formed by his Maker to be outside. He tends and frets and blesses and curses out there. He thinks and rethinks. He weaves and unravels. I don’t mean he’s a yardman. I can count the times I’ve seen him mow the yard on one hand. He’s an outdoorsman. He lives out there on the other side of the fence. He has paltry little taste for manicured gardens. He likes to fuss over things out there where only God can fuss with any consistent effectiveness.

 

Keith is a self-taught tree man who believes that earning your B.S. degree in anything of the least value begins with several years spent in nothing but pure appreciation. Melissa told me not long ago that he drove her up to a particular spot near here and gruffly said, “You see that sycamore over there?” She nodded because she did. “If that tree doesn’t move you…well, then, you’re an idiot.”

Vintage Keith Moore.

This is the top of the one he was talking about. It is a beautiful thing if you’re into trees. An iPhone is a pitiful way to capture it so don’t throw yourself into the idiot category too quickly. It may be a mood-thing.


Keith brought a bona fide, certified, countrified tree-man out here a few months ago to survey the damage of the drought. With his professional eagle eye, he pointed Keith toward a few trees that were clearly lifeless, bark splitting and branches as brittle as melba toast. “But for the most part you can’t really tell yet, Mr. Moore. Only Spring can say what survived.”

 

So, we’ve waited eight weeks to hear what Spring would say, hoping we’d understand its country twang.

 

Finally…

 

“I have good news and bad news,” Spring said. “Which do you want first?”

 

The bad news.

 

To vocalize its answer loud and clear, it borrowed the voices of four large chain saws this morning. I sat out on the front steps and listened but I wouldn’t have had to. I could have heard it just fine from inside the house but, then again, inside I might not have known which way to run in case a huge, dead oak came crashing down some unanticipated direction. I guess nobody really yells, “Timmmmm-berrrrrrr!” anymore because I haven’t heard it a single time and they’ve missed innumerable opportunities. What I have heard is a sound like the sudden cracking of lightening (only not quite so loud but quite more personal) followed by branches splitting and breaking and thuds so powerful, our pier and beam house jolts.

 

 

The carnage going on outside my house right now is so loud that I don’t know how you can hear me. I’ll try to talk louder.

SO, MR. SPRING, IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS OUT THERE?

This time Spring didn’t use the sound of chain saws. This time it used a different kind of voice. At least I hope it did. And not with audible sounds but words of the heart. I’ll attempt to hang some vocabulary on it like miniature lights on long limbs but I don’t know if I’m getting it right. Here’s a meager shot at it:

 

1. The cutting away is painful but it can relieve considerable angst. Sometimes knowing for certain what is dead is better than wondering. “Well, now we at least know,” Keith, his parents, and I have said to one another. “If it’s dead and gone, let’s get it out of here,” I said to all three of them last night and they nodded. It is pointless to keep trying to resuscitate things God has killed…or permitted to die. I’m not talking about unspeakably sacred treasures like people. I’m talking about things. Like plans, works, efforts, castles, methods, accomplishments, goals, aspirations, positions, tenures, results. Sometimes God uses a fresh Spring to say, “That was a good thing. And it had some good life. But now it is dead. Let’s chop it down and use it for firewood. You’re wearing yourself out giving it CPR. It’s dead. Have a one-day memorial service and move on. You don’t have to understand why. I bring to life. I kill. I understand the cycle. You don’t. But, if it’s any encouragement, you will.”

 

There comes a time when it’s finally time to stop forcing things that don’t work. You know me better than to think I mean marriages. We’re talking things here. God alone can perform a resurrection and, notice, He usually chooses in His sovereign wisdom to keep dead things dead once they’re dead here on earth. That’s not so bad when you consider that we’re heading somewhere where nothing will die but death.

 

2. The cutting away of the dead is to make room for the living. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” That thing we keep beating our bloody fists on is not bearing fruit. It’s taking up space where something else needs planting. Something that needs nurturing. Something that needs exposing to the sun. It’s in the way.

 

Crack. Break. Thud. Another one. Good grief. How many will there be?

 

Spring talks on…

 

3. Sometimes only a few limbs are dead. The tree is alive but it’s suffering, trying to hold onto dead weight. Let it go. Scoot out from under it and let it fall. And the rest of the tree will flourish again. You do not equal “it.” Stop defining yourself by what’s past. The Holy Spirit penned it this way in John 15: “Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The purpose for this massive cutting away of what is dead is to make room for what is alive. It is for our health. Not for our end.

 

“Abide in Me, and I in you,” He says.  

 

4. Some limbs are alive – barely – but they’re too strangled to sip from the tree. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” Catch the nuance in Galatians 3:3 – “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” I’ve tried that before. Have you? The limb is choking on a stubborn clot of flesh. Cough up the human means to a divine end, spit it as far as you can, and drink of the Tree of Life.

 

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts. (Zech. 4:6)

 

5. Not every loss of something old is a crying shame. Just because it’s been there long and large doesn’t mean that it should stay. Keith’s parents lost a really big one. A painful one. A prime oak that loomed over their front yard like a giant flexing its muscles on twenty massive arms. In the tree-man’s own words, “That was a near perfect tree. Perfectly shaped.”

 

Crack. Break. Thud.

 

 

Sometimes things get to live a really long and wonderful life before they die. But perish the thought that, in their honor, we’d keep calling something alive that has long since breathed its last. If it is not cut down, it could tumble down and cause ten times the destruction. Traditional and eternal are not synonymous. Sometimes they coexist. Sometimes they conflict.

 

6. So much is alive. Sometimes only a cutting-away of what is dead can improve our view. In the words of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV) The tree man, a few days ago: “You were fortunate, Mr. Moore. You didn’t get hit nearly as hard as you could have. Look at all that made it.” It’s hard to tell right now with all the noise the dead is making, screeching and snapping it’s way to the ground but we know it’s true. And it’s obvious. By a long shot, most of the trees down the dirt road we share with our neighbors survived the drought. There is a birthing of every shade of green around us. Forest green, hunter green, apple green (minus the apple), sea green (minus the sea), lime green (minus the lime), shamrock green (do three-leaf clovers count?), and pine green (pines enough to count). But I’m partial. If I tilt my head the other way, it all just looks plain green.  But after the ugliest drought to ever hit the Gulf Coast, nothing is more gorgeous than green.

 

7. Not every dying thing is meant to be dead. If we are so distracted by what has died that we cannot see what is alive, we could risk losing the living. “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.” (Revelation 3:2) Hear that one more time: Strengthen what remains! It is still there on purpose. Nothing is haphazard here in the landscape of God. Nothing is as random as it seems. Though you thought less of it, look at its strength: it survived the worst drought in your history! Though you were parched, it stuck its tongue out at the drought and licked the dew. Thank God for it and tend to it before it dies from the quiet cancer of neglect.

 

8. Not everything that looks dead IS dead. Yesterday afternoon Keith and I stared at a big tree with bare limbs smack in the middle of our front yard, trying to figure out whether or not it had any hope. This morning as I sat on the front steps, listening to the discord of four chain saws, I looked up and saw tiny sprigs of life. It had budded overnight. While it was dark. Look closely now at the ends of those skinny branches.

 

 

9. Bare ground is not necessarily barren ground. Maybe it’s time to plant something brand new. Like a Redbud. The difference between growing a tad older and just plain getting-old can be the willingness to plant something brand new. Or be part of planting it anyway. Something almost from scratch. Like a Redbud, for instance. Or via the Holy Spirit through your son-in-law and daughter, maybe even a church. That sliver of sunlight isn’t a filter on my camera. It was natural light coming through the trees at the moment we walked by. It’s like God knew I was working on this post.

 

 

I know. It’s hard to see. Here’s the new plant closer up. And the shadow of yours truly next to it, just so you know this was personal.

 

As it turns out, I’ve spent this entire day with you at least in fits and starts. It’s evening now. Keith and I just got back from a stroll, down around his parents and back. It was the Chainsaw Massacre. But all that is sprouting around it seemed strangely oblivious. Just before we walked back into the house, Keith said, “What is that?” I stopped in my tracks. “Do you hear that chirping?” he said. I did and stood very still to listen. My man of 33 years grinned and said, “It’s baby birds. There’s a nest up there somewhere.” We held our hands over our eyes, squinted in the sunset, and tried to see sewn-together twigs in the shape of a bowl and the tiny fluttering feathers of happy hatchlings.

 

But we couldn’t see the birds for the leaves. Or the forest for the trees.

 

It’s Spring here in Houston. Spring after the worst drought in our history. Maybe you know how Houston feels. Lord, let this not be the mere middle of it. Make the forecasters false prophets but let them live all the same. Right or wrong, theirs is no final voice.

5   This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,

who depends on flesh for his strength

and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

6  He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

he will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,

in a salt land where no one lives.

7   “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

8    He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiahs 17:5-8 NIV

 

No worries?? Seriously?

 

That’s what it says.  The question for people of faith is not “Will I experience drought?” It’s “When will I experience drought?” And, when we do, how we will respond. Will we, for all practical purposes, die a needless spiritual death or will we strengthen what remains, plant something new in Jesus’ Name, and dig our roots deeper toward the stream? Feeling a tad dry? Go deeper. Trust God. Do NOT fear. The drought will pass and, even though the mightiest trees around you may wither or fall, you may cease for a while to have fun, but you will not cease to bear fruit.  I don’t know about you but, if for a little while life’s not fun then, Lord help me, at least let there be fruit!

 

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”  Isaiah 61:3 NIV

 

 

 

I love you guys so much.

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356 Responses to “In the Wake of Drought: What Remains”

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Comments:

  1. 301
    Renee Williams says:

    Beth,

    You were speaking to many but I feel like you were only speaking to me. Thank you.

    Renee

  2. 302
    K.D. says:

    Gosh, I know what I want to say but am having a hard time writing it out. Usually not a problem for me. I have read and re-read your post, Beth. Each time I read it, I shed even more tears than I did the first time. My process right now involves pruning the belief system I grew up with.
    Walking as a Christian and NOT experiencing the joy and victory that is suppose to be ours in Christ was not happening for me and I couldn’t figure out why. I kept asking and asking for Him to show me. I had no idea what I was asking for and when I realized what was going on, I also realized there was no easy laying on of hands, anointing with oil “In Jesus name” fix.
    This was a “Hind’s Feet on High Places” type of journey. The message that I grew up with was that I was insignificant. I did not matter. I was not important.
    With this in mind, it is very difficult to grab hold of your significance to a someone you can not see when the ones you can see have, by their words and actions, that your needs were not as important as theirs. This was strongly supported by “putting others-namely them-ahead of yourself(yes even as a child)”. I got that one down pat-to a fault. The second is even better than the first-“Don’t you dare tarnish the image of this “perfect” family. Which means, I caught alot of blame for things that went wrong.
    Anyway, I am glad that the Lord is leading me on this path, painful as it is. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in bondage to a belief system that is nothing but lies. Convincing me that they are lies is a more difficult job. That is taking a bit more time. But that’s ok. He is still in control.
    K.D.

  3. 303
    Rhonda Melancon says:

    Hey, Beth, just wanted to let you know that I completed my memorization of the Book of James today — Good Friday — It is finished!! 🙂 I wasn’t sure how to go about letting you know, since you’d asked us to tell you if we did it, and I hope putting it here is OK.

    It was a wonderful challenge that will be even more challenging to live out. I was a fourth grade teacher at a Christian school for 24 years and my students memorized over 200 verses a year(one class 273 verses!), usually in whole chapters. I still don’t know quite how this happened, but the Lord would help me put entire chapters to tunes and we’d sing them. Some chapters had as many as 40 verses and the kids could do it so easily, once we’d practiced it together many times. Well, someone challenged me to do this for the Book of James and I was like, “Well, if God gives it to me, I guess I could do it — if He doesn’t, I can’t!” I already had done Chapter 3 for my students, so I had that one completed over 10 years ago. And it was one of my favorites. I would print out the whole chapter and take it with me on my morning walk and work out 4-6 verses at a time. I let it stew a couple of days and it is an amazing way of memorization, because that tune with the words tends to play in the background of your mind — I’d even wake in the night and find it was there reinforcing the verses. Our minds are amazing and I’ve found that memorizing with music is the most effective way to do it. I have students in the 30s who tell me they still remember their verses from 4th grade — this is the greatest blessing of having been a teacher. Anyway, thank you for placing this challenge before me. I’m going to record it on a CD for the other ladies from my church to have an easier time memorizing James. I did it in the New King James Version. Have a blessed Easter!

    • 303.1
      Beth says:

      WAY TO GO, RHONDA!!!! I am so proud of you! What a huge accomplishment! My prayer over all of you who have memorized it is that God would bring forth a one hundred fold harvest from every verse.

  4. 304
    Susie says:

    “It’s like God knew I was working on this post.”

    Yeah, He not only knew, but I believe He planned it…just like He planned for me to read this today.

    Thank you. God is using you to change lives–and today it’s through incredibly poetic writing that will stick in my mind indefinitely.

    Thank you. I’m so glad you are here.

    Oh, and Thank You God (or TYG as my husband and I say) that Spring is here too!

  5. 305
    anita says:

    I loved this post and like Mary, I will “ponder these things int my heart ” love you big!

  6. 306

    Happy Easter Sweet Siesta Mama!!

  7. 307
    Jill Wiebe-King says:

    I ju!st fin!!!ishe!d me!mori!zing the en!!tire b!o!ok of J!!!!!!!ames!!!! And I can’t help but exclaim all the way through that. Oh Thank you, Jesus!!!!! AND Jesus made it all REAL the whole way through. It came alive and now my life has changed forever. Thank you Beth for asking the impossible (seemingly impossible!)… I never thought I’d be able to do it but my son just sat here and listened!

    • 307.1
      Beth says:

      I AM BESIDE MYSELF WITH JOY OVER YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT, JILL!!!! HUGE!!!! May God bring forth a one hundred fold harvest!

  8. 308
    Sarah Jarvis says:

    Beth,
    Always loved that name! My daughter’s name is Elizabeth, which we shorten to Beth most of the time. Thank you for allowing God to use you to minister to others. I believe it was divine intervention when I found your devotional “Voices of the Faithful” and another book Harold S. Kushner’s “Overcoming Life’s Dissapointments”, at a Salvation Army thrift store this summer. Little did I know when I purchased these two books that my life was about to drastically change in the next few months. It’s too personal too describe at the moment but I took a real depressive turn and had to find all the faith in God I had to bring me through. These two books along with the Bible have not left my side. I also started getting into more studies of yours through our church group at New Site Babtist church in Monett, MO. What an amazing support group God has linked me with for the ultimate plan. On another note, I would like to ask special permission to use the photos on this link in paintings of mine? I hope you will be flattered with the results. Lots of love to you, my ‘Siesta Sister’!

  9. 309
    Peggy Heath says:

    Incredible. You are such a voice. I have some pruning to do professionally and personally ~ and some serious logging to do on some “things” I have kept clinging to hoping for a resurrection! No better time to get busy than Easter. Prayers and blessings for you, your staff and family.

  10. 310
    Susan Green says:

    Dearest Beth, Your words have spoken directly to my heart and mind. I woke up this morning (tomorrow here in Oz , Easter Sunday – HE IS RISEN)and was drawn to the computer. I went to the LPM site and read your post. It has knocked me into a new place – a place I need to be.
    I am currently at the beginning of 3 months LSL from my job as a teacher. I am worn out and burnt out as I am a special needs educator and our students leave their markon your heart nad your body. My husband is retired and keen for me to join him at home but I hang onto my independence – why?? In the last few months I have lost my passion for work and feel I am being led in a new direction.
    The path is not yet clear but KD’s refernce to “Hind’s Feet In High Places” reminded me that at times you have to step out in faith knowing that the LORD will clear the path one step at a time. Why do we always need to see the whole track and not stop to appreciate the beauty being revealed on the way?
    I know I am starting a new chapter on my journey and pray for the wisdom to see where new life is sprouting and dead areas need to be pruned.
    Yesterday I watched my DVD of your last talk at Colours and know where I stand in the LORD’S eyes – forgiven much and ready to leap with joy onto a new track.
    Praise the LORD for your wisdom and honesty and I pray for you and the family to continue this great mission you have been entrusted with for the sake of the women in the world and those they love.

  11. 311
    Nice says:

    I really enjoy this blog site! The info is invaluable. Thank you for every one of the articles and making my personal day. Compliments, Nice

  12. 312
    Christy says:

    Beth, that was just beautiful & very touching. May the God of all things new continue to bless and anoint you for His glory!

    Love,
    Christy
    Summit, MS

  13. 313
    Lyn says:

    Wonderful post, just what I needed to hear. I am encouraged in my own time of drought. Thank you.

  14. 314
    Janell Urban says:

    Dear Beth,
    This spoke volumes to my husband and I both. I read it. Then I reread it to him. You see we had a struggling business and at the same time we have a grand tree in our front yard that is over 50 years old. We noticed last year the tree was dying. The tree was planted by my husbands grandparents. Just like we noticed our business was struggling.

    In an effort to keep the business alive my husband tried a new product in the big ice machine that makes 10,000 lbs of ice a day. Like farmers needing their equipment at harvest time we need the ice machine in the summer. We sold a lot of ice. And God had blessed our business of 10 years.

    On March 3 at 6:15 pm my husband gave up trying to resurrect the ice machine. He had filled the machine with a new freon gas that was to be economically friendly. With no ice in the bin my husband went into the bagging room to unplug the refrigeration unit. No need to keep a room cold that doesn’t house any ice. Not knowing freon gas had leaked into the bin and out the auger filling the room he was in because the gas was odorless and colorless. At 6:30 he unplugged the machine that sparked a fire and exploded not only the room my husband was in but the entire building. My husband turned to run and the bagging room he was in collapsed on him along with the 3 commercial ice machines housed on top of the room all falling on top of my husband.

    It is a miracle that he is alive. It is a miracle that the only things, as bad as they are they could have been lots worse, is his hands and face suffered 3rd degree burns. He was preparing to come home and had his coat on along with 2 layers of clothes as it was cold that day….Praise the Lord! His layers saved him all melting together. He never complained of pain in his back or head even though there are bruises, scars and burns that show he should be complaining. God’s hand was on my husband.

    Today is April 11. We have to make some serious decisions. One being what to do with our business, two what career will Ken go forward in and three Who can we get to tear down the massively perfect dead tree in our front yard. So when you shared about things dying…We totally understand. God has given Ken life…spared his life and allowed him to live and share his testimony. Like the new redwood tree. We feel free. Your words gave us freedom to let go and go forward with a Miraculous God! To Him
    be all the Glory. Thank you for sharing your experience about your trees. It was a God word directly to us! ~hugs~

    Janell and Ken Urban
    Clovis, NM

  15. 315
    Becky says:

    I love this post and will read it over and over again!

  16. 316
    Barby M., Houston says:

    That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read!

  17. 317
    Janette says:

    I just love you too. We are at a time when its not laughter we hear. Also a time when we are in drought and reaching deeper to bear fruit.

  18. 318
    Linda says:

    Thank you for listening and allowing God to speak through you to me. I sit here with tears running down my cheeks, so thankful for a God who wants me to bear fruit and who prunes my dead branches and then comforts me with his mercy.

  19. 319
    Kellye says:

    Hallelujah, God has chopped down the past for me! Husband who verbal physically abused me, cheated, alcoholic, passed out on couch while our 9 year old was violated, broke the law and went to prison to leave me to deal with bankruptcy, IRS, lost all material possessions, and, yes, I divorced him. Now experiencing Empty Nest as my daughter will attend college in Fall.
    Thanking God for carrying us through the last season and looking forward to turning 50 and starting the best season ever; serving Him! God is so good! Blessings, Beth!

  20. 320
    Gwen says:

    I have saved the blog on drought and keep reading it, each time it speaks to me in a different way. This spring has been a slow one for me personally….recovering from a knee surgery(nothing too serious, just repair work). It has however made me start my gardening later than usual…but other areas have flourished. Bible study has been awesome! Our group did James and it was soooo good. I memorized the whole book even though I didn’t believe I could. Now in life it bubbles up and speaks and I am amazed. Then we did Kelly Minters Nehemiah…..rebuilding walls…oh my…what an important job then and now.
    How blessed we are to have a fellowship of believing women, scattered over the world but connected by our Jesus. So thankful so grateful, so amazed….
    Much love to all Gwen

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