Defending against the Texas drought

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

It was a dog-day afternoon, as we say in Texas. The thermometer outside our farmhouse was registering 101 degrees . . . in the shade. Me and my dachshund didn’t want to do anything but nap on the sofa.

Scarcity of rain began in the spring and has continued into the summer months. The cracks in our ground and nearly-dry stock ponds remind us just how thirsty we are. My husband sold a few more cows this morning — another reminder of the impact of a disproportionate dose of heat and drought.

As we move into August, which is normally the season for dry and hot days, our ranch is looking pretty bleak and brown.

One need only turn on the television, while trying to cool off in the air conditioning, to feel even more like we inhabit a world out of control — raging fires, turbulent storms, rocket and bomb blasts, rampant random violence, and skyrocketing oil prices.

But is this the picture of a world created and governed by a good and loving divine Parent? Sometimes it may seem difficult to know if our prayers can really make a difference.

I’m not going to pretend to offer the perfect prayer to solve all the chaos in our world, but I simply cannot accept that life is subject to chance or uncertainty. Since God is omnipotent, it seems to me He can’t be powerless on certain occasions or over certain conditions.

So, an affirmation of God’s presence, goodness and power begins my every prayer.

Do we doubt the power of our prayers or do we expect healing results? I wonder what Jesus would say. Mary Baker Eddy, author of several books based on the teachings and healings of Christ Jesus, wrote, “He would mightily rebuke a single doubt of the ever-present power of divine Spirit to control all the conditions of man and the universe.” If we harbor a view of prayer as futile, why continue to pray? Eddy said discouragement with our prayers resembles “a pupil in addition, who attempts to solve a problem of Euclid, and denies the rule of the problem because he fails in his first effort.”

I find it helpful, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of some situation, to recall times past when prayer did have a positive and transforming effect. I often reason that if prayer — affirming the power of God and his divine laws governing the universe — helped in those instances it must surely help in this one.

As I rested on my sofa today, I started thinking back on other times when situations seemed out of our control, but I was certain prayer saved the day. Such as the many times our hay bales were saved from ruin because approaching rain dissipated before reaching our fields. Or the many instances when my husband’s faith, patience and perseverance nurtured a cow back to health. Or the time a newborn calf, almost frozen in an ice storm, survived with a hot bath and lots of love and prayer.

I’m sure everyone can think of experiences in their own lives when the power of prayer removed doubts and fears and brought healing.

I realize when pictures of tragedies, devastation and despair fill the airwaves or our communities, it’s easy to consider the age-old question — “How could God allow this to happen?” But there are always stories of survival and healing that protest, “He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He didn’t.” And it’s these healing examples that keep me praying and hope-filled.

I love the 23rd Psalm. I often think about the fifth verse that says the Lord will prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. So in other words, we are promised a “table” in spite of the presence of our enemies.

This says to me that no matter how dire the situation I may be facing, I can be assured of God’s healing power and loving presence right there in that moment. That there is truly no condition or situation where God, divine Love, cannot reach me and rescue me. Or as Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? What cannot God do?”

Already this summer, even though we don’t have the promise of money earned from hay sales, an unexpected job opportunity has become available for me. And I have no doubt that God will continue to provide as many “tables” in this dreary Texas wilderness as we, and others, need.

I’m going to college – but how will I pay?

by Annette Bridges. © 2006.  All rights reserved.

I never thought about not going to college. During the fall semester of my senior year I was busy, like my classmates, sending out college applications to my top choices. Of course, I had a favorite: a private liberal arts college in another state. And in January, I got the good news—I was in!

I also never thought about how I was going to pay for college. My mom could help with some of the tuition fee, but I’d need to apply for whatever loans and grants I could find—and plan to work as much as possible. Even with the grant money, however, I was still short a significant amount. And I didn’t think I could earn enough during the summer to cover the remaining expenses.

Still, I never considered not going to my first-choice college. I was convinced I would find a way to cover my costs. I remembered that “. . . all things are possible to God . . . .” This was a lesson I had learned well while attending a Christian Science Sunday School.

I had faith I could go to college.

Jesus said it this way: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” And Mary Baker Eddy spoke about the faith required when she said, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,—a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.”

I had faith that it was possible for me to go to college. But I didn’t know where else to turn to find the money. I had enough to take care of the first semester—but then what?

The healings of Jesus recorded in the Bible had been a source of inspiration and guidance to me all my childhood, and they still are. I have always expected to find in the Bible the answers I need for every situation or problem I face.

I read again about a man who was waiting at a pool called Bethesda. It was believed that, at a certain time, the water there was stirred by an angel. Tradition said that whoever got into the water right after the angel had visited the pool would be healed. A crippled man had been waiting 38 years—probably most of his life—to enter the pool. But each year, he missed the perfect moment and others got to the water first. Still, he didn’t give up. And his hope was finally realized through Jesus. His healing came—but in an unexpected way.

He found the freedom he had longed for.

This account, in John’s Gospel, gave me a new perspective on my worries about college expenses. Was I limiting my options? The man at Bethesda had thought the only way he could be healed was if he got into the pool at exactly the right time. Yet that wasn’t the “only way,” and when Jesus redirected his faith from a pool of water to the Christ-power that uplifts and heals, the man found the freedom he had longed for.

Where was my faith, I asked myself? Was it tied to loans and grants? To finding ample employment? Getting a scholarship? What were my options? Did I face a future of uncertainty and fear?

What I learned from thinking about Jesus’ encounter with the man at the pool of Bethesda was that God is always sending me—and everyone—infinite possibilities. I needed to open my thought to them, not define or limit the ways my needs could be met. Looking to God for a solution calmed my fears and brought confidence, assurance and peace.

When I headed off to college, I was taking a leap of faith. But my faith was absolute. It was a confident expectancy that God knew the best way to meet my needs. And my leap was sure-footed. Semester by semester, prayer led the way to my college degree. And expenses were paid each semester in countless—sometimes unexpected and unexplained—ways.

One unexpected and unexplained solution came in the form of a note in my school mailbox informing me an anonymous donor had paid the remainder of my tuition that year. There were also many loans, grants, scholarships and awards. And a variety of jobs—some of which gave me valuable experience that served me well in future endeavors.

My college experience provided me with groundwork for the rest of my life. What I learned has redirected my faith to God, who truly does meet my every need. His ways are infinite—and sometimes quite unexpected.

All things are possible with God.