My Fast Solution to the Drought

Dear Will:

If you drive east on Katella Avenue toward Orange Park Acres and the canyons beyond, you come to large dip in the road where it crosses the recharge basin for Santiago Creek. I’ve always assumed that scoop in the road to be a sort of flood control precaution—you know, should the creek swell and overwhelm the surrounding cavity.

As if. The water level in the basin has been so low for so long that the thought of flooding would be laughable if the situation weren’t so sad. Because of that near-empty hollow, I have come to dread that eastbound drive toward my home. It has become an almost-daily reminder of the prolonged drought which prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a State of Emergency in January. How bad is it? They say that this drought (four years old and counting) is the worst in over 100 years. Snow packs are disappearing. Lakes and reservoirs are shrinking. Farms are lying fallow. The drought even has its own website. And its own logo.

State of California Drought Portal Logo

And now that the governor has imposed restrictions on how often and how long we can run our sprinklers, my lawn, along with countless others, has begun what promises to be a slow, brown death.

I suppose it’s only fair. They say that not watering my lawn is the single best way for me to contribute to the conservation effort; so OK, I’ll do my part. But as I look out on the thirsty landscape and ponder the seeming impossibility of reversing years of irresponsible environmental practices and unchecked modern living, I can’t help but hope for some Divine Intervention—that God, in His infinite mercy, will bless us far beyond our merit and call down steady, prolonged rains upon our parched and withering state.

But how in the world could we actually make that petition? Elijah ended a drought single-handedly, but then again, it was a drought of his own making (see 1 Kings 17 and 18)—plus he had the benefit of the sealing power. I lack both the power and the panache of that guy. What could I or any of us do to call down the powers of heaven from our relatively powerless and obscure positions?

The short answer: I’m not sure. But I do have one idea worth trying. Isaiah taught that if we observe a true fast, setting aside our own physical needs to share with those less fortunate, the blessings are numerous—including this one: “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11).

I realize, of course, that in his typically metaphorical prose, Isaiah was likely not referring to a literal drought. But why not? We are not far from the day in which the dry land will begin to have a desiccating impact on our souls as well. What’s more, I can’t think of a more worthy appeal to make during a prayerful fast, especially as we allow that period of physical deprivation to cause our hearts to go out to those around us who suffer from want. In fact, Isaiah says that one of the other blessings of a heartfelt fast is this: “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isaiah 58:9).

So here’s my plan: Beginning next Sunday (June 7), and on the first Sunday of every month hereafter, I intend to put Isaiah to the test. I will abstain from food and water for 24 hours. I will contribute what I might have spent on food that day (and then some) as an offering to assist the needy. And between now and then, I will plead to God for rain—and lots of it. I’m not so arrogant as to think that my humble prayers will be sufficient to solve a four-year drought, but if I could get you—and many others like you—to join me in this effort, who knows?  I think it’s certainly worth a try.

So what do you say? Are you with me?


“Why Should I Ask God?”

Dear Will:

My wife Dana and I have been grappling with a difficult decision in recent weeks, one which for years to come will have a rather powerful impact on Luke (our eldest)—and on our whole family for that matter. Because Dana and I are both smart enough to know how little we really know, it seemed like a good idea to us to make the decision a subject of fasting and prayer to see if maybe we could get God’s help in sorting it all out. He knows what’s best for us, we figure, and so why not try to get Him to tell us?

Thus resolved, we invited Luke to join us in our quest for spiritual insight, assuming that he would do so without much prodding. But this was another of those times in which a teenager zigged just when Mom and Dad figured he would zag. “I already know what I think I should do, so why should I ask God?” he explained. “Even if he gives me a different answer, I’m going to do what I want anyway.”

His honesty was refreshing even if his attitude was not. Try as we might, we were unable to persuade him that it would be helpful to know ahead of time if he were about to embark on the wrong course of action. As all of this was taking place, I was reminded of a time when I was—get this—about his age, a time when I did not want to ask God for guidance for fear that, once informed, I would be held accountable for whatever He told me. I was familiar enough with the implications of religious living, and I was not yet prepared to commit. So while I wish Luke had a little less hubris, I have a hunch I know where he got it. (Don’t you just hate that?)

I don’t believe that Luke is particularly unique in this regard. The world is full of people who live strictly by their own counsel—we all do from time to time, I suppose. Likewise, our history books are rife with those who have risen and fallen based almost solely on their own cunning. But what I hope for Luke—and anyone else similarly inclined—is that the day will come when he feels the need for help from One wiser and more powerful than he, and that when that moment arrives he will know where to turn and do so with appropriate humility.

Fortunately, as our family struggles onward, help is on its way. This weekend the Church will be holding its semi-annual General Conference, and we’ll have the chance to hear from our prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley.  It’s the next best thing to hearing from God Himself, but I’m hoping that my son might pay attention since it will be coming to him through the TV screen. In my view, it’s a chance for him to get an answer to questions he has not yet been willing to ask.

Who knows if it will really work that way for him. I can tell you this, though. It often works that way for me, which is why General Conference weekend is always one of my favorites. If nothing else, maybe it will provide me some insight on how to be a better father. God knows I need that. Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of questions which I have not yet asked for which God, through his servants, has already prepared an answer. Now the only remaining question: When He tells me—as surely He will—what am I going to do about it?