California Poppies Thrive

California Poppies ThriveThe past twelve months have been a time that most native Californians will never forget. After several years of drought, the entire state was affected by massive forest fires. When the fires were finally out, it seemed that everything would get back to normal, but then the rains started. Between the heavy snow and the unusually heavy rains, massive flooding became an issue. Without vegetation to stop the runoff, gloom and doom predictors were having a field day. The future looked bad, especially for southern California, but then came the California poppies.

I recently got a letter from a friend of mine who lives in southern California. The letter included pictures of what a few months ago was ugly, dark-colored, barren rock. The new images were ablaze with color. The California poppies withstood the fire because their seeds are not combustible and germinate faster in the conditions the fires produced. The seeds are also shaped in such a way that they don’t wash out even in heavy rain. With no competition, no predation to destroy the young plants, the poppies grew and bloomed like crazy.

Norma Privitt writing in the July/August/September 2019 issue of Power for Today described it this way:

“What a year this has been for California poppies! Abundant rain has unleashed God’s glorious array of orange flowers over all the barren hills. Even the limitations of TV do not restrict the obvious explosion of color. We traveled to view the poppies in previous years when their glory was only a smidgen of this year’s, but so many have made this year’s pilgrimage their cars line both sides of the roads, and finally, shuttle buses have had to be arranged. It almost seems symbolic that the plant that will anchor the soil and allow the land to begin to recover is a plant that blooms with brilliant orange drawing attention to God’s provision, even when human greed and abuse cause pain.”

Through California poppies, God has provided a way to bring beauty and hope even when things look dark and bleak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Science and Technology vs. Greed and Stupidity

Science and Technology vs. Greed and StupidityIf you believe everything you read about science and technology in magazines and newspapers, you might want to question how much of it is factual. The way the media presents the stories, you might get the idea that science and technology are making such rapid advancements that in a few decades, we will solve all of the problems of humanity. There is no question that incredible advances have been made in medicine and agriculture. However, what many people don’t realize is that while some critical areas are advancing, others seem to be losing ground.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us: “An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was.” The primary cause seems to be that health professionals have biases causing them to overlook symptoms. Food shortages are also creating an increase in disease and death due to malnutrition. The primary cause is that there has been a 20% drop in the abundance of food production in countries that depend on their domestic food supply. Humans have reduced the population of pollinators, including wild bees, endangering crop production. Over-fishing is beginning to threaten the primary source of protein for billions of people. The human destruction of mangrove forests and coastal coral reefs has placed 300 million people at increased risk of flooding.

God has given us not only the resources to feed every human on the planet today, but also the way to live with each other to allow the maximum potential for the food and medicine to reach the people who need it. The Genesis account tells us that God gave Adam everything he needed and that by the sweat of his brow, he would be able to eat. Humans have allowed power and control to rule what we do. We have made money and possessions the focus of our activity instead of focusing on God and serving others. In the process, food has become a weapon. Instead of “taking care of the garden, dressing and keeping it” (Genesis 2:15), we have exploited and abused the good things God gave us.

The world continues to reject the teachings of Jesus, replacing them with selfishness, greed, and a moral code that teaches “survival of the fittest.” The result is that we all reap the consequences of what we have sown. Bringing people to believe in God and Jesus Christ not only has meaning in terms of what lies beyond this life, but it also is at the root of the quality of life we and our descendants will have in the future. Science and technology can’t solve all of our problems as long as greed and stupidity get in the way.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Happened to the Teays River?

What Happened to the Teays River?Yesterday, we talked about the Teays River and how, like other rivers, it brought water into dry areas. (To read yesterday’s post, click HERE.) The map above shows the approximate path of the river and its tributaries. But we didn’t tell you what happened to the Teays River.

As glaciers came southward across North America, they buried the river and its tributaries with massive amounts of sand and gravel. In the process, the river’s flooding and flowing impounded massive quantities of water. The Teays still exists today in water stored underground. I can drill a well 12 feet (3.7 m) in my back yard and hit potable water. The agricultural blessing of the Teays has made the Ohio River Valley fertile and has allowed cities to exist in areas that are not blessed with great surface water. What happened to the Teays River is still affecting our lives today.

In addition to the benefits we mentioned yesterday, the flooding of rivers also spreads diverse plants and the wildlife that feeds on them. The biggest watermelon I have ever eaten I found on an island on the White River near Spencer, Indiana. A friend of mine who enjoyed it with me recognized the species of melon, and we eventually found the patch that it came from some 75 miles upstream. In our trips through the Grand Canyon, we have frequently found plant life not native to Colorado thriving on sand bars in the canyon. When our river here in Michigan flooded in February of 2018, a layer of black soil was laid down in my yard and the woods on the edge of my property. Now there are dozens of plants growing in that soil which are not native to Michigan. Animal life of all kinds eat many of those plants.

Rivers are the cleaners of both the land and the water. One interesting part of living on a river is watching what floats by – a log, a tree, human junk, and all kinds of minerals. When the river dumps its load in a delta or an alluvial fan, the minerals become available for human use. In the Colorado Plateau, an ancient river carried and deposited logs containing uranium. The water moved those logs and impregnated them with uraninite, a mineral used to obtain precious uranium for nuclear materials. In my college studies in geology and mineralogy, we learned how to “read” a river and use that information to locate critical materials for technology.

It is essential that we take care of our rivers. We need to understand rivers and recognize God’s design in creating a planet molded and shaped by flowing water. What happened to the Teays River was caused by ancient glaciers that carved the land and created the Great Lakes. What happens to our rivers today depends on us and our stewardship of what God has given us.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see rivers as critical elements in the story of human existence now and in the future. The most important river of all is described in Revelation 22:1-2: “And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the City and on each side of the river was a Tree of Life bearing 12 crops of fruit and the leaves of the tree served as medicine for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but God’s throne and the Lamb shall be in it.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Rivers Are Essential

Rivers Are EssentialThose of us who live near rivers are both blessed and cursed. My house here in Michigan is located just 30 feet (9.1 m) from the St. Joseph River. In the almost 25 years that we have lived here, the river has flooded a dozen or so times. Twice we had water in our basement requiring a major effort to avoid damage to our library, our TV recording studio, and our packing room. Despite the challenge, rivers are essential to life.

A large percentage of all flooding results from human mismanagement. Black-topping many square miles of sand, gravel, and dirt has caused rapid water runoff where it previously soaked into the ground. Building homes and businesses on flood plains has contributed to the damage and in some cases loss of life. (Our house is not on a flood plain.)

On the other hand, there is beauty and peacefulness that being near a river provides. For many of us, that makes it worth the risk. Humans have used rivers extensively for thousands of years. Two-hundred years ago, rivers were the primary method of transporting goods and people. But there are some things that rivers do that are less obvious and which are an essential part of the design of the Earth.

Rivers above and below the ground carry water for us to use. They take water to places where it would otherwise not be available in significant volume for agriculture and animal life. Good examples of this are the Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Nile, and the Euphrates. Rivers are essential for us to live on this planet, and flooding is a part of that.

One of the great rivers of the world was the Teays River. (Pronounced Taze) The Teays River got its name from the village of Teays, West Virginia. (Although the village of Teays did not exist at the time the river was there.) When it was at its greatest volume, The Teays River was a mile wide and flowed from what is now Blowing Rock, North Carolina, northward through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois where it joined the Mississippi River. At that time, the Mississippi was as much as 25 miles wide in places.

The Nile River in ancient Egypt flooded every year and laid down topsoil making Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world. Remember where Jacob sent his sons to get food when there was famine? (See Genesis 41:56-42:5.) The Teays River was a typical river. It flooded from time to time laying down rich topsoil. The flooding of the Teays River deposited the black farmland of Illinois.

Rivers are essential to life, and that includes the Teays River. Did you say you never heard of the Teays River? What happened to it? More on that tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lessons from a Flood

Lessons from a Flood
As I write this, I am in a state of shock at what has happened to me during the past five days. Our home and main office are located on the banks of the St. Joseph River. The front door of the house is normally 20 feet above the surface of the river, and in the 20 years we have lived here, we have never had a problem with flooding. Many years ago we had water in our basement, but it was only 1 or 2 inches, and outside of wet rugs there was little damage. This time I have learned some lessons from a flood.

In early February of this year, we had some very heavy snow and the third week of February we had record rains as well as record warmth. The result of all that water was what is now being called a 500-year flood. My library, recording studio, fossil collection, and packing area are now full of water in spite of three new sump pumps operating at full capacity. It will take many months and some expense to get back to full operating capacity.

Our local television personalities have done a lot of hand-wringing, and I have heard more than one reporter say, “Why did God let this happen?” One religious writer proclaimed that the flooding of our area, which included a movie theater, was God’s retribution for the theater showing x-rated movies. Several years back there were those who explained flooding of the Mississippi River as God’s punishment for floating casinos on the river. Ridiculous as most of these claims are, there are some apologetic arguments and theological points that need to be understood.

God does not use natural disasters as disciplinary tools. There is a difference between physically afflicting someone and allowing the natural consequences of something to happen. When I was a child, my parents took me to the Indiana State Fair. I wanted a big cone of cotton candy, but my mother loudly told me I couldn’t have it. After a lot of whining and pouting, she finally said, “Ok, go get it but it will make you sick, and you’ll regret it.” I was allowed to suffer the consequences of my action, but I was not physically prevented from eating it.

In Deuteronomy 28, God does the same thing with the Israelites. In the first 14 verses, He tells Israel the blessings of living as God calls them to live. In the next 54 verses, God tells them of the consequences of rejecting His teachings. God doesn’t physically strike Israel, but He allows the natural result of human choices to happen.

There are more lessons from a flood, and I will continue my thoughts tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018