ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: WORRY, DRAIN TILE, AND BIRDS

By James M. Decker

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” –Matthew 6:26-27

A few years ago, I was at an agricultural law conference and a group of us went to dinner. One of those folks was my friend Pat Dillon, who is a lawyer and farmer in rural Iowa. We were comparing farming notes when he made reference to “drain tile.” I asked him to explain and he told us that Iowa farmers used drain tile to remove excess water from their fields. Those of us from West Texas looked at him as if Pat was speaking an alien language to us. 

And then came the fall of 2018 in West Texas. Places in the greater Stamford metro area have received upwards of 20 inches of rain in just over a month. Some places may be approaching 30 inches. If you got your wheat planted, your wheat might look good. If you didn’t get it planted, it’s going to be a while. The maturing cotton crop doesn’t exactly need a monsoon season on it. Creeks have spread out across pastures in a manner reminiscent of the Louisiana swamps, taking out fences and water gaps along the way.

Lake Stamford, on the date of this essay, is over 5 feet above its spillway and approaching levels seen only a handful of times in the lake’s 60 year history. Numerous houses, cabins, and trailers on the lake’s shoreline have been flooded. More are threatened, pending further rises of the lake. Of course, the aforementioned Louisiana swamp conditions are created by some of the lake’s tributaries, so more water is headed that way, and rain remains in our forecast.

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As a lifelong resident of semi-arid West Texas (the “semi” is arguable), it’s hard to wish for less rain. Along the way, we’ve benefited our crops and pastures. We’ve refilled our reservoir so that we have several years’ of water stored away. But those benefits have not come without a price, particularly to those who have lost residences or those whose agricultural operations are suffering financially.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of Jesus’ words spoken in Matthew 6 and written above. No matter what our problems—whether it be a specific turn of events like this flood, or an ongoing life struggle like health or finances—none of us can add a single hour to our lives by worrying. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we worry, no matter how miserable we make ourselves in the anxiety of it all, we’re not going to add an hour to our life.

While studying Matthew 6, I was drawn to Psalm 37. Verses 3 through 5 tell us how to combat our worry:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

Eventually, the rain will taper off, and before long, we’ll probably be praying for rain once again. When it dries up, we’ll finish planting our wheat. We’ll strip our cotton. We’ll repair our fences and water gaps. Those of us with flooded lake properties will assess, repair, and rebuild.

These won’t be the last trials any of us face, nor the last causes for worry. I hope that we combat our life’s worries and anxiety proactively, rather than struggle reactively. I pray that we trust in the Lord, take delight in the Lord, and commit our way to the Lord, so that when life’s next floods appear, rather than consume ourselves with worry, our mindset is right and we’re prepared to simply remember the birds of the air.

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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at facebook.com/james.decker. Listen to our podcast interview with James here.

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