must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is the holiday commemorating Dr King’s birth. Festivities are planned in Downtown Fort Worth later this morning. My grandkids have the day off from school. Government offices are closed, although not only because of the holiday. Some have been closed for a while. Thirty-one days to be exact…
Today is the proverbial “calm before the storm” here in Fort Worth. The high forecasted today is seventy degrees. A blast from our Canadian neighbors comes through tonight and tomorrow the wind chill will be in the teens. Just another Friday here in North Texas…
But… there’s good news even with the dismal forecast! Heavy rain is not predicted. This means drier soil and as such, we’re on a faster track for preparation for our first Spring planting at Opal’s Farm!
We’re excited. A ribbon cutting
is for the Farm is being planned. Disking, tilling, and preparations are moving
forward. However, we’re still short on our initial costs. That’s where you come
I’ve put together a “Wish List”
for Opal’s Farm. If you can help us make our wishes come true, please let us
know. Your contributions are appreciated more than you know.
Opal’s Farm Wish List
Extension Cords (outdoors – 100’) 10 gauge max 15 amp
Water Coolers – 5 gal.
Rope (300 ft.)
Bundles of 2’ Construction Stakes
Levels (4 ft.)
4×4 Treated Lumber
2×4 Treated Lumber
Landscape Cloth (300’x4’)
Potting Soil – 1.5 cu. ft. bags
Soil Amendments (Chalk, Gypsum) – .5 cu. ft. bags
Bees and Ladybugs
5 gal. Buckets
Plastic Storage Containers
Boxes for Produce
Back Support / Back belts
Please click on contact us if
you can help with any of these items or feel free to contact me, Greg Joel,
Farm Manager for Opal’s Farm at 817-333-8367.
Thoughts From the Porch: Yesterday
would have been my father’s ninety-third birthday. He passed in 2002 and nary a
day goes by that I don’t miss him. Even after sixteen years there are days when
grief feels overwhelming. I often
stop by the cemetery on my way to and from so I can sit and “talk” to him. It’s
a great way to work through the grief I feel some days.
One can argue that the cemetery is a resting place for the body only. For those that share my religious faith it’s understood that Dad’s spirit probably left that place to go wherever it is that our spirits go after death. It may sound childish, but I believe it’s a place for our spirits to be together.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
says something to the effect that when one with a great soul passes, a strong
wind will begin to blow. I remember stepping outside the hospital to have a smoke
after he had passed. A blustery wind made it almost impossible to light my
cigarette. I was so overcome with grief that I didn’t put two and two together
until a cemetery visit some time later.
On that particular visit, I had
come to read my father a letter I’d written acknowledging the fact that I had
caused a lot of harm while in my active addiction. In my program of recovery,
it’s called “making amends” a cleaning up of the wreckage of my past. Some may doubt
that amends, the process of amending or righting a wrong, can be made to
someone who has passed away. My experience that day says otherwise.
I stood in front of the
headstone, wiping away the tears, and reading my letter. The details of my
letter are deeply personal and between Dad and me. Suffice it to say that my
father was an incredible man who loved me dearly and I never gave him much to
work with as a son. It wasn’t until he was gone that I realized his greatness.
People often said that he was
my chief enabler and, while that may be true, it was his love that showed me
what God’s love was all about. As frustrated, and oft-times angry, as he could
become with me, he never stopped loving (or forgiving) me. I can’t think of a
better example of how the God of endless grace loves me…
I finished my letter. The tears
began to subside. I looked up and the wind began to swirl around me. It had
been still just a moment ago.
Our family plot is in an older
part of the cemetery surrounded by beautiful old oak trees. I mention this because
as the wind swirled about, I could see that none of the tree limbs were moving.
That’s when it hit me: “when one with a great soul passes, a strong wind will begin
to blow.” Dad was telling me one more time, “It’s okay. I forgive you and I
love you more than you can ever know. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
I think of that day often,
especially when life shows up with all its occasional difficulties. If Dad, a
mere human, can love me that much – how much more so can the Creator of the
Universe love me?
I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot this week. Not only was it his birthday, but the Stock Show and Rodeo opens on Friday. After Dad retired from the railroad, he would work the Harley Street gate for the Stock Show every year. He would be there a week before the show and a week after, so for a month straight he worked twelve-hour days. We usually didn’t celebrate his birthday until afterwards because he just came home, ate, and went to bed. As tired as he was, especially as he got older, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Since 1918, the Fort Worth
Stock Show was called the Southwestern Exposition and “Fat” Stock Show. Now it’s
just the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. I’m not sure why they changed it. I
guess it’s no longer politically correct to call livestock fat. Maybe “weight-challenged”
is more acceptable. I’m not sure Dad would approve. Cows are supposed to be fat
and it violates tradition. Dad was big on tradition…
Saturday I’ll watch the annual
Stock Show Parade and I’ll think of Dad. Afterwards, I might go by the cemetery
on the way home. It’s no surprise that Saturday is supposed to be a really windy day…
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” — Edward Teller
One of my favorite scenes from
the “Indiana Jones” movies where Harrison Ford’s character must step out in
faith over a giant chasm in order to reach the Holy Grail. With his nemesis
holding him and the people he loves at gunpoint, he’s at wit’s end and out of
options. He steps out into the darkness of the abyss. As he takes the first
step a narrow bridge begins to come into view. Unfortunately, it can only be
seen with each successive step, one step at a time. Each step requires more
courage, more faith, than the one before. I can’t recall how many steps it took
to get across the dark abyss, but I’d like to think it was twelve. I can
That scene’s been on my mind a lot lately. Margaret and I are experiencing some difficulties as late. Finances have been tough since my hospital stay earlier this year. Business has been slower than projected. Opal’s Farm still has a way to go before all the start-up costs are in hand and planting is scheduled for February 15th. How are we going to do this? It’s a little overwhelming at times (OK, a lot overwhelming…) The chasm looks awfully vast at times…
If I get honest, I’m a lot like
Indiana Jones (well, except for the whole “dashing adventure hero” thing…). I
usually need to be backed into a corner with no options or solutions in sight. I
know there’s absolutely no way I can get out of the situation before I’m
willing to step out into the darkness. I forget the fact that in looking back, a
path has always been carved through
the darkness and it’s always illuminated. If the path isn’t clear, I learn to
fly before I crash into the bottom of the abyss. Always! Though I usually don’t
see it until later…
You’d think that with such a
proven track record I’d push right through whatever obstacle was in my way. It
doesn’t always work like that. Taking that first step into the abyss isn’t my
first choice. I temporarily forget God’s faithfulness. As my friend Edgar likes
to remind me, “I’m not a slow learner,
just a fast forgetter”.
“Trials are not enemies of
faith but are opportunities to prove God’s faithfulness.” — Author Unknown
Ironically, my memory gets
sharper as I grow older: at least in matters of faith (in other areas, yeah,
not so much…) It doesn’t take as long to remember God’s faithfulness even when
mine is absent. One of my favorite reminders is Psalms 119.105: “Your word for my feet and a lamp for my
path”. The funny thing about a lamp is that it only shows what’s
immediately ahead. I can only see the path if I keep stepping out, one step at
I’ve spent far too much time stressed out about things beyond my control, so I’m stepping out. Whether I’ll be walking or flying, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that I’ll see you on the other side…
My friend Jim used to remind me that “when you point the
finger at someone else, there’s always three pointing back at you”. I know
exactly what he meant. I tend to be judgmental when it comes to the use of
words. Take” irregardless” for instance. It gets used all the time and it
drives me nuts. It’s one of my pet peeves…
That being said, I have a confession to make. I’ve been misusing the word “sustainable” for the last few months. When I began telling everyone about Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm last year I kept talking about being “sustainable”. I’m sorry, but that’s not completely accurate. Opal’s Farm is not simply sustainable, it’s regenerative. I beg your forgiveness because the difference is huge.
“Sustainable” has become a popular adjective, the new buzzword, especially in marketing. Everyone wants to be “sustainable”. I jumped on the bandwagon, too. Perhaps I heard it so much that I used it over and over when writing about Opal’s Farm. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.
to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of sustainable is:
3: renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part,
or biological system (such as a forest) after injury or as a normal process…”
Sustainability implies that we
maintain the status quo. That’s not good enough. The soil needs to be
regenerated: restored to the vitality nature intended. Commercial and residential
development as well as traditional agriculture has failed to address the issue
of soil health. Chemical fertilizers and land overuse destroy the soil. It
doesn’t need to be sustained. It needs to be regenerated. That’s what Opal’s
Regeneration goes far beyond maintenance.
It’s the process of revitalizing and rebuilding the soil, making it better and
healthier than before.
Healthy soil, built through
organic methods, produces healthier plants. In turn, healthy plants produce a
better harvest, both in quantity and quality. That goes on to affect the health
and vitality of the neighborhoods we serve.
If I make any resolutions this
year, I resolve not to use the word “sustainable”, at least when talking about
the farm. What we say – whether about ourselves, our society, or even an urban
farm – matters. Words matter. This year I prefer to be regenerative: to renew
and revive – both personally and for Opal’s Farm. You can learn more about the
farm at http://www.unityunlimited.org/opals-farm.html.
As always, we invite you to
become a “farmer” and join in the work at Opal’s Farm!
Thoughts From the Porch: It’s hard to stay off the porch when shorts and t-shirt weather has interrupted the North Texas winter. The weekend has been marked by seventy-degree temperatures. The sunrise was beautiful this morning. The Dallas Cowboys won their wildcard playoff game last night, and all is well in the world. Just sayin’…