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Feeling Revived!

Thoughts From the Porch: It’s beautiful Fall morning on the porch.I had an incredible weekend at the Red Letter Revival in Dallas. I couldn’t goFriday, but I was able to attend Saturday. What a Sabbath! The workshops wereamazing. The worship service Saturday night was what I always imagined ‘church’to be. The presence of God’s spirit was overwhelming! A huge thank you toeveryone who worked so hard to make the weekend possible.

The weekend fulfilled the promise of its name – revival. I feel revived, refreshed, and renewed. Going into this weekend I found myself tired and worn down – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The months since my hospital stay have been arduous, especially financially. Work, paying work, has been slow. Financial fear and frustration creep in despite my faith.

Most of my energies have been focused on Opal’s Farm. Compensation won’t start until later next year, but the initial footwork still must be done. Doing the “next right thing” can be scary at times. The only reason I mention this is because this weekend I received a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

I attended a workshop led by Rev. Edwin Robinson on “Undoing the Theology of Racism”. He started the workshop by singing and talking about ‘wading in the water’. He drew an analogy with Moses’ parting of the Red Sea as recorded in the Book of Exodus.

You see, Jews understand the event differently than most Christians. Moses didn’t simply put his foot in the water and the sea parted. He waded all the way in. It wasn’t until the water was up to his neck that the water began to part. Salvation from the pursuing Egyptians and the sea in front of them came when the water almost covered them, when they couldn’t see it coming.

That’s stuck with me all weekend. I’ve been feeling like the water’s up to my neck lately, the future unsure. That’s the feeling anyway. But that’s not the reality. Let me explain…

If I look back on my journey to this point in life, I can see that, God has always ‘parted the waters’ for me. Not just on occasion, but every time. Unfortunately, while I see clearly looking backwards, I’m flying blind while looking forward. Maybe that’s why they call it faith…

This weekend renewed my faith. Financially, there’s more month than money right now. Physically, I feel refreshed and ready to greet the day. Mentally, I’m still fearful but somehow less stressed. Most importantly, I feel revived spiritually. I’ve struggled with the whole idea of ‘church’.  I take the words of the Rabbi literally. Sometimes I think I’m one of the few when I see what others do in Jesus’ name.

I believe that Jesus “meant what He said”. I believe that following His instruction can help me become the man Idream of being: of loving God and loving others with all my heart, mind, and spirit. I believe that He really did bring good news of the Kingdom of God and I want to share it.

My heart and my spirit tell me that Opal’s Farm is a tangible way for me to share that good news. Not by words, but by example. Jesus feed the hungry, why shouldn’t I? The Apostle James said that “faith without works is dead”. In other words, walk the walk. If you believe it, act like it.

Finally, this weekend reminded me that I’m not alone. There’s a multitude of wonderful people of faith, Kingdom people who seek God’s will “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. I really needed that reminder.

So, thank you Red Letter Christians for putting together a great weekend. To learn more about the Red Letter Movement, visit www.redletterchristians.org . Colorful

Beatitudes, Bible, Christianity, Communication, Politics, Prayer, Relationships, Writing

Red Letter Revival – Dallas

I’d love to take time to write a post this morning, but I’m on my way to Dallas this morning. It takes a pretty momentous event to motivate me to drive in Dallas traffic…

But such an event is happening today! The Red Letter Revival has come to Dallas. Some of you may be familiar with the first event held in Lynchburg, Virginia outside the halls of Liberty University. Faith leaders have gathered to reclaim our faith: faith that’s been often co-opted by those calling themselves evangelicals but seeking political clout over following Jesus. 

The words printed in red, the words and teachings attributed to the Rabbi himself, are often overlooked in favor of political power and false teaching. I’m looking forward to spending a day among people who strive to live a life according to the words in red.

I never though I’d see this in print but – I hope to see you in Dallas

St. Luke’s “Community” United Methodist Church, 5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas, TX 75223

Freelancing, Communication, Listening, Preparation, Business, Conversational Copywriting, Marketing, Branding

Warnings and Bad Copy…

Thoughts From the Porch: Several years ago, when I could stay awake past the ten o’clock news, I used to watch Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. He had a segment of the show where he read ads and articles that probably weren’t edited well. They tended to have a far different meaning in print than the creator originally intended and generated a ton of laughs. I often wondered whether the resulting faux pas’ were poorly edited copy or intentional little pranks by bored writers.

I stopped by our local QuickTrip gas station to fill up my truck yesterday. I noticed the advertising sign above the pump touting their breakfast pizzas and burritos above the pump. Nothing special really – that is until I read the small warning print…

ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT!

I’m not sure what ‘rooster peckers’ are or why they feel a need to warn me about them. I am sure that I won’t be buying any breakfast food at QuickTrip anytime soon. Above all, I’ll be more attentive to reading food labels. ‘Rooster peckers’ in my food is, well, disturbing…

I filled the tank and went on my way. Unfortunately, I’ve been obsessing on ‘rooster peckers’ ever since. I’m not entirely sure this is the kind of brand recognition the marketing department wanted to create. What is a ‘rooster pecker’ anyway?

I decided to research this matter further. Was this a required FDA warning? Why the ‘pecker’ wording? It’d make more sense if it said rooster beaks. That would create a whole other round of questioning. You know, why only rooster beaks and not hen beaks? Does someone determine the sex before they ship the eggs out?

I googled ‘rooster peckers’. I googled the warning. All I learned is that roosters do not have ‘peckers’. I’ll let you think about that…

I’ve been trying to determine how this warning came about. I don’t know anyone with ‘rooster pecker’ allergies. Once ‘rooster peckers’ are in my food I’m unclear as to the damage they could cause. To be honest, I’d be okay if I wasn’t aware of their presence. Now, I’ve seen some strange warning labels, mind you. I’m sure extremely bored bureaucrats have come up with a few just to inject humor into an otherwise, ugly business. I’m beginning to wonder if some QTmarketing employee decided to have a little fun with their work as well. I’m not so sure management would find it humorous.

I left QT with a good laugh, absolutely no appetite, and a keener eye for detail in my writing. Humor is a great tool, but it must be used wisely.

Activism, Bad Weather, Business, Christianity, Climate Change, Community, Conservation, Creation, Donations, Environment, Fighting Poverty, Food Deserts, Food Insecurity, Freelancing, Gardening, God's Economics, Gratitude, Health, Neighbors, Non-Profits, Nutrition, Opal's Farm, Patience, Positive Thinking, Prayer, Relationships, Service Organizations, Service to Others, Simplicity, Spirituality, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Transformation, Uncategorized, Unity Unlimited, Inc., Urban Farming, Work, Writing

Can a Tomato Change the World?

Thoughts From the Porch: I need to get a little personal here. I have an issue that’s close to the heart and after this week, I’m driven to share it with you. I haven’t spent much time on the porch. The early blast of Arctic weather has limited my time there. It must’ve delivered some silent signal to our trees last night. They seemed to release all their leaves at once. Except for the few bold ‘hangers-on’, the yard, sidewalk, and most of the porch is covered in dead and dying leaves.

My tomato and pepper plants succumbed to the freeze. I knew it was coming. The cycle of the seasons is inevitable. I know the time will always come to say goodbye to homegrown tomatoes for the winter. I had hoped we’d somehow escape the unusually early frost. It’s always difficult to say goodbye to tasty, fresh tomatoes, even if it’s only temporary.

I spent this last couple of weeks working on grant applications for Opal’s Farm. Everything met with our Director’s approval and I’m submitting them this morning. I haven’t written grants in many years, so there’s more than a little fear there. Did I do it right? What if they don’t come through? What if, what if, what if…

I want to do well: for the farm and as a writer. I guess I’ll find out how well I did when the grants are awarded.

I’d like to be offering a grand update on our progress, but the wet Fall weather has slowed tilling and bed preparation to a crawl. There’s still much to be done in this holiday (and giving) season. November 27th is the Global Day of Giving. I hope that you’ll keep Opal’s Farm in mind if such days are more convenient for you. Please remember though, donations aren’t contingent on special ‘giving days’, they are accepted 24/7, 365 days a year!

Professionally, I write strong appeal letters for non-profit organizations. Opal’s Farm is intensely personal to me and far more than just another job. For those of you who don’t know about the farm, our Mission Statement is:

Opal’s Farm restores hope and vitality to neglected communities through an agricultural intervention and education.”

Personal experience has taught me that ‘playing in the dirt’ has the power to change lives and communities and provide solutions to problems far beyond food deserts and food scarcity. If that were all it did it would be a noble undertaking, but it’s much bigger than that.

Several years ago, I was working on a community garden in a local westside neighborhood for B.U.R.N. Ministries. Some of the young men who were in the youth program came to help one day when harvesting had begun. One of the young men asked me what “those are” as I was picking tomatoes. The question kind of took me back. I just assumed everyone knew what they were.

You see, he had grown up in an urban food desert. Most of his diet had consisted of processed foods from the local dollar and convenience stores. He had no idea what fresh produce looked like!

I pulled a tomato off the vine, wiped it off, handed it to him, and invited him to try it. He was reluctant at first. He took a small bite. I watched as his face went from a turned-up nose to a beaming smile. “That’s really good”, he said as he devoured the rest of the tomato. “Can I have another one?”

I’m not saying that one tomato is going to change the world. But I couldn’t help but notice how it changed his face and his perception. It was like shining a light in to a dark place. Once he ‘saw’ the opportunity in front of him he was able to taste the goodness of God’s world. I’d like to think it provided more than simply a great taste sensation. I’d like to think it provided hope.

That’s why Opal’s Farm is so important: to people, to the community, and to the next generation. A simple tomato has the power to change everything. That’s why I’m so passionate about a couple of acres and some wonderful produce.

I could go on and on. Educating people, feeding folks, and empowering individuals for stewardship and the opportunity to leave things a little better than they found it leaves me humbled and in awe of God’s creation.

As a professional writer, I’m supposed to craft my words carefully and ask you to be a financial partner with Opal’s Farm. I’d love for you to be a ‘farmer’, right alongside us whether it be with financial support or digging in the dirt. Moreover, I’m not too proud to beg. My wife always reminds me, “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed”. This is a golden opportunity to make a difference; to do something tangible. Right here. Right now.

So, I implore you to join us! You can reach us at:

 

Opal’s Farm

C/O Unity Unlimited, Inc.

2119 Harrison Avenue

Fort Worth, TX 76110

 

Or contact us through my website:  www.gregoryjoel.com

On the “Contact Form” below

Autumn, Bad Weather, Creation, Environment, Seasons, Simplicity, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Writing

Brrrrrr….

It’s cold! We don’t say that often in North Texas, especially in November. After all, it’s still Fall. It’s been known to be down right hot on Thanksgiving Day. The leaves haven’t even finished vacating the trees. Heck, my tomato and pepper plants are loaded with fruit, awaiting complete ripening.

full frame shot of snowflakes
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The weather folks say it’s in the twenties with a wind chill in the teens. So, I didn’t stay on the porch very long this morning. I lived in Colorado for seventeen years. I’m no stranger to cold and snow. In fact, I love winter. It’s different here in Texas though. We don’t have snow. We have what the weather folks call a ‘wintry mix’. It’s a polite way of saying ice and bone-chilling cold. Fortunately, we dodged the ice bullet unlike our friends in the panhandle counties. One must always look for the positive…

Awe, Bible, Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Community, Connection, Creation, Emotional Health, Environment, Faith, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Monday Mornings, Prayer, Relationships, Simplicity, Spirituality, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Worth, Writing

Stardust

Thoughts From the Porch: I listened to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air last week. It was with Brian May; one of the founding members of the band, Queen. I was on my way to a meeting, so I only heard a brief segment, but I’ve thought about it all weekend.

I didn’t know that following Freddie Mercury’s death and the band dissolved, Mr. May went back to university and earned his PhD in astrophysics. His thesis, put as simply as possible, was about the velocity of star dust. He went on to explain some of his thesis, but I was driving and somewhat distracted. I didn’t catch all the interview. That is, until right before I shut off the engine…

I was getting out of my truck when I heard him say, “we’re all composed of stardust from the beginning of the universe”. He went on to say that when Joni Mitchell sang, “We are stardust. We are golden…” she hit the nail right on the head. Not only do I have a “Woodstock” ‘brain worm’, I’ve thought about our ‘stardust DNA’ all weekend.

person sky silhouette night
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I’m in absolute awe and amazement – we’re made with the very dust present at the beginning of the universe. The stars formed our DNA!

I grew up in an extremely fundamentalist Christian home. The Bible was taken quite literally. If it says God created the Earth in seven days, then by God, he did. Science was incompatible with religion. To many it still is. I’m not going to enter in to a debate over science versus biblical literalism. I’ll leave that to the dogmatist on both sides. Apparently, they know God, or lack thereof, much better than I do…

red and orange solar flare
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I believe I’m connected to time, space, and people – all of creation – through this ‘star DNA’. When I’m in tune with that connection, I’m able to love better and a be a better human being. I’m a better steward of the gifts God has given me. I’m able to bring light into the darkness around me. Maybe that’s why I was created with stardust…

It’s easy to forget how marvelous and ‘wonderfully created’ I am. I get caught up in the minutiae of the day, rushing about the business of living. Suddenly, I hear or see something that stops me in my tracks, reminding me of the miracles around me.

“We are stardust, we are golden…”

Acceptance, Activism, Christianity, Citizenship, Class, Community, Listening, Neighbors, Politics, Public Policy, Service to Others, Texas, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Voting, What Can I Do, Writing

Just Vote…

Thoughts From the Porch: Yes, folks. This is another voter turnout post. I’m sure you’ve been bombarded by political ads, voter turnout robocalls, and every conceivable mailer you can imagine, from applauding your voting record to shaming you for apathy. Please bear with me, though. This is an issue close to my heart. It matters!

white and grey voting day sign
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

I questioned my role in voter participation as a Jesus-follower. I know where my true citizenship is. I may be entitled to U.S. citizenship by virtue of birth, but I follow my Rabbi first and foremost. I realized just how privileged I am to live here, especially in Texas. This is my earthly home, where my friends and family are, and where I’ll more than likely stay until I leave this world. I’m not confused, though. One’s spiritual beliefs are not an excuse for not voting. However, they change my motivation for voting.

The Gospels reflect Jesus’ concern for the neglected and marginalized. He went as far to say that how we treat them is how we treat Him. Pretty powerful words. In an election year that will affect the poor, the elderly, the immigrant, and the disenfranchised, your vote does matter. How you vote is also a reflection of how you see them.

While elections are always about how we see our political leadership, this year is also a reflection of how we see ourselves. What are our values? Are our decisions based on fear, class distinctions, and exclusion or they ones of faith, the common good, and inclusive of all? Everyone will answer those questions for themselves. Elections are important. How we vote matters to us all…

I took advantage of early voting and a rainy Wednesday last week to place my ballot. I was thrilled by the diverse crowd that was there on a Wednesday afternoon. I spent time in prayer and reflection about the matter before me and performed one of the privileges of my physical citizenship. It should be done with reflection.

I’m overjoyed when I hear the reports that voter turnout is exceeding expectations. I’d love for everyone to vote for my choices, but that’s unrealistic. The bottom line is that they were there casting their ballot.

Results will be in Tuesday evening. There will be winners and losers. Some of you will be elated by the results and others frustrated and disappointed. That’s how it works.

My friend Edgar always says, “Chop wood and let the chips fall where they may”. Go out there and vote. The chips will take care of themselves, but you won’t have chips if you don’t chop the wood…

person dropping paper on box
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com