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“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst … ‘Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

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Start to See the Bigger Picture

Down On the Farm…

The official start of Spring is still a couple of weeks away, but Spring planting is well under way. The onions (both Texas 1015 and bunching varieties), potatoes, some herbs, and radishes went in the ground before this morning’s rain came. Tomato and pepper beds are prepped and waiting. They’ll go in a couple from now. One of our fantastic volunteers worked over the weekend on getting our compost piles in order and wood chip borders and walkways are almost finished (Thank you Jay! It looks great on is working quite well).

Thanks for the pic Jay!

We were also privileged to have the “Circle of Winners” from the Northside Inter-Community Agency. The “circle of Winners” are high schooler kids who will be first generation college students. They came a week ago as part of the community service they give all around Fort Worth. They did a great job!

True Winners!

It’s far too easy to get focused on the immediate work at hand (the field work) when Spring is rapidly approaching. Nature provides a seemingly brief window for preparation and planting. We’re blessed to have temperate climate and longer growing seasons. Our pool of volunteers, our “farmer’s”, is growing. New expansion into our second acre is beginning. Opal’s Farm is on the move, and in more ways than simply addressing food insecurity and lack of access.

On February 26th, I had the honor and the privilege of meeting Malik Yakini from the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. He toured Opal’s Farm and spent some time with the growers from Grow SE before speaking at TCU on Wednesday evening. I can only speak for myself, but I was left with desire to see the bigger picture of what we’re doing.

Malik told of meeting a village elder, or chief, in Mali, West Africa. When it came time to leave, his party was told to go across the road and greet the farmers. The elder told him, “Those who work in the sun make it possible for those who work in the shade”. Farmers provide the real fuel for all of us.

When I meet people, they often ask what I do. When I tell them I’m the Farm Manger for Opal’s Farm they either don’t stare at me with a deer in the headlights look or they look at me condescendingly as “just a farmer”. That response is typical of most urban populations lacking access to fresh produce or knowledge of where their food comes from or how it’s processed. When I tell them it’s an urban farm near downtown, I can see their doubt and disbelief.

Moreover, they’ve lost their connection to the world around them. That lack of connection, of harmony, causes a myriad of physical, mental, and most importantly, spiritual problems. That’s one reason I always refer to Opal’s Farm as a great place for “dirt therapy” – something happens to us when our hands get dirty and a plant grows as a result. We have a little less anxiety and a little more peace. The problems that seemed so pressing before shrink in size. We begin connecting to the world around us.

Farming isn’t always easy. We’re in one of the busiest times of the year. It’s a lot of hard work getting the Spring crops in, but there’s quite as rewarding. If you’d like to volunteer or donate to Opal’ Farm, please go to our website, www.unityunlimited.org and click on the Opal’s Farm page. You can choose either and we’d love to see you at the farm.

Shane Claiborne, in The Irresistible Revolution, tells of asking Mother Teresa about her work in the poorest parts of Calcutta. Her response was two words – “Come see”. I would urge each of you, whether volunteering or simply donating to Opal’s Farm to come see our work; to join us in our mission of ending food insecurity and building real community. Maybe you will want to be a farmer alongside us…

Belief, Choices, Christianity, Connection, Courage, Faith, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Peace, Practice, Prayer, Quotes, Serenity, Simplicity, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch, Trust, What Can I Do

“And take up their cross.” That cross is already there, ready, from the very beginning; we need only take it up. But to keep us from believing that we must simply choose any arbitrary cross, or simply pick out our suffering as we will, Jesus emphasizes that each of us has his or her own cross, ready, appointed, and appropriately measured by God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is on the Cross: Reflections on Lent and Easter

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Acceptance, Beatitudes, Belief, Bible, Choices, Christianity, Connection, Courage, Culture, Emotional Health, Faith, Grace, Growing Up, Hope, Love, Neighbors, Persistence, Prayer, Self-Acceptance, Serenity, Simplicity, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch, What Can I Do

Looking For An Out

Thoughts From the Porch

Like most kids, I put a lot of energy into pushing the boundaries imposed by my parents. Being a people-pleaser by nature, I constantly sought ways to do what I wanted to do while keeping the appearance of being the good son. I was always looking for an “out”. I became so good at it that my mom would frequently suggest I become a lawyer when I grew up. After all, lawyers are experts at finding loopholes, at rationalizing behavior. Might as well get paid for it, right…

I’m not unique in this ability. It tends to be a common trait among human beings. Everyone looks for an out: a way to bend societal rules for their benefit, to make unacceptable, self-centered, or somewhat dubious behavior okay. Some are just better at it than others. I know. I have kids…

The whole process is about justification. The dictionary defines justification as “attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate.” For example, I still smoke (cigarettes, not weed. I live in Texas, not Colorado). I am once again in the process of trying to quit. I know they’re bad for me. Everyone knows they’re unhealthy. It’s a nasty habit. They stink, they cost way too much, and constant smoke breaks up my productive time (I don’t smoke in my office so I have to go outside). Everything screams out “stop smoking”!

Knowing all these things I will still try to find my out; the loophole that cosigns my bulls**t. I remember reading an old Rolling Stone interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They were into healthy living – good diet, exercise, good rest. The interviewer asked them why they still smoke if they’re so into health.

Their response always stuck with me – “We’re macrobiotic people”. What in heaven’s name does that mean?

The dictionary defines macrobiotic as “constituting, relating to, or following a diet of whole pure prepared foods that is based on Taoist principles of the balance of yin and yang.” Now I’m not judging, but what does that have to do with the unhealthy habit of smoking?

It’s a prime example of justification, of how we find an “out”. It may be plausible. It sure sounds good, but smoking is unhealthy no matter whether you’re macro or micro-biotic. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve used this excuse (and a myriad of other justifications) on occasion . Hey, I gave up my other bad habits. I’ve got to have one vice, right?

The truth is that I’m unwilling to go through nicotine withdrawal. I’d rather justify my actions than quit. I can ask God to help me quit a multitude of times but, if I’m honest with myself (and you), I’m unwilling to do my part. Justification always tends to center around my unwillingness (or outright refusal) to change or dishonesty with myself.

What’s your “out”?

In Luke 10, a religious scholar comes to Jesus with a question (and questionable motives): what do I need to do to receive eternal life? Jesus responded in His oft-used way of answering a question with a question.

“What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

The religious scholar answered:

“That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself. ‘Good answer’ said Jesus. ‘Do it and you will live.’

Here it comes:

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define neighbor?” (from Luke 10. 25-29 The Message Bible

Jesus goes on to tell the story we know as the “Good Samaritan” and the lesson of being a neighbor we usually focus on. Yet, the words “looking for a loophole” jumped out at me the most, because that’s what I do – look for a loophole, an “out” to get my way, a way to justify my actions. It’s been that way for a long time…

Loopholes, and those searching for them, seemed to frustrate Jesus the most. In Luke 11.42, Jesus tells all the religious bigwigs hanging around that:

“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love.”

The takeaway is that Jesus meant what He said – love God with all you’ve got and love other people like you love yourself. If we do this, everything else takes care of itself. We don’t have to look for loopholes (I still do anyway…). My actions speak much louder than my words.

Image credit Study for the Visitation Jacopo Pontormo

I want to be all in on this Jesus thing. I don’t want an “out”. I want to become better simply being me – to be a better husband, father, brother, friend, and to love and serve others, not just as I love myself (I still have days when I’m not so loving to Greg!), but as God loves His kids.

Being all in isn’t easy. Jesus takes “common sense” and turns it upside down. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the “Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’ manifesto for living. Things like ‘turning the other cheek’ and thinking of others more highly than one’s self run counter to everything in me. If I really believe Jesus meant what He said though, then I can stop looking for loopholes. After all, I didn’t see any “except when” or “buts” after His statements…

When I became a disciple, a student of “the Rabbi”, I slowly began to face the justifications that cluttered my life. Slowly but surely, they were eliminated one by one. Some I still cling to (like smoking) and try to justify their place in my life. Yet, the deeper I step in to the whole faith thing, the more difficult it becomes to hang onto them. It’s easier to find the willingness to escape them and see life as it really is.

Today I trust the process. Today I want to be all in. Maybe, just maybe, one more layer of justification will be peeled away and I come closer to the man I was always intended to be…

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Seven Years Today!

Thoughts From the Porch

Happy Texas Independence Day y’all! When I was growing up this was a state holiday, a day off from school. March 2nd was as important as July 4th, if not more so. My first memories of school were about Texas history classes. Learning about Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and the heroes of the Alamo was one of the most important lessons to learn. Now that I’m a grown-up (that’s debatable) I think they should have been called Texas ‘myth’ classes instead. However, I’ll save that discussion for another time…

The real celebration this March 2nd is that Margaret and I have been married for seven years today. I find it difficult to put into words the joy and the love I share with this beautiful woman. Many of you know Margaret. You understand what I mean.

Margaret, I love you more with each passing day. I didn’t think that possible. I’m constantly amazed by your grace and love for others. Your love for God and your quiet strength is probably what the writer of Proverbs 31 had in mind.

“A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds…

She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor…

When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly…

Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all! Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (from Proverbs 31 – The Message)

Happy Anniversary Baby! I love you. It is my honor and privilege to be your husband!

My favorite picture of us!
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Songs About Spring

Thoughts From the Porch: A stunning late winter sunrise started my morning. I drank my first cup of coffee to the varied songs of our resident Mockingbird. Nesting season has begun and my little friend sings once again, reminding me that spring in almost here. He brightened my morning even more that the rising sun.

Sometimes I can’t offer anything more than a simple thank you in my morning prayers. I see mornings like this, and I hear God speaking quite clearly. It’s time to just sit here and listen, to bask in His glory and miraculous creation.

The Mockingbird fell silent around the time of our first early frost. I’ve missed my little friend who greeted me in song each day as I set abut my porch time. This winter has been mild – eighty-degree days in January – and I would’ve thought he’d come by now and then, but his internal timing told him to wait until now. He saved his melodies for me and this very morning. Thank you my little friend…