Ah, Monday morning… I haven’t been on the porch much for the
last week. I’ve alternated between the hospital and Opal’s Farm and had a few
late nights, so the porch has been a bit lonely. I was able to catch a breather
this morning and so, here goes…
As most of you know, Margaret has been in the hospital for
the last week. I’m not going to share the details. Her condition has been moved
from critical unstable to critical stable. Things have been up and down: on
several occasions the doctors thought they had the problem solved only to erupt
again. However, after several tests and procedures they believe it may be taken
care of. We’re in a wait and see mode today. We’re praying all is well and the
final option of surgery is no longer necessary.
While there’s never a good time for a medical crisis, this
one came right in the middle of fall planting at the farm. We are so blessed to
have friends and family as well as a short distance to the farm from the
hospital. I’ve been able to spend some time watering the new seed and finishing
preparations for the next round. Thanks to Charlie Blaylock for helping us out.
We’ll be able to plant the next phase by Tuesday.
The farm has been a saving grace during this situation. A
couple of hours working the soil here and there gives my mind a break. It
provides time to speak with God (I’m sure the cyclists and runners on the
Trinity Trail wonder who I might be talking to…) and most importantly, clear my
mind and change my perspective from fear to hope. It’s difficult not to be
hopeful working in a garden.
I had a long stream of thoughts this morning: far too many to share. It’s time to go back to the hospital and down to the farm. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, we are on the upside of Margaret’s situation and I’ll see you all at Cowtown Farmer’s Market next Saturday.
A quick note to my friends: I’m posting quickly this morning so I can get to the hospital to be with my wife, Margaret. I don’t want to go into details, but I do want to ask my friends for prayers. She’s having a test today which should (hopefully) give us some answers. Not knowing is difficult. I hope to keep everyone updated.
The greatest fear most of face is the unknown, the “what ifs”. Please pray we walk through the fear with acceptance and trust that God has got this (as He has everything else in our lives!). We know we are blessed beyond measure even when life comes barging in with its friend, fear.
Thoughts From the Porch: We had a series of precipitation events this weekend; at least that’s what the weather folks called them. I thought it was just rain. Regardless of what you call it, the result is it’s too muddy to do a lot at Opal’s Farm. Brendan and I will harvest radishes tomorrow, but weeding will have to wait. Oh well. It means a little more time on the porch.
I re-read “Jesus Wants
to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile” by Rob Bell and Don
Golden. I re-read many of my good books. After two brain surgeries and the
trudge through middle age I get to enjoy them almost as much as I did the first
time. I gain new insight and reaffirm old ones from re-reading some of my
I appreciate Don Golden for his work as Executive Director
of Red Letter Christians (https://www.redletterchristians.org/).
I had the opportunity to attend the Red Letter Revival last Fall in Dallas.
Being around other disciples who strive to live out the radical, and often
subversive, teachings of Jesus was the highlight of my year.
Rob Bell ( https://robbell.com/)
has always ranked high on my list of favorite authors; especially since his
book, “Love Wins” put him on the outs with the evangelical community. He
was labelled an apostate and a universalist (God forbid!) and exiled in the
truest sense of the word. Questioning long-held doctrine and institutional
religion is risky. Jesus can attest to that. I guess that’s where the sub-title
A brief tangent…
I purchased “Love
Wins” at my old church’s bookstore (a Starbucks-looking “seeker-friendly
kind of place). I had seen it in the store the previous Sunday but could no
longer find it anywhere on the shelves. It turns out that “Love Wins” had generated too many questions for the church. The
Senior Pastor had asked that it be kept underneath the front counter. It was
available only by request. I can assure that when the last copy was sold no
more were reordered.
I asked for a copy and my purchase was quickly placed in a
plain brown paper bag. It was like buying Christian pornography. Forbidden
wisdom there, Don and Rob…
There’s a current trend among many churches to be
“seeker-friendly”. Contemporary services with great bands constitute the
worship experience now. Sometimes it seems like they should be taking tickets
at the door. The experience is more one of entertainment than worship; for me
I retain a church home in name only. I’m not okay with
sitting in the same place every week only to have the same people ask me if
this is my first time at the church. This tends to happen a lot in
mega-churches. It’s not the worshipper’s fault. Large groups tend to be
My old church has a plethora of Pastors and staff members:
so much so that a large portion of the budget goes to administrative costs.
They do some wonderful and amazing things for the local community and in
missions, but I can’t help but wonder what the early Jesus followers would
think. Just saying…
I used to work on quite a few service projects the church
took on, many of them having to do with community gardens and almost always
working with young people. I was invited to go with the Youth Group on a
service project to New Mexico. When they ran a background check (yes, a
background check!) they learned I had a felony conviction from my old life
involving bouncing paper. Suddenly, I was unfit to work with the young people
I’d been working with for over five years. They said it was a question of
liability, but I think they were afraid I’d teach the teenagers how to pass bad
Honestly, I was pissed. I felt betrayed. Church was supposed
to be a place of forgiveness and healing, not a business concerned with
liability and self-protection. I tried to move past my feelings. I continued to
attend for a while, and probably well past the expiration date…
My friend and mentor, Rusty, taught a class I enjoyed and corporate spiritual growth took place within our small, class-sized community. Unfortunately, the class was cancelled, and he was made the ‘Online’ Minister. Churches have gotten tech-savvy in the pursuit of new converts (and additional dollars? – I know, I’m a bit cynical). Quite frankly, the online community simply isn’t the same for me. I spend enough time in front of a computer screen.
I don’t think I’ve attended a service at my old church in
three or four years. My spiritual appetite has been fed in other places:
“being” the church instead of “going” to church. I get to do that daily. I’m
blessed to work with a non-profit, Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm, that
is faith-based and inclusive of everyone. Its mission is to provide for and minister
to (serve) oft forgotten and marginalized communities in Fort Worth. Jesus
called them “the least of these”. I get to be of service daily. My vocation is
the same as my avocation.
I was relieved to hear that others struggle with the same
issue. In his book, “Scary Close”, Donald Miller said something to the effect
that he was a “Christian writer who hadn’t been to church in five years.
Lately, there’s been a nagging longing for spiritual
community. I’ve been missing a home church, or more accurately, a church home:
a place where I belong, where I can have community with other believers, and
where I can celebrate and incorporate the Eucharist, the body and blood of
Jesus, in my life.
I’ve been blessed to have stepped out of my comfort zone.
Stepping out is never easy, but over the last few months I visited several
churches outside my long-held religious tradition. I’ve discovered how much I
miss corporate worship of the Creator and the community of other disciples. There’s
a huge difference in being a Christian and being a disciple.
This past Sunday I visited a church my friend attends. The service was beautiful, the people friendly, and the Eucharist was celebrated in a way that reminded me of the beauty of community. Our time together was holy. I left feeling far less alone in my faith. That’s a good thing…
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know my faith was never meant to be exclusive of other Jesus followers. The writer of Hebrews urges the Hebrew Christians to remain faithful to gathering together. It’s for their benefit and growth. It’s time for me to revisit this advice.
How About You?
What is your experience with this? I’d love to hear from
others who struggle with this issue and how its resolution (of suggestions
I haven’t written from the porch for the past couple of weeks. Time has been short. I’m playing catch up from a recent two-day stint in the hospital (long story but everything’s okay). They couldn’t figure out what was going on. I guess that’s why doctors only “practice” medicine…
I could use the whole hospital thing to explain my lack of recent communication, but I won’t. The truth is a bit uglier than that. The reality is there’s been some doubt and depression going on the last few days. When I started writing “Thoughts From the Porch”, my intent was to only write positive, encouraging words. God knows there’s enough negative crap out there!
Unfortunately, life isn’t always happy, joyous, and free.
Life shows up in some awful ways. Even when I feel I’m on the path God has
chosen for me it can have some serious rough spots. I would be dishonest if I
didn’t share those as well. I may not write in a manner comparable to great
authors or even my fellow writers on WordPress, but I’ve learned to be
truthful, to be authentic, and to be myself regardless of how I’d like to be.
The truth is that I haven’t liked myself very much the last
few days. Sometimes, the truth sucks. As my friend Edgar always tells me, “The
truth will set you free, but it’ll really piss you off first.” Quite frankly,
I’ve been pissed.
Margaret and I have struggled financially over the last few
months. Work has been slow as most of my time is spent on the urban farm
project, Opal’s Farm. Most of you know my passion for the project. Margaret and
I prayed diligently before taking on this task. We went into it with eyes
wide-open. We knew money would be tight until we gained sponsors and had our
first harvest. Looking back over the last few months, hell, even over our
lifetime, we can see God’s thread all the way through. He stands with us
through all the difficult times. Bills get paid, we eat regularly, and most of
the time life is good despite the setbacks that come with our chosen path.
However, there are times when an awareness
of God’s providence is insufficient to stave off the blues.
In lieu of our smaller income we’ve been forced to put off
needed home repairs and tighten our money belt in ways neither of us have
experienced, at least in our lives together. Add to that Margaret’s chronic
pain, limited mobility, and the depression that rears its ugly head as a
result. Frustration and stress mounts despite our faith in the Almighty. It’s a
recipe for doubt, fear, and self-loathing, for me at least, and it has been
simmering for quite a while. Yesterday it came to a boil…
A serious case of the “F..k Its”.
Yes, folks, expletive laced prayers, lamentations of “poor
me”, and drowning in a cesspool of comparing myself to everyone else. I threw a
temper tantrum! Why me?
I imagine some of you can relate. It felt as though my world had fallen apart and God was nowhere to be
found. He always seems to be playing ‘Hide and Seek’ when I need Him: just like
with everything else in my world. I
immediately decided to quit the farm, stop writing, and start looking out for
Number One. I’d probably have to become a greeter at WalMart (no offense
intended – all work is important). A career in bank robbery seemed a
viable alternative to the present financial hardships. You must take it, because no one’s going to give to you, right?
If it sounds a bit extreme, it is. I tend to go for
extremes. A friend once told me that “balance is the beam I trip on while
running between extremes”. Yep!
I always feel like such a spoiled brat after these not-so-little
tantrums. It doesn’t take as long as it used to getting over these fits of
doubt, frustration, and fear (that’s really what the tantrum is about…). I find
relief in the fact they don’t happen very often anymore, but I sure hate it
when they do. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can identify with this
Fortunately, sanity returns, I own my behavior, make amends
for the harsh words and actions, and find forgiveness and gratitude for everything
I do have. First and foremost, I have a Heavenly Father who appreciates my
authenticity. I’m sure most church folks would be shocked by how I “pray”. It’s
not always pious and formal. Still, God allows me to express my doubts and
fears. He listens. He understands and He loves me right where I’m at –
expletives and all. He allows my rants and then holds me close to remind me
that I’m loved and it’s okay to be human. I’m His child.
Somewhere in this process I find peace. The situation hasn’t
changed at all, but I have.
Healing the Blind…
My tantrums always begin with tunnel vision and outright
blindness. The world is out of focus, blurred with pain and frustration, and I
can only see myself, my needs, and my wants. When I finally grow tired of
emotional blindness, I hear Jesus’ question to the blind man at the Pool of Siloam,
“Do you want to be healed?”
It sounds like a simple question doesn’t it? Sure, I want to
be healed, but… I tend to find excuses, much like the guy at the Pool, until
finally, I can see again.
Restoration of sight, healing, takes place in miraculous
ways for me. It happened the other night. Blinded by my self-centered fear and
doubt, I stormed out to the porch to be alone. I stood there, blindly staring
into the night, when a tiny spider and his (or her – I’m not sure how to tell
the difference) web began to take focus.
As my vision sharpened, the intricacy and size of the web
grew. I saw his tiny legs shooting across the web with new silken strands. The
minute strands vibrated in the wind but never strayed apart. It seemed
It sounds silly to be so intrigued by a simple spider web, but I’m kind of a simple guy, I guess. However, this tiny spider is building his web in the same place on our porch every Spring. He’ll stay until Fall, building his net every evening and waiting for the meal he knows will come. I’m no expert on spider species identification, but it’s always appears to be the same species year after year. It’s always a smaller version that grows to be the same as the one last year.
While I’m no Arachnologist, our little eight-legged friend is
probably last year’s offspring. I had the privilege of seeing all the little ones
bursting from their egg sac last year. Their home and ours are one in the same.
I get to watch the intricate, complex beauty of this tiny creature every
evening. Clarity had returned.
Our hardships and my frustration faded into the darkness of
the evening. I could see, and more importantly, see that our difficulties were
nothing, that God was still (and always is) faithful. Life may have its
difficulties, but grace changes how I see them. Difficulties become
opportunities to grow in ways I can’t even imagine.
If a tiny spider ca open a world of grace and heal blindness,
how much more can I be a vessel of grace?