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Life Symbols

I was looking for something else when I found this article I wrote four years ago before I was blogging on WordPress. The days mentioned may be a bit off. Time moves the dates to the past but the feelings are still the same…

Thoughts From the Porch: Tomorrow is the astronomical first day of Spring. It’s the unofficial birth certificate for a new season of green grass, new blooms, and, if you live here in Texas, the coming of the bluebonnets. I keep hearing the tender voice of the Teacher saying “behold, I make all things new”. I love Spring…

Today started slowly for me. Not because it’s the dreaded “Monday morning” mind you. Today begged for a slow awakening with the coos of the morning doves and the chatter of the mockingbird on the streetlight across the way. I lingered on the porch a little longer than usual and reveled in the day. Spring Break is over here in Fort Worth. Kids are back in school. I could hear the Star-Spangled Banner and morning announcements playing over the speakers from the school down the street. I may have a long “to-do” list today, but I lingered anyway.

I suppose it’s because Easter will soon be here, the celebration of resurrection came to mind. It’s ironic that the cross became the dominant symbol in Christianity. Historically, it’s based on the vision of the cross that Emperor Constantine claimed led him to victory; and thus, led to conversion and Christianity as the state religion of Rome. That’s probably more information than you needed but suffice it to say that early Christians didn’t focus too much on it. Just saying…

I’m not saying crosses are bad. They make an attractive piece of jewelry and great art. They’re a good reminder of how much God loves us and the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Yet, I wonder if folks concentrate on the wrong symbol. I’d much rather concentrate on life than death. Maybe I should have a stone necklace or empty tombs as artwork on the wall. You know, to remind me I’ve been reborn: that I don’t have to live like I used to; bound up in a self-made prison of resentments and fears. Still, I guess stones around my neck would be too heavy and empty tombs would leave holes in the wall.

It’s easier to remember the crucifixion than the resurrection. I choose to remember resurrection today. I celebrate new life today. Maybe that’s why I’m out on the porch so long today. It’s a pause for the quiet celebration. This morning is a reminder of grace.

I probably harp on grace and its natural outcome, gratitude, far too much. The more I experience God’s grace, the more I experience gratitude, and the more I want to share that grace. So please bear with me, gentle reader, but I can’t help it. Besides, life seems so much simpler when experienced with grace and gratitude. Simple things for simple people…

I guess I’ve come to see different symbols of grace in my life today. The empty tomb of Easter morning is more indicative of my life today than a cross. I want to be a “resurrection person” today. I want to be full of the joy and freedom that comes with this new life. I want to “have life abundantly”. I believe it’s possible.

My prayer this morning is that because I’ve received this new life, this grace, I will in turn become more “grace-full”: less judgmental and more forgiving, less sarcastic and more affirming, less fearful and more vulnerable.

I’m not going to wait to celebrate Easter. I think I’ll start today…

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Joel Says…

It’s an exceptionally brilliant sunny morning here in Cowtown. The sun reflecting off the snow-covered lawns makes everything brighter. It won’t stick around too long as the forecast calls for a warming trend this coming week. The long-awaited precipitation is welcome news to Opal’s Farm and the rest of North Central Texas. We’re moving deeper into a drought phase, so even snow and ice are welcome (if the power stays on anyway…)

Most folks here were not looking forward to this recent cold snap. The power outages, broken pipes, water shortages, and deaths from last year’s major freeze were still too fresh. Everyone was afraid of a repeat this year. The rest of the country must’ve been watching as well. Momma called from Kentucky to make sure we were okay – North Texas made the national news. I’m somewhat embarrassed that everyone doubts Texans can survive a couple of inches of snow and freezing temperatures, but after last year I understand.

The ice and snow are on there way out and it’ll be seventy degrees by next weekend. Our family stayed warm with no power outages, broken pipes, or water shutoffs. The winter crops survived the cold and life goes on here in Cowtown. If truth be told, a couple of days of Arctic blast just aren’t that big of a deal, but I’m grateful to be inside this morning and to have time to read and write…

I reread the Book of Joel for this morning’s meditation. When I was a kid, I very proudly told everyone that our family was in the Bible. I made up a lot of stories about my heritage and who I was so I could feel some value to my schoolmates. I may not have known much about my birth family when I was a kid, so I embellished the lineage of my adopted one. That’s another story for another day…

Back to the Book of Joel…

Joel is probably one of the truly “minor” minor prophets. He doesn’t talk about exciting things like invading foreign powers or wars, you know, the big stuff. Instead, he writes about an invasion of locusts that have left the country destitute and hungry. His story would likely be buried a few pages deep in today’s newspapers. Bugs and hungry people don’t sell advertising very well, particularly when they’re somewhere “over there”. Honestly, I never paid him much mind even if we did share a name.

(Aside – As an adult I now know I’m completely unrelated to him. His father’s name was Pethuel. There is no one in my family tree by that name…)

Locust swarms aren’t a large concern here in Texas like they are in the Middle East and Africa. We had a serious bout with grasshoppers and couple of year ago – that was bad enough – but they didn’t put a huge dent in our harvests at Opal’s Farm. It was annoying to walk the rows and be hit by large, jumping grasshoppers or throw peas away because they’d been chewed on: I can’t imagine what it must be like to have swarms so big they block out the sun, hinder movement, and eat everything in sight like they do in other parts of the world.

Joel’s words echo today. Substitute climate change or social justice for the plague of locust and not much has changed in 2500 years. I watch the news – wildfires that grow bigger each year, hungry kids, systemic racism, and raging pandemics. I can easily echo Joel’s initial despair.

“God! I pray and cry out to you! The fields are burning up. The country is a dust bowl, forest and prairie fires rage unchecked. Wild animals dying of thirst, looking to you for a drink. Springs and streams are dried up. The whole country is burning up. Joel 1.19-20

“Shake the country up… A black day! A doomsday! Clouds with no silver lining!” Joel 2.1-2

It’s a bleak picture, but…

“But there’s also this, it’s not too late – God’s personal message! – ‘Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!’ Change your life, not just your clothes…

Fear not Earth! Be glad and celebrate! God has done great things. He’s giving you a teacher to train you how to live right” Joel 2.12-13, 21-23

“I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people… Whoever calls, Help, God! Gets help. Joel 2. 28,31 (The Message)

Joel offers choices and hope for what appears to be a bleak future. That’s what I hope to do today. Take actions that offer hope – whether it be the regenerative farming we practice at Opal’s Farm or the unity we try to build in the fight against racism and hate.

I know I’m not alone either and that’s gives me hope.

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