Thoughts From the Porch: I’m told the best way to blog is to post something regularly and preferably, on a scheduled basis. Unfortunately, I’ve failed to live up to that standard this month. I was looking back over my July posts and realized this is only my third one so far.
Opal’s Farm is booming. Fall
planting is underway and we’ve been blessed by all the volunteers helping us
harvest and get our irrigation going. Our Saturday sales at the Cowtown
Farmer’s Market seem to increase each week we’re there. We’re in the process of
looking at a new partnership with a couple of local restaurants and non-profits
that will serve a broader community. Things are moving in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the flurry of
activity at Opal’s Farm has limited my writing time. I still have my moments on
the porch; my quiet time with God and my beautiful wife. Porch time sets the
tone for the rest of the day. It’s as necessary to well-being as food and water
are to physical life. Quiet time in the morning refreshes my body, my mind, and
most of all, my spirit. I’m better able to greet the day’s business with
gratitude and grace.
Most days there’s no time for
writing on in the morning unless it’s business. I come back from the farm with
every intention to sit down and write, but evenings have their own struggles –
fix dinner, do dishes, respond to messages and emails. On top of that there’s
the long day in the Texas heat. Some evenings I forget dinner, drop the
work clothes, and lay down in front of the air conditioner until the next
morning. If you work outdoors in Texas, then you know what I mean.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t
have much to say this morning. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, says
that her prayers fall into two simple categories – “Help me, help me, help me”
or “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. I get it. Lately my prayers have been of
the “thank you, thank you, thank you” variety. I have little to say other than
thank you. If I were to make a list of all I’m grateful for it would fill a
legal pad and then some. I shan’t bore you, gentle reader, with my list…
Most days, as of late, are
filled with quiet gratitude for the grace I’ve been given. I can’t believe I
get to live the life I live today. I get to do the very things which were the
desire of my heart all along. I work with amazing people working toward a
godly, incredible mission. I spend my days “playing in the dirt”: a constant
reminder of stewardship and Jesus’ parables. When I come home at night, I enjoy
time with my wife and drift off into a solid sleep, ready to “rinse and repeat”
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I simply needed to touch base with you all before heading to the farm for another day. Have a super Friday and a wonderful weekend! See you soon…
I wish all my friends a very, very happy 4th of July, albeit belated. This has been an unbelievably hectic week despite the holiday. Between harvest at Opals Farm, working on a new client’s project, and accompanying my oldest son the another 5k race, I haven’t had much time to write down my “thoughts from the porch”. I haven’t given up my porch time though. Prayer and meditation are essential to healthy work and play…
Margaret and I have five grown children between us. We decided from day one that we wouldn’t have stepchildren, only “our” children. Margaret and I didn’t date long before we married so she had never met my oldest son until our wedding day. When they finally met, Adrian introduced himself with, “Hi, I’m Adrian”, to which Margaret replied, Hi, I’m your stepmom”…
Adrian and Jeremy are the oldest of the five. Margaret loves to remind me her three are younger because, after all, she’s still in her fifties and I’m, well, not. We may consider them all our kids, but I have to admit, I beam a little brighter when one of “my” boys have their moments of special achievement or success. In no way does this diminish the achievements of the other three. I’ve simply had a longer and closer relationship with my boys. We’ve shared the ups and downs that came with our tiny family unit (I was a single dad) and I’ve rejoiced even more so in their success as was far from the perfect father growing up.
On Thursday, I met my oldest, Adrian, and rode with him to Dallas to watch him run in the “5 for the Fourth” 5k race. Notice I said watch. I’m not sure my old knees can partake in such endeavors. They might handle a bicycle race but definitely not pounding the downtown Dallas pavement. Besides, my 5k was simply leaving the house before 6 AM and leaving Texas to go to Dallas…
The only reason I mention any of this is because of the amazing things God is doing in my son’s life. I’m a very proud father and want to brag on my son. You see, Adrian and I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together until several weeks ago. He was constantly working and rarely had time to hang out. We talked every week or so, but time together was beyond few and in between. Like it or not, that’s how it was.
That began to change a two or three months ago. Adrian was dealing with an extremely uncomfortable situation in his life. I won’t go into detail but I had been there at one point as well. While I don’t wish that on anyone, especially my son, I’ve come to see it as another of God’s lavish gifts. I began to spend more time with Adrian. I began to see how God moves in his life and what a good man he is. I’ve always known that, but there was something special, something spiritual in nature, shining a light on God’s grace for all of us.
My son has always had a relationship with God, and for that I’m grateful. Yet, watching it grow into a daily walk with Jesus has been one of the pleasures in life that only a parent can fully appreciate. Moreover, work, while still important, has taken a back seat to matters of the heart and spiritual growth. I guess that’s one reason I get up early on a holiday to watch him run. His running successes are outward reflection of his inward growth. I’m awed and, quite frankly, bursting with pride. That’s my boy!
After a long hiatus from competition of the physical kind, he started running again. I’ve shared with you his first 5K and his first Spartan race. When he finished Thursday’s race he had shaved 5 minutes off his previous time. To a longtime runner this may not be a big deal; but to someone who only started running on a daily basis a few weeks ago this might as well be a gold medal!
Am I bragging? Yes, I am; and no, I won’t apologize for it. Am I living a bit vicariously through his success! More than likely, but I think all parents do as our children grow older. God allows those of us fortunate enough to be parents to revel in our children’s glory, even when our (or at least my) parenting skills were less than stellar. If we’re lucky, we not only get to brag but become closer to them, and filled with pride and joy at the grown-ups they’ve become…
*** In no way do I wish to overlook the success of Adrian’s younger brother and my son Jeremy. So here’s an unashamedly plug for him – Jeremy, is a emerging artist in the art scene. He both curates shows and has his own exhibitions. In fact, for those of you here in North Texas, his next exhibition will be on July 12th at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center!
Thoughts From the Porch: I’m posting this on my business
website as well as the Opal’s Farm Facebook Page. Please bear with me as it has
a bit more to do with Opal’s Farm than just produce. It’s a personal note on
what the farm and working for Unity Unlimited, Inc. has meant to me for the
It’s been two weeks of running! Harvest is coming in at Opal’s Farm. Saturday was the big celebration at TCC South campus with the parade, the entertainment, and seminars and activities all day long. One of our partners and sponsors, the Tarrant Area Food Bank, gave away a semi-trailer full of food to the community.
The Juneteenth events over the last ten days will
culminate with “Juneteenth: The Play” at Will rogers Auditorium tomorrow
evening. Tickets are still available, and proceeds benefit Opal’s Farm. Go
to Opal’s Farm Facebook page or to www.juneteenthftw.com
for details and tickets. It will be a delightful, entertaining, and educational
evening. Most of you know that the Fort Worth Juneteenth celebrations are a
huge part of what our parent non-profit organization, Unity Unlimited, Inc.
does each year.
For those of you who have no idea what Juneteenth is…
“Juneteeth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.” www.juneteenthftw.com
Some Back Story…
One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. My minister
friend, Rusty, had mentioned him in passing one time. I was browsing through
the bookstore and came upon Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz”. After
reading the author’s note at the beginning I bought a copy. I read it through
in a couple of sittings the first time. I read it much slower a couple of times
after that. I found someone who vocalized much of my spiritual walk; things I
always wanted to say and simply could not find a way to do so. I think I own
the whole Donald Miller catalogue these days…
In “Blue Like Jazz”, Miller tells the story of a
“confession booth” he and his friends built at Reed College. A Google search of
Reed College will say three main things about the school. First, is its
academic reputation as one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation.
Second, its liberal political reputation. Third, its permissive policy toward open
drug use and parties. Long story short – it doesn’t harbor a large “Christian”
student population. Intellectual pursuits (and a bit of drug-induced fun) are
often at odds with religious belief.
Miller and a few of his like-minded followers of Jesus had
an idea: set up a “confession booth”, not to take confessions but offer them as
evidence of Christianity’s failings and crimes against humanity – things like
the Crusades, slavery, and Native American genocide. I won’t bore you with the
details (you really should read the book!), but I’ve always loved the idea.
Maybe if much of Christianity was honest enough to admit they’ve screwed up
horribly, genuinely attempt to make amends, then they might have some real good
news to share. (Disclaimer: The
Christian “right” doesn’t speak for many followers of the Rabbi) Just saying…
I mention it because I’ve thought a lot about confession
this morning. In the Twelve Step tradition, introspection, ownership of one’s
actions (good or bad), and admission (confession if you will) to God and
another human being are essential to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth and
building a solid relationship with a Higher Power are essential to recovery.
Moreover, confession allows us to make amends, or make things right, so forgiveness
and recovery (and in this instance, community) can take place. It’s essential
to recovery, our spirit, and the humility that’s as critical as food and water
are to the body.
My work with Unity Unlimited, Inc, Opal’s Farm, and Ms.
Opal herself has led to deep introspection over the last year. I haven’t always
liked what I’ve seen. I’m acutely aware of how old tapes play in my head. I’ve
also learned the value of listening. My Dad used to tell me that I was given
one mouth and two ears so I could listen twice as much as I speak. I must confess
I don’t do that well.
Please forgive my unwillingness to truly listen. Today I
will listen and be a friend and an ally. I’ll seek to learn from other’s
struggles so that I too can walk the path toward freedom. Fannie Lou Hamer once
said that none of us are free until all of us are free. I guess that’s why the
last week of Juneteenth celebrations have affected so deeply. When I fail to
listen, I rob myself of the chance for emancipation from old ideas and blind
myself to new possibilities.
I believe in the old saying that “confession is good for the soul”. I look forward to taking our walk together.
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’m as voracious reader. I keep up on the news. I read articles and books that help me professionally: that hone my writing skills or help me learn to be a better farm manager. Above all, I love reading books and articles that nurture my spirituality and find simple pleasure.
I receive several newsletters each week about issues
important to me, especially those that help me help my clients better.
Recently, one of them reemphasized the basic marketing concept of successful
titles in catching the reader’s attention. From a marketing standpoint, classic
titles saying things like, “How to do
XYZ, Five Easy Steps to a better ABC”, and so forth, invite the reader in
and are more likely to be read. Basic copywriting and Marketing 101. I do it
for clients all the time.
However, it occurred to me while I was reading another “Five Easy Steps” article that it’s rare
for such articles to exceed the number five. It may on occasion be “Seven Easy Steps to” but that always
seems to be the limit. There’s a myriad of reasons why smaller numbers elicit
attention: psychological, neurological, and social. Everyone wants to solve
their problems in a few quick, easy steps. Unfortunately, it rarely works out
that way; at least in my personal experience…
For years I sought quick solutions to life’s pressing
problems, but “Five Easy Steps” never seemed to work. I always found myself in
the same state as before. It wasn’t until I discovered a recovery program from
my “seemingly hopeless” condition of mind and body my condition began to
change. It was going to require more (and steeper steps) if I were to become
the man I wanted to be. In fact, I found it to take twelve of them.
People tend to have a love-hate relationship with twelve step
programs. What can’t be denied is Twelve Step recovery programs have helped
thousands of people through the years, no matter what the specific problem
might be. It should come as no surprise there are around 240 such programs
today; each dealing with specific issues – alcohol, overeating, addiction,
gambling, sex, shopping, ad infinitum… I don’t know if it’s the solution to
everyone’s problems, but the twelve steps of recovery were for mine. I have
been transformed in mind, body, and spirit by taking all twelve steps. I have a
relationship with God today. Moreover, I’ve witnessed the change in countless
others as well.
I tried many times and countless ways to solve my dilemma.
If I just work harder, if I do it this way or that way. Hey, I’m a reasonably
intelligent guy. I can handle this. I should be able to reduce twelve steps to
something more manageable like five or seven, right? It wasn’t until I was
completely beaten that I decided my way didn’t work. I’d take the steps like
those before me had. Maybe, just maybe I could achieve the same results and
move toward positive change.
The stories the same for so many. The evidence is (and was
always) right in front of me. So why did it take so long to believe it?
It may have to do with the number of steps involved. Maybe
twelve is overwhelming. Maybe it’s difficult to see past three, five, or seven
of them. Maybe it’s just poor marketing on the part of all the people involved.
I don’t know.
The bottom line for me is in the results. I’m not who I used
to be. I’m becoming the man God meant for me to be. Had I been able to see into
the future all those years ago I probably wouldn’t have cared how many steps I
had to take to get here today. It’s easy to say that in hindsight though.
The payoff has been far greater than any investment on my part. If I were developing a marketing campaign for such programs, I’d eliminate the whole “Twelve Step” thing. Too many steps. Won’t attract enough readers, you know? I’d break it down to what has become a bit of a mantra to me: “I can’t, He can, and I think I’ll let him”. It’s the cycle of threes seen in all twelve and, hey, it’s only three easy steps, right?