Belief, Bible, Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Emotional Health, Faith, God's Economics, Grace, Hope, Humility, Practice, Prayer, Quotes, Red Letter Christians, Relationships, Responsibility, Simplicity, Spirituality

Hidden Gems

“When you looked at me

your eyes imprinted your grace in me;

for this you loved me ardently;

and thus my eyes deserved

to adore what they beheld in you. . . .”

Let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty.

—John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” stanzas 32, 36

This was in my email this morning from the Center for Action and Contemplation. Fr. Richard Rohr goes on to share his own paraphrase of John of the Cross’ poem…

“You give a piece of yourself to the other.

You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously).

This allows the other to do the same in return.

You do not need or demand anything back from them,

Because you know that you are both participating

In a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—

One that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness.

(Simply to love is its own reward.)

You accept being accepted—for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever!

This is the key that unlocks everything in me, for others,

and toward God.

So much so that we call it “salvation”!”

I grew up in a religious tradition that often failed to share the words of the early Christian mystics. I wish that I had brought their words to life earlier in my journey with God. Yet, everything comes in its’ right time. For that I am so grateful.

When a Pharisee came to Jesus, he asked the question, “what is the most important commandment?”. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love other as well as you love yourself. These two commandments are the pegs: everything in God’s law and the prophets hang from them.” (Matthew 22. 37-40 (The Message – emphasis mine).

Everything – just do these two and the rest will take care of itself…

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com
Beatitudes, Belief, Christianity, Community, Easter, Faith, Fighting Poverty, Food Justice, Grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Marginalized, Neighbors, Opal's Farm, Prayer, Quotes, Relationships, Resurrection, Social Justice, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch

“The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers with him.” – Clarence Jordan

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com
Acceptance, Belief, Children, Christianity, Community, Consequences, Creation, Culture, Doubt, Emotional Health, Faith, Food Justice, Generations, Grace, Grandchildren, Grief, Hope, Letting Go, Opal's Farm, Persistence, Practice, Prayer, Racism, Relationships, Responsibility, Social Justice, Spirituality, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Volunteers, What Can I Do

Murals and Toads…

It’s been busy the last few days. Spring planting is in full swing at the farm. New areas are being plowed and tilled making for a full acre expansion to Opal’s Farm. Meetings, continuing education classes, and discussion groups have filled my evening schedule. It’s all good stuff, mind you, but then the rain came…

Work is great therapy, but eventually the rain comes. It slows me down long enough for my mind to wander into places I’d rather not visit. Unfortunately, I must. It’s part of the grieving process. I only mention it because I got a text today that Jeremy’s mural at Manana Land will be taken down at the first of April. It’s to be replaced by one of Deborah Peoples, a local candidate for Mayor, to encourage folks to vote. A worthy replacement most times – getting out the vote, even in local elections, is a great endeavor – but not so much right now. I simply don’t want to let go.

Jay Wilkinson’s mural of Jeremy at Hop Fusion Brewery is the one I spend the most time visiting. Jay was Jeremy’s long-time friend and art partner. It means more to me a Jay wasted no time in getting the mural done. It was an incredible effort by someone who knew Jeremy well and painted as such. Still, I drive by the one at Manana Land on the way home some days and wave hello to my son. I won’t be able to do that much longer.

I didn’t want to hear that right now. I’ve been a ball of feelings the last couple of weeks. I’m not even sure how to label them as they change so rapidly. Grief is like that. I’d love to define them and to put them into words, but everything seems to fall short – shallow and meaningless.

The other day I was out at the farm. Roman, our Volunteer Coordinator was out there with me. He tilled one last row before he headed on to other obligations. I stayed behind to seed the newly turned soil. About halfway down the row I saw a toad that had been hit on the shoulder (do frogs have shoulders?) and was bleeding. I took him to the side of the bed and put him in a cool shady spot to rest. When it occurred to me that it might be a fatal wound I began to sob uncontrollably – over a dying toad.

It seemed like it the weeping would never end. What was wrong with me? “It’s a damn frog Greg! Get over it. It’s part of farming, right? He didn’t mean to hurt it. It was an accident.”

I don’t when it happened but suddenly, I realized that the tears weren’t only for some old frog. They were for my son. They were for the folks in line at the food bank up the street. They were for all the broken people in a broken world that no one sees nor tries to help.

They were for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Armaud Aubery, for Tamir Rice, and the list goes on and on and on.

They were for the 500,000 plus people that have died from COVID and the over 81,000 people that died from overdoses in the wear prior to May 2020. The tears were over the families of those lost – the fathers and mothers that lie awake at night, tears rolling down their cheeks, asking God why – why their child, their parent, their brother, or sister.

They were for Sandy Hook, for Columbine, for Parkland and all the schools, places of worship, or public spaces where mass shootings have taken so many.

All of that because of a bleeding Texas Toad…

Sometimes I simply need to let go, to cry it out, and even question the God, the Abba, who loves me more than I can possibly imagine. Why’d you let it get this way? Why, why, why? “My God, why have you forsaken us?

My sobbing eased and the tears began to slow. I slowly gathered myself together and resumed planting. The smell of freshly turned soil filled the air around me. The sun felt a little brighter and warmer. I remembered the days Jeremy came out and worked with me. God, I miss that, but at least I have that memory. My grandkids will soon be out here more when school is out and I get to see Jeremy in them.

My sadness and anger had passed. God didn’t make or let any of this happen. We did. Perhaps that’s where the anger comes from. I’m not doubting God as much as I’m doubting myself and doubting people. People let us all down at some point. That’s what all humans do. No one’s perfect, right?

Then I remember all the people I’ve met along the way that work diligently, often with little or no reward, to make our community a better place. I have faith God will set all things right one day. I dream of the promised “new heaven and new Earth”, but what’s my part today? God can create universes. I’m sure He could straighten this earthly mess out right away, but He invites me to be a part of the solution. He reminds me that we can do this so just do it…

We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things. That is what we are put on the earth for. Solitude with God repairs the damage done by the fret and noise and clamour of the world.”

– Dolores Huerta

I looked back on saw that everything had been planted before the forecasted rain for the next day. I felt strong, no longer defeated, and hopeful. My tears washed away the frustration and grief that had been building up inside. Now I had a little more clarity. Vision returned. All of this because of an old toad…

I walked back to where I had laid the toad. He wasn’t there but I could see a place where he’d burrowed into the planting bed. Maybe it wasn’t a fatal wound after all. He may end up scarred like me, but we’d both be out there doing out part at the farm. That’s all we can do…

Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash

Communication, Community, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Neighbors, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Serenity, Simplicity, Spirituality, Spring, Thoughts From the Porch, Tractors, Transformation, Writing

It’s hard to believe that we were seeing record cold temperatures only a month ago. The last couple of weeks have been in the seventies and even eighties. I sit on the porch at night in shorts and a t-shirt. In the early morning darkness I was greeted by the sound of the Mockingbird outside. The official start to Spring is only four days away. God is good…

The tree next door is in full bloom

I’ve taken to sitting at my desk in the mornings as opposed to the front porch. I am halfway through my fourth week of quitting smoking and the front porch is a bit of a trigger. The double wide patio door is just outside my office though so I still get the morning air when I open the sliding door. It makes for enjoyable quiet time.

Roman’s been hard at work!

I had no idea what I wanted to write about when I started this blog in 2017. Blogging experts said find a niche to write about. Center it around your niche and turn it into a money-making endeavor. I never could figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. How could I find a “niche”?

Most of my career was about doing the work I never intended to do. Trying to gain a father’s acceptance (which was already there regardless of what I did for a living) instead of pursuing one’s own passions have a way of doing that. The downward spiral of alcohol and addiction doesn’t help either.

Over the years I’ve been a Real Estate Investor and Broker, a Process Engineer, an Operations and HR Manager. I’ve drifted through professions. I’ve played rock and roll in the clubs, worked briefly in radio, and DJ’d at sketchy bars. I’ve worked as a bartender and a food server. I’ve worked in manufacturing and construction jobs. From 2006 to 2017 I had my own landscape and remodeling business. Employment options are limited for folks with felonies so starting my own business made perfect sense.

It was a good living, but I knew there was always a nagging feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else with my life. I spent many off and on years in business documentation – writing business plans, employee manuals, training manuals, etc. I had learned to speak “bureaucrat-ese” and proper business writing, using it often in my professional corporate work – and I got good at it. Maybe that was it…

I shut down the business, signed up for a couple of copywriting and marketing courses, and set off to be a writer full-time. I had a few jobs, and I even got paid for writing. I guess that qualified me as a “writer” (Like that makes a difference?).

Unfortunately, I discovered I’m not cut out for the whole copywriting thing, I don’t like trying to manipulate people with the whole marketing deal and I’m a bit of a dinosaur in the corporate world. I still believe in the whole “the customer isn’t always right, but they are always the customer” thing. Customers should be treated accordingly. That’s not always the case anymore.

That’s okay though, because it led to my relationship with Ms. Opal, Unity Unlimited, Inc., and becoming Farm Manager for Opal’s Farm. I’m blessed beyond measure. I get to wake up each morning and go the farm, work hard, and tell the Opal’s Farm story to anyone who’ll listen. I get to be around amazing people. I even get paid for doing what I love and serving others which is the antidote to addiction’s self-obsession – helping others helps me. I’ve found my center, my passion, and God’s direction for my life. If I’ve found a niche, it rests in the fact life is a story – a story about grace I surely don’t deserve and something I could never find on my own despite my best efforts.

The things I’ve learned to blog about over the last three-and-a-half years have little to do with “5 Ways to Success” or “How to Make a Million in a Month by Telling People What They Want to Hear”. They don’t have to do with the number of followers (except the one’s about Opal’s Farm!) or a great comments thread. They don’t require everyone’s approval to prove success. They have to do with the one person who, perhaps only by chance, reads something that helps them to help others. There’s not much money in that, but it’s the success I only dreamed of.

Be patient with others. Sometimes it takes fifty years to figure out what you want to do when you grow up…