Thoughts From the Porch: The wind is a bit frisk this
morning, but all is well on the porch. It’s still too wet to work on the farm
so I’m enjoying the quiet solitude of our little cul-de-sac and my second pot
Today is Good Friday. I’ve always been curious how it came to be called “Good” Friday. I get the idea that Jesus’ crucifixion led to a Good Sunday (Easter), but there’s really nothing good about hanging someone on a cross. Maybe Christians would do well to change their iconography for the cross to a stone. I’d rather constantly remember the resurrection than a barbaric and humiliating form of capital punishment. I want to be a resurrection disciple.
Those who have experienced God’s grace on a deep level
tend to be aware of the price paid for their redemption. They know spiritual
death. They know what the proverbial “end of the rope” is. They know what it’s
like to have nowhere and no human being to turn to. They know that accepting
God’s grace is the only thing that
will bring us back to life and there’s no doubt how costly that grace was and is.
They eagerly cling to Easter and resurrection.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to stay stuck on the crucifixion,
to live in the past, and forget that the real joy in life comes from the
resurrection. God did, and does, the impossible. He often does for us what we
cannot, and sometimes will not, do for ourselves. That’s where the real power
lies. Not in the cross, but in the rolled-away stone…
“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. John 10.10 (The Message)
Today, I’m living in the present, enjoying the
resurrected life I’ve been given…
“Yes, all the things I thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant”. Phillipians 3.8 (The Message)
Thoughts From the Porch:
Wednesday is my busy day, especially at the end of the month. I have a group
meeting every Wednesday morning and try to schedule as many meetings as
possible on that day, so I have more time available at Opal’s Farm the rest of
the week. The last Wednesday of the month is the Grow Southeast meeting and a
chance to work with other urban farms and growers.
Our Wednesday morning meeting, Fort Worth Development Group, is a group seeking to “bridge the gap between ministry and business through cultivating meaningful relationships in the workplace: allowing our character and integrity tom minister God’s love to others through our daily business practices.”
I attended the first time
thinking it was another ‘networking’ group. Networking does take place. That
tends to happen whenever business people are gathered together. However, it’s
far more than that. That’s why it’s a development group. Each quarter we have a
theme that guides our speaking and discussions. This quarter that theme has
been gratitude. The coming quarter will be on grace. It seems you can’t really
have one without the other. Grace and gratitude have this whole “chicken and
egg” thing going on. I’m not always positive which came first…
Next week, I’ll be
delivering the ‘Hot Topic’ on grace. I’ve submitted a title and catchy tagline
for my talk (after all, business appreciates good content). It’s called “Simply
Grace – 100% natural with no additives”. I have about 15 to 20 minutes to speak
on grace. One of the most difficult things I’ve done is try to squeeze grace
into 20 minutes. I have a newfound respect for the preachers I’ve heard speak
on the subject. God forbid they go past 20 to 30 minutes and make their
worshippers late for lunch…
I’ve spent a lot of time
preparing for next week. I’ve finally managed to get my ideas within the time
limit but believe me, it hasn’t been easy because everything in my life; every
action, every deed, and every experience is about grace.
The older I get and the
deeper my relationship with God becomes the more I realize just how much grace
I’ve received. My successes and my failures have taught me that grace is
enough, and everything is grace – “an unmerited gift”.
Some of you know exactly
where I’m coming from. Experience has taught me that a simple prayer, “God,
help me”, opens the door to receive the grace that was waiting there all along.
Ironically, it was grace that my prayer possible. I couldn’t even muster up the
strength to do that on my own.
Life has since become a
process of learning to accept the grace I’ve been so freely given. Gratitude,
the natural consequence of accepting and living a “grace-full” life. Gratitude
makes it easier to set aside old mental tapes and put to death the tired, old
lie of self-sufficiency. I see clearly the importance of my fellows and the
value of each and every individual I meet. Through gratitude I’m able to share
the grace that was so freely given to me.
That’s not to say that I
still don’t have my moments: moments when all thought of God’s marvelous gift
of grace takes a backseat to my worries and problems. I have moments of self-absorption
and self-centered expectations, of myself and others. I still have times when I
feel woefully inadequate and undeserving of grace. I always seem to come around
though. You see, I am undeserving of
God’s grace (Heck, I’m undeserving of grace from most people if I’m honest
about it). There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn it. If it could be
earned, it wouldn’t be grace. Funny how that works…
I’m fortunate to have
daily reminders of God’s grace. I have an amazing family. I get to work with
some truly awesome people in my business and with Opal’s Farm. I’m not confused
by these reminders. I surely didn’t deserve them. Quite frankly, I’m in awe
that I’m even still around. Self-care was not something I was big on until late
in life. Some of you know what I mean. I’ve heard it said that God has a big
heart for kids and fools. I often fall into the latter category, in case you’re
Before I proceed with today’s post I want to wish my bride a very Happy Anniversary! I am one of the most blessed men in the world. When I was single, I didn’t think life could get much better. I was happy and content. My life was full, it was good, but it changed for the better on March 2nd, 2013. I love you, Margaret!
This morning I’m awaiting what hopefully will be the last
hard freeze of the winter. I’m enjoying the forty-degree weather in anticipation
of the arrival of our Arctic neighbor sometime this evening with its accompanying
wind chills in single digits. It looks like coveralls and wool hats are the
proper attire for the next couple of days.
I try to stay away from my newsfeed on the weekend. It’s
often difficult given my news addiction. I’ve tried to practice moderation in
viewing such things, but I always look despite my best efforts. I feel like the
rubber-neckers on the freeway when there’s an especially bad accident. I just have
My friend Jim used to tell me that, “when you get hit by a
train it’s not the caboose that kills you”. My newsfeeds a bit like that train.
Usually it’s one of those positive stories like people being kind toward
strangers or animals that draws me in and then BAM! I’m confronted with the
chaos that makes up the news. After all, I live in Trump’s America. Enough
What really puzzles me is that, first, he actually won the election and two, that some
people actually believe him. It got me thinking about human nature and an
interview I heard the other day about animal consciousness and self-awareness.
You’re probably wondering how we got here from news addiction, but stick with
I’ve often pondered what separates humans from the rest of the
animal kingdom. I’ve heard all the theories – free will, self-awareness, etc. –
and seen them cast aside by new evidence. Now I’m no expert or scientist, but I
often wonder if the main difference is that humans can believe a lie,
especially one about themselves. Hear me out here…
It began at the dawn in human history, at least that what the creation story tells us. It seems that God, the great cosmic artist, was extra busy one week (at least in His concept of time) and started creating this thing called a universe. There were stars and galaxies, planets and moons, and all kinds of beauty in the heavens. The cherubim and seraphim oohed and aahed at the artistry, but He wasn’t done yet.
He picked one particular planet (that we know of anyway) to
make oceans and mountains, savannahs and thick forests, all kinds of unique plants
and animals. The angelic hosts were astounded by the majesty of the blue whales,
the brilliance of the reef fish, and cunning of the sea otters. They laughed at
the giraffes and the platypus and wondered what lit this creative fire in the
Big Guy. After a few days of sculpting God announced that the grand finale
would be tomorrow, and He wouldn’t disappoint.
The dawn of the sixth day broke. All the heavenly host
gathered round. A hush fell over the crowd as God reached down and grabbed a
handful of dirt. He spit on the mound of dirt and slowly began shaping and
turning the wet pile. After some time, He closed his hand, cleared his throat,
and addressed the assembly.
“Can I have your
attention please? I decided to create a creature in our image, one to love and take
care of the rest of creation, and I’d like you all to help him out. Can you do
that?”. Heads nodded in agreement and the anticipation was overwhelming.
God slowly opened His hand. “Behold, Homo Sapiens”!
A collective gasp resounded through the crowd. Some of the
less reverent Cheribum snickered, wondering if this was another of the Boss’
jokes. Everywhere else there was stunned silence. The Archangel Gabriel leaned
over to his cohort Michael and whispered, “He must’ve been working too hard.
What was He thinking? This thing is next to worthless. Look at it, it doesn’t
have claws or fangs and it obviously can’t run fast with just two legs. How will
it survive out there?”
Even Jesus was heard to remark, “I don’t get it but if Dad
asked me to die for them I would”.
Now I’m no theologian, but I think it’s at this point Satan
turned in his keys to the executive heavenly washroom and stormed off mumbling “I’d
rather be a snake in the grass than help those things out”. More on that later…
God leaned back on his heavenly throne and pronounced His
creation was finished and it was good, not perfect, but good.
Fast forward a bit and God decides it isn’t good for His man
Adam to be alone, so He knocks him out, takes a rib, and forms a woman for him
to hang out with. Then He puts them in a garden, so they have a great place to live
and all their needs are met.
Now if I’m Adam, I have it pretty good. I get to frolic
around naked with this gorgeous woman called Eve and hang out with God in the
evenings. There’s no such thing as shame or guilt. I can pretty much do
anything I want to except eat off this one tree. Talk about paradise…
Everything is going long fine. Adam’s off doing whatever Adam
did back then. Eve’s lounging in the shade when a snake slithers up and strikes
up a conversation. Now a talking snake might have set of warning lights for
most folks, but Eve didn’t think anything about it.
“S-s-s-o Eve, how do you like the garden?”, the serpent
“This place is pure heaven”, she replied. “Every day is a new
“I-m s-s-s-sure it is”, he hissed. “Well, I best be on my
“Wait, snake. Are you hungry? Want to join me in a little
“What are we having?”, he asked as he turned back toward
“I don’t know. There’s so much to choose from. What’s your
“How about some of that fruit there?” he asked excitedly.
“Oh, not that one. God said we can eat anything except fruit
from that tree”, Eve replied innocently.
“I’m not s-s-s-surprised”, said the serpent. “It’s just like
God to keep you away from that one. He doesn’t want any competition”.
“Competition. What do you mean?” Eve was puzzled.
“It’s obvious isn’t it? That fruit will make you like God.
No wonder he made it off limits. Oh well, I got to go”, and he slithered off
into the underbrush.
Eve pondered his words and a frown came on her face and an
irritability she hadn’t experienced before. She wasn’t happy and it probably
had something with being told no. She looked at the fruit and turned to look
for Adam. She was overcome with desire and indecision.
Please understand I’m not here to expound on ‘original sin’,
assign blame to Eve, or any of that stuff, but I have a pretty good idea what
happened next. Adam came back and wondered why Eve looked so different. He wasn’t
sure what to think, but he somehow knew he had to fix it. Men have been trying
to ‘fix’ things ever since.
To make a long story short, they discussed what the snake
had said and made a decision to “just take a bite” and see what happened. Man
has been trying to be “God” all through history.
I don’t know which was worse – eating the forbidden fruit or
believing they could become like gods. In either case, the results are the same:
paradise is lost, living in the real world is often difficult, and the human
possess the ability to believe in something that just isn’t true. I’m just
3a: a charming or attractive
trait or characteristic”
Grace. Do I really believe it’s possible to receive “unmerited divine assistance”? Do I really believe that I’ve been granted “approval, favor, mercy, and pardon”; that somehow, I’ve received “a special favor”? Do I show a “disposition to kindness, courtesy, or clemency”? Is grace the “attractive trait or characteristic” of my life?
Thoughts From the Porch:
It’s been a gray, dreary, and cold weekend here in North Texas. There were
rumors of sleet around us, but here in Fort Worth it was a constant drizzle. I
spent several winters in the Colorado High Country and I’ve never felt the cold
like I do here. It’s the kind of bone-piercing cold that feels like thousands
of tiny needles poking you all at once. Of course, I’m much older now and maybe
it was simply youthful exuberance that made the cold more bearable. Today is to
be warmer and it’ll be seventy in the next couple of days. I’ll quit
I had to run to the grocery store yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t nearly as busy as usual. Everyone must have opted for Netflix binging rather than dealing with the weather. When I got home, I paused on the porch to enjoy what gray light remained of the day. I’d love to tell how I got tom enjoy the quiet at the end of a long, dismal day, but that wasn’t the case. The caterwauling of hundreds of Grackles in the surrounding trees put an end to any idea of quiet enjoyment of the porch. It was so deafening I couldn’t even hear my inner voice, much less the next-door neighbor saying hello as he walked to his vehicle.
Some of you might be
unfamiliar with Grackles, so allow me to explain. The “Great-tailed” or
“Mexican” Grackle is a medium-size bird originally native to Central America.
According to Wikipedia, they’ve increased their range by over 5500% and can be
found through much of the United States. I’m convinced however, that the
greatest concentration of them are in my trees…
I don’t wish to offend
bird lovers, but I don’t like Grackles. If we lived outside the city limits, I
would have no problem declaring open season with the shotgun. Don’t get me
wrong. I love birds. They bring color and song to our quiet little cul-de-sac. Grackles,
not so much. They are, like city pigeons, flying rats. Noisy, flying rats…
Please don’t judge me if
you’ve never experienced a flock of Grackles. They are incredible foragers and
they have little fear of humans. They mock efforts to shew them away. They fly
together in huge flocks, often darkening the sky and even been known to interfere
Several years ago, the
Grackle problem got so bad in downtown Fort Worth that a noise cannon could be
heard going off in hopes of driving them out of the city center. Sundance
Square, the jewel in the crown of Downtown Cowtown, was so noisy and covered in
bird droppings it was difficult to find a safe place to sit and enjoy a summer
evening outdoors. The city sought to drive them away lest they deter commerce
and conspicuous consumption. Unfortunately, they ended up in quiet little
neighborhoods like ours. You wouldn’t believe I wash my vehicles and sidewalk
That being said, I
noticed something somewhat unique to our Grackle population. They were all
yelling (it can’t really be called ‘singing’) over one another creating
incredible dissonance when all the sudden it was eerily quiet. I’m not talking
about the noise fading out. It was as if someone yelled, “lights out” and the
entire flock stopped at once. It went from a din to silence in the flick of a
switch. Looking up I couldn’t see a one.
I guess I’m a bit
simple. Little things really intrigue me. The Grackles may be flying rats but
they’re awesome flying rats. Now I know there’s several scientific and
biological reasons for their unique abilities, but to go from unbearable
dissonance to complete silence in a second is pretty darn awesome. It’s not as
though there were a few birds here. We’re talking about a flock of hundreds of
birds acting as one. Sometimes I wish people were like that…
I sit at my newsfeed
every morning, only to be greeted with all the dissonance around me. Everyone
yelling at everyone else. Everyone shouting how right they are. Everyone
screeching to be heard. Everyone screaming out for their self-interests. Sounds
a lot like the Grackles to me.
Imagine if whole
neighborhoods, whole communities, acted as one. You know, for the best interest
of the ‘flock’. Imagine if my selfishness was replaced by concern for my neighbor,
my community, heck, for my planet. Imagine if, instead of yelling to be heard,
everyone got quiet together, changed the manner of discourse and talked to one
another. I don’t really expect it to happen, but what if…
You’re right, I’m a
dreamy-eyed idealist. Maybe the world needs more idealists. It tends to get
beaten out of children in favor of being a practical, rational adult. It’s a
little ironic that Jesus said we should “become like little children” if we
really wanted to live out the Kingdom of God. Like John Lennon sang, “People say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not
the only one…”
Thoughts From the Porch: I try to avoid writing on Saturdays. I really do. I try to avoid anything having to do with work or sitting in front of the computer so I can tinker about the house. I believe in “Sabbath” rest. Ironically, rest seems more work at the time. I’m not good at it yet…
Here in Fort Worth, the Stock Show and Rodeo is going into its second week. I was coming home from the farm on Interstate 30 and saw the long line of trucks and livestock trailers waiting to exit and set up shop. Most of the trailers were marked with various Future Farmers of America (FFA) signs from various small towns in the area. Someone unfamiliar with rural life won’t appreciate it the way many of us in Cowtown do.
Every time the Stock Show comes
around, I spend more time than usual thinking about Mom and Dad. After Dad
died, my brother-in-law finally accepted a job promotion in Atlanta. My sister’s
family moved off to Georgia and I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like. He’s
since retired, and they built a house on some acreage outside a small rural
town near the Alabama-Georgia state line. I’m so thankful for cell phones and
email even if their reception is sometimes spotty.
She emailed me a song a few
days ago that really hit home, especially now. “Beat up Bible” must have been
written about Mom and Dad. I wanted to share the link https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JvPBUH65EzI.
hope it brings the same joy, the same sweet memories to you.
No family is perfect. I butted heads with Mom and Dad often. I had to work through some resentments I had held onto over silliness on my part. I’m so grateful that those things were worked out when Mom passed. They weren’t when Dad died in 2002. Grief changes us, at least it did me. I’ve since come to a place of peace. My heart is refreshed by knowing my father was the best example of God’s love here in this place. Walking through my grief has left me with only the wonderful memories of the parents I love so much.
In his latter years, Dad would
sit on the back porch with me and share about our family. He grew up without a
father in his life. I think that’s why my own failed marriage worried him so
much. He missed having his dad there. Maybe that’s why he was so good at loving
my sister and me. I’d like to think so…
My sister and I are both adopted.
Mom and Dad never ceased to remind us of how special and how loved we were. We
were wanted desperately. I know today that I was blessed far beyond anything I
could imagine having the parents I did. That isn’t always the case for everyone…
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the
song. I hope it brings back happy memories. If it doesn’t, I hope it helps you
make happy memories for your kids. Happy Saturday everyone!
Thoughts from the Porch: We had another Arctic visitor yesterday. It’s the time of the year for frequent, though thankfully short-lived, visitations from our far northern neighbors. I awoke to a chill in the house. When the wind chill drops the thermometer, our heater takes a while to catch up in the morning. Jumping out of a cozy, warm bed to shut off the alarm is a bit of a shock on days like these. Such is January in North Texas…
This week was one of the few Wednesday’s
I missed my Fort Worth Development
Group meeting. Ms. Opal and I had a meeting causing a time conflict. The
good news is that I got to spend the drive time with one of my heroes for two
days in a row. That doesn’t happen often enough for me. Sometimes I just need
“Ms. Opal time”.
We were able to spend some time
together yesterday discussing business and having good conversation. I brag
about Ms. Opal only because she lives the kind of life that I hope to lead: one
full of love and service for others. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so
passionate about Opal’s Farm. It’s a reflection of the loving service of Ms.
Opal and the realization of a dream and doing something tangible for the
We were speaking about the
events of Martin Luther King Day. It’s not simply a commemoration of Dr. King,
but a National Day of Service as well. She told me that, according to the Fort
Worth Star Telegram, over 800 people showed up at her small church to meet
prior to going out and serving various non-profits throughout Tarrant County.
Over 800 people giving up their day off to serve others!
Many of you know that I’m a bit
of a politics junkie. I usually spend some time on the newsfeed after my
morning quiet time. Sometimes I’m not sure why I do. It’s a long string of
cultural insanity, full of stories of human suffering, violence, and
hatefulness, particularly as it pertains to our current administration in
Washington, D.C. While it usually spurs me on to action, it’s often
overwhelming and leaves me feeling a bit hopeless. The future is bleak at
Then I read or hear things like
800 people that gave their time to serve others. Despite all the negativity
that bombards us about society, there is an amazing amount of goodness out
there. I forget that sometimes…
It reminds me of the biblical
story of the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. It seems that speaking the truth to a
corrupt King wasn’t a good idea, even if it was the right thing to do. In fact,
the King was so angry he put a price on Elijah’s head. Poor Elijah ran for his
life until he was hiding out in a cave, crying out to God that he was the only
good guy left in the world.
I get it. Doing the right thing
can be tiring at times and it can feel terribly lonely. Frustration keeps me
from seeing any good in the world. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story
for old Elijah. You see, God answered him in a still quiet voice, assuring him
there was still a remnant of good, godly people in Israel: seven thousand to be
exact. He wasn’t alone. It just felt that way.
That isn’t the end of the story
for me, either. I guess that’s why I love my “Ms. Opal Time” so much. She
reminds me of the goodness in people. God hasn’t spoken to me in a cave (at
least not yet), but He always sends me someone like Ms. Opal. I’m not alone. I
know of at least 800 other folks working to make our little world a better