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…
Thoughts From the Porch: I was just looking back over the
last three or four weeks and noted that I haven’t posted much this month. I’ve
tried to keep everyone updated on Opal’s Farm, but I spend far more time at the
farm and less time at the desk (or on the porch). June is an incredibly busy
month for everyone at Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. The Juneteenth
celebrations and programs, harvesting our Spring crops, and preparing for Fall
planting keep us hopping. It has been a fantastic, yet tiring, month.
We’ve been blessed here in North Texas with below average
temperatures and abnormally late rainfall. The Farmer’s Almanac is
predicting rainfall into July, which is extremely rare on the southern plains.
We haven’t even had a one hundred plus degree day yet (I’m knocking on my old
oak desk as you read this). It’s still hot (this is Texas), but the farm
is doing well. We had our first public sale to the neighborhood last Sunday. We
hope to be at the Cowtown Farmer’s Market tomorrow (we’ll keep you posted!).
I was weeding the watermelon and cantaloupe rows yesterday and had to be somewhat gentle in my approach to some tall weeds. Tall weeds, especially the Johnson grass, are the inevitable consequence or good rainfall. Still, I’ll gladly trade tall weeds for abundant amounts of rain.
If you’re familiar with melon vines you know they put out
small tendrils that grab onto anything in their path. The vines were tangled
among many of the weeds making it impossible to remove one without damaging the
other. I decided to let vines go crazy through the weeds rather than damage the
It reminded me of a story Jesus told of a farmer who
planted good seed in his field only to discover someone snuck in during the
night and planted thistles among his wheat. The farmhands wondered how to resolve
this dilemma. The head farmer told them to leave it alone. If they tried to
remove the thistles, they’d pull up the wheat as well. “Let them grow
together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvester to pull up the
thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it
in the barn” (Matthew 13. 29-30, The Message).
Jesus said God’s kingdom is like that. The good (wheat,
or in my case, melons) are often intertwined with the bad (the thistles and Johnson
grass). Sometimes I simply accept that my field, and my life, are filled with both
good and bad things, but the end always results in a harvest. If I don’t try to
have my way (I don’t like weeds, nor do I wish the discomfort of the negative
things in life) it seems the harvest is always bountiful. Opal’s Farm is a
reminder that watermelons and cantaloupes always win out over thistles and
Johnson grass. I just have to take gentle care of the field…
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…”