Thoughts From the Porch: Another beautiful Spring Day here in Fort Worth so it’s off to the farm. No time to write this morning. Before I go, I just wanted to say I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We did here at the Joel household! Any time you spend you get to spend a whole weekend with close friends it’s a great weekend!
“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” — Morris Alder
“Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail, love will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace over exploitation and bitterness.” — Desmond Tutu
Easter symbolizes resurrection and rebirth. May we all live as Easter people today.
Thoughts From the Porch: Saturday was Margaret’s
birthday. Yesterday was my oldest son’s birthday. April is a good month! I pay
little attention to the whole horoscope thing, but I sometimes wonder why my
life is filled with so many Aries signs. Could be something to it but who
Sitting on the porch this morning, enjoying the sunrise, I thought back to the day each of my boys were born. My memory isn’t so great anymore. I can’t tell you specifics like the weather and surroundings, unless of course it’s my youngest son. His birth was rather unforgettable. He decided to make his appearance on the very day a hundred-year blizzard hit Denver in 1982. We went to the hospital in a Jeep Wagoneer someone had volunteered to haul the paramedics since the ambulances couldn’t get around. The snow was so deep it took a week to dig out. You don’t forget something like that.
Adrian, my older one, had the misfortune to be born in
Dallas (that’s the only hospital that honored our insurance). We were concerned
that friends and family wouldn’t recognize him as a native Texan and hence, his
birthright. We’re not real sure Dallas is really part of Texas. However, he
overcame that disability in quick fashion. After much legal (and family)
wrangling, his birth certificate mandates his Texas citizenship…
The boys are as different as night and day, and the
differences were apparent early on. The standing joke is that Adrian popped out
of the birth canal asking if he could rest and get something to eat if that was
no problem. He was laid back and easygoing, even as a baby. His brother,
however, was the complete opposite. When he made his appearance almost two
years later, he instantly demanded to be fed and have the nursery redone to
suit his tastes. Anyone who knows them today will see the humor in that.
A father sees their children differently than the rest of
the world sees them. Fathers lack objectivity in the perception of their kids:
every one of them has the best kids in the world. That’s the way it should be.
I don’t want to start an argument with anyone. Please know that since I have
the best kids in the world, that doesn’t mean you don’t. Most of us have a
perception problem when it comes to our children and despite what our culture
tells us, it’s not a competition.
I got to spend some time with Adrian yesterday. That’s
two weekends in a row and that’s a miracle of biblical proportions. He works a
lot and his schedule rarely fits mine. Our times together are few and much
farther between than I like. He recently started dating a young lady who is far
more attractive and interesting than his old man. I appreciate that she
receives more attention than I do. I’d probably be a bit worried if it were
Thank you, Son for a great weekend. I hope you enjoyed your birthday. I know I did. Funny thing is though, I received the birthday gift – getting to spend time with you.
The test of love is in how one relates not to saints and scholars but to rascals — Abraham Joshua Heschel
Thoughts from the Porch: A very happy Monday to everyone! A thunderstorm passed through our little village last night, so I had a bit of time for the porch this morning while waiting for the sun to dry the topsoil a bit. It’s hard to plow mud! I’d prefer the rain waited until we finished the beds for planting, but in North Texas we take what we can get (most of the time anyway…)
Thoughts From the Porch: I survived the Daylight Savings
time change. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this oddity a bit of
history is in order. It seems that the practice came about during World War I to
extend daylight in the Spring and Summer months to conserve coal for the war
effort. It has remained in effect off and on in the years since. While the US
and most European countries observe Daylight Savings Time, most of the rest of
the world does not. I wish we’d get on board with them.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has its benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the longer periods of daylight, especially working on the farm. Unfortunately, it has its drawbacks as well. I don’t simply miss an hour of sleep. I tend to lose a whole day. Maybe it’s best that it falls on a Sunday since I can always take a nap.
The Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic says the effects of time change last more than one day though. The effects last five to ten days. Since DST happens twice a year, almost a month is affected. It not only alters sleep patterns, it leads to memory and learning problems, increased heart attack or stroke risks, poor social interaction, and affects overall cognitive performance. If I’m having cognitive issues today, I at least have a temporary excuse. I’m not sure what I can say about the other eleven months…
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has its benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the longer periods of daylight, especially working on the farm. Unfortunately, it has its drawbacks as well. I don’t simply miss an hour of sleep. I tend to lose a whole day. Maybe it’s best that it falls on a Sunday since I can always take a nap. The Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic says the effects of time change last more than one day though. The effects last five to ten days. Since DST happens twice a year, almost a month is affected. It not only alters sleep patterns, it leads to memory and learning problems, increased heart attack or stroke risks, poor social interaction, and affects overall cognitive performance. If I’m having cognitive issues today, I at least have a temporary excuse. I’m not sure what I can say about the other eleven months…
The cognitive issues were obvious this morning. I had a
great morning on the porch. Margaret is still sleeping so I extended my porch
time today. A lone Mockingbird serenaded me from the top of the street lamp;
announcing the coming Spring in song. He (or his kids) always show up when everything
gets ready to bloom and hangs around until the following Winter. I was so excited
I came to write about him and my morning thoughts. I did so until I hit something
on the keyboard that deleted my whole story. Definitely a cognitive issue!
Ss here I sit rewriting this morning’s post. I’m extremely
aware of my occasional Attention Deficit Disorder on mornings like this. I’m
not sure I remember what I wrote in the first place. “Squirrel!” Don’t laugh.
Some of you know exactly what I mean. Oh, I remember now…
I got to spend some time with my brother Craig this weekend.
I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. I’m often asked why our mother
would name us Craig and Greg, so let me explain.
About eleven years ago, I suffered a couple of cerebral hemorrhages
that left me unable to work. Without health insurance or income, I ended up
losing my house after several months and was staring at imminent homelessness.
I frantically searched for housing programs for people in my position but had
found nothing by move-out day. My friend Craig (he wasn’t my brother yet, but I’ll
explain that in a bit) offered to let me stay at his place for a couple of
weeks while I looked for housing. I left five years later…
Craig and I spent our mornings on his porch or in his
workshop having coffee, praying together, and talking. After a couple of weeks,
Craig asked if I wanted to be his roommate. The coming years led to so much
Men do not often have the kind of relationship Craig and I
have. I have good friends. My parents have passed away, but I have family: my
sister and her family in Georgia whom I love dearly. Still, the bond Craig and
I have is beyond mere friends. I think it hit home when Craig gave me a tobacco
pipe that he handmade in the shop (he’s amazingly talented with wood). I still
have the note that accompanied his gift. It’s taped to my desk so it’s the
first thing I see when I sit down to write. It says,
“Like David and
Jonathan, you are my best friend. This pipe is a token of my love for you.
Enjoy it my friend.”
Before David became the King of Israel, he had come to live
in then King Saul’s house. Jonathan, the King’s son, felt an immediate bond
with David and they became fast friends. King SauI and David went on to become
enemies, but it never changed the friendship between David and Jonathan. Samuel
18 tells us that Jonathan was “totally
committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate
and friend.” Later, “Jonathan, out of
his deep love for David, made a covenant with him. He formalized with solemn gifts:
his own royal robe and weapons…”
I know how richly I’m blessed to have my relationship with Craig. Many people, especially men, fail to foster such deep relationships with others. I won’t pretend to know all the answers why. I’m no relationship expert. Still, I’m filled with gratitude for one who has gone beyond friend to my brother. In the five years that I lived at Craig’s house , we never had a cross word with one another. Not to avoid conflicts, mind you. Peace and serenity are the natural by-products and love and respect.
My sister and I are both adopted. We know what it is to have
a family desire and love you so deeply that you become part of them. I was in
my fifties before I knew that I had an adopted brother. We may not share the same
parents, but we share the same Spirit. I’ve got the pipe to prove it…
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s frigging cold! I huddled over
the trusty old desk in a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, and the space heater
turned on high as close as I can get it without burning myself. Did I ever
mention my office is the coldest room in the house?
Our home was built in the 1960s. Back then, builders in
North Texas weren’t concerned with energy efficiency and insulation. Since
Margaret and I moved in we’ve made improvements slowly as the money has come.
Rare cold days like today put a strain on the heater and thus my office is
simply damn cold. Anyway, the rant is over. On to other things…
Experience has taught me to look for the positive in every situation, albeit hard at times. It’s usually easier after the fact. I may be wrong, but I believe it was Steve Jobs who said something to the effect that “life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood looking backward”.
There are times when our ability to believe a lie is a
positive thing. My wife has dealt with back issues and chronic pain for most of
her life. She’s had many surgeries and some post-operative infections over the
years. The doctors have often given little hope of keeping her out of a wheelchair
and are always surprised when we walk into a new appointment. Her philosophy
through out her lifetime has been “don’t tell me what I can’t do”.
Doctors base their truth on the evidence at hand. We tend to
call it an opinion rather than a truth, but it’s an opinion based on facts. The
facts indicate Margaret should not be ambulatory, but don’t tell her that. She doesn’t
believe it. She pushes through and is still, albeit with a cane, walking today.
Her refusal to accept the facts lead her to live a better life and she’s not
Whether you believe man left a garden, or the African savannah
doesn’t really matter. Either way, I can imagine those early humans sitting
around the tribal campfire after a long day of hunting and gathering. Autumn
has set in. There’s a chill in the night air. As they laugh and chat about
their day, a flight of geese heading south for the winter passes overhead.
One of the guys looks up and says, “I wish I could fly south
and get away from this winter. Maybe I can find a way to do just that”. His
other buddies crack up with laughter and tell him how goofy he is. He becomes
the object of ridicule. After all, man doesn’t have wings and can’t fly like a
Fast forward many centuries to the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci is busy drawing a flying machine. Man is still thinking of ways to “head south for the winter”, to fly like bird. If you fast forward to a hill at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and the Wright Brothers finally the first airplane flight. Just a few decades later and we’re walking on the moon. Go figure…
Now the truth is man can’t fly. No matter how fast one runs
across the meadow flapping man-made wings, they fail miserably. I know. I tried
it, but that was back in the seventies and involved hallucinogens which is
another story all together. The fact, the truth, is that man can’t fly.
Before you deem me simple of mind take a moment to think about it. Have you ever known a man to fly? I haven’t but I have seen man create new and better airplanes and forms of flying machines. They fly; sometimes without a human pilot aboard. I know it’s all semantics, right? Still, I’m thankful old Wilbur and Orville believed in the lie that man could fly. Because of their belief in a lie, I can hope a jet for Jamaica in the winter (which I really wish I were able to do today…), soak up the sun, and take a dip in tropical waters. You see, there’s something positive in everything.
By now you’re probably asking what this has to do with “Us”
and “Them”. The truth is humans were created to live in community, to live life
together, and what’s inside each of
us is inside all of us. This sounds
so cliché, so trite, but it’s the truth. The truth is there is no “them”, there’s
My friend Edgar always said, “Show me how you act, and I’ll tell you what you believe”. If I believe the “Them” lie, I can justify all kinds of bad behavior toward others. My belief system is faulty. I believe a lie. Sometimes I think it’s easier to be a duck, but I’m not, so today I’ll try to be the best “Us” I can be and act accordingly.
What do you believe?
“Show me how you act and I’ll tell you what you believe…”
Thoughts From the Porch: I intended to spend the weekend catching up on all the outdoor stuff I’d put off due to last week’s weather. I ended up cleaning house and spending time with my oldest granddaughter instead. The house was a disaster from a wet week (three big dogs make for three times the mess) so I spent Saturday with broom, mop, and vacuum cleaner. Sunday had big plans, but they were cast aside when I was able to spend time with Baillie. She’s a freshman in college and we don’t get to see each other as much.
thought about Baillie a lot over the last few weeks and especially this
morning. It’s hard to believe the same little girl who rode in my old work
truck to church with me every week is now a beautiful young college student. It’s
so cliché to say, “it seems like yesterday when we (fill in the blank)”, but that’s
the way it is. It was four trucks and a lifetime ago.
originally sat down to write a Monday morning treatise on grace. My mind was
full of all kinds of theologically deep thoughts about “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration
or sanctification” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary – italics mine). Fortunately, my
mind kept going back to my sweet granddaughter and the grace that’s filled our
Baillie was three or four, I was told that I’d never be a part of my
granddaughter’s life. My life was a mess; a tornado roaring through the lives
of everyone I touched. Looking back, I can’t argue with those who kept me away
from her. Fortunately, things began to change around the time she turned five:
I found recovery from the hopeless state of mind that made up my life. I found
love to tell you of this magical, mystical moment when I latched on to the wellspring
of grace and life changed, but I can’t. It was a process of receiving and
accepting progressively deeper levels of grace – from God and my fellows. Over
time, I’ve come to realize that all
is grace. My life has changed; has been transformed.
relationship I have with my granddaughter today is a constant reminder of the
grace, and subsequent gratitude, that fills my life. I still remember the first
time she came to spend Christmas with me. Those early visits were often short
but the highlight of my day. Weeks passed and the visits became more frequent.
Months later, we were off together in my old truck, laughing and spending days
have changed through the years. She’s graduated high school, works hard in
college, and has a host of friends her age that she hangs out with. Even though
time our time together has become less frequent, it’s become more valuable. I’m
always amazed and incredibly grateful when she comes running up to hug me and
spend time with Pops. Grace is an amazing thing.
convinced that those who have experienced the depths of God’s grace and the
love of a child understand grace better than most. They rely on it and their lives
are transformed. Their lives overflow with grace and gratitude and it touches
everything around them. That’s been my experience anyway.
wish you all a grace-filled Monday; grace that pours out into the world. I’m
off to my granddaughter’s house…