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…
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…”