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A Vision Check Up

I have “senior moments” – those times of forgetfulness that are becoming all-too frequent as I get older. I’ve tried organizing my life with lists, calendars, and self-help books on ordering my world. Unfortunately, I usually forget where I put the list, leave the calendars on my desk, and the books find their way back to the shelf in favor one something more compelling. I need to apologize for my forgetfulness; more often than I care to admit.

Fortunately, the “to Do” lists still get done, I manage to get to the necessary appointments on the calendar, and I constantly re-read books I already have which cuts down the cost of new ones (I’m blessed to have an extensive library). I’ve found that repeated reading shines new light on things. I see it differently than I did and often, I find things I never saw before.

I was talking to my friend Charlie the other day about one of the miracles mentioned in the Gospels called “The Feeding of the Five Thousand”, and the one most people are familiar with. I’ve read the story hundreds of times over my life, but Charlie shared a perspective I’ve never thought about – the miracle of self-lessness.

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the miracles found in each of the Gospels. Each of the authors found this to be important. My favorite, and the one that started my discussion with Charlie, is from the Book of John, Chapter 6:

“After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee… the crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick…

When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Phillip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Phillip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do.

Phillip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”

One of the disciples – it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter – said, “There’s a little boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down “… about five thousand of them. The Jesus took the bread, and having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.

When the people had eaten their fill, he said to the disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets from the five barley loaves.” (John 6.1-13 The Message – paraphrase mine)

I’d always believed the miracle was the five loaves and two fishes being enough to feed five thousand people. That certainly is a miracle, but after my conversation with Charlie and a fresh reading of an old story, the real miracle is much deeper than that.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Imagine five thousand hungry people – the other Gospel’s say it was late in the day and the disciples were concerned enough to ask Jesus to send them away. In fact, they interrupted his teaching to bring this matter to his attention. Jesus’ response – “Nope, you feed them.”

I can only imagine the look on Phillip’s face when Jesus handed the problem back to him. He must’ve been thinking Jesus had been in the sun too long. Andrew, ever the one bringing people to Jesus, brings him a young man with 5 loaves and two fishes and says, “This is what we have to work with.” I’d like to think Andrew’s faithfulness came into play, but I have a feeling it was to say “This it. It’s all we could find.”

Traditional teaching focuses on Jesus’ blessing and the multiplication of a miniscule amount of food to feed the crowd but a deeper look reveals an even more miraculous occurrence. A crowd of hungry people take just enough and everyone has their fill.

Let that one sink in a moment. A large crowd of mostly strangers has been out in the sun all day to hear this new prophet. They haven’t eaten all day and suddenly a basket of food comes by. Without ever looking in the basket they take enough and pass it on. Sounds simple enough, right?

The Miracle I Never Noticed

It was a miracle that five thousand hungry people didn’t try to take everything in the basket. Had they looked inside they would have seen the small amount and yet the Gospel writers tell us everyone was fed. They didn’t record any instances of hoarding (they couldn’t say the same of pandemic era consumers!). Everyone passed the basket along. It was assumed there was enough for everyone.

That is a miracle indeed. For a moment in time, no one looked through the lens of scarcity. Jesus’ world was a world of “enough” – enough for me and enough to go around. It runs counter to the prevailing world view of scarcity -get it before it’s all gone. Everyone should have a slice of the pie, but there’s never enough pie. Even if there is, my slice needs to be bigger than your slice. Economists call this capitalism, which is a fancy, more politically correct way of saying selfish and self-centered.

That’s why I’m captivated by stories of people who step out of “scarcity” and into “enough”. Scarcity demands competition. It separates and divides people into “Us” and “Them”. It’s credo of “Do unto others before they do unto you” sows seeds of superiority and distrust. Fear is at its root and discord, violence, and strife are its fruit. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all of the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion (can anyone say TV evangelism and prosperity gospel… my thoughts added); paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming, yet never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on”. (Galatians 5.16-20 The Message)

“Enough” on the other hand, drives people to be self-less and kind towards everyone. “Enough” says just that – enough – “there’s enough to go around so why don’t I enjoy what’s here and pass some of it along to someone else who really needs it?” Again, the Apostle Paul says it much more eloquently than I:

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a basic conviction that holiness permeates (all) things and (all) people (even those we don’t like or don’t like us… my thoughts again added…). We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”  Galatians 6.22-23 (The Message)

“Enough” is the lens through which we see the world as it was meant to be. “Enough” is God’s gift to His kids.

Sometimes I forget to put on my new glasses, or the lenses get fogged up with “stuff” (a nice word for fear and worry) and I begin to see a hostile world of scarcity out there. Sometimes I forget for a long while. I make myself miserable until I remember my new lenses and my vision becomes clearer.

For example – when I came to work at Opal’s Farm and Unity Unlimited, Inc. I quit taking new clients in my writing business. The farm would take all my time to make it successful. I had a contract salary with Unity, but I also knew that there was little to no funds for the farm. As Ms. Opal often reminds me – “we’ve done so much for so long with so little that we can do anything with nothing”. Donations and consequently, my salary were small and intermittent for the first year.

My wife and I are fortunate enough to have retirement income. It covers our living expenses – sometimes – but we count on my work to provide for the shortfalls with our bills. We burned through what little savings we had those first few months. By October that first year I finally had nothing to pay the mortgage with. I was in a deep depression. I was sure I’d made the wrong decision and announced to my wife one evening that I had really screwed up, that I should give up a go get a job that paid even if it paid a little. Her response threw me a little…

“Greg, we prayed about this, and I know this is where God wants you to be.”

“I know, but (another case of being a know-it-all and a “but” head as my friend Jim would say) is we don’t pay the house payment tomorrow they’re going to start foreclosure’. Where will we go then?”

She was silent for a moment. “You’re right, but we’ll go somewhere. Why don’t you give it one more month and we’ll decide then.”

“Okay, but we’ve got to do something, and I don’t see anything we can do (echoes of the disciple Phillip?)”.

I didn’t sleep well that night – there was too much on my mind – but I got up, dressed, and off to the farm. The phone rang as I drove (Relax folks, I have a hands free phone system). It was our Executive Director, Dione. “Guess what? We just received a grant from one of our donors. Come by my office today and pick up a check.” When I got there, I was in shock. The check was just enough to pay all our bills through the end of the year.

I got home, shared the joyous news with Margaret, and went back outside to have a little chat with God. I had to confess my thickheadedness and distrust. After all, how many times in life have I been on the receiving line of blessings I most certainly don’t deserve (It’s that thing called grace). In hindsight I know that God has had my back 100% of the time. I told God, “I get it. I won’t worry about how we’re going to make it anymore.”

I haven’t worried about the bank balance since that October night three years ago. Somehow there’s always enough – the bills get paid, seed gets planted, and crops grow (rinse and repeat). We don’t have all the things I used to think we wanted, but we live simply, have everything we need, our home is peaceful, and life’s storms just don’t seem that bad anymore (Yes, Virginia, it still gets stormy…).

How do you see the world – through scarcity (there’s never enough) or through God’s “enough”? When we have enough,” we always have “enough” to share. If you have “enough” already, please be sure to pass it on. If you don’t, give me a call. I bet we can do a better job on those lenses if we work together…

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We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

– Mother Teresa

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Paradise Found…

It’s been a busy week at Opal’s Farm and getting busier! The North Texas temperatures have finally started to drop. Many of our Fall crops had to wait for the nights to cool down for proper germination and some that were already in succumbed to the ninety-plus days that hung on until this week. Now we’re in speed planting mode!

We stop periodically to take in the beauty of our little paradise right here in the middle of the city. We got a new neighbor earlier in the Spring. A hawk made its nest in the big oak tree just above the levee. He’s visited frequently, often perching on the tractor bucket as if to say, “What’s up?”. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by us and we love having him around. We haven’t had birds pecking the tomatoes this summer and the field rats aren’t as active with nature’s pest control about.

We need to give him a name! Any suggestions?

The peas and tomatoes are full and lush despite the lingering August heat. The buckwheat has attracted a plethora of bees.  If we find ourselves getting a bit worn out by all the work the Moonflower blossoms stop us with their beauty. Sometimes you can’t even hear the cars on I-30 and I-35. The peace of at Opal’s Farm quiets the noise everything seems right with the world…

We’ve been blessed with some fantastic volunteers over the last couple of weeks. Thank you to the Young Adults from First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. You made the furrows weed-free!

We’d love to have you come out and see (and feel) why the farm is so special to us and our community. It’s not just the delicious, fresh, local produce we grow that makes Opal’s Farm special. It’s the one place you can find a quiet spirit and meet great neighbors. Come and see for yourself!

One last thing – North Texas Giving Day is coming on September 23rd. Look for Unity Unlimited, Inc. and give on this special day! Early giving is now open for those who will be unable to give on the 23rd. Every dollar you contribute provides fresh, nutritious, Fort Worth-grown produce to neighborhoods that lack access to those foods. We ALL deserve healthy food!

You can learn more about Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm by going to www.unityunlimited.org.

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The Unofficial End of Summer

It’s nine o’clock on Labor Day evening. A cool front blew through yesterday and the low nineties seems like a harbinger of the coming Fall. The nights need to cool off a bit before we can finish the fall planting, but there’s still plenty to do at Opal’s Farm.

August is one of our slowest market months of the year. It’s too hot to have much of a harvest. The tomatoes go dormant awaiting the cooler nights of Fall. We skipped market for August and donated the August harvest to some of our neighbors.

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. We’re back at Cowtown Farmers Market. We missed both our fellow farmers and our loyal customers! It was great to see you all again. We’ll be there this coming Saturday with Purple Hull Peas, tomatoes, and five varieties of peppers.

We have a huge demand for our Purple Hull Peas. Half and full bushels are available but you need to place an order earlier in the week so we’ll have them Saturday. Orders will be filled as they come in. Please feel free to call Opal’s Farm at 817.333.8367 and let us know!

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Jamie, Melissa, and the brave volunteers who ventured into the Texas heat to help trellis tomatoes, weed, and harvest this summer. we love and appreciate you all so much.

The days are getting shorter (and hopefully cooler) and our volunteer schedule is picking up. We hope to see you soon at Opal’s Farm.

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Happy Monday!

Good Morning Y’all! Saturday was eventful (and busy) for Opal’s Farm. We were unable to be at Cowtown Farmers Market due to the Dig Deep Conference at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) and Community Resource Day 2021 at McDonald YMCA.

I was honored to be a presenter at the Dig Deep Conference this year. Dig Deep is a growers conference held annually by the Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Tarrant County Food Policy Council. I was excited to talk about Opal’s Farm, “Empowering Communities Through Food”, and giving everyone a seat at the table. I am proud to be associated with the sponsoring organizations. I attended several great breakout sessions and got to network with new friends and old. Kudos to Chef Robyn Frascella who prepared an incredible lunch for the attendees. The food justice community in Fort Worth – farmers, activist, and advocates – is an amazing group of people!

Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator, manned our booth at Community Resource Day 2021. We want to thank all who attended and for the overwhelming support for Opal’s Farm. We especially want to thank Dr. Belay Reddick and Community Resource Day 2021 for taking this time to give special honor to Ms. Opal and Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks for their service to our community. Well done, Dr. Reddick!

It’s Monday and the start of a spectacular week at the farm. We’ve started Fall planting and beginning to get a handle on the weeds that sprouted after the wet May. Moderate temperatures (a cold front is coming tomorrow!) and unusual July rains have stretched the tomato season into mid-summer. Purple Hull peas are in abundance, squash is producing steadily, and the test beds of bottle gourd and bitter melon are going well. We will have cantaloupe on Saturday as well. We hope to see you all Saturday at Cowtown Farmers Market.

We’d love to have you come by the farm too! We love our volunteers and we’re always happy to provide a bit of dirt therapy for all.

As always – if you’re unable to volunteer at Opal’s Farm you can always support our work by going to www.unityunlimited.org, the Opal’s Farm page and clicking on the donate button. Every dollar goes to the farm and providing food for your neighbors.