I was at the desk for a long time last night catching up on paperwork and phone calls. I had a great head of steam and was crossing items off the “to-do list” right and left when my internet radio station hit a string of songs that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had no choice but to push the papers aside, crank the volume, and sing along to Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffet (anything before “Margaritaville”), the Eagles, and a host of other tunes that reminded me that growing up wasn’t all bad; even if it felt that way…
It felt that way a lot. Years later I’d ask my friend and
mentor, Jim, why I felt so different from everyone else growing up. What was
wrong with me and how did I get here? Why was I so uncomfortable being me? He’d
smile and reply with one of those West Texas sayings that used to drive me
batshit crazy like, “Son, it ain’t important how the mule got in the ditch, it’s
how are you gonna get him out”. I’d like to believe I’m a reasonably intelligent
individual, but it took a long time to understand what he was saying.
You see, the why didn’t matter. It wasn’t important. “Why” could never change the outcome. I was always asking the wrong question. When the question became “how” as opposed to “why” I began to crawl out of the proverbial ditch I found myself stuck in. I may not have been responsible for falling in the ditch, but I was responsible for getting out. As a result, the climb has been faster than I imagined and slower than I’d like, but the view from the top is well worth it…
Every now and then I’m reminded I’m on this amazing
journey called life, replete with mountains, valleys, obstacles, and wide-open
meadows. I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been where I’ve been. Duh, right?
Music, like what I heard last night, transports me to the mountaintop where I
have a 360-degree view. I can see the past and present and am delighted to
revel in the present.
Is there a song (or songs) that take you to your “happy place”?
What makes you stop, crank up the tunes, and relish the
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
Thoughts from the Porch: The world beyond the porch is still. Light is just beginning to peek over our neighbor’s roof to the east. I greet the sunrise with my first cup of coffee and some Miles Davis. I’m not sure life gets much better than this. In a couple of hours, I’ll be incredibly busy at Opal’s Farm, but for now, I’m doing absolutely nothing and savoring the moment.
I have a standing meeting on Sunday morning from
9AM to 10PM. I love to listen to National Public Radio on the way home because
“Hidden Brain” is on air with the host, Shankar Vedantam.
I’m fascinated by the topics and most all, by the science of why we do the
things we do. More importantly, the things we have in common are far more
numerous than anything that divides us. Today’s topic, envy, was no different.
Envy has a poor reputation. It made the infamous ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ list. Depending on who makes up the list, it usually ranks second or third on a scale of one to seven. No one wants to admit feeling envious, but we all do it from time to time.
There are instances envy can have
positive consequences. When used for social comparison it can motivate action
leading to positive change that brings about happiness – ‘I wish I had what you
had so I’m going to do what you did in order achieve it’. This is benign envy.
It may be frustrating at times but leads toward
action that is generally positive. It’s upside of the very human emotion of
The other side is the one we are most
familiar with: malicious envy. It’s the kind of envy that wants to pull a
superior person down. That’s where schadenfreude, envy’s evil cousin, comes in
– pleasure at another’s misfortune, laughing at another’s failure.
I could go into all the science,
psychology, and sociology that explains envy, especially schadenfreude, but
I’ll leave that to the experts. I couldn’t help but think about the Biblical
story of Cain and Able. The story explains, either parabolically or literally,
how envy reared its ugly head in human society.
The book of Genesis tells of two
brothers, Cain, the older brother, and Abel, the younger of the two. Cain was a
farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Cain would offer the first fruits of his
produce in sacrifice to God. Abel would offer the “firstborn animals of his
herd, choice cuts of meat”. For whatever reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice
and not Cain’s. I often cited this story as the reason I didn’t like vegetables
growing up! God obviously is not a vegan.
Anyway, Cain was peeved that he
didn’t measure up (there’s the social comparison thing – kind of like ancient
Facebook). He headed for his room and sulked. “God spoke to Cain: Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well,
won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you,
ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” (Genesis 4.6-7
I can only imagine what Cain was
thinking, but I’ve been there, as much as I hate to admit it. We all have at
one point or another. Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian denomination I
get it. I know what it’s like to ‘never measure up’. I could never be ‘good’
enough to get on God’s good side. It wasn’t until many years later I discovered
that there was absolutely nothing I could do anyway, nor did I have to. God’s
good side is called grace and it is totally free. It can’t be earned, but that
Most of us know the rest of the
story. Cain experiences a severe case of schadenfreude. He not only wants to
pull Abel down: Cain kills his own brother. Envy, malicious envy, puts Abel in
the ground. Cain tries to deny his involvement, but ultimately faces the
consequences of his action. I’ve been there.
In my younger years I chased a lot of
pipe dreams out of envy and delighted in schadenfreude when those I viewed as
competitors failed. I’m glad Facebook and social media wasn’t available back
then. Comparison to the projected images on social media would have killed me.
There’s no way I could ever measure up.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced
envy and schadenfreude far less than I used to. It may simply be the result of
getting older and hopefully, wiser. Robert Fulghum once wrote that one day he
walked out to the mailbox in his old bathrobe, bunny slippers, and bedhead hair
and didn’t care what others thought of him. He said it’s either “going to seed”
or “the beginning of wisdom”. I can relate.
It’s not that I don’t care what
others think of me. It’s that I have no energy or time left for chasing images.
I’m content with reality these days. Life is simpler, full of gratitude, and drama-free.
My quiet time on the porch and my days at the farm are filled with peace and
serenity. Life is good…
Ultimately, it’s not important what
you think of me or even what I think of me. The most important thing is what
God thinks of me. Because of his grace, I know He not only loves me, but He’s
especially fond of me. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else, because
He’s especially fond of all His kids.
I maintain a presence on social media. I have a business and Opal’s Farm. Heck, my blog even gets posted on them. I simply wish others well when they get to have fabulous vacations to exotic places. I don’t get the check-ins and pictures of dinner, but I still get envious when I see someone eating a pint of Bluebell Chocolate ice cream…
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
Thoughts From the Porch: It’s a wee bit chilly on the porch
this morning. Overcast skies make for a dreary opening for the month of March.
The good news is that I saw my first Robin this week. They tend to be a more
accurate predictor of Spring. It may be cold but today is the unofficial beginning
of Spring in my book. It’s time to get busy.
I’ve been a bit reflective of the last six years. You see, tomorrow Margaret and I will have been married six years. It’s hard to believe. It’s sounds so cliché to say it seems like yesterday, but in a way it does. On the other hand, my life without my beautiful wife seems like eons ago. That’s a good thing. I can’t imagine life without my bride.
I love telling the story of our “whirlwind” relationship. We
started dating on December 1st and got married three month later. I
tend to leave out the part that we’d been friends for many years prior to dating.
It’s more romantic that way.
I also tend to leave out the part about my proposal. It wasn’t
so romantic. Fortunately, when you get married in your fifties, practicality
has its own rewards. I debated whether I should include that part in this post,
but since many of our friends know about it anyway, here goes…
Margaret and I were at my house getting ready to go out to a
recovery function. We were running late so both of us were in the bathroom
getting ready. We were in rather inglorious positions, she was getting ready
and me shirtless, shaving away. It felt a bit like an old, married couple. I
laughed to myself, looked at Margaret and said, “You want to get married?”
She looked over and said, “Are you serious?”
I looked back at her. She looked radiant, despite the
awkwardness of our locale. “Yeah, I think so”. The rest my friends, is history.
She still teases me to this day about my ‘romantic’ proposal.
I freely admit it wasn’t one of my stellar moments, but it was the most important
question I ever asked in my life. The trajectory of my life changed in the
bathroom that day and it definitely changed for the better.
There are a couple of reasons I’m sharing this story today.
One is that we both had been single for many years prior to our marriage. Each
of us had reached a point where we thought that’s the way it would be, and we
were each okay with it. Life was good, but companionship would be great and
love even greater. We were both complete human beings loving the gift of life
and recovery as precious children of God. We were happy and content just the
way we were. We didn’t need someone
to feel whole. Had we started dating earlier (and believe me, I thought Margaret
hot and way out of my league),
neither of us would have been ready for the relationship we have today. It was
on God’s time and not ours.
Sometimes it feels like God’s time passes far too slowly. I
always want answers to life’s questions now, but it rarely works that way. I
knew how to fail in marriage, but I had no clue as to how to have a successful
one. If I’m honest, the only thing I knew for sure was what I didn’t want in a
relationship. Experience was a great teacher in that regard. Like Tom Petty
sang, “the waiting is the hardest part”.
Looking back, I had so much to learn and it took a lot of growth,
both personally and spiritually, to even be ready to meet someone special like
Margaret. I had to be led through the process of “becoming”. By the time we
began dating I had grown in my relationship with God and, consequentially, was ready
for someone like Margaret. Patience truly is a virtue. What I’m trying to say
is that Valentine’s Day may not be your favorite holiday when you’re single,
but it becomes one when you learn to treat yourself as worthy of love.
Secondly, even the simplest, most awkward of times can be
holy moments. I often think of how I would’ve liked to have proposed to Margaret.
I really can be romantic at times. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant
life would be any different. Margaret and I married eight days later. I was
scheduled for a craniotomy to remove an AVM that was bleeding in my head. Even
though it was to be a routine brain surgery by one of Fort Worth’s most respected
neurosurgeons I couldn’t fathom the idea of passing away without Margaret being
my wife. Our friends came together and planned a beautiful wedding in that
time. Over a hundred of them came to our wedding and we love each them dearly.
Thinking about tomorrow I find myself wishing to shower Margaret with gifts, kisses, and thanks. I can do the wishes and the thanks, but the gifts are going to be slim. We are struggling financially right now so I can commit all my efforts to our non-profit for the farm. We prayed about it and know this is what God wants us to do. That never would have happened in my past life – the prayer that is. God orders our steps today. That’s what makes ours a wonderful marriage – God is the center of it. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “a rope of three cords is not easily broken”. Thanks to my beautiful, thoughtful, and loving wife for making a home of three cords: God, Margaret, and I…
must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is the holiday commemorating Dr King’s birth. Festivities are planned in Downtown Fort Worth later this morning. My grandkids have the day off from school. Government offices are closed, although not only because of the holiday. Some have been closed for a while. Thirty-one days to be exact…