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Thank You Jeff!

Good Morning Everyone! I am deeply honored to be nominated by my friend Jeff for the Mystery Blogger Award. I’m equally embarrassed by my slow response time. Spring is a busy time for our farm. I’ve failed to take time to write over the last couple of weeks!

I recently began to follow Jeff at http://www.jeffonamission.wordpress.com. His tagline – “Chef, Writer, Janitor” grabbed my attention right away. I love people who wear the hats of a servant…

What is the Mystery Blogger Award?

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.

– Okoto Enigma

Rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your post.
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blogging sites. https://jeffonamission.wordpress.com/
  4. Answer their questions.
  5. Mention the creator of this award (Okoto Enigma)
  6. Tell your readers three things about you.
  7. Nominate 10-20 bloggers
  8. Notify nominees by commenting on their blog post.
  9. Ask your nominees five questions of your choice.
  10. Share a link to your best post(s). https://gregoryjoel.com/  

My nominees for inspiring blogs are listed below:

https://peacehacks.com

https://valeriecullers.com/

https://mitchteemley.com/

https://chelseaannowens.com/

https://refarmer.ca/

https://fracturedfaithblog.com/

https://gcdiaries.wordpress.com

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/

https://feedingonjesus.com/

https://hegavemeamelody.com

Three Things About Me:

  1. I get to do what I love every day! God asked (He’s always the gentleman) me to be a farmer and I said okay…
  2. I’m “no good at being bad”, as my friend Jim would say. It only took me 48 years to figure that out…
  3. I believe that grace and gratitude are as necessary as food and water.

Questions From Jeff:

  1. What’s your favorite go-to Bible verse? – Geez, talk about a tough one. You don’t mess around do you Jeff? I’m not sure if I can name one. It seems to change on any given day. I guess the most frequent verse that comes up is Philippians 4. 11-13 from The Message version: “Actually I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether I’m full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
  2. Where did you grow up? – I was born in Fort Worth, TX. My Dad was transferred to Denver, CO when I was nine and I went to high school and university there. I returned to Fort Worth in 1986 and haven’t left since.
  3. How long does it take you to compose a post? – It varies (wildly at times). It depends on whether it’s for a client or personal and how much research I need to do.
  4. Would you consider guest-blogging if asked? – I would be honored to do so if asked.
  5. If someone you love is dying and has yet to know Jesus, what’s your best one-liner to bring them to Christ? (Obviously this would be Spirit led, but just play along) – I sat and thought about this for a very long time. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d say. I’ve tried to imagine various scenarios and I come up empty. This is truly one of those questions I leave to a prompting of the Spirit. I’ve sat with several friends and family through the end of their lives. Each needing Jesus to be shown through different actions. I believe that at times like these, there are few words to say. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach everywhere. If necessary, use words”.

You all are amazing! I’m so happy to be a part of the WordPress community!

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Roll Away the Stone…

Thoughts From the Porch

Happy Easter! The rain passed last night, and brilliant sunshine filled our quiet cul-de-sac. The trees are almost a neon green reflecting the bright light. There’s an unusual silence these days. The birds are still singing but the distant interstate is void of traffic. The ‘stay at home’ order applies to Easter church services so there’s few people going anywhere, particularly on an early Sunday morning. Such is life during the coronavirus…

Today’s Easter service came via Facebook Live. It was typical of most church Easter services – a time of praise and worship followed by a message about the cross. I wondered how we came to see the cross as the symbol of Christianity. I get the sacrifice and atonement ideas, but the cross was absent from the early Church. The cross was an ugly symbol of Rome’s occupation and violence. The persecuted Christian minority didn’t exactly see it as a religious icon.

It wasn’t until 318 C.E. that Christianity became an accepted, and then state, religion. According to legend, Constantine the Great had a vision of a cross and the words in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign you will conquer”). He promised to pledge himself to Christianity if he could defeat his rival, Maxentius, for the throne. Though outnumbered by Maxentius, he won the battle and became Emperor decreeing Christianity to be the state religion. The cross became an icon for the Church.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I often wonder what the early Christians thought about all this. They had every reason to be suspicious of the Emperor’s edict. Previously persecuted and reviled (‘Christian’ was a term of derision) tends to lead to suspicion. Moreover, I wonder how they viewed the new iconography of the cross.

I’m not trying to diminish the power of Jesus’ death on the cross, but I’m wondering if we haven’t concentrated on the wrong symbol. The cross has become so commonplace its lost meaning. It’s just a nice piece of jewelry most of the time. Hey, I’ve worn one…

Maybe I should wear a rock instead. You know, the stone that was rolled away (it’s a bit difficulty to wear an empty tomb…). It reminds me that I met the resurrected Jesus: the one who gives life “abundantly” (John 10.10): or as The Message puts it “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. The resurrected Jesus brought me into a life better than I could ever had imagined. That, my friends, is truly good news. Living life to the full…

Jesus summed it up well in his first recorded public speaking engagement:

“When he stood up to read (at his synagogue), he was handed the scroll of Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place it is written,

God’s Spirit is on me;

He’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

Sent me to announce pardon to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act’!”

(Luke 4.17-21)

That sounds like a pretty good life to me…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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Maybe the “New Normal” is Not so New After All…

Thoughts From the Porch…

The rain returned to North Texas along with cooler weather for the day. Fortunately, it’s a brief visit and the weather looks clear until late in the week. The Prairie Verbena is casting purples all around Opal’s Farm. It’s almost April and the highways and byways are bursting in color. The Bluebonnets came early this year, but now the blues are accompanied by the oranges and yellows that make even rush-hour pleasurable.

Of course, there isn’t much of a rush hour these days. We’re well into the “shelter in place” order as the coronavirus lurks about Fort Worth searching for a host to devour. I’ve been unable to hug my kids and grandkids for a couple of weeks now. I’m starting to feel a bit weak…

My heart goes out to everyone during these trying times. I have the privilege or the misfortune, depending on how you view it, of being an “essential business” so I’m not stuck at home unless it rains. Everyone still needs food, especially healthy, fresh food, so I’m glad I can do something to contribute, even if it’s only a small part.

(By the way – the Cowtown Farmers Market is still open every Saturday morning from 8AM until Noon. Thank you to all the folks at Cowtown, both farmers and customers, who follow CDC guidelines and provide fresh, local produce during this crisis.)

Fortunately, the farm is a place folks can eliminate some of the boredom of “shelter in place” and help others at the same time. Social distancing isn’t an issue with well over an acre and there’s plenty to do. I’m just throwing that out for you all in case you’re wondering. I think I’ve seen more people on the adjacent Trinity Trails this weekend than I’ve seen in the past year.

I have a dear friend who had a serious surgery last week. The coronavirus situation has kept me from visiting the hospital and I can only receive updates from his wife. I shouldn’t complain. They’ve even prevented her from being there. She sat in the parking lot all day while her husband was in surgery. I can’t even imagine what that would be like if it were my wife. Sometimes it seems that prayers are not enough. COVID-19 has stolen so much more than physical health.

The pundits talk about our “new normal”. This is not normal. It may be what we do to take care of each other and ourselves, but it’s far from normal. However, there are some things from all of this I hope become the “new” normal. A friend told me of seeing his son playing catch with his grandson in the backyard. Sounds normal, right? Then he told me that his grandson was nine years old and had never done that before. They did other things together – his son’s a great parent – but they’d never simply thrown a ball back and forth. Maybe the “new normal” will see more of the “old normal. Maybe we’ll have less screen time and more play.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is father-son-playing-catch-throwing-260nw-337724105.jpg

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the rest of the story about my friend in the hospital. Many of use prayed throughout the day. That’s what friends do for one another. During the surgery one of the nurses called her every hour, on the hour, to let her know how her husband was doing. Those phone calls made the long wait somewhat bearable. Above and beyond is what so many of our healthcare folks do for us each day, virus or know virus. Please take time to say a prayer, make a phone call, or just say thank you. Maybe that kind of “new normal” isn’t so bad…  

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Hurry Before It's Too Late…

Down On the Farm:

Today’s post is a bit of “Down on the Farm” and “Thoughts From the Porch”. It’s been raining for the last nine days. I’ve had more time on the porch and less time at the farm as a result.

This much rain is a mixed blessing

Even when I can’t be busy planting, weeding, and prepping beds I tend to spend time thinking about each of those things and how to make Opal’s Farm bigger and better. More people can be served and maybe, just maybe, the farm makes life better for all of us.

During down times such as these I get to post on social media and keep everyone updated. My hope in doing so is that you all will want to donate and/or volunteer at Opal’s Farm. We desperately need the donations and we’re able to get so much more accomplished with our volunteers.

The infographic offers some great reasons to volunteer at Opal’s Farm. The events of the last week have caused me to pause and reflection on the importance of Opal’s Farm right now. Opal’s Farm has become an essential business. It was before – farming, growing food, is essential any time – but even more so now.

The last few days have seen rapid and monumental changes in our daily routines due to the COVID-19 crisis. It was working from home if possible and no gatherings of more than 250 people just a few days ago. Now it’s multiple business closures and no gatherings, either inside or outside, of more than ten people. Sunday evening, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a “shelter in place” order for everyone residing in Dallas County. Other North Texas counties probably aren’t far behind.

If a “shelter in place” order is issued for Tarrant County volunteer opportunities may not be available. I will continue to work as Farm Manager and an employee of Unity Unlimited, Inc. but I’m unclear as to volunteers at the farm. We’ll keep you updated. I hope that anyone who’s having a bit of cabin fever will come down and spend some time with us while you still can.

To sign up or donate go to www.unityunlimited.org

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Be Where Your Feet Are…

Thoughts from the Porch

Things in our world have changed drastically in the last few days. Don’t worry, I shan’t become one of the voices bemoaning the current toilet paper shortage. I’ve heard enough about that. The shelves are still empty and may be in the coming days. We’ve had to be a bit more resourceful about such matters – although I need to remind our family members not to throw baby wipes down the toilet.

I also need to remind everyone that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, not a gastro-intestinal one. It’s unrealistic to believe that you’ll use up that truckload of toilet paper you bought in this lifetime, much less during a two-week quarantine. Please use your head, exercise a bit of common sense, and leave some for the rest of us. That’s all I will say about that…

I am trying, like everyone else, to adjust to the rapidly changing situation with the coronavirus pandemic. As I drove to my regular 9:00 Sunday morning meeting I noticed how few cars there were on the road. It’s never heavy at that time and day but it was eerily quiet this Sunday. State and county health departments are following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and limiting indoor gatherings to ever smaller numbers of people to prevent the spread of the virus. First, it was crowds of 500, then 250, and now 50. Moments ago, the White House said to avoid crowds of more than ten people and old folks should stay at home, period. Many churches were empty, opting for online or remote services instead. No wonder it was so ghostly quiet.

Social distancing has become a new normal.

One’s personal space just got larger. All I have to do to get through a crowded grocery store aisle is sneeze or cough – both of which are consequences of springtime pollen – and everyone gets out of the way. Sometimes allergies are a good thing. The absence of hugs and handshakes are painful though.

If it seems I’m being a bit flippant about this whole pandemic thing, I can assure you that nothing is farther from the truth. I’m taking very seriously. I check all the boxes for being at risk of becoming gravely ill if exposed – I’m over sixty, a borderline diabetic, and have a compromised immune system. I’m cautious around others but I refuse to allow fear and misinformation make my decisions for me. God knows, there’s enough of that already.

I hope to exercise a little common sense and get through this physically unscathed. It’s possible that most of us will do likewise. Unfortunately (and realistically), some will become ill and some will die. That’s what just the way this virus operates.

Then there’s the other consequences to be borne by people who can’t afford fifteen days or more of childcare, business shutdowns, and lengthy quarantines. Statistically, the vast majority of folks live paycheck to paycheck with little, if any cushion, for times like these. There will be some of you for whom this is extremely inconvenient. For most though, it will be life-altering and in many cases, devastating.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The physical, mental, emotional and economic outlook is bleak, and not only because there’s no toilet paper to be found – given the severity of the situation, you’d think cleanliness in one’s nether regions would be of less importance – but all is not lost.

I’ve been spending time monitoring social media and the comings and goings around my community. I discovered that for every tale of bare supermarket shelves, panicked hoarding, and greedy resellers there are ten or more stories of the coronavirus bringing out the best in people. Here’s what I mean:

  • My “Next Door” neighborhood app is blanketed with messages of people wanting to help those who are older or immune compromised with getting groceries, medicines, etc. One of my neighbors living on Social Security put a “Need help” post up ad I’ve watched the constant stream of cars come to her home to deliver assistance.
  • People offering to help with child-care for those who are required to work even though their kid’s Spring break has been extended in most districts.
  • Companies like Apple that are still paying their employees while their stores are closed for the next two weeks.
  • Each of the countless churches and other organizations that open their food pantries for anyone struggling with the current crisis.
  • I was speaking with my ex-daughter-in-law yesterday and she told me of simply checking on the kid’s friends who were having to stay home alone due to the extended break and parents who couldn’t afford to miss work.

Thankfully, the list continues. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere. I would like to think so.

This pandemic and how to deal with it is uncharted territory for most of us. We’ve had scares in the past – bird flu, swine flu, and SARS/MERS (also in the coronavirus family) – but we haven’t seen a true pandemic in our lifetime. Despite the current Administration’s inept handling of the crisis and the plethora of wild conspiracy theories, lies, and minimalizations accompanying it, people show a resiliency that offers a glimmer of hope for human beings in general. My prayer is that we’ll fan that flame and take care of one another.

So, my friends, be kind to one another and yourselves. Don’t panic. “Be where your feet are”, as my wife often reminds me. Don’t rush or hoard. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and think of others. Step back, take a deep breath and we’ll all walk through this one together. It may not eliminate COVID-19 but it sure can’t hurt…