Spring officially arrived
this week and I have the sunburn to prove it. I’m not bragging, mind you. I
feel guilty for even mentioning this because I know some folks are still
dealing with the effects of a lingering winter. I lived in Colorado for many
years. Sporadic winter storms could pester everyone until April sometimes. Planting
ones garden often had to wait until May. Heck, I remember going over Monument Pass
in white-out conditions on June 6th. Apparently, it set the record
for latest snow on Colorado’s front range.
If you’re feeling a bit envious of our warmer weather, please know Spring in North Texas can be a bit tricky as we make up the southern end of “Tornado Alley”. Severe thunderstorms are our version of ‘Bomb’ cyclones and blizzard conditions. They just don’t last as long.
The sunshine brought a
busy week to Opal’s Farm. Thanks to Zimmerer Kubota and the tractor they
provided, the plowing is finished, and bed preparation has begun. The first
season of farming is the most difficult simply because all the ‘infrastructure’
must be built (from the ground up – no pun intended). Organic farming becomes
easier with each passing growing season because more organic material is put
back into the soil.
Caring for the soil is why
we call it regenerative agriculture. We rebuild and renew the soil instead of
draining it dry of nutrients through chemical applications of herbicides,
insecticides, and typical commercial fertilizers. Caring for the soil is also
the way we practice stewardship of the creation we get to enjoy. Most
importantly, care brings a bountiful harvest for our community.
Today’s post will be short. The sun is shining, and wet weather is coming this weekend so it’s time to get busy. This afternoon, Texas Christian University (TCU) students working with the Tarrant Food Policy Council are coming out for a photo shoot at the farm. We are so grateful for TCU, their support, and their work to make urban agriculture a success in Fort Worth. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Dr. Aftandilian’s class for each and every one of his students who are working with Grow Southeast and Opal’s Farm. Thank you, TCU!
Just a reminder – we can’t do it without all of you. WE love our volunteers and donors. You can always donate to Opal’s Farm by going to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/unityunlimited or directly to http://www.unity unlimited.org. Make sure you note that it’s for Opal’s Farm.
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…
Up before dawn and out the door! Thanks to Zimmerer Kubota for the tractor! We’re busy plowing over the rest of Opal’s Farm and building beds. Things are rolling along.
It’s going to be some extremely long days this week so updates on the farm and “Thoughts From the Porch” may be a bit slow in coming. Thanks to all of our supporters, volunteers, and donors. We love you all!
Thoughts From the Porch: I got to see the sunrise this morning. Big deal, you say? It is after several days of rain and overcast skies. I know we’ll be praying for rain in a couple of months, but I have way too much to do to stay at the desk.
A slight chill hangs in the air as a reminder that the official start of Spring, the vernal equinox, is still a week away. Still, the birds are singing and I even saw Bluebonnets peeking through the grass. For those unfamiliar with Texas, Spring comes with an explosion of bright color along side our highways and bi-ways. I know it happens elsewhere, just not like here. Bluebonnets bring vibrant blues, followed by the orange and black of the Indian Paintbrush. Yellows and deep greens fill in the blanks and everywhere is awash with blooms. It makes up for the winter months and reminds us to truly “stop and smell the flowers”.
Facebook will soon be plastered with pictures of people sitting
in fields of blue. That’s a big thing here in Fort Worth. Taking pictures of
loved ones, especially kids, amongst the wildflowers is a tradition for many
folks here in North Texas. Nature provides the perfect background for the best
portraits. The photographs are constant reminders that life is always fresh and
new, even during the coldest of winters.
Each Wednesday I attend the Fort Worth Development Group
(FWDG), a business networking and development group that seeks to “Bridge the
gap between Business and Ministry through cultivating meaningful relationships
in the workplace.” I knew that I needed to network for my writing business even
though I’m painfully shy in new situations. I picked the FWDG because of their Mission
Statement and quite frankly, it was close to my house. Maybe I’d be more
comfortable with like-minded folks despite my fear they would engage in “religious
speak”, but hey, I didn’t have to go back, right?
What I found was a group of business people who really do seek to cultivate meaningful
relationships and help each other grow. It’s not simply lip service. I’ve come
to look forward to my Wednesday meeting, knowing I will leave feeling stronger
in my faith and in my business. Life is fuller and richer when I step out of my
comfort zone. I find new friends and new resources for living well.
My friend Edgar always reminds me that “self-sufficiency is
a lie”, we need something beyond ourselves to live life well. We need each other.
I’m happy to be surrounded and supported by the myriad of people God has
brought into my life. What’s your circle?
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…”