Christmas came early for Opal’s Farm! Thanks to Blue Zones Project Fort Worth we now have a beautiful stainless-steel washing station for our produce!!!!!!! It will speed up the process of washing and bringing produce to market. I can’t imagine a better Christmas present! Thank you, Blue Zones Project for an amazing gift.
I was so thankful for Saturday’s rain and a day off. The previous four days of unseasonably warm December weather kept me super busy! Make hay while the sun shines, right? I got to spend a couple of hours catching up on the news. Mostly it’s the end of the year or end of the decade “best and worst of” lists.
I sat down and tried to think of a “best of” list for our first year at Opal’s Farm. There were too many “best of” moments to list. Moreover, once I created the list, I’d feel obligated to rank them. That, my friends, is impossible. You’ve made each chapter in the story of Opal’s Farm better than the one before.
While 2019 has exceeded all expectations 2020 will be even better! Help us end food deserts in Tarrant County with your gift today. Help us bring the blessing of nutrition and health to your neighbors.
Sunrise was pretty awesome this morning. The wisps of clouds reflected incredibly bright orange streaks against the budding blue sky. Maybe it’s simply because it’s Christmas, but everything seemed brighter and full of joyful praise for creation. God seemed to call everything to celebrate His presence, His son…
I want to wish each of you a fantastic, joyful Christmas Day. On this day that many in the world celebrate the birth of our Savior, please remember that the Christ-child was to be called “Emmanuel”, God with us”.
I found this prayer today. I thought I’d share it with you in a year of uncertainty and division.
A prayer for peace on this Christmas Day
Let us pray for the world in which the Prince of Peace took flesh and form, saying, Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We give you thanks, Holy One, for the light that has come into the darkness of our world, for the truth illuminated, for the pathway that has opened, for the rejoicing of your people. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We give you thanks for the feet of those who bring good news, friendship, comfort, food, shelter, and medicine for healing. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We give you thanks for the church of Christ Jesus and for all people of faith whose attention to the way of peace tears down walls that keep us apart. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We give you thanks for this country and for every nation where wisdom reigns, where leaders work for the well-being of the poor, so that no one is hungry or homeless, and every child is valued and nourished. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We pray for the knowledge and courage to be good stewards of all that you have given us: ourselves, our neighbors, the strangers among us, the oceans and rivers, the air and soil, creatures large and small, that we may continue to be blessed with health and life. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We pray for those whose flesh is harmed by poverty, sickness, and cruelty of any kind, that the Word-made-flesh may so fill your world with the power to heal that all people would be made strong and whole. Hear us, O God; your mercy is great.
We commend all these things to you and offer our thanksgiving, trusting that what we have left unsaid, your holy wisdom can unearth; in the name of the One who came among us in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
– Adapted from: David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor & Kimberly Bracken Long. Feasting on the Word Advent Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship (p. 125). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Emmanuel has come. Let us celebrate…
“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
Winter started off cold and dreary on Saturday. The high temperature today is supposed to be seventy! You got to love winter in North Texas. Shortly, I’ll be headed to Opal’s Farm to enjoy working in short sleeves!
Before I go, however…
With all the festivities, family, and friends happening tomorrow I may not get a chance to wish each and every one of you a blessed, Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. It’s such a special time of year for us here at Opal’s Farm. We know without a doubt how special each of you are to the farm.
From All of Us (especially Jameson, the Farm Dog!) at Opal’s Farm,
Happy New Year!
May you all be blessed with health, happiness, and joy. May this season bring wonder and awe to each of you!
Thank you for farming with us, for making Fort Worth even better, and for helping bring joy to our community!
And by the way… you can come join me anytime but especially if you want to work in short sleeves today. Just saying…
Winter officially arrived at 10:19 Saturday night. That must be why it’s not cold enough to freeze but still a wet cold that pierces the skin and settles in the bones. Such is winter in North Texas. I’ve been here all, but seventeen years, of my life and I’m still not used to it. At least it’s warming up for the rest of Christmas week…
A box with Christmas floral arrangements arrived the other day. My sister in Georgia sent them. She asked me to place them at the cemetery for Mom and Dad. My sister is far better at remembering things like that than I am. It’s not that special days aren’t special. It’s usually because I’m so forgetful. I never seem to think of birthdays and holidays until the day before or the day of. If I’m totally honest then I must admit sometimes the day passes and it doesn’t dawn on me until two or three days later. I’d love to blame it on my past neurological issues. The reality is that I’ve always been that way with holidays.
I go to the cemetery regularly. Sometimes it’s just a quiet place to pray and meditate, but mostly I go to talk to Mom and Dad. I’m quite sure they hear me loud and clear although their place in time and space limits my ability to hear them. I can only settle for memories of conversations long past.
I took the flowers to the cemetery. I went to place them in the vase above the headstone only to find the vase broken again. It had cracked once before and I guess I need a different epoxy glue for the marble marker. There were two arrangements, one for Mom, one for Dad. It didn’t seem right to only acknowledge their markers. After all, it’s a family plot. I certainly couldn’t overlook Grandmother, so I placed the two arrangements at opposite sides of the family headstone and stepped back to check the placement. Now everyone was honored…
I wished them each a Merry Christmas and tried to leave but I could not. I felt the tears well up and erupt in a sudden explosion of grief. Honestly, I was a bit shaken by it all. It’s been seventeen years since Dad passed and seven years of Christmas without Mom. My sister moved her to Georgia five years before her death since she required more care than I could offer here at home. At least I had some time to ease into the holidays without either of my parents.
“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown…” – Harry Chapin
The cycle of life goes on. Birth, life, death. Rinse and repeat, right? It is what it is. We all die and experience the death of those close to us. I’m generally in acceptance of the whole affair. Grieving is something we all do. I still think about my parents on almost a daily basis, but it’s usually happy memories and I’m at peace. I guess that’s why I felt so blindsided by the sadness that poured over me. I simply wasn’t expecting it. Grief has a way of doing that…
When Mom passed in 2017, I walked through the grieving process with the help of family and friends. The strong relationship with God, forged by recovery, afforded me that opportunity. Mom got to watch the miracle of my recovery unfold in her later years. Staring at the headstones for the rest of those in our family plot, I realized no one else could say that (except for Uncle Bynam, who died at Anzio in World War Two – born at the end of the “War to end all wars” and died in the next one – the irony isn’t lost on me, but that’s another story for another time…). Sorrow and regret washed over me.
My life, for the most part, is free of regrets. Acceptance and a relationship with a loving God helped me deal with the demons of the past; especially those of my own creation…). Life doesn’t allow “do-overs” and I’m okay with that. I made amends where I could, accepted those I couldn’t, and received and gave forgiveness to others and myself to the best of my ability. Most days, I live in the present and the future is bright. It is what it is…
Standing there in front of the family plot reminded me of what I do regret, what I wish could have been different. I wish with all my heart my Dad, not to mention my uncles and Grandmother, could see me today. My faith says they do, but it’s not quite the same as having them physically here.
Contrary to popular belief, “time doesn’t heal all wounds”. It merely closes them up, scars over, and aches from time to time It’s like my knee surgeries. I’ve recovered from the injury, but they still hurt from time to time. Grief will come at unexpected times and with no expiration date stamped on it.
When it does it’s often accompanied by regret, but my perspective has changed. Instead of the old “if only” inner dialogue, I’m reminded I can’t correct the past, but I can change my future: a future I’m pleased to live out under the gaze of those I love.
I stood there until the tears subsided. I said my goodbyes and wished those I love a Merry Christmas. I would’ve wished them a Happy New Year as well, but I’m convinced that has little meaning for them now. God’s time is measured differently.
As I turned to leave, the wind, which had been absent a moment before, blew fiercely through the surrounding trees. The Tibetan Book of the Dead says that when a great a soul dies the winds blow mightily. It happened on the night of my father’s death and every time I’ve visited the cemetery since. I like to think it’s his way of saying, “I’m proud of you, Son. Keep doing what you’re doing”. The tears began again. This time they were tears of gratitude and joy…
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8.28
Dropping in at our local big box retailer this weekend reminded me the Christmas season has begun in earnest. Despite the media prophecies of retail’s slow, painful death it was readily apparent that not everyone has switched to online shopping.
I try to avoid such visits any time of year but especially at Christmas time. They’re a reminder of all things negative about the Holidays: crowded stores, pushy and frustrated shoppers, rampant consumerism – the list goes on. In a season of giving, faith, and family I have a difficult time with all the hurried rudeness, impatience, and meltdown tantrums by parents and children alike.
That being said…
I got cover crops in at Opal’s Farm before the cold front and accompanying rain passed through yesterday. The rain meant I would have all day to catch-up on emails, callbacks, and write. All was going according to plan when I made a grave mistake. I walked through the living room to go out to my truck for a moment my wife was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It was at the point in the movie where Jimmy Stewart’s character, a suicidal George Bailey, jumps off the bridge only to be rescued by his guardian angel, Clarence.
I won’t bore you with a retelling of the story. Who in the world hasn’t seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” anyway? It’s one of my all-time favorites. One can never see it too often. Suffice to say that all my plans immediately fell to the wayside. I sat down in the chair and didn’t get up until the end of the movie. I mentioned this mistake to my friend Charlie. He reminded me that it wasn’t a mistake, but time well spent…
In the movie, as in every good story, calamity strikes, and George Bailey is backed into a corner. He cries out, “I wish I’d never have been born”. I can relate. I’ve been there: that dark place where the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is a bullet train locomotive closing fast. Everything and everyone would be better off if I weren’t here. In George Bailey’s case (and mine) divine intervention says otherwise…
My favorite part of the film is when Clarence ends his “never been born” vision and an ecstatic George runs through town shouting Merry Christmas to people and buildings alike. He’s part of life once again and never has he been so grateful for his wonderful life. He knows that a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He doesn’t care. Sounds like surrender to me. All I want is to live. My life is incredible no matter what happens…
His surrender is met by a myriad of friends and family who come together to save him from disaster and the arrest warrant. By the time the bell rings (and Clarence gets his wings) and everyone breaks out in a joyful rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” I’m bawling like a baby (at least on the inside – I still don’t like to cry in front of people. It’s that old “guy” thing…). As one whose been rescued from a life of desperation and degradation I am flooded with gratitude no matter how many times I’ve seen the movie.
The Never Ending Story
Maybe that’s why “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a Christmas tradition for so many people. Like Christmas itself, it shines a ray of light, a ray of hope, into an oft dark world. It reminds us that, while the war may not be over, hang in there because good will ultimately triumph. That’s the general theme in any good story. God has been telling and retelling that story throughout human history. Every writer, every good storyteller, simply puts a different spin on the story He’s been writing for eternity. It makes since to me since we were created in His image.
Sometimes frustration with the consumer culture that surrounds Christmas gets in the way. Sometimes I simply to hear another retelling of the eternal story. I get back on track. I remember the “greatest story ever told”. Suddenly, Christmas becomes alive again. God came down to live with us. He loves us and sent a reminder that a new heaven and a new earth is not only possible, but certain. Love will win out, and, as the Apostle John reminds us, what is God but love?
As I sit here at my trusty old roll top desk this morning I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude. The creator of the universe came down as one of us! He lived among us and showed us what it is to truly love one another. He showed us that a new way was possible. He reminded us that Abba hears our cries even when we think He doesn’t. Above all, He reminds us that the story has already been written so we can enjoy life and enjoy abundantly. It really is a wonderful life I have today.
I’m going back to the big box store later. I don’t know if the craziness has changed but my perspective has. Christmas has a way of doing that, especially when I remember what Christmas truly means.
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s become harder to get in the Christmas spirit this year. The exact reason has proven elusive. It could be that Christmas music starts blaring the day after Halloween, but It probably has to do with the fact that Mom and Dad are both gone now. This is the second Christmas since Mom passed and the sixteen of them without Dad. You’d think I’d be past it by now, but grief is what it is. It wasn’t until this morning that the season rushed over me and my soul felt revived with Christmas spirit.
I have a scheduled meeting every Sunday morning at 9:00AM.
It’s one of the highlights of my week. I get to carry a simple message of hope
to hurting people. I don’t know who benefits more – them or me. The spirit of
giving tends to do that. Uncommon sense again – the more you give, the more you
receive. But I digress…
I drove to my meeting yesterday morning somewhat short of my
required coffee quota. I wasn’t paying attention to the radio or much else
until I heard an angelic rendition of “Silent
Night” come flowing from the speakers. I wish I could tell you who the
vocalist was, but I had to hop out of the truck and get to my meeting before it
finished. All I know is that I felt different. I was more “Christmas-ee”…
My family never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday.
Being good fundamentalists, we couldn’t celebrate something that the Bible
didn’t state for certain. To most folks that sounds silly. Now that I’m older I
can’t say that I disagree. Still, we celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday
of giving and family. Santa Claus was alive, and Jesus’ birthday was up for
Ironically, Christmas carols were always in order even if
they were religious in nature. The Sunday church service before Christmas always
included religious carols, and mentioned the birth of Jesus (you know, since
the rest of the world was focused on it) but it was “to celebrate the season”,
not the birth of our Savior. I never quite got the logic in that. Anyway…
I no longer hold to the strict religious traditions of my
youth. Jesus may or may not have been born on December 25th. It
makes little difference. This is the season which people have chosen to
celebrate his birth. I can’t find anything wrong with that. The point is that
he was born. Emmanuel – “God is with us”.
Listening to “Silent Night” this morning it hit me full
force; “God is with us”, and just like us. Just like me. Just like you.
My sons may be adults now, but I can remember the day each
was born as though it were yesterday. I didn’t need a manger, livestock,
shepherds, or wise men to make both moments holy, just as that moment some two
thousand years ago. Maybe that’s why God chose to enter in to our world the way
he did. I’d like to think so.
The authors of the four Gospels tell of the man and his
teachings, but they record little of Jesus’ life growing up. I’d like to
believe that he wasn’t much different from my boys. I don’t know what was
comparable to spaghetti in First Century Palestine, but I’m sure that most of
it ended up everywhere but his mouth. Mary probably had to give many an
after-dinner bath during those first couple of years.
At the risk of sounding a bit sacrilegious, I would like to
think that Jesus ducked out of Hebrew school to go fishing with his buddies.
After all, He had an affinity for fishing and hung out with his fishing buddies…
The only reference we have to Jesus’ young life is an
incident when he was twelve years old. Instead of going home with the rest of
his family he hung back in Jerusalem. I can only imagine the panic Mary and
Joseph felt when they realized he was missing. I freaked out when one of the
boys hid behind a clothing rack at the store…
I’m no Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus was “just
one of the guys” for most of his life: content to live like everyone else in his
town. It’s telling that the townsfolk response to his first recorded teachings
in the Gospel of Luke is “Isn’t this
Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” (Luke 4.22).
It’s easy to concentrate on Jesus as divine, as perfect, and
forget that Jesus was one of us. That, above all, is the miracle of Christmas.
God chose to enter His creation through Jesus, an everyman, dirty diapers and
all. He lived and worked among us as an ordinary guy. He laughed and hung out
with his buddies. When all was said and done, He stepped up to announce that,
“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 prisoners and recovery of sight to the
To set the battered and burdened free,
To announce, “This is God’s year to act” (Luke 4.16-21 The Message)
The rest, as they say, is history.
So, I’m in a bit more of the Christmas spirit this morning.
If Jesus could walk among us, “Loving God and loving others” then I’m inclined
to follow in his footsteps. It isn’t always the popular thing. After all, he
tended to upset the proverbial apple cart. “You’ve heard it said… but I say to
you” tends to rub some people the wrong way. I guess we all tend to do that…
I’m so glad that God chose to enter the world the way he
did. “Emmanuel” – God is with us.