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Christmas Spirit…

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.

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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 debate.

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 blind.

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.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Merry Christmas y’all!

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Christmas Shopping?

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Give everyone the greatest gift for Christmas…

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The Global Day of Giving – #givingtuesday

Thoughts from the Porch on #Giving Tuesday:

2018

It dawned on me after my second cup of coffee that November is almost over. I know.“Duh”, right? It’s just that I don’t know where the year has gone. It seems to have blown through here like last week’s cold front, chilled to the bone one day and seventy degrees the next. The race toward Christmas is on and the New Year looms large on the horizon

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Not becauseof Christmas, mind you, but because of the introspection it brings. December 1stis more special than any other day of the year. It brought about a psychic change, a rebirth, and a new direction to my life. Ironically, it was the direction I’d longed for since my youth. “Lost dreams awaken, and newpossibilities arise”. They really do.

This past year has been unbelievably special. I began a new business, writing content and copy, and in doing so, I unknowingly unleashed mypassion. Through a unique series of events, I met some incredible people, Ms. Opal Lee for one, and began to see something I’d only dreamed about for a long time –an urban farm – become a reality. Opal’s Farm is that place – a place for growing, learning, and community.

 To be honest, I never imagined myself becoming a farmer. Mymother used to send me out to pull weeds as a form of punishment when I was young. It didn’t exactly hold pleasant memories. I never thought I’d come to find joy in it. But I have, and each of those gardens drove me to this amazing project called Opal’s Farm.

When I was younger, I left college full of ideals and ready to change the world. Most of us did. But as I got older and raised my boys, I became less idealistic and, if I’m honest, more cynical. The world I wanted to change became smaller and smaller until I was my world. That seems to be pervasive in our culture. Who of us hasn’t been taught to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and “look out for number one”? The more I bought into that world, the less I was part of this one.

It will have been thirteen years ago this December 1st that my world began to change. Circumstances brought me to a garden I started taking care of because I had nowhere else to be. I began to enjoy pulling weeds.To make a long story short – I liked playing in the dirt!

 Over the last thirteen years, I have been honored toparticipate in building and managing several garden projects. I’ve watched a face light up when a young man tastes a fresh tomato for the first time. I’ve seen community begin when people come together and relish in the first harvest. I’ve witnessed people regain health of body and spirit as they work together in the garden. I’ve come to believe that simple farming can change a life. It’s changed mine.

Our Mission – “Opal’s Farm restores hope andvitality to neglected communities through an agricultural intervention and education.”  – is becoming a reality. Right in the middle of the city, it provides not just food, but jobs and training as well. It creates opportunity. This is a model for conservation and sustainability, not just for Fort Worth, but for other communities as well.

Today is #GivingTuesday. It offers a uniqueopportunity to double you impact through Facebook’s matching funds. Please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2246575222246012/.Give today and help us change the world one bite at a time.

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A Simple Thank You

Thoughts From the Porch: I stopped for gas yesterday. I only had cash, so I had to go in and pay for it prior to pumping. I was putting my change and receipt away when the cashier informed me that I had “been the nicest customer in the last six hours”. I was flattered but somewhat taken aback.

“Thank you. Has it been a rough one?”, I asked.

 “Oh man, you wouldn’t believe it”, she replied. “Everyone’sbeen crabby and sometimes downright mean. I just wanted to thank you for beingso nice and polite”.

“You’re welcome”. I headed out to the truck, grateful for the compliment and a bit sad that I was the one pleasant experience in her day.

I’ve thought about our little exchange ever since. I’m saddened that engaging in polite behavior seems to be the notable exception rather than the norm, especially this time of year. I’m grateful that I had “proper raising”.Mom and Dad were big on manners. “Mind your manners!” was heard more than once in our house.

 When I was growing up, I used to look forward to the days myDad would take me to his office for a visit. I always felt so grown-up when I got to go. He worked for the railroad. Railroad folks are a pretty tight knit community. I learned the value of a firm handshake and a proper greeting. I was raised to say “please, thank you, yes sir, and no sir”. My elders were to betreated with politeness and respect. I remember meeting one of his bosses and him commenting on “how polite I was. A regular little man.”

Things have changed since then (and no I’m not just waxing nostalgic…). Social mores are different today. Words like ‘please’ or ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ are heard less and less. ‘You’re welcome’ has been replaced by ‘no problem’ (I still have difficulty with that one, especially from service providers – you took my money – no problem…). What hasn’t changed is the need for kindness and common courtesy.

Exercising common courtesy is so much easier when I see a ‘person’ instead of their position. I guess having been in their shoes it’s easier to reallysee them. I know that’s not everyone’s experience. Yet, when I see a person, Isee one of God’s kids, just like me, most of the time. It’s much easier to treat a person the way I want to be treated, than it is a when I see a server, a store clerk, or some guy who doesn’t look like me.

 I’m not perfect at it. There are some folks who are downrightunpleasant. It takes a lot of work and patience just to be polite. My friend Edgar reminds me that I can’t always be unconditionally loving, but I can always be unconditionally kind.

 Another thing I’ve learned about living by the old ‘GoldenRule’ is that reciprocity doesn’t always apply. It really doesn’t matter what you do. It matters what I do.  

I felt the ‘thank you’ I received from the lady at the gas station was heartfelt. Kindness made her day better. Kindness made my day better. I filled the tank and drove off with a big smile. The funny thing is, I was kinder to friends and family as the evening progressed. I wonder if her later customers benefitted in the same way. I’d like to think so.

The takeaway from all of this is that I seem to get as much from simple politeness as the person on the receiving end. Sometimes more so.

This holiday season remember that the crabby sales clerk or servermay have been on his or her feet all day. The holidays bring their own set of circumstances to us all. Maybe, they had a long line of irritating customers. Maybe it’s just a bad day all the way around. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows for any of us. Maybe, just maybe, your ‘please’, thank you’, and courtesy changes the trajectory of their day.