Thoughts From the Porch: I was just looking back over the
last three or four weeks and noted that I haven’t posted much this month. I’ve
tried to keep everyone updated on Opal’s Farm, but I spend far more time at the
farm and less time at the desk (or on the porch). June is an incredibly busy
month for everyone at Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. The Juneteenth
celebrations and programs, harvesting our Spring crops, and preparing for Fall
planting keep us hopping. It has been a fantastic, yet tiring, month.
We’ve been blessed here in North Texas with below average
temperatures and abnormally late rainfall. The Farmer’s Almanac is
predicting rainfall into July, which is extremely rare on the southern plains.
We haven’t even had a one hundred plus degree day yet (I’m knocking on my old
oak desk as you read this). It’s still hot (this is Texas), but the farm
is doing well. We had our first public sale to the neighborhood last Sunday. We
hope to be at the Cowtown Farmer’s Market tomorrow (we’ll keep you posted!).
I was weeding the watermelon and cantaloupe rows yesterday and had to be somewhat gentle in my approach to some tall weeds. Tall weeds, especially the Johnson grass, are the inevitable consequence or good rainfall. Still, I’ll gladly trade tall weeds for abundant amounts of rain.
If you’re familiar with melon vines you know they put out
small tendrils that grab onto anything in their path. The vines were tangled
among many of the weeds making it impossible to remove one without damaging the
other. I decided to let vines go crazy through the weeds rather than damage the
It reminded me of a story Jesus told of a farmer who
planted good seed in his field only to discover someone snuck in during the
night and planted thistles among his wheat. The farmhands wondered how to resolve
this dilemma. The head farmer told them to leave it alone. If they tried to
remove the thistles, they’d pull up the wheat as well. “Let them grow
together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvester to pull up the
thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it
in the barn” (Matthew 13. 29-30, The Message).
Jesus said God’s kingdom is like that. The good (wheat,
or in my case, melons) are often intertwined with the bad (the thistles and Johnson
grass). Sometimes I simply accept that my field, and my life, are filled with both
good and bad things, but the end always results in a harvest. If I don’t try to
have my way (I don’t like weeds, nor do I wish the discomfort of the negative
things in life) it seems the harvest is always bountiful. Opal’s Farm is a
reminder that watermelons and cantaloupes always win out over thistles and
Johnson grass. I just have to take gentle care of the field…
Thoughts From the Porch: I’m posting this on my business
website as well as the Opal’s Farm Facebook Page. Please bear with me as it has
a bit more to do with Opal’s Farm than just produce. It’s a personal note on
what the farm and working for Unity Unlimited, Inc. has meant to me for the
It’s been two weeks of running! Harvest is coming in at Opal’s Farm. Saturday was the big celebration at TCC South campus with the parade, the entertainment, and seminars and activities all day long. One of our partners and sponsors, the Tarrant Area Food Bank, gave away a semi-trailer full of food to the community.
The Juneteenth events over the last ten days will
culminate with “Juneteenth: The Play” at Will rogers Auditorium tomorrow
evening. Tickets are still available, and proceeds benefit Opal’s Farm. Go
to Opal’s Farm Facebook page or to www.juneteenthftw.com
for details and tickets. It will be a delightful, entertaining, and educational
evening. Most of you know that the Fort Worth Juneteenth celebrations are a
huge part of what our parent non-profit organization, Unity Unlimited, Inc.
does each year.
For those of you who have no idea what Juneteenth is…
“Juneteeth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.” www.juneteenthftw.com
Some Back Story…
One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. My minister
friend, Rusty, had mentioned him in passing one time. I was browsing through
the bookstore and came upon Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz”. After
reading the author’s note at the beginning I bought a copy. I read it through
in a couple of sittings the first time. I read it much slower a couple of times
after that. I found someone who vocalized much of my spiritual walk; things I
always wanted to say and simply could not find a way to do so. I think I own
the whole Donald Miller catalogue these days…
In “Blue Like Jazz”, Miller tells the story of a
“confession booth” he and his friends built at Reed College. A Google search of
Reed College will say three main things about the school. First, is its
academic reputation as one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation.
Second, its liberal political reputation. Third, its permissive policy toward open
drug use and parties. Long story short – it doesn’t harbor a large “Christian”
student population. Intellectual pursuits (and a bit of drug-induced fun) are
often at odds with religious belief.
Miller and a few of his like-minded followers of Jesus had
an idea: set up a “confession booth”, not to take confessions but offer them as
evidence of Christianity’s failings and crimes against humanity – things like
the Crusades, slavery, and Native American genocide. I won’t bore you with the
details (you really should read the book!), but I’ve always loved the idea.
Maybe if much of Christianity was honest enough to admit they’ve screwed up
horribly, genuinely attempt to make amends, then they might have some real good
news to share. (Disclaimer: The
Christian “right” doesn’t speak for many followers of the Rabbi) Just saying…
I mention it because I’ve thought a lot about confession
this morning. In the Twelve Step tradition, introspection, ownership of one’s
actions (good or bad), and admission (confession if you will) to God and
another human being are essential to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth and
building a solid relationship with a Higher Power are essential to recovery.
Moreover, confession allows us to make amends, or make things right, so forgiveness
and recovery (and in this instance, community) can take place. It’s essential
to recovery, our spirit, and the humility that’s as critical as food and water
are to the body.
My work with Unity Unlimited, Inc, Opal’s Farm, and Ms.
Opal herself has led to deep introspection over the last year. I haven’t always
liked what I’ve seen. I’m acutely aware of how old tapes play in my head. I’ve
also learned the value of listening. My Dad used to tell me that I was given
one mouth and two ears so I could listen twice as much as I speak. I must confess
I don’t do that well.
Please forgive my unwillingness to truly listen. Today I
will listen and be a friend and an ally. I’ll seek to learn from other’s
struggles so that I too can walk the path toward freedom. Fannie Lou Hamer once
said that none of us are free until all of us are free. I guess that’s why the
last week of Juneteenth celebrations have affected so deeply. When I fail to
listen, I rob myself of the chance for emancipation from old ideas and blind
myself to new possibilities.
I believe in the old saying that “confession is good for the soul”. I look forward to taking our walk together.
I haven’t written from the porch for the past couple of weeks. Time has been short. I’m playing catch up from a recent two-day stint in the hospital (long story but everything’s okay). They couldn’t figure out what was going on. I guess that’s why doctors only “practice” medicine…
I could use the whole hospital thing to explain my lack of recent communication, but I won’t. The truth is a bit uglier than that. The reality is there’s been some doubt and depression going on the last few days. When I started writing “Thoughts From the Porch”, my intent was to only write positive, encouraging words. God knows there’s enough negative crap out there!
Unfortunately, life isn’t always happy, joyous, and free.
Life shows up in some awful ways. Even when I feel I’m on the path God has
chosen for me it can have some serious rough spots. I would be dishonest if I
didn’t share those as well. I may not write in a manner comparable to great
authors or even my fellow writers on WordPress, but I’ve learned to be
truthful, to be authentic, and to be myself regardless of how I’d like to be.
The truth is that I haven’t liked myself very much the last
few days. Sometimes, the truth sucks. As my friend Edgar always tells me, “The
truth will set you free, but it’ll really piss you off first.” Quite frankly,
I’ve been pissed.
Margaret and I have struggled financially over the last few
months. Work has been slow as most of my time is spent on the urban farm
project, Opal’s Farm. Most of you know my passion for the project. Margaret and
I prayed diligently before taking on this task. We went into it with eyes
wide-open. We knew money would be tight until we gained sponsors and had our
first harvest. Looking back over the last few months, hell, even over our
lifetime, we can see God’s thread all the way through. He stands with us
through all the difficult times. Bills get paid, we eat regularly, and most of
the time life is good despite the setbacks that come with our chosen path.
However, there are times when an awareness
of God’s providence is insufficient to stave off the blues.
In lieu of our smaller income we’ve been forced to put off
needed home repairs and tighten our money belt in ways neither of us have
experienced, at least in our lives together. Add to that Margaret’s chronic
pain, limited mobility, and the depression that rears its ugly head as a
result. Frustration and stress mounts despite our faith in the Almighty. It’s a
recipe for doubt, fear, and self-loathing, for me at least, and it has been
simmering for quite a while. Yesterday it came to a boil…
A serious case of the “F..k Its”.
Yes, folks, expletive laced prayers, lamentations of “poor
me”, and drowning in a cesspool of comparing myself to everyone else. I threw a
temper tantrum! Why me?
I imagine some of you can relate. It felt as though my world had fallen apart and God was nowhere to be
found. He always seems to be playing ‘Hide and Seek’ when I need Him: just like
with everything else in my world. I
immediately decided to quit the farm, stop writing, and start looking out for
Number One. I’d probably have to become a greeter at WalMart (no offense
intended – all work is important). A career in bank robbery seemed a
viable alternative to the present financial hardships. You must take it, because no one’s going to give to you, right?
If it sounds a bit extreme, it is. I tend to go for
extremes. A friend once told me that “balance is the beam I trip on while
running between extremes”. Yep!
I always feel like such a spoiled brat after these not-so-little
tantrums. It doesn’t take as long as it used to getting over these fits of
doubt, frustration, and fear (that’s really what the tantrum is about…). I find
relief in the fact they don’t happen very often anymore, but I sure hate it
when they do. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can identify with this
Fortunately, sanity returns, I own my behavior, make amends
for the harsh words and actions, and find forgiveness and gratitude for everything
I do have. First and foremost, I have a Heavenly Father who appreciates my
authenticity. I’m sure most church folks would be shocked by how I “pray”. It’s
not always pious and formal. Still, God allows me to express my doubts and
fears. He listens. He understands and He loves me right where I’m at –
expletives and all. He allows my rants and then holds me close to remind me
that I’m loved and it’s okay to be human. I’m His child.
Somewhere in this process I find peace. The situation hasn’t
changed at all, but I have.
Healing the Blind…
My tantrums always begin with tunnel vision and outright
blindness. The world is out of focus, blurred with pain and frustration, and I
can only see myself, my needs, and my wants. When I finally grow tired of
emotional blindness, I hear Jesus’ question to the blind man at the Pool of Siloam,
“Do you want to be healed?”
It sounds like a simple question doesn’t it? Sure, I want to
be healed, but… I tend to find excuses, much like the guy at the Pool, until
finally, I can see again.
Restoration of sight, healing, takes place in miraculous
ways for me. It happened the other night. Blinded by my self-centered fear and
doubt, I stormed out to the porch to be alone. I stood there, blindly staring
into the night, when a tiny spider and his (or her – I’m not sure how to tell
the difference) web began to take focus.
As my vision sharpened, the intricacy and size of the web
grew. I saw his tiny legs shooting across the web with new silken strands. The
minute strands vibrated in the wind but never strayed apart. It seemed
It sounds silly to be so intrigued by a simple spider web, but I’m kind of a simple guy, I guess. However, this tiny spider is building his web in the same place on our porch every Spring. He’ll stay until Fall, building his net every evening and waiting for the meal he knows will come. I’m no expert on spider species identification, but it’s always appears to be the same species year after year. It’s always a smaller version that grows to be the same as the one last year.
While I’m no Arachnologist, our little eight-legged friend is
probably last year’s offspring. I had the privilege of seeing all the little ones
bursting from their egg sac last year. Their home and ours are one in the same.
I get to watch the intricate, complex beauty of this tiny creature every
evening. Clarity had returned.
Our hardships and my frustration faded into the darkness of
the evening. I could see, and more importantly, see that our difficulties were
nothing, that God was still (and always is) faithful. Life may have its
difficulties, but grace changes how I see them. Difficulties become
opportunities to grow in ways I can’t even imagine.
If a tiny spider ca open a world of grace and heal blindness,
how much more can I be a vessel of grace?
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…
3a: a charming or attractive
trait or characteristic”
Grace. Do I really believe it’s possible to receive “unmerited divine assistance”? Do I really believe that I’ve been granted “approval, favor, mercy, and pardon”; that somehow, I’ve received “a special favor”? Do I show a “disposition to kindness, courtesy, or clemency”? Is grace the “attractive trait or characteristic” of my life?
Thoughts From the Porch: I try to avoid writing on Saturdays. I really do. I try to avoid anything having to do with work or sitting in front of the computer so I can tinker about the house. I believe in “Sabbath” rest. Ironically, rest seems more work at the time. I’m not good at it yet…
Here in Fort Worth, the Stock Show and Rodeo is going into its second week. I was coming home from the farm on Interstate 30 and saw the long line of trucks and livestock trailers waiting to exit and set up shop. Most of the trailers were marked with various Future Farmers of America (FFA) signs from various small towns in the area. Someone unfamiliar with rural life won’t appreciate it the way many of us in Cowtown do.
Every time the Stock Show comes
around, I spend more time than usual thinking about Mom and Dad. After Dad
died, my brother-in-law finally accepted a job promotion in Atlanta. My sister’s
family moved off to Georgia and I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like. He’s
since retired, and they built a house on some acreage outside a small rural
town near the Alabama-Georgia state line. I’m so thankful for cell phones and
email even if their reception is sometimes spotty.
She emailed me a song a few
days ago that really hit home, especially now. “Beat up Bible” must have been
written about Mom and Dad. I wanted to share the link https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JvPBUH65EzI.
hope it brings the same joy, the same sweet memories to you.
No family is perfect. I butted heads with Mom and Dad often. I had to work through some resentments I had held onto over silliness on my part. I’m so grateful that those things were worked out when Mom passed. They weren’t when Dad died in 2002. Grief changes us, at least it did me. I’ve since come to a place of peace. My heart is refreshed by knowing my father was the best example of God’s love here in this place. Walking through my grief has left me with only the wonderful memories of the parents I love so much.
In his latter years, Dad would
sit on the back porch with me and share about our family. He grew up without a
father in his life. I think that’s why my own failed marriage worried him so
much. He missed having his dad there. Maybe that’s why he was so good at loving
my sister and me. I’d like to think so…
My sister and I are both adopted.
Mom and Dad never ceased to remind us of how special and how loved we were. We
were wanted desperately. I know today that I was blessed far beyond anything I
could imagine having the parents I did. That isn’t always the case for everyone…
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the
song. I hope it brings back happy memories. If it doesn’t, I hope it helps you
make happy memories for your kids. Happy Saturday everyone!
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” — Edward Teller
One of my favorite scenes from
the “Indiana Jones” movies where Harrison Ford’s character must step out in
faith over a giant chasm in order to reach the Holy Grail. With his nemesis
holding him and the people he loves at gunpoint, he’s at wit’s end and out of
options. He steps out into the darkness of the abyss. As he takes the first
step a narrow bridge begins to come into view. Unfortunately, it can only be
seen with each successive step, one step at a time. Each step requires more
courage, more faith, than the one before. I can’t recall how many steps it took
to get across the dark abyss, but I’d like to think it was twelve. I can
That scene’s been on my mind a lot lately. Margaret and I are experiencing some difficulties as late. Finances have been tough since my hospital stay earlier this year. Business has been slower than projected. Opal’s Farm still has a way to go before all the start-up costs are in hand and planting is scheduled for February 15th. How are we going to do this? It’s a little overwhelming at times (OK, a lot overwhelming…) The chasm looks awfully vast at times…
If I get honest, I’m a lot like
Indiana Jones (well, except for the whole “dashing adventure hero” thing…). I
usually need to be backed into a corner with no options or solutions in sight. I
know there’s absolutely no way I can get out of the situation before I’m
willing to step out into the darkness. I forget the fact that in looking back, a
path has always been carved through
the darkness and it’s always illuminated. If the path isn’t clear, I learn to
fly before I crash into the bottom of the abyss. Always! Though I usually don’t
see it until later…
You’d think that with such a
proven track record I’d push right through whatever obstacle was in my way. It
doesn’t always work like that. Taking that first step into the abyss isn’t my
first choice. I temporarily forget God’s faithfulness. As my friend Edgar likes
to remind me, “I’m not a slow learner,
just a fast forgetter”.
“Trials are not enemies of
faith but are opportunities to prove God’s faithfulness.” — Author Unknown
Ironically, my memory gets
sharper as I grow older: at least in matters of faith (in other areas, yeah,
not so much…) It doesn’t take as long to remember God’s faithfulness even when
mine is absent. One of my favorite reminders is Psalms 119.105: “Your word for my feet and a lamp for my
path”. The funny thing about a lamp is that it only shows what’s
immediately ahead. I can only see the path if I keep stepping out, one step at
I’ve spent far too much time stressed out about things beyond my control, so I’m stepping out. Whether I’ll be walking or flying, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that I’ll see you on the other side…