Thoughts From the Porch: It’s finally Fall in Texas. I was
greeted by temperatures in the forties, a crystal-clear morning, and the song
of birds that haven’t been around our area since last year. I haven’t put pen
to paper or keyboard to screen in a bit. I had a tinge of disappointment when I
realized this is the first October entry and there were only a couple for
It’s been a difficult couple of months. Margaret went to the
hospital on Labor Day, came home two weeks later, and is back in the hospital
again. The only good news is that this time it’s for a broken leg. We were
heading to the porch when Maggie decided to bolt out the door, knocking her
over, and breaking the tibial plateau. Apparently, this a rare break and she’ll
have to keep pressure off the leg for the next twelve weeks. Leave it to us to
try and be unique…
Anyway, my trips are once again between home, hospital, and Opal’s Farm. It’s an all-to-familiar cycle I hope to break (no pun intended Baby!) soon. We’d certainly appreciate your prayers…
I found this gem in my morning meditation. Dorothy Day was
the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She spent her life ministering to
“the least of these” – addicts, the homeless, the marginalized, and broken
people. She often wrote in her diary of the temptation to give up. She also
wrote of the reason that kept her going.
“Yes, I see only
too clearly how bad people are. I wish I did not see it so. It is my own sins
that give me clarity. If I did not bear the scars of so many sins to dim my
sight and dull my capacity for love and joy, then I would see Christ more
clearly in you all. I cannot worry much about your sins and miseries when I
have so many of my own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow
sufferers. I do not want to add one least straw to the burden you already
carry. My prayer from day to day is that God will so enlarge my heart that I
will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”
Her honest look at herself – “the unwed pregnancy, her
quick temper and often biting tongue – that allowed her to show grace to
others.” (Phillip Yancey, What Good is God?). When I practice brutal
honesty with myself I too, find grace much easier to extend to others.
I’ve often heard others quote Jesus, “Let he who is
without sin cast the first stone” but all-too-often I fail to put those
words into practice. When I do, however, I find a peace I never dreamed
I have no idea why this posted as “Auto Draft” but here’s the real headline…
Thoughts From the Porch: Last night filled with great music, hot coffee, and a chance to check the emails filling my inbox from the last few days. It may not be most folk’s idea of a great Saturday night but it’s fine by me. To sit and get caught up, especially in air-conditioned comfort, is a golden opportunity indeed.
I get a LOT of emails. Most get a quick scan and deleted but
there are a few newsletters I read religiously. Pet MD sent their weekly
update. Anything benefitting our fur babies is of utmost importance. We strive
to be the best pet parents possible and always look for helpful tips to keep
our pets in good health.
As a writer of content and copy I know the value of a great headline. This week’s Pet MD had one of the best I’ve seen – “What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Weed?” It got my attention right away. I’m not sure I would’ve been asking that question publicly. I did notice that it said weed and not “my” weed. You know, just in case…
To be honest, I never thought of asking that question, but apparently, marijuana toxicity in dogs is on the rise; especially in states where it is now legal. Although I no longer indulge in THC (I’m in recovery, not judging), I imagine I would be mildly pissed if my dog ate my weed. From what I understand, the dime bag is a thing of the past…
How do you know if your dog ate your weed? According to PET
MD, “Clinical signs include:
Sensitivity to loud noises
Low heart rate
Dilation of the pupils
Low or high body temperature”
I would personally
add to the list empty packages of Oreo cookies and Hostess Twinkies scattered
about the house, a lack of motivation to chase the squirrel ten feet away, and an
abnormal fascination with the television. Just saying…
younger and far more foolish years I had a Golden Retriever who once ate half a
pan of THC-infused brownies (where they came from, I’ll never tell!). Had I
known the potential for life-threatening illness I might not have had such a
good laugh (after my initial anger over the lost and somewhat expensive
brownies, of course). The THC made her quite content to lay on the edge of the
porch and watch the cars pass by. I assume she enjoyed the rest of her evening.
I know I did.
If I’d known
then, what I know now…
my dog survived her momentary intoxication without any ill effects. In fact,
she slept it off until the next afternoon. However, I did notice she was
unusually attentive to the sound of storage baggies opening. Had I known about
weed toxicity back then I might have been a bit worried, but all’s well that
The take-away from all this is don’t get your dog high, no matter how much they enjoy it, either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s not good for them. Store your weed (and your cookies) out of reach. Keep your weed and your pet safe and secure.
From the Porch: We sold out early at the farmer’s market Saturday.
We sold much of the week’s harvest on Wednesday, so we were a bit light for
Saturday’s market. Our normal crowd was a bit smaller due to the rainy morning.
Even a few of our farmers took the day off for other pursuits. Hopefully,
everyone enjoyed a much-needed break from summer chores. I know I did.
Our friends Melvin and Janice called Friday night to invite us up to Lake Murray for a camping weekend. It was a perfect Saturday morning to leave market early and head to Oklahoma. Cell service is almost non-existent there. Spending a couple of days unplugged from everything is a periodic necessity. A couple of days in a quiet campsite with good friends is just what the doctor ordered!
Life is full of small pleasures. My Sunday morning meeting was covered by someone else, so I slept in for a change. Upon awakening I made the coffee and headed for some serious porch time. I made the mistake of checking out my CNN app and discovered twenty-nine people had been killed in two mass shootings just hours apart: one in El Paso and the other in Dayton, Ohio. It was difficult to separate the horror and sadness I experienced from the rising fury toward the hatefulness of the crimes.
I wanted to write
about it but growing older (and hopefully wiser) has allowed me to hit the
pause button on such occasions lest I speak or write out of anger. I tend to
say things I later regret or that are misunderstood. It makes apologies and
amends to others for my emotional outburst extremely difficult. So, I’ve mulled
this over for the last couple of days before sharing my thoughts.
story, different day…
The storyline has become all-to familiar. Another mass
shooting. The news covers all the vigils held to honor the dead. Finding
relatives of the fallen or hospital room interviews with survivors are a
ratings bonanza. There’s an outcry against gun violence. Politicians and
political pundits from both sides of the aisle pontificate on how to prevent
this from happening again, just as they did the last time and the time before
that. What happened Sunday will happen again today, tomorrow, and so it goes.
According to data collected by the non-profit organization,
Gun Violence Archive, (as of August 4th, 2019) a mass shooting is
defined as “an event where at least four people, not including the gunman, were
shot”. By this definition, there have been 292 mass shootings in last 219 days
of this year alone. I’m no math wizard but according to my calculations, that’s
1.3 mass shootings a day.
We simply don’t hear about most of them. It seems only a
large body count is newsworthy. Maybe we’ve become numb to “average” shootings.
Many occur in communities most folks ignore anyway. Sadly, if this weekend’s
events are like previous mass shootings, the media will play with the story for
a few days until another ratings booster comes along…
kill just like bullets
The FBI is unsure as to the motive of the Dayton shooter, but are treating the El Paso event as an act of domestic terrorism based on white supremacy. The shooter’s motives were clear so he several hundred miles to carry out a planned attack on immigrants because of the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
The “Hispanic invasion”. “Those people”. “Go back where you came from”. All words and phrases coming from the highest office in the land. All words that spark hate, division, and most of all, fear. When asked what we can do about the problem with those people, someone shouted, “shoot them” and everyone present laughed. Except for one 21-year-old from North Texas. He took those words literally…
I don’t know what to do about gun control, red flag laws, or mental health issues and gun violence. I don’t know if the present occupant of the White House will change his words, but maybe we should hold him accountable for those words. Words kill. They accounted for at least 22 of the deaths this weekend. Hateful words, attitudes, and divisiveness pulled the trigger as much as the gunman did. Donald Trump is as complicit in the El Paso shooting as the gunman.
What I do know is to counter hateful words and actions with
love and grace, despite my anger and sadness. The grace shown to me by a loving
Abba will guide my actions. I’ll not allow hate and division to interfere with
loving and uniting others, especially “the others”.
What I know for certain is, “The only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”―Edmund Burke(in a letter addressed
to Thomas Mercer).I
won’t be quiet, nor will I sit still.
Yesterday was an amazing (and extremely lo-o-o-ng day). We worked at the Juneteenth celebration at TCC South campus. A huge thank you to Tarrant Area Food Bank. They were there early in the morning unloading a semi-trailer full of food – apples, oranges, potatoes, lettuce, milk, and so forth (all wonderful, healthy stuff!) – to be handed out to the people celebrating Juneteenth! By eight o’clock yesterday evening we had given away what seemed liked endless pallets of food…
Opal’s Farm was there too. We had fresh squash and green beans. We had seeds, cups, and organic potting soil so the kids could plant their very own herbs. We instructed them on taking care of the plants and how to use them as seasonings for the food at home. All in all, in was a fantastic day.
I was tired this morning and overslept. I had to jump in the shower and run to the great meeting we have each Sunday. I was only able to get half a cup of coffee down before running out the door. Needless to say, I came home convinced I needed to go back to bed. I decided to brew a pot instead and after three cups of coffee I’m wide awake and grateful for another Father’s Day.
I thought of my sons and called them both. I wished my younger one a happy Father’s Day vis voicemail. He’s filled my life with four of our five grandchildren. My older one isn’t a father yet but I needed to tell him how blessed my life has been because he came into it.
I was scrolling through two days of email when I came across his social media post. His profile pic had changed to one of he and I at Texas Motor Speedway for the Spring NASCAR race. It may sound silly, but I was overcome with emotion when I saw it. Tears streamed down my face (my friend Edgar says I get to cry like a man today…)
You see, I was a single father and not a great one at that. Addiction has a way of interfering with good intentions. It caused a lot of harm and scars, but the good news is years of recovery have healed the relationship I have with my boys today. Despite me and because of my later recovery my boys have grown into fine men.
I got myself together and called my older son, Adrian, to let him know what a precious gift his post was on this Father’s Day. He was on his way home from church. He told me the pastor spoke of the Prodigal Son today. I had to laugh at the timing. I’m acutely aware of and grateful for a Father that loves no matter how far I strayed from His presence. I was reminded the parable could easily be called “the Prodigal Father”, because of the relationship I have with my sons today. Grace is amazing…
I don’t have a lot of time to write today. You see, I get to spend time with a loving God and because of Him, a loving family. At some point today I’ll be at the cemetery to wish my father a Happy Father’s Day and to tell him how much I love and miss him. I wish the same for you all. Have a blessed and Happy Father’s Day!
Thoughts From the Porch: We had a series of precipitation events this weekend; at least that’s what the weather folks called them. I thought it was just rain. Regardless of what you call it, the result is it’s too muddy to do a lot at Opal’s Farm. Brendan and I will harvest radishes tomorrow, but weeding will have to wait. Oh well. It means a little more time on the porch.
I re-read “Jesus Wants
to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile” by Rob Bell and Don
Golden. I re-read many of my good books. After two brain surgeries and the
trudge through middle age I get to enjoy them almost as much as I did the first
time. I gain new insight and reaffirm old ones from re-reading some of my
I appreciate Don Golden for his work as Executive Director
of Red Letter Christians (https://www.redletterchristians.org/).
I had the opportunity to attend the Red Letter Revival last Fall in Dallas.
Being around other disciples who strive to live out the radical, and often
subversive, teachings of Jesus was the highlight of my year.
Rob Bell ( https://robbell.com/)
has always ranked high on my list of favorite authors; especially since his
book, “Love Wins” put him on the outs with the evangelical community. He
was labelled an apostate and a universalist (God forbid!) and exiled in the
truest sense of the word. Questioning long-held doctrine and institutional
religion is risky. Jesus can attest to that. I guess that’s where the sub-title
A brief tangent…
I purchased “Love
Wins” at my old church’s bookstore (a Starbucks-looking “seeker-friendly
kind of place). I had seen it in the store the previous Sunday but could no
longer find it anywhere on the shelves. It turns out that “Love Wins” had generated too many questions for the church. The
Senior Pastor had asked that it be kept underneath the front counter. It was
available only by request. I can assure that when the last copy was sold no
more were reordered.
I asked for a copy and my purchase was quickly placed in a
plain brown paper bag. It was like buying Christian pornography. Forbidden
wisdom there, Don and Rob…
There’s a current trend among many churches to be
“seeker-friendly”. Contemporary services with great bands constitute the
worship experience now. Sometimes it seems like they should be taking tickets
at the door. The experience is more one of entertainment than worship; for me
I retain a church home in name only. I’m not okay with
sitting in the same place every week only to have the same people ask me if
this is my first time at the church. This tends to happen a lot in
mega-churches. It’s not the worshipper’s fault. Large groups tend to be
My old church has a plethora of Pastors and staff members:
so much so that a large portion of the budget goes to administrative costs.
They do some wonderful and amazing things for the local community and in
missions, but I can’t help but wonder what the early Jesus followers would
think. Just saying…
I used to work on quite a few service projects the church
took on, many of them having to do with community gardens and almost always
working with young people. I was invited to go with the Youth Group on a
service project to New Mexico. When they ran a background check (yes, a
background check!) they learned I had a felony conviction from my old life
involving bouncing paper. Suddenly, I was unfit to work with the young people
I’d been working with for over five years. They said it was a question of
liability, but I think they were afraid I’d teach the teenagers how to pass bad
Honestly, I was pissed. I felt betrayed. Church was supposed
to be a place of forgiveness and healing, not a business concerned with
liability and self-protection. I tried to move past my feelings. I continued to
attend for a while, and probably well past the expiration date…
My friend and mentor, Rusty, taught a class I enjoyed and corporate spiritual growth took place within our small, class-sized community. Unfortunately, the class was cancelled, and he was made the ‘Online’ Minister. Churches have gotten tech-savvy in the pursuit of new converts (and additional dollars? – I know, I’m a bit cynical). Quite frankly, the online community simply isn’t the same for me. I spend enough time in front of a computer screen.
I don’t think I’ve attended a service at my old church in
three or four years. My spiritual appetite has been fed in other places:
“being” the church instead of “going” to church. I get to do that daily. I’m
blessed to work with a non-profit, Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm, that
is faith-based and inclusive of everyone. Its mission is to provide for and minister
to (serve) oft forgotten and marginalized communities in Fort Worth. Jesus
called them “the least of these”. I get to be of service daily. My vocation is
the same as my avocation.
I was relieved to hear that others struggle with the same
issue. In his book, “Scary Close”, Donald Miller said something to the effect
that he was a “Christian writer who hadn’t been to church in five years.
Lately, there’s been a nagging longing for spiritual
community. I’ve been missing a home church, or more accurately, a church home:
a place where I belong, where I can have community with other believers, and
where I can celebrate and incorporate the Eucharist, the body and blood of
Jesus, in my life.
I’ve been blessed to have stepped out of my comfort zone.
Stepping out is never easy, but over the last few months I visited several
churches outside my long-held religious tradition. I’ve discovered how much I
miss corporate worship of the Creator and the community of other disciples. There’s
a huge difference in being a Christian and being a disciple.
This past Sunday I visited a church my friend attends. The service was beautiful, the people friendly, and the Eucharist was celebrated in a way that reminded me of the beauty of community. Our time together was holy. I left feeling far less alone in my faith. That’s a good thing…
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know my faith was never meant to be exclusive of other Jesus followers. The writer of Hebrews urges the Hebrew Christians to remain faithful to gathering together. It’s for their benefit and growth. It’s time for me to revisit this advice.
How About You?
What is your experience with this? I’d love to hear from
others who struggle with this issue and how its resolution (of suggestions