Autumn, Awe, Children, Christianity, Community, Creation, Donations, Emotional Health, Environment, Faith, Grace, Grandchildren, Gratitude, Growing Up, Hope, Jesus, Letting Go, Non-Profits, North Texas Giving Day, Prayer, Service Organizations, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Work, Writing

One Down, One to Go

autumn autumn colours autumn leaves beautiful
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thoughts From the Porch: I shared the porch with my lovely wife this morning. The sun was just rising though its efforts were thwarted by an overcast September sky. A southbound cold front and a northbound low-pressure system promise rain for the next couple of days. I’m enjoying the porch in advance of our son’s wedding tomorrow (we don’t have step-kids, Brandon). The rehearsal dinner is tonight and judging by the level of stress and anxiety of all involved, I’m sure everyone will be sleeping in Sunday morning. I’ll have some real quiet time then. As for now, the whispered conversation Margaret and I share is broken only by the squirrels, who started early, chasing each other through the trees in our front yard.

North Texas Giving Day is over, the wedding soon will be, and I can go on to other things I’ve been putting off due to time constraints. I watched the 10:00 o’clock news last night and the total one-day contributions for North Texas Giving Day were over $43,000,00.00 and counting. I can’t tell you how many local charities will be helped. It restores my oft-waning faith in human beings…

Astronomical Fall begins tomorrow. I’m so ready for it. It’s my favorite time of year. We have five Pecan trees and several other trees in our yard. As Fall moves forward and they prepare for Winter, they tend to make mowing a little difficult. Still, that can be remedied by blowing the fallen leaves into big piles that the grandkids (and Pops!) can jump into and crush into a fine mulch.

forest meadow leaves autumn
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Fall brings out the kid in me, at least I think so. I only have fleeting glimpses of childhood. It’s not because I have middle-aged memory lapses. It’s always been that way. Others share about their childhood and I’m at a loss for mine. Ironically, I can remember most of the years I drank and drugged my way to the bottom. There’s something wrong with that picture…

Maybe that’s why I long to jump in a big pile of leaves. I’ve been given the opportunity to create new childhood memories. Jumping into the leaves isn’t really an adult thing. It requires letting go of some adult inhibitions. I keep hearing that one enters a second childhood when one gets older. If that’s true I hope I live a long while…

The Rabbi once told his disciples that “unless you return to square on and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the (spiritual) kingdom”. He went to say that life is about becoming “simple and elemental, like a child”. Sounds like good advice to me.

Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Chronic Illness, Communication, Dogs, Emotional Health, Faith, Freelancing, Gratitude, Growing Up, Health, Hope, Horses, Listening, Love, Patience, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Relief is in sight for the beleaguered! The forecast for the day is for cooler temperatures, at least for the next two or three days. Only in Fort Worth would we be excited by temperatures in the mid-nineties. Such are summers in Texas…

The last few days have been hectic, so I thought I’d take a break and catch the online sermon from church last Sunday morning. I’m still questioning the idea of worship in the corporate setting, so my ‘attendance’ remains online. I value the thoughts of our preacher, even if I’m still uncomfortable with how we do ‘church’ in our culture. Unfortunately, the livestream of the sermon kept disconnecting. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I can relate to that. For the last two or three days, my prayers have been few and far between. I’ve been feeling a little low and my connection with my Higher Power is in a constant cycle of cutting out and reconnecting. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a constant ‘buffering’ state and I can’t quite reach 100%.

Connection problems can and do happen. God’s end may always broadcast a strong signal, but my reception gets spotty from time to time. The connection difficulties are always on my end. When it happens I often have to stop and clean out my ‘antennae’. Occasionally, I get far too busy, over-tired or just plain lazy and my mind gets clogged with self-pity, resentment, and self-centeredness. I begin to sound much like Eeyore in A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh – “Woe is me, I can’t find my tail…”

I’m not unique. Some of the most spiritual people I know feel a disconnect from their Higher Power on occasion. The sixteenth century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, called this disconnect, “the dark night of the soul”. For those of us who pray, who converse with the Spirit of the Universe, we know what he’s talking about. There are times when it feels like prayers fall on deaf ears. We listen intently for answers that don’t come. God is silent. We feel alone, left to our own devices.

When I feel isolated and disconnected, I begin to wonder where God is. I start to question my faith. I’m filled with doubts: little ones at first that multiply into crisis of faith. I used to think this was anathema to me. My upbringing had taught me that questioning one’s faith destined me to the fires of hell. That haunted me for many years, but today I know that faith without questioning is not much of a faith at all. God is much bigger than my doubts. If I continue to pray and listen I will hear God’s response in the most extraordinary, yet simple, ways.

I do some work at a stable not far from my home. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free just because I love being there. There are three horses, Dollar, Lightfoot, and Trooper (‘the boys’ as I call them). Dollar is the oldest, at seventeen. The other two are two or three-year-old rescues; adopted wild mustangs from herds in Arizona and Utah.

IMG_2039

Now I am no ‘horse whisperer’ by any means, but I’ve developed quite a relationship with Trooper and Lightfoot. I was warned they were skittish around people, but that hasn’t even been close to my experience. They have loved and ‘hugged’ on me since the day we met. When I pull up to the stables, they amble over to say hello and let me love on them.

They are one of the ways I find reconnection with my Higher Power. I leave the stables with my spirit more in tune with the universe. There’s a buzz, a vibration, and I begin to hear God whisper. Decisions come easier. Heck, life becomes easier. My mind is free to explore the realm of possibilities, to work and play again. Most importantly, I begin to feel a sense of belonging, of being a part of something far bigger than I. My gratitude grows, and my doubts are erased. All of this happens by simply allowing God to love on me through others, whether they have four legs or two.

I’m basically an introvert. I find the company of my dogs and the horses to be my safe, comfortable place. My beautiful wife, on the other hand, is extremely social and extroverted. She loves to be on the go and around others. I often joke that I’d been more places in the first year of marriage than I had in the previous ten. For that reason, the last almost three years since her back surgery have been hard on her. I’m thrilled when she’s able to get out. I know it’s her way of reconnecting, of hearing God’s voice.

God’s voice becomes clear through our relationships with people and the world around us. When I’m aware of the beauty of creation, I strive to be a better steward of God’s world. I believe that God’s silence is simply His way of reminding me of the importance of relationships, whether they be with dogs and horses or the people in my life. His silence reminds me of the spirit of all things that connect me to the universe. His silence reminds me to be grateful, to be awestruck, and to drink in the beauty of all things.

Most importantly, His silence is a reminder He’s still there, loving me through ‘the dark night of the soul’. Those days, whether measured in weeks or years, will come for all of us. Feelings of doubt and even futility, but they will pass eventually, and probably do so in the most unlikely of ways. It might even come straight from the horse’s mouth…

Chronic Illness, Communication, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Letting Go, Listening, Marriage, Patience, Relationships, Uncategorized, Writing

One Man’s Trash…

It’s a bit warm out here on the porch this morning. We’ve been under an excessive heat warning for the last week and the forecasted high today is 110 degrees. The answer to ‘how are you doing?” is, simply put, HOT. I feel like all I do anymore is complain about the heat. Still, I’m grateful I’m able to get the things done, especially outside, that need to be done despite our heat wave. At least I’m not one of the ambulance statistics I hear on the news each night that has succumbed to the high temperature…

Margaret is doing much better after her procedure last week. I got up and made coffee this morning and she came in the kitchen and made breakfast. That probably doesn’t sound like big deal to most folks, but it is for us. Her mobility has been diminished by the pain in her hips and back and she’s really been struggling the last few weeks with the pain. Prayer, a great pain doctor, and an even greater God has worked wonders. It helps that Margaret is one of the most persistent, patient, and courageous people I know. After five-and-a-half years of marriage I still wonder how I ended up sharing life with such an incredibly wise and wonderful woman. She married me so maybe I need to rethink the ‘wise’ part…

Our normally quiet life has been somewhat upended over the past week. Our granddaughter has been here for the last week, along with our friend who is our ‘adopted’ granddaughter. Our son is moving out of his house and thought he’d have to move in with us, so I’ve been clearing out the third bedroom we use for storage. That may not sound like much, but believe me, it is. There were boxes (and boxes and boxes…) of stuff that haven’t been opened since we moved in five years ago. Once I had almost everything out of the room and started to go through them, he announced that he’d found a house and wouldn’t be moving in after all.

I was relieved he wasn’t moving in. He’s a grown man and needs to be in his own home, for his sake and ours. However, I’ll tell you I was a bit pissed that I’d spent all weekend going through the endless stream of boxes coming from the bedroom. I swear they were reproducing in there. Still, I tackled a project I’d been putting off for the last five years, waiting for my wife’s decisions on what stays and what goes. Because we rarely go in that bedroom there hasn’t been any urgency in getting it done, at least on her part. I get antsy, but, hey, ‘Out of sight, out of mind…’.

The third bedroom has served as a reminder that even though Margaret and I are united in marriage, we still have our unique personalities and sense of self. I am a minimalist in many ways. Margaret is not. While she’s not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, she and I differ on keeping things. My approach to stuff is that if it hasn’t been used, worn, or looked at in the last year, it probably needs to find its way to the trash, recycling bin, or be donated – unless it’s tools, music, or books. I’ll give away tools I haven’t used in twenty years only to need one of them the next day. I have a few things that have sentimental value, but for the most part, stuff is an annoyance. Maybe it’s simply a reminder that so much has been lost to my bad decisions and personal demons…

One of my shortcomings is that I tend to organize my surroundings to fix what’s going on internally. Let me get ‘writer’s block’ or become frustrated and I have the most organized and dust-free office you’ve ever seen. I guess keeping a minimal amount of stuff helps me to be more introspective and stay the course, wherever it may lead. She reminds me that even shortcomings can become assets that allow me to grow.

We’ve accomplished a lot this weekend. The trips to the donation station and the stuff on the curb speaks volumes (although my trash service probably wishes we were a little quieter…). There’s still a way to go before we’re finished, but life feels a little less cluttered. We accomplished it together. That’s what’s most important.