From The Woods

I was surprised to receive a comment on my last post from my younger brother whom I had not heard from in at least six years. My last communication with him consisted of me urging him to begin a conversation with our sister after the death of our mother. He said that he would and several months later I was informed by her that he had never followed through with getting in touch.

There is probably a novel hidden here or somewhere in the space between the times we have seen each other over the course of the past 20 years. Looking back I can’t really say there was any indication that our lives would work out this way—me with several grandkids and him telling me that he has isolated himself from friends and family and is currently living “in the woods” somewhere (I assume) in the United States.

The concept of nurture/nature is one that comes to mind when I think about my family and the course our lives have taken since we each left the nest in Port Huron, Michigan. I am the oldest of four and share our late mother with each of them. Their father (my stepfather) had a temper at times and we each have our own stories to tell about his abuse and how it ultimately affected us.

I didn’t find out that their father wasn’t my dad until I was in the ninth grade and as you can imagine, this fact came as quite a shock to me. I remember not talking for days until my parents confronted me about what was going on and I told them I had inadvertently found a marriage certificate that indicated they had tied the knot sometime well after my birthday. I never even knew my “real” father’s name until I asked my mother one day during a visit many years after she had been divorced from the guy who filled the father role lo those many years.

I have to say that I have never had a real desire to look up my real father similar to those stories we see in the movies—like showing up on his doorstep saying that I am your long lost son come to find you and have a relationship. Nope—that didn’t happen.

I guess his name was Roger and he had red hair which is probably why two of my girls have this reddish-blonde natural hair color. I have always imagined that he had some Irish in him but I don’t think my mother had a whole lot of info about him for her oldest son. Just as well—he can be almost anyone I want him to be—if it really came to all that.

What can I say through all of this? It is many years later and I don’t ever talk to my 2 brothers but talk to my sister at least monthly. She keeps in touch with me and I keep in touch with her.

I will admit it—our family was fractured—at it’s basic core it was broken. Not unlike many other families at that time.

I guess the hardest thing to wrap my head around is the thought of giving up or not fighting against letting our “demons” get the better of us.

My siblings were led to believe by my mother that I was the one she was most proud of and that I was the one that “made” it whatever that seemed to mean to her at the time (the many times) she said that.

I would often explain to my sister that it was just as hard for me, some days, to get out of bed and get on with life as it must be for my brother. That at my core, I was just as broken as he, but for whatever reason, I made it through the day and well into the next two or three. Becoming a Christian at age 30 was most likely what keep me in the game of life and a precursor to having four children and a marriage that has lasted 36 years.

Having a loving wife (life partner and best friend) certainly helped me through the tough times but no matter how low I might go there was never a time that I thought about giving up or cutting everyone out of my life and moving to the woods.

I began this post several weeks ago and have not wrapped my head around what it is that I really wanted to say about my brother’s brief comment.

After explaining all this (and there could be much more) I guess what I would most like to say is that even though life has not turned out like a Hallmark film of the week, my memories of my brother are mostly positive and I hope that some day we will be able to share a meal again and maybe a glass or two of wine in my outdoor living room on a warm, 72 degree, summer’s evening. We have missed a lot of each other’s lives and I am sad about that.

What keeps popping up in my head is the final two verses from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”.

How many a year has passed and gone
And many a gamble has been lost and won
And many a road taken by many a friend
And each one I’ve never seen again

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that

Have a great ride today, Brother.

 

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The Road To….Good Intentions?

Several weeks ago, after spending some time with my kids at the beach, I came home with a new appreciation for each child’s giftings and strengths/weaknesses. An idea that came to my mind at that tender moment was to take a few minutes, perhaps over the next several weeks, and let them each know how much I appreciated them.

I am a firm believer in the power of positive words and encouragement. The word encourage literally means to “…put courage into.”

Not that I have always lived up to my high expectations of myself in terms of conveying positive attitudes to my family and friends. I can often be a glass half empty kind of guy if I don’t watch myself.

However, on the day after my beach return, I texted each of my kids with an encouraging word or two about a personality trait that I saw in them that blessed me. My intent was to continue this until time ended but, as with many good intentions in our lives, I let several days pass before I thought about this again.

Yesterday, while resting from yard and garden work, the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” popped into my head. I took a few minutes to search the web about this phrases meaning and origin and was amazed at the amount of information there was to read.

And while there is no forgone conclusion as to its origin, the phrase seemingly means, on the very surface, that good intentions without action are worthless. If you dig a little deeper into the phrase, there is also the thought that many good intentions turn out bad results.

In an article about this phrase in Psychology Today, the author states: “Very few people have bad intentions. But most of the problems in the world are caused by good intentions. They may not seem good to us, but they seem good to the one taking the action. Good intentions alone are not enough to make our actions moral.”

From a Christian perspective, I have often heard it said that we judge ourselves by our intentions (acted on or not) and others by their actual actions. In that respect guess who is always going to come out ahead.

Wikipedia has this to say about “the road”. The road to hell is paved with good intentions is a proverb or aphorism. An alternative form is “hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works“.

One meaning of the phrase is that individuals may have the intention to undertake good actions but nevertheless fail to take action.[4][5] This inaction may be due to procrastination, laziness or other subversive vice.[6] As such, the saying is an admonishment that a good intention is meaningless unless followed through, which is notoriously difficult for common good intentions such as losing weight through dieting or quitting smoking.[7]

A different interpretation of the saying is that good intentions, when acted upon, may have unforeseen bad consequences. An example is the introduction of alien species such as the Asian carp, which has become a nuisance due to unexpected proliferation and behaviour.[8]

 

It is all very interesting.

 

The conclusion I have come to in my own life it this—I have always had more thoughts than actions. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing per se. But as time rolls on, it is our actions that we will be remembered by not our thoughts, which by and large remain unvoiced and rolling around somewhere in our memory banks.

So, within good measure, put the pedal to the metal on those thoughts that will build up your kids, your friends and co-workers. The dividends will be great even though we may not see them. This is not a pay it forward kind of scheme, but a way to release some of what we have been given in order to benefit and bless those who share the road that we are walking down.

Have a good day and a great ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quality Time

As parents we are faced with many dilemma’s during the years our kids are growing up and learning to live their lives apart from the safe harbor that we call home. We call it a success when that time in their lives is reached and they launch out, graduate from whatever, get a good job, get married and begin raising a family of their own. End of story.

Only, it is never really that simple—this process of living and launching, nourishing and nudging—the dance that begins in the labor room and continues until only God knows when.

Sandi and I are in the time of life where we are fully enjoying the fruit of our labors. There is nothing better than time with all the kids, on someones deck or back yard, drinking wine and listening to the thoughts, ideas, and opinions float around and around the circle that is family.

This past week, Sandi and I joined the rest of the family at the beach in North Litchfield, South Carolina. We have been going to this same beach almost every year since about 1983, when Sandi and I were self-employed craft basket makers and doing as many as 20 arts and craft shows each year.

One of these shows was at Atalaya, a sculpture compound built by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1931. The castle is across highway 17 from Brookgreen Gardens, which is a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve also built by the Huntingtons. It is several square miles of pure floral and sculptural bliss that can barely be described.

Suffice it to say, our time at the beach is always well spent and there have never been too many rainy days during all these years to spoil our collective fun.

This year, we split a week with my daughter in law’s family. And even though I would have liked to spend the whole week at the beach, the time we had was well spent and featured many “kodak” moments—this a reference to the pre-digital age of camera photo’s as opposed to iPhone point and shoot memories.

Really, the beach is about two things at this point in time—watching the grandkids play in the sand and water and time with our kids at night on the screened in deck.

What I have come away with this year is simple: after all is said and done, family is all you really have in this fast paced world.

In retrospect I would also have to say to my kids—life is never going to be perfect and there are many things about our time here on earth that you will never be able to figure out. Learn to hold things lightly and go easy on yourself when you fail to live up to your own expectations or when others disappoint you. Learn to respect yourself and love others and hopefully you won’t take as long as it has taken me to figure these things out. 

Just as God is always with you, you are always in our thoughts and prayers and we want you to be happy and enjoy the parts of life that you find yourself in and surrounded about. We gave it our best all those years ago and hopefully you will remember the good times and let the rough patches build the character in you they were intended to create.

We love you and are blessed that you are successful in living and loving everyday.

This year at the beach was one of the best.

 

 

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Wheat & Tares & Weeding Woes

I have been gardening for nearly 35 years and along the way have learned a whole lot about growing your own food. This year, Sandi and I invested in a 20 foot by 36 foot cold frame/greenhouse in order to extend our mountain growing season and also keep the deer away from our tomatoes, beans and peppers.

Talk about a learning curve. First of all it took nearly two months to complete the structure and then get the plants in the ground in time to get a harvest this year. Then, as the days grew longer and got hotter, we found that just dropping the sides early in the morning did not keep the temperature in the 85 to 90 degree safe growing range. So we installed a 50% shade cloth along the top which seemed to keep the temp down most of the time except when it was 80 outside with no appreciable breeze.

Anyway, the crops inside are looking good even though we burnt a few buds during the week or two before we installed the shade cloth.

My wife says that I have kept up with the gardening tasks really well this year although when It came time to harvest the onions and garlic, I was doubtful this was an accurate representation.

What I mean by this is the fact that even though I had weeded several times during the early stages of garlic and onion growth, it seems that overnight these fertile beds are covered with the most pernicious weeds imaginable.

So it is not just a matter of forking up the garlic and onions but the beds must be weeded at the same in order to ready them for fall planting. And like I have said before, you really need to be in the weeding mood in order for this process to take place.

As I gave myself over to this altered state of consciousness of playing in the warm soil, I couldn’t help but think of the bible verse that talks about weeds, which in this particular illustration are called “tares”.

One has to wonder where all these weed seeds come from. It seems that no matter how well you weed one year, there are even more the next year. Maybe this verse explains where these weeds came from. I certainly know that gardeners don’t order them online and plant them along with the good seeds.

Matthew 13:24-30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Tares among Wheat
24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven [a]may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed [b]tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the [c]wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? [d]How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An [e]enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Maybe this is a stretch but perhaps someday the weeds will be gone and the earth will produce only what the good seed intends.

Enjoy your ride and your gardening.

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The Land of Opportunity

Yesterday, after lunch, I wandered into my garden with the intention of just looking to see where things stood in terms of crop development and so forth.   While there, it became readily apparent that I had ignored several beds for who knows how long, and the soil I had so painstakingly amended and attended to had become somewhat overgrown with weeds.

We have had good periods of rain lately followed by lots of sun which in turn will aid in the production of vile grasses and opportunistic plant-like bushes with roots that seem to go all the way to China.

Anybody who has ever grown a garden is familiar with this story. It seems that it has been this way since Adam and Eve were expunged from the original garden and destined to scrape and scrap the earth for every bit of food they could.

The truth is, no matter how careful you are in pulling weeds, even after a shower when they come out without much effort, there will always be more every year. I don’t fully understand how this happens but I know that it is true. As long as it is called “today” you will have “weeds”. I think it is even in the Bible—or was that “troubles”?

Anyway, and to the point of this post, pulling weeds is the epitome of a “window of opportunity” scenario. Window of opportunity is defined as: A short period of time during which an opportunity must be acted on or missed.   Weeding the garden is all this and more. You are either in the mood or not. If you are not, you walk past the weeds and busy your mind with other, more important thoughts and actions.

If you find that the thought of getting on your hands and knees is not repellent, you need to strike while the iron is hot.   Actually weeding while you are in the mood is a very satisfying endeavour—once you are done of course. At that point your hands ache and are covered with dirt (life giving soil for those of you who are mostly organic) and your knees—well you can’t really feel your knees at all by that time.

However, as you stumble away and towards the sink, you take a moment and look back at that carefully prepared plot of soil and the satisfaction of a job well done is all the reward you need. Take it from me.

Here’s hoping that next year won’t be quite as weedy. Enjoy your ride.

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A Continuing Conudrum

With so many points of view today on so many different contemporary topics, I make no apologies that my “world view” filter is mostly through a Judeo/Christian lens. Whatever the topic, from gardening to gun control all the way back to abortion and beyond, my thoughts are formed by what I believe about where we came from and how the earth was initially birthed.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a creator God who sent His Son to earth to set us free. That I can’t always figure God out or understand how everything fits together is just one of those things that we, as human beings, live with. (1 Corinthians 13:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB) 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.)

Lately I have been challenged to reassess my feelings and/or thoughts concerning the United States and whether or not we have ever been a “Christian Nation”. There are many thought streams floating past us that would suggest that we, as a nation, need to return to our roots in order to avoid God’s judgement on our united states.

That we have fallen away or turned our backs (judicial and otherwise) from many of the principles that our great nation was founded on is not in doubt. We have gone from children in territorial schools using the Bible as a reading primer to a theory of separation of church and state that almost prohibits bibles from being read in public schools.

I firmly believe that our nation was very much founded on Judeo/Christian ideals but that most of those political movers and shakers were indeed “Deists” who did not necessarily believe that Jesus was Lord and savior. Be that as it may, research that I have done suggests that a great percentage of the population at that point in our history were what we would call believers.

In my opinion, God does not “bless” nations—He blesses people. If all those people are gathered into a nation, then that nation can receive whatever it is that God wants for them collectively. When I hear that we must return to our Christian roots to avoid God’s judgement or that we are already under judgement, I am not so sure that I fully understand what is really being said.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought I understood this—that as a nation, we had to return to this golden era and everything would be all right.

A while back I listened to a teaching by Kris Vallotton that really caused me to think about God’s judgement and what that really means. His belief was that, we as a nation, were not yet being judged by God but that in reality we were reaping what we had/have sown.

The reaping and sowing principle is mentioned several times and in many different ways in the Bible. It is sort of like cause and effect—when we choose an action we choose the consequences of that action as well. Most farmers know what this means—if you plant just a few seeds you only harvest a few vegetables. From a spiritual point of view, if you sow bad stuff you reap bad stuff.

What Vallotton used in his sowing and reaping text was the issue of legalized abortion in the United States. In a nutshell, his theory was that we were in effect judging ourselves by allowing millions of babies to be aborted and in a cause and effect sort of way, we had therefore denied ourselves of all the benefits that many of those aborted, might have brought to us, had they been allowed to live.

It is not a stretch to imagine that amongst the millions aborted there may have been some who might have lived to find a cure for cancer. How many doctors, economists, scientists, humanitarians, and you name it are not among the living today because of Roe v Wade.

What I have gathered from this teaching is that we don’t really need God to judge us for whatever reason we might deserve—we are doing a pretty good job on our very own. And if we keep it up, we will, as a nation, be in for a lot more cause and effect consequences. I realize that this subject is huge and I cannot really do it justice in a few hundred word blog.

What I have realized is this—before a nation can return to anything, the individuals that make up that nation must return. In other words, you can’t really say the church in America is not being a light without looking at the people who collectively are the church.

In other words, it is my responsibility to be the light and salt. It is out of my belly that rivers of living water flow. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit—God lives in me and is not sequestered in some steeple clad brick building on the corner of here and beyond.

It all comes down to the “people” level. If my “people” who are called by my name, humble themselves and pray…..He will hear our prayer and heal our nation”. My question is this: am I really up to the task as a “seed bearing” Christian to allow these seeds within me to be scattered about in order that good fruit will be brought forth. I don’t have the answer yet, but this is the path that I am on and looking for the long ride.

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Greenhouse Progress Post

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A Moment Of Clarity

Someday

This will all be someone else’s to go through.

I will be gone and yet there will still be parts of me left behind.

My father left behind an apartment full of memories and it was my task as the oldest to assemble and sort through the boxes and drawers of stuff he left behind.

My reaction at the time was to vow that I would never do the same—leave all that stuff behind for someone else to sort through.

Yet we live and we collect boxes full of old birthday and father’s day cards—so precious at the moment of receiving and yet saved—as if to say—the meaning of that moment will be diminished—if not kept.

As I sort through a basement full of years and years of collecting, I am reminded of my vow—my intention being so very clear at that moment of introspection in my dad’s apartment.

I need to be firm in my resolve—yet I hesitate.

Two boxes of stuff become one yet one remains—perhaps only meaningful in that moment to me.

I cling to a past that will never pass this way again—I guess that is because this is what humans do—collect memories as mementos to a life lived in order to feel good about the days we have been given.

I sense the ship is about to sail and there is limited luggage space.

(Written 12/29/2012)

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Cold Frame/Greenhouse Progress

IMG_1067Ends are in and doors.

Cold Frame/Greenhouse Progress

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Ray Bradbury A Prophet?

Before I go to far, let me just mention that this title thought comes as a result of a conference that Sandi and I attended this past weekend in Boone. 

Without going into much detail, the main speaker spent several hours over a two day period more or less outlining his experiences in and around what God is doing in the earth today. By following what he believes he is hearing from God, he has found himself in some pretty incredible places interacting with some very interesting people, who not only knew the part they played in this adventure but were often the very means by which he discovered the next link in what has become a life’s work and calling.
Suffice it to say it is always amazing to me when the pieces of life’s puzzle come together.
As a Christian, I believe that we have the ability to interact with Christ in a personal way on a daily, hourly and/or a minute by minute basis. In other words, using a radio metaphor, He is always broadcasting but we are not always tuned into the channel He is on. 
So when someone says that they hear God and that He told them to do this or to go here or there, I am not hard pressed to believe in this reality.
It came to me the other day that there are two types of hearing God—one way can be called “passive listening” because He said that He is always with us. In other words, many of the thoughts that occur to us during a day, can be Him speaking (as opposed to the noise that fills the world and our minds) but we are not so involved in differentiating them. The other type of listening is more “active” and can be typified by a diligent hunger and thirst to be involved with Him and pursuing His “presence”.
Much of what the conference speaker spoke involved the United States and it’s future. I am not an alarmist, but it is not hard for the natural eye to see the signs of a world that is in a lot of hurt. I am also not what you call a “prepper” although I do believe that we have a responsibility to be prepared for whats ahead of us—be that an ice storm that takes out the power grid or a time of drought or a disruption in our food supply chain. 
In light of this, the conference speaker made the connection between people hearing God and those same people being a part of something much bigger that is happening in America—sort of underground as it may be.
He told us of some people stockpiling toilet paper while other people are not but are storing something else—some people are buying guns and other people are not “feeling” to buy any weapons at all.
I guess in order to fully understand what I am saying, or trying to relate, you would have had to be there in person. However, what the speaker was trying to communicate on a very simple level was the fact that if people were tuned into God, they would know what to do (store up) and what not to do. 
Being prepared for the worst is a gamble at best—or so I thought. Since we are only 9 meals from anarchy in America, those people that don’t have will be on my door step once they realize that I do. Plain and simple—you can then either shoot them or share—knowing this: no one person can ever do it all and it seems like if you planned on feeding 4 for a month or two and suddenly there are 10 of you, your  stockpile won’t last as long as you would have hoped.
But that is what I would term thinking in the natural.
What I saw this weekend is that in the supernatural, we are not limited to only what we have but in a a greater sense, when the body of Christ comes out of the woodwork (church building), there is perhaps no limit to what God can do through us.
That is if you are listening.
Let him who has ears hear what the spirit is saying to the church (the ecclesia). God does nothing that he first doesn’t reveal to his servants the prophets.
And this is where Ray Bradbury comes in. In Fahrenheit 451 there is a scene in the woods where groups of people live and their sole mission in life is to keep alive the classics that have been burned. Some have memorized chapters and some whole books, which if memory serves, are then verbally passed on to others with the intent of keeping these book classics alive.
One person can’t do it all—it takes a team effort.
And so will making it through a crisis in America—a team effort will be required.
I will trade you a tube of toothpaste for a box of teabags and so on down the line.
Read between the lines—there is a lot more that I could say and a lot more that I have to learn but today begins the “long ride” that we have been on for quite some time.
We are not preparing for a time of fearful expectation but for a time of God’s glory to be revealed in the earth like we have never seen.
And that’s a ride worth going on.
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