Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pictures


These pictures were taken a couple of months ago...





The garden...


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Your Tribe Matters


It’s official.  Your mother was right.  Who you hang out with – bad boys and bad girls – really does matter.  Studies now confirm that your success in life will be equal to the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.

This goes beyond “the birds of a feather flock together" wives tale.  This affects you on ALL levels of your life; not just in the present, but also who you will BECOME.

I remember teaching on this subject last year and saying something like this:  “Show me the five most dominate voices in your life, and I can show you the trajectory of your future.”

It’s true.  Your tribe matters.

This applies not only to levels of success, but to health and wellness as well.  We all know that “behavior” is contagious.  People who hang out with substance abusers will pick up the same behaviors.  Heavy eaters, heavy drinkers, lawbreakers, risk takers, chronic spenders, mismanagement of money, etc.  So forth and so on.

Conversely, if we hang out with people who have more positive behaviors, we are more likely to pick up those same behaviors ourselves.

HERE’S THE POINT:  It means we need to consciously create our tribe and make sure we have plenty of positive influences in our lives.

SO NOW, THE TOUGH QUESTION:  Are there people in your life that you need to let go of?  Or people you need to spend less time with so that their level of influence upon you isn’t so strong?

THE FUN QUESTION:  Who do you want to spend more time with?  Who is the person (or persons) who fill you up, make you smile, and you enjoy being with?  Who is the person whose business totally inspires you?  Reach out to them.  Get together for coffee.

To create the life you want you need to spend time with people who are not a drain upon you.  You need "safe people."  They build you up, not tear you down.

We are impressionable beings – for better or for worse – and that’s why we need to be selective in our associations.

I Corinthians 15:33)  “Do not be misled:  Bad company corrupts good character.”


Slow Down and Chill Out


Let’s get this straight.  You can kick-butt, rock your life, have big adventures, AND know how to take it slow, savoring every moment.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, you need to learn or else you will burn yourself out before you ever get to fully enjoy the fruit of your labors.

Trust me – I’ve been on that fast track of burning the candle from both ends. Whether that was attending multiple meetings in one day, virtually living at the hospital, parachuting myself into the latest crisis, trying to save the world, burning up a tank of gas every day going here and there “because they need me”, or creating new initiatives and implementing them for the thrill-factor; I did those things because I enjoyed it, and I had the energy.

But after a burnout I learned that I couldn’t keep doing it forever.  Neither could I maintain that pace any longer.  Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve accepted a new reality for myself.

Let’s take a look at the typical man or woman with a type A personality – the person who experiences a constant sense of urgency; or constantly struggles against the clock:

He or she gets up too early in morning after an exhausting night of sleep; runs 3 miles before work, power-houses it at the morning staff meeting while slugging down a glass of green juice, squeezing in a lunchtime yoga session and munching on a green salad of iceberg lettuce;  then comes home after an hour of driving in traffic, makes dinner, feeds the cat, pounds out a presentation for a deadline, and hits the sack at 11 p.m. with thoughts spinning about the next day. You feel powerful, albeit exhausted and overwhelmed.

Why do we do that?

Fear of missing out – (FOMO) – that’s why.

In any event, these scenarios are appealing to a lot of people.  This kind of sexiness sells.  Think of the powerful men and women on TV we admire like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Bones, and the Good Wife.  Then there's Angelina Jolie who has become a role model for many young women; she manages to look hot, saves the world, flies a plane, has a number of children, adopts a few more, donates millions to charity, and spends a lot of time in Africa feeding the poor between sex scenes in her movies.

Go, go, go, and WIN!  It’s what our society admires – having it all.  At full speed ahead.  And we buy into it.

Only problem is, this is not sustainable.

Know why?  Because if you don’t take care of yourself, you will crash-and-burn.  But if you DO take care of yourself, you WILL be able to handle bursts of energetic activity and adventure.

You just can’t do it for decades.  (I can handle bursts of increased activity, not years of it).

It catches up.  You get a lot of colds.  The flu becomes more common.  Each time you get sick it’s harder on you than it was in your 30s.  You feel “foggy-headed” or groggy all the time – almost like a hangover in the morning.  You have less energy and feel tired constantly.  You feel like you are always “fighting off” something.

Sound familiar?

Or maybe you let it get completely out of control and you get an auto-immune disease.  You get irritable and angry.  You bicker at people and seem to stay in that state of mind all the time.  You gain weight and become an emotional eater (for comfort).  You feel chronic pain.  Your hormones are out of whack.  You have digestive problems, you feel bloated.  You have trouble sleeping.  Your skin breaks out.  You have a mid-life crisis.

Or, you get cancer.

Anything can happen.  At any time.

The most important lesson I learned in the last few years is that being fully present in the moment is more fulfilling for me than constantly chasing the next adventure.  Whether that is enjoying some downtime in solitude, spending time with the grandchildren, fishing from my boat, gardening, or resting in my easy chair each evening, being in the moment FULL ON is better than rushing to the next red-light.

It’s less about what I am doing and what I am being.

Capice? 

Think of it this way:  It's like the cycle of summer and winter. 

Take a look at the trees around you in winter time.  They show evidences of drawing inward.  Leaves are dropped.  The energy of the tree is drawn into the core (the trunk and roots), and things are more still.  The sun rests more.  There is more darkness and stillness in each day.  Our bodies follow suit; it’s a time of year that we too can draw inward, rest, and restore our reserves.

In Florida this is particularly pronounced.  In summer the days are very long, not getting dark until almost 9 p.m. at the peak of summer.  The gardens are alive, flowers blooming, the rivers pumping, and people are out to play.  Hard. 

We NEED winter to survive summer.  We need to sleep more and be a little more still.

Yet so many people don’t do this – they keep trying to go, go, go.  Hit the gym every day after work, and go to the clubs and hit up the live music every week… at a time when the nights are long and the days short.

And the dark circles under our eyes tell the story.

So do the coughs, colds, flu, body aches, and insomnia.

There’s a better way to live.  Get yourself in rhythm with nature.

(Psalm 127:2)  “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives His beloved sleep.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Seedlings


These seedlings and young plants will be going into my garden in about 3-4 weeks.  Pictured are Broccoli, Cucumber, Yellow Squash, Zucchini Squash, Cubanelle Pepper, Anaheim Pepper, and seven types of tomatoes (i.e., Yellow tomatoes, Orange tomatoes, Brandywine, Sioux, Better Boy, Beefsteak, and Roma).  Not pictured are two more flats of seedlings.

I really enjoy this time of year.  The anticipation of spring puts me into overdrive.  I start making preparations for the garden, (tilling the ground, deciding what to plant, planning the layout, germinating heirloom seeds, etc).  It's great to be outdoors, planning ahead, and soaking up some early sun.  Doing these things helps me fully enjoy the changing seasons.




Thursday, February 20, 2014

Garlic


This is the garlic I planted in late December.  It's coming along nicely.  Should be ready for harvest about May or June.

The variety is Elephant Garlic - the bulbs are very big and look almost like an elephant's foot.  They are very mild, which is what I prefer.

I'll post another picture as they get taller, then a final picture when I harvest.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Potatoes Planted


Planted four rows of potatoes.  Each row is 100' long.  There are three rows of Red La Soda and one row of Kennebec White.

I will post another picture in a couple of weeks after the plants come up.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Slow Down...


One of the most appealing things to me about living a simpler life is slowing down and not always feeling the urgency to go somewhere. There seems to be a universal recognition that modern life is paced too fast, too hectic, and is too complicated.

And it's expensive.  i.e, Gas for unnecessary driving (or just cruising around), connection fees, cable, internet, cell phones, and smart phones - it all adds up to big dollars.  Enough for an IRA contribution.

Have you ever wondered why everyone is in such a hurry?  Straining to get to the next traffic light?  To go to the Mall. To go wherever.  There's an insatiable urge to go, go, go.  To get out of the house, (instead of spending time at home - the place that is real).  We can't wait to talk on the phone, or send another text, or log on, or whatever.  People actually spend more time staring at their electronic devices than they do talking the person across the table from them (or pay attention to the oncoming traffic in front of them).

It seems the pace has picked up, getting more frantic than ever before.  Without even realizing it, our inner clocks are being wound tighter and tighter like a coiled spring.

As our dependence and over-usage of electronic devices increases, so do things like road rage, insomnia, anxiety, short tempers, impatience, discontentment, and a basic dissatisfaction with life.

Is it any wonder?  These things don't always improve our lives.  They also bring complications.... and distractions.

Have you noticed how quiet your house becomes if the electricity is down for some reason?  All the things we keep plugged in make noise, vibrate and hum.  We hear it all the time and never notice until it’s gone.

Our lifestyle seems to have its foot on the accelerator.  I can’t help but think that if we took a sabbatical from technology, from going all the time, or fasted these things for a few weeks, we could “reset” ourselves, connect with the most important people in our lives (on a personal level), and find inner calm.

Slow down.... and go fishing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Preparing Potatoes for Planting (updated)


This is a pile of my seed potatoes (red and white).  I have Red La Soda and Kennebec White.  

The red potatoes are thin skinned.  A lot of the flavor is contained in the skin which makes them good for boiling (with skin on), mashed (with skin on), or as breakfast hash browns (with skin on).  They are best served when fresh (or new) because the bright red color of the skin begins to fade after a few months.

The Kennebec Whites are new for me this year.  I've never planted them before, so this is a trial run.  Kennebec are now considered one of the most popular potatoes in restaurants (and even among chefs -- sometimes being listed on the menu by name) because of their flavor and growing popularity. They are also reported to be the perfect potato for making fries.  I'll be putting that claim to the test.


The picture below is of the largest potatoes that have been cut in half (or quartered) - increasing the amount of seed I can plant.  Large (seed) potatoes should be cut to a smaller size with a least two sprouting eyes on each section.  

  • Seed potatoes with multiple eyes will make more potatoes but they will be smaller.
  • Seed potatoes with fewer eyes (one or two) will make fewer potatoes but they will be larger.
I will let the cut "heal" for a few days (dry out) before planting.  If I plant them while still wet, they could easily rot.

I intend to plant this Saturday.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Garden Update


Greens
My fall garden (of greens) did very good this season.  I had a real good harvest of turnips (especially roots), collards, and kale.  We’ve had more than enough.  Really.  It’s been very enjoyable.

Onions and Garlic
In late December I planted onions and garlic (which was a month earlier than last year).  Both plants need a long growing season in cool weather to have time to mature before hot weather arrives the following summer. It would have worked if not for the ice storm in January (a 20-year event for this area).  The extreme cold of single digit temperatures was too much for the onion.  Many died.  So I replanted them the first week of February.  Glad I did.  I still have time for a harvest which should come in about May-June.

I have extra onion transplants (about 100) to give away if anyone would like them.  I ordered these onions from Dixondale Farms in Texas (who have been growing onions since 1913).  They are “Candy Onions” – large, sweet, white.  They are perfect for seasoning or making onions rings.  Some bulbs grow as large as a softball.  No kidding.

Onion harvest last year.  Should do better in 2014.

Potatoes
I will be planting potatoes by February 15th.  That’s about six weeks before our areas last average frost date of March 20th – 25th.  I have 100 lbs of red potatoes and 50 lbs of white potatoes.  I won’t use them all, so after I get through planting I will be glad to give away what I have left.

These potatoes came from Minnesota and are certified to be disease free.

Potatoes are easy to grow and you get a lot of return for your effort.  They are the perfect crop for anyone, including backyard gardeners and beginners.

Tilling
Last fall I planted a cover crop of rye grass in my garden.  This week I began tilling it in.  Cover crops add a lot of nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil, aerates the soil, and encourages earth worm tunneling, so I’m hopeful for a better crop this year.

I will wait another week and will till it again.  Then I will begin planting potatoes.

Spring and Summer Garden
My garden this year will be:  Onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, peppers, and field peas (brown crowders).

Grapes, Blueberries, and Others
I recently pruned my grape (Muscadine) vines.  I’m learning how to do these things properly and get a lot of enjoyment from it.  It takes 2-3 years for Muscadines to begin producing, so I’m hopeful this is the year for a good harvest.  Last year the deer ate them off the vine as fast as they appeared.

The deer ate all my blueberries last year too.  This year should be different though.  The extreme cold weather has provided enough “chill hours” to ensure a better yield.  Plus, my blueberry row is 3 years old (optimal), and this season I will put nets over the trees to fend off the deer.

I have other fruit trees:  3 varieties of fig, 3 varieties of pears, nectarines, plums, and one citrus (a Satsuma Mandarin, which is close to Tangerine).  We’ll see how these come out.

An Expanding Hobby
This is a new interest of mine and it’s something that I’ve really taken a liking to.  So much so, that it keeps expanding.  I hope to become skilled enough to actually establish a homestead lifestyle.

I’m also interested in joining clubs or groups and meeting new people who share the same interest.

I also think about selling some produce in a garden market or roadside stand.  We’ll see.

Oh yea, I’m going to raise chickens too.


When You Don't Buy Your Own Product


You can tell how reliable an insurance agent is based upon how much insurance coverage he has himself.  If he’s not willing to buy with his own money the very thing he sells, how can he convincingly (or honestly) persuade others?

If you are in the music business, but you never buy tickets or downloads, can you really empathize with the people you’re selling to?

If you work for a non-profit organization and you don’t give money to charity, what exactly are you doing with that job?  

And the real shame is that this inactivity on their part keeps them from experiencing the very emotion that they try so hard to sell.

You see, it’s easy to embrace an ideal, a value, even a mission, and not participate in it yourself - while exhorting others to do what you yourself do not do.

Let’s talk church, shall we?

I interact with a good number of church people, aspiring leaders, and ministers, and I’m sensing a breakdown precisely along these lines.

  • They say, “We are serious about the Great Commission," but cannot name a single unchurched person that they have personally witnessed to or even invited to a church service. Ever.
  • They claim to make disciples who are willing to die to themselves, but neither they nor their family seems to be willing to serve in the bowels of the ministry, whether that be mopping a floor or tending a child.
  • They love to preach and teach, but not listen and learn.
The result?  Ministry becomes little more than a way to create a platform for ones personal fulfillment and ambition.  Consequently, we do not experience the very life we so energetically try to sell.

And the more that disconnect grows, the less we will succeed.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Identifying Pulpit Teachers for PCC


2 Timothy 2:2 (KJV) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  

(NIV) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

The primary role of a pastor is to maintain the purity of God’s Word, effectively teach it to the congregation, AND pass it on to the next generation intact.  I must do all that I can to identify “faithful men” and “reliable people” who can become godly teachers for our church.  If the church is weak, it’s because of weak teaching.  It’s my job to ensure we have strong teachers.

1.  In choosing others I have to be selective.  They must be proven “faithful” and “able to teach others also.”  Some pastors spend an inordinate amount of time with problem-plagued people who aren’t faithful.  Certainly those people need much love and tenderness, but unless they become faithful they will never make a difference for the cause of Christ.  While I never want to be insensitive to the needs of others, I do want to pour myself into those who will make a difference – those who are faithful and reliable.

2.  In choosing others I have to find those who will make other teachers.  Paul wanted Timothy to be a teacher-maker, and that’s what I want to be.  Beyond the issue of a man’s character is the issue of his giftedness to teach.  I have the gift of teaching and it’s the gift I seek to develop in others who possess it.

The Sunday morning pulpit is not a place for thrill-seekers, spare-time hobbyists, or those greedy of lucre.  The pulpit is a place where God’s Word is communicated, sound doctrine is taught, the church is guided, and God’s people are fed.  This position is reserved for those who understand the calling.