ORANGE TREES

I appreciate the orange trees that live in my backyard. They have many purposes, the obvious one is the fruit that they both yield twice a year. But they also provide shade for the backyard as well as block traffic noise from a busy 56st that sits on the other side of my next door neighbor’s house.

If a person enjoys the fragrance and isn’t allergic to the pollen, come Spring and Fall, when the orange blossoms sprout, it’s an orchestra for your sense of smell. It’s worth the sneezes even if you are allergic.

And then of course there’s nothing quite like pulling a ripe orange from tree, peeling it, and enjoying a slice that is a slice of heaven this side of it. Or squeeze or juice them for a drink works pretty good too.

Those trees aren’t new. They’ve lived in my backyard for going on fifteen years. I planted them myself. I watered, fertilized, braced, and cared for those trees while I was building our house. They started as not much more than twigs.

My orange tree

And while I appreciate all that those orange trees provide, there’s not a season that has gone by that I don’t think about their downfalls. When I bought those trees I paid extra to make sure I got seedless navels. But after planting, watering, and caring for those trees, when they finally did yield the hoped for treasures, they had seeds… I didn’t get what I was sold or promised.

A fella with a cynical world view that has been self employed for going on thirty years can tend to jump to conclusions and fly off the handle. Then I get mad…

I had to make a decision after a year or two after I planted the orange trees. Should I dig ’em up and take ’em back, or live with what I had and had nurtured. You already know the end of the story.

I think about myself, and all of us really; we all tend to be a bit like those orange trees. There was a time when we were young and full of promise. We sold the best version of ourselves. We didn’t show the people that are still in our lives the warts or the seeds. We hid the side of us that would have caused the prospective buyers to put us back on the shelf.

Some folks do put others back on the shelf… and they miss the beauty of caring for the less than perfect that describe all of us. I receive grace from God and loved ones… and try to pass it on… I think of that when I see or think about my old orange trees. Seeds and all, they belong to me.

JUMP

Edited and reposted from October of ’11

jump
image courtesy of photo bucket.com


The first time I saw the Upper Colorado River from that dizzying vantage point I was impacted by its beauty, even at a young age. The rugged cliffs towered over the edge of the river that was formed by the cutting force of the vicious current below.

Some said those cliffs were over 80 feet tall, others said that the most notorious cliff, aptly named “Suicide”, was just over 65 feet tall. I’m not sure which was closer to the truth, I only know they were scary high.

We started on the lowest cliffs and after each jump into the ice cold water the swift current would take us down to the entrance to a cove. We’d paddle our arms and legs as hard as we could to ensure we made it into the cove. A miss of the entrance to the cove would mean ending up way downstream in the mighty Colorado current.

After about half way up to suicide, my brother called it quits there. He was brave enough, everyone knew that. He was just secure enough with himself to not have to go higher. Being younger, I felt I had something to prove. I wanted to prove I was brave and courageous.

As I stood 60 to 80 feet above the swift moving water I felt gut-wrenching fear… Sheer terror owned the inside of me as I glanced at the distant water and my brother a few cliffs down watching me. My brother didn’t care if I jumped or not, it wouldn’t change his world or what he thought of me.

Why would anyone put themselves in such a precarious predicament? What makes people do things in spite of fear? I couldn’t tell anyone then, I didn’t have a clue. I have a better understanding of these matters now. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two about insecurity since then.

As great as the immense fear was within me at the time, it wasn’t as great as the opposing force. It could be called many things; courage, bravery, or guts. It’s possible those ingredients are part of the makeup, but those aren’t the driving force in all similar circumstances.

No, the biggest influence that sometimes makes people overcome fear? In my opinion. Fear itself.

As frightened as I was of the height of that cliff, I realize I was more frightened to not be brave. I sensed more terror of being controlled by fear of the jump. The fear that might come to define my life and own me.

Many are familiar with FDR’s famous quote from his 1933 inaugural address, -“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I wasn’t familiar with that famous quote at that time of my life, standing on loose sand, peering over the side of the cliff at the blinding and shimmering river below.

The jump called me out… It dared me to risk my life. It taunted me… Only the fear of not having the strength to overcome the fear of the jump is what could cause me to “chicken out” and crawl back down in defeat.

There was no crowd cheering me on. There was no one there I needed to impress… except me…

I’m not saying my jumping off a cliff made me a man. I’m also not condoning ignorant and dangerous acts. I just think sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone. Maybe do the solo at church, tell the people in our world of our beliefs. Ask the advice, give the advice, run that marathon.

Fear, if we allow it, will keep us locked in the closet of life, while others take that step of faith, believing they can fly, even if for only moments.

I could smell the adrenaline in my nostrils as I sprinted toward the edge of that cliff… I planted my left foot about eight inches from the edge of that cliff and shoved off into the great wide open…

Funny thing, once I started running – committed to the task, I felt no more terror…

Only determination.

MILESTONES

It’s been one of those hurricane type of weeks. Busy beyond belief, what you’d call a “Milestone” week. When one of those type of weeks roll around, with all the balls I like to juggle, something’s gonna fall. And more often than not, it’s a fine thing.

You see, we’ve been praying, and not for just a little while. Not so much for this day or week, but for all the days of Ali’s life.

Family and friends were present to see our middle daughter get married. There was laughter and there were tears… and the family got bigger. And to a very welcome and fine young man that grasps the meaning of “Fear of the Lord”.

Mr. and Mrs. Quaid and Ali McKinnon

It’s a blessing from God to live long enough to see our children walk the paths and aisle directed by Him.

I’ve gone from being a little tyke in people’s weddings as a kid to participating in my own. Now I’ve seen three daughters grow up. I’ve witnessed two of them getting married and one of them having a couple kids of her own.

These aging eyes have seen much… and I’ve never failed to see the hand of God’s protection, provision, and grace in my life and the lives of my loved ones.

So I’ll continue to pray like I have from the beginning. As my family grows so do my prayers.

A week when all the balls I’ve been juggling drop to the ground around me, I’m reminded of what’s truly important. And I’m also reminded of the wisdom it takes to be still and know that He is God… and He’s the giver of blessings in milestones.

THE BEAT GOES ON

It’s kinda funny how styles change over the decades, but there’s only so many things you can do with clothes, shoes, and hairstyles. As a kid back in the seventies, although we didn’t know it, the style was “skinny jeans”, if you were skinny, that is, but it was just Levi 501’s ordered extra long so they’d fit tight. Cuffing them up was part of the appeal.

Pretty soon it was bell bottoms, back to flairs, blah, blah, blah… and as Sonny and Cher sang, “The Beat Goes On”.

Converse tennis shoes were losing their appeal by the time I came around, but I remember them. They were all but gone in my high school days… now my daughters wear them.

Now I’m not sure polyester leisure suits are going to make a comeback, but if I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that platform shoes are going to get another turn. They already have for women, but I mean even for men.

By the time the ’70’s rolled around there wasn’t but a handful of kids in school that weren’t sporting a haircut with the “Feathered” bangs, parts down the middle the norm.

Come the ’80’s it was spiked hair and long in the back. That was before the style was officially named a “Mullet”. By the time it got the official name I’d moved on. Or back back in time.

While the fads come and go, a lot of folks, mostly the older ones, bail off the merry go round. My dad, and my older brothers for that matter, never slipped a pair of platforms on their feet. Not to mention polyester leisure suits… Then again they didn’t listen to top 40 radio either. And they never owned a Kiss eight track… 😳

By the early ’90’s I was reaching the age of not giving a hoot like the elders before me. After missing my scheduled haircut for a couple months in a row, I checked out.

Since then I’ve been to a place where they cut hair professionally about three times. And that was only a few years ago when I tried to join the ranks of normal folks with normal haircuts. I couldn’t hack it. It was just too much work.

For decades I’d have one of my girls get the thick pair of scissors out of the wooden kitchen knife scabbard, double ponytail wrap my hair and hack through it. I figured someone should get something for laziness or ADD, not sure which, maybe a little bit of both, so I’d send the cut ponytail to Locks of Love.

Just a couple days ago I hacked it off yet again. That’s nine times I’ve donated my hair. Between it turning grey and falling out, I’m not sure I’ll make a tenth. But I am sure I still hate going to the barbershop…

Ninth time.

Everything changes. There was a time when young people with long hair were held in contempt. One time I had a preacher pretty much point me out during a sermon for my hair. I guess he didn’t consider that I might be donating it… Or Samuel, or Samson, or Absalom, or even Paul before he wrote 1 Corinthians 11.

Fads will come and go… and long after I’m gone. There’s probably a pretty good chance that the judging of others won’t go away either. It gets passed down from generation to generation.

I have to remind myself of that every time I see someone that doesn’t look like me. When they have shaved heads and tattoos and piercings from top to bottom. When they wear hats and turbans. Or even when they dress like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

But we’ll all still go on struggling with judging a book by it’s cover. It’s part of living in a fallen world… and the beat goes on. For now…

THE LAST WALKING COTTON PICKER

Repost and edited from Feb of ’11.

“You know son, I guess I’ve gotta be one of the last walkin’ cotton-pickers left.” He said quietly, as if the realization just crept up on him.

“Really?” I was caught a little of guard.

My dad went on to explain the details of some of his childhood that I’d never heard from him my entire life. I knew my dad was born to a poor sharecropper family in Arkansas, I just didn’t know some of the details.

image courtesy of calisphere.org

One of the first times I got in trouble at school was for making fun of another kid. My dad used some of his childhood memories to teach me one of many life lessons.

I was use to teasing and being teased by my big brothers and friends. It was a pretty tough area we grew up in. It seemed kinda natural to make fun of the kid in my class that ate baby food. He must have had something wrong with his stomach or something, but I didn’t bother to worry about that part of the equation at the time.

I was only considering the laughing and having fun part, not the other people’s lives, feelings, and future impact I might have on one of them part.

When word got back to my dad through the usual channels, he was not amused to say the least, but he wasn’t angry. Even at a young age I could tell he was deeply disappointed. Enough time has passed for me to recognize that he was heartbroken by my actions. Those kinds of acts were never part of my dad’s life, he was a champion of the weak or downtrodden.

It would take many of my dad’s stories about his life and experiences to teach a hard-headed son.

My dad didn’t even whip me for making fun of Ronald at school. You see, I knew enough about my dad’s life from my brothers and uncles to know that my dad was a tough. He’d rescued his brothers on many occasions and I knew he’d boxed in the Air Force, just one of the many stories I used to build the vision of my dad around.

That afternoon he took me into his room; that’s where we’d sometimes get whipped for blatant disobedience. The lesson began.

“Sit down son…” He began to tell me about his days in school as a kid around my age. My dad shared with me how there were many times in his school days that his family didn’t have enough money to buy him or his brothers shoes for school.

I was horrified. He shared with me how hurt he’d been as a kid when the other kids would make fun of him for something he couldn’t do anything about. My dad also told me how disappointed he was that one of his own children would make fun of another person the way the kids had made fun of him.

I was learning the other untold side of my dad and who he really was in heart and character. You gotta know by that point, as much as I hated getting whipped, it would have been way less painful than this lesson I was learning.

Whippings were a bit painful on the outside, this punishment was painful on the inside. I never cried as hard over punishment or groundings as I did that day. The next day when I apologized to Ronald I meant those words from the bottom of my heart.

I gotta give my dad credit, he taught me a good lesson. I never, ever made fun of anyone like that again. Oh, there were many more lessons for a kid like me to learn and it usually was the hard way, but not that lesson. That cottoone I got.

I was proud to know and tell others that my dad was one of the last walking cotton-pickers. My dad and I talked about, and he carried that title of realization for about a year and a half after that… Now he’s gone…

I miss my hero, the last walking cotton picker… He taught me a lot…

I share his stories with my kids and friends to teach and inspire them and me to live a Godly and humble life like my dad did.

I’m honored to carry the title and share the memories of the last walking cotton-picker’s son…