Next to holding my wife closely at bedtime, sitting in my rocker on our back porch may be my favorite activity in this life. Shortly after we moved into our new house the day after Christmas 1975, I began construction of a platform outside the kitchen door consisting of a sand base and flat field stones, just big enough to hold a few folding chairs and a beach umbrella. Within the next few years we added a front stoop, concrete steps to that and the back porch, and a small barn to hold the livestock we owned over the years and, of course, the multitude of farm and yard tools we accumulated. But in the spring of 1982, under the supervision of my father-in-law, I built a 12 X 27-foot concrete porch attached to the back of the house. First, I dug a ditch down about 20 inches, just below the frost line, and poured a self-mixed concrete footer. Next came several layers of cement blocks, just enough to rise a foot above the ground. When everything had dried, I back-filled the base. To this day I wonder how I knew how to do any of this without experience in the trade. I was an undergraduate music major and communications masters. I seldom got my hands dirty. I credit my cement contractor father-in-law and dad, who was indispensable in the final stage, the forming and pouring of the large concrete slab, this time provided by a commercial supplier. We had lots of help from a neighbor with finishing tools, labor, and ironically just enough wet cement that he had left from a small job earlier in the day at his house across the road. God is good!
In the fall of 1980, I constructed a shingled roof over the structure. No more enduring wind and rain with nothing but a beach umbrella. Again, as I look back, I wonder how I had the knowledge, skill, and strength to tackle such a massive task. But the best part was yet to come: enjoying and sharing God’s creation with family, friends, and neighbors over the past 40 years.
Our porch sitting begins as soon as the temperature gets above 50 during the day, around April. I clean out the window wells and drag the furniture from storage. My wife Susan does a major wipe down of everything from the back wall to the porch surface to the furniture. The first major event is usually a Memorial Day picnic, about the time when nearby pool is uncovered but too cold to swim. We just stare at the water, anticipating the warm summer days to come. Then July 4th has welcomed hometown family from Pittsburgh, most of whom have passed or moved now. But, my wife’s family reunion has hosted as many as 35 people from as far away as Iowa. Finally, Labor Day, when the temperatures have dropped, has found us again staring at the pool from the picnic table, only this time it has its winter coat on. Soon time to put the furniture back in storage and haul firewood, stacked about five feet high between the pillars, to heat our home for the next six months. Again, God is good to provide food, fellowship, and fuel without fail!
I want this meditation, though, to be about God’s wonderful creatures we’ve experienced from our back porch perch over four decades: the curious black bear that strolled up the hill between the garden and the house as we were saying out final goodbyes to Susan’s family one July afternoon. He must have wondered why four grown people were frantic, about to make a mad dash through the kitchen door, as if such an opening could accommodate all of us. He just kept on trucking into the woods, I swear, with a smile on his face.
I’ve meditated earlier on the dozens of deer, young and old, that have blessed us as they came to the mineral block at the edge of the woods. Then there’s the scampering squirrels and chattering chipmunks. I’ve listed over 20 species of birds that have visited our yard and feeder, now taken down because of having to replace it when the bears are looking for a free meal. Some birds, like the red and black, 16-inch pilated woodpecker, leave a lasting impression, both from it’s loud pecking to it’s overwhelming presence. The flocks of wild turkeys have easily outnumbered the herds of deer over the years. The deeper the snow in winter and thicker the ice in spring, the closer to the house they come, scratching the leaves for grubs and worms and even mounting the privet to shake the plumb red berries to the ground.
Scripture contains no specific reference to the popular, modern term “porch,” but the word “portico” is just as understandable as it locates a large, flat, place in front of Solomon’s temple protected by a roof in John 10: 23, “It was winter, and Jesus was walking . . . in the portico of Solomon.” This was where He taught and was often questioned. In Acts 3:11, Peter had just healed the lame man, and “while he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.” Peter asks them why they credit him when it’s “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . . who have glorified His servant Jesus,” thus making the healing possible. Again in Acts 5:12, “At the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.” This place became associated with the miracles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Our back porch has been the site of of many church-related meetings, family reunions, and perhaps best for me, a place for observing nature and meditating on the wonders of God. I hope that these words will have you seek such a place. You’re certainly welcome to my back porch any time.
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