2006 Writings

November 7, 2006

Dear friends,

Last night, here at the farm, I had the memorable experience of supper with Sam, Mamie, Macie, Tam, Shorty, Jim and Dorothy, whose stories and songs are the subject matter of our recently-released “People in My Town” (PIMT). The evening was a chance for some of them to meet for the first time, as well as an opportunity for me to thank them again for their participation in the project and to present them with the portraits which were done for the interior artwork to the CD.

I got so caught up in enjoying their company that I totally forgot to take photos of them until most of them were gone.

It was a joy to me to have them, and their guests, in my home. I am more and more convinced that the most under-enjoyed source of blessing, and the most underutilized tool of Christian ministry, is the American house. One of the lasting effects of summer in Afghanistan has been the commitment to be more available to people with my time and the willingness to make this house a place of hospitality. (While in Mazar, the house I stayed in was constantly in use as a place of conversation, as a place for meals, as a place to pray and sing, as a place to rest among friends.) The sound of my neighbors enjoying themselves under this roof last night reminded me of a phrase that CS Lewis used to describe a place where he and friends used to gather; I believe that he said some thing to the effect that the room was haunted with good ghosts. I want the wooden walls of this place to be the same, soaked in the laughter and conversation of loving, interesting, faithful people.

If you want to hear what those voices sound like (little plug for the new CD here), they are all captured on PIMT. Thus far, those who have heard it have offered very positive responses, citing, as I had hoped and anticipated they might, the voices of my friends, more than the songs, as the real strength of the project. I really can’t imagine anyone hearing the spoken segments without being moved.

Last week, in another wooden room in Sumter, SC, I had the memorable experience, orchestrated by Cubby Culbertson, of meeting Grainger McKoy, a sculptor who specializes in birds. The word ‘carving’ simply misses the mark in describing what he does, hence my choice of the term ‘sculptor.’ You can see some of his work at www.graingermckoy.com. (I highly recommend the site. His artist statement page, which shows his first carving, is a good place to start. Then move from there to his gallery to see how far his work has advanced.) Grainger is, quite simply, one of the most interesting, insightful, perceptive, grounded souls I’ve ever met. As half-dozen of us visited that morning, he peppered us with stories of where he had found the “fingerprints” of God in the creative process of sculpting birds from wood. His own commitment to excellence (somewhat explained in his “artist statement”) encouraged me to be better, more diligent, more focused on what I do as one who does creative work.

Being with Grainger also made me wonder if “People on my Roads” might not be the next project I do.

Two weekends ago, I had the memorable experience of a much-anticipated inaugural campout with 4 of my nephews at Camp Jomianda, the treehouse that I’ve been working on for a number of months in the hardwood bottom behind the house. (Jomianda comes from Jo for Jonathan, Mi for Michael, An for Andrew, and Da for David.) We captioned it “Night of the Bonfires,” which it was, with each boy having his own fire to tend, to safeguard, to play with (under my adult supervision) for the night. We had an “out-in-the-dark-forest” treasure hunt and then slept under a beautiful October sky. I DID remember to take some photos of that grand event. A song might soon follow.

This past weekend, I had the memorable experience of the My Own Brother weekend, about which I’ve written on the site previously. More good voices to soak the walls of this little house. I’m blessed to have 4 souls to be honest and open with. Thanks Benson, Bart, Dicky, Ben.

Travels have been wonderfully rewarding and enjoyable, if tiring, this fall. Thank you for your kindness if you’ve been in the groups I’ve visited. Your voices and attentive faces and affirmations all kind of soak into the walls of my soul in a way that graces me with your ‘good ghosts.’ I’m grateful for each of you. Really, I am.

Blessings on your autumn.

from “first bird” to “covey rise,”

allen

August 22, 2006

Dear friends,

i don’t know that i have ever looked forward to airline flights as much as i did in late July when i boarded the ones that brought me home from Afghanistan … Mazar to Kabul to Istanbul to Paris to Atlanta. i got back just in time to surprise my niece Lindsey at her wedding and, since then, have enjoyed the company of family and friends amidst the creature comforts that were absent in Central Asia.

It’s good to be home.

And to those of you who prayed for me during my time away, thank you.

i’ve been asked by several people to write about the experience of my two months in Afghanistan. As much as i’d like to put my descriptions and impressions onto paper, i am simply not able to. i’ve tried. Just today, in hopes of finding better words to recall what i felt and learned, i read the journal that i kept on a daily basis in Mazar-i-Sharif and was struck by how unmoving, unconvincing and distant my entries were from the realities that made me so uncomfortable, so homesick, and, yet, so awake to life while i was away.

To state the obvious, i knew very little about Afghanistan before i went there and i still know very little (though i’m reading a lot about it since i’ve been home, now that i have a visual context for understanding what’s in the books). It’s a complex society with a long and winding history that cannot begin to be understood through sound bite or factoid explanations. My total knowledge is a thimbleful and what little i do know was mostly learned from conversations with a handful of Afghan citizens and various ex-patriates who i met and spent time with in the northern city of Mazar.
So, with that preface, and with total awareness that the things i say might be barely intelligible, i’ll just ramble …

For starters,

Many or most of the things i learned while i was away were unsettling things about myself. For instance, i learned, especially through the lives of ones who, like my brother Gary, have left their homes to work in Afghanistan while the present window of opportunity is open, just how dwarfish my faith and my idea of service is. It is uncomfortable, but promising perhaps, to admit that i have a shrunken view of God, Jesus, Gospel, love and sacrifice and that, for me, those terms have largely been defined comfortably and in ways that are consistent with culture rather than biblical story. My hope is that the time away stretched my mind and heart in ways that will keep me from shriveling back to normal.

Along the same lines, i learned how attached i am to comfort, to things comfortable, familiar, and easy. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with those things, but their potential to make me unwilling, unable, or unopen to serve others renders them dangerously like the ‘thorns’ (“the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things”) that choke us out from the fruitful lives we were meant to live.

i don’t want to create the impression that i spent my time wallowing in self-deprecation, or that i failed to do the work i was in Afghanistan to do. There was great joy and lots of laughter during my stint abroad and there were times when i had the very real sense that my efforts, small as they were, were of benefit to the handful of students i worked with. (i kept an acorn in my pocket the whole time i was there to remind me about the law of the harvest.) But my alone times, my times of reflection, which might sound like they were somewhat disheartening, were actually valuable, constructive, envigorating and, i pray, fruitful.

Recurrent thoughts of my own inadequacy (in fact, of all human inadequacy to meet needs as great as those in Afghanistan, spiritual, physical, economic, on and on) reminded and comforted me with the realization that this is not my world to run, and that where my sin and incompetence abounds, Christ’s power and grace more exceedingly abounds. In other words, i was taught to appreciate more deeply, and in concrete personal ways, the goodness of the Gospel. That phrase, “goodness of the Gospel,” came often to mind as i saw the truth of Jesus in stark contrast to the Afghan expression of Islam. In new and more vivid ways, i saw the falleness of this world, the blinding power of sin and Satan, the brokenness of humanity, and the hard-to-believe cruelties of which we are capable, such that i think i can appreciate somewhat more fully the patience and love that God showed this world when He entered it for our salvation.

i thought a lot while i was away.

Now back at home, i pray and hope that lessons learned or affirmed by my time abroad will prompt a deeper love for Christ and a more intentional use of my life for His work, regardless of where i am.

Now, lest you think that my whole time was one of brooding contemplation, let me tell you some other aspects of the trip …

i learned, or more convincingly re-learned, the beauty of good conversation. The hours, and there were many, that i spent with my Afghan students and friends, (who were eager to practice English and curious, if wary, about western culture) were rich in story, laughter, empathy, and honesty. Many of my mid-20 year old students had lived through the jihad against Russia and through the Taliban years, and they live now with continuing concern that their days of civil war, conflict with other nations, and poverty are not yet over. They have all grown up saturated with Islam. Their perceptions of American and Christianity (which they sometimes confuse to be one and the same thing) are part accurate and part gross distortion. You can well imagine the conversations that we shared, the questions and answers, the disagreements.

i learned, once again, the truth of Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The smallest acts of giving in Jesus’ name bring gladness. i was reminded of the need to know what the Bible does, and doesn’t, say. i need to better know the stories, the history, and, most of all, the One on Whom my faith rests.

i experienced poverty on a large scale. When i read Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Ron Sider) last year, i realized that i had little idea of the actualities he was describing. That realization was one of the main reasons i wanted to go to a place like Afghanistan. i am well aware that i can find poverty within miles of my house, but the depth and scale of that condition in a place like Afghanistan is simply other-world to my experience. i hope that, in the future, as i read what the scripture says about the poor and as i watch or read the news of so many poor distant countries, i will recall scenes and the faces of real people from Mazar.

i learned that, in some of the most obscure places and in some of the most uncongratulating of circumstances, there are some truly heroic, caring people out there, the kind of whom it is written that “the world is not worthy” and “God is not ashamed.” (Hebrews 11) The example of their lives humbled and inspired me. While i know beyond all doubt that “their feet are clay,” i was made hopeful that, if i walk in submission to Christ long enough, perhaps i will have eyes and hearts like theirs.

For instance …

i met and spent a couple of days with a husband and wife from New Zealand, one of the greenest and most beautiful places in the world. For over three years this couple has lived in Kabul with their two children, now 2 and 5. Kabul is crowded, dirty, chaotic, and one great remove from New Zealand. The husband is an engineer. The wife is a medical doctor. Needless to say, they could have a very comfortable life in their native country. Instead, they are involved with, among other things, two medical clinics about 45 minutes from Kabul, in a very poor, undeveloped village situated in a semi-desert area. At present, they are considering a move from the city to the village so that they can be closer to the Afghan people they serve.

i went with them one day to visit the village and also to look at a house that they might rent there. The village itself is a challenging environment, mostly rocks and dirt with little green anywhere. It is located next to a military reservation which is used for training international troops.

After brief visits to two crowded clinics, we walked to the house that they were considering. Like all houses in Afghanistan, it was enclosed behind high, mud brick walls. i don’t believe that it had running water or electricity, a point of some concern given that temperatures could be extremely hot and extremely cold in this area. The rooms were unfurnished, unfinished, and in need of lots of work for habitability. The house would hardly qualify as substandard in the U.S. (or New Zealand).
As we walked through the house, i had a sinking sense of disappointment. i simply could not imagine this doctor and engineer moving, with two small children, to a place like this. And as i was having those thoughts, i heard the father say to his 5 year old daughter, “Isn’t this beautiful?”

And he said it as if he really meant for his daughter to believe it.

If i walk in submission to Christ long enough, perhaps i will have eyes and hears like theirs.

i learned that the brokenness of this world can, at least to me, be overwhelming at times. There were occasions that i looked at Afghanistan, heard the stories, considered the present circumstances and the future prospects, and, honestly, just got rather hopeless that it will ever change on a large scale. When i looked at Afghanistan as a country that was what i saw and felt. (It’s the same sense of “overwhelmedness” that i feel when i wonder how we might challenge the behemoth of “youth culture” with the “ancient path” of Christianity.)

But when i looked at individuals – at Musa and Nematullah and Sherif and Ramat (or, closer to home, at Britney and Jake and Darryl) – there was hope. And i wonder if that’s how we are supposed to look at the world. Taken as a whole it is frighteningly broken, wayward, beyond repair. Taken though in small parts – a neighborhood, a single friendship, a little league soccer team, a gathering of souls to hear music, a letter to someone who is discouraged or lonely, a conversation that goes beyond banalities – there is hope of change and redemption and love.

Being in Afghanistan reminded me that small things matter.

Small things – a kind word, two coins of a poor widow, a cold cup of water, some words scrawled in sand, a broken piece of bread, a breakfast of fish on a lakeshore, an arm around the shoulders, a thank you, a good connection for a transatlantic phone call, a deep breath – small things matter. There. Here.

Despise not the day of small things.

Everything is a Fingerprint.

Oh, there was more, so much more, but that’s enough for now, and besides, it’s late. Maybe we can talk at length next time i’m where you are.

Thank you again for your prayers for me while i was away. Being gone made me appreciate so many things, most notably my family, my firends, and the pleasant work that i get to do.

i’m grateful for you and hope that, everyday, you might have moments that make you say,
“isn’t it beautiful.”

Allen

June 12, 2006

Dear Friends,

 i’ve a short while with a borrowed computer and write with greetings from Afghanistan. Three weeks here, while barely time to adjust to the heat and dust, has allowed some of the initial shock to wear off; but i am still hardstruck by the unfamiliar absence of western modernity and am amazed at the difference between this place and home.

While i’m in one of the bigger and, ostensibly, more developed cities in the nation, the paved roads are few, traffic law is an oxymoron, sanitation has not caught on, unemployment is dreadfully high, and transportation is a mix of carts pulled by donkeys, carts pulled by humans, foot traffic, and small taxis that one enters at the risk of his life. There is extreme separation of the genders and women still wear full burqas when in public, despite the fact that 100 plus degree days are the norm now.

When Gary has shown me pictures of this place, they have sparked curiosity and some recognition that this is a war-torn country in a pre-modern world. But no written description, no photograph or video, nothing other than being here in the flesh can prepare one for the ‘assault on the senses’ that occurs to w westerner who walks these streets for the first time. The country is a case study of what happens when a culture has endured generations of tribal and foreign conflict, when an economy is built of systemic corruption and bribery, when education is interrupted and restricted, and when religion is forced on blindly followed and blindly followed by a people.

For one who wanted a change of scenery and an unfamiliar perspective on life, i picked the right place to spend my summer.

At present, i am teaching three classes a day, Sunday through Thursday, in advanced conversational english. The classes — 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., and 10:30 a.m. — last 90 minutes each and have been limited to 5 students each, to enhance ‘talking time’ for each student. Late each afternoon , i meet with one or two students around a plastic picnic table where i’m living while here. The conversations there have been a good chance to talk about a range of subjects, including ones of greatest importance, and have laid a good foundation for friendships which i hope to develop over the summer. Please pray that they will deepen, that conversations will be substantial and open, that i have wisdom to hear properly and to ask the right questions, and that seeds of Truth will be planted. i must tell you that despite the austerity and squalor of the physical surroundings, the people — at least the ones i’ve gotten to know — are gracious, warm, eager to learn, curious, and welcoming.

i cannot begin to understand what these folk have lived through, especially the terrible reign of the Taliban (1997 – 2001) when ethnic cleansing of thousands, public hangings, stonings, amputations, and arbitrary killings were common, and when music, dance, laughing in public, unescorted females, education (other than Koranic studies, only for males), and pleasures as simple as kite-flying were outlawed. My comfortable Harris county reality is literally a world-removed than that of northern Afghanistan. Despite that, i sense that the people here are just like me — badly broken image-bearers of the Creator God, but having, along with the deep woundedness of sin, the same deep desires, the same hopes for their children, the same instincts for kindness, and the same hunger for ‘abundant life’ that is alive in people everywhere. i’m hoping that these things we have in common might be the bridge-building material as i spend time here in Jesus’ name.

In speaking with a student last week, he told me that i was the first foreigner he had ever spoken with; i gather, from numerous other conversation, that i am the first non-Muslim that most have ever encountered as well. … As i see others working here to break up the hard ground of Afghanistan, those who have chosen, in ‘glorious stupidity,’ to leave their comforts of home and to do “the hard work” (which Jesus must have been referring to in John 4), the image of the acorn in the hand comes to mind. There are some heroic individuals in a place like this.

Thanks for thinking of and praying for me while i’m away. i sense your presence. this is a life-changing experience which, as i hoped it might, is ‘messing me up” in some good ways. Most of all, my love for Christ, my gratitude for His Truth and love, my admiration of ones like my brother Gary, and my compassion for others is being stretched and deepened. It’s a healthy time, if an uncomfortable one, and i pray that lessons learned and things felt might remain with me when i’m back home.

Be thankful to Him from Whom all blessings flow.

With prayers for a thousand forests,

allen

May 22, 2006

Dear ones,

i have the uneasy sense, with the following, that i am sending what amounts to a form letter. i hope that you’ll understand my resorting to its use and that you might be able to believe that, despite its impersonal nature, it is as full of affection as if i’d handwritten it.

Some of you know that i applied in January for a summer (3 month) assignment to work in Pakistan. Just a few weeks ago, i learned that placement would not be possible; i looked into options with another organization and had the same result. It seemed that i might be staying here at the farm for the summer, perhaps to finish the treehouse and the new CD, until Gary offered a suggestion.

And here’s what we came up with …

This afternoon, i’ll be heading to Afghanistan for the summer. i’ll celebrate my 50th birthday, Lord willing, somewhere over there and will then spend my time teaching English and working among Afghan locals. i am more than a little excited about the trip.

So i am writing to ask a favor. (This feels like the form letter part …) Would you pray for my time there? (As many of you know, Gary has spent a good portion of the past two years in Afghanistan and is somewhat familiar with the landscape there. He’ll be traveling with me today and will help me get my feet on the ground, walk me through some introductions, and then return to Hamilton after a couple of weeks. i really look forward to the time with him. When i return home late summer, he’ll probably head back over to Afghanistan.

While i do not at all underestimate God’s power to use small things, nor deny His frequent use of short encounters between people to effect lasting change, i am under no delusion about going to Afghanistan and ‘accomplishing’ great things in the span of a few short months, especially given the language barrier and other obvious obstacles that are built into the trip i’ll be taking. i am hopeful though that there might be many opportunities to show kindness in Jesus’ name, to give one human face to what a disciple of Jesus looks like, to be present and prayerful, and to be in a place that God might grow my own heart and broaden my vision of His kingdom. i’m really grateful and eager to be going.

And so i am asking, would you keep me in your prayers? i am hopeful that, if the experience gives me nothing else, it might strengthen my grasp of Christ’s love for the lost and, in so doing, that it might cause me to love them, and Him, more.

If you’ll check back here, i’ll try to get messages to Ben from time to time and will keep you somewhat updated on how things are going.

Blessings on your summer.

Incidentally, the bees are doing fine.

The new CD is almost complete. If i had another week at home, i think it would be done. As ‘tis, we’ll get it finished shortly after my return.

Grateful for you.

Love,

Allen (49 years, 362 days)

P.S. – i am not taking a computer (that’s a conscious decision to insure that i can be more fully ‘present’ to the work there. If i find an internet café, i’ll try to drop a line to this site just to keep you abreast of what’s going on. i will be keeping a thorough journal and am taking a guitar with me – to stay practiced for fall jobs – so perhaps a song or two will follow me home.)

April 11, 2006

Dear friends,
A combination of nasty weather (the same system that brought a rash of tornadoes to central Tennessee last night) and a somewhat guilty conscience (at my long hiatus from the website, despite the multiple admonitions from webmaster Ben) have conspired to put me at the keyboard this morning, since plans to work outside all day have been rendered unfeasible for now.

My first order of business is to publicly apologize to Ben for my delinquency. He is more than a trooper to stay on the team with me and to do his best to keep the site ‘fresh’. The staleness is all my fault.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy this task. I still very much practice handwriting letters (though not as much as I’d like perhaps) and benefit, just as I do with songwriting, from distilling thoughts about things seen, heard, read, thought, and experienced into words. For some reason, though, when I start this newsletter, to no one in particular, I am still haunted with a fear of pretense which usually addresses me something like this: “do you really think someone out there wants to read this, or might get something out of it? Are you not squandering others’ time by asking them to visit these meanderings?”

Well, of course, the answers to those questions are obvious. Whatever benefit to others is small, at best, and, yes, there are more substantial things that you might be reading just now, but I’m still convinced that part of life means sharing our thimbles of insight and perspective with one another. And enough of you have been gracious enough over the years to dignify these writings with your time. So, after months of giving in to the ‘fear of pretense’ and of being too preoccupied for the web letter, I offer these few words.

Despite any impressions to the contrary that my absence might have suggested, the months since December have been pleasantly full of plenty to write about — rich conversations, good books, enjoyable involvement in the community, memorable musical moments here and on the road, and restful days of reflection at home. Dozens of times, at least, I have thought to myself that some happening or inspiration – “THIS” — would be a good thing to share with others by way of a web letter. And then, as perhaps you’ve experienced, the “this” gets trumped by some other event, and then gets forgotten, and, when I finally sit down to write, i search my memory hopelessly for those moments of epiphany that I was going to share.

So, I’ll ramble in the fashion you’ve grown accustomed to on this page:

There are 7 hummingbirds on the feeder just outside my window as I write this. Their arrival, coupled with the first song of the whippoorwill (which I heard on Thursday evening as I was reading in my hammock at dusk) is one of those sure signs that spring is here to stay. I love this time of year and am more than a little happy that almost three weeks of April will be spent right here at the farm.

Across the pasture, I can see the small chapel which sits at the edge of one of the pastures. A wedding is scheduled for tomorrow and the room has been meticulously cleaned and decorated (with quilts!) for the ceremony. The rehearsal was earlier this morning and, at present, there are two vehicles there, possibly putting final touches on the room (and praying for a sunny day tomorrow, like the ones we’ve had all week up to now). It’s interesting to consider the nervous, happy anticipation of the wedding party across the field in contrast to the calm, unhurried quiet of my house just a few hundred yards away. It’s a case of parallel universes, that condition that allows us, at any given moment, to exist in the same room or office building or community with others of dramatically different states of mind, even while we are side by side. Makes me wonder …

How many times do I stand or sit next to someone in a checkout line or church service or movie theater without awareness of the story being written in the skin just beside me? How often might I hear something challenging, hopeful, heart-breaking, songworthy if I were a little more willing to step out of my ‘universe’ for just a short while and enter someone else’s with a question or a willingness to listen?

As Easter approaches, I wonder what the crucifixion day was REALLY like for most people in Jerusalem. Sure, there were criminal executions that day, as there were on many days. Sure, there was a crowd of some size that watched the killing of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. Sure, there was some newsworthiness to the politics of this event. But, I wonder if, as all THIS was going on, others were much more concerned with peeling garlic and cleaning dishes and playing cards or discussing the price of fish?

Some plan for weddings, others watch hummingbirds. Some bustle about, One dies for the world.
And God watches over them each, with concern, with grace, with mercy.

Since January, I have been working on a new CD project. I wanted to do something a bit different than the last few things I’ve done, which I would describe in large part as parables, and decided on an idea that I’m calling “People in my Town.” It’s consistent with the notable quote of CS Lewis from “The Weight of Glory” that “there are no ordinary people.”

I randomly chose 7 people who live or work within 5 miles of the house where I live, resisting the pull to choose people who had some well-known story. I have now interviewed all 7, am in the process of editing the interviews (which range from one hour to three hours) down to 4 minutes or so, and have written music, and some lyrics, to all but one of the songs. The CD will include the voices of the people, followed by the song that I’ve come up with. I think I’ve enjoyed this project as much as any I’ve done and I’m sure I’ll write more about it in the future. I am aiming (might be a bit optimistic) at having the CD finished in late May.

In February, I had an experience much like gong to one’s own funeral. My brother, Gary, and sister, Beth, with the help of 50 or so friends, surprised me with a birthday party at the farm. The gathering took place on February 4, the day before the date on which I began my walk as a Christian, but was also meant to celebrate my 50th birthday which occurs in May. It was a gathering of wonderful souls, including the fellow who was largely responsible for bringing me to Christ (I had not seen Vernon in 20 years or more; he drove down with his wife from Nashville to be here), my college room mates from Winter Park, Florida and Anderson, South Carolina, the Culbertsons from Columbia, SC, the Goans from Greensboro, the Almonds from Tuscaloosa, the Mays and Barlows from Birmingham, Benson Bottoms and Bart Scarborough from Athens, and lots of local friends.

You would not have believed some of the nice things that folks said when we all came together in the chapel. The two (or was it three?) hours spent there were some of the most special in my life, even if it was uncomfortable to be the center of attention.

I wrote some thank you letters after the weekend that captured, in part anyway, my feelings about the event. As a footnote to this web letter, I’ve included one that I sent to Vernon Yawn. I hope he won’t mind my sharing it.

I’ve been reading lots of Eugene Peterson lately, but have also enjoyed a collection of obituaries from the New York Times for people who lead unusual lives (The Last Word, edited by Marvin Siegel I think), a memoir entitled I Am a Pencil (by Samuel Swopes; thanks Angela for the recommendation), The Glass Castle (by Jeanette Walls, a current best seller), and Life is So Good (by and about George Dawson, who learned to read at 98), and others. There’s not much better than laying in the hammock in the evening with a good book and a clear sky.

Earlier this year, I told the third graders who I read to every Thursday that I would build a tree house for them. It’s not something I would do on my own, but Bobby Joe Baxley has guided me through the process. We have a 12’ by 16’ floor now in place, 12 feet above the ground. Next Monday, we are hoping to build and 8’ by 12’ porch and to begin the stairs.

The notion of an almost 50 year old guy building a treehouse might seem rather frivolous but it has been huge pleasure to do work that is outside, physical, and holds forth the possibility of some good memories. I’ve a hunch that it might become a place where songs get written. (Could this be part of my mid-life crisis?)

I’m hoping that the third graders and I have a year-end field trip to the farm at which I can show them a promise kept. How fun is it going to be to cook hot dogs outdoors at our very own house in the trees?

Anything else? …

I don’t think so. Plus, the rain has stopped and my guilt is feeling a bit lighter.

I hope y’all are doing well.

Every blessing. As Easter draws near, I pray that, to those of you who know and worship Him, the Lord Jesus is more precious and real to you than ever before, and “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” To those of you who do not yet worship and serve Christ, I pray that you might have occasion this year to consider His cross and be overwhelmed, and rescued, by the love of God — Father, Son and Holy Ghost — that put Him there for our salvation.
I’m thankful for you, and,

For THIS love,

allen

Dear Vernon,
i hope that, as you looked around the room yesterday, you took a special joy in knowing the role you played in everything that was said and done. It was proof that “your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

i know that y’all could have spent yesterday doing lots of things but i sure do appreciate y’all being here at the farm. The day wouldn’t have been complete without you and, if it brings you any consolation for the inconvenience it cost, your presence was part of one of the most special days of my life. Yesterday, i sensed the love and goodness of Jesus in ways i’ve not felt it before. Do you think it might be possible that God grows our hearts sometimes by pouring so much joy into them that they either have to expand or explode? Even now, i can’t look at the chapel without seeing a halo of gladness around the place. Thank you, ten thousand times, thank you for the gift that you have been to me for the past several years, but especially for the gift that you were to me yesterday.

For me, the day was, first, a tribute to the goodness of Jesus and, secondly, a taste of things promised. But it was also, humanly speaking, a great tribute to Gary. i hope that everyone might have said to themselves at some point in the afternoon, “what a wonderful brother allen has, to have gone to all this trouble just to make a friend feel special.” If i had been a little more prepared and a less overwhelmed when i had a chance to speak, i would have made very clear that, if there has been one guiding light, one constant motivation, one ‘most significant’ influence in my journey as a Christian, that one has been and continues to be Gary. That he included y’all among the guest list of “most special people” in my life is just one more evidence of how deep his thoughtfulness runs.

If there is a regret to the day, and i guess that in this world even our best days have their imperfections, it is that i could not introduce everyone in the room to everyone in the room. How dear would that have been, to have each person sit in the chair and me say, “now, let me tell you about this one.” In heaven maybe i’ll get the chance, with no regard for time. Then i can gush, with Christ as Audience.

i’m thankful for you, so thankful. … love, levi