2007 Writings

November 20, 2007


 This evening, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I was doing what, of late, is a rare bit of outdoors work, in the wooded area behind my house. There are some walking trails that I seed each autumn with rye grass, to insure that there will be ribbons of green to walk along when the winter forest is mostly grays and browns.

 Autumn has been a bit behind schedule this year and it’s only in the last couple of weeks that the leaves have reached peak color. Today, we enjoy a perfect, if brief moment, where the leaves are still at full brilliance and still on the branches, a moment that will end with the first good breeze or light rain (which in Georgia would be a welcome oddity just now).

 Shortly ago, as I worked hurriedly to make the most of dwindling daylight, the colors – gold hickory, red maple, rusty oak – were stunning. At one point along the trail, a single thin shaft of sunlight broke through the canopy and spotlighted a small group of trees. And just as it is in so many realms of life, it struck me that the colors are the brightest where the light breaks through. … Surely a song idea, yes?

 I’m reminded of a passage from C.S. Lewis,

“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.’ Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.” (Letters to Malcolm)

 Travels of late – with the time to read, look and think ( I tend to drive in silence as good bit these days), and the richness of good conversation that compensates for nights away from home – have allowed Truth to break through in some memorable ways. To those of you who I’ve seen in the last few months, thanks for making time on the road so enjoyable.

One of the most redeeming features of technology to a bibliophile like myself is the ability to purchase books quickly and conveniently on line, especially books that would be difficult to find anywhere close to where I live (though my newly renewed library card does get me on-line access, and borrowing capabilities, to most libraries around the state of Georgia). When shopping Amazon, I often avail myself of the “used books” tab where options often include “like New,”  “very good,” and “minimal wear” designations. Usually there are other copies that are less costly, with descriptions like, “well worn with sturdy spine, considerable markings, underlinings, and margin notes.” From time to time, and increasingly of late, I buy those copies, partly to save money, but mostly out of curiosity for what I might find scribbled on the pages. In those versions, a conversation of sorts takes place, in which I read a marked up passage and ask the invisible previous reader “why did you find that line or paragraph worth marking” or, on the occasion that an eminently quotable passage is left unmarked, “why didn’t you highlight this profundity?” When I mark a passage myself, which is very much a part of my reading routine, I find myself wondering what some reader down the chain might think of my selection.

The obvious reality is that words mean different things to different people, depending on who they are, where they are, what their tastes might be, what they’re going through at a given time, and how the text intersects with their life at the moment. The idea of differing perspectives occurs to me a lot both as I read and, lately, watch film documentaries.

  I don’t subscribe to cable TV and can only get a handful of stations here at the farm, which, for my tastes, means that I don’t watch very much television. For the last few months, in another grateful nod to use of the internet, I’ve been ordering documentary films through Netflix, documentaries that deal for the most part with slices of humanity that are far beyond my realm of experience. I find such stories valuable in challenging me to 1) consider viewpoints (personal, religious, political) different than my own, 2) broaden my understanding of what it means that “God so (loves) the world (usually “world” to me looks only like the 20th century American version that I’ve grown up in), 3) question which of my convictions are “truth” and which are simply local prejudice, 4) ponder more deeply just how broken the world is and the price that sin has exacted from humanity (the films often deal with suffering and conflict among people groups), 5) ask what, if anything, I can do to ameliorate the suffering of others,  6) admit just how narrow my experience, how insulated from suffering, and how uninformed many of my opinions have been, and 7) helps me to understand economic realities, class issues, and racial realities that are front and center to the lives of so many in the world.

Among the selections I’ve watched in the last couple of months are God Grew Tired of Us (about the lost boys of Sudan and the integration of some into American society), Born into Brothels (about the children of sex workers in Calcutta and the effort of a photographer to help them escape life in that world), I Am a Promise (about a public school in a distressed neighborhood in Philsdelphia), Dark Days (about homeless people in New York who live beneath the subways there), Control Room (about coverage of the Iraq war by Al Jazeera network), Favela Uprising (about ghetto life and social activism in the slums of Rio de Janeiro), Auschwitz, Inside the Nazi State (a multipart production of BBC about the Polish death camp), Forgiving Dr. Mengele (about one Aushwitz survivor coping with her resolution of post Holocaust bitterness against the “angel of death,” Josef Mengele), and Hiding and Seeking (about a family of Hassidic Jews from Jerusalem coming to term with the Holocaust).  …

You can imagine the different perspectives on life that are offered by the subjects of these films. I’ve no doubt that, if I and the people in the documentaries all read the same book (including the Holy Book), we might underline very different passages and scribble some very different comments in the margins.

 To me, one of the benefits of spending time with the books and films I do, is that they tend to beg worthwhile questions. Each of the films, for instance, made me wonder what the Christian gospel might say about each of the troubling circumstances portrayed in them and, more pointedly, made me consider how credible the “truth as it is in Jesus” might be to people at the center of the documentaries. As different as my perspective – western WASP – is from many of theirs, it is no stretch to believe that Jesus, presented in a manner true to scripture, would be found attractive, sympathetic, relevant, redemptive, and responsive to the needs presented by each of the scenarios treated by the film makers.

Of course, there are people in all of the afore-described cultures who have heard and have given themselves to the Gospel. And from them, no doubt, ones like myself have much to learn. I read this observation just today:

“A young American Christian, Paul-Gordon Chandler, wrote a book called God’s Global Mosaic in which he detailed the insights he had gathered from visiting Christians around the world. He said that from the Russians he learned about mystery and reverence. From Middle Eastern Christians he learned perseverance. The Latin American church taught him how to celebrate the gift of life In India he came to reappraise the role of Jesus as a teacher. In Africa he found believers who had a deep experience of the freedom of God. In the Far East he was introduced to the idea that God can’t be confined.” (fromImagine, by Steve Turner, p. 100)

Until I get to all of those places myself, an unlikely “until,” I’m grateful for film, for books and for conversations with people that are , “well worn with sturdy spine, considerable markings, underlinings, and margin notes.” What an interesting world we get to be a part of. And how many are the opportunities of Jesus’ followers to live out His love and kindness.

Just for fun …

I met a fellow recently who has set a goal of running a marathon in each of the 50 United States. His strategy is interesting. He doesn’t train for any of them. He registers, pays his fee, shows up on race day, and then does the race, with no pretense of competing. When he gets tired, he walks. When he gets hungry or thirsty, he stops and enjoys a food break with people along the race course. When he finishes the race, he gets his picture taken, heads home and gets ready for the next one.

Not sure what there is in this, but seems like there’s something.

This is the first year since I started doing music that I’ve not had a specific recording project (or projects) to focus my attention. I’ve missed the process and am looking forward to doing one or two ‘albums’ next year. (I did write and record a lot this summer but it was with no intention of putting out a new project. What I have as a result is a number of almost finished recordings, a few finished ones, and some that are medium rare. Maybe I’ll do something with them in time.

Q: is there anything in particular that you’d want me to consider as a recording project next year? Another People in My Town, a collection of children’s songs (for kids to singalong with and learn), something more up tempo, soft stuff, a live recording? I’m just curious and would welcome your input.

 And I’d also be interested in your input about a redesign of this website. I’m working with a talented designer at present and work is well underway. The look will change and there will be a few new features including a blog which will allow for easier, shorter, more frequent updates. A media page will allow me to add photos and short video clips. Is there anything you would suggest or be interested in having on the page? I want, as I always have (despite my delinquency in keeping it “fresh”), for the site to be interesting, enjoyable, and worthwhile, consistent with our vision of provoking Godward thought. If there are things you’d like us to consider for the site, please pass your thoughts along to us.

And, about the photos on the website …

I read to several groups of children at a nearby elementary school last week. I was “Guest author” for my part in the children’s book Oliviatown. The first session was kindergartners and first graders. Before I began to read, one little boy raised his hand and, thinking, I suppose, that the point needed to be made, loudly announced that “you look a lot older in person than your picture in the book.” I responded appropriately by having security remove him from the room.

For the past two or three years, sister Beth has been using words like “antique” and “fraudulent” to describe the photos on my home page.

Others have been less kind in telling me that it’s time to change the pictures on the site. They should know by now that I don’t particularly like to have cameras pointed in my direction.

But … I get the hint. I will either remove all photos or update them. Promise.

Quotes presently on my bathroom mirror:

“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” Elizabeth Bibesco.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshed others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25.

“Christ didn’t die to teach us lessons about bravery or to encourage us when we face difficulties. He died because that was the penalty demanded by God for sin.” Imagine, Steve Turner.

“It is impossible to follow Jesus and not be lead away from something. … That journey away from the former places and towards the new place is what converts us.” Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts.

“The world is neither so full of evil that we can’t enjoy it nor so full of goodness that we can abandon ourselves to it. When we see something beautiful there is always the qualifying thought that it is tarnished. When we see something ugly, there is always the qualifying thought that there is something of the Creator hidden there. …

The doctrine of redemption, the idea that God has initiated a rescue plan, completes the picture.”  Imagine, Steve Turner.

“… adorational attentiveness …” Eugene Peterson, a phrase in The Jesus Way.

It being the holiday season, I’ll be listening to my favorite Christmas CD’s: Holiday songs and Lullabies (Shawn Colvin), Midwinter (Peter Mayer), In the Spirit, a Christmas Album (Michael MacDonald), and Joy (aw shucks, you know ….) .

Well, it is time for me to sign off. And I do so with gratitude, appropriate to this week’s national celebration, for the blessing of your willingness to stand with me in the work that I do.

From where I stand this year, the light breaks through, and, seeing what I see and knowing what I know and having all that I have, how can I be anything but



June 4, 2007

Dear Ones,

Greetings from a song-inspiring front porch, a place where I hope to spend considerable time while I’m home this summer. I played my last job a couple of weeks ago in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas, and am now off the road until mid August. While I look forward to some rest after a quite full winter and spring, I’m also eager to write and resume creative work which has languished as I’ve traveled and been involved with a number of local weekly obligations. It’s good to be home, living on a routine, writing, and moving at a slightly slower speed. If you were sitting beside me, taking in the long shadows of dusk across the pond and the pastures, you’d know why I love this beautiful place as I do.

We have a high school friend, practically a member of the family, who works for us from time to time here at the farm. He’ll be around a lot this summer. Last week, on pay day, he informed me that he was getting ready to open a “Ferris Wheel Account” at the bank. I was not quite sure what he meant so, as you would have done, asked him what a “Ferris Wheel Account” was. Here’s what I learned.

For approximately $5000, you can rent a Ferris Wheel for a day or two. It will be delivered and set up at the site of your choosing.

JJ does not do very much dating at present but looks forward to the day, probably still some years away, that he might get married. He wants to make the proposal something special and has in mind to rent a Ferris Wheel for the occasion. He envisions having it set up in the middle of his grandparents’ pasture where he will take his bride-to-be for the “will you marry me” moment. And he’s going to start saving money for it now, hence, a Ferris Wheel Account. Don’t tell him, but I’m of a mind to give him FW bonuses from time to time, to help the cause. If I gave a “happy lighting” award this year, he would be a strong contender, though I should probably wait until his plan comes to fruition.

I’ve a hunch that there’s a song in there somewhere.

Strong recommendation: the DVD series “Planet Earth”, narrated by David Attenborough. Stunning beauty. It makes a great tandem to DVD’s Louie Giglio called “Indescribable” and “How Great is Our God.”

I was both surprised and gratified by response to last month’s newsletter. I was particularly pleased that so many of you seemed to engage in your own internal conversation about the subject at hand. Thanks to the many of you who wrote. I’d like to share excerpts from two letters that were especially thoughtful and thought-provoking. (Not only do they address the question posed in my letter with graceful eloquence, they give you some idea of how fortunate I am to have a mailbox.)

The first was written by an English professor in Grand Rapids:

“ My first thought as I was reading your posting what that his is the typical secular/sacred divide that is so pernicious. It makes a number of troubling assumptions. After all, if Paul tells the Corinthians to do ‘whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (emphasis I should say on ‘whatever’ and ‘all’), then she missed Jesus in all sorts of places – in the work done by the set up crew, in the serving of the food and drink, in work of the historical society itself. Surely, some of those people were professing Christians doing their work to the glory of God. We are not very attentive if we don’t see amazing witness all around us. Do you know the Dutch thinker, Abraham Kuyper, and his wonderful comment: ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’ And of course, (Gerard Manley) Hopkins celebrates all of this beautifully in ‘Pied Beauty’:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-fall; finches’ wing;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet; sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;

Praise Him.

It seems to me that art helps wake us up and be attentive – not just to the transcendent, but to the quotidian. To all these things: not just the cow, but the patches on the cow; not just the trout, but the spots on the trout; not just the finch, but the finches’ wings; not just the earth, but the cultivated earth in all it splendorous cultivation; not just what we do, but the things that help us do it (the gear and tackle and time). And then, of course, all of this should lead us to the affirmation, “Praise Him.”

But as you say, I need the “dots” before I can move to the praise. And I think you are right too to understand just how alien much “church-y” language sounds to the non-Christian (people raised in the church need to be reminded of that and often) – and in the culture we live in, how many assumptions people make about “Jesus-y” language. Because of the way his name has been misused, people automatically shut down and stop listening. That doesn’t mean that we stop using it, naturally, but as Ecclesiastes point out, everything in its season. I think a reading of the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus didn’t spend all his time preaching. Neither, then, should we. To return to my beloved Hopkins again –“Christ plays in ten thousand places”- We must BE the Word as much as we SAY the Word.

Her comment also evinces a rather un-Christian view of work. One of the things that was so radical about the Reformation was its transformation of vocation- esp. considering that Classical views saw work as curse, not as possibility or service. Then, too, the medieval Christian view — that only the work done by religious folk (nuns and priests) was consecrated to God — was drastically overturned by Luther and Calvin who said all work was valuable and God-honoring. I think that sets the standard so much higher too: after all, it’s at least as hard to live the daily stuff faithfully as it is to do “overtly” holy things. I think your concert falls in the former category.

Should Christian artists only write/perform explicitly Christian material? The logical next question: should Christians only listen to/read explicitly Christian material. To both I say: I think not- since such a distinction is really a false one. Augustine, after all, claims that “all truth is God’s truth.” Saying the name “Jesus” (and I do take your point about the importance of indeed saying it often and unapologetically) in a song or a story or a poem makes something no more Christian than me standing in the gardens makes me a carrot! The collection (of short stories) I sent you demonstrates that well—many of them never make reference to God or Christ, and yet they are grace-filled and holy. And help me live a better more God honoring life. Henry Zylstra who taught at Calvin in the 1940s wrote a little book in which he argues that literature should give us “more to be Christian with.” It is by understanding multitude of stories what we come to understand the magnitude of Christ’s redemptive work.”

And then, from my very good friend and surely one of the most kind-hearted professors anywhere, Dr. Pat of William Jewell College, I received these words of thoughtful encouragement:

“(A)bout the dilemma you raise: does – or did – the absence of explicit mention of Christ constitute some sort of dishonoring or turning away? You do not ask for responses from us, but I have found the pondering very helpful, so may I share a few thoughts it has brought to mind and heart?

On the one hand, we are, all of us, of course, called to speak His word of truth, to preach the gospel, wherever we go. It can probably be said for most of us, certainly for his pilgrim, that we do too little of that.

On the other hand, it does seems to me that there are degrees of explicitness in speaking the message of Christ, and the most is not in all cases God’s best for a number of reasons. I have not heard all of the songs (you sang at the event in question), but I have heard many, and those that do not contain some Christward arrow are few. “’Rusty Strings’ includes a prayer; ‘Someone’s Been here’ quite clearly invites the hearer to ask who has been here? ‘Hurricane of ‘96’ refers to God’s constructive work within His children. There is a good bit to be said for subtlety, especially with groups who consider themselves – whether rightly or not – to be intelligent or educated. I have seen such folk ‘tune out’ when they sensed they were being ‘preached at.’

Then, too, the songs, your words, indeed, each of us, is but part of the puzzle as God reaches into a life. Though I fear I often ‘drop the ball,’ I, as a member of the ‘audience’ who loves Christ, have a responsibility to bring His truth to others present as surely as you do, the more so because the setting is often one of conversational interchange.

Part of the reason the songs delight, I think, is because they invite a sort of treasure hunt, something like what Lewis’ Chronicles (of Narnia) do. There are many situations where the later pondering will yield much more fruit than if the connections were made quite explicit at the time.

With Nicodemus, Jesus painted the salvation plan fairly explicitly, but with many others, He gave at the time only the very necessary element that would connect with each heart. Does the singer, public speaker, college lecturer disobey Him when there is no explicit reference? Only, I think, to the degree that such explicitness is prompted by His guidance for that occasion.

Hard to discern whether the unease resulting from a conversation is the conviction of God or the jibes of Satan? Oh yes, and a hundred times more so for the very self-critical individual. But if we are growing in grace, He is sharpening our hearing through each of these disquieting wrestling sessions.
The question voiced that evening was, perhaps – whether the speaker knew it or not – as much for all of us as for you.”

Among other goals for the summer, i’m hoping to write a new batch of songs, learn some new recording technology, and maybe get a few things down to tape (or hard drive) just for fun. At present, in the week and a half at home so far, I’ve gotten 6 or 7 songs either completed or substantially completed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any uninterrupted time to write. Even if the things I’m working on new never see the light of day, my hours spent wrestling with words and ideas are so, so, so enjoyable. Maybe as I get some done, I’ll do rough recordings for the site. No promises, but maybe. Songs so far include ones about a man with Alzheimers (Who is Daddy Now?); one about a town in Guatemala, Joyabaj (where my niece lives and which I visited last month); one about the great writer of Westerns, Louis L’Amour (That’s the Reason I rea Louis L’Amour); a song for Communion (Never Empty Table); one which celebrates a sunset and a hammock (Sweetness); one about the scourge of pornography (Baiting the Bull); one love song of sorts called “It’s Enough for me Just to be with You”; and a couple of others that I’m forgetting right now. (I am telling you all of this because I want my webmaster, tyrant that he is, to read this and know that I really have been working down here. His favorite message to leave on my answering machine is “Need something fresh. Give me something fresh. It’s getting stale up here.”)

Lots more I could say but the sun is just below the horizon and it’s time to focus on this one-of-a-kind moment. I feel like God has put up a Ferris Wheel just for me. I dare not miss the ride.

Blessings to y’all. Thanks again for your kindnesses to me. They are many, and they are appreciated. Really they are.

Love, allen

March 11,2007

Hello friends,

If I had written a website entry every time I thought about it these past four months, I would have delivered up a tome to you. What usually happens is this: I read or see or hear or experience something and immediately think that it would be a subject worth fleshing out in words. The internal dialog begins and continues as I walk, ride, work, or do daily things until the idea is ready to be written about. Problem is, by then, some other thought or inspiration has crept in and taken over center stage, another private conversation begins, and the cycle just goes on and on, with nothing written, until Webmaster Ben, or one of you, compels me (usually with guilt) to put something on paper. The very nice thing about the cycle is that I always tend to have a head full of interesting conversations in progress, some of which eventually turn into songs or into spoken discussions with others even if they never make it to print.

Since most all of those recent thoughts presently escape me, I’ll just share what is turning in my mind at this very moment, a beautiful Sunday afternoon …

Part of my work includes the pleasant, if at times uncomfortable, experience of receiving thanks or greetings when I finish playing a concert. Many of those moments have allowed me to meet some wonderful souls, to begin some fruitful and lasting friendships, and to receive both affirmation and critique of the songs I’ve sung. … And sometimes, I am extremely challenged, even bothered, by things that listeners share with me.

After the short visits, there is the ritual of loading up (usually in a room which is empty by now), followed by the drive home if the gig was one that didn’t require air travel. Being extremely self-critical, the rides can be excruciating. “What could I have done differently, better? Which songs didn’t fit or work? Should I have played other selections, or done the ones I did play in a different order? What could I have said more clearly? What did I fail to say?” There is always plenty of imperfection to mull over.

Last night, before a hometown audience of which I knew probably half of the people personally, I played for a ‘secular,’ black-tie gathering at the annual awards ceremony of a historical society. The song set that Dewayne Creswell (keyboardist) and I did together included a new song (written for the occasion), Springtime in Georgia, Shoulder to shoulder, Hurricane of ’96 (there were tornadoes here last week), Someone’s Been Here, a new song about a turtle crossing the interstate, Ode to the Rusty Strings, and A thousand Forests.

At the end of the evening, an acquaintance who had heard me before, and who, like most of the audience, knows of my belonging to Christ, approached me with the words, “I missed Jesus tonight,” and then, after mild compliments, told me she was disappointed with the evening, stemming from the fact that I had failed to speak of my faith or mention Jesus by name. She had expected me to do so, perhaps deeply wanted it, given that I was before a more worldly-minded group that might have been challenged by unapologetic reference to Christ. I thanked her, sincerely so, for her honesty and for the challenge that her words lay before me. It’s not a new one, but, especially when i am hired to be ‘entertainment’ and to do a ‘fun’ program, is one which makes me ask about the particular calling that I think I’m called to as a singer/songwriter. My omission last night to speak of my personal faith was not calculated, fear-driven or premeditated. I tried to do my work with integrity, true to the request of the people who hired me and operated n the premise that the credibility of any Christian’s witness is greatly enhanced when he or she has a reputation for doing his or her work with excellence in the marketplace.

But, on the drive home last night, the words “I missed Jesus tonight” still very much in mind, my thoughts began with a question: did I somehow disown or dishonor Christ tonight? Did I fail to “make the most of every opportunity”? Was I so intent on my ‘occupation’ that I forsook my ‘preoccupation’?

I’d like to tell you that I reached a peaceful answer to those questions and was able, in my mind, to offer a full and satisfactory response to the woman who shared her disappointment with me. Truth is, I went to bed uneasy, and awoke to the same conversation playing in my mind this morning. While there was nothing to regret about what I had sung or said (other than the usual room for improvement), the question lingers about whether or not I said all I could or should have. I would like to think that the songs and the manner in which Dewayne and I served them up had something of the ‘aroma’ of grace about them, and that things said and sung contained truth which “provoked Godward thought.” But still, self-critical soul that I am, I’m still uneasy.

Were the woman’s words of critique those of God, to chasten, or were they those of the enemy, to accuse and discourage? For me, sometimes it’s hard to know.

I remember talking to a friend last year, a speaker/author, who had decided to decline future invitations to address secular or corporate groups unless it was understood that the gospel would be open and obvious, front and center to his comments. Previous attempts to be a “motivational’ or ‘inspirational’ speaker left him, as he put it, “feeling like a traitor.” i know what he means and deeply respect his decision. And yet, while I don’t know that “called” is the appropriate word, I feel drawn, if ill at ease, to the places and occasions where the jargon of faith is unwelcome and out of place; and I’m thankful for opportunities to be there, behind enemy lines, a subversive of sorts, subtly inviting people to a Life which, hinted at in small measure through the songs, might be fully experienced as God pursues them at other times, through other means, in other places. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you belong to the small band of angels which has made it possible for me to do this work I do, and you probably understand, from your own experience, the tension of integrating the ‘concrete’ world of marketplace, classroom, culture with the ‘spiritual’ world of eternity, truth, reality.

Metaphor, of the sort I try to utilize in the songs I write, is one way to create ‘dots’ that, by God’s grace, others might connect to see, understand and believe the Gospel. My guess is that the dots that lead any of us to Christ are as varied as the moments of our everyday lives, and the Christian wishing to help others find their way home, might use any number of materials in making grace visible – hospitality, written words, parenthood, deeds of charity, friendship, creativity – to the end that, when the Gospel of Jesus is more fully explained to them, either in a sermon, a reading, or some treasured conversation, it resonates with familiarity.

I love the name of Jesus, of Christ, and I routinely choose to use it rather than “God “ or “Lord” in conversation for the power, beauty, clarity, and specificity that it possesses. I love the name because, imperfectly but unavoidably at this point in my life, and only because of God’s grace, I love Christ, with the constant prayer that such love would deepen and grow. The possibility that I might have disowned Him last night or any other time concerns me greatly and is proof perhaps of how far from perfect my love for Christ really is. But even as I ask God to forgive and correct that malady, I rest in and am thankful for His love, and i recall Paul’s petition for “power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” for me.

Do you ever have conversations with yourself like this, or is it just me? A friend suggests that I need to heed “the law of lighten up,” but ‘tis easier said than done.

That said, the conversation with myself continues, and I’m glad for it. Like many of them, I hope that this one, too, might cause discomfort that leads to growth. It is good, I think, for each of us to revisit and articulate an understanding of our “work.” The womans’ words last night forced me, once again, to think through what I do and why. “(M)y life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.” (Acts 20:24) … I am, truly, thankful for the woman’s words. They were good for me.

On a different note altogether …

A few weeks ago, in a scenario of “one kid’s jawbone meets another kid’s kneebone on the trampoline,” my nephew Andrew (the jawbone part of the equation) suffered a break that resulted in having his mouth wired shut. That’s tough for an 8 year old. One of my nieces shared with me that, shortly after the incident, when Andrew’s diet was limited to liquids through a straw, he and she were at a fast food restaurant. He was unable to eat French fries but took a couple, wrapped them in a napkin, ‘smushed’ them, and held them under his nose while the others ate. The scent, it seems, was as close as he could get to the reality of tasting, and would have to offer some satisfaction until he could open his mouth again. … There’s a sermon in there somewhere.

I’ve probably shared in a previous letter just how much I enjoy and treasure National Geographic magazine. If you have the February 2007 issue, there is an intriguing story about the mangrove tree. On pages 140-141, there is a picture. It is a brilliant illustration which I would title “church” if it were mine to name.

I took a walk a couple of weeks ago with Gary, my brother. Here are some shots of what you see when you walk round Harris County acreage.

Plate’s very full these days, but life is good. Hope you’re well.

Wishing you French fries.

Talking to myself,