Have you ever imagined living in a tar paper shack? My father-in-law did. He imagined it. From this mythical shack Tommy (affectionately called Papa) wrote real letters to his children and grandchildren. His letters are robust, funny, idiosyncratic, tender, piercing, theological, practical, pondering and persistently cheerful about the grace and love of God. In these letters he urges his descendants to live humbly and simply. To confess sin, flee sin, and befriend the stranger as Jesus has befriended us. The gospel of Jesus was his plumbline to happiness. (Along with his bowl of cornflakes before going to bed.)
Last week at age 94 this exuberant patriarch “left his shack” to live in glory with his Savior. So you might guess what I’ve been doing this week – rereading his T.P.S Letters, cherishing his counsel, laughing at his quirkiness and captivated by a theme he often closed his letters with. Guess what it was? The table!
Tommy could not conceive of happiness in the shack apart from the communal life of the table. As a tribute to this wise and wonderful man I dearly miss, I share with you a few of his closing remarks from his letters. I think you’re going to wish you had sat at his table. Happy Father’s Day!
“Every day we pray, “Give us this day our Daily Bread.” And everyday, the Master loads our Table with good things!” Shalom
“If you’ll invite me over for milk and crackers, we’ll discuss the Bible—no holds barred, but in love. It’ll be like that “iron with iron” we’ll sharpen each other.”
“Next time you’re by, stop in for soup and bread and table discussions about LIFE! But don’t forget to bring your tools. Everybody works at this ranch. Shalom. God’s peace be with you.
“I want to share breakfast with you. The fellowship flowing across the table, no matter how modest the ambience, is Sweet! That is the banquet. Shalom
“It’s that time of year again when I make my unreasonable demands upon you, my beloved grandchildren and kindred spirits. I want my Christmas gifts! No shirts or ties or socks or jackets. I want LETTERS Not from Mr. Hallmark. From You! Send pictures (babies) Tell me where you’ve been. Are you starving? Tell me about someone you’ve shared a loaf with.” Love, Papa
I wish you were close enough so I could eat your food and drink your coffee and crack your ribs and tell you one more time how wonderful it is to have you all in my Clan. Furnish your home with SHALOM! The rest of your furniture is just stuff!
“Buy me a large box of Cornflakes and invite me over.”
Thanks for sharing your loaf with me. Papa
Stop by the Tar Paper Shack and we’ll share a piece of home-made whole wheat toast—slathered with Strawberry Jam! I think that’s better far than a piece of Marie Antionette’s cake! I know you’re furnishing your home with Shalom, because I keep reminding you. Did I ever tell you that you all are the Delight of my life? Shalom