Friday, December 4, 2009

Conversations with Allen

When I was asked to speak about Allen’s life I have to say I was honored and thrilled. However, I have to admit this is not an easy task. How do you summarize the life of a man you love and respect so much, a man with so much depth, a man with an endless reservoir of unconditional love, and a man with a wealth of wisdom into a few short minutes?

I sat down and asked the Lord. Where do I start? . . . As I listened to the Holy Spirit I heard that it would only be appropriate to speak about conversations. . . I’ve titled my tribute to Allen. . . Conversations with Allen. As you listen to these conversations, you’ll hear familiar things. His depth, his love, his wisdom was not only shared with me, but with all of us. That’s the beautiful thing. We have all been blessed to have crossed paths with this man here on Earth. To me that is something very special as I know the unique place he has in my life and my heart. I am a better man, a fuller man because of our conversations.

Allen loved to have conversation. He had so much to say and he knew how to listen. The conversations I had with Allen began 5 years ago and began in this very building. Who would of guessed ☺ . . . Talk about a divine appointment. I was in a deep valley of my life and the first thing Allen said to me was, “How you doing dude?” What’s on your heart? I had never met him before, but his presence was safe, and the tone in his voice was genuine. We talked for three hours. He mostly listened, he asked questions, and assured me that God was in this, that God was doing something amazing in my life. He continued on and said James, God is asking you, “Do you trust me, and are you willing?” Do you trust me and are you willing? That became a recurring theme in our conversations over time. Both the hard times, and the very good times. Allen always reminded me that the Lord is whispering, James, do you trust me, and are you willing?

We spent the next year meeting here at the prayer center and developed a deepened friendship. Random times. Sometimes mid morning, sometimes over lunch, and sometimes around 10pm where we would talk until the wee hours of the morning. We would pray, we would walk around the building, and end up at the tables or couches out in the lobby and simply have conversation. We got to know each other through our conversation about God, our view of God, our view of life, our history, where we came from, and most often what was on our hearts. He always initiated the conversation with, “what’s on your heart dude?”

In November 2005 our conversations went to Israel and Gaza. Allen had been to Israel over a dozen times already and I was excited to see it for the very first time. This was the first time in our conversation that I heard about the “World being his Playground” and his passion for going to the Middle East and spreading the gospel. Praying for people in the spirit and seeing physical and spiritual bondage broken in the name of Jesus. Allen prepared me for our journey by telling me the different places we would see and go to. . . Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jericho, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and eventually our group of 30 would decrease to 6 and we would cross a dangerous lonely border tunnel into the Gaza Strip.

It was in these conversations and in Israel where I learned from Allen three very important life lessons. The first Allen described the Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, as one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. This salinity makes for a harsh environment where animals and life cannot flourish, hence its name. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea and there are no outlet streams. Allen likened the Dead Sea to a human soul where if we don’t have outlet streams, if we are not giving away what has been given to us, then our souls becomes a harsh environment where death begins to set in. We have to be poured into by the Holy Spirit and willing to give it away. Allen said to me, “James, you come alive when you give it away!” Don’t ever stop giving it away.

The second lesson Allen taught me about was the idea of being faceless. Being faceless he told me allowed him to go to some of the most dangerous lands and cross borders that others were not able to cross. Being faceless was far away from titles and positions and allowed for free flowing movement to do the ministry that God called Him to do. It allowed him to “Show Up” at places like the prayer center, Tag, theMILL and to be available for God to move and to create a meeting between two strangers that turned into a Holy moment and memorable conversations.

The third very important lesson I learned from Allen was about Forgiveness. In our hotel room one night we began to have conversation about some past hurts in my life. As I explained the pain I had endured, Allen said, it’s time to experience God’s forgiveness, but you must first forgive those who have hurt you. He then led me into prayers of forgiveness where I continued on and he strategically encouraged me by saying keep going James, your getting it, keep going, deeper, that’s it, that’s the root. That night I experienced a break through of great magnitude, and felt firsthand God’s forgiveness and grace in my own life.

We continued the trip the next day into Gaza, meeting with church leaders, dodging bullets, and handing out food and praying for refugees that were amongst terrorist extremists. One case in which we prayed for the wife of a fallen Hamas terrorist leader, who broke down in tears and hugged us not wanting to let go. I saw first hand because of Allen’s invitation, the Spirit moving in a mighty way in a dry and weary land surrounded by violence and hate. I saw a spirit filled church growing and thriving in the midst of terror, and young leaders who loved the Lord and couldn’t get enough of Allen’s encouragement, his unconditional love, and his unprecedented leading in the Spirit.

The following year I became engaged to my beautiful and amazing wife Sara. Before that could happen though I had to go through a very uncertain 6 weeks while Sara and I took a break from each other to decide if this was the direction God had for both of our lives. As these 6 weeks progressed, Allen and I got together frequently here at the prayer center. He connected my situation during that time of confusion and brokenness and not knowing what was going to happen in those 6 weeks, to Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem. As Nehemiah went out in the dark without his horse to examine and survey the broken down walls and burned down gates of Jerusalem, so was the Holy Spirit going out into my darkness and surveying my situation. Putting in place the plan to bring the correct people and needed interactions to bring fullness, and restoration to my life and relationship. Allen always told me that God was in the good year blimp looking down at the game of life, and we were sitting in the stands. We can only see a small perspective of the bigger picture, while God could see all. It was time to trust again.

Over the next three years our conversations moved to Outback Steakhouse where just about every other Monday night in strict order we would order our blooming onion, extra croutons, salmon filets, and raspberry cheese cake. The waiters and waitresses knew to leave us alone and by the time we were done talking the lights were being turned up and the heat had already been turned off. They wanted us out. We talked for hours about the Love of the Father, the outer court relationship between a master and slave, the inner court relationship of a Father and Son, and the inner most sanctuary where Allen would always tear up and describe the most intimate relationship where the groom locks eyes with his Bride and the family is then completed. We talked about being Fathers to the fatherless, washing the feet of those who have given us a Judas moment, Seeing ourselves as God does through Jesus as strong sons in clean white linens, airs to the throne. Showing others the Father, not just telling them about it. We talked about things inside of us having to die a violent death just like the cross in order for the resurrection to come in certain parts of our heat. He talked about our journey being like onions, layers continually being pealed back to reveal a deeper and more intimate layer. Allen talked about the battle between the sumo wrestler flesh man and the Holy Spirit stick man. He talked about wanting to be a basket filler for people, chopping and gathering wood for people to start the fires in them. He was a watchman and a gatekeeper for so many people. Allen never told you what to do, he processed with you and pushed you to a place where you could come to your own revelation between you and God. He would say, My revelation is my revelation, and smile when you got yours.

My wife and I became close with Allen and Jane and were blessed when they invited us into their home for three months while we were between houses. We started having dinner and hangout time conversations with them. They poured out unbelievable hospitality and warmth, which provided us with a family away from family. Allen said the only condition was that we make ourselves at home. Jane provided amazing meals and insight that only a mother can bring into our lives. We were shown a picture of a healthy family dynamic, which produced two loving and stellar sons. This picture will forever be etched in our minds.

As I talk about my experience and interactions with Allen’s amazing life and his family, I hold him in the stature of a hero of the faith, a man who poured himself into countless individuals with a tone of acceptance, understanding, encouragement and unconditional love. I’ve heard over and over this week from our friends. . . Allen believed in me, Allen loved me, Allen valued me, Allen was like a father to me, Allen took time to pour into me, Allen took time to listen to me. I echo each of these. As I remember Allen’s unbelievable giftings I want to take a moment to reflect on his humanity. I’ve come to learn we all live with our humanity and as Allen so often and eloquently expressed, none of us are perfect and we all have our stuff. Even the great men of the Bible . . Noah, David, Paul, Peter are shown as Godly men living out their faith in the midst of their humanity. As I say goodbye to my dear friend, my mentor, my father…. Allen Reedall today I will answer your question one last time.

What’s on your heart dude? . . . . . . . . . So that I’m real and don’t say, everything is great and fine. I will be honest with you . . . Allen, my heart is heavy, my heart is sad. . . I don’t like this, I hate that you are gone! I’ve lost a dear friend as we all have. I’ve lost a mentor, a father figure. Sara and I have lost a granddaddy for our baby. I don’t want anything more at this time then to have an appointment on my calendar with you on Monday night to process this past week. I long to have a conversation about your death.

As Rob Bell writes in his book Drops Like Stars, “The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr points out that Native Americans have a tradition of leaving a blemish in one corner of the rug they are weaving. Because that’s where they believe the spirit enters. . . .

I can relate to the rugs. I want desperately for things to go “how they’re supposed to go” Which is another way of saying how I want them to go, which is another way of saying according to my plan. And that as we all know isn’t how it works.

“It’s in that disappointment, in that confusion, in that pain – the pain that comes from things not going how I wanted them to – that I find the same thing happening, again and again. I come to the end of myself, to the end of my power, the end of my strength, the end of my understanding, only to find in that place of powerlessness a strength and peace that weren’t there before. I keep discovering that it’s in the blemish that the Spirit enters. The cross, it turns out is about the mysterious work of God. Which begins not with the big plans and carefully laid out timetables, but in pain and anguish and death.

It’s there, in the agony of those moments, that we get the first glimpses of just what it looks like for God to take all of our trauma and hurt and disappointment, all those fragments lying there on the ground, and turn them into something else, something new, something we never would have been able to create on our own.

It’s in that place where we’re reminded that true life comes when we’re willing to admit that we’ve reached the end of ourselves, we’ve given up, we’ve let go, we’re willing to die to all of our desires to figure it out and be in control. We lose our life, only to find it. It turns out that a Navajo rug and a Roman cross have a lot in common!

As I’ve answered your last question Allen, I hear you loud and clear . . .the Lord is whispering Do you trust me and are you willing? Absolutely. As I work through the grief that is present in me now because of my love for you, I know I’m headed towards a path and destination of gratitude for having crossed paths with you here on this earth and for having the priceless hours of conversation with you. I will one day when the time is right tell my children about the Godly revelations you and I talked about. In the near future I will celebrate and honor you by maybe going out and buying a pair of cowboy boots, I may grow my beard out and dye it grey, or maybe I’ll go to a hookah bar and smoke a cinnamon flavored hookah. . .but most assured I will carry on your legacy by taking time in my life to hear God’s voice, to show up, and to ask people, Dude, what’s on your heart? Thank you for all the great conversations! Thank you for taking me to a deeper place with our heavenly father, our Lord and Savior. Allen Reedall, you are one of a kind and will be extremely missed. I look forward to seeing you in heaven, and in the meantime I will always . . . always carry a piece of you in my heart. Goodbye friend. I love you!


Wes said...

...words of strength, courage and great beauty

...thank you, James

...the journey continues

Noelle said...


It made me sad and encouraged to read this. Sad for what you have lost in Allen's friendship. Encouraged by the life of a man I didn't even know.

It is so true that the person we want to talk through our loss the most is usually the one we are grieving.

I believe Allen would be so proud of you as you move through this.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

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