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"Yesterday I returned from the Arkansas leg of this Fall tour.  What an incredibly beautiful state, filled with incredibly good people!  My travels had me from the southeast to the northwest, from central to southern Arkansas.  Only missed the far northeast.  Sorry Jonesboro.  I'll catch you next time.  And even though it rained a good portion of the tour, I find it hard to complain amidst the stunning vistas and valleys, the changing leaves, the winding 2 lane highways, the quaint and proud historic towns.  Just as I've tried to convince folks who've not been to Texas that we're more than cowboy hats and horses, or that Idaho is much more than potato farms, I'm now standing tall, ready to defend Arkansas against those who may assail it as being a backward state.

If anything, the folks in Arkansas have figured out a big secret that it took me 34 years to understand: that true joy and inner peace come from a strong life of faith and trust in the provisions of God - not from financial successes, powerful jobs, or an accumulation of things.  They speak openly and freely of their love of the Lord, they share energetically the effect and power of prayer in their lives, and they give generously of their treasures and talents. 

 

My spiritual life was blessed immensely by the folks I encountered and the actions I observed.  I met young couples who feel called to be house parents to provide love and structure and encouragement to kids who've come from abusive situations or who've had trouble with the law.  Denise shared with me her private stash of incredible drawings that depict visions and dreams she has about her faith life - this is stuff that could be worldwide famous.  I learned of an elderly, single, physically disabled disciple on a very fixed income who brought in a shoe box full of one dollar bills - representing years and years of saving - and gave it to the church.  Brother Joe shared his moving faith story with me, of how he came to leave a career in New York to join the monastery at Subiaco, where I spent a couple of days.   Paul, Kimberly, Karly, Eli and Bella took me into their home and instantly treated me as family.  Ritchie's story of her journey through alcoholism to find the amazing joy of Christ brought forward such emotion in me, I could barely eke out a song.

 

I pray for each one of you whom I encountered and give thanks for the blessing you added to my life.  And I pray that my readers will have an opportunity for an Arkansas experience.  Surely, they would be changed forever.

Grace and peace to you as you journey.

Yours in Christ,  

~~Jennifer

10/19/04

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