Monday, August 6, 2012

God's Treehouse

When we were in Tennessee the week before last, we visited what has been billed as the world's largest death trap treehouse.

If you were thinking of going there for some drugs, drinking and sex, you're too late. That will no longer be tolerated.

And put down your can of spray paint and pocket the Sharpie. I know you're just itching to write "Roll Tide" on a random board. Don't worry. Someone else took care of that for you.

I don't know this for a fact, of course, but I'd be willing to bet that there is not a location on this planet that hasn't been graffitied with that particular phrase. Somewhere on the wall of one of the many loos in Buckingham Palace, there's probably a crimson-hued directive from an Alabama fan.

Horace Burgess, a landscape architect, says that God told him to build the treehouse in a vision that lasted four seconds.

From a story in USA Today:

"I built it for everybody. It's God's treehouse. He keeps watch over it," said Burgess, who received his inspiration in a vision that came to him in 1993. "I was praying one day, and the Lord said, 'If you build me a treehouse, I'll see you never run out of material."'
And thus far, as Burgess sees it, the Lord has provided. Most of his materials are recycled pieces of lumber from garages, storage sheds and barns. Now into his 14th year of construction, he is not finished.
The treehouse has 10 floors, averaging nine to 11 feet in height by Burgess's reckoning. He has never measured its size but estimates it to be about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. He did count the nails that he has hammered into the wood — 258,000, give or take a few hundred. And he guesses he has sunk about $12,000 into the project.

So, here's my question:

Why is God always telling people to do nutty things?
He told Herman Cain to run for president. He told Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry to run, too. You certainly can't say the Lord doesn't have a sense of humor.

On our outing to the treehouse, there were nine of us, me, Kate and Jacob, my dad and stepmom, my sister and her two sons, aged 2 and 7, and our nephew who is 4. Before we even went into the treehouse, we started losing members of our party. Just like any good horror movie. My stepmother is afraid of heights so she waited outside at a picnic table with the two-year-old. My dad and four-year-old nephew made it to the sanctuary, which is at about the mid-level mark. The sanctuary is outfitted with pews and a basketball net in case the Lord tells you to slam dunk something.

It was here that my dad got tired of chasing the four-year-old who, like most four-year-olds, has no sense of safety or self-preservation. Shortly after, my sister bowed out of the trek upward.

Walking through the treehouse was one of the strangest experiences I've had. There's not a thing about the structure that is up to any building code that has ever been written. It's stunning, really, that people are allowed to wander around the place, where one level looks out over another level with no railing to keep you from falling. Scraps of wood sit in piles in some areas. Stairs are built unevenly and at random widths and heights.
Moses either just brought down the ten commandments or he's going up for a slam dunk.

Jacob's name was already graffitied onto this guy. We would never deface Moses.

A stained glass window in one of the stairwells

Kate, Jacob, my nephew Cameron and I worked our way slowly to the top. I spent some of that time yelling at Cameron to slow down. At several instances, I was pretty sure I was going to have to come down and tell my sister that her son had Pollyanna'd right off the upper level and Aunt Polly was going to have to shell out some cash for spine-fixing surgery. But we made it up and back down safely. 

I actually started to believe in miracles after that. 

If you make it all the way to the top of the treehouse, you will see Jesus in the garden below.

 When we got back down to solid ground, I told my dad and stepmom that walking through that treehouse was like walking through someone's mental illness.

But I guess that's true of a lot of things. Books and songs and plays and paintings and overly-confessional blog posts. Look at my mental illness hanging on the wall. Take a journey through my deranged mind. Sometimes I'm pretty sure everyone's slightly deranged. And the people who aren't are just too boring to bear.

I was thinking about the things God tells people to do. For most people, the request seems to be as simple as going to church on Sunday, buying an SUV and a house in the suburbs, voting Republican, and eating chicken sandwiches. That's probably why the Bible has been written and accepted as complete and no one adds to it anymore. Because, let's face it, "Stay in your comfort zone" would make a really boring lesson.

What if God actually told you to do something outside the norm, something uncomfortable, something that could be looked upon as slightly deranged? The Bible is full of that sort of thing. Then what?

Seems to me most people do what society or their upbringing tells them to do. Period. And then they're very proud of themselves for never stepping out of line, for putting on a tie once a week - or at Christmas and Easter - to trot down to the sprawling church on the corner, the local Six Flags Over Jesus, to sing along, to sit and kneel and stand on cue.

What if God told you to build a crazy treehouse in the backwoods of Tennessee?

What if God told you to invite people into the twisted corridors of your mind?

What if you had a four-second vision that changed your entire life?


  1. Gorilla Moses in wood versus 8-bit Jesus in stained glass should make for the decisive National Championship. Home field advantage obviously goes to Jesus, unless therein lies a burning bush or two.

    I enjoyed this post, that is all.

    1. Thanks! Moses does look like a gorilla. There were several other biblical figures around and my son high-fived or arm wrestled several of them. Even baby Jesus.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.