Posts Tagged ‘Tree Fort’

As I put the finishing touches on the Tree Fort it became pretty evident that the fort would be highly used by all the boys, regardless of the age. In fact the 17 year old friends of our oldest are giving it rave reviews as they mount their airsoft guns on the window sills. I already have plans for the “crows nest” that we will build on the next school break, just ten feet higher in the limbs of our big old cedar tree.

All good tree forts need a trap door and rope ladder and even more important – a way to pull the ladder up and lock the trap door once the defenders of the fort have retreated into the high rise protection. A trap door is a necessity to holding up for weeks on end against the invaders from the south. And, of course, any door that is called a trap door is just plain cool. So I made two.

Trap Door Frame

All good trap doors need to sturdy and since this one is right in the middle of the floor of the tree fort it has to be constructed in such a way that a 190 lb  boy can jump on it when they are playing with the 50 lb boys. Actually, when it comes to tree fort etiquette, “the person or person’s playing can act any age they want without reprimand…but preferably the age of the youngest person in the fort.” Hence, a trap door must hold up the weight of, not only the lightest boys, but also the heaviest boys.

Trap Door From Below

Trap Door From Inside the Tree Fort

I have been on a quest to not spend any money on this fort, save fasteners. So when it came to making hinges and a handle for the illustrious trap door, I, being of frugal mind, and not having any hinges or handles at my disposal decided to sleep on it. And sure enough in my dreams I came up with a solution…my old leather belt needs to be reassigned.

Trap Door With Handle and Hinges Made from a Leather Belt


Trap Door Hinges

Trap Door Handle


And…I was giddy with accomplishment and frugality.

Talking about trap doors though.

I wonder how often we keep a trap door accessible in our lives. The trap door can let people in or keep people out…its really up to us. As we live in our little tree fort lives we look out that window at the person approaching the tree across the backyard and within an instant we have calculated if that person is worthy of us bending over, taking hold of that leather handle and pulling the door open to welcome the person in…or not. Some times we walk right over to that door and stand right on top of it.

Who are we to make such decisions? What’s crazy is the way we so desire to let those people in whom are the ‘popular’ ones and who, frankly, are the very ones who will not let us in. But we turn so quickly and judgingly keep those who would love to be our tree fort friends, out.

“Open your door to strangers.” Is what Jesus said.

We have continued building the Tree Fort on into day three and things are going quite well. the neighborhood kids have discovered the great imagination station perched in our tree and there has been quite a bit of running up and down the ladder, zig zagging through the construction zone. My youngest two have been tossing, “Can I help Dad?” over their shoulders once in a while, but never really pausing long enough to put hand to thought. If you look closely in the next picture you can see Kaleb standing in his favorite spot…the far corner just under the Eastern window.

Kaleb standing in the corner

I know they truly want to help with the building project, although mostly they want to get a hammer in their hands and hit something repeatedly until that certain something breaks.  I really want to include them in the project too…for this is one of those things they will always remember and probably try to replicate with their own offspring. But, putting a seven and ten year old to work is quite a daunting task. Do I send them up the eight foot ladder standing on the top wrung with the drill and with one hand holding the screw and board while maneuvering the other hand in place to drill the screw in while hanging on with one foot? Don’t think so. But I did find some things for them to do and feel like they were putting some time in, enough to tell their friends that they built it with me.

The West wall is sided.

Sometimes I think I feel like I imagine my kids feeling when they ask me if they can help. Probably deep down they know I am not going allow them to use the power tools or climb the ladder to the top or do any serious measuring. I’m not sure they know I am letting them do things they really can’t mess up, things that I can double check without letting them know.

I ask those questions of God often. “Can I help?” “Can I be part of showing your power?” “Can I lead someone to you?” “Can I lead a big church?” “Can I, huh, God, can I?”  Like a little kid I bounce around hoping he will pick me to help in bringing his Kingdom to Seattle. Wishing and dreaming that he will let me do something important that transforms Seattle.

I wonder what he thinks?  Maybe he gives me tasks that he knows I can’t screw up to bad. You know like I do with my kids. I am not going to trust them install the 4×4 braces, that hold up the entire fort, with 8″ lag bolts sunk into the tree. Well, not yet anyway.  But with a bit of instruction I can entrust that to my older two boys.  Of course that all depends on how they follow the small instructions. If they do the little things completely wrong because they couldn’t even have enough self control to listen and learn, then I’m not giving them any greater tasks.

Hmmm. There seems to be a parable in here somewhere. Maybe our desires to do great things must match up with our humility to be taught; to be instructed; to be built up, which requires that we are torn down first. Maybe God really wants to call on me to do great big things, but he is waiting for me to be great in the small things. Maybe God is situating Epic Life Church, testing our resolve, our submission, our humility in the small things as he prepares big things.

Or…maybe he already has us doing great big things but we see them as insignificant. Are lives transformed and reconciled to Christ insignificant? I think not.


Building a tree fort for four boys is a very important act of Fatherhood. I have heard, “You’re a genius!” spoken in my direction from my offspring more in the past couple of days than I have the entire 17 years of this parenting journey so far. Many of our years of parenting have reflected something my sister-in-law posted on Facebook this morning. “My daughter is like green tea. She draws out my toxins and impurities. Then rubs them in my face.” Thank you Erin, that about sums things up. But having my oldest two attest to my genius-like attributes makes holding the baby worth the birthing process.

Building a tree fort is kind of like building a family. At times I really am not sure I know what the heck I’m doing and then all of the sudden things look alright, only to be lead into long moments of bewilderment and complete confusion.

One of the hardest moments so far in the construction of this elevated fort of awesomeness comes with a bit of irony as I drive huge lag bolts through the bark and into the woody trunk to hold pieces of it’s cousin onto its side. The human cut and planed boards being attached to a living tree holds a whole sermon in thought but will probably never be preached. The tough part is making these boards level so the tree fort can hold some resemblance of a highly crafted structure.

Piece by piece leveling the floor.

With only one branch to build upon and the great desire to have a fort that enjoys 180 deg. view it began quite difficult to keep things level, not to mention the difficulty of building the platform frame with no supports.

First Wall and Bracing.

But with a little help from a couple of strong young men, a four by four brace and a four foot level it finally started to take the resemblance of sketches floating in my head. Once we figured out how to build the first section of the base the next few became easier. Then screwing down the floor and building another wall was as easy as making nice MLT: a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that.

Finished Platform and Second Wall

Kind of like living, isn’t it? Those foundations are so hard to build but when they are built so much can happen and so quickly. Problem is, so many of us decide the foundation building is just too hard, so like pansies, we give up and go right to building the structure without the foundation. We think all the glory is in the structure – no one ever notices the foundations  –  everyone sees the structure.

My foundation for the fort was in place long before I fastened the first plank  to it’s uncle, Mr. Cedar Tree. I actually learned how to build from my dad, then from school, then from a company that built barns, then from my own construction business I ran for several years. All of that gave me the ability and confidence to place a firm foundation so the structure can be good looking and safe.

Don’t cheat foundation building. Give it time and enjoy it. Work at it. It will always pay off. These times of struggle and hardship are what glorious tree forts are built upon.


As I drove out of the AXIS parking lot, after an amazing Christmas Eve service, I felt this strange since of “Whew” spread over me. I was entering a three week vacation/sabbatical. It has been full tilt Go! for about three years. But you will never hear me complain. i love it and I really am not one to sit down and do nothing. In fact, the next few weeks is going to be a lesson in sitting and hearing God.

For a while now I have told my boys I would build a killer tree fort on the first limb of the huge maple tree in our back yard. And by huge I mean fifteen feet in circumference at five feet high. (That’s the distance around the trunk of the tree, which is somewhere around five feet in diameter.) So this is the week to do just that.

Maple Tree in the Backyard

If you know me well, I am a builder by design. So every once in a while I get this itch to build something with my hands. One thing you must have to enter into a project like this is, time. Well this week I have some time. With the help of a great friend, a one Aaron Schwartzenbart, and his truck and the unasked borrowing of a certain other friend’s trailer, (thank you Jeff Campbell), I scored about three hundred dollars worth of lumber from a local sheet metal company’s left over pallets. Their trash became my tree fort project.

Lots of free lumber.

So it was set in motion on Christmas day; after a great breakfast from my dear wife, the opening of several neatly wrapped presents and the interaction of said presents, my boys and I set to the task of breaking the pallets down into stacks of usable lumber. Lumber that ceased be exist in the form of pallets.

Nice Stack of Lumber from Pallets

I had drawn up a sketch of what the tree fort would look like a few days earlier with my youngest son Kaleb. At seven years old, he is going to benefit the most from this project, so he got to help me draw it. He was bouncing around with excitement as we drew it and dreamed. We all need some imaginative dreaming of forts in trees don’t we?

Tree Fort Sketch

One of my degrees out of High School, many moons ago, was architectural drafting. Everything comes around. After I climbed the tree and took some measurements I realized that in the end the sketch will indeed be only a sketch. So we began measuring and cutting and building. The platform would be placed just ten feet off the ground and resting on the main branch that stretches out to the South.

The Beginning with Konnor in the Tree


The massive branch that protrudes from the side of the tree is itself two feet in diameter and could be a tree all of its own. It reminds me of John 15:5 where Jesus tells his disciples that we must abide in him as a branch is affixed to a vine. In fact, if we are not abiding in him, he goes on to say, we can do nothing.

That massive limb on the side of my maple tree is doing some serious abiding in the main tree and because it is doing so it has become incredibly healthy and strong. Strong enough to hold up one big tree fort. After all, if you know me, I believe in doing things in epic proportions.

But the question is pounding at the back of my skull like a jack hammer on old concrete. “Am I abiding in Christ?” “Am I that healthy?” “And if I am not that healthy, Why?”  Well the answers lie in my actions and my hearts desires for the health of my Savior. The question would have to come back to, “Do I really believe abiding in Christ is worth it?” Because if I truly believed it was, I would abide. Can the movement of ministry here in Seattle be slow and unhealthy because I am not abiding as I could be?

My prayer this week is that I rediscover Abiding and that the church I pastor, Epic Life Church, would discover the same things. How wonderful it would be if we all truly abide in Christ.