When you reach a certain age, you begin to get requests to write letters of recommendation. For college applicants, for award seekers, and, in my case, for those seeking to become a Fellow in the AIA.

These letters can devolve into a formula: state your bona fides, recount the seeker’s, and give a pithy, defendable, honest endorsement.

What do you do when someone asks you for a letter to endorse his effort to become an agent of faith in God in Chaplaincy, when you are a profane jackass rustic in the ways of Divine understanding?

Well, without a name, I did this. And it has the added benefit of being true:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have known this man for 33 years, almost to the day. He has photographed several hundred buildings and a book I helped create.

Each of us goes through trials and rewards that wound or fatten us, but some of us find a sustaining place unaffected by triumphs or tragedies. The phrase “It’s better to be lucky than good” may have a happily cynical resonance, but it is best to have faith — not in being good, or being lucky, but in the truth that God loves us.

If that gift is received, then the pains and pleasures are simply the necessary byproducts of the mission: to love God in a life that knows where you, and everything else comes from, and where you are in it. No one is in control of much, and I have seen him in good times and bad, working in ways that humans like me find validating, suffering in ways that might illicit pity, but in truth he needed neither validation nor pity. Neither do I, nor you; you need what he had and has.

He has the love of God: for God, but he also knows that the love of God saved him. Beyond my understanding of the vicissitudes of a complex life of marriage, children, and creating art, the proffered beauty of the aesthetics of his craft and the fruits of his marriage scream the redemption of Faith in a life of challenges, and not a few triumphs.

We are all survivors of some damage and fear, but some of us know the peace that passes all understanding, but a few go beyond that to offer the beauty of God to the rest of us. He does that — not just in his art, but in his abiding, directing, inspiring life.

Feel free to contact me,

Duo Dickinson

God was with me, too, when I wrote this. Because he is always there, whether my friend or I know it. The difference is, he really knows it.