Here's some good advice to the newly married: make sure you come to know and trust each
other early in your marriage. Do that before the honeymoons barely over. Do that before the
kids start coming. Let it be just the two of you before there's more of you. When we first got
married, my wife and I moved 750 miles from our hometown. We didn't know the place and we
hardly knew anyone. But, we had each other. And in that couples' solitude, a "you and me
together will make this work' mindset became our reality.

Clay and Tabitha did the exact opposite. Almost immediately after they wed, they moved into a
home with six boys in a new town and as their first jobs after college. And this was no ordinary
home. Six bedrooms with ten beds and six bathrooms. Commercial kitchen and its own private
laundromat. Instant family - a group home for young men with challenging pasts. It was into that
environment, that Tabitha and Clay started their life together as husband and wife.
What follows in "Beneath the Psalm Tree" is like a diary. Not a daily diary, but a series of
biographies of the twenty-three young men in three years to whom this newly married couple
became "dad and mom". Some of these young men were unwanted by those who birthed them.
Others were abused by those who were supposed to care for them. Each has a story and each
story will break your heart. In step, Clay and Tabitha with hearts full of love creating a home
filled with care, creating a place where each and every one of those boys was wanted.
These are true stories. I know because I saw this "family" every Sunday and Wednesday at
worship at the church for whom I preach. I saw Clay and Tabitha with the whole group as well
as with their charges individually. I saw tough love. I saw forgiving grace. I saw firm discipline
from a tender soul. I saw the celebration of small victories. I saw joy - like the joy of the angles
in heaven - when one after another of these "lost boys" gave their lives to Jesus and found an
eternal home in Him. And Clay and Tabitha were there each step and misstep of the way, loving
these prodigal sons as if they had given birth to these children of the Lord themselves.
Some of what you'll read is very complex. Life is rarely simple. Some of what you'll read is quite
funny. Four or more teenage boys living together under one roof can make for great
amusement. Some of what you'll read is pretty raw. Life can be that way too. All of it is very
honest. Names in this book of the young men are changed for more than a few very good
reason. But, each of these are real people, with real challenges, and real soul-breaking burdens
on theirs backs. Not every story has a happy ending. But some do. Not every child ends up
whole and healthy, but there are moments when Clay and Tabitha act as the assisting
physicians as The Great Physician works His supernatural healing on these precious young
men whom God loves.

And I haven't even mentioned that into this company of players, Clay and Tabitha bring thier
own first-born, Savannah. A baby girl with five teenage big brothers! Not the formula I
recommend for a successful beginning to your marriage. But in these stories, in the lives of
these young men, in the ministry of the Balls, we see the promise of our Lord fulfilled, "I can do
all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
Reading this book gave me strength. Strength to see that all children are precious and all
deserve the best out heart and soul and mind and strength can give them. I trust you'll find new
strength too as you read these little grace-filled stories of outcast people God loves. And Clay
and Tabitha loved. As Jesus taught, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothes and
sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) One more piece of good advice. Read this
book. You can thank me later.

Ernie Thigpen

Senior Minister
Central Church of Christ
Spartanburg South Carolina

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