Before The Vacation….

1) We never take vacations, but visit families. I expect you know how that is. The last real vacation we had was the Spring of ’04 in between pastoring FBC Kenner and this job with the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Tomorrow, though, vacation begins.

It was to have been a driving trip to South Dakota to meet up with Margaret’s sister and brother-in-law, our beloved Susan and Jim from Seattle. Alas, their health problems forced them to cancel, and we’re not going without them. I insisted to Margaret that we take some kind of vacation, and she suggested that if I want to get out of town, then I should drive to New Hampshire to see our daughter and three granddaughters–as well as our son and his family in North Carolina–and visit with friends along the way, one of my favorite activities.

So, Sunday, July 27, that’s the plan. She doesn’t feel up to accompanying me, so I checked out several recorded books from the library to take along, and after a wedding today and a going-away thing for Dr. Ken Gabrielse tonight at a church member’s home, I’m packing and pulling out tomorrow morning.

I’m leaving a few things for my son Marty to post in my absence.

2) Do you know the name Maria Shaw? I didn’t either. Evidently, she’s a psychic of some notoriety, said to have a call-in show on the CBS radio network, which is available here only on the web. Anyway, she has moved to New Orleans and was interviewed in Friday’s paper by columnist (formerly, in pre-Katrina New Orleans, we would have called him a humorist, but the hurricane knocked all the bluster out of him) Chris Rose.

One question he asked her was: “What do you see for the Saints this season?”

This star of the psychical world, this one who sees what others do not, and knows what is hidden from mortal eyes, answered: “Oh, they’re going to do absolutely wonderful. They’re going to make a lot of baskets and they can go all the way to the NBA finals. And they will beat the Detroit Pistons.”

Which is interesting, since the Saints are a football team and she has them winning the basketball championship.

We knew these people were fakes; it’s just fun seeing it displayed right before our eyes.

3) The machine at the airport advertised $5,000 of flight insurance for only 25 cents. A teenage boy was seen feeding five dollars in quarters into the machine. When asked what he was up to, he said, “I’m sending a policy to 20 different girls. You’d be surprised how that cements relationships until I get home.”

4) At Buddy and Renee’s wedding today, I’m giving them this quote from the great German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. At a wedding for his niece, he said, “Love will not sustain your marriage. But marriage will sustain your love.”

By “marriage,” he meant the commitment of marriage. If we count on the emotion of love to sustain the home, we’re in trouble from the start. The commitment we make–for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death us do part–sustains the love. This is why living together outside of marriage is a losing proposition.

Commitment cements relationships.

5) Displaced New Orleanians–or you who went to seminary here and are now living in Normal-Land, wherever that is–will remember the ancient Milne Home for Boys on Franklin Avenue in Gentilly, across the side street from Vazquez’ restaurant. The stark buildings look like they belong in a Charles Dickens novel.

Built in 1932 (I would have guessed 1832), the home was championed by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong who grew up at a similar institution. In 1986, it went out of business as a boys’ home and became a community center. During the flooding that followed Katrina, the buildings took 5 feet of water and have yet to be renovated. Low priority, obviously.

Well. Artist Jacqueline Bishop has done something I’ve never heard of before. She and a friend, Elizabeth Underwood, have painted the silhouettes of some 5,000 birds on the one-block-long driveway that crosses the Milne property. One at a time, laboriously, using cardboard stencils, they blacked in over 100 Louisiana species of birds, including egrets, cardinals, mockingbirds, and pelicans.

To view it on line, go to and click on Doug MacCash’s photo.

Funny the things artists do. And funny how it drives the left-brained among us bonkers. “They did what? And may I ask why?”

Hard to answer. Ms. Bishop said she wanted to give the Milne home some attention, raise awareness of our environment, and maybe encourage the people who live around here, the ones “trying to move back.”

6) I’m fairly certain I have not told this story here, but it’s a real keeper. (If I’m repeating myself, sorry.)

Recently, Rob Wilton’s Vintage Church–a new start-up in the Uptown area of New Orleans, on Magazine Street–hosted an out-of-town group of young people who wanted to minister in the neighborhood. One hot day, they were standing on the sidewalk handing out bottles of water. Pedestrians strolling down the sidewalk and slow-moving motorists in this sweltering city were glad for the refreshment. Problem is, the kids were standing in front of a coffee shop.

After a bit, the owner walked outside and began blistering them for ruining his business. He was trying to make a little profit from the sale of coffee and cool drinks and here the church kids were giving water away. When he ran out of invective, the minister overseeing the youth pulled out his credit card and handed it to one of the older ones. “Everyone go inside and buy a drink in this man’s coffee shop. It’s on me.”

Now, the man didn’t know whether to thank them or hide in the back in shame.

What the youth group and their leader did not know was that Andrew Ogea, worship leader for Vintage, had been trying to build a friendship with that man. The next day when Andrew showed up, he was ready to talk about the things of God.

So many occurrences in our lives lead us to apply the insight of Genesis 50:20, that the devil “meant it for bad; but God meant it for good.”

3 thoughts on “Before The Vacation….

  1. Bro. Joe,

    I really hope you enjoy your timely vacation. Travel can be an informative and enjoyable venture; but, more . . . it can be a wonderful distraction from the normal tug of relentless duties.

    I have taken many trips in my mind as I enjoy and read of your adventures. I can hardly wait to hear about this trip. Thanks for sharing in your most wonderful way with words that come alive with detail that is often overlooked. Your ministry has touched so many lives, especially mine.

    Be safe and have a great time seeing the things, most don’t notice.

  2. Ditto to Gary’s message. Sorry Margaret isn’t able to go.

    Stay safe and enjoy!


  3. Dear Joe,

    I am sorry that Margaret can’t go with you on your trip. May the Lord protect you and guide you as you go. I pray that it will be a refreshing time for you. We have a son and his family who live in Exeter, N.H. He teaches high school English students at Philips Exeter Academy. It is one of the most beautiful campuses you will see anywhere. Have a great trip. We will miss your writings while you are gone. I know that we will hear all about it when you return. I look forward to it.

    Jimmy Griffith

    P.S. Be very careful. My wife and I were driving down the freeway in Abilene yesterday. We were about to pass a trash truck and a board(it looked like a 2×4 and it must have been several feet long flew off the truck and struck our windshield right at the top in the middle. It hit flat and bounced over the top of the car. Praise God! The board didn’t come in; it didn’t even crack the windshield, and it didn’t scratch the paint on tope of the car. Praise the Lord!! We felt like we had just been part of a miracle from God. Angels watching over us. We went on and visited our members in the hospital. We sure were thankful we were visiting others instead of others visiting us. Thank you Lord.

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