Letter to my six granddaughters on whom to marry. And whom to avoid.

Six of the finest young people on this planet happen to be our granddaughters.  Margaret and I are blessed beyond measure.

In order of their arrival into our lives, they are Leah Carla, Jessica Mae, Abigail Rebecca, Erin Elizabeth, Darilyn Samantha, and JoAnne Lauren.  They are as pretty and sweet as their names.

Sometimes, when I’m in the car with one of you, I will raise the question: “How do you choose a husband? What kind of man will you marry some day?”

Now is the time for you to be thinking of this.  In fact, you should have been giving this thought for some time now. Leah, senior member of this sextet, is 25 and little sis JoAnne is the youngest at 16.

First, whom to avoid.  Run from these types just as fast as you can, as far as you get…

1) Lazy.  No matter if he’s charming and sweet-talks you and thinks you are the best thing ever (which you are!), do not be taken in by him. If he can’t hold a job and prefers to live off the earnings of others, marrying a bum like him would be a disaster.  You will be the breadwinner for your entire married life. Marry a hard worker.

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How to stay youthful all the way home

“They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14).

It occurs to me that there is one article I can write which Rick Warren cannot (not yet anyway), which Thom Rainer is not ready to write, and which some people couldn’t come up with if their lives depended on it.

“How to be young in old age.”

I’m in that “old age” period, I suppose. Man, it hurts to admit that. But then again, as they say, considering the alternative, I’m good with being 74.

And, I remind myself, I have done funerals for a lot of good people who would have given everything to live this long and see their children married and their grandchildren grow up. So, I am blessed and I thank the Lord.

If you are, thirty, let’s say, and reading this, then I suggest you stop and consider how you are feeling at this very moment. Well, that’s how I feel. I feel great, clear-headed, alert, alive, joyful, without a pain or ache in my body.  Believe me, I am thankful.

That’s not the youthful part, though. When senior adults talk about being youthful, in most cases they’re not speaking of their libido or their athletic prowess. They’re talking about their spirit, their attitude.

And, from the reports of those who know me, I qualify.

So, therefore, let’s give it a try.  How to stay youthful in old age. My top 10 ways….

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Observations and a prayer on turning 74.

“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14).

As of this Friday, March 28, I hit 74 years of age.

Is that old? Depends on where you’re standing, I suppose. To a kid, it’s ancient. To me, it’s just another birthday.

Yep, 1940 is my year.  And what a year that was. I remember it well!

Europe was already ablaze thanks to murderous Adolf Hitler. Six weeks after I arrived his Nazis invaded the Low Countries and on the same day (May 10) Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain.  I had nothing to do with any of that in case you are asked.  In the U.S., Congress agreed with FDR to call up our National Guardsmen for one year of active service. A song from that period says, “Good-bye dear, I’ll be back in a year. Don’t forget that I love you.”  (It goes on to say, “They took my number right out of a hat, but there’s nothing a fellow can do about that!”)

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Some people love the idea of work more than its reality

(These are simply stories and not a how-to article.)

“We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4). 

ONE.

My grandson Grant might have been 5 years old. Frequently, on my off day that summer, I would pick him up and we would spend the day together. We would go to the park and feed the ducks or head to the playground. Sometimes, we visited the zoo and later the playplace at our favorite McDonald’s.

That day, he agreed to go with me to pick blueberries.

Now, to get from the city–we live in the western part of metro New Orleans–to the country is a drive of an hour minimum.  And to get to Talisheek, Louisiana, added another 30 minutes to the trip.  Grant was buckled into the back seat and we talked all the way. From time to time, he wanted to know, “How much longer?”  I soon decided this might have been a little more than he needed.

Eventually, we arrived at the blueberry farm. It’s a self-service thing where you take a plastic bucket and go in any direction. Later, you weigh up the product and leave money, so much per pound, in a slotted box.

Grant and I got our ball caps on, rubbed on some sun screen, grabbed our plastic buckets, and headed out into the field.

“Grandpa, this is fun.”  I was glad to hear that. The long drive faded in his memory, apparently. That was good because the ride home would be just as long.

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12 reasons to rejoice at age 74

Growing old is not for sissies, we’re told. Maybe not, but it’s for the lucky ones, if I may be permitted to say so.

It’s for those blessed by God with the opportunity to spend extra time on earth and do more good.

I count myself among the fortunate, the blessed ones.  And I’m grateful.

1) Seventy-four is not so bad.

Granted, when you’re 30 or 40, it seems ancient. But to be 74 and still feel great and be going strong, 74 is a piece of cake.

When I was a kid, I thought of the year 1900 as the benchmark, the dividing line to determine who was middle-aged.  Born in 1940, as a teen, I saw so many of my parents’ friends in their mid-50s and saw they were in the prime of life. They were at the peak of their powers. Gradually, however, they aged and now, none of that group is left.

I’m now not only a senior citizen, but a senior to most in that group!

And glad to be!

2) I’m grateful to still have my health.

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Confessions of a long-time Christian and veteran preacher

Dear Lord,

I have been a far poorer Christian than You wanted or I intended.  But I am so glad to be a member of the family of Christ, to be saved and to know it as well as I can know anything.

I am honored to be the brother of the rest of Thy redeemed.

I have been a poor example of a preacher for these many years and have not blushed (the way I should) when someone who barely knows me lauds my wonderful Christian life. Nevertheless, I’m so honored to be a pastor and preacher.

I am a sinner and not only in my pre-Christian life. I’ve sinned enough since becoming a believer to disgust my Lord, embarrass my parents, and disqualify me from ever doing anything in the church.  Yet, I love the assurance that my sins were dealt with on Calvary and each day, He forgives me.

If my post-salvation sins had not been dealt with on Calvary along with all the others, I’d be in a heap of trouble.

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Autumn: My favorite time of the year and of life

The title of this piece came from my buddy Jim Graham of Atlanta in a recent email.  We’re close to the same age and appreciate so many of the same things–our Lord, our families, our country, our friends, and retirement living. We both love stimulating conversation, to spend an evening with a good book, to take a walk in the park as the sun is setting, and to listen to a good symphony or the harmony of the Everly Brothers.

Jim and I are both enjoying our Autumns.

Everyone knows about autumn as a time of the year.  And who doesn’t love that?

Many people agree with Jim and me that autumn is also the best time of life.  Consider some ways in which these days–Jim and I are in our early to mid 70s, just spring chickens!–are the very best….

1) We don’t have to go to work.  (I am well aware that many seniors do have to work because of a thousand factors, and my heart goes out to them. But most people our ages are fully retired, and if they work, it’s only to do what they love.)

And yes, I am working. I preach every opportunity I get, blog every day, sketch at events to which I’m invited, do a cartoon each weekday for the Baptist Press, and such.  But these are labors of pure love.

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The people I drew this weekend

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

She said she was 90 years old. Clearly, she was a fiesty little lady, quick to speak up and tell you what was on her mind.

As I began sketching her likeness, making idle conversation and attempting to keep her focus in my direction, I said, “Have you ever been drawn before?”

She said, “WHAT? Have I ever been drunk?”

I laughed and said, “Drawn. Has anyone ever sketched you before?”

They hadn’t.

A moment later, I said, “Have you ever been drunk?”

She said, “Mind your own business.”

I was spending the weekend at the First Baptist Church of Yazoo City, Mississippi. When the pastor resigned recently for health issues, a longtime friend in that congregation urged the associate pastor to invite me up one Sunday.  And, because I frequently do senior events, they scheduled a Saturday night dinner for the older adults where I would sketch and speak.

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The Birmingham Baptist Youth Rally….Still At Work

In 1959, I transferred to Birmingham-Southern College from a school in Georgia. For a brief time, I lived with my sister Patricia and her husband James, and we all joined West End Baptist Church. It was my introduction to Southern Baptists.

No sooner had we joined the church than I discovered the Baptists of Birmingham held a thriving twice-a-month gathering for their teens. On the first and third Saturday nights, upwards of 500 young people would gather in some Southern Baptist church for an inspirational program, followed by a fellowship time with refreshments.

I had grown up in rural Walker and Winston Counties of Alabama and although our little Free Will Baptist Church loved its young people, we had nothing like this.

I ate it up.

Soon, I was promoting the gathering among West End’s youth, encouraging ours to be the biggest group present. Some nights we would have 50 or more on the city buses which the church hired to transport us. (It was on one of those buses where I told the lovely Margaret Ann Henderson for the first time that I loved her. The date was December 3, 1960. She was 18 and I was 20.)

One evening, I was approached by Larry Andrews, our church’s music minister (and the father of best-selling inspirational author Andy Andrews). “Joe, I was talking to Bob Ford. He’s the associate pastor at Ensley Baptist and pastor advisor for the youth rally. Would you be interested in becoming program director for the rally?”

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Sibling Revelry

The best thing my parents did for me was to give me 3 brothers and 2 sisters.

It was hard on Mom, I guarantee you, and not a whole lot easier on Dad.

Mom birthed all of us–and another son who lived only two or three days and was never named–in a 9 year period.  Dad worked in the coal mines to put groceries on the table and shoes on our feet. Sometimes, he doubled back for another 8-hour shift because the money came in handy.

When Mom went to Heaven on June 2, as she approached her 96th birthday, she was surrounded by her remaining five children, all of us 70 years of age or above.  (One has to wonder how that would feel, seeing all your children live to be old!) (Note: Dad died in 2007, and our youngest brother Charlie died 18 months earlier.)

Last week, the five of us met back at the rural Alabama farmhouse for the first time since Mom’s departure. On Thursday night, we had a dinner to celebrate the birthdays of oldest brother Ron and next-to-oldest brother Glenn.  They were born 364 days apart.

I went up on Wednesday, taking Amtrak’s “The Crescent” from New Orleans to Birmingham. Youngest sister Carolyn and her husband Van met me there, and chauffeured me to the farmhouse, some 60 miles to the Northwest. (People sometimes ask, “So, what town did you grow up in?” I reply, “No town. Even though I tell people I’m from Nauvoo, Alabama, we lived 5 miles out from that. In the next county even.” It’s about as rural as it’s possible to get.)

Growing up, we thought of ourselves as far apart in age. But eventually, all six of us were in our 20s together, then our 30s, and so forth. When we were all in our 40s, I asked Mom if that made her feel old. “No, it’s not my problem,” she answered.

These days, we’re all peers. All but the girls are white-headed, and we know why they aren’t.

For the record, here is the “skinny” on each of the siblings….

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