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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The subtle sin of judgmentalism and how it works

“Do not judge, lest you be judged…. Why  do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1ff.)

If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.

It’s that kind of sin. I see it in you; it’s just part of who I am.

I find it fascinating that after issuing the warning about not judging others, our Lord followed with the caution about specks and logs in people’s eyes.

This is precisely how it works.

My judgmentalism of you appears so normal and natural that it never occurs to me that I am actually condemning you.  So, while your rush to judgment is a log in your eye–one you really should do something about!–my human tendency to speak out on (ahem) convictions is merely a speck in mine and nothing to be concerned about.

Ain’t that the way?

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No one spoke to you at church? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

“We’re not going back to that church. We attended once and not a soul spoke to us.”

This may be the most common complaint offered by church visitors.

Our people have come to expect that churches will be welcoming to strangers, open to newcomers, receptive to inquirers, and alert to first-timers.

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How we learned Christ

“But you did not learn Christ in this way” (Ephesians 4:20).

“Learning Christ.”

Interesting term.

To my knowledge, this is the only occasion in Scripture where this kind of reference is made.

Paul tells the Christ-followers in Ephesus they must not continue in the same pagan way of life they see exhibited all around them, the kind out of which they themselves were yanked.

“Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk.”  And how is that? “In the futility of their mind.”

The understanding of the unsaved is darkened. They have none of the “life of God” in them.  They are ignorant. Their hearts are hardened.

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Depressed Christians is not an oxymoron.

“Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord.  Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1-2)

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

“You call yourself a Christian and you are depressed.  What’s wrong with you?”

Sound familiar? If some actual person has not said that to you, perhaps that little voice inside you–the one that loves to call attention to your failures and pretenses–has beaten you over the head with those words.

Surely we who are the redeemed in Christ and thus more than conquerors should live on top of circumstances at all times and radiate joy 24/7, right?

Why then,  are we sometimes depressed?

Does it help to know we have lots of company?

Some of the finest people who have ever trod the Christian path have dealt with depression on a regular basis. Whether we call it the blues, the dumps, melancholy, or, as Winston Churchill referred to it, his “black dog,” God’s people can be depressed also.

The grandma said to the teenager, “Trials and suffering are not par for the course, honey. They are the course.”

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Get the love out: Sometimes only words will do

“My little children, let us not love in word or tongue (only), but in deed and in truth”(I John 3:18).

In our effort to encourage people to “love one another,” we must not leave the impression that words do not count.  While deeds of love and other expressions are vital, a lot of people need to hear the actual words.

“I love you.”  “You have no idea how much you mean to me.” “Thank you for being such a precious friend.” “I treasure you.”

Speaking love is a good thing to do.

First, something inside me needs to speak words of love.  It’s good for me.

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Smile. C’mon, you can do this.

I have accidentally become an evangelist for smiling.

I want to see God’s people smiling, and do not understand why many refuse to do so until their natural reluctance is overpowered by something really hilarious.  If anyone on the planet has cause to smile, it’s us.  We’re saved, our names are written in glory, there is no condemnation either here or in the future waiting to ambush us, and from here on in, it’s all good!  That sure brings a smile to this country boy’s face.

Now, the Scriptures say very little about smiling, if at all. However, the references to joy leak out from every page. And what is a smile, after all, but “joy made visible.”

So, the old saw holds true here: “If you’re saved, tell your face about it.”

Now, I sketch people wherever I go, sometimes as many as 500 in one week. And since everyone on the planet looks better smiling and they will like the finished product more if it shows them in the best light, I tell people, “Look at me–not down at the sketchbook–and smile please. I want to see your teeth.”  Or, I might just say, “Say cheese.” Or if it’s a child, after learning he is 5 or 6 years old, to get a smile, I’ll say, “And are you married?”

You  would be surprised, and probably distressed, to know how often the subject replies, “I don’t smile.” Or, “I don’t like my smile.”

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Facebook, credit cards, and other evils

“Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). 

I remember so well the day many of us cut up our credit cards. It was a victory over bondage. We celebrated, and probably bragged on ourselves just a tad.

Today, over 30 years later, I own three credit cards and a debit card and am in bondage to none of them.  What happened?

In those days, the 1970s, many of us looked upon credit cards as an evil force enticing people into deeper debt and the accompanying bondage and oppression.  And, that was exactly what was happening to many people back then.  I knew people who found the temptation to pull out that credit card and buy something they could not afford–and would not have purchased had cash been required–irresistible.  Furthermore, the use of credit cards was not at all necessary in the society of that decade, but merely a convenience.

Times have changed.  These days, we are moving more and more to a cashless society.  And, while I have three credit cards (one is for gasoline only), I pay them off monthly. The banks make no money–not a red cent–from my cards. The debit card, of course, simply deducts money from my bank account on the spot, so there is no debt involved, and no bondage.

Yet, I recall those days of the 1970s when we read books and studied courses and attended conferences, then held ceremonies to cut up our credit cards.

I think of this when I hear someone ranting about the evils of Facebook.

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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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Who has walked this ground before us

Recently, while giving some Atlanta friends a brief tour of New Orleans, I asked the teenagers in the back seat, “Did you know Abraham Lincoln came to our city?”  They didn’t.

Most people don’t.

The teacher in me kicked into overdrive.  I love telling people things about our city they didn’t know. And if it involves a celebrity–modern or ancient–so much the better.

Lincoln came twice, once in 1828 when he was 19 and again in 1831, at the age of 22.

In those days, people would built flatboats upriver and float down the Mississippi bringing crafts or produce to our city.  Once here, they would peddle their cargo, tear up the boat and sell it for firewood, then walk around for a couple of days and “see the elephant,” as they called it. Eventually, people from Illinois would book passage back to St. Louis on a paddlewheeler and walk the rest of the distance back home.

The first time, Lincoln came as a helper for his boss’ son, and the second time he may have been in charge himself.

Professor Richard Campanella of Tulane University has written “Lincoln in New Orleans,” published in 2010 by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.  It’s the best and most complete thing ever written on the subject, I feel confident in saying.  Subtitle: “The 1828-1831 flatboat voyages and their place in history.”

This is not a review of the book, even though I’m fascinated by it.  (In truth, the book is so dense, with tons of interesting insights on every page, reading it is a slow process.)  What I find most fascinating, however, is that Campanella tells us where the flatboat probably docked, where Lincoln and his friend may have stayed, which slave auction they may have watched.

I walked today where Lincoln walked.  Sort of.

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