A few of my favorite things

“….when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad…..”

If you are a songwriter, you make a list of your favorite things and include them in the lyrics and people everywhere know your heart and will sing your list.

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….”

If you can’t compose songs, however, you may need to be more inventive to pass along your list.

Like, maybe, write about them in a blog.

So, on this Tuesday morning, the first day of President Obama’s final term in office (good news/bad news, depending on your perspective–”Lord bless and lead him, please!”), here is my favorite-things list. (Expect it to be followed with a list of my favorite people and favorite places. After that, we’ll see.)

1) An excellent painting or a great pen-and-ink drawing that starts the creative juices flowing and drives me to find pen and paper and to learn from that artist. 

I’m not referring to Degas or Rembrandt or Picasso–remember I’m only a poor cartoonist–but some lesser known (although gifted) artist who can capture a stormy sea or a child at play or a country landscape in an imaginative way. At first, I’ll try to copy what the artist did, line for line. Then, if I get the hang of what he/she did, I’ll attempt to apply the technique to the kind of thing I do.  (Often people ask, “Have you had training in art?”  I usually reply, “I’m always in training.”)

2) A song (vocal or instrumental) that excites my emotions in any way whatsoever. So few musical numbers do that to me anymore, for reasons that I cannot figure, and yes, I find that sad. But when one does it, I love it.

Growing up on the farm, I would whistle or sing the same song all day long. Often, I was stuck in a field a mile away from anyone, where no one but God and my mule Toby could hear, so I would let it fly. The funny thing is that I never truly heard my own voice, but somewhere deep inside, I was hearing a choir or quartet or a symphony.  Imagine my shock the first time I listened to my voice on a tape. “Where,” I wondered, are all those other musicians? It sounds so bare.”

I wish music did to me today what it did then.

3) A meal of the type my wonderful mom used to cook on the farm. It would include vegetables such as okra, peas, corn, green beans, tomatoes, and canteloupes–all of it homegrown. Off to the side would be a plate of fried chicken and biscuits. There is a small bowl of gravy.  My mom is in heaven, but my sister Patricia does this better than anyone living. (My brothers and sisters will recognize that I’ve just described the post-Christmas meal my sisters Patricia and Carolyn did for the siblings.)

I do love to eat, and a filet mignon is a favorite. I love great desserts and could eat a half-gallon of ice cream at one sitting. But best of all is the country meal on the family farm.

4) The laughter of my grandchildren. Their joy is the ultimate in music to my ears and a balm to my heart.  Now that they’re growing up–our youngest granddaughter is 15 and youngest grandson is about to turn 11–the sound of their laughter has changed, but when they all get together at my house (all eight grands) and laugh, I wish I could wallpaper every room with that sound.

5) Silence in the car. Time to think and to pray.

6) A great cup of morning coffee. Usually, it’s not one I’ve brewed. I keep trying all kinds of brands and concoctions and proportions, looking for the perfect cuppa joe. Sometimes in restaurants or cafes, they have it down to an art and I drink my fill.

7) The old farmplace five miles north of Nauvoo, Alabama. I was born on the spot where our nearly-60 year old farmhouse stands today. (When the original house burned in ’54, we built this one.) Dad went to Heaven in ’07 and Mom in ’12, so no one lives there any more. But my sisters keep the house up and we stay there from time to time.

I used to plow those fields, as did my dad and grandpa and brothers. Every foot of ground is sacred. My heart often hungers for a quick visit to that place.

8) The altar of the church. My church, your church, whatever church I’m preaching in–it’s the first thing I look at when I arrive to guest-preach in a church. During the sermon, I encourage people to come and kneel (or stand or sit on the front pew) and leave their cares and worries there. In our home church in Kenner, LA, every Sunday I’m present, you’ll find me at the altar interceding before the Lord for my family, myself, my church, and my country.

9) A great cartoon of my own.  Now, most of my drawings are rather pedestrian, I confess. But once in a while, I’ll come upon a clever idea and if it is well-executed, I can’t wait to see it posted at the Baptist Press website, www.bpnews.net. (They have thousands of cartoons –from me and six other cartoonists–available for any editor of a religious newspaper or church newsletter. And they’re free for the asking.)

10)  An article for this blog over which I’ve shed tears. Most bloggers will tell you that they do not write for some audience “out there,” but for themselves.  I try to direct my stuff toward pastors and other church leaders, but in truth, I’m opening my heart and bleeding a little before the world for personal reasons.  It’s like telling my grandchild I love him. It’s not that he needs to hear it, but something inside me years to get it out.

I type it, edit it, and in posting it, send it along with a prayer that God will use it for His glory however He pleases. Sometimes nothing seems to happen. At other times, I’m amazed. One morning recently, I posted an article at 6:30 am. Then, when I turned on the computer again around 11 o’clock, that same article was included with the Rick Warren package sent to the 100,000 pastors on his mailing list. I was overwhelmed, humbled, and excited.

Well, that’s my list for today. Thanks for reading it. Now, let’s see if we can set this to music.

4 thoughts on “A few of my favorite things

  1. SO, I learned a little more about your life today – wow, you should write a book – there is only one Bro. Joe and you help to brighten my life. Thank you!

  2. Man, you took me back with that country dinner thing. My favorite was at my great-aunts’ home. Aunt Ethel and Aunt Avery were female Mutt & Jeff, but both could cook like no one else. We’d sit at the big table in the kitchen…the one with the 5-foot diameter lazy susan built in, and it would be loaded with good stuff from the farm…’fried’ corn (what they call ‘creamed’ now), okra, pickles of many kinds, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, fried chicken, pork chops…and to top it all off, the lightest biscuits you ever ate, sopping up the ambrosia of homemade butter (that we young’uns had helped churn) mixed into sorghum syrup. And if you were a particularly good kid (and to them, all the great-nieces and great-nephews were) you’d get the treat of a ‘tea-cake’ from the pie safe. It was a huge shortbread sugar cookie with just the right proportion of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

    • My grandmother made those “tea-cakes” and she put pink glossy icing on them. After she moved into a retirement community she told me that she had found an easier way to make them. She used a cake mix! I never had the heart to tell her they just were not the same.

  3. What notable sayings today, Pastor Joe! The one about wishing you could “wallpaper every room with the sound of your grandchildren’s laughter.” Priceless! And for all we writers, how we identify with your statement about your writing: “I’m opening my heart and bleeding a little before the world for personal reasons.” My son Keith Jones responded to your big country middle of the day meal that you called dinner in Alabama. In North Georgia, we experienced the same, as he remembers from his childhood at his great aunts, my aunts, Avery and Ethel Collins! And the same was true at my home in Choestoe in the North Georgia Hills. Choestoe, a farming community that stretches along the Nottley River in Union County, Georgia is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “the place where rabbits dance.” And if it isn’t heaven on earth, I don’t know where else is! Afraid we didn’t realize that fully until after we had to leave there!

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