On the final page of a popular magazine–which shall go unnamed–a celebrity is interviewed in each issue. I thought I’d give it a try and answer the questions myself. (At the end, I added a few more.) Here goes….
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being in the place God put me, doing the work He gave me. It doesn’t get any better than this. Likewise, the best definition of hell on earth is to be out of His will.
What is your greatest fear?
Just that very thing: being out of his will. I fear nothing so much as disappointing Him. That could happen to any of us. None of us is immune to temptation. That keeps me on my knees every day.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been to his birthplace (a log cabin in Kentucky), the restored “New Salem,” Illinois, where he lived as a young man, and through his home in Springfield. I’ve been to his burial place, and in Washington, D.C., to Ford Theatre where he was shot and the house across the street where he died, as well as through the White House. I own many books on Lincoln.
Which living person do you most admire?
There are four men at the top of my list: Don Davidson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA; Colonel Chet Griffin, retired fighter pilot in Fairfax, VA; Jim Graham, a retired sales executive in the Atlanta area; and at the top of the list, my roommate during the college years and best man in our wedding, Joel Davis. Joel has served the Lord consistently as a businessman while also ministering bi-vocationally in churches for over half a century. He’s now in his late 80s and still showing us how to trust the Lord.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
There are so many to pick from. Laziness. Inconsistency. Shallowness.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hypocrisy: saying one thing publicly but privately being ungodly.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Every three years or so, I purchase a new car and pass the old one down to a family member. It’s a luxury to be able to do that, but I love it.
What is your favorite journey?
If the question means the favorite trip which I have made, it comes down to a) Holy Land in 1984, b) Singapore in 1977 to draw an evangelistic comic book for missionaries, c) England in 1982 on a tour with our church youth choir, and d) Italy in 2012 to speak to pastors and wives. Not sure which is tops. Probably the Holy Land.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Tolerance. it sounds so noble, but you end up letting some people get by with destructive behavior. “Well, I didn’t want to offend him.” I say, “Please, go ahead and offend him. If he is trying to destroy the institutions placed there by righteous people, it’s time you took a stand. Tolerance is often cowardice dressed in a suit and tie.
On what occasion do you lie?
When someone asks me to critique something they have done. Telling people “this stinks” is really hard and feels awful. You don’t want to discourage them. So, I fudge the truth.
Which living person do you most despise?
Despise is too strong a word, but I could name a few celebrity-types who wickedly oppose almost every virtue I believe in. They disgust me.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
You’d have to ask someone who listens to me a lot. I’m unsure.
What is your greatest regret?
A time in my life when I drifted from the Lord. It grieves me to this day, and that was decades in the past.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Jesus is the “Who,” and family is the “what.”
When and where were you happiest?
Now. Here. In my retirement years, I have been as happy and fulfilled as any time in my life. (I retired in 2009, I tell people, “Had I known it was going to be so great, I’d have gone straight from ordination into retirement.”)
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to write great novels like “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
What is your current state of mind?
I am deliriously happy. Positive, sunny-side up. I will admit the COVID-19 business has taken a lot of fun out of all our days. I pray constantly for a cure.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d have perfect teeth. Thankfully, I’m in great health, I walk every day and do certain exercises to keep the body functioning, but my teeth are a constant problem.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have no idea. My kids? The people I’ve led to Christ over the years? The churches I’ve pastored? The things I’ve written? A cartoon I’ve drawn? Who knows. Maybe it was the kid I sketched the other day. We will leave this to the Lord.
What is your most treasured possession?
Are grandchildren possessions? If the question refers to “things,” then I’m at a loss. There is no “thing” I couldn’t live without.
Where would you like to live?
I’m already living there. Ridgeland is a sweet suburb of Jackson, Mississippi. Wheatley Gardens is a small enclave of 25 homes with a fence and a gate. We have a pond in our back yard and a nice walking trail. This is the sweetest place I’ve ever lived with the most attractive view.
What is your favorite occupation?
When I grow up, I’d like to be a preacher, a cartoonist, and a writer. The wonderful thing is I’m those things now. Am I blessed or what?
What is your most marked characteristic?
I have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility (ha!), and self-control on most days. Those, you will recognize, are from Galatians 5:22-23, called the fruit of the Spirit.
What do you most admire in your friends?
A strong and quiet spirit that does not dominate the conversation. The four men listed above (those I admire) all exhibit this quiet confidence.
Who are your heroes in real life?
The men and women who place their lives on the line every day to do scary things, like enter burning buildings to save a child, confront hostile people with guns to try to protect victims, and defend this country. Most of these wear uniforms.
What is it that you most dislike?
To be called extremist or a racist or a nut because I am a Bible-believing Christian. My beliefs are completely in line with traditional Christianity. I have not moved, but the society and culture have. They have marginalized God’s people in a process that will continue until Jesus returns.
How would you like to die?
When my wife Margaret died and the family was gathered around her in tears, I said, “Now, listen. One of these days it will be Grandpa lying here. And I don’t want all this crying.” A granddaughter said, “Why?” I said, “Well, good night–I’ll be 98 years old and will have preached the previous Sunday. What’s to cry about??” They all laughed.
What is your motto?
I have two. Job 4:4 says “Your words have stood men on their feet.” I want to say and preach and write words to give backbone to people. Also Luke 17:7-10 is a parable saying when we have done everything extremely well, far from looking for recognition and accolades we should say, “I am an unworthy servant; I’m just doing my duty.”
A couple more questions that were not in Vanity Fair…
Who is your favorite grandchild?
The one I’m with at the moment. (I used to tell Margaret, “I wish all eight lived in our house.” She wasn’t so sure about that. But these are the dearest people on earth to me.)
What do you do for fun?
I read constantly. I draw cartoons. I watch a few favorite TV programs with Bertha, my wife of nearly 4 years. But the best fun is sitting with family or friends in a relaxed setting and chatting.
What is your biggest surprise on being 80 years old?
I’m surprised to be eighty. It sounds really ancient, doesn’t it? I feel like I did when I was 15, but the mirror keeps reminding me.
What prayer do you constantly pray for yourself?
I pray two things: Thank you, Jesus and Lord, help me to be faithful. I sure do want to finish strong and do nothing that would shame our Lord or bring pain to these who love me.
That’s my interview. Thanks for reading it.
“I love the Lord with my whole heart. I will serve Him as long as I live. To labor in His field alongside some of the dearest people on earth is the greatest privilege of my life. How I praise Thee, O Lord!”