What’s Up?

Five things.

1. My wonderful mom is about to hit 93 (on July 14) and feels every day of it.

For years, we’ve bragged about her youthfulness and everyone has told her how pretty she is. Every Sunday morning on our phone call, she would tell me, “I don’t feel like going to church today,” but everyone at New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church would surround her with love and attention and the tonic would sustain her for another week.

But these days, she has crossed a line. Two weeks ago, she stayed home from church and hasn’t been back since. “I just don’t feel like I can make it any more.” In fact, walking to the mail box takes everything out of her.

She’d love to receive a note from you congratulating her on her 93th birthday. Address the note (it doesn’t have to be a card) to Mrs. Lois McKeever, 191 County Road 101, Nauvoo, Alabama 35578.

I mentioned this on Facebook and a number of friends indicated they’ll be writing her. More than one said, “I’m waiting to mail it so she’ll get it on her day.”

I gently protest, “Mail it now. Mom does not need to get 90 cards on July 14. Better to get one or two a day for a few weeks.”

It’s the opening of the mail that makes her day. Thanks for doing this. I suspect this may well be her last birthday. She’s missing Dad and her “baby” Charles every day, and talks of going to see them.

2. Pray for Iran and what’s going on there. Pray for President Obama and his team. There is no safe path for him to tread, no way that is clearly marked “America,” and no choices that will not erupt in opposition and criticism from some side.

It pains me to see those who seem to know everything Obama is doing wrong but without a clear vision on what he should be doing piling on the criticism.

One of the speakers at Sunday’s Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, Sammy Tippit, told the crowd of 700 of his recent trip into Iran and the numbers of people turning to Jesus Christ there. “You don’t hear about it or read it in the papers,” Sammy said. He told of new believers meeting in homes and of his being arrested there.

Pray for Iran. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ in that land.

3. One of the surprises I’ve received recently–and had affirmed this week as I’ve been sketching hundreds of people at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville–is that, after a few hours, the problem is not the ache in my right hand, but the shutting down of my brain. Six hours of intense concentration (three hours at a time, broken up by lunch) drains the mind and I go on autopilot.

I feel like searching out everyone I’ve drawn in the last hour of each day and apologizing. “You actually look a lot better than that! Sorry.”

But people are so kind and most say they’re pleased with the results.

Another surprise is to see that adults struggle with the same self-image things as teenagers do. I’ve long since grown used to teens sitting across from me and protesting, “I don’t smile.”

Something about their teeth or braces or general appearance has convinced them that their smile is lacking. Often I will say, “Hey. I’ve drawn a lot of people over the years and there is not a person on the planet who doesn’t look better smiling. Including you. So come on. Smile. It’ll make you feel better, and you’ll like this drawing a lot better.”

But one would think that adults have gotten past this negative self-image and preoccupation with how others see them.

At least one pastor this week and more than one pastor’s wife refused to smile for my “candid pen”. “I don’t like my smile” is usually their explanation. I sit there in amazement.

Who did this to these lovely people? And what can I say to help undo it?

I try. Yesterday, I gave a two minute sermon to a lovely 14-year-old girl who sat there stony-faced. When she showed me her teeth, I was even in more amazement. They were excellent. Not a blessed thing wrong with them. I said, “Honey, when I was your age, I had bad teeth. Later, I had to have a lot of work on them. And I smiled with my mouth closed. So I know. But you have great teeth and a beautiful smile. So please–come on! The world needs to see your smile.”

The fun part of this job, however, is that once in a while someone with a world-class smile sits before me and turns it on. I tell them: “What a million-dollar smile! If I had your smile, I’d charge people to look at it. I’d walk up to them and say, ‘Fifty cents please.’ And when they said, ‘Why?’ I’d say, ‘I noticed you looking at my smile!'”

There are greater missions in life than getting people past these little barriers they’ve erected for themselves–or was it the enemy? he loves to ‘steal, kill and destroy’–but not many.

4. We’re trying to figure out how to display my current preaching schedule on the website. “We” being my son Marty and me. As you can expect, almost weekly new invitations to speak come in.

This week, Larry Fields called inviting me to preach for him on Sunday, July 19, at the great Central Baptist Church-Bearden near the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. And Rick Byargeon, pastor of Ruston, Louisiana’s Temple Baptist Church (another great one) invited me to speak on Monday night, July 27.

I feel so blessed.

The other thing we’ll be doing is posting my new phone number on the website. I honestly don’t know of anyone else displaying his phone number on his blog. Taking a chance, I suppose. But if one hopes to get calls inviting him to preach/teach/whatever, people need to know how to reach him. Make a note (it’s a new number): 504/615-2190.

Took me a while to memorize that number. Here’s how I finally did: 615 is the area code for Nashville. 21 is the age of adulthood 90 is the age when you die (ha; we hope to live that long!)

Kelly Boggs, editor of “The Baptist Message,” the bi-weekly of Louisiana Baptists, invited me to send him a note telling what I want to be invited to churches for and he’ll run it in his paper. Great guy.

Which brings up the question: other than draw people, what do I do?

–Revivals. (A few days of worship services directed toward stirring up the saints and reaching outsiders with the Gospel.)

–Deacon training/retreat. (Nothing is more important than helping a church’s leaders understand their true, biblical roles.)

–Prayer conferences. (We’re all learners on this; I do not arrive as an expert or professor, but as a brother hoping to encourage someone.)

–Leadership banquets. (I’ll get a few folks out of the audience and caricature them, tell a couple of my funny experiences, and blend it with the more serious insights from life and the Scriptures. We have so much fun they’ll never know what hit them!)

–Pastor meetings. (This is my favorite group, my peers. Whatever they are facing, in many cases I have been there/done that. They’ll get no condemnation from this quarter, but encouraging words from a brother. We’ll laugh a lot.)

–Mission conferences. (After being a mission-minded pastor for 42 years, the last 5 years I served as the director of missions for the Baptist churches of metro New Orleans.)

That sort of thing. This weekend, I’m the camp pastor for fifty fourth-fifth-sixth graders from the First Baptist Church of Double Springs, Alabama. I was struggling with what to share with them and how to connect on their level until it occurred to me that they are the age of four of my grandchildren. So, I’ll just imagine I’m talking with JoAnne, Darilyn, Abby, and Erin!

So, as the old expression goes: “Whatever it takes.” I love surprises, those times the Lord leads someone to call inviting me to do something I would never have thought of putting on this list, but it turns out to be a delight in every way.

And the last.

“How does it feel being retired?” I keep answering that. The answer, I’m happy to report, is a good one.

“I feel completely free.”

Liberated. Cut loose. And totally happy. Really.

God is good.

6 thoughts on “What’s Up?

  1. I can see right now I need to give you some lessons in being retired. First of all, you don’t have a required bedtime. That means you sleep until you wake up. You tell people who might call that you will be available after 11:00 A.M. You make yourself available to any and all who invite you out to eat, go for coffee, get an ice cream cone, or anything else that suits your fancy.

    You learn that it’s okay to say “NO” (in a kind way, of course) and do more fun stuff. Cut waaaay back on the “have to” things. Be a kid again. Play far more than you work. Do something each day that you didn’t have time to do when you had a regular full-time job.

    Dress like you have no where to go and then, don’t go. Let yourself get dirty and don’t care who sees you.

    It probably takes six months before your mind can accept retirement but you have to slow down to let the mind know that you mean business (if you do).

    Let me know if you need help. I got lots more.


  2. Joe, I’m sending your Mom a note today. Wish I could send my Mom one that she could actually get and read. Guess I’ll have to wait to tell her I love her when I’m with Lord. I’m sure she is waiting on HIM in heaven because she knew HIM here and served HIM here and she waited on everybody else while on earth, too. I just prayed for our President that he would have the wisdom to know how to respond in the Iranian Crisis. I, also prayed that he would be more suportive of the people who are being killed and maimed for their protests against an evil regime. I think he should know by now that negotiating with an evil regime that hates us and refuses the right of the Jewish Nation to exist, is useless? I guess every President has to try, though. The only answer you and I know is coming to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and that is what I am praying for the Iranian People to do, as well as everyone around the world.

  3. Joe, Just sent a note to your mom. My family got some news this week that my dad has cancer in his right lung and liver. Don’t know anything at this point until he sees the oncologist next week.

    Will keep you posted.


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