Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 23, 2003


The unusual gift we gave our grandchildren last Christmas


            Last Christmas we gave our grandchildren a rather unusual gift, one we had never given them before. It was not clothes, money, or toys, all of which we had chosen as gifts in the past.

            This time we gave each one a picture. We secured each picture in an 11x14 oak frame. Well, it looked like oak. We purchased them at that famous frame shop, Wal-Mart.

            The pictures were a little more expensive, and Wal-Mart does not sell them. I suppose I should say “yet,” since Wal-Mart eventually sells everything.

            I saw this picture available in some catalog, and immediately I knew I wanted to order 13 prints, whatever the price. Like so many things, they are cheaper by the dozen so that helped.

            Over the years, I have been in many homes. I am always interested in seeing what pictures people hang in their homes.

            Some prefer pictures of majestic mountains, waterfalls, lakes and streams. Others like farm scenes with tractors, horses, wheat fields, or grazing sheep. Still others choose paintings of colorful flowers, palm trees, or waves crashing on a sandy shoreline.

            Southern homes are likely to have a painting of turkeys, deer, or ducks. One of my personal favorites is one painted by our friend Carlos Mayfield, of ducks landing in a swamp. It hangs proudly in our bedroom. I love it because Carlos painted and because my wife gave it to me.

            Precious to me is one farm scene painted by my wife. I treasure it because she stopped painting years ago. Though she has a gift for painting, she gave that hobby up for other things. I think it had something to do with raising boys and caring for her family.

            Just this month two new “still life” paintings have found a special place in our family room. Painted by our friend Janie, the paintings were a gift from her son and our longtime friend, Roy Jordan. Janie died recently after a long and fruitful Christian life.

            The most prominent painting in our home hangs over the fireplace. It is a palette knife painting featuring brilliant blue and yellow peonies in a vase. The painting has a history.

            My wife saw it in a gallery in Nashville where we lived at the time. We hardly had money for groceries, but she had to have that painting. Somehow, she persuaded the dealer to let her buy the painting “on time.”

            She has not to this day shared with me what she paid for it. She has only revealed that it took her two years to squeeze enough money out of our small budget to buy it.

            When she finally brought it home, I almost choked, knowing that the painting was surely very expensive. In time, I came to love it as she does, and perhaps even more, for it symbolizes to me her willingness to make a sacrifice for a “pearl of great price.”

            Boys and girls usually choose other scenes than flowers and animals for their bedrooms. I am more familiar with what boys prefer, since all our children were boys.

            Walk in a boy’s room and you will likely find a large picture of Michael Jordan, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnharte, Jr., Emmett Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, or Tiger Woods. You may find a picture of a space shuttle, or one of cars racing to the finish line in a NASCAR race at Daytona.

            For years, I have longed for a good way to inspire boys and girls to display on bedroom walls their faith in God. A wooden cross serves this purpose well.

            Finally, I found something I like better than a cross.  It is a picture of Jesus. Not a picture of Jesus hanging on the cruel cross. Not a portrait of a somber, pale Jesus. Not a painting of the crucified Jesus cradled in the arms of his mother.

            What we gave our grandchildren is a marvelous picture of Jesus laughing. That, in fact, is what the artist titled the painting, “Jesus Laughing.”

            The artist is Ralph Kozak, a contemporary American artist. Critics say it is at best only “average,” and will never make it to the halls of the National Gallery of paintings of Christ. That may be true. I could care less.

            What the picture does is offer a portrayal of Jesus as a down-to-earth, likeable person who enjoyed life and laughed often. Jesus was that kind of person. He was a real human being.

             He knew the value of humor and used it to interest people in the Kingdom. Laughter is about hope, and life. If the rich and famous do not admire an “average” picture of the laughing Jesus, I would bet my last dollar that the poor people of the world would embrace it in a heartbeat.

            I know Jesus has taught me to laugh. When life is tough, a good laugh helps me to make it through the valley. I want my grandchildren to know a Jesus who can help them laugh their way through life’s darkest nights.

            My hope is that since Christmas, all 12 of our precious grandchildren have said, “Move over Jeff Gordon; make room for the laughing Jesus.”  

            If you want a laughing Jesus picture of your own, like the one hanging beside my desk, and the one we gave our grandchildren, then call my friend Chico at the Lighthouse Christian Bookstore in Auburn. I am certain he can get you one. Knowing Chico, he probably has the laughing Jesus on display in the front window!

            Jesus laughing. It makes sense – for grandchildren and everybody! + + + +