Everyone around here observes the 29th of each month as a Katrina anniversary. Not with parties, of course, but only marking one more month since life changed forever.
We’ve been under tornado watches since Saturday evening. Sunday morning, weathercasters were urging people in St. Bernard Parish to get into secure housing. I suppose that means leave your FEMA trailer and go into the gutted out, empty house next door for security from high winds or even tornadoes. We’re thankful for the needed rain.
Saturday, residents of Kenner ousted their mayor. Muniz won over Capitano, by something like 52% to 48%. Veteran police officer Steve Caraway was elected chief over P.J.Hahn, who was seen as an administrator. Everyone agrees the voters in this New Orleans suburb are tired of the constant bickering between council and mayor, chief and mayor, and other groups.
Next Sunday, May 7 and then Monday the 8th, I’ll be accomplishing a personal first: preaching in a Methodist Church. After the Saturday night high school reunion at Double Springs, Alabama, the next morning I’ll preach at the local Methodist church for their 11 am service, their 6 pm service that night, and the next evening at 6 pm. And later in the month, I’ll be preaching in a United Methodist church in another part of Alabama. So, this is my year, I guess.
My mom says, “How did this happen?” I tell her that our high school class team leader Sally Moody recommended me to the Pastor Albert Rivera of the Double Springs church. And my college roommate, George Gravitte, who lives across the county at Haleyville, now retired from pastoring UMC churches, added his recommendation. Presumably, what they said is that “Joe’s safe.” (We’ll see.)
Pastor Joseph Blanchard of the (New Orleans) First Haitian Baptist Church came by our associational offices one day this week. He’s bivocational and drives a taxi in the week. Anyway, that church is having a week of revival services the week of June 4 with a different preacher each night, and he invited me to preach that Sunday night. He said, “Our theme is Ezra 10:13.” I could not remember what that verse was and even after looking it up, had no clue how that suggested a revival theme. The first half of the verse reads: “But there are many people, and it is the rainy season. We don’t have the stamina to stay out in the open.” Joseph said, “Our theme is: ‘It’s Time to Come Inside.'” He smiled and added, “It’s bad outside. Time to come in to Christ.” I love it.
The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this June will be in Greensboro, North Carolina, a first for that medium-sized city. When attendance dropped back to manageable numbers a decade ago, our leaders decided it was time to gather in some places we haven’t been lately, if at all. Last year, Nashville. I was impressed to see that two of our local leaders will be on the program. Lonnie Wascom is the director of missions (my counterpart) on the Northshore, which includes everything from Slidell to Covington to Hammond. He will be speaking at the meeting of the SBC Associational Directors of Missions. Then, David Crosby of the FBC of New Orleans has been given a slot on the SBC program itself, to talk about the rebuilding of New Orleans with particular slant on the Cooperative Program, our denomination’s instrument for receiving and channeling offerings throughout the world. Both men are highly articulate and outstanding in every way and will represent us well. I’ve already begun praying for them.
In July, I’ll be speaking at the great Central Baptist Church-Bearden of Knoxville, down the street from the University of Tennessee, where my friend of nearly 4 decades Larry Fields has labored so faithfully for over 20 years. Larry and Sandy will be enjoying a sabbatical in Oxford (yes, England, not Mississippi. Or Alabama either, for that matter). I have to tell you what Larry did the other day.
April 8, Larry and Sandy’s son John married a lovely young lady named Allie in their church. They rave about their new daughter-in-law and are greatly impressed by their son’s choice of a life-mate. At the wedding, Larry told something that happened on their first date. As John and Allie drove down Deane Hill Parkway, he pointed out the imposing church structure on his right and said, “Have you ever been there?” Allie said, “I went once, but the pastor was boring.” John knew immediately he liked this girl. He smiled and said, “See the name on the sign?” Dr. Larry Fields, Senior Pastor. Something clicked in her and she got it. She said, “Oh, is he your grandfather?” And Larry told this in the middle of their wedding. The congregation is still laughing.
Today, April 30, I’m preaching in the 11 am service at the FBC of St. Rose, a residential community a few miles west of the New Orleans airport. My subject is prayer. I thought I would tell them about the four questions the Lord asked me once when I was doing my (then) nightly prayer walking. These came with such clarity, I wrote them down and have never doubted that they were directly from the Father. (One way you can be that certain is when they arrive with such relevancy to your particular situation.) The four questions were:
1. What would it take to stop you from praying? (Not much for many of us, apparently. But what if the government decreed–as they did in Daniel’s day–that no prayers toward the living God should be offered?)