Ah, Reconnected!

When both your home computer and the one in the office are found to be suffering from the same malady, it’s a good bet you have a virus. That’s what happened and it explains why I’ve been computerless for the last three weeks. In fact, on two of my three e-mail accounts, I show the last mail received was August 28. Today is September 24.

Our computer wizard is a preacher from St. Bernard Parish who relocated to Houston after Katrina, and still takes care of us. Louis James logs on to my computer from his place and, using the telephone, we enjoy the kind of personal consultation as would take place if we were sitting side by side. But for this problem, our administrative assistant Lynn bundled up the computer and fed-exed it off to Louis so he could personally look at it. When it returned, it was “clean” and even improved.

So, I’m back in business. Don’t have to ask a secretary to lend me her desk and computer any more.

A few catch-up things….

We have reinstated our weekly pastors gatherings, starting Wednesday September 17. (From 10 to 11:30 am) Today, the 24th, we had ten to come. Too few? Not if you are one of the ten. We shared and prayed for one another and knocked off a box of Krispy Kremes.

We’re working on several upcoming meetings scheduled for our place. 1) The weekend of October 4-6, we will host the leadership of the North American Mission Board in New Orleans. That Sunday, missionaries will be speaking in some of our churches, and Monday night, the 6th, NAMB’s missionary appointment service is scheduled for FBC-NO at 7 pm. On Saturday the 4th, we’ll be showing NAMB folks and some DOMs the mission work going on in our city.

2) November 8-11 is the annual meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. The Monday night/all-day Tuesday sessions will be held at FBC-NO. On Saturday/Sunday, “Crossover New Orleans” will be held in locations all over the city, with our people and guests doing evangelistic work in parks.

3) The first weekend of December, we’re hosting state directors of evangelism from around the country, and giving them tours of the city.

Speaking of tours, I had a most depressing one Tuesday.

In driving back from Long Beach, Mississippi, (which is slam up against Gulfport), I decided to drive the coast highway, U.S. 90, which was fairly well destroyed 3 years ago by Katrina. The highway is intact now, but road crews were up and down the 15 miles stretch hard at work. Everywhere, I saw vacant lots, boarded up (and ruined) buildings, closed stores, and the occasional rebuilt house or store. This used to be the most picturesque drive. First time we took it was over 40 years ago, when we drove the youth of my seminary pastorate in St. Charles Parish to the beach here for a day of swimming.

That Mississippi beach is man-made, you might know, and since the hurricane washed the sand away, truckloads of new sand have been hauled in and are still in piles to be distributed.

At Pass Christian, the wonderful old “Gulfshore Baptist Assembly” is no more. We took groups there in the 60s, before Camille destroyed it. Then, it was rebuilt. This time, the MBCB folks decided “enough of this foolishness,” sold the property, and are planning to construct a conference center somewhere north on higher ground and more accessible to the entire state.

As I entered Louisiana on the interstate, I had the privilege of re-entering New Orleans and seeing once more the slowly recovering eastern part of our city. The rebuilding work is progressing so slowly, and so much of the residential areas appear abandoned. It’s enough to break the heart of a lover of this city.


(Note to Mom: that’s computerese for: ‘By the Way’)

The Biloxi paper ran a little article on “hazards in a half-century of presidential debates” last Sunday. As a long-time observer of the political scene, I was familiar with every debate they mentioned, but made a few notes to call to the attention of my pastor friends. (The point being: watch yourself in the pulpit. The least little thing can be a stumblingblock.)

In the first debate–that would be Nixon-Kennedy in 1960–Vice President Nixon was recovering from an illness, and afterwards his mother called to see if he was all right. He had refused makeup to cover his five-o’clock shadow, so while Kennedy looked like he had just stepped off the cover of GQ, Nixon looked like he was in a police lineup. Not an auspicious beginning.

Four decades later, the debate between Al Gore and “W” left us with the image of Gore loudly sighing, shrugging in exasperation, and generally displaying his impatience with his opponent. Score one for Bush.

In 1992, when the senior George Bush was debating Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, the lasting memory many people have is of Bush looking at his watch. He gave the impression of being ready to get this over with (which he admits he was!).

Walter Mears, reporter for the Associated Press, writes, “More often than not, the debates have been standoffs, not turning points. Debates have done more to reinforce trends and reputations than to change them.”

“But,” he says, “when two candidates go head to head live, you just never know.”

And that scares the tar out of their consultants.

Right now, I guarantee you, political gurus are hard at work with both Obama and McCain prepping them for this Friday night’s debate at Ole Miss. One of the key components of their advice surely must be: “Better boring than wrong.”

That counsel, incidentally, is the opposite of the philosophy adopted by most preachers I know. Some of my colleagues wax eloquent on subjects they know little of, but feel the need to show firm conviction nevertheless. One lady said, “My pastor’s not always right, but he’s never in doubt.” For my money, that’s a big problem in the preaching profession.

Personally, I’d prefer a little more conservatism in pulpit pronouncements on doctrines where good and faithful people differ, and more dogmatism in the areas that are essential elements to the Christian faith.

Recently, a brother unloaded on me regarding “what the Lord told me” about His judgments on our area of the world due to sin (gambling casinos, etc) by sending the hurricanes. When I responded, “Well, if God was judging New Orleans through Katrina, He hit a lot of His best people and missed the French Quarter altogether,” the man said, “So, you don’t think the Lord told me that?”

I said, “That’s between you and the Lord. I’m just telling you how I see things.”

You won’t hear the presidential candidates adding a post script to their pronouncements like, “Well, I could be wrong, but that’s how it seems to me.” But I would give anything to hear more of that from our pastors, particularly when they are preaching on prophecy and the interpretation of other difficult texts.

In addition to providing wiggle room when they change their minds, it would provide a healthy role model for their church members in dealing with these issues when they come up outside the church.

BTW (2)…

The Times-Picayune for Saturday, September 20, told of Southern University at New Orleans (that would be an extension of the Baton Rouge main campus of that school) padding a program with 100 ghost students in order to increase revenue. Two employees blew the whistle on this little scheme, and heads are going to roll.

I wrote in the margin, “What about ghost church members?”

Most of our Baptist churches have ghost members. Some we call non-resident, meaning they moved away and we still carry their names on our rolls. Others were added because a pastor eager for big statistics baptized them, even though they had no intention of attending that church, but their names were added to the rolls anyway.

Same issue of the paper….

When Hurricane Ike blew through South Alabama, hitting the Fort Morgan area, the receding water uncovered a mystery. What appears to be the remains of the Civil War schooner Monticello, which ran aground in 1862 trying to sail past the U. S. Navy into Mobile Bay. The wrecked ship is 136 feet long and 25 feet wide, and is still being examined.

My family has ridden the ferry from Fort Morgan across the bay to the Bayou Le Batre area numerous times. Interesting to realize what lay beneath us all this time.

As with so much else in our lives, the storm did not create these things, but revealed what was there all along.

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