Prayerful Encouragement

“Freddie Arnold was taken to the hospital in Baton Rouge Sunday night. Chest pains. They’re running tests.”

That early Monday morning call got my day started with a bang. With a prayer, actually, lifting Freddie up to the Father for His well-being. I called his room an hour or two later. Said he was feeling fine, and will be there at least a couple of days. We’ll appreciate the prayers.

The Unlimited Partnership teams (7 seminary students, 7 pastors, Bill Taylor, Professor Joe Sherrer, and some out of town guests) were meeting all day today at the seminary’s Leavell Center. I ran by for an hour, long enough to hear the reports from the 7 church teams. Everything is moving well. Wish I could have heard the guests.

At 11 am, I picked up Dr. Charles Wade and his colleagues, Charlie Singleton, who heads up the African-American work with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Rolando Rodriguez, who does the same for the Hispanic Churches. Checked them in at the hotel, then spent the better part of the day touring the city with them—meeting with Dick Randels at Lakeview Baptist Church, touring the seminary campus, circling Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, checking out the Baptist Crossroads/Habitat homes on Alvar Street and the Ninth Ward, then back to a late lunch in Kenner. I’ll be picking them up at 6:15 as we head to FBC Luling for the Spring meeting of our association where Dr. Wade is speaking.

“What encourages you most?” Dr. Wade asked me. Good question. In this order, the Lord, the fellowship with the other pastors, and friends like you (people who call or come or send help).

Met with our mentoring group at 3 pm, then–the sweet spot of my day–caught a 15 minute nap later. I’m a strong believer in that. Read somewhere where Lyndon Johnson used to take a brief nap after which he was good for another 8 hours. In my case, I’m good for another 3 or 4.

Thanks for praying for Freddie and for us.


“At this point, all Freddie’s tests look good. He’s having a stress test Tuesday and then meeting with the cardiologist.” On the way to the Monday night meeting of our association at FBC Luling, I had called his room and got this report from his wife Elaine. So far, so good.

I hope all this turns out to be a false alarm. I’ve had a couple of them over the years–spending nights in the emergency rooms at hospitals both times–and there is a lot to be said for having false alarms.

A false alarm–which can involve one or several of the symptoms of a heart attack but which turns out to be something less, perhaps indigestion or a panic attack–can be a good thing for a person.

1) It can get your attention. You’ve been burning the candle at both ends, not getting enough rest, not eating right. Suddenly, you come face to face with your own mortality and it’s a wake-up call. Good thing.

2) It can get you tested. I’m confident our hard-working friend Freddie Arnold has not had a general checkup in many years, if ever. But he’s getting one now. He will know far more about himself after this is over, and if I’m any judge, will receive a lecture from some doctor about taking time off, getting 8 hours of sleep, and eating balanced meals. Our pastors in this association are enthusiastic in their appreciation for Freddie Arnold, but everyone of them will tell you he works too hard for too long. As my doctor said to me over 10 years ago when she put me on a regimen of vitamins and supplements, “I think we have prevented a heart attack in you.”

False alarms can be embarrassing. “I went to the hospital for that? All those people were praying for me–and I had acid reflux!” Or whatever. But far, far better for it to be a false alarm.

After all, alarms go off to waken you out of a sleep. We can all use one of those from time to time.

Monday night at the FBC of Luling, the house was almost filled with representatives from our various churches. The music was great, the fellowship wonderful, the provisions by this good church were perfect, the inspiring presiding of Pastor (and Moderator) Fred Luter was excellent, and Dr. Charles Wade of Texas knocked the ball out of the park. One story from him.

During the evacuation from Katrina, he and some friends had flown into this part of the world and were trying to get into New Orleans. At the airport, a young man came running up to him and said, “They tell me you can help me.” He looked a little scruffy, and was dressed in cargo short pants and a t-shirt and was wearing a skull-cap. As it turned out, he was the rabbi of a local Jewish congregation. (I’m intentionally not mentioning the city.)

He explained to Dr. Wade that his synagogue had taken in refugees from New Orleans and they were trying to take care of them, but had run out of money for food. “I have nothing to feed them.” Dr. Wade handed him $500. “Maybe that will help,” he said. “It isn’t much.” The rabbi thanked him and said, “But you know–we’re Jewish.” “I’m aware of that,” Wade said. “It is our privilege to help you take care of the storm victims.”

The rabbi went on. “And sir, there’s something else you may need to know. Most of the people we’re helping are…Black.” Dr. Wade said, “I told him that had nothing to do with anything, that we appreciated his helping those good folks.” Then, Dr. Wade looked at our congregation Monday night and said, “It shamed me to think that because we were Baptists he thought we might not want to help them because he was Jewish and they were Black.”

What have we done to leave such an impression in the minds and hearts of people. God help us.

Sometime later, that rabbi called Dr. Wade in Texas. “I don’t know how he got my name or my number,” he said. “He told how his congregation was giving him trouble over the refugees being in their worship center, they were making a mess of things, they were noisy and in the way. And they were mostly Black.” And then he said, “Dr. Wade, I want to come to work for you!”

We all laughed and Dr. Wade did, too. “I told him, ‘I’m not sure how we could work that out!'”

But it was a great lesson. He didn’t say, but knowing the generosity of this Baptist leader and his team, I’m confident they sent more help the rabbi’s way.

They’ve sure sent a lot of help our way. For which we are eternally grateful.

I wonder if anyone noticed Monday night that Dr. Wade was wearing a small golden fleur-de-lis on his lapel. On behalf of our people, I presented that to him earlier in the afternoon. “This is the symbol of New Orleans,” I told him, “and we want you to wear it as a reminder of our gratitude, and to remind you to pray for us.”

Incidentally, the beneficial effects of that 15 minute nap wore off about 9:15 pm. In the fellowship hall, where everyone was visiting with each other and meeting our guests, I sidled up to Dr. Wade after a bit and said, “Stay as long as you like. But I’m about to go to sleep.” He laughed and said, “We’ll start moving toward the door.” They fly out early Tuesday morning.

That little exchange reminds me of a cartoon I once saw (but did not draw). This man and woman had guests and obviously wished they would get up and leave. The host was stretching and yawning and saying, “I wish I was someplace, so I could go home.”

I’m going home to Nauvoo, Alabama, this morning. And on to Nashville and Kentucky.