Monday, January 31

A Postscript

I just thought this was a rather poignant article about the pastor who passed away preaching at his pulpit recently. God honors...

The Preacher Who Died With Heaven On his Lips
The, Jan. 26, 2005
Dean W. Arnold

My father died instantly in the pulpit two weeks ago after uttering his final words: "And when I go to heaven." I immediately left Chattanooga for Orlando.
The story hit the AP Wire and was listed by Yahoo as the most-read story. A high school friend who lives in Sweden emailed me after seeing the report on CNN.
Jack Arnold, 69, was preaching in Orlando, Fla., on his life verse: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." He quoted John Wesley and pointed upward: "As long as God has work for me to do, I am immortal, but if my work is done, I'm outa here." Moments later he spoke his last sentence about heaven, stopped, grabbed the pulpit, swayed briefly and fell backward. Medics say the heart attack killed him immediately.
"He was just all there, and then not there at all, like a hand came through the roof and snatched him out of his body," said Chris Williams who told me he was sitting in the front row only five feet from where Dad fell.
My family is certainly sad to lose our father, but we are also glad he went out precisely the way he would want. Nevertheless, we have scratched our heads regarding why it became an international story. Our best guess is that people are concerned about the next life. Most of us have some early childhood image of the preacher urging us to prepare to meet our Maker. And when the man connected to God gets snatched away after a final warning, it makes you stop and think.
Even Paul Harvey reported the remarkable event. But perhaps he will let me go ahead and tell the rest of the story, which is far more poignant when you learn that my father was weak, flawed, and glaringly human. You don't have to be perfect to finish strong.
I watched him lay in a hospital bed for weeks after a nervous breakdown two decades ago. As a child I remember him singing triumphant hymns early in the morning before preaching. But as a teenager I heard him cry out in rage and weep profusely in despair at 3 and 4 in the morning.
He had a temper. But to his credit, he would always come back to his kids and ask their forgiveness after losing it. He lightened up over time. He also had a streak of ambition and a desire for greatness that never quite materialized. He played basketball for the legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA, just before they won an unprecedented 10 national championships. But Dad never started and didn't get much playing time. He earned his doctorate from the premiere Dallas Theological Seminary, won the award for theology, and later wrote volumes of material on Christian living. But it was classmate friends like Chuck Swindoll and Hal Lindsay who became household Christian names after publishing a multitude of books. Dad could never get his church beyond three or four hundred folks, and it was this failure in his own eyes to rise above mediocrity that contributed to his mid-life crisis and deep depression.
Nothing changed immediately. But over the years Dad accepted his role - fame was a privilege, not a right - and he learned to serve his Lord as a simple, faithful pastor and then missionary to third-world countries. He struggled in his marriage, but he and mom fought through the tough times and both said their last 10 years together were their best. Early on a staunch Calvinist, he still never compromised on the basic tenants of his Christian faith, but later in life he graciously worked side by side with Anglicans, Pentecostals, Baptists and many others. He was a presbyterian with a little 'p,' he said, and calvinist with a little 'c.' To the shock of me and my siblings, he even allowed us to store our small portions of wine and beer in his refrigerator the last year of his life. He, however, never drank any.
He did struggle. He would fall and get up again. Yet he also improved and persevered. Yes, his final moments were glorious, but his journey also involved much pain and failure. Ironically, he finally made national and international headlines 24 hours after his death. But this too should encourage all of us who believe our reward is most likely on the other side of the river. And even the more secular folk can be encouraged that their labor and love may finally find its fruit and fulfillment in post-mortem fashion.
When I grabbed a handful of cold dirt and threw it on my father's grave last week, my sadness was superseded by joy. The story could have been very different for the suicidal man in his forties. I trust God's mercy for any of us who may not finish as sensationally strong as my father did. But he provides great inspiration for all of us to persevere during our life.
Words sent by Mr. Wooden were read aloud at the memorial service. "The circumstances of Jack's passing was consistent with how he played the game of basketball as a member of the UCLA team. He always gave everything he had right down to the very last second. He was not blessed with as much physical ability as others, but no one worked harder or was more highly respected than Jack." Paul Harvey reported that "Pastor Jack Arnold's last words were, 'And when I get to heaven,' . . . and he went!"
If Paul Harvey reported it correctly, then my father won a great victory that day - even better than 10 NCAA Championships. I'm sure Mr. Wooden would agree.
Dean W. Arnold is a journalist and author in Chattanooga.

Wednesday, January 19

Takes All Kinds....

I dispatched early yesterday morning to go on a "broken jack" trouble ticket. I'd never been on a call to this particular town in Georgia before so I didn't know exactly what kind of residence I'd encounter. Well, I call while in route to let the customer know that I'm coming. He's apparently speaking so close to the mouthpiece of the cellphone so close that I can't understand him but he's OK with me coming. When I get there it turns out to be a house trailer backed up to the railroad tracks close to downtown. After knocking on the door with no response I call the guys cellphone again while standing at the front of the trailer. He then comes from around the back of the trailer to the front while we're having the conversation. Strange Point #1. He escorts me to the back corner of the trailer and shows me his problem. Alot of trailers are fed utilities by a spot pole. On some occasions both power and telephone drops are terminated at these poles before the service cables are fed to the trailer. The telephone drop terminates to a NID* which has wiring brought from it to the trailer. His NID was completely missing. Strange Point #2. This was no "broken jack" issue. He had no explanation for this other than it may have been kids involved in vandalism. He also begins to tell me some cockamamy story involving he and his wife "splitting" and the power to the trailer being condemned. He asked if I couldn't just hook his telephone back up for just a couple of days because "they" were moving anyway. He wanted telephone service in a run down trailer with no power? Strange Point #3. I tested the ends of the service drop and explained to him there was no dial-tone, hence there was nothing I could do to "help" him out. Beating a hasty retreat, all the while listening to his excuses, I noticed he had a pickup truck parked behind the trailer as his alarm system in it went off while we were talking. There was no obvious driveway leading back there so why park there? Why not just park out front where he could see me arrive? Could he have been sleeping in this truck waiting for me to show up? Or maybe he was waiting for his "ex" to show up? This is one of but thousands of stories in the Naked City.

*NID=Network Interface Device. This is the box, usually gray in color and usually placed on the outside of a house or trailer, which acts as the demarc for the LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) as it designates the end of their network. This NID has a network protection device which insures that voltage surges (lightening, etc.) travel to ground instead of damaging the telephone network facilities.

Happy Birthday, Gen. Lee

...From the Washington Times, culture, etc. section as linked by Aw Shucks, that it may be kept for posterity...

'As a citizen of the South'

In November 1866, British statesman Lord Acton wrote to Gen. Robert E. Lee, asking for the revered Confederate commander's views on the historical consequences of the War Between the States. Lee — whose Jan. 19, 1807, birthday is widely observed in the South — replied at length. The following are excerpts from Lee's letter:

Lexington, Virginia 15 Dec., 1866

Sir — Although your letter ... has been before me for some days unanswered, I hope you will not attribute it to a want of interest in the subject, but to my inability to keep pace with my correspondence. As a citizen of the South, I feel deeply indebted to you for the sympathy you have evinced in its cause, and am conscious that I owe your kind consideration of myself to my connection with it. The influence of current opinion in Europe upon the current policies of America must always be salutary; and the importance of the questions now at issue in the United States, involving not only constitutional freedom and constitutional government in this country, but the progress of universal liberty and civilization, invests your proposition with peculiar value, and will add to the obligation which every true American must owe you for your efforts to guide that opinion aright. Amid the conflicting statements and sentiments in both countries, it will be no easy task to discover the truth, or to relieve it from the mass of prejudice and passion, with which it has been covered by party spirit. I am conscious of the compliment conveyed in your request for my opinion as to the light in which American politics should be viewed, and had I the ability, I have not the time to enter upon a discussion, which was commenced by the founders of the Constitution and has been continued to the present day. I can only say that while I have considered the preservation of the constitutional party of the General Government to be the foundation of our peace and safety at home and abroad, I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it a chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it. I need not refer one so well acquainted as you are with American history, to the State papers of Washington and Jefferson, the representatives of the federal and democratic parties, denouncing consolidation and centralization of power, as tending to the subversion of State Governments, and to despotism. The New England States, whose citizens are the fiercest opponents of the Southern states, did not always avow the opinions they now advocate. Upon the purchase of Louisiana by Mr. Jefferson, they virtually asserted the right of secession through their prominent men; and in the convention which assembled at Hartford in 1814, they threatened the disruption of the Union unless war should be discontinued. The assertion of this right has been repeatedly made by their politicians when their party was weak, and Massachusetts, the leading state in hostility to the South, declares in the preamble to her constitution, that the people of that commonwealth "have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free sovereign and independent state, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction and right which is not, or may hereafter be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in Congress Assembled." Such has been in substance the language of other State governments, and such the doctrine advocated by the leading men of the country for the last seventy years. Judge [Salmon P.] Chase, the present Chief Justice of the U.S., as late as 1850, is reported to have stated in the Senate, of which he was a member, that he "knew of no remedy in case of the refusal of a state to perform its stipulations," thereby acknowledging the sovereignty and independence of state action. But I will not weary you with this unprofitable discussion. Unprofitable because the judgement of reason has been displaced by the arbitrament of war, waged for the purpose as avowed of maintaining the union of the states. If, therefore, the result of the war is to be considered as having decided that the union of the states is inviolable and perpetual under the Constitution, it naturally follows that it is as incompetent for the general government to impair its integrity by the exclusion of a state, as for the states to do so by secession; and that the existence and rights of a state by the Constitution are as indestructible as the union itself. The legitimate consequence then must be the perfect equality of rights of all the states; the exclusive right of each to regulate its internal affairs under rules established by the Constitution, and the right of each state to prescribe for itself the qualifications of suffrage. The South has contended only for the supremacy of the Constitution, and the just administration of the laws made in pursuance to it. Virginia to the last made great efforts to save the union, and urged harmony and compromise. Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas [of Illinois], in his remarks upon the compromise bill recommended by the commitee of thirteen in 1861, stated that every member from the South, including [Sen. Robert] Toombs [of Georgia] and [Sen. Jefferson] Davis [of Mississippi], expressed their willingness to accept the proposition of Senator [John] Crittenden of Kentucky as a final settlement of the controversy, if sustained by the republican party, and that the only difficulty in the way of an amiable adjustment was with the republican party. Who then is responsible for the war? Although the South would have preferred any honourable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place, she now accepts in good faith its constitutional results, and receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the Constitution for the extinction of slavery. That is an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia. In other respects, I trust that the Constitution may undergo no change, but that it may be handed down to succeeding generations in the form we have received it from our forefathers. ... With sentiments of great respect, I remain your obt. servant. R.E. Lee