Monday, July 07, 2008

Maybe He is Watching

I visited an old friend in the hospital today. It is not a pretty sight to see a friend suffering and my friend was definitely suffering today. I am positive he was suffering in more ways than one. I’m sure he knew I was there but there was no conversation. Only moan and groans. Hopefully what he is going through now is caused by an adverse reaction to medication and he will get through this crisis. But long term he is fighting for his life… and he knows it.

I think only 58 people were in his graduating class in 1969 at Taylor County High School in Butler, GA. About three months ago, Edward stood at the graveside after the funeral of one of those classmates. In fact two of his classmates were buried that same day – both after a long bout with cancer. Edward made the comment that day to one of his other classmates that nobody knows who will be next. Or who has that dreaded disease and doesn’t even know it.

I first met Edward Arnold on the little league baseball field in Reynolds some 46 years ago. He was a very good baseball player and he got it honestly because his dad was a very good baseball player in his day. Two things stick out in my mind during those years. Edward had a great curve ball and Edward’s dad was very proud of his son.

Edward was like most boys growing up. He blended in with the crowd and did whatever most of his friends were doing. Peer pressure has been around a long time. But Edward didn’t give in to that peer pressure very long. I’m not exactly sure how old he was – I think probably 15 or 16 – but he got a call from way out in left field and out of the blue. It was left field because nobody was expecting the call – including Edward.

He was called to preach.

And preach he did. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. As a kid he preached with the authority and wisdom of someone much older and experienced. The churches were packed where he preached. Everybody came to see and hear the teenage boy preacher who all of a sudden had a supernatural ability to communicate. He was articulate and spoke with authority. Edward impacted a lot of teenagers during the late 60’s in Taylor County.

Edward grew up, married and had four children. He moved away from Taylor County and began pastoring churches in different places. As you would expect, the churches he pastored quickly grew. He would come back to town from time to time to preach funerals. As the undertaker I always marveled at his command in the pulpit. He was a gifted speaker.

As seemingly happens to many pastors, Edward took a few knocks along the way. This curve ball pitcher began to face some curveballs of his own in life. I’ve never been a pastor but I have known a few really well. I have noticed that churches can be rough on their pastors when they turn out to be less than perfect or somehow fall short of their expectations. Sometimes I wonder what the outside world thinks when they see the politics of the workings of a church.

During all those years – the good and the bad – Edward and I remained friends. He asked me to play in a minister’s golf tournament with him in another town years ago. We didn’t spend much time discussing problems that day. We laughed a lot. In fact we laughed all the way to the trophy presentation where we came home with a first place trophy. We were still laughing when he dropped me off at my house.

Whenever Edward was in town, he would usually stop by the Reynolds Golf Club and join me and my dad and whoever else happened to be playing on the course. A lot of lifelong friendships are nurtured at places like golf courses.

Edward continued to take knocks. He went through a divorce and more personal problems. He eventually got out of the ministry. To make a long story short, a year or so ago he moved back home to look after his mom. The boy wonder preacher who filled churches wherever he preached was now back home where he started without a job and not doing well enough physically to even pursue a job.

I got an email from Edward a couple of weeks ago. In his very articulate manner, he told me that he had just been diagnosed with Angioimmunoblastic T Cell Lymphoma. The prognosis is not good. On top of that he has no insurance. When I talked with him that day he was waiting on a call from Social Security so he could apply for Medicaid and hoping and praying he would be covered.

I write this tonight because Edward Arnold is my friend. Our friendship didn’t start when he was a “wonder preacher” and it sure didn’t end when he began to experience and face the challenges of life that could happen to any of us.

By the way, I suppose there can be several potential responses to this blog. You can read it, forget it and move on to the next blog. Or you can feel sorry for Edward which would be the last thing he would want. Or you could play God and judge him for the predicament he finds himself in.

Or just maybe you could keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers , show a little mercy and even help him out.

If you find yourself thinking about the latter possibility, a trust account in his name has been opened at two banks -Citizens State Bank, 36 Martin Luther King, Reynolds, GA 31076 and Central Bank of Georgia, 97 S. Broad Street, Butler, GA 31006.. Whether you can afford $1, $10, $20, $100 or $1,000 - anything will help. And he desperately needs your help.

In spite of Edward’s imperfections and shortcomings (as we all have), I am certain that Edward Arnold is one of God’s elect. And I am also certain he has had a tremendous positive influence on a lot of folks in his lifetime. For sure I am one of them.

And just maybe the God in heaven is watching now to see how His children respond.


Judy S said...

You told Edward's story well. I have known him probably about the same amount of time. The ballfield in Reynolds was the hang out for so many of us. We all knew that we would be spending Saturday out there. Edward has taken some hard hits and I guess he is now facing the worst of his life. I know that God is good and loving and HE will take care of Edward's needs. I also ask everyone who reads this to keep him and his family in your prayers. Barbara (his mother) has just lost her husband and now is facing this illness with her son.

Keith Gaines said...

Thank you for your wonderful telling of Ed's story. I have not known Ed nearly as long (c.16 yrs.)but he has always had a special place in my heart and in my wife's heart. Our prayers are with Ed and all of his family at this time. Ed is a great servant of God, no less or more flawed than any other, and God has and will use him in mighty ways to bring others to Himself. - Keith and Dianne Gaine

Anonymous said...

Bruce, Thank you for the information. Edward and I have had the opportunity to speak in the last couple of weeks, and trade some humerous emails. I also hope that this is a reaction to medication and he'll get to return home.
The Class of 1969 had only 49 if my list is correct. We have lost 9 or 10 from our class.
You mentioned Edward's preaching years, but many may not realize that Edward delivered the Baccalaureate sermon for our class. That probably doesn't happen often, but was special for us as the class asked him to deliver it.

Jonathan Arnold said...

Bruce, thank you so very much for your kind, heartfelt reflection of a lifetime friendship that's just as meaningful to my dad. All of the prayers are truly felt and appreciated. He has always had a heart and a burden for helping others. He's got a knack for loving the unloveable, reaching out to the "too far gone", remembering the forgotten, and building up the beaten down. I'm a lucky and proud son who's a better man because of him(better golfer, too, I might add). He's lucky to have friends like you. Thanks again, and God bless.

Faye said...

Bruce, thank you for sharing a part of Ed's story. I was a member at one of the churches Ed pastored. He has always been able to preach God's Word with a great sense of humor to keep your attention. He truly has the ability to bring the scriptures alive. Because of an imperfection in Ed's life he was dismissed as pastor of our church. This was the saddest time in my Christian life. I think you will know what I mean when I say I was hurt in the spirit when this happened to Ed. I always felt that we should have supported him through this time and keep him on while he got his life straightened out, but others did not feel the same way. I know that God has used Ed in many ways and I always felt that he was able to reach a lot of people that he would not have been able to reach if he had not had this imperfection. I remember quoting what Jesus said when the woman was got in adultrey. "Let he that is without sin cast the first stone." That certainly would include all of us and no one has the right to judge another especially a man of God like Ed. I have always had a special place in my heart for Ed and his family. He is such a special, loving, and caring person. I just pray that God might spare his life so he can continue to touch lifes as he has mine.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, It is with a saddened heart that I contact you. Edward Arnold was loved by so many. My mother loved him and when she and my daddy passed away, he was in charge of their services. Mama didn't want him to just say good things about her; she wanted him to preach a sermon and hopefully bring others to Christ. Preach a sermon...he did.

There's a saying, "Don't judge me 'til you've walked a mile in my shoes." Enough said. I remember being told that when God forgives, he forgets.

Thank God for Edward and the Arnold family and may God bless them.

Anonymous said...

I knew Edward soon after he was called to preach. My father was a part-time pastor of a very small church and had gotten acquainted with Edward. He asked him to fill the pulpit one Sunday. I was also 16 years old at the time, and I was just amazed when Edward began to preach! Our family would travel 100 miles or more to hear him after that.
I married a pastor myself, so I know all about the rough parts of the journey in the ministry. I believe that those who judge harshly have not experienced trials of life enough to make them humble and loving/forgiving. God will set it all straight someday. I'm sorry that Edward had many difficult things to face in his life, but he is totally happy and fulfilled now in Heaven. I look forward to seeing him again one day. The last time my husband and I saw him was sometime after he had his 4 children...including the baby whose nickname was "Cricket", I believe. :-)
Thanks so much for writing such a loving post about his life. God bless you for your loving, loyal, and kind heart towards Edward.

Joyce K said...

I was a member of one of his earlier churches. I accepted Christ as my personal Savior under Ed's ministry. I lost contact with he and his family, but he will always be special to me.