By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) – Prior to the start of the second day of the 2020 Louisiana Legislative Session, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black urged elected officials to live each day like it could be their last.
“I’m living on borrowed time, and I resolve never to do anything I would be afraid to be doing if I knew it were the last hour of my life,” Black said during his keynote address at the 56th annual Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. “In other words, I am going to live like I am dying.”
LIFE AND DEATH
Black told lawmakers and others gathered inside the Crowne Plaza Executive Center in Baton Rouge that no one is promised tomorrow and that they should realize life is brief, uncertain and ultimately about eternity.
He explained his perspective in terms of a life and death experience that took place when he was a U.S. Navy chaplain.
Black said he had been consoling a sailor to whom he had broken the tragic news via a Red Cross message regarding seven family members who had died after their car stalled on a railroad track.
The helicopter which was transporting Black among the various ships in the destroyer squadron was hovering above the vessel unable to land because of the lack of a large enough landing pad; and, the commanding officer of the ship was telling the chaplain to hurry up so the helicopter could make its remaining schedule.
But, Black said, he arrived too late.
“I missed it,” Black said. “Two minutes later it crashed. Everybody aboard — except the pilot — were killed.”
“I started thinking about life in a totally different way,” after that, he explained.
In particular, he said he began reading about death and dying and came across the writings of Jonathan Edwards, the first president of Princeton, who at the age of 19 wrote 70 resolutions that were especially profound, Black said.
“From those resolutions, I made a commitment: ‘God, the rest of my life I’m living because you have loaned me some time that I don’t deserve. I’m living on borrowed time. And I resolve never to do anything
I would be afraid to be doing if I knew it were the last hour of my life.
“In other words, I’m going to live like I’m dying,” he emphasized.
He went on to explain the “need to live like we’re dying” in terms of the principles that “… life is brief … life is uncertain … life is about eternity”; and, “… there are some things you can’t save for the last minute.”
Wrapping up his message, Black used the famous phrase “carpe diem” – which means “seize the day” — from Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”
“If you’re going to live like you’re dying, you’ve got to seize the day,” Black declared. “Seize the day!”
JOHN BEL EDWARDS
In his remarks, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who was introduced by his wife Donna, thanked the crowd for their commitment to pray for him and legislators as they make critical decisions in the coming months. He also addressed concerns surrounding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has delayed start of the legislative session.
Edwards noted that the state has never faced COVID-19, and vowed “to learn all we can about it” in order to “stop its spread.”
“So we will be working extremely hard in partnership with the federal government, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the vice president and the team he assembled,” he promised. ‘And we will do all of those things that are incredibly important.”
But he also urged the crowd to rely on God.
“Just like He raised His hand and rebuked the sea and made it calm,” Edwards said, “He can do that to the coronavirus too. I believe that. So I am asking, like all challenges [presented today], that we pray.”
Then Edwards, citing Mark 5, shared about how the woman who was ill touched Jesus’s clothes and was healed, and he challenged Louisianans to follow her example of living out her faith.
“We do have challenges especially with what’s happened in the last several weeks around the world and in our country and certainly in our state with the announcement we made yesterday concerning the coronavirus,” Edwards said. “And I guess as governor I’m asking that you all join me in a concerted effort over the coming days and weeks and months and however long is necessary to make sure that we are offering the right prayers when it comes to the coronavirus.”
“Now is not the time to panic,” he said. “If you panic that’s the exact opposite of having faith.”
Louisiana Baptists on the program included Prayer Breakfast Chairman Tom Harrison, also executive pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, State Rep. Malinda White, a member of First Baptist Church in Bogalusa, and State Senate President Pro Tempore Beth Mizell, a member of First Baptist Church in Franklinton.
“Eternal God, thank you for the provision of our daily bread this morning,” Harrison prayed. “And thank you for the spiritual sustenance you will provide and lend to each of us as we have gathered today.
“Lord, hear our prayers,” he continued. “We acknowledge you alone as creator and maker of this universe. And you are the one who has set time, space, and our universe in order. Give us wisdom today and the power to overcome the desires of the flesh and the worldly gratification that come to us. As your servants, keep us from being careless about our spiritual and civic duties.
“Oh Lord our God, giver of everlasting life, nothing can separate us from your limitless love,” Harrison intoned. “Help us to remember that nothing is impossible to those who place their trust in you. May our faith create in us both the desire and the power to do your will.
“May your heavenly peace which transcends human understanding guard our hearts and mind together and always. May no partisanship mar the unity of spirit that will make Louisiana and America stronger, wiser and better,” he asked. “Deliver us from every unworthy motive as we labor to honor you.”
“Lord, lift our burdens, lessen our fears and give us your peace.
“Lord, we pray for our state and the coronavirus. Help us to be good citizens. Help us not to spread but help us to end this disease. We pray for our governor and all those who assist in eradicating the coronavirus from our state and from our nation. We pray these things in the name above all names, in the name of Jesus, amen.”
Harrison told the Baptist Message he was pleased so many people turned out early in the morning to pray.
“We are excited we can join citizens and legislators together for prayer as we lean on Jesus Christ,” Harrison said. “Our goal was to honor Him, and we did that as we all gathered for the purpose of praying over this legislative session.”
White read three passages:
— “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths,” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB).
— “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made the heaven and the earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever,” (Psalm 121:1-8, NASB).
— “Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen,” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NASB).
Mizell, meanwhile, was asked to pray for the citizens of Louisiana.
“Dear, Lord,” she began. “We thank you for hearing us this morning and always.
“Today we’re gathered in a place that we may be accustomed but it is not at all like the reality of most people in our state,” she continued. “Lord we ask you to make us mindful of the needs outside these doors and to keep us mindful of the needs of our citizens, born and unborn.
“Show us a Louisiana that is better for all of our people. Lord make us instruments that you use for the good of our people and not for political points. Make us willing to feel discomfort in order to change the status quo,” she prayed. “Let us leave here with a resolve to provide opportunity where none currently exists, to provide avenues to success where our people see no road laid.
“You have blessed us with the privilege of service to Louisiana. We pray for answers that relieve the burdens carried by the citizens of our state and we ask for the courage and the will to bring those answers to life,” Mizell said. “In the name of Jesus, and we ask for your guidance every day of our lives, Lord, we say, ‘Amen.’”