Friday, January 27, 2012

Baptism Trilogy

True stories often make me laugh more so than fiction. When I remember one, my brain usually links to another. If I conjure up 3, I think, "Trilogy! It'll blog!" Fusion of the funny bone!

Now I fully respect the ordinance of baptism. But I've been involved in ministry long enough to also realize things don't always go as planned. This is especially true for Baptist style baptisms. That's immersion for you non-Baptists. They naturally lend to better stories! Here's my 3-parter on the subject of baptism.


This one happened to Doug and me as we sang a duet one Sunday morning at First Free Will Baptist Church in Newport News, VA. After verse one we heard water splashing behind us. As the spattering continued down the choir steps from the overflowing baptistry, we went on to sing verse two. Splattering crescendoed and so did we.
The faces of panicked deacons scurrying, teenagers guffawing and Pastor Tag Kilgore snickering clued us in. We didn't need to turn around to know what was happening. We're experts on the obvious!

Someone filling the baptismal pool forgot to turn off the water. The waterfall headed for us and our corded mics! Water and electronics. . .not a healthy combo.

I thought Doug would stop singing to save us from electrocution but he bellowed us into verse three and a coda. Meanwhile, I wondered how painful this death would be, how long it takes to fry and if it would ruin my hair for my own funeral!
We finally ended the special music. Special indeed! Tag came to the pulpit as someone turned off the water. He laughed, "Doug and Kathy, I'm sure that was a good song but no one here heard it. Why don't you sing it again tonight after we mop up the floor."


Back in the early 70's women wore curly hairpieces from the crown of the head, cascading down to the neck. It gave an elegant updo without much ado. Rev. David Paramore baptized a lady and didn't realize she wore such a hairpiece. When she came up, her water-logged wig did not. She exited up the steps, not realizing she'd left a floating ball of fur behind.

David looked at it as if it was a drowned rat, then realized what it was. He picked it up, wrung it out slightly then handed it up to her. He did so in such a gentlemanly way, that he actually restored a bit of the elegance she'd left bobbing behind.


Years ago in Beacon Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, a young associate pastor, Tim Rabon, was nervously performing his first baptism. The man being baptized was Bill Cheek, a strapping military man with a quick wit. Probably most of the congregation was empathetic on Tim's behalf. They sensed his mild stress at officiating his first baptism. I, on the other hand, simply saw a wonderful opportunity to join ranks with Bill, a fellow jokester.

"Say, Bill, wanna get one over on Tim tonight?"

"Sure, Kathy, " he laughed without even knowing quite why. "What you got in mind?"

"As you take the four steps into the baptismal water, the screen blocks you from the congregation's view. Only Tim can see you coming down until that last step."

"Ri-iiight?" he inquired as if for more info.

I handed him the snorkel, mask and swim fins but before I even fully explained, he got it.

The quiet service began that evening and the reverent Rev. Tim spoke into his lapel mic from the water, "This is a great honor for me tonight to baptize my very first candidate, Bill Cheek. " He turned his head to the right and immediately lost a bit of his reverence. He spotted Bill, flippers flopping onto the first step, snorkel and mask in place supported by a big grin.

Tim eyes darted back to his clueless audience. He stammered, "Um. . .uh, I wish you could see what I do, folks." But he really didn't.

On step number one Bill removed the snorkel. Into step two, he tossed the fins. Step three gave him just enough time to lay aside the mask. He stepped into the audience's view very pleased with himself, looking quite normal.

Tim sputtered and laughed. Alone. (Well, I was laughing too.) He didn't even try to explain to the congregation. He just got through it and carried an indelible, lifetime memory. Thanks to me.

As we age and look back on foolish decisions we made in our youth, sometimes we feel shame, even regret. Not me. Not this time.

Now you Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans, just try to beat that with your sprinkling stories! Another reason I love being a Baptist.

After I wrote this blog my brother, Ricky, sent me this true story. It happened in the very same church. So remaining in the Baptist tradition little Kathleen's first communion wraps up this unordinary ordinance blog.
~ ~ ~
In her daddy's words:

Many years ago when Kathleen was five years old we were sitting in the next to the last row in Cox Chapel. Kathleen had only asked Jesus into her heart a few weeks earlier
and this night was her first communion. When the deacon passed us the plate and we took a piece of bread, she sat there grinning from ear to ear, wiggling, waiting impatiently and just full of herself.

After a few minutes of this as we waited for everyone to be served, I leaned over and quietly whispered in her ear, "Right now you should be very still and you should be thinking about what Jesus did for you on the cross."

I went back to my own quiet prayer time with the Lord but in a few moments I heard sniffling. I turned to her to see tears rolling out of both eyes and immediately felt bad for correcting her. I asked, "What's wrong?"

To which she replied what I'll always remember, "I'm just thinking about what Jesus did for me on the cross that day."
~ ~ ~
So are we, Kathleen. So are we now.

Aunt Kathy

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This is not the post I'd planned for this week's blog. However, I came across something in my devotions that enlarges on last week's blog. (If you missed it, this might make more sense to you if you read it first.)

Drawing from my own experience, I found that the friends of mine who knew what to say, when there were no words, simply came to be with me and pray for me.

Part of my daily Bible reading right now is in Job. Coincidentally a daily devotion I read is Chuck Swindoll going through the same book. He shares a story of excruciating loss, with a similar message of how to sympathize (put yourself in another's shoes) and comfort (make the situation better.)

Some folks know how. Others don't. We all can learn.

Godly people like Job and Joe (in the story below) get down. Even folks like you and me get depressed when life is not fair or becomes desperately hard. Hopefully you have the kind of friend with whom you can let it out, be honest in your pain.

Or maybe you can be the kind of friend others need when they hurt. Job and Joe eventually wished their friends would just leave them alone. My desire is to see you move from being a person folks wish would "just go away" to becoming a friend who comes, sympathizes and comforts, sometimes without words or answers.

May God bless you on that journey,


Charles Swindoll Devotional

God's Presence in Suffering

by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:11–13

The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God's presence in our suffering, but

it's also our primary biblical protest against religion that has been reduced to explanations or "answers."

Many of the answers that Job's so-called friends give him are technically true. But it is the "technical"

part that ruins them. They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The

answers are slapped onto Job's ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle. In response, Job rages

against this secularized wisdom that has lost touch with the living realities of God.

The late (and I might add great) Joe Bayly and his wife, Mary Lou, lost three of their children. They lost

one son following surgery when he was only eighteen days old. They also lost the second boy at age

five because of leukemia. They then lost a third son at eighteen years after a sledding accident, because

of complications related to his hemophilia.

Joe writes in a wonderful book, The Last Thing We Talk About:

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God's dealings, of why it

happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true.

I was unmoved, except I wished he'd go away. He finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn't talk. He didn't ask leading questions. He just sat

beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed

simply, left.

I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

You have done it right when those in agony hate to see you go.

We must leave Job in his misery for now. We're mere onlookers. Had we lived in his day, there is

no way we could say, "I know how you feel." We don't. We can't even imagine. But we do care.

Our presence and our tears say much more than our words.

Words have a hollow ring in a crucible.

Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc.,

Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

"Kathy, we just learned Larry has a tumor. They're checking for cancer but we're so scared. Please pray."

We often hear similar requests. For many years my reaction was, "Of course I will." And I really meant to. Sometimes I did. Other times I actually forgot to pray. So in essence I lied. Good intentions but I lied.

It all changed when I found myself in need of prayer. My friend saw the tears in my eyes, heard the quaver in my voice and responded, not with a promise to pray, but asked, "Can we pray right now?" As he prayed over me, the peace that flooded my spirit was powerful. This was no longer a conversation between two people.

From that day on, Doug and I often respond to requests for prayer by praying right then with the person. We ask and no one has yet to decline. When people hurt, they need help right THEN. We may not have answers but we know the One Who does. So taking a friend directly to the throne is a bold step in the right direction. I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV! But I can be an ambulance to the Great Physician.

I called Miss Frances, who'd been in and out of the hospital, dealing with a lot of issues. After hearing her share recent struggles, I said, "Can I pray for you right now?" She said yes and after I prayed, her voice was calmer.

A dear relative burst into tears recently on the phone, just overwhelmed with life stuff. We prayed right then. Reminded of what she already knew, she said, "I know God's. . ." and she began to list His care for her, overriding her own frustrations.

A parent of a piano student came early one Tuesday to get her son. She cried as she spoke of her mother, a recent stroke victim. My own mother and I had walked that path. "Roxie, can I pray with you?" Her son played softly as we went to God together right there in the studio.

Doug's dear friend, Jerry, was recently in ICU, fighting for his life. We phoned him. "Can I pray with you now, Jerry?" Doug asked his friend.

 Rev. Jerry Padgett with his wife, Pauline--our dear friends
It happens at church or in Walmart, in public or in private, in person or on the phone. Part of my process was in seven things I discovered about prayer.

  • Short prayers are effective too! I harbored misconceptions that prayers need to be long or eloquent. Actually Jesus warns about lengthy prayer that's just for show. His model prayer takes less than 25 seconds. Try it. "Our Father. . ."
  • Praying is more important than promising. If I pray on the spot, I no longer lie to friends. In fact, they seem to be on my mind and prayer list later, more often after we pray together.
  • I should not be ashamed to pray in public. A brief prayer is still a conversation but bowed heads and closed eyes invite God into the need. This can be quiet and unobtrusive, not drawing attention to ourselves. I challenge you to go beyond restaurant blessings.
  • The impact on the person is immediate, powerful and worth it. If you dare try this, brace yourself for an emotional, appreciative reaction, "Thank you SO much." I know. I've stood in your shoes too.
  • When you don't know what to say, don't say anything. PRAY EVERYTHING! I just repeat the situation back to God and ask His help. It shifts the focus from a helpless person or circumstance to a caring, loving Father. Of course He already knows fully. Prayer is less about telling God our troubles than it is about reminding us to trust Him with them.
  • Peace is not an emotion. It's a Person. Go to Him. Quickly. Often after prayer, the stream of information changes from detailed problems to assurance it will work out somehow.
  • Prayer puts a period, not a comma, into the words. When we lift our eyes after praying, there's usually just a hug and a thank you. We took it to God together. We can walk away and leave it there. Some burdens are too heavy for our shoulders anyway!
Next time someone asks you to pray, pray. Right then, right there. It's not a preacher thing. It's a child of God to the Father thing. We are family. Run to Papa!

On my knees, on the hoof or on the phone. . . always praying,

Friday, January 6, 2012


Last year about this time I got in the car with my daughter, Kimberly, and granddaughter Elizabeth. We were excited as we headed out for those after Christmas bargains.

Moments later, still my driveway, I burst into tears as they wordlessly comforted me.

What happened to suddenly change my mood? A phone call.

"Let me call Uncle Bert first, girls," I said as I slipped the key into the ignition. His hospice care was wonderful and they knew he was near the end of his battle with cancer. As soon as I heard his weak voice, I knew too.

"You'll be home soon, Bert. I'll see you there. I love you." Those were my last words to my dear big brother. And I knew we'd just spoken our last words on earth. Even now my tears flow as I remember and write about that sacred conversation between this world and the next.

A few days later I was up alone. It was near midnight. The phone rang. The call. My dear niece, Karen, said softly, "Aunt Kathy. He's home." His call. By morning the family was once again in cars, going to Nashville for Bert's funeral. It was a celebration of a godly life lived full throttle for the Lord.

Last week on the phone to Bert's wife, I shed a few tears again as I told her, "Dianne, you know one change Bert's death made in my life?"


"I long for heaven now. Sometimes I don't even feel like I belong here. My tent pegs were loosened."

She asked a very wise question, "Don't you think that's how we should be?"


I knew the last time on earth I was looking at Bert. In that hospital room, I couldn't stop kissing him. I knew on the phone a year ago that I was hearing his voice for the last time here. I couldn't stop crying.

We're not always given notice when death calls. Death impacts people in many ways. When I watch the national news or hear of horrible weather destruction, my mind looks beyond the mayhem. I long for a better place.

Right now the political scene is angry, restless, frightening sometimes, disillusioning most of the time. A phrase from Isaiah comforts me. "The government shall be upon his shoulders." Did you get that? The government shall be upon HIS shoulders! A perfect, loving, just King of kings will rule in peace.

Don't we all long for that?

Sometimes I tease the kids, "I won't be here much longer. You better be nice to me!" Or I might reverse it, "I better be nice to you so you don't push my wheelchair over a cliff!"

They laugh. "Oh, Mama! Stop that. You're not dying."

But I am. We all are. We're in the land of the dying, heading for the land of the living. I understand the phrase "living in the shadowlands" now. And I look forward to living in eternal Light.

Death is not always a morbid thought to me now. Thank you, Bert, for not only showing us how to live, but how to die. As my body ages or health issues come, I pray, "Lord, let them remind me that I was created for another world. Disease or even death is just my vehicle there, unless You return for me. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus."

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One day you'll get the call. Are you ready? He made the way. It's easy. But it's your choice. Here's a GPS through the Romans Road. Clicking here may lead to the most important decision you ever make. This life is your gift to God. Eternal life is God's gift to you. Choose wisely.