Lesson learned. Dragon slayed.


I’ve struggled with the thought of getting baptized for a while now. The decision was easy. I needed to be baptized. Thinking about the process was terrifying.


My greatest fear was running into someone in the counseling room and having them tell me that I was wrong, I wasn’t saved. My biggest concern was not knowing the exact time, day, day of week, month, etc that I made the decision. I have no clue what I was wearing, what the weather was like, whether the sun was up or still down… nothing.


I just knew that, one day, during my quiet time, I came to the realization that I could repent of my sins and be saved. That was a big deal for me because I knew I needed to repent but, I knew I still enjoyed and ‘needed’ my sins to fill the void in my life.


Things really started to change the night I heard Jerry Falwell preach at the 2000 Pastor’s Conference. His topic was “You have not because you ask not”. He proceeded to bore everyone with his life history. He talked about how he prayed for this and that and how God answered his prayers. He talked about walking around the neighborhood and praying for each house that he passed and then seeing people get saved. He talked about praying for the school and then the university and then seeing those prayers answered. It was rather boring and irritating… it was like a religious resume.


Then, he told a story about a preacher from the US who went to England for a vacation. Word got around that he was there and eventually he was asked to preach. As he preached he said he didn’t feel the power of God during his sermon and when he gave the invitation nobody responded. He tried to get out of his commitment of speaking again that night but, they would not hear of such a thing.


Unbeknownst to him a little old lady was in the service and had gone home to tell her bedridden sister. Her sister was shocked. She’d prayed for this man to come to England and preach… for years. She spent that afternoon in fasting and prayer. That night when the man preached EVERYBODY in the building got saved.


You have not because you ask not. That really got a hold of me and knocked me upside the head. I left after the alter call, stunned over what I’d heard. The service wasn’t quite over. I was just so stunned that I had to leave. I went home and created a Word document and called it “You have not because you ask not”.


In the file I made a list of prayers I needed answered. One prayer I had was from 1 Samuel 10:9, “Then, it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart…” My prayer was simply, “God change my heart”. After praying about it for several months I finally came to the realization that I could repent of my sins, I could turn away and ask God to forgive me and not live in them, let alone WANT to do them anymore.


Another verse that really helped me was Phillipians 4:8-9. The first part is all I really needed… Whatsoever things are True… think on these things. Prior to this time I was also depressed. I came to realize that there are negative True things to think about as well as positive True things…. and the negative true things were not necessarily true to begin with. I just have a way of concentrating on the negative and working hard to make them a self-fulfilling prophesy.


Getting back in church, getting involved, joining a Sunday School class were all things I had to fight dragons to overcome. I did all of that in a very strange way… I joined the choir. Me, an introvert, not wanting to be in the middle of a large group of people, joined the choir. It was the easiest way for me to get started. I figured I could ‘hide’ in the choir.


I prayed about the course of action I should take and then took a chance and went and sang in the Billy Graham Crusade. I had a blast… and I was in the middle of a big group of people and nobody stared at me, pointed an accusing finger or asked me a lot of questions.


I prayed some more and then a short while later I went and joined the choir. I prayed some more and then finally joined a Sunday School class. After all was said and done I joined what had to be the smallest Sunday School class I’d ever seen! Lesson learned. Dragon slayed.


I’ve struggled with the baptism dragon for a long time. It was something I knew I had to do but, the thoughts just terrified me. I thought about walking down front, talking to the counselor, everybody seeing me, all the questions that would be asked, the whispering behind my back, the counseling room, the baptism itself and everything that could and would go wrong along the way.


Terrified would be a mild word. A couple of months ago I thought I could finally do it… but then, I had a panic attack. Nope. Not going to happen, yet. I can’t do it with the blood coursing through my veins. My head would explode. I would have a nervous break down. I would be challenged… I would be DENIED!


I thought about doing it when I walked Marko down for his public profession of faith. I didn’t. But, I did have the opportunity to see what happened in the counseling room when people prepare to get baptized. And, I got to go up to the robing room and be with him as he went through that process. Still, I couldn’t do it.


Finally, my friend, Saimir, wanted to walk down and join the church. I told him… do it Sunday night! (We weren’t in the loft that night.) So, I walked with him down the aisle and he told Rev Clifton he wanted to join. Rev Clifton didn’t skip a beat. He turned to me and asked me if I had a decision to make. I told him I needed to be baptized. That blew Saimir away. I didn’t tell him what I was planning to do.


The thing is I had these preconceived notions about Rev Clifton. More dragons. I think I was wrong. He was rather pleasant and non-judgemental.


We went to the counseling room and I met with the counselor. I’m not sure exactly what his name was… Mr. Moore, I believe. Everything went very well. I didn’t have a nervous breakdown. My head didn’t explode. I wasn’t DENIED!


THEN, I met Rev King. As we were talking a counselor handed me a license tag frame to put on my license tag. I joked and said, “Does that mean I have to drive the speed limit?” Rev King came back immediately and emphatically said “Yes!”. Uh, oh. The conversation continued. They gave me an appointment slip and said I could be baptized next week during the Pastor’s Conference. I told them I was in the choir. Rev King didn’t miss a bit. He said, “Skip it”.


I was just standing there thinking… if you only knew what it took to get me to this point. He backed down a little. I thought how all of my fears had not been realized… until I met him.


I went home and had a lot of trouble sleeping that night. Should I get baptized during the Pastor’s Conference or wait a week? I could’ve been an inspiration or a blessing to somebody at the conference but, I opted for the following week. I may never know who may have been blessed by me being baptized that night… let alone how much I would’ve been blessed for following through and being obedient and not waiting. But it is what it is.


The day I got baptized was just a normal Sunday. Nothing weird or unusual or stressful happened. I took Marko to Kirby-Smith Middle School for their magnet school ‘tour’. Then, we went to home to see if Saimir wanted to go early or not. Saimir said he’d come later. So, I took Marko to church and dropped him off and then walked over to the counseling room. Now, I would’ve thought that I would’ve started freaking out on the inside as I walked over. But, I didn’t. I had a calm peace about everything. That didn’t last long.


Everyone was nice. There were only 4 other people to be baptized besides me. There was a little girl in the 3rd grade, a young brother and sister and then a man who I think was in his 20’s. We sat and listened to Mr. Elgin give a lesson on being baptized. I had heard this back in September as I sat with Marko when he was preparing to be baptized.


Things started getting a little ‘rough’ for me during his talk. I FREAKED OUT on the “inside” as he was talking. I had all of these negative thoughts run through my head. I don’t remember what they all were. I just know that there were several times during the sermon that I wanted to get up and leave and tell them I’d come back later. I was still fighting some dragons. Janice told me it’d get harder as the time drew nearer. She was right.


I think I turned pale. I’m sure all of the blood drained out of my face. A few tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled with the decision to leave or stay. I had to think about Philippians 4:8-9. I had to think about what Janice said. I had to brush that little Devil off my shoulder and tell him to go away… a few times.


I survived the lesson. Afterwards we all walked upstairs to the robing room and changed into our baptismal garments. As we walked into the area we passed by Rev. Elkins. That surprised me because I thought Rev. King was supposed to be baptizing tonight. I wasn’t sure what was going on. They hadn’t told anybody who was going to be baptizing, I just assumed.


After we were dressed they lined us up and marched us all upstairs. Now, mind you… the church service was already in progress. They changed things back in January. Instead of baptizing at the beginning of the service they now baptize in the middle of the service.


I heard the choir sing and was wondering what they were thinking. I mean, I am usually in the choir. If I’m not in the choir then, that’s very unusual. We walked up the stairs to the baptismal pool and formed a line at the entrance to the pool.


Rev. Elkins walked in. What a blessing! He was so much better than Rev. King. Oh, I’m sure Rev. King was ‘right’ and ‘justified’ with his what he said before. I was just happy it was Rev. Elkins.


We stood in line waiting for the baptismal service to begin. Rev. Elkins took the time to talk to each one of us and to take notes. When the time came, the first victim, uh, I mean candidate, stepped into the pool. I always said I didn’t want to go first because they always say more things during the first candidate than the rest. One down, three to go. The brother and sister went next. Three down, one to go. I moved to the top of the stairs and waited patiently. It was all kinda surreal. The water beckoned me to this half-light/half-dark area that was out in the open yet, kinda quiet and intimate. It was like this dark curtain covered half of the ‘room’.


As I stepped into the water my robe bubbled up from the air trapped inside. I gently pushed it down and proceeded to the spot where I placed my feet under the bar. Rev. Elkins said a few words. I heard “going through the motions”, “quiet time”, 2001, then, the first question. Actually, I didn’t hear the first question. I heard the 1st pause. I said, “Yes”, like I was supposed to say. Then, I listened for the 2nd pause. I said, “Yes”, again.


Rev. Elkin brought the napkin up to my nose. I got cross-eyed as I looked at the napkin. I remembered to bend my knees, slightly and then went under. I saw the water engulf my face and then my nose. I forgot to close my eyes! I was too nervous. I couldn’t close them. I had to see everything. If words were said while I was under the water then I didn’t hear them. If they were said before or after then I didn’t hear them, either.


I came up out of the water and I don’t know what he did. He may have wiped my face off, I may have taken the napkin from him and wiped my face off, I just don’t know. I walked up the stairs and into the de-robing room. I took off my robe, left the FBC underwear on and put on a terry cloth robe.


I rode the elevator down to the 2nd floor. As I stepped off the elevator Marie Knowling was there waiting for me. She was on the baptismal committee when Marko was baptized. 2008 was her “off” year. She said she saw me from the audience and ran to baptismal area to congratulate me. That was very, very nice of her. She’s a sweetheart.


That’s pretty much it.


Lesson learned. Dragon slayed.


I don’t have any real memory of the time I was baptized back in 1974. I was young and it all happened kinda fast. This memory will last a lot longer.


As I was in the baptismal class I was texting Ian to let him know I was going to be baptized. I didn’t tell anyone. Saimir knew I was going to be baptized “sometime” but, he didn’t know when.


Ian responded and said he was going to be late to church. I replied and asked him to be just a “little” late because I was going to be baptized. He was like… “What?!!!”. Fortunately, he made it in time, even though he thought he’d missed everything.


I dreaded talking to Ferrell and Marko afterwards. I didn’t tell either one of them, either. Ferrell wasn’t happy that I didn’t confide in her. I just didn’t want any extra pressure, from anybody… not even in the form of encouragement. Marko was clueless. It didn’t phase him… 11 year olds!


Overall, the experience didn’t pan out like I had dreamed… and, that was God’s doing. I knew the fight and the struggle was with the Devil. It was just something that was very difficult for me… probably because I was fighting the battle in my mind and not in reality.


The one thing I dread is having to repeat myself and to tell the same story over and over again. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do much of that. Most people were just nice and congratulated me for doing what I did and gave me a lot of positive reinforcement.


One of the choir members said the choir, or part of the choir, clapped for me when I was baptized. That was nice. I’ve always felt like I am just hiding in the choir. Of course, when they plaster my face on the I-MAG’s during Pastor’s Conference it’s kinda hard to hide. But, that’s how I think of it… hiding in plain sight.


The good news is that I can put this behind me as an act of obedience to God and can get back to a normal prayer life. That’s suffered over the last few months as I’ve felt like I shouldn’t bother since I was being disobedient. I hope that I can get back to where I was when I repented several years ago. My prayer life was really, really good… I prayed for a lot of things and I actually saw a lot of answers take place before my very eyes. I want to have that happen again…