Saturday, May 28, 2011

28 MAY 11: Out of the Depths

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

Parts of the Columbus area had no power all day Friday, after Thursday's fierce thunderstorm. The damage and death from storms across the country this spring truly have been stunning to see. It almost makes you wonder how Harold Camping could have had the date wrong for Jesus's return.

One disaster zone which gained my attention this past week was Joplin, Missouri - especially because I had a close call with death there when I was a boy. I'm not sure my family realized it, but I thought I'd made a mistake which would kill me. Sadly, all it takes for that in Columbus right now is an evening walk near the Civic Center.

I don't remember the circumstances behind the trip, but my family took a weekend getaway to Joplin when I was about eight years old. We stayed on Saturday night at a Holiday Inn which was co-owned by baseball legend Mickey Mantle. The child in me thought Mantle might actually be there -- but the discovery online Friday of a wine list tells me he was at least there in spirit.

Mickey Mantle's Holiday Inn had an outdoor swimming pool -- and in the 4:00 hour of a sunny Saturday afternoon, my mother let me step in the shallow end. I couldn't swim, and I needed some courage to walk along the wall. My head wasn't far above the water -- but I'll resist the temptation here to draw a comparison with the Columbus city budget.

After a few minutes walking along the pool wall, I stumbled and fell -- and as I went to the bottom of the shallow end, my eight-year-old mind concluded I was doomed. You simply don't go down in the water and get back up again alive. Not without the gear I'd seen Lloyd Bridges carry on "Sea Hunt," you didn't....

So I sat at the bottom of the swimming pool holding my breath -- but aware that I would die in about five minutes. I didn't have much of a life to "pass before my eyes." In fact, most of my thinking focused on the few episodes of "Batman" I enjoyed.

But after presuming I'd blown it for about 15 seconds, a surprise occurred. A man walked diagonally across the pool and picked me up from the bottom! To this day, I can't tell you who he was -- but that man saved my life. I was prepared to give it up, if only to prove to my parents they liked my older brother more than me.

My mother was sitting near the shallow end of the pool when this rescue happened. But I don't remember her expressing any sigh of relief or concern over the situation. She probably thought I was being playful at the bottom. But I was, well, dead serious. I'd figured that one mistake was the end for me -- so I was playing by the Republican rules for President Obama long before my time.

I was ready to surrender, thinking I made one misstep too many -- yet a mystery man gave me new life. And what happened to me can happen for you. In Acts 2 of the Bible, Peter advises concerned listeners to "repent and be baptized.... and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." My water in Joplin wasn't really a baptism, because I didn't repent of being awkward.

Many Joplin tornado survivors probably think their lives hit rock-bottom this past week -- joining survivors of the Georgia and Alabama storms a month ago. But there's been an outpouring of compassion to help those people on the slow road to recovery. Hopefully survivors also are asking God for wisdom in walking day by day - especially since stray nails still could be anywhere.

As I wrote this entry Friday afternoon, WBOJ-FM "88.5 the Truth" played a song called "God of Second Chances." I received one on a Saturday afternoon in Joplin. God is ready to give you one as well, if you'll repent of the sins you've committed and mistakes you've made. If only poker tournaments gave me that privilege when I make bad bets....

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