Swimming With Jesus In A Cement Pond


With the world in hellish turmoil, with no credible end of the torture in sight, a Christian person would think that this would be a perfect time for the Lord God to make an appearance, or at the least, throw us a bone. I would be satisfied with a fireworks display or something on television, but God doesn’t work that way; it appears he likes to keep us on the hook. Again, it’s a biblical thing.

My first remembered experience with religion was in my sixth year. A Fort Worth boy, dragged to the Poly Baptist Church to witness the near-drowning of my young father while being Baptized by a zealous preacher named Reverand Toby.

Someone in my family, an aunt or a cousin or all members thereof, thought that father’s soul needed saving, or at the least, a near-drowning to ensure his path to Heaven would be an honest one. I suspect it was his mother. She was a championship sinner with no way to redemption, so sacrificing her only son to Baptism might also gain her entry to God’s domain as a parental guest. Quite inventive she was. I also suspect that the bottles of hooch and the 38 special in her traveling suitcase would also be overlooked as she accompanied him through the pearly gates.

The Sunday of the Baptism was as hot as I can remember. The small church, a wooden frame affair, was surrounded by trees, so no breeze entered. Religion and suffering are one and the same. July in Texas is considered the perfect month for all the above. It’s a preview of Hell to come. Something to remember the next time one thinks about committing many deadly sins.

There I sat next to my mother, my less than a year old sister on her lap. My clothing was sweat-soaked, and I could have wet myself and not have known it. The summer heat radiated from the floor to the bottom of the wooden pew. Hell was just below us, just in case we wained from the word being preached, and for a moment lost our grip on believing; Satan could reach up and drag us down. It was all very convenient. I had no concept of sin or what it took to reach the depths of Hell. Of course, kids don’t bother with such nonsense.

An hour of Preacher Toby pacing the floor from wall to wall. The chorus of big-haired women behind him, punctuating his performance with Amen’s and Haliluahs at the appropriate times. The pulpit held the preachers’ Bible; it rested there, of no use to him. He didn’t need no leather-bound Bible; he knew everything required to scare the liver out of everyone in that church.

The sermon concluded, and the Baptismal commenced. Father was the last on the list.

Mother had dressed him in a new white shirt and black tie. He resembled the television star Steve Allen. The shirt was starched to the point of cardboard, allowing him minimal movement. One would think if a person was to be dunked in a tank of water, a swimming suit or at the least, a robe would be appropriate wear. But, nope, Baptist like it real; fully dressed in your best clothes, shoes, watch, and wallet included.

Father’s name was called. Entering the pulpit from behind a velvet curtain, he climbed into the Baptising tank. I found it odd that a church would have a small swimming pool at the alter. A waist-deep concrete tub full of unpurified water. How would one know that the occupants didn’t release a stream of pee into the sacred water in their moment of personal repentance? It’s a natural response akin to pissing in a swimming pool or a lake. Father stood in the holy waters awaiting his deliverance. He carried the look of a trapped man; no escape route was available, so his fate was sealed.

Preacher Toby wasted no time. He asked Father if he was ready to accept Jesus and be bathed in the Holy waters. Father mumbled a few words, and the preacher pushed him back into the waters of the sacred Jordan. Minuets passed along with lovely words and passages, and still, Father was immersed in the Holy waters. A hand, then an arm, then two reached up, flailing about. Finally, a leg broke the surface, and a shoe flew off. Still, Preacher Toby continued his blessing.

Looking back, it was common knowledge that father was a country musician and made his living playing in the beer joints along Jacksboro Highway. Preacher Toby figured since my father was a fully certified sinner, an extra dose of saving was needed.

With no assistance from Preacher Toby, my father made it to the surface with seconds to spare. Sputtering and coughing, on the verge of death, he rolled over the side of the cement pond and lurched toward the side door of the church. Holding my baby sister, my mother grabbed me by my bony arm, and we made a hasty beeline to the car. Father was there waiting. Dripping wet and defeated, he looked like death on a china plate. Mother drove us home.

I’m not sure what this recount has to do with the current state of our world, but I felt the need to share it.

Religion is a slippery slope for most folks. You either believe, or you don’t; there is no maybe or middle ground. But, the forces of good are believed to be greater than those of evil; it’s written in the book. So, we need an intervention or a sign from God that one evil man will not dictate the end. But, if that is the plan, let it be quickly done and with a gracious smile.

11 Replies to “Swimming With Jesus In A Cement Pond”

  1. Thanks for the smile …

    This story reminds me of one I heard years ago — might have been from Bro. Dave Gardner — about two old bums who were suffering from the cold December night. They stumbled into a well-lighted church for the warmth and found that the only available seating was down front, so they made their way to the second pew and seated themselves. The warmth felt good and one of the fellows began drifting off to sleep despite the preacher’s rather exuberant message.

    The preacher, for his part, was somewhat resentful of the fact that neither of these two miscreants was paying him much attention. In his enthusiasm, not to mention his determination to get his word across to these hobos, the preacher raised his voice to a shout, and pointing down to the bums asked, “DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS?”

    It was at that very instant that the dozing hobo awakened, saw that the preacher was pointing his finger at him, and startled, he jumped up and ran out of the church. His partner joined him a few seconds later, out of breath, and panting, asked, “What in the hell did you do that for? We was warm.”

    His mate answered, “Well, someone done took Jesus and that damn fool was trying to blame it on me.”

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    1. Yep, that has the ring of Brother Dave. Good recount. Brother Dave attended seminary school and was on a path to becoming a reverand, then by his own account, he discovered comedy and combined religion and comedy together creating himself a career.

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  2. Hey… I’m in Church of Christ…they LOVE baptising! I mean love it.
    Great story Phil…hell… I mean heck…I could feel the heat from that story.

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  3. “…looked like death on a china plate.” LOL! I’m suddenly reminded of my maternal grandmother’s travels to different churches each week of the month. Primitive Baptists apparently didn’t like being in just one church. They had to visit all of them and, all of them had those weird, concrete drowning pools at the alter. Then, there was the singing. Primitive Baptists didn’t believe in musical instruments, not even a piano or an organ. The singing just began by whatever “Brother” decided to start moaning. I swear, the whole congregation sounded like dying cows in a hail storm.

    While I was living in Texas, I decided to go a different route from the Southern Baptists that I was raised around. I joined an Anglican church in Austin (for a short time) and was even “baptized” into that faith during Christmas 2010. The priest was a nice enough guy but, his second in command was a “father” that walked around in cowboy boots. He was a trip. This is where I learned how to genuflect and take communion. Surprisingly, to me, they used real wine and real unleavened wafers. I was so used to grape juice and crackers. I was there long enough to understand the politics between continuing Anglicanism and the Anglican realignment. Sheesh. One group (I can’t remember which is which) let their priests marry and the other didn’t. There was also a rift over the Common Book of Prayer (and the Nicene Creed), gay priests and women priests. What an utter mess. I gave up on religion after all of that.

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  4. Thank god, or rather my mother who unexpectedly and belatedly (she was 40) brought me into this unwanted world, I was never baptized. I have been told you’re never too old to get baptized — if you want to get to heaven, that is. No thanks, I’ll stick with my bourbon. Besides, religion is strictly Sunday School stuff. As it says in Corinthians 1:13 — ‘When I was a child etc etc… but when I became a man I put away childish things.’ I don’t know if that applies here, but I apply it. Religion is all bull anyway. What’s that Texas saying? It’s all hat and no cattle.

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    1. My membership in the Baptist church lasted around 4 hours. It was traumatizing to see my father almost sacrificed. However, my Comanche heritage teaches that the open land and sky are our church, and God is in the wind, the trees, and the land. I like that better than a brick building full of hypocrites. However, I did learn that years later, Reverand Toby got his ass shot off while bringing one of the member’s wives to Jesus. Fitting end.

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  5. Yes indeed, the open land and the sky — Lord of the Plains — that’s my kind of ‘religion’ too. Yeah glad to hear Rev Toby got his!

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