Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Unexpected Events--Caney Creek

Well, we have had a revival and we have had a wedding. The story doesn’t end with those events. Of course the story will never end; there will just be the ends and beginnings of other chapters. This chapter cannot be finished without this story.

The six people who decided that following Jesus was the thing to do decided to be baptized—on the same day, same place and same time. Steve, my younger two daughters and I planned to be there.

We went to Christ Church that morning. As soon as church was over, we got in the car and started to my dad’s—an hour and twenty minute drive. Part of the drive is highway—a stretch of interstate through the rolling, blue-green hills of Kentucky. The other part of the drive is through and across a narrow, steep road that winds, descends and ascends landscape that is quite beautiful and picturesque in its simpleness.

We arrived at my Dad’s, and what I didn’t know was God was about to show me something.

Revelation was coming.

Everyone piled in their cars and drove to the baptism site. My dad had told me it was Caney Creek and was just down the road—just a few minutes drive. We followed Dad which took concentration and effort since he knows the roads so well.

Quite a few people were there when we arrived. The introductions and hugging began. A constant flow of people navigated the steep hill, walking sideways down the gravel road. Just a few weeks before the flooding had brought the stream’s level up fifteen to twenty feet. The asphalt of the lower parking lot was covered in the silt the flooding left behind.

I got out of the car and looked around and then I began to walk toward the creek.

And the reminder came.

A gentle, easy breeze of memory sifted and tumbled over me.

Caney Creek. Ahhhhhh, Caney Creek.

Recognition surged through me.

The place looked like a foggy, dirty mirror surrounded by trees.

The murky water lapped against the concrete loading dock. Children rolled up their pants legs and waded knee-deep and the mud and silt eddied to the surface.

For a few brief moments I didn’t see the children or the crowd that continued to grow. I stood watching the rippling and lapping of the water as it rolled and moved against the rocky bank.

In that instant, I saw me, twenty-four years younger, standing in the water. This is the place I was baptized. I had forgotten—not my baptism, but the place.

God knows place is important to us. He knows we need visual reminders of the wonders he has accomplished in us.

Here was my Jordan. Not a river, but a stream. Twenty-four years ago I had died at this spot and had been raised to new life. The stream had carried my sins and iniquities away—all the way to the sea. And that is where God left them.

I came back to the present as the minister of my dad’s church began to speak. Strange how God often brings things full circle because when I was young this was my minister too. He asked the six if they believed that Jesus was the Son of God and if they accepted him as their Lord and Savior—the Good Confession. My dad’s voice was the loudest.

Way out in the water people stood up in their boats to see what was happening. Someone began to pray and his voice boomed out over the waters. An old high school friend of mine began to sing We Shall Gather at the River. Everyone joined her.

Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we'll gather at the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river;
gather with the saints at the river
that flows by the throne of God.

Robert Lowery

Time stood still. For how long I am not sure.

Four men moved out into the water. They stood waist deep and Charles, the Harley-riding, revival-speaking, Jesus-loving preacher was among them.

And two by two they began to wade in the water.

My dad and Brenda led the way—seems this is the pattern. Often they forge the trail. My dad was holding tightly to my step-mother—guarding her steps. They turned to face us and Charles held his hand toward heaven.

Backwards they fell. And their bodies plunged into the murky water of Caney Creek. I made myself not even blink. I did not take my eyes off of this beloved pair as their faces disappeared under the water.

Then suddenly up they came. And my dad came up shouting. Hands flung to heaven. Joy splattered all over his face. He turned to my step-mother and kissed her and then wrapped his arms around her and practically lifted her up out of the water.

I was clapping. And a shout left my lips before I had time to consider it.

I held the towels and met them at the edge. My dad wrapped his arms around me and held me and we cried. Glory, how we cried. We said things to each other that should have been said years ago. Brenda stood close; in her wonderful wisdom she was giving a father and daughter a special moment. Then I hugged her and she spoke words that I will never forget, “You and the girls are part of the most important part of our lives and don’t you forget it. We love you.”

Two more times couples (Marce and Tammy included) went into the water to be buried and raised in Christ.

My clothes were wet by the time I had hugged them all. Everyone began to make their way back toward the parking lot and the road. I stood and gazed at the waters of Caney Creek.

I turned to Steve, who was filming, and a butterfly lit on his arm.

Delight and awe bubbled up in me.

Slowly I put my left hand to his arm—just under the butterfly. I thought it would fly away. Instead it hopped to my finger and remained. I was so elated.

Jesus had a dove; and Dad and the others had a butterfly.

God’s visual.

I walked toward Dad and Charles and held out my hand. Charles looked at me, and then we both looked at my dad.

Often butterflies are a symbol of new life.

That’s what happened at Caney Creek that day and the day twenty-four years before.

Seven people died and were raised to new life.

Metamorphosis

We were changed in the twinkling of an eye.

God does not want us to forget.

And he will bring us full circle so that we will remember.

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