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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: Floatin' With the Riptide
By Sandra Petersen


Pastor Ward calls Brother Lester and I his ‘lifeguards.’ When the altar call is given, we slip out of our seats and stand behind anyone receiving prayer. That way, should a petitioner be inclined to fall, we can prevent his or her head from connecting with the nearest church pew. Pastor wants the Holy Spirit, and not a concussion, to cause the fallen one to hear angels sing.

We are also there to keep order. Some members used to get so filled with the Holy Spirit that they would begin causing a holy ruckus.

Take Sister Myrtle, God bless her. Two years ago, after Pastor Ward declared her digestive problems to be healed, Sister whooped, “I can feel it glowing!” all the while holding her rather large belly. Before anyone could put out a hand to guide her to her seat, she jitterbugged all the way along the altar rail. She almost grabbed Pastor Ward as a dancing partner but her husband, Brother Alex, intervened. I still recall Pastor’s ashen face, sweaty brow, and widened eyes as he asked us all to bow our heads for the benediction.

Afterwards, in a meeting of the church elders, Lester and I were appointed to our lifeguard positions. The rules have been relaxed over time. If a person is so led they can say “Alleluia” while raising their hands to the sky. Brother Lester and I make sure anyone starting to wade into the spiritual river does not lose control in more volatile ways. All that is necessary to remind us of our duties is a quick thought of Sister Myrtle’s jiggling stomach and victorious whoops. We take our job seriously.

Last Sunday, though, the Holy Spirit flooded our church with a river of revival. Even Brother Lester was carried away by the riptide of the current.

The service seemed normal until Pastor approached the altar to deliver the sermon.

“I had an interesting dream last night,” he began. Lester and I exchanged glances. I remember thinking, That’s an unusual introduction. Wonder where he’s headed with this?

“In my dream, I went to Heaven and the Lord met me. He looked at me sadly and asked, ‘What did you do with the gift I gave you?’” Pastor cleared his throat. “I had to ask what gift He was talking about. He gestured around us at all the glory and the angels and saints praising God and asked, ‘Do you see anyone weeping here?’ I had to admit that I didn’t.”

Pastor smiled. “‘Neither do I,’ said the Lord. ‘Then why did you think I enjoy funeral dirges better than praise songs?’”

With a small grimace, Pastor Ward finished his story. “The Lord told me that revival will not happen in stagnant swamp water.”

Puzzled, I leaned forward in my seat.

Pastor fished in his pocket for something and turned away from us. “‘My joy is your strength,’” the Lord said. Then He sent me back to earth dressed as a clown.”

Pastor Ward faced us then. The tip of Pastor’s nose sported a bulbous red sphere.

I heard snickering from across the aisle and turned to glare at the perpetrator only to see Brother Lester stifling laughter behind a blue bandanna

“Let it out, Brother,” Pastor Ward said. Given permission, Lester guffawed and others followed his lead.

“We need a river flowing through this Body. We’ve allowed the water He’s given us to grow brackish. When did we become so bogged down with church business and busyness that streams of joy no longer bubble up from inside? Sister Myrtle, come up here. Brother Alex, you too.”

She hesitated and then grabbed her husband’s hand, pulling him to the altar.

“Sister, I want to apologize,” Pastor Ward said, removing the red nose piece. “Two years ago, when you danced for the joy of what the Lord had done for you, I was afraid. I wanted to keep everything under control. Lord, forgive me!”

She looked up into her husband’s face, then back at Pastor Ward.

“I know you have come forward many times since with stomach ulcers. Do you want to be healed completely?”

Sister Myrtle, tears dripping, nodded and raised her hands. I stood up to take my position but Pastor shook his head.

“We won’t need lifeguards anymore. This revival river is safe. Who knows where we’ll all end up if we just let the currents guide us?”

No one left the church the same that day. No one.

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This article has been read 1468 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 11/17/06
Hehe This was so light-hearted an enjoyable. I loved the image of the pastor turning around with a clown nose on his face. I also thought the ideas of "lifeguards" at church was pretty funny, but painfully accurate. Me we realize that the water of revival is safe, and not find the need for lifeguards any longer.
Angela Logsdon11/17/06
makes you stop and think. When we don't let God have control, we lose out on what he wants to do in our lives.
Joanne Sher 11/17/06
This was delightfully engaging. I found myself chuckling through almost the whole thing - though the end, as serious as it was, did not in any way seem out of place. I don't know how you did it - but you did! Exceptional!
Suzanne R11/19/06
I love the title and the content is thought-provoking too. It is an interesting take on the topic. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 11/20/06
Great story! So far removed from any kind of church service in my experience, which made me enjoy it all the more. What a wonderful, diverse faith we have!

In the first sentence, you might have meant "Brother Lester and me"--unless it was the narrator's dialect, in which case, it's fine as is.

I love this entry.
Shari Armstrong 11/20/06
I could see it all - great characters!
Edy T Johnson 11/20/06
I love the metaphor; this is a creative take on the lifeguard topic, and you carried it through the entire story effortlessly. Of course, you're a Master! :)
Donna Powers 11/20/06
A very creative take on the subject and it is very well written. Great title. Thanks for sharing this
Laurie Glass 11/20/06
Great take on the topic and with a wonderful message. As usual, well done. :)
Donna Haug11/20/06
Sometimes we do tend to allow our solemn reverence to get in the way of allowing God to be God and do unusual things in our services. There is always a place for evalutating things by the yardstick of the Bible. But there is no room for stifling a move of God just because it's new to us. You've brought a good truth across in a non-threatening way. Clown's nose! Ha!
Jen Davis11/22/06
A powerful sermon and powerful writing. Although this is very different from my own church experience, I could totally appreciate it. Such a great message. I’m so glad I read this!
Maxx .11/22/06
Nice take on the topic. Very well crafted. Strong words, nice structure.