Tag Archives: Baptised

My Awesome Day

I have to say that so far this has been the most awesome Easter Day ever, for me it feels like a day of total redemption.

This coming Tuesday I will be celebrating 4 years sober, which in its self is a massive achievement, that I am both proud of and thankful for the strength of God to make it through this far.

But it was the events that led up to that in the preceding weeks, that are first and foremost in my thoughts following the events of today. Eleven days before that last drink, I found myself wanting to end my own life, to give up on everything, I felt so worthless and was convinced that my family and Victoria would be better off without me. I stood facing the mirror with a knife against my wrist, going through all these thoughts of worthlessness.

Then out of nowhere I heard a voice that said “It’s better that your kids live with who you are now, than what they are going to find!”

I remember seeing a vision of myself dead in a bath of blood and knowing that my six year old daughter would have been the one to come looking and find me. After that I put down the knife.

That started the process of seeking help, praying and discovering God, becoming sober and starting to attend Church.

So today just over four years on from that day I had the amazing experience of Baptising my now 10 year old daughter. Eve asked to be baptised so Victoria asked if I could be in the pool and do the actual baptism, which I am thankful I was able to do.

It was an amazing experience and very emotional, afterwards so many people came up to say that they had shed a tear whilst watching. I am so thankful I got that chance to do this for my daughter, it was an amazing experience for her too. She recorded a testimony video which was shown on the screen, she stated she wanted to be baptised because she wanted to do something that Jesus had done!

Eve - waiting

Eve – waiting

Eve - baptised

Eve – baptised

For me this feels like I put aside some of my guilt, my torment of what I did and became, the pain of that day four years ago now seems so distant, as I say, it feels like total redemption. To be able to do this and on Easter Sunday, celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and rising from the dead, is so special.

To top it off, my Mum and Dad attended Church. My Dad is now recovering well from his heart bypass operation, he’s still not able to drive for a few weeks, so my friends from my Connect Group chipped in to collect them and take them home. My Dad stated that he usually only goes to Church for weddings, funerals etc, but I have a feeling that he actually enjoyed it, although I’m not sure he was quite ready for the way we do church, neither of them have ever been to a Church like ours before. Although I’ve got a feeling they will be back, they brought my niece too, who went into Kids Church, she absolutely loved it, so I’ve got a feeling she will want to come back too.

So roll on now Tuesday evening, I have arranged for a number of the guys from Church, who have been amazing supporters on my four year journey to join me for a meal in town to celebrate, it’s going to be a great evening, I can’t wait.

My life may not be perfect, but at the moment it feels amazing.

All because of the sacrifice of the one, the one who conquered death.

MERCY TREE by LACEY STURM
On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broke and weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole

Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation brought the mercy tree

In the sky, between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
Sacred Hands pierced by our thorns

It is finished was his cry
The perfect Lamb was crucified
The sacrifice, our victory.
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth ‘quaked at love’s display
Three days silence in the ground
This body born for Heaven’s crown

On that bright and glorious day
Heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed
Praise him for the mercy tree

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

One day soon we’ll see His face
And every tear, He’ll wipe a way
No more pain or suffering
Oh, praise him for the mercy tree

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

The Story So Far – Chapter 11 – The Greatest Day

CHAPTER 11 – THE GREATEST DAY

The next morning though it was time to go back to Church, it was Baptism Sunday, I was looking forward to it, not that I was getting baptised, but because I had never been to one and I wanted to see what it was all about.  At that point I still didn’t really understand much about being baptised, I had been informed that this was coming up, but as I still didn’t feel I was ready, coupled with the fact I was busy with karate things, not only the National Championships the day before, but the Sunday afterwards was our club grading, as I was busy preparing for that too, I decided to wait until next time, to watch this time and then when I had more time, I would find out more about what it means and make a decision about it later.

But just as the day before hadn’t really gone to plan, then neither did this day.  I got ready for Church and as I walked towards the back door I glanced at the sky outside, it didn’t look all that good, it distinctly looked like it could rain.  The walk to Church from my house was just over twenty minutes, it’s a nice walk, it has to be, seeing as I don’t drive, but there was a good chance I would get wet.  I didn’t fancy taking a coat because it looked quite warm too, so I checked the weather forecast and it said there was a definite chance of rain.  I stopped for a second, checked out the window one more time and then suddenly I thought…

I sharn’t bother with a coat, I’m not bothered if I get wet today.

I thought that it was quite a strange choice to make, but I went with it, I walked to Church and it didn’t rain after all.

Something felt different that day, by the time I walked into Church, I was definitely feeling the spring in my step, I felt good, I felt encouraged and expectant.

After three months in Church I was now enjoying the worship, I had been singing along with all the songs and beginning to get more comfortable with it, a far cry from the those early weeks when I stood watching everyone else, wondering not so much why they were doing what they were doing, but why I wasn’t doing it too, would I even let go enough to worship like everyone else was.  Maybe I still wasn’t moving around as much as some of the others, but I was certainly getting into it more than ever.

After worship Gareth took to the stage to welcome everyone and that’s when something happened, something that really changed everything.

He started by stating that he had never done this before, but really felt the Lord saying that someone in this place was going to make the decision to get baptised today.  They don’t normally give people the option to make that spur of the moment decision, but today he felt he had to, he added that they hadn’t prepared for it, but stated if someone wished to make that choice, they would find spare clothes and extra towels from somewhere, he didn’t know where, but they would sort it out.

It was at that point that I just sat in my seat, frozen!  It was like time stood still, only I was there in that room now, but everything inside my chest had frozen, my heart, my lungs were just frozen, for a moment I couldn’t breathe.

I sat there still frozen and suddenly my mind sprung into action, it was telling me that He was talking to me, not Gareth, he may have said the words, but He was talking to me now, God was telling me I was ready, maybe I didn’t think I was, but God thought I was.

Gareth finished his welcome and the service moved into connect time where people meet and greet each other.  But I sat for a moment in my seat as everyone moved around me, inside was this internal struggle, are you doing this or not?  I was running through all this in my head, I knew He meant me, but I’m not usually that impulsive, I plan things like this that take me out of my comfort zone, I didn’t have a clue what this entailed, I understood what a baptism was, but didn’t really understand what it meant to me and if I was ready for this step yet.  But I was repeatedly being told to make that decision, it was my time.

So I suddenly stood up and scanned the room for where Gareth was, I spotted him and walked over to where he was.  I ignored everyone I walked past, if I stopped to speak with them I may miss this moment, if I didn’t do this now, I probably would sit back down in my seat and stay there and miss the chance.

I walked up to Gareth, he was talking to someone, I put my hand on his shoulder, he turned to look at me and I simply said…  “Okay where do I get the spare clothes from?”  He instantly realised what I was saying, a warm smile came across his face.  We spoke for a moment, he said he would sort things out and I was just to join in at the end of the service when the baptism took place.  I went and sat back down, grinning to myself, I still couldn’t actually believe what I had just agreed to, I’m not impulsive, I don’t like going outside my comfort zone, I didn’t know what was going on and I was fighting the apprehension and excitement.

When the service resumed Gareth took to the stage and introduced the three people who had actually decided to be baptised, who had actually prepared for it and were ready, he called all three to the stage to share their testimony.  He didn’t mention me, when I spoke to him later he said he was just going to introduce me at the actual baptism part later, but I wasn’t sure what to do, should I go up there, he hadn’t said my name, he hadn’t mentioned me, I guess they were still sorting things out for me, but I sat there wondering if I should join them on the stage or not, was I supposed to or not, obviously I wasn’t expected to.

So in another act of complete impulsiveness I jogged up to the stage, obviously taking Gareth by surprise and joined the other three people.  I stood there as one by one they were handed the microphone and they nervously told their story.  They had all prepared what they were to say, two of them had pieces of paper with notes on, but with their heads down they stuttered over their words, while I stood there waiting.

For some reason I couldn’t wait to get my hand on that microphone, I wanted to talk.  Normally you would never get me on a stage, let alone put a microphone in my hand and expect me to talk, no way, that’s just not me, it’s not in my nature, it’s not who I am, but for some reason I was really eager, what was happening here was something else, it just wasn’t me and to this day I still can’t believe I actually did all of this.

When the other’s had finished, Gareth introduced me and I took the microphone and told my story.  It was the first time I had spoken about it all in this way, normally it had been a discussion with one of two other people, an intimate conversation, a conversation where I could see the face of those I was talking to and gauge their reaction to what I was telling them, but now I was looking out over a couple of hundred faces, many I didn’t know and they didn’t know me, but I was going to tell them all about how I had failed, all my sins, my addiction, if they didn’t know about it by now, they were soon going to.

I found myself getting more passionate the more I spoke, I’m not sure how long I actually spoke for, all I know that it is was probably more than any of the others.  Afterwards I felt a little sorry for the other three, it was their day, they had planned it, but I gate crashed the party and took all the attention, I didn’t mean any of it that way, not at all, I hadn’t planned any of this, I wasn’t really in control here, I wasn’t acting anything like I normally would.

After that I took my seat and listened to the rest of the service, waiting with that feeling of apprehension and excitement.   All I had come with was what I was wearing, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I had nothing else with me.  A friend who sat near me insisted that he go and fetch me some clothes, I said I would be fine as I was, but he wouldn’t hear no and set off to fetch me some things.

After the service there were a couple more worship songs, one of them we had sang a number of times over the few months I had been in Church, as I sang along though it made me cry, not in a bad way, not in a pain or hurt kind of way, but in a way where you suddenly realise how God has just touched your life, when we sang the words to the Lincoln Brewster song I Belong To You, particularly the lines….

“You caught my soul
When I was struggling to breathe”

I suddenly realised how he had placed has hand on my life this morning, I thought back to earlier in the morning when I froze and for those few moments I couldn’t breathe, how at that point I knew in my heart that He was speaking to me, He wanted me.  It didn’t matter whether I felt ready for the next step, what mattered was the He was telling me I was ready and He was letting me know.

By the time the actual Baptisms started, I still didn’t have anything to change into afterwards, by now the nerves had taken over the excitement, but I was still looking forward to it.  I didn’t really know what I was to expect, I had never actually spoken to anyone about being baptised, I hadn’t heard anybody else’s experiences, how they felt in the pool or how it changed their lives, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what was going to happen or how I was supposed to feel when I came out of the water.

I have to say I didn’t climb down the steps into the pool gracefully like the others, I jumped in, got into position and then let it all happen.  The rush, the excitement was amazing, when I came out I was buzzing, I’m still not sure how I was supposed to feel, but I was on top of the world at that point.

When I walked away from the pool, I was handed a towel and then from somewhere a bag of clothes, they weren’t from my friend who had gone to fetch some things, he still hadn’t got back yet, but Gareth made good on his promise, from somewhere the Church had provided.

The only problem was, although there were clothes, obviously there was no spare underwear, I had to put the dry trousers over my wet underwear, but obviously in time the water soaked through the trousers and it looked like I had wet myself, but who cares about that, none of that mattered!

After that I met so many new people I had never spoken to before, so many people came up to me and wished me well, so many said how proud they were of my courage to stand up there and be so honest.  I couldn’t stop smiling all day, also I couldn’t stop laughing at myself, I still couldn’t believe that I had done any of what had happened that day, I still can’t.  But God works in ways we aren’t really meant to understand.

James wasn’t at the service that day, he was at our other campus in Wellingborough, later in the day I sent him a text, to let him know what had happened earlier and to say thank you for all the help he had given me, but he already knew!  I had not actually been introduced to James’s wife Gemma, but from what I understand as soon as she realised that I had made the unexpected choice to be baptised, she sent James a text in the middle of the service to let him know.  It may seem a simple thing to do, but I was blown away by it.  She knew what it would have meant to James to have been there, knowing how much support he had given me, even though we didn’t know each other, she did this for him and for me.  Later that night I sent her a message of thanks, she said she knew how much it would mean to James and how much he thought of me, that she just had to let him know.  To this day I am still blown away by that simple act of kindness.

In a way life after that day became so much easier.  The drinking was no longer a problem, I had complete control over that now, I hadn’t had an urge to drink for some time, there had been a few since that dark night when I was in a world of pain and alone, but over the next few months I really began to grow spiritually, even if I was still shrinking physically.  I was still working hard and losing weight, but in a moment of loneliness at home I found a new way to exercise and to actually spend more time with God.

I was at home alone one weekend, the kids and Victoria had gone out to a family birthday.  So I planned in the afternoon to take a walk down the old railway track near our house, which had been turned into a cycle track, it’s about four miles long and at steady pace takes about three hours to walk.  The weather was pretty good and I really enjoyed the walk.

When I got home they were all still out and would be all night, so I made some tea and sat down to watch the Olympics on TV.  But I became restless and a little lonely.  So as I had enjoyed my walk so much earlier that day, I decided I would go out again.  I grabbed my iPod and walked, I had no real goal of where I was going, no destination, I just walked around town, I just carried on walking.  I walked for a few hours then came home.  When I came home I found that I had actually had some amazing thinking time, all the problems I left the house with had vanished in the few hours I had been out, everything that was heavy on my mind, I guess the loneliness I was feeling being in the house alone had all gone, I had committed it to God and He had lifted it from my shoulders.

A few weeks later Victoria and Eve went to kids camp for the week and because I was working Ben went to stop at his Gran’s, once more I found myself alone in the house, feeling a little sorry for myself, so each night I found I would go out walking, again I didn’t know where I was going, I just did laps of the town, I walked for two to three hours, probably around eight to ten miles, it didn’t matter, I had a playlist of worship music that I was listening to and all my problems were eroded away with every step that I took.  As I say I found a new way of dealing with things, keeping fit, losing weight and more importantly spending time with God.

Eventually I ditched my normal morning exercise program that I would do before going out to work, I would get up early, get dressed and go walk for an hour or so, I upped the pace a little over the weeks and eventually I found I could walk for long periods at close to five miles an hour.  At the weekends I would walk for over thirteen and half miles in around three hours, even on a Sunday before going to Church.  One morning when I was off work I decided to see how far I could actually walk, so I did my usual thirteen and half mile lap twice, completing over twenty seven miles without stopping.  Because I knew that what I had just walked was over the marathon distance, when I got home I checked on the times people had ran the London Marathon that year, indeed over five thousand people actually “ran” that distance in a slower time than I had just walked it!

Eventually I got my weight down to ten stone, but to be fair I looked a little thin, so I settled on my average weight to be 10 stone 4lbs, I was happy at that.

I BELONG TO YOU by LINCOLN BREWSTER
You light my way everyday
You help me see what I can be
I cry to You, my Spirit song
Come use my life for You alone

You caught my soul
When I was struggling to breathe
You made me whole
And now Your majesty I see
I belong to You, yes I belong to You

I hear Your voice, it leads me on
Into Your arms where I belong
I cry to You, my Spirit song
Come use my life for You alone

You caught my soul
When I was struggling to breathe
You made me whole
And now Your majesty I see
I belong to You, yes I belong to You

I know You’re everything
You’re all I’ll ever need
I know You’re everything to me

I know You’re everything
You’re all I’ll ever need
I know You’re everything to me

I know You’re everything
You’re all I’ll ever need
I know You’re everything to me

You caught my soul
When I was struggling to breathe
You made me whole
And now Your majesty I see
I belong to You, yes I belong to You
I belong to You, yes I belong to You

My Kids Make Me Smile… Sometimes

Daily Prompt: Make Me Smile

It’s safe to say there have been times when I couldn’t really deal with my kids, times when I was drinking that I was happy to have them around and times when I was drinking because I couldn’t deal with being around them.  I guess it depended what mood I was drinking in, the happy mood just embracing the habit or the mood where I was mad with the world and drinking to escape everything and everyone, drinking to ease that anger.

These days though, it’s rare that I can’t deal with my kids, they are typical kids, they can mess up and they can be unbearable, the throw paddies (I used to) and they get a monk on every now and then (monk on: our Newark work for being mardy or being in a mood), but I can deal with it now, not run away or lose my rag or walk around the house mutter and scratching at my arms, not any more.

Last night though I had a great conversation with both of them, which certainly put a big smile on my face.  My daughter Eve came home and said she had asked her mum if she could get Baptised at our next Baptism service, she’s only eight, but she had watched the Baptisms at Church earlier in the day and decided she wanted to do that too.

She told me that Jesus had been Baptised and as she wanted to be like Jesus, then she wanted to be Baptised too.  She was already planning her testimony speech for the service.  She was deadly serious, plus even though Ben isn’t as into going to Church as Eve, he showed an interest too, so you never know.

Then I mentioned my Baptism, neither my kids or Victoria were present at my Baptism, they were at their Cousin’s birthday party and seeing as I hadn’t planned to be Baptised, it was one of those on the day callings, they weren’t really missing it, but what I hadn’t realised is that I had never discussed this with them and they weren’t actually aware of the fact I had been Baptised.

So we had a great conversation about being Baptised, what it meant to me on the day and that feeling of being called by God, we also had a laugh at the fact I didn’t have a change of clothes (no planning) but although I had been found a set of clothes, I didn’t have a change of underwear, so the water eventually soaked through into the trousers and it looked very much like I had wet myself, but at the moment, on that day, nothing was going to steel the elation from me, what’s a little water after all!

I can’t wait to see my kids Baptised, that day the will make me smile, the biggest smile ever.

CHILDREN OF GOD by THIRD DAY
Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We’ve been redeemed
We’ve been forgiven
We are the sons and the daughters of our God

Baptism – Choice or Calling?

During yesterday’s service at Church the upcoming Baptism Sunday was announced and a short interview was conducted with a couple of our Church members, where they discussed their respective decisions to be Baptised after becoming a Christian.  I always find other people’s stories of their testimony and things from their journey interesting, I found it particularly interesting when they discussed their choice and that they felt it was a natural progression of their faith.

The issue for me is that I can’t relate to their “choice” as such, as my Baptism experience was so different, indeed my choice was that I wasn’t ready, I decided it wasn’t my time, I didn’t know or understand enough of what it meant to be a Christian, I was only three months into my journey, I honestly didn’t really know what it meant and I didn’t make any moves to find out, I chose to sit back and watch and wait.

Even that very morning of my Baptism, I still was happy with my “choice” to wait, I was comfortable with that.  But that morning everything changed, I still didn’t know what was going to happen when I reached Church, it felt different, but I wasn’t ready for what would happen.

When Gareth took to the stage and in a departure from the normal routine at Church, issued the challenge that he felt someone on this day is going to make the decision to by Baptised that morning, I knew who he was speaking to, it was hard to ignore, for a moment my insides froze, it felt like my heart and lungs stopped working just for that moment and in my head, a voice was saying to me “now what are you going to do?”

All I could think of was “he means you”, I was asking myself “are you going to do this?”

I still don’t actually think it was a decision or a choice, it was a simple answer to a question that could hardly be ignored.

“YES, I’M DOING THIS”

I’m not a impulsive kind of guy, I don’t make snap decisions, I stew on things, work them over and let’s face it, I had already done this over the previous weeks and come to the decision that I wasn’t ready.

There really wasn’t time to stew on it, it was a there and then thing, don’t think, just do!

The rest is history really, at my first opportunity I found Gareth and let him know I was ready.  Later I jumped on stage to tell my testimony, I still to this day don’t think I should have been there, but it felt right, there was no nerves because there was no real time to think about it, just get up and do it.

I’m convinced that day wasn’t so much a choice, but a calling, I really and honestly didn’t think I was ready for such a step, but someone else did and that someone wasn’t Gareth!

That day and everything that happened, is one of my best days of my life, a day I wish I could relive everyday, a day I will never forget.

If I had the chance to go back to a few weeks before that day and change my decision, would I do it?  No, I wouldn’t, that day is special, that call is special, I just wouldn’t change a thing!

DON’T CHANGE A THING by SEABIRD
Waking up before the sun came up, was a fight that I would lose.
To fall in love without a heart must be the hardest part for you.

If I could change anything I’d change everything but you.
Please promise me you won’t change a thing.

Lay me down before this flame goes out and darkness fills the room.
Won’t make a sound with little ears a round and love begins to bloom.

If I could change anything I’d change everything but you.
Please promise me you won’t change a thing.

Even if we fail tonight, I know I know I know we did what’s right.
If they want a fight, I say I’d like to see them try,
Yes I’d like to see them try.

If I could change anything I’d change everything but you.
Please promise me you won’t change a thing.
You won’t change a thing. 

With the Correct Faith, Yesterday’s Failures Can Become Today’s Victories

Today I took part in the service at my Church, I was asked to help promote the up and coming Baptism Sunday with the story of my Baptism back in July, with only a few minutes to speak, I gave a short version of the amazing events that took place that day, but here’s the full story.

Saturday 7th July 2012

Where do I start with this one, well I’ve posted about my karate before, I’ve had success, back in 2010 I was my association’s National Men’s Kata Champion, in 2011 I was runner up, both these previous two years, I had rode my luck, I survived on pain killers and freeze spray as my body was barely able to cope on it’s own, I had drunk at least four cans of cider the night before, I couldn’t remember a Nationals where I was completely sober the night before, so this year both sober and with a new outlook on life through God, how could I fail.

I had spent the last two and half months losing weight, so I was fitter and lighter, I wasn’t struggling with aches and pains, I didn’t need the pain killers this year, I prayed for strength to achieve my dream of winning, I was ready, I was up for it, it was my time.

Well, no it wasn’t, for the first time in over twelve years I lost in the first round, it just wasn’t there, yes I had got fit, yes I had lost weight, yes I was pain free, but to be honest I hadn’t put in the practice, I wasn’t there to win a Wii fit competition, this was karate, this was kata, it needs practice, no matter how good you are.

When I lost the split decision, there was a massive disappointment, I walked back off the mat truly down, I shook my opponent’s hand, then it hit me, I looked up and thought, “Ok, I’m with you God, I’m not there yet, I’ve still got work to do, it’s not my time, it’s not part of your plan, I am with you, I will trust you to show me when the time is right”.

People around me couldn’t believe I had lost, but my response was “it is what it is!” In other words, that’s how it’s supposed to be, who am I change that. The disappointment was short lived, I was given a bit of a jolt, but there was a lesson to be learnt and I was learning it.

It’s was late when I got home, but I followed my routine, wash, pray and write up my journal. I wrote two phrases in my journal that night, the first being “It is what it is” and the second being:

“I am a work in progress, but I have to work in order to progress”.

I love that second phrase, it sums up everything, we are all a work in progress, none of us are the finished article, but in order to achieve that potential we have to work to improve, to progress, we should not just expect everything to just happen because we want it to, we have to work for it in order to appreciate it.

Sunday 8th July 2012

A good night’s sleep followed, I was at peace, content that even though I hadn’t achieved my dream, I had learnt a big life lesson. I woke the next morning, started as a means to go on, straight on the Wii Fit, a couple of hours of exercise and then a nice hot bath.

Then the first of the odd things that were to happen on this day, as I got ready for Church, I looked out of the window to check the weather, well it was overcast, it looked like it could rain, I had just my jeans and a t-shirt on, so I checked the weather on my phone, overcast and a chance of rain, so do I take a coat?

As I walked through the kitchen towards the back door an odd thought came into my head, “I not taking a coat, I don’t mind if I get wet today!” Ok, so no coat, it wasn’t that cold, but a bit of an odd thought, but that’s it no coat, let’s go then.

I walked to Church in my usual, slightly odd looking power walk, well okay freaky looking, walked into Church, hugged a few people on the way, hang on a second, did I just say hugged a few people, yes, yes I did, but that’s not usually me, I surprise those I hug, just as much as it surprises me, this day is getting stranger, but it’s about to get even weirder.

I take my seat, at the back left corner as usual, if you walk into our Church, you will find me quite easily. Today wasn’t a normal service, it was Baptism Sunday, this had been announced some weeks earlier, I had thought about it, but as I had only been in Church three months and still felt like I had a lot to learn, feeling that I wasn’t ready yet for that step, I had decided to put it off until later in the year, when I had more time to prepare. The service starts with Worship as usual, three lively songs, then Gareth our Pastor takes the stage, he announces it’s Baptism Sunday, but then makes a statement he says he has never made before, at this point everything changes, the weird, just gets weirder!

Gareth challenges everyone, that in this Church today someone will make the decision to get Baptised today, an on the spot decision, it had never happened before, but Gareth had a belief that something amazing was going to happen today in the presence of God.

Now at that point everything changed, I froze, I literally froze, I couldn’t breathe, my lungs, my heart, my chest had just frozen, everything felt cold, the air was gone for that moment, then it went. I knew then that He was talking to me, not Gareth, he just mouthed the words, God was talking to me, he was calling me out, he was telling me it was my time to stand up and be counted. Gareth proceeded to say that they would find a change of clothes and a towel, he didn’t know where from, but they would provide somehow.

I stood frozen to the spot as Gareth left the stage, we sang one more song and then a break for a short time to meet and great friends, I stood there absolutely still, oblivious to anything going on around me, having a conversation with myself in my own head. “He’s talking to you, God is talking to you, what are you going to do about it?” “Are you doing this or what?” There was only one answer, “YES”. I looked around the hall, spotted Gareth and set off, ignoring every face I passed, I was on a mission, I interrupted Gareth, he turned and I just asked “Ok, where do I get a spare set of clothes?” He realised what I was saying and it was all agreed, too late to back out now, in for a penny in for a pound. I went back to take my seat, I had a grin bigger than a Cheshire Cat, I couldn’t believe what I had just done, I’m never that impulsive, I don’t work that way, but things were happening here that at the time I couldn’t understand, but I was going with it.

Part of the Baptism service is that, each of those who have made a decision to be Baptised, prepare a statement of how they came to God and tell their story on stage, so Gareth called out the three people who had made the decision some weeks earlier and were prepared, I don’t think I was supposed to go up there, I hadn’t prepared anything, I was still reeling from what had already happened, but again impulse took over, I stood up, marched to the stage, took Gareth completely by surprise and joined the other three, I was literally lifted from my seat to that stage, my normal self would never have done this, but today was quite obviously, no normal day.

Speaking on stage, in front of a couple of hundred people, is not easy, the three before me had written statements that they were reading, but they were struggling with nerves, they were quiet, losing their track, even unable to read their own writing, as each one got more nervous than the previous one, I stood waiting my turn. I am out of my bubble here, this is not me, I don’t act impulsively, I don’t push myself to the front in places I’m not comfortable, but it wasn’t like that today, I wanted that mic, I wanted to speak, not sure what, but I had something to say.

I took the mic, looked out to the crowd, not down, not avoiding the gaze of the crowd, I was looking them in the eye, I told them how my life had collapsed, I told them I had been an alcoholic for the past 3 years, I told them how I made the hardest phone call of my life back in March when everything had felt lost, how I had met Gareth and Alex, telling them just about everything.

I had prepared some words to send to Gareth in text when the moment was right, but the moment was now, these words just came out

“That night I took from them an hour and half of their lives, in return they gave me the keys to the rest of my life and the strength and courage to unlock the door and go through it, to a better life”.

I say these words with strength and passion, the response from the audience is fantastic. I proceed to tell them when I quit drinking and how things were getting so much better, then passed the mic back to Gareth, then it’s back to my seat and relief.

The response from everyone I meet as I go back to my seat is unbelievable, I don’t think at this point they know I wasn’t supposed to be there, they had no idea that I had answered the call.

The word is next and then the Baptism at the end of the service, we are called up, I remove my shoes, socks and the contents of my pockets, ready to enter the Baptism Pool, firstly the three who were supposed to be there, then me, then another man who had made the decision after I did.

It’s my turn, I climb the steps, then just jump in, no dignified climb down into the cold water, like everybody else, not for me I can’t wait, I just jump in and take Joss and Alex, who are carrying out the Baptisms today, totally by surprise, then I’m in position, I relax, then I’m under, it’s a total rush, a moment I can’t easily describe, if you’ve been there you will understand. I was soaked, I had no spare clothes, but who cares, it’s was alongside the birth of my two children, the most glorious day of my life.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, I know I just couldn’t stop laughing to myself, I was in amazement at the things I had done throughout the day, things I would not normally do. I had made my mind up, I wasn’t ready, but that didn’t matter, it wasn’t a case of I didn’t think I was ready because the Lord did!

I think I was called because of the faith I had shown the previous day, that was my test, that was a test of faith, I had hopes and dreams, I had failed, but my response was, I trust you, I will follow your plan.

You gotta believe
Oh yeah
Don’t fear, don’t break it
You gotta be free (Ah, Ah)
I hope your blinded eyes will see
(You Gotta Believe by The Rocket Summer)

I wasn’t to worry about getting wet that morning, he would provide, I would be getting the greatest soaking of my life, what was a little rain compared to that! He did provide, I had clothes brought to me, I don’t know where they came from, but they appeared.

That night when I wrote up my day, I wrote another phrase:

“With the correct faith, yesterday’s failures can become today’s victories”.

It had certainly been so in my case, I was called out, I was lifted from my seat at the back, lifted up all the way to stage, taken from my comfort zone to share my story, rewarded for my faith.

If you are considering being baptised or have made the decision you are not ready, I say this:

“Do not look into your own mind to ask yourself if you are ready, look in to your heart and ask the Lord if he thinks you are ready, you may get an answer you never expected”.