Looking in Deep Water for Jesus

At a recent get-together of retired ministers, stories–some of them enriched by “whopper” embellishments–enlivened hallway visitation between conference sessions.

Tales of big catches challenged credulity, but some of the best stories fell from the lips of non-fishermen.

Accuracy of the retirees’ remembrances was not challenged. Remember, these were “of-the- cloth” attendees.

Dr. Jimmie Nelson, retired seminary professor who preached his first sermons in the 1940s, eagerly accepted his Baylor roommate’s invitation to preach at a small country church. But he was miffed by the older student’s outbursts of laughter several times during the sermon, and let him know it on the drive back to Waco.

“Jimmie, I don’t doubt that it was appropriate to include numerous references to Beelzebub in your sermon,” his roomie said.

Trouble was, the freshman reverend – who didn’t even own a Bible until he was in high school – wasn’t all that good at pronouncing tricky biblical names. His friend—and others up and down the pews–hee-hawed at Nelson’s repeated mispronunciation of Beelzebub. The young theologian pronounced the name “Beezle-bub!”

Dr. Charles Wade remembers early years in his ministry when pulpit committees “came calling.” Sometimes, he was invited to preach at churches “in view of a call.”

The Wades’ daughter, Roshelle, at about age eleven, quizzed her dad as the family rolled into Arlington for his “in-view-of-a-call” sermon.

“What time is your bugle call?” she asked.

Rosemary, who became Mrs. Charles Wade nearly fifty-two years ago, received weekly affectionate reminders from her suitor during early college years. They had met at a Falls Creek youth camp during high school days in Oklahoma. The couple dated only once before going different directions for their first two years of college.

He was in Shawnee, she, in Durant.

Charles arranged with a Durant florist to deliver a single rose to Rosemary every Friday. It set him back fifty cents weekly and caused quite a stir in the dormitory at the 6 p.m. delivery hour. “Sometimes when I was going out with another guy, my date really looked puzzled if he showed up at the same time Charles’ rose arrived,” she recalls.

Dr. Robert Smith, another minister who remembers Absorbine Senior., made a talk years ago about the Tower of Babel. A theologian who opened the program made frequent references to the tower, clearly enunciating the word “Bay-bul.”

“The pronunciation is ‘babble,’” Dr. Smith said later. “In fact, that’s where we get the word ‘babble,’ as in mindless utterances.” When Smith approached the lectern, he made a quick decision. In every reference to the tower, he joined his colleague in calling it “Bay-bul.”

That’s class. Better to have two people snared by the same mispronunciation than one seemingly caught up in arrogance. (Dr. Smith, ever humble, is holder of two honorary doctoral degrees, granted sixty years apart.)

One preacher said he grew up in a town so small it didn’t even have a town drunk, so several men took turns.

Another dredged up a tale about a guy whose Saturdays were totally predictable. He partook of the grape starting at mid-afternoon, and by midnight, had reached a state of “amiable incandescence.”

By two o’clock Sunday morning, he began deep sleep, wherever he happened to be. Typically, he’d wake about ten on Sunday mornings.

The guy hadn’t heard about the county-wide revival, but was wakened by the splashing baptismal waters in the creek near the pasture where he’d begun his repose a few hours earlier. He stumbled toward the sounds and fell straightway into the creek.

Dragging the guy from the deep water, the minister asked, “Are you looking for Jesus?”

Seeing all the onlookers on the banks dressed in Sunday finery, the “victim” wasn’t about to answer “No!”

With a hearty “amen,” the parson baptized the man, holding him under water for fifteen seconds. “Did you find Jesus?” he asked.


The baptism was repeated, this time for thirty seconds. Again, the guy had a “no” answer when asked if he’d found Jesus. On a third try, he was immersed for a full minute.

Sputtering when he surfaced, he interrupted the preacher. “Before you say anything else, are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Comments/speaking inquiries, newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

Don Newbury is author of the humorous When the Porch Light’s On.

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