Tomorrow’s sermon is ready, but tonight, I’m just giving a preview. The only genuine Olympic event I ever attended was a women’s basketball game in 1996 at the Atlanta Games (pictured here). But two summers later, I had my own personal Olympic moment. Hold on . . .
Ducktown, Tennessee, August 1998
As I came up out of the water, all I could hear was a rushing sound. All I could see was white water and more white water pummeling me. I was on the Olympic course, a five-mile section of the Upper Ocoee River, only in use on weekends in the summer. It was feeling like anything but an Olympic moment.
They call those of us who get out of the boat for some reason “swimmers.” I however, did not get out of the boat for any reason, and I definitely was not swimming. I simply was in the boat minding my paddle and following commands of the River Guide, one instant. Then I was cataclysmically thrown headlong into a section of the river called the “humungous” the next instant. The “humungous” is a half mile long class IV rapid – one of the few east of the Mississippi. It was built especially for the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta complete with extra boulders to increase the level of difficulty. That day I saw the humongous up close and in person and from the underside. Not a vision I would recommend.
When I finally got my bearings and had my own head above water, I was on a large rock – about the size of a pool table in the middle of the river. I looked across that rock and spotted Ashley, my 15-year-old cousin, teetering on the other side, white water still roaring all around us.
“Are you okay?” I shouted.
“Yeah, are you okay?” she shouted back.
Before I could answer I was hit from behind like an 8-ball and driven toward another pocket of water. A raft coming down stream laid me down on that rock and dragged me forward across it — as if one surprising and dangerous baptism were not enough for the day. I felt the entire right side of my body scrape across the rock and felt my t-shirt catch. I wondered if or when this nightmare would end.
At least the wilderness guide in the raft that ran over me had the decency to rescue me. As they hauled me into the raft, they had the audacity to call themselves the 9-11 boat. They were just feeling proud that no one in their party had been for a swim. I lay on my back in the bottom of the raft looking up at the sky and trying to catch my breath. As I stared up at my legs propped up on the side of the raft, I began to survey the damage. I was shaking, bruised, and bleeding. My clothes were torn. My paddle was gone, and my sandals were literally dangling around my ankles.
What has this to do with a “generous undertaking”?
You’ll have to come hear in person. Glendale Baptist Church 10:30 a.m. You’re invited.