Chapter 7: Colorado V – Silver State High School (1968-1972)
Updated: Aug 27
A late bloomer, I entered ninth grade at this Christian school during the Vietnam War era. Having always been a compliant child, Dad and Mom most likely thought obedience to the rules would be no problem for me. The hormones (finally) kicked in and with them characteristic rebellion for teens, uncharacteristic for me. This was complicated by the fact that I left behind a very cute public school crush, a letter sweater and pep club uniform at Lafayette High School, my outlook spiraled downward. After two years at Lafayette, a comfort level settled over me, I’d just begun to feel like I fit in. I was no longer the awkward new kid. I faced entering a new school, needing to make new friends with barely suppressed anxiety.
My fantasies for many years involved staying in the same house, same school and same church from childhood to adulthood. As non-cosmopolitan as Lafayette was, that held my fascination.
Even though the dress code at Silver State embarrassed me I gradually realized being in a school with other girls dressed like dorks was preferable to being the only weirdo in the school like I would have been at Lafayette.
The one hour commute each direction strained my patience. I was placed in the top level Algebra I class and spent the first few weeks, redoing assignments completed the previous year from the same textbook. I considered the people in the top class boring, no fun.
Honestly, I hope that you’ll experience the same because I learned that the consequences of poor behavior will be penalized. I often saw others “get away” with inappropriate actions and initially envied them but as I observed them, I noticed the negative consequences in the long run. I’ve seen that many times over the years in how people rear their children. When the parents think they are doing their child a favor by not correcting them, they are actually instilling poor behavior which will hurt their future relationships and ability to earn a living. That’s why Daddy and I corrected you.
One year at camp, a girl in our church caught sight of my bikini underwear as we changed in our cabin. She had argued with her parents for a long time that she should be allowed to wear that type underwear but they refused because “bikini underwear is immoral.” Soon after camp, the family left the church and I’m not certain but my wicked underwear may have contributed to their decision!
Dad never counseled a woman alone in his office and which helped me realize how much he respected Mom. He either called Mom over to the study if a husband didn’t show up for counseling or brought the lady to the parsonage.
One such inebriated woman once thought it was great when Dad said that Mom would join them. Mom came back to our rooms and told us that we were to stay out of the living room area where they talked to her. “Don’t even go in the kitchen and definitely not into the living or dining rooms, until the lady leaves,” she said.
I stood at the kitchen door and tried to listen but heard only incoherent ramblings except one interaction with Mom. “Let me do something for you,” she said as Dad called a cab to take her home at the end. Mom declined. She continued to insist, despite Mom’s refusals. The lady sounded frustrated until she finally said, “What size are you? I know you could use a nice suit. You don’t have any nice clothes. What’s your favorite color for a suit?” A few days afterwards, Mom received a box from a “nice” store with “nice” brown suit she wore proudly for years. Mom loved wearing suits.
It surprised me that Mom accepted the suit because she usually returned clothes people bought for her. I felt bad for Dad who spent lots of time looking for just the right suit to give Mom for Christmas or her birthday and invariably she’d find some reason to return it.
I decided that when I married, I would learn to like gifts my husband gave and I am lucky that I don’t have to try because Daddy picks such great gifts!
Many interesting people attended the church.
One couple who lived only a block away, the Williams, were unique in that they had no children. He grew up in Wales during the revival there and spoke perfect American English. Al sang beautifully which apparently was characteristic of the Welsh. His wife, Rose, played the organ beautifully.
I learned a couple of significant life lessons observing them.When they were older they made the decision to sell everything and move to a retirement village, a new concept in the early 70’s. I worked in the nursing home area of that place, called Sunny Acres, one summer. The lesson came in the form of watching them give all their assets to Sunny Acres for a one bedroom cottage without room for most of their treasures. They moved twenty miles from all their friends and family. I suppose the advantage of having on-site nursing and making the decision for themselves when their health was good impressed them but they seemed so lonely when I visited them.
Albert, whom we always called “Mr. Williams”, was an inventor and had been given several patents. He gave Dad a sample of one, a double visor for drivers. It was handy and no one could understand why “someone” didn’t buy his patent and mass-produce it. After the patent expired, I saw his invention included in a rental car or two. So sad that he didn’t profit from being the first person to patent it.
Again, Dad impressed on us that big companies tried to crush individual ideas, specifically the unions in the automotive industry. I wonder what ideas we children could have designed if we’d been encouraged to think of new things instead of instilling the idea that we weren’t part of the small segment of society that could succeed in the traditional sense.
Yes, Daddy and I want you to be a Christian who loves and serves the Lord in the way He leads you. However, we also want to encourage you to use your gifts to make other people’s lives better, if you can.
That’s one reason we like Mr. Tuttle’s Harvest Field Corners mission. He uses his God-given ability and experience to mentor business entrepreneurs to spread the Gospel while doing so.
I’m afraid that part of the secularization of the United States that we see is due to churches compartmentalizing Christianity from life. I want you to be able to live well and draw people to Christ because of your testimony. When you go on mission trips you may consider full time ministry as a profession and that will be great if that’s how God leads you but regardless of your chosen field of work, we as Christians are to be missionaries wherever we are. It took me a long time to learn this.
One older woman in the church called Dad frequently. We had strict phone call time limits (I seldom had boyfriends who called so it wasn’t a problem). Once the operator interrupted Anne’s call to say an emergency phone call was trying to come through. Anne hung up immediately and a few minutes later when the phone rang we anxiously watched Dad answer. What emergency waited? We all sighed with relief when he said, “Oh, so nice of you to call. No, Mrs. Whatever, nothing is wrong, my daughter was only on the phone…”
We learned at young ages to answer the phone respectfully because we shared the phone with the church. Having an extension in the church made it easy to listen in on other’s phone calls, not that I ever did that, of course.
When Mom told Dad how frustrating it was to run over to the church to let him know if a phone call was for him or supper was ready, he installed a buzzer in the house that rang in the church.
Back to lady who interrupted Anne’s call, she experienced several health problems and wore bedroom slippers to church for many weeks. At the time I thought it was dumb. “I will never do anything that ugly,” I declared before I was old enough to realize that sometimes no matter how you feel or look, you need to get out. I’ve observed that when old people walk funny or sit gingerly, it’s not because they want to do that. It hurts.
One week, a visiting family arrived at church before she did and sat in “her” seat. You would have thought murder had been committed. She made a scene and the poor people moved to a different area of the sanctuary but never returned to the church. I admired Dad for being able to deal with people like that. Tenacity is one of his traits I’d like to emulate.
Dad bought a kit to construct a scale model of the Tabernacle. Every once in a while we worked on it for a few weeks but I’m afraid we never finished it. Too bad, because it would have been cool.
Another older couple, named the Makrises, came to church faithfully, never missing a service. She always gave a testimony during Sunday Evening Testimony Time but her husband seldom said a word. Their granddaughter, Lori, a friend of mine, was with her grandmother one summer when she died. Three things happened after the grandmother’s death.
First, her previously silent husband began to talk and give testimonies. His testimony was always, “In Matthew 5:16 it says Let your light so shine before the men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” It was so precious.
Second, we didn’t receive any more of the sweet pickles she made from scratch.
Third, people began to notice they did not receive birthday cards from the First Baptist Church – mystery solved.
Another family in the church we enjoyed were the Stanleys who had moved to Colorado from Virginia so William could attend Bible college. One evening after church in July between my freshman and sophomore years of high school the Stanleys and our family planned to go out to eat as we typically did on Sunday evening. I asked the Mom, Dad and the Stanleys if I could stay at their house and watch their TV instead. The grainy black and white screen flickered as I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. The rest of the family returned to watch the replay.
I quit eating lunch with the boring girls because they wore their dresses six inches longer than required and never talked about boys. The frustrating thing for me wasn’t their dress or lack of interest in boys but their self righteous, judgmental, critical attitudes. I wish they had been spiritually encouraging because that would have been good for me…and prevented a lot of pain. They never talked to me again and instead they became vindictive.
By mid-May I finally began to feel like I fit in and had eliminated the “goody-goody” and “bad” friends when my world caved in. The principal announced a new rule that if anyone “flipped a peace sign” (raised your fingers in a “V”) that person would be kicked out of school because “we are a patriotic school and we will not tolerate un-American hippies in my school!” Anti-war, anti-Vietnam activities were “verboten”, a word I learned in my German class meaning “forbidden”. I didn’t worry about it because that wasn’t a habit I practiced and being kicked out of school three weeks before the year ended, just when things were getting fun, didn’t make sense.
But on that second Thursday in May when I was called in to the office I was terrified at first by his assertion that I flipped a peace sign; then relieved because I knew I was innocent; and then frustrated by his disbelief and intent to “make an example” of me.
The shock of the angry, false accusation was intolerable but I refused to cry. This wasn’t the first time, or the last, someone misunderstood so I naively tried to convince him that his information was incorrect. I wouldn’t have hesitated to “take my punishment” if I had committed the infraction. I’m learning that any self-defensive things I say when someone intentionally lies about me, makes me seem guilty when I’m not!
I deserved to know the names of the people who reported it and have the opportunity to confront them but he refused. (I later learned it was the boring girls who hadn’t even been in the class they accused me of committing the crime in!). He arrogantly said my comments merely proved my guilt. How’s that for circular reasoning?
“I’ll make an example of you!” he growled between gritted teeth. He left me in his office while he called Dad. When I realized he was serious, I tried to look for something good out of this and imagined myself going back to Lafayette High School to finish the year. No such luck.
Dad believed me when I insisted I wasn’t guilty and even went to talk to the principal the next day. I don’t think I ever felt as loved as when he left, knowing he believed and trusted me. I optimistically waited for his return. Unfortunately, the principal convinced Dad that I lied and he came home very upset.
Being suspended was horribly embarrassing to me but most tragic are the results that haunted me. One was that when I returned to school the “bad” kids suddenly thought I was cool and wanted to be my friend. Another, New teachers in subsequent years upon meeting me actually said, “Oh, I’ve heard about you,” in a less than flattering tone.
But the most painful was that from that time on my parents didn’t trust me. I vacillated, between wanting to do everything to please them and rebellion, realizing that their minds were made up so why confuse them with facts. I occasionally wished I had committed the “crime” because I suffered as if I had anyway.
A rather frustrating irony is that a year or so later the principal asked for a show of student hands approving him to send a telegram to the President supporting the Vietnam War. He clearly wanted a unanimous decision but Anne, my own sister, raised her hand in opposition. He saw her hand and merely said, “OK, I’ll say that we had an almost unanimous decision.” She suffered NO consequences for her anti-war assertion with hundreds of witnesses while I was stigmatized by an unobserved, unproven alleged anti-war gesture!
Now when I think of that principal and whatever motivated him to “make an example” of me, I can say, with Joseph in the book of Genesis, “you meant it to me for evil but the Lord used it for good.” I’ll discuss this later.
I like the quote “Don’t argue with a fool, people can’t tell the difference.” I try to act on that when someone tries to argue with me.
We always ate dinner as a family and called it “supper.” Dinner was a fancier meal, as I understood it, usually on Sunday afternoons after church.
One evening during supper in the middle of our bantering, Dad pointed one finger upward and said, “Charles Stevens.” I’m not exactly sure who he was but on that day he was significant to Dad. We all cracked up because he was so into his ministry he didn’t know what we were discussing. To this day, all one of us needs to do to make the others laugh is to point upward and say “Charles Stevens!”
An advantage of attending Silver State is that I could try out for cheerleader. My junior year I made reserve and my senior year both Anne and I were selected.
I sang in choir and played in band all four years. Dad and Mom never missed a concert I performed. I didn’t realize how significant that was until years later when met people whose parents never supported their extracurricular activities.
Mr. Fox our band and music teacher was there the last three years of high school and my senior year we made an album. That was a major project, especially compared to how relatively easy it is to cut a cd now. Our dresses with white insets and tops made us look like pop bottles on the stage but it was a fun time.
I never sang as well as Anne and her voice was just enough higher than mine that she could sing melody. I harmonized because my voice worked better that way and alto was my range.
Some of my favorite memories of adolescence include singing in the car with her. After Anne and Wayne married, I thought it was cool that they did the same thing, rode along in the car singing.
We did many special numbers in church. Anne played piano very well and was unintimidated by an audience, whereas I preferred to play when no one was around.
Over all we were quite healthy as kids. Mark sprained his wrists several times but no one broke bones.
Anne’s dental experiences traumatized us all. I sat in the waiting room while she screamed as a dentist filled several teeth. Years later, when you had a similar experience and the dentist’s staff refused me access to the room, I felt a torture Mom must have felt when Anne was in there.
I wore braces until my senior year because my eyeteeth didn’t line up correctly. Overall the pain and monthly trips were worth it and my senior pictures were taken the Monday after they were removed.
In my 30+ years of dating, I only twice dated a guy who was in the bottom 95% of his high school class. This wasn’t deliberate; it just turned out that way. I grew up in a home run by an intelligent, educated man and woman so my standards were high. Not sure there’s any value attached to that prejudice – I don’t mind playing occasional relationship and social games but “playing dumb” annoys me. Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about that when I met the man who would become your daddy.
I find it amazing that Anne and I seldom liked the same guy considering the limited options at the schools and churches we attended. Wayne was very intelligent and I still miss animated conversations we had over the years but I felt no attraction toward him ever.
In addition to not wasting time on guys I considered mediocre, I found one of the Corleys’ statements true: “You never know true love until your heart has been broken.”
Going to the Corleys teen camp in Navajoland outside Farmington, New Mexico, a treat I anticipated every year never disappointed. The Corleys are twin brothers named Ron and Don who ministered to the Navajo Indians near Farmington, N.M. The rustic facilities included outhouses and bathing in the icy, cold water of the irrigation ditch. I never wanted to leave at the end of the week but appreciated home, especially the shower, much more.
Meeting teens around the nation fascinated me. I liked the varied accents and imagining what it would be like to visit other cities. We were assigned to groups that split church groups so no one stayed alone.
I wasn’t there when Dad drove the church bus tone year. On Wolf Creek Pass, something went wrong on the bus. He pulled over and while he looked under the hood a Catholic priest came by and stopped. Dad’s patience grew extremely thin when the priest made a tent of his fingers, tapped them together and in a patronizing voice said, “Patience is a virtue!” I’m sure Dad would have preferred to punch him because if he wasn’t going to help, he should get out of the way!
We repeated John 14:6 in Navajo many times during the week, “Jesus aho di ni shi honti ado t’a ni ni. …
I dreaded the two work days (Monday and Thursday) of each camp week because they required actual WORK! More than once I forgot suntan lotion and ended up with major sunburns.
I preferred being on the team that built adobe houses. I learned to mix cement, mud and water to the correct consistency and carefully pour the concoction into the molds from the wheelbarrow. I liked to watch the guys in my group place the bricks exactly perfect. One year I thought I’d be cool and not wear gloves during the process without considering the consequences of limey cement drying my hands. The next year I pointed out the buildings **I** built!
On Tuesday we typically packed up for an overnight on the “backside of the desert”, a long trip onto the Navajo reservation. There was always a sermon about Moses and others who went to the back side of the desert in the Bible. The hot, several-hour trip, broken only by a stop at the reservation trading post, made “Corley Peak” look good.
Corley Peak, a lone rock formation on the flat horizon stood several hundred feet high. One year a girl walked in her sleep and woke on the peak. Apparently she wanted to climb up earlier but someone from her church wouldn’t allow her to do so. I’ll never forget being awakened by a girl screaming at the top of her lungs when she woke up and didn’t know where she was.
One of the Corley twins, “Uncle Ron”, I believe, woke everyone by singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” He sang well but I never wanted to hear that song because it meant I needed to wake up!
I can’t describe the beauty of sleeping under the stars without light pollution. The twinkling lights from horizon to horizon made me feel so small and God so great!
We visited Navajo hogans during the afternoon and the poverty and lack of facilities always shocked me. Uncle Don and Uncle Ron told us about the influence of the medicine man who was the spiritual and political leader. One of his primary tools involved smoking peyote, an addictive, hallucinogenic plant. Alcoholism dominated many Navajo men, leaving women alone to rear children.
Officials of the US government, primarily living on the east coast who never visited the area or actually met an “Indian,” placed Navajos in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, thinking that “problem” would be resolved. They promised them welfare which didn’t require revenue generating work so over the years, self-motivation declined.
No simple solution is available for the social problems such as reservations, racism, welfare, illegal immigration, etc. I hope in the future, decision makers will study history and be better able to find solutions for problems without creating additional problems for future generations.
Friday night involved a hayride and camping out on the prairie. Anne and I performed skits and sang songs but the message on “Kissing” captivated my attention although I waited longer than I wanted for the first one.
The summer after college graduation I spent a month with the Corleys and loved it. Not only was the work less strenuous when the camp for teens wasn’t operating, I lost several pounds and got a great tan! I probably looked the best I ever would but don’t have any pictures! I looked so good Mom didn’t recognize me after not seeing me for that month.
Study of History
The story about the Navajo language amazes me, because it brings up a fascinating example of how studying history confirms God’s leading. History really is “His story” in the sense that events, which change the course of the world, could only have been orchestrated or allowed by Him. I love the saying, “the person who fails to learn from history is doomed to repeat it.”
Navajo, a language spoken for centuries, remained unwritten until World War II when the US military used it to send secure messages. The Japanese and Germans were astounded they could not break the code! The US Military hired many Navajo young men and used them as translators as the language was written. This allowed Christians to translate Scripture, as well. The Navajo society existed for centuries but until after WWII the gospel wasn’t available to them in written form because few outsiders learned the oral-only language.
Other such historical events include the fact that Hitler, angered by his anti-Semitism, forced many brilliant Jewish scientists out of his Reich. Those gifted men driven out by hatred came to the US to work, in retaliation, on the Manhattan Project that created the atom bomb. Their exodus from Germany and subsequent scientific discoveries changed the war. This development not only ended that war much sooner but also changed the way wars are fought.
Another fascinating “random” event involved the “accidental” discovery of an Enigma machine on a destroyed German sub. This machine translated the top-secret messages passed by the Germans. British mathematicians worked numerous hours to decode these messages, giving the Allies invaluable information because Hilter arrogantly assumed with the machine, messages couldn’t be deciphered.
I don’t believe God always chooses the most holy or “best” people to win a war. God’s reasons are beyond knowing but He definitely permits wars and uses them to accomplish His goals.
The Civil War is a topic that your daddy and I love to discuss and debate. Having attended schools in New York and Florida, his perception of the war skewed toward the myopic view that this horrible time in US history was simply good vs. evil. I view, from having attended segregated Virginia schools and more progressive Colorado schools, a society sick from prejudice on many levels that chose polarization rather than cooperation. I always wondered how God felt when Christians on both sides prayed? Granted, slavery is evil but the process of divesting a society of this created problems that hurt for generations.
I also argued with my 11th-grade American history teacher, another New Yorker and still maintained a good grade. Looking at the military leadership, the South SHOULD have won. But God…
Isn’t that crucial in every human conflict or tragedy? Isn’t this what the Lord taught me when I was ten?
God allowed Stonewall Jackson to die from “friendly fire”; McClellan to sit incompetently; and 16% of our nation to die, not counting the thousands who sustained permanent injuries, during the horrible four-year catastrophe. Couldn’t God have prevented the terrible bloodshed? Yes, but He allowed humans to do what they wanted.
The biography of Watchman Nee provides an interesting perspective on war. He lived in China during World War II when Japan was their enemy. He felt led to start small house churches instead of encouraging people to go to denominational missions. This in itself was providential because when communism took over, the missionaries were killed, imprisoned or sent from the country but house churches survived.
But what impressed me was a topic people in his country didn’t like. He said as Christians they should be willing to kneel next to believers from other countries even Japan and pray with them!
The book of Jeremiah speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as a “servant” of God in one place, which was so offensive to the translators of the Hebrew text into Greek (the Septuagint) that they eliminated that phrase from their translation. I find it humbling that God does use people with few observable, redeeming character traits to work in our lives.
I am encouraged by the reality that God really does care about my little life and regardless of what is going on around me, HE will make all things in my life to work for my good. (Romans 8:28) Oh, no, that doesn’t mean that everything feels good. It means God’s love is stronger than the evil environment I may find myself. Even death, when it comes, will be God’s plan, if I choose Him daily.
When a person treats me unkindly or unlike I wish he/she would, I began asking God to show me His purpose in these actions instead of focusing anger on the perpetrator. Whew, it’s not easy, but makes the things I don’t like in my life more bearable.
I felt insecure because Anne, fifteen months younger than I, not only developed more quickly than I but also enjoyed reminding me of the fact! I never felt jealous of her because we were so different but having a younger more sophisticated and aware sister was tough.
My reaction to the events of the year I was ten left me feeling responsible for others feelings as I mentioned. I spent way more time trying to make family members happy than I should have but by college some of my insecurities left. Being in an environment where no one knew my younger sister, I accepted who I was without being compared to her. I loved college for giving me that perspective but it was years later before I truly accepted myself and quit the people-pleasing.
None of the four of us Kemper Kids is or was perfect but we tried to enjoy our lives. I still smile when I think of the “giggle club” all four of us occasionally called together. When we got in a silly mood, we’d sit in a circle outside laughing until our sides hurt. Sometimes Mom and Dad did the dishes when we were having our giggle clubs. I felt most secure at those times because we had fun and Mom and Dad did our chores. I knew they loved each other and that made me feel loved.
One tough situation in high school was after Grandma James gave me a brown leather (faux) jumper that zipped down the front and a matching yellow turtleneck sweater one Christmas, I couldn’t wear it. I know it was less than 2 inches above my knee but “anything you can’t wear to school, you can’t wear” was the rule at our house. I often tried on the leather jumper when no one else was around knowing it looked great on me – I wish I had a picture!
Another year Anne and I bought Wes a pair of boot cut pants for Christmas, thinking that would satisfy the rules (bell-bottom pants were not allowed at Silver State but “boot cut” might be allowed). I guess we should have expected that Dad wouldn’t allow him to wear the pants as is. Mom altered the pants so he wore them to Grandma and Grandpa’s the next day.
I’m not sure when Dad began including a joke or two in every sermon. Some were groaners but quite a few left me smiling days later when I thought of them. Our uncle Arthur gave Dad for Christmas a card file filled with hundreds of categorized jokes. The thoughtfulness and time that gift required impressed me.
I find it funny that when girls need makeup the least we want to wear it most. My skin suffered from some acne but not nearly as much as others. Years later I learned that acne resulted from my skin being sensitive to many chemicals which probably existed in cheap makeup, making the situation worse. Whenever I broke Mom and Dad’s rule about wearing makeup my skin broke out—nothing like giving it away!
Dad taught me to drive. He put two wheelbarrows next to the curb and I practiced until I could parallel park without touching either. At the time I enjoyed it but later I realized the silly songs he sang as I drove might have been stress release for him! I especially laughed at one about a poor little frog in the road that suffered a heart attack when I drove by.
Mom and Dad seldom argued in front of us. I overheard few disagreements much less specifics of the topic. They presented a very united front. I appreciate that because it made my childhood less stressful. However, I’m afraid, at the same time; it gave me an unrealistic expectation of marriage.
I grew up thinking Mom and Dad agreed on most things and seldom argued and that could have been the case but I doubt it.
I wish your Daddy and I could have argued less in front of you. The insecurity you lived with as a result of growing up with the reality of Becca’s mommy divorcing her daddy made you question our marriage more than most kids. I can’t imagine how I could have prevented that unintended consequence of her ungodly decision. We loved you, Adam, and even when we were upset, the thought of separation or marriage was not an option. We prayed for you every day from the time we knew you existed.
Three generations of your ancestors prayed for you. I cherish this praying heritage. Although each of us kids endured problems, I believe the fact that grandparents and Mom and Dad prayed for us, protected us from even worse situations. I hope prayer will be your covering, as well.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school Anne and I spent a month with Lalia and Arthur in Bisbee, Arizona. Although the weather was incredibly hot, I loved the freedom I experienced because Lalia treated me like an equal, not a kid.
Lalia said I was to discipline Scott and Tracy that wasn’t comfortable for me and I don’t believe I ever did. Once, I regret, I did scratch Scott’s arm because he annoyed me.
Lalia and Arthur bought passes to the local swimming pool and took us there several times after Arthur got home from work. I didn’t swim well but it was fun to play in the water.
One Christmas we drove to Arizona to spend the holiday with them. Dad installed an eight-track player in the van and we played the two tapes over and over.
During one trip to Virginia we all stayed in Grandma and Grandpa Kemper’s 3-bedroom retirement rancher that couldn’t have been more than 1500 square feet. Dad was asked to speak in their church’s evening service and pray in the morning service so we all dressed in our best. When Dad walked into Grandpa’s living room wearing a dark navy blue shirt and white tie, Grandpa Kemper nearly lost his composure.
“John,” he bellowed and for a 5’3” guy the volume and pitch were amazingly strong. “Are you wearing THAT shirt to church?”
Dad’s affirmative response angered Grandpa. “The Bible says the Saints will be robed in white. You are a preacher of the Gospel, you must wear a white shirt in the pulpit,” he declared.
Dad wore his blue shirt and no one except Grandpa was upset. I proudly thought he looked quite fashionable.
I think it’s funny that Dad refused Christian contemporary praise music in much the same way when I was in my 30’s!
We girls were responsible for setting the table, doing dishes and sweeping the floor for dinner and each meal on a non-school day. I know I whined because the boys’ job, taking out the trash that took a few minutes a week seemed much easier. However, as we grew older and the boys’ job list included mowing the huge lawn and shoveling miles of sidewalks around the church property, I enjoyed snuggling under the covers when Dad called them to get up early. I especially loved being a girl on cold snowy mornings!
We didn’t get a dishwasher until I was well into high school so Anne and I took turns washing, drying or cleaning the table and sweeping. Once Anne grabbed her stomach just as the meal ended and announce in a pained voice, “I have to go to the bathroom!” As soon as all the dishes were washed, dried and put away she walked from the bathroom with a surprised look on her face, “what you finished the dishes already?”
The boys HAD to mow the lawn, and that again, I thought that looked like more fun being outside than dishes, laundry and cleaning inside. It wasn’t like they had a push lawnmower and the fresh air sounded nicer than being indoors. One summer when mowing the lawn interrupted watching a baseball game, Wes figured out how to make the grass looked striped like the field in the game he watched. I thought that was so creative.
One summer we sanded an old desk in the church basement, under several (probably at least a dozen) layers of paint was an incredibly beautiful cherry desk. I loved using that desk when Dad gave it to me after he bought new office furniture.
One common concern Christian parents have is how to help their children make good decisions concerning alcohol. I discussed over the years with Christian friends how our parents made an effort to keep us from drinking alcohol.
Brenda from Cleveland continues to be my friend, even though she’s a Browns fan and the Browns played the Broncos in several crucial playoff games. She told me her Dad’s idea. His company offered a bottle of champagne or a turkey to each employee for Christmas. Her dad typically took the turkey instead of the booze. One year when the kids were teenagers, he shocked them by bringing home the bottle. The three boys and one girl freaked out as he explained that he wanted them to taste alcohol in his house under his supervision so they would know how horrible it is and never want it. He proceeded to pour about a small amount in a glass for each child and told them to drink as quickly as possible. The kids did as instructed, coughing and choking. Their dad then made each of them promise that if they wanted to drink they would do it in his house with him watching. None of them drinks today! None ever caused their parents to worry if they would be in a DUI accident.
I told her our Dad’s plan: the third Thursday night of the month – Rescue Mission Night. I told her how Anne and I sang or played the piano. This assignment was designed in part, I’m sure, to keep us from fraternizing with the clients. But the smell of the place distinctly combined beans, sweaty men and stale alcohol in a potent, distasteful way.
I’ll never forget the first, last and only time one girl in our church went to the Rescue Mission and received catcalls at the end of her song. This embarrassed her and everyone on the platform so she never returned. She may have worn dresses slightly shorter than ours but not enough to warrant that response.
I never heard a catcall after I sang but it could have been due in part to the fact that Dad always introduced us as his daughters in the tone of voice that said, “Leave them alone!” We, of course, dressed in Dad approved clothing that wasn’t too appealing even to lonely, slightly inebriated “skid-row bums”.
Years later the boys told stories of throwing stuff down on the guys standing in line but, of course, they were smarter than I because they never got caught doing dumb stuff! Even today if I go into a restaurant with a bar that smells strongly of alcohol, I think of the rescue mission and have no desire to drink. Dad’s goal was accomplished!
Years later, when I attended Cherry Hills a musician presented a concert one Sunday evening and during his testimony told of the years he spent homeless. He told of how he’d scrounge enough for a bean burrito at Taco Bell and make it last several days by drinking huge amounts of water as he nibbled. He told of the permanent bone loss and tooth damage he suffered from malnutrition. How sad that so many people choose to be homeless.
I forget his name but he sang a rendition of “Nothing But The Blood” that made the song fresh and memorable at the same time. As I heard this guy speak I thought of the rescue mission and a promise The Lord made to me while singing there one night.
After the first time I was baptized in the Spirit and spoke in tongues I realized that is what happened at least once at the rescue mission. No, of course, I didn’t speak in tongues at that fundamental Baptist rescue mission! However, when I sat down from singing “Amazing Grace” the person sitting next to me said, “Where did you get the words to the second verse you sang?” I merely smiled and let it go but a couple other people asked me about that verse and told me how it spoke to them. No one bothered to record the rescue mission services so there’s no way to prove this.
I thought about it later and realized I had no idea what words came out of my mouth and had no memory between walking to the pulpit and returning to my seat. However, as I sang, a confidence from the Lord filled me as I looked at the audience of sad, broken men and women. It said, “You will never be involved with a man with the potential to be here if you trust Me. I will protect you from unscrupulous men if you will be true to Me and wait!”
When I was 17 chapel services were divided by sex one day. The girls listened to Mrs. Rice, wife of Dr. John R. Rice give her testimony. She wrote down what she wanted in a husband and the first time she went out with Dr. Rice she knew in her heart he was THE one. She challenged us to make our lists and to wait for the Lord. This confirmed my feeling and belief that God spoke to me at the rescue mission.
I dutifully made my list, which at 17 reflected a typical teenager’s thoughts:
- he is a good driver
- he makes good grades
- he is a Christian
- he doesn’t wear his hair too long
Someone came up with an item I, without protest, added to my list as number one but later removed because of its improbability: “He does not have a past that could harm the future.” It sounded nice and terribly grown up but obviously anyone past puberty lives with the reality of potential repercussions from past acts. I learned that every decision we make limits the future ones we can make and, in a more positive spin, every positive decision we make creates more opportunity to become a better person so this is unrealistic.
That year, when I realized that my “D” in fourth grade math kept me out of Ivy League schools, being 5’1” prevented me from being a flight attendant and being a woman kept me out of the Air Force Academy, I took the requirement of “doesn’t have a past that could harm the future” off my list permanently. Who knows what opportunities or limits the future holds?
How in the world can I judge another person’s life as “too risky” to involve myself when my background poses potential problems as well? Who knows if I could be the person who could make a difference?
Whenever I go to the Broadmoor Resort for lunch or to view the Christmas lights around the holidays I think of a story that illustrates my point.
I wouldn’t want her position but I admire Laura Bush’s decision when on President George W’s 40th birthday she sat in their suite at the Broadmoor just a few miles from where I sit as I write this and gave him the ultimatum that changed his life. She said, “Quit drinking or lose me and if you lose me, you know, you’ll lose your future and your political career!” The rest is history.
I believe our primary responsibility as Christians is to encourage everyone around us, particularly our spouse and children; to become the best God wants for them. It’s too easy to wimp out and run from challenges because of the other person’s opinion of me.
Don’t get me wrong, I would NEVER suggest a person marry someone with apparent major character or spiritual flaws, desiring to reform him or her. If a person doesn’t show evidence of a personal relationship with the Lord, RUN, don’t walk, away. If character issues show up while you’re dating, GET AWAY from that person!
Evangelistic dating is almost always ineffective in the long run and Pygmalion relationships, even in the movie My Fair Lady, don’t end with “happily ever after.” In my observation, for every girl like Lori in the church at Lafayette who dated Rusty Fender, an unsaved guy who became a lifetime, full-time Christian worker, there are dozens of others who find themselves divorced or in lonely relationships with someone who may never share the most important thing in their lives – their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
For instance, I knew several Christian guys reared in good churches, who in their late teens or early twenties, fell for girls who recently began attending church. Each girl was a Boulder county beauty queen and much more experienced sexually than the guys. Regardless of how attractive the girls were, their lack of character became apparent before long and none of the marriages lasted.
I also observe that if people finish college and establish careers before marrying, they will attract and be attracted to more mature people. Also, during the college years, people grow up so much and develop from teenagers to adults. We change so much during those few years.
The constant dating/breakup/makeup/breakup-for-good cycle, especially in high school, merely prepares young people for nothing except divorce. Marriage is too important a decision to be taken lightly. I hope you will solicit advice from spiritually wise people before you take this step.
I learned from Dad and Mom that once you do marry, your mindset must be that marriage to this person is forever and you need to be willing to do what it takes to make it work. I don’t know how much work that required of them but I knew they would always be together. That provided a security too many children today don’t have.
“Isn’t that settling?” you ask. I definitely don’t think anyone should make life decisions because she/he thinks that being with anyone is better than being alone. Loneliness and being alone are two very different situations.
There’s a huge difference between settling for less than you can attain and refusing to be satisfied with where you are. Contentment especially in the form of PEACE WITH GOD helps you sleep at night and motivates you to get up in the morning.
I believe the opposite of settling is controlling, manipulating, and trying to force God’s will to your own. It seems to me many marriages suffer because people go into them expecting that they deserve to have everything they want problem-free. The first time any conflict arises too many bail out or decide to control the other person. Others anticipate their partner making them happy all the time and refuse to consider personal responsibility in maintaining a healthy, happy home environment.
Some people who marry very young haven’t outgrown the junior high narcissistic, what Becca at that age called “sassy” mentality that if someone loves you; they’ll do whatever you want. If a person is willing to do everything you want them to do, they aren’t thinking. Sooner or later they will become parasites, sucking your energy because you must think for them as well as yourself.
More than once my commitment to the Lord as a seventeen-year-old girl prevented me from tragic relationships.
In my observation and experience waiting to marry never makes a good situation go away but may reveal an impending negative situation. There was a saying in the 60’s, “If you love something, set it free. If it doesn’t return, it never was yours. If it does return, it’s yours to keep.” That may be a tad too pop-psych but it presents a practical point.
For me, waiting only gave potentially bad relationships time to disintegrate! I believe if it’s a good relationship it will survive the test of time. And then the REAL test will begin…marriage! I’ll talk more later about a romance or two potentially disastrous ones that from time’s perspective seem obviously doomed.
Daddy grew up moving between New York and Florida. At one point his dad put a significant amount of savings into land in Florida, which turned out to be unusable swampland. This strained the finances and good feelings of the family.
Your Grandma Moore inherited a sizable amount and they were able to purchase a new home for cash. Their extended family snickered at their spending the exorbitant amount of $28,000 on a home. The home would be worth twenty or thirty times as much if they had kept it.
Daddy had two good friends in New York. One was Bobby who lived on the next block. The other was Bruce who he went to college with.
The family’s entertainment many evenings was going to the mall.
Your Aunt Flo and Uncle Richard attended private colleges, went to camp each year and took private music lessons. The finances ran out before Daddy entered junior high school and he wasn’t able to finish his Eagle Scout work, attend camps or go to a private college.
The children changed schools and Daddy wasn’t able to graduate with his friend Bruce at Lindenhurst. Instead, he graduated from West Islip High School, one of 1500 graduates in 1972. He was salutatorian, which means he had the second highest grades in the class. Daddy took all advanced placement classes and the guy who was valedictorian (first place) took several classes like wood shop so his g.p.a. was higher than Daddy’s because the grades weren’t weighted by difficulty.
Daddy received a full-ride scholarship for his score on a New York test. He was accepted to M.I.T. but family finances didn’t allow that. Instead, he went to Stony Brook that is a SUNY school. His friend, Bruce’s dad worked on the buildings there and they knew the campus very well because they went there often during the construction.