Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
And to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,
Till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come.
Psalm 71:17,18 NIV
I’M A CHILD OF THE KING
My father is rich in houses and lands, he holdeth the wealth of the world in his hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full, He has riches untold.
I’m a child of the King, a child of the King!
With Jesus my Saviour, I’m a child of the King!
(Harriet E. Buell, 1834-1910)
Mother’s chuckle stung and puzzled me as she was walking me to the outhouse at the Springfield Pentecostal Holiness Church. It was after dark but there was some light from the ground level windows of that half dug-out church. The chuckle was because of our conversation:
“Who’s going to preach?” I asked.
“Because he doesn’t preach very long.”
My earliest memory of a church was as hardly more than a toddler being carried up the steps at the Pritchett Church. That seems almost impossible, but it is there in my brain. Questions to my mother confirmed that that memory really did happen. However, my first “I remember whens…” happened at the Springfield Church.
I remember going down steps to my Sunday School room.
I remember Aunt Bertha and my favorite cousins were there.
I remember when Leo and Lazetta got saved.
I remember we sang Sweeping Through the Gates and Will There Be Any Stars.
I remember my grandma and aunts all wore long sleeves.
I remember my mom didn’t.
I remember singing by myself. I was the star – Everybody loved me. (Now that I have my own grandchildren, I can identify with that time more realistically. But it was important in establishing my identity.)
I’ve forgotten part of the song I sang, but I remember the part that spoke to me. It was about Jesus asking me to do something for him; I said no because I was busy; It ended: “One day I needed the Lord; I needed him right away; And down in my accusing heart, I could hear him say: ‘You get somebody else or wait ‘til I get through.’ ” Bad theology? Maybe, but we tend to ignore scriptures like John 14:21 “ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Did that theology have the right effect? Yes. It probably has reached even to today when I got out of bed to work on this. I know I’m saved by grace but I still want to keep his command. I had so much love, attention, and involvement in that little church, fire-and-brimstone- preachin’and There’s-an-Eye-Watching-You-singin’ was balanced by Jesus died to save you from hell and He wants you to do good things that lay up treasures in Heaven and earn stars in your crown.
In the strength of the Lord let me labor and pray,
Let me watch as a winner of souls;
That bright stars may be mine in that glorious day
When His praise like the sea billows rolls. (Sweeney, 1897)
Of course that’s not exactly right – there is a crown for the soul winner rather than a star, but the effect was the same.
When did I get saved? I don’t know. Some folks have said that a person is not saved if he cannot tell you the time and place. I say, “T’aint so.” I never had a chance to “sin” in ways many interpret sin, but I do remember having rebellious thoughts that I was convicted of. I remember loving- adults praying for me to be sanctified and having some wonderful “pray-throughs.” Probably one of those times was when I was really saved. I was taught that when I was sanctified I would quit sinning That was a bit of over-speak, but I must say that I did not “walk” in sin. It hurt too much. I didn’t want to pay the price sin demanded. I was taught to grow in the fruit of the Spirit but that was generally called “being good.” I didn’t know about “fruit of the Spirit” and I’m sure no one of my mentors would have made an issue of whether if was fruit or fruits of the Spirit! We just wanted to “be good.”
When I was ten I joined the Campo Pentecostal Holiness Church along with one other girl, a teen-ager. I’m sure I joined because my parents told me I was old enough to do so. It did not seem to be a major event in my life at that time. But I now recognize its importance in my life. Church attendance and church loyalty have been very important to me.
The Campo PH Church was the church of my teen years. There I learned to be a loner if it was necessary. There I learned that Christians are not perfect. There I learned that imperfection could be remedied by confessing and asking for forgiveness, and I also learned not to take liberty with his grace. There I learned that Christians’ have broken hearts if their kids don’t serve Jesus. There I learned how wonderful it was to have souls saved – even those who weren’t related to us! There I learned Bible facts. Who was married to whom, books of the Bible, how many days did Moses stay on the mountain, how many days was Jesus in the tomb, and 1001 other Bible trivia. I remember when the Sunday School literature started adding a section called “Application.” That sounds good, huh? Now I find “Application galore” in churches but very little Bible knowledge. Preachers preach that God supplies and refer to the manna and quail. But how many know the story of the manna and quail. I can make the application from knowing the story but the lesson will not teach the story. I’m thankful for those teachers, Uncle Tony, Dorothy Holmes, Delma Harbert Rodgers among others.
I mentioned before about being a loner; that is not entirely true. I did have cousins and my daddy’s sister who were near my age. My reference to being a loner related more to high school and my first year of college. I did have friends and I was happy, but I had no after school sorts of things. That was partly because of my holiness beliefs but also because I lived out in the country. I did not miss school functions or dating because I was content with family and church.
As a sophomore in college, my dad brought me to Southwestern Bible College here in Oklahoma City. I lived in a dorm with other girls, and had my first date – yeah, with the fellow I married. I had my first experience with a big church – Muse Memorial which ran from 250-300 people most of the time. At least it was big for me, and it was home church for thirty years. There followed a series of other churches brought about because of changes in jobs and residences. My last change was when I moved to Mustang and began attending the Bridge Assembly of God. That has been home for about 17 years. I have loved all my churches and have been loved in return. They have all run in size 35-75 people, 150-350, and 1200-1500. Those were the churches I attended and supported. I find strengths and weakness in each size. And I believe all of them have been established by God. I have never attended a mega-church so I cannot speak about that size with personal experience. I feel sorrow as the small ones became smaller, steadfast and faithful, refusing change while their younger generations move on. But I rejoice at the personal touch that can be given by the small church. I feel sorrow as the large ones become larger, the generations coming and going. Many almost seem to have compromised to luke-warmness. But I rejoice at the number of people who can be reached by the big church; and I pray that the leadership of this generation will find a way to do both, reaching many with a personal touch. In recent years much criticism has been directed to the “traditional” churches as they have been accused of being legalistic and judgmental but I did not find my church to be mean; rather I found love and good sense from unselfish and open-hearted people. Then as now, I am thankful to be a member of a fellowship of Believers in Christ – a Christian, a child of the King.