Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Such Good Memories

Sometimes articles in The New Mexican grab my attention. One such article was in today's paper, "The Religion Factor," by Pete Iaconelli. The author wrote about the influence of Christian coaches on young athletes' choosing certain colleges to attend and to play football for. The main coach that Iaconelli referred to was Tommy Bowden at Clemson University. I love Tommy just because he's Bobby Bowden's son, and I admire the Bowdens for their unashamed Christian witness in all that they do. The article goes on to tell about excellent Southern athletes who are choosing Clemson because of Coach Tommy Bowden's concern not only for their athletic abilities but also for their spiritual lives. He will continue the Christian upbringing that their families have begun. As a result, the families feel confident in turning over their "children" to him. My heart soared just thinking of the meaningful college years ahead of these young men!

As I read the article, my mind kept wandering back to 1957 and my choice of Mississippi College as the place that I would spend my college years. No, I wasn't a recruited athlete (my natural clumsiness would never allow me to play any sport); I wasn't even recruited for academics, though I might have been if I had made any overtures in that direction. I chose MC for my home away from home because of the Christian influences that I knew would be all around me for at least four years (as it turned out, it would be for more than four years, every year being better than the one before).

And what exactly were these Christian influences? For starters, we were required to take two Bible courses as prerequisites for graduation: Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament. Everyone took these courses; no questions asked. Christian Bible professors taught them. These courses weren't meant to encourage students to dispute the Bible. The Bible was taught as the inspired Word of God. To quote Wordsworth: "My heart leaps up" when I think of those courses. To say that I was inspired by these professors, especially Dr. Ernest Pinson, is an example of litotes (understatement). I was so moved by what I learned in just the basic courses that I went on to take enough courses for a major in Bible. They just weren't the right courses for a major. I took ones that were of specific interest to me. Most of the ones past prerequisite level were ones in which I was the only girl. All the other students were ministerial students. Dr. Pinson used to call me the "rose among the thorns." I loved that epithet! My greatest joys in those classes came when I outshone the "preacher boys"!

Bible professors weren't the only Christian professors at MC. During those years when I was there (1958 - 1964), I'd say that virtually all professors were Christian. I remember seeing almost all of them at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting at Clinton Baptist Church, and many of them taught Sunday School classes on Sunday morning and/or were deacons at the church. It was the norm rather than the exception that classes were opened with prayer, either by the professor or one of the students. I never remember a student refusing to lead in prayer if called on. I, too, began my classes with prayer when I was a fellowship teacher while working on my master's degree. I do remember one time that I was sorry that I called on someone to lead in prayer, though. On November 22, 1963, I went to my afternoon class in Freshman English and asked a young man to pray. What a mistake! He was much too shaken up and refused. I should have led myself, not called on anyone else. Maybe I should have cancelled class for the day. With President Kennedy's having been shot just a couple of hours before, none of us had our minds on class. If I had known then what I know now, I might have given the students an assignment to write about the day before the next class period and dismissed class immediately. Maybe I would have just dismissed class.

As members of the Baptist Student Union (the original BSU), and most of us were members, we were encouraged to have prayer partners. My one and only prayer partner during my years at Mississippi College was Jan Cutrell. She and I clicked as soon as we met. If I had known the term at that time, I would have called her my "new best friend" as soon as I met her. What a pair we were! Jan was probably the shortest member of the Class of 1962, and I was almost certainly the tallest. We referred to ourselves as "Mutt and Jeff." If you're reading this and don't know who Mutt and Jeff were, you're just a youngster! We were different in another way, too. She was the most talented musician in our class; I struggled just to be able to read music and filter it through my fingers. I took basic organ lessons; Jan could make the organ sing. She had a beautiful voice; I could barely carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. But in one respect we were "kindred spirits": we both loved the Lord and knew the value of prayer. Therefore, we met regularly in the prayer rooms either in our dilapidated Whittington Student Center during our first two years of college or in the brand new B. C. Rogers Student Center during the latter years. In both places, we spent many hours pouring our hearts out to each other and praying for each other and others who we knew needed our prayers. What a meaningful, joyous part of my college education!

Unlike many today who view their college years as dull and mere drudgery in getting to their professions, I loved my college years. I didn't mind the early curfews, the late nights at the library (especially after I met Frank, and we had really good footsies-under-the-table evenings there), the strict dress codes (for girls, no shorts or jeans unless we wore our raincoats over them). I felt that I was truly called to that little Baptist college in Clinton, Mississippi. My education was stellar, and the Christian influences that I had helped to mold me into the woman that I am today. I'm thankful.

As usual, my post has gone on far longer than needed or wanted by those who read it. Sometimes, though, an article just connects with me, and I feel the need to write. Pete Iaconelli truly inspired me today. Thanks for reading!

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