When I was a teenager, I worked at a small Baptist camp in the wilds of upstate New York.
I was initially hired as the cook — don’t ask me how — but eventually was moved into the lifeguard position after they tasted my cooking and the other lifeguard left.
To my Baptist friends, forgive me, but sometimes Baptists can be stodgy.
Although I attended a Baptist church at the time (which wasn’t stodgy), I was unprepared for the strictness of this camp.
I had to sign some sort of statement of faith to work there, and, being 18, gave it only a cursory reading. Yep, I agreed (or so I thought) and quickly scrawled out my signature.
Trouble arrived on two fronts. One had to do with speaking in tongues.
For the record, I do not speak in tongues. I speak English and know a smattering of other languages. In worship services, I speak in the tongues of men – mostly American — not angels. I told someone else at the camp (I’ve never really been sure who) that I believed that the gift of tongues could still exist today. Before I knew it, I was called in before a panel of pastors to discuss the matter.
You have to picture it — I was a slip of a girl, blonde, freckled, unschooled in theology, wearing t-shirt and shorts — and, in my mind’s eye, I still see them wearing suit coats, sitting in a semi-circle around me, grilling me about the charismatic movement, of which I was not a part. I stood my ground, though. I do believe the gift of tongues could still exist. In the end I had to promise never to discuss tongues with any campers, and they would allow me to continue working.
The other problem was music. The dining hall was a long low building with a kitchen at one end, rows of tables and folding chairs in the middle, and a turntable with speakers at the far end. I had just discovered Andrae Crouch and the Disciples. His album, Keep on Singing, lived on that turntable.
While I worked in the kitchen alone, I blasted Andrae Crouch over those speakers and sang at the top of my lungs.
Take me back. Take me back, dear Lord.
To the place, where I first believed…
I closed my eyes, clasped my hands, and swayed while I sang:
How can I say thanks
for the things You have done for me?
Things, so undeserved,
Yet You gave to prove Your love to me.
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude.
All that I am,
And ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee.
I opened my eyes to find two Baptist ladies staring at me.
“Turn that music down,” one said.
“You can’t play music like that here,” the other one added.
I turned it down temporarily, but, oh, I still played Andrae Crouch — for two solid weeks. He kept me company and lifted my spirits. He gave me confidence. Trouble came from time to time, but that’s all right, I learned not to be the worrying kind.
Maybe that was why they booted me from the kitchen.
Andrae Crouch passed away yesterday. I’m sure he’s singing now in heaven.
But one summer, I sang his songs on a mountaintop. Today, I just gotta tell somebody.