This article originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of Mature Living magazine.
Sitting in church next to Dad on Sundays, I felt like I was looking up at Castle Rock, a prominent landmark in our town. Dad wasn’t a tall or big man, but I was his small, freckle-faced daughter in the 1960s. Dad wore glasses, had a serious demeanor, and spoke with a soft but firm voice meant to be obeyed. Our family was to be in church on the Lord’s Day, and so we rarely missed.
Always dressed neatly in a suit and tie, Dad underlined verses in his worn black Bible resting on his lap. I noted that, and so I underlined in the Bible he had given me. He had penned in a list of “Baptist distinctives” at the front, so I copied them into mine. Whatever he did at church, I noticed.
Saturday nights we prepared for Sundays. Mom usually made a casserole and Jell-O®. Sometimes she baked a homemade chocolate cake from scratch. Corn on the cob and potatoes were prepared for the next day. Then she pulled down the built-in ironing board and ironed dresses and Dad’s church shirt and pants. Dad carefully polished his church shoes and sometimes washed the car.
Our church was small with a white steeple. An aisle flowed down the middle. At the front, a small organ sat on one side, and an old upright piano sat on the other.
One day the church organist moved out of town. Our pastor asked me to be the pianist. I was 12 years old with a meager three years of piano.
“I can’t, Dad!” I said, panicked. “I can’t be the pianist! I can’t do it!”
Dad said firmly, “You can do it, Linda, and you will do your best.”
He was right. I did OK. I could play the notes in the hymnal but nothing fancy. I gradually got over the weekly fear.
Dad loved his job as usher, and he also taught Sunday School to the few high schoolers, who were a rambunctious lot. He laboriously prepared for his lessons by typing them out in black ink on his manual typewriter and using red ink for important ideas. There was no curriculum; Dad simply went through Bible basics. Most Sundays he came home upset that his class did not bring their Bibles. “What are these kids thinking?” he would ask, exasperated. “I keep telling them, ‘Bring your Bibles!’”
After Sunday dinners, we always took a relaxing drive up or down the highway by the Columbia River. We girls giggled and rolled around in the back of the car—no seat belts back then!
One day I walked down the aisle at church to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. My folks beamed, but they didn’t know I was not truly saved. I had simply followed my friend down to the front. Our family traveled to another town for my baptism because our building had been another denomination in previous years and didn’t have a baptistry. Dad fumed all the way. “What kind of a Baptist church are we?” he said. “No baptistry for baptisms!” Nevertheless, I was baptized.
Years later, I attended college in Seattle during the tumultuous Vietnam era. I soaked up ideas opposite to what I had been taught. At one point, I refused to stand up for the American flag, which I never told Dad, a World War II veteran. But I still took the bus to various churches, managing to wear a dress instead of the bell-bottom jeans of the day.
Just out of college, I heard Billy Graham preach at a crusade on TV, and in tears, I truly received Jesus as my Savior. My husband followed soon after.
Nowadays I play hymns and praise music on an upright piano in a small, white-steepled church. My husband teaches Sunday School, and I have, too, in the past. My grown children are all involved in church, as well as our grandchildren. My Bible is worn out with underlines on every page. And this verse describes my life: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6, KJV).
Thank you so much, Dad.
Linda Jinkins is a freelance writer and former high school teacher in the public and private schools. She also ended up homeschooling her children for more than a decade. Many volunteer years were spent in jail and prison ministry, alongside her husband. Bike riding in the great Northwest is one of her passions. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of six.