1969: The year everything changed

Image is cover art of 1969: The year everything changed. USA Today Review

1969 was the year of my salvation. It was the year that changed everything for me! This is the first of a series of blog posts about 1969 and the events that I remember about that year.

The purpose of these articles:

  1. To provide a historical retrospective of life as a college student 40 years ago!
  2. To explain how God used these events in my life as a lead up to my conversion in November 1969
  3. To provide some spiritual directives about faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The News was different then:

There was no Internet (although the seed was planted with the ARPANET), CNN, or round the clock media. I received the news from a morning and evening paper (The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Post) delivered to my parent’s home, Newsweek, and Walter Cronkite.

Where I was and what I was doing:

I lived in Delhi Ohio with my parents and younger brother. When 1969 commenced, I was a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati. I commuted to the campus daily. I have various jobs: I sold shoes for Bakers at the Western Woods Mall, I worked on Saturday nights at the loading dock of the Cincinnati Enquirer – loading bundles of newspapers onto trucks until about 2 or 3 in the morning on Sundays. I worked in the summers at Monsanto Chemical in Addyston, Ohio.

As I recollect I made $ 1.80 per hour at the paper. I made $ 2.85 at the chemical plant. And I earned commission selling shoes.

I was majoring in Economics and Finance (double major) on my way to a Bachelors of Business Administration degree.

I had a 1968 white VW bug that I bought kind of new. It was a grey market vehicle that had been used in Germany and was shipped over and sold used – not through an official VW channel. I think it had a couple of thousand miles on it when I bought it. My Father co-signed on my loan.

My life as a student:

I was a very poor student in High School. High School or me was about girls, partying, poker, and drinking. The drinking age for 3.2% beer was 18, but basically as soon as someone turned 16 one could easily buy beer. Friday nights were often poker nights with the guys. And Saturdays were the “date night” for me. I graduated from High School with a 1.8 average! Somehow (probably because of my SAT scores) I was accepted into the University of Cincinnati.

My Freshman year of college was a year of academic adjustment. At Freshman orientation the presenter said, “look to your right and to your left … half of you will not complete college”. I was intent on not being one of them (to fail).

I was really lost:

While today it is easy to put those years in theological perspective: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), back then I just considered myself as one who had real questions about life. Such as:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is my purpose in life?
  3. Where do I belong?
  4. How can I have a real relationship with God?

My religion:

I was a nominal Christian – a Methodist. I attended church most of my life. I had been baptized a Methodist and confirmed.

I did believe in God but I was almost completely ignorant of Him. I viewed Him as the Creator. While I did pray, my prayers were more like “to the unknown god” (Acts 17:23).

As I recollect church was not a part of my life for the first two years of college. I probably attended Easter services and Christmas services and that was about it.

I had a confirmation Bible but I did not read it and was generally ignorant of the Scriptures.

Seeds sown:

Two seeds were sown in my Freshman year of college. Firstly I had to read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God for a literature class assignment (full text here). This section both angered me and haunted me:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.

To counter that we also read (and I recollect memorized) William Ernest Henley’s Invictus (Full text). I took comfort in these words:

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Secondly I read Here I stand as an assignment for a European history class. This book introduced me to Martin Luther, the Reformation and the doctrine of justification by faith. Studying the reformation and specially the life of Martin Luther left me with these impressions:

  • Martin Luther was a real masculine man! His Christianity was not a feminine or a weak Christianity. It was a vibrant courageous and brave faith. (Dear Sisters in Christ, I implore you to not be offended by my comments! My Mother was the religious leader in our family. This impression, that Christianity was masculine, strong and brave, opened the door a crack towards faith in Christ!)
  • Truth was at stake and it was worth fighting for!
  • I became a great admirer of Martin Luther! (I remain so to this day!)
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