A Song from On High

Nestled in a gentle wooded hillside sits a lovely, small private college, located just east of Seattle and Lake Washington. After several years of trying to build up a resume of knowledge and experience without a 4-year college degree, I had given up, quit a job I enjoyed most of, but where I’d hit a ceiling much too soon, moved myself to a place I’d never been and steeled myself to engage the step of learning and passing enough class work to earn that blasted piece of paper to prove to all employers, far and wide, that I was not stupid.

What happened next was that I accomplished both. I did earn that 4-year degree, but picked up a well-deserved reputation for being, um, something a tad above stupid by bringing a big dose of chaos to this quiet campus.

I fretted about going to a REAL college after my time spent in post high school trade school followed by miscellaneous community college classes to try and round out my education. A close friend and mentor would not let me settle with this approach. He saw me apply for several jobs that made perfect sense for my next career steps only to be turned away when the interviewer compared me to other candidates with normal 4-year degrees. I finally yielded; quit my job and made my way to Washington State and this small college where no one knew me.

Real scholastic expectations, no established friends, and my family were all 2 larges states away – was this going to work?

Well – it did work. It wasn’t easy as I’ve never been a strong student, except in electronics and computer hardware. But, in this case, I was fortunate to find some great new friends quickly and soon I was comfortably surrounded by a bunch of smart alecs just like me.

We were students at what was then, Northwest College (now it’s Northwest University) and I was in pursuit of a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree. I had a handful of college classes to transfer in, so it wasn’t going to take me 4 years to complete the work. Northwest was and is a Christian College, so it was consistent with my faith. Like many colleges, there was a mix of folks, but I was a few years older than most of them and was already comfortable with being on my own. I dug into the academic routine and tried to be my own mixture of being both friendly and rowdy. I was pleased to discover that new friends came naturally.

Back in those days, Northwest required chapel attendance each school day, which didn’t surprise or annoy me, but I decided it was a bit heavy-handed to have both assigned seating and role was taken – in chapel? Really?

Well, it really was, so I folded in as best I could. My seat assignment placed right next to a gal from central Washington State. Right from the start, I played it like any other new person I had met that first week only to find out that she was easily as rowdy as me. Her restless sense of humor quickly wormed its way past the niceties of getting to know someone and we quickly became tight friends.

For example: our assigned seats were side by side in the middle of the front row of the chapel balcony, so we had a great view of the sweeping high ceiling that rose, visually drawing our attention to higher things as well as the main floor, full of seated students and faculty below us. After signing in each day, Annette and I would struggle to behave like good Christian adults in church. Peers who sat nearby, once they had signed in, would often move further away from us for protection and some semblance of peace.

One day, I’ll never forget. As we were winding down a very moving hymn to wonderful live music, Annette poked me, which had to be returned, and by the last Amen, we were in near full open hostilities. I’d set my hymnal on the short wall in front of our seats, just below the safety rail. Annette rarely wore dresses, which was great, because:

  • a man simply should not be wrestling with a girl in a dress,
  • so wrestle we did,
  • yes, in chapel. . .
  • right there in the pew,
  • in the front row of the balcony,
  • with a hymnal laying on that short wall,
  • right at knee level,
  • right where Annette kicked out as I tried to restrain her to respect the solemn ambience of the service,
  • right above some poor guy who was connecting with God and receiving guidance and insight that would change his life forever,
  • only to be badly interrupted by a hymnal from on high smashing into his head,
  • creating a campus-wide joke about “being slain in the Spirit’.

Hundreds of students and professors heard the commotion and turned to see what had happened. Annette and I froze in whatever wrestling pose we were in and looked out to see all those clever minds quickly understanding what had happened and lifting their eyes to us.

We risked letting go of each other just enough to silently and innocently – point to each other. Of course, no one believed either of us about whose fault it was, and slowly shook their heads saddened as they doubted our salvation for causing this sacrilege. I don’t know if that poor guy below us ever did get the rest of the message he was in the middle of. We didn’t see him ever again.


Decades later, I had college aged kids of my own and returned to visit my alma mater with one in tow. There I was able to anonymously attend another service in that same chapel. They no longer have assigned seating, but the biggest change is that they no longer allow students up on the balcony. They’ve installed big, locked doors to both stairways leading up to the balcony seating.

Well, that’s a bummer, I thought. It would have been fun to sit in that same seat and tell this story to my son where we could look down and see the seat where that poor guy received such an unusual message from on high.

I was left wondering if it would be wise to ask when the balcony was rendered off-limits but decided such a question might compromise my son’s otherwise unbiased chance of being accepted as a student as opposed to being my son, hmm.  Maybe I owed some campus leader an apology –  but really:

  • she started it,
  • . . . that time.

GW bio card 4

13 thoughts on “A Song from On High

  1. Daily chapel at school with assigned seats… Not for me – my mind drifts dangerously as it is. I can imagine causing some mischief during a service, and I’m an ultra-introvert.. Maybe the guy below decided to become a physics major at at a major secular school 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jewel
      Thank you for your kind feedback.
      She was a great friend and arguably got me through college with some degree of sanity left. Her life didn’t turn out as happy as I would have wished but we are still in touch.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries Ann Marie. I figured you were busy because you’re a teacher and, except for summer, most likely live in crazy mode. I’m very grateful for your sharing it whenever you made the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great story! Since I grew up as a minister’s daughter, I always appreciate a good church story. The lack of balcony seating at your Alma Mater is undoubtedly known as “The Wilson Rule.”

    Liked by 1 person

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