Saturday, September 17, 2016

My 'Miss Leynse Lesson'

I enjoyed school. In fact, as I look back on it, I would say I loved it.  But there were two subjects with which I struggled greatly: 4th grade penmanship and any grade math.  But one of the most important lessons about life I learned was from my 4th grade teacher, Miss Leynse.  I am thinking about Miss Leynse because yesterday my assistant was struggling to read my notes about the church bulletin content.  I apologized for my poor penmanship and told her it was not Miss Leynse’s fault. I know how to write proper cursive, but too often I write in haste, failing to make the proper curves and humps which make cursive writing a joy to readYou see, it’s not that Miss Leynse didn’t teach me well. It’s that I don’t always remember my “Miss Leynse Lesson”.

I remember the day. The sun was shining. The windows were open. My classmates were outside for recess. And I was sitting at my desk, pencil to the lined paper, writing rows of “m” and “n.” I was struggling with getting the second “hump” on each of the “m’s”, not because I didn’t know how, but because I was in a hurry to get outside with Billy and Duane and Suzie and Cindy and the rest. So, I took my paper up to Miss Leynse, seated at her neatly arranged wooden desk, handed it to her and confessed, “some of the “m’s” have only one hump, but is this good enough?”  She didn’t even look at my paper. She just looked into my eyes and said, “Billy, it’s good enough when it’s right.” She handed the paper back to me. I retreated to my desk and I made all the malformed letters into proper m m m m m m m m m. And then  I ran outside to the cement playground for the few minutes remaining before the loud bell rang.                          

I think of my Miss Leynse story often, and I tell it every time someone will listen to it.  I cannot tell you how many times I have said to myself, “Billy, it’s not good enough until it’s right.”  Miss Leynse was both my second and fourth grade teacher at Sheboygan Christian School, where in those critical years I learned about life and academics and God with the same thirty classmates. I can recall nearly all of my elementary school teachers and tell you stories about them.  I am who I am today because these were teachers, along with my later in life teachers, who heard and responded to the call to teach children.  And while Miss Leynse couldn’t cure me of my habit of rushing through “details”, she could teach me about not settling for “good enough” in life.

Your children and grandchildren are back in school.  They have teachers who are forming their lives. If it was up to me, I would make sure all teachers heard “thank you for forming my child” at every opportunity.  The future of our society, indeed, of the world, depends on teachers who respond to God’s call to teach children.  Each day, every teacher could be giving every child a “Miss Leynse story” which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  Have we told our children to listen well?  We, as a society, should make sure that we honor, respect and thank people who every day put up with the demands and challenges of their teaching jobs because they want to help some little Billy or Suzie know what it means to be valuable and valued as a child. 

I should send Miss Leynse a note.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Found and Waiting

I was searching through our church’s “Lost and Found” yesterday.  It was a part of my sermon research on the stories about the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin (Luke 15:1-10).  I was struck by the contents: lots of clothing articles; a child’s backpack, some jewelry articles and, of most interest to me, several pairs of reading glasses.  I had a picture in my mind of people somehow connected to our church who either decided reading wasn’t all that important to them, or they adapted by extending their arms full length to hold their reading material.  

Why have these articles been sitting in a cardboard box marked “Lost and Found” for so long a time?  Are none of these items of enough value to the owners to justify returning to church to retrieve them? Or, perhaps the owners simply could not recall where they “lost” these items.  But, if they were of real value to the owners, they would have retraced their steps, right?  Am I the only who obsesses over things of mine that my wife or co-workers have misplaced, leaving them in a state of being lost to me?

Anyway, I was thinking about what we could do to fix this problem. One, I suppose, is to move the box out of the coat closet.  A better solution, I think, would be to rename the box. Instead of “Lost and Found”, I am thinking we could go with “Found and Waiting.”  You see, the term “Lost and Found” is not accurate, at least not from the viewpoint of the original owner.  The owner lost her reading glasses. The cleaning service “found” them and turned them in to the office. So, at this point, the glasses are no longer lost, but they are awaiting their return to the rightful owner.  They have been found, but they await reconnecting with the owner who “lost” them. (This word also bothers me. The glasses were really just misplaced. They were not “lost”, as in “unfindable.” They were not “lost”; they were just “not yet found.”)

So, if we changed the label to “Found and Waiting” perhaps the found items would be of greater interest. People would wonder whether there was some valuable or interesting item of their own just waiting to be reclaimed.  The fact is that, if we don’t do something soon we will need to discard the items in the box, and then they really will be lost in some trash dump on their way to incineration. We need to motivate people to start searching. “We found your glasses. You can read again if only you will claim them!” Alas, it seems that the owners have decided the glasses are not worth the effort to retrieve, or they have given up hope of finding them.

Glasses are not people. People have an Owner who deeply desires that everyone be “found”, and this Owner never gives up hope. Which brings me back to where I started. Do you think you are lost? Do you know you are found? Are you waiting for your Owner to come back for you? Perhaps some servant is being sent to let you know you have been claimed, to free you from the box today!  Do you want to be retrieved, or do you prefer life in the box?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Monday's Hope

It’s Labor Day.  Monday. 

It’s a good morning for a long walk. It’s Monday, but it’s Labor Day, which in its somewhat oxymoronic definition means I am not required to labor. So I walk…

Past the apple tree that so shortly ago held the promise of beautiful blossoms and now bears the fruit of the tree’s labor. It’s Labor Day.  And I walk on…

Past the beach entrance which reminds us that the beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  It’s Labor Day. Monday. Already. And I keep walking…

Looking down the babbling brook that feeds the still pond which overlooks the lake which holds people trying to find a final summer memory to hold onto while wrapped in blankets next January.

And past that same apple tree once more.  A few of the apples have fallen, I see.  I wonder why. Are they ripe already?  Did the wind get them and if so, why those apples and not the others?

It’s a week after the Monday my friend and co-worker for Jesus and Hope died.  At age 51.  Her husband eulogized her best: “She had a good life. Too short.”  I thought about Barb as I walked on…

It’s Labor Day. Summer is over, even though the sun would disagree.  As I walked and thought of beaches and water and apple trees, I saw a tiny caterpillar ‘racing’ to get to the other side…

It’s Labor Day. Monday. Summer is over. Again. BUT… 

Summer is coming again. The melancholy of Labor Day Monday is the environment needed to produce hope…make that Hope.

As in “Sure Hope”:  the trees will blossom, the beach will open, the people will return for new memory-making, the caterpillar will fly.  Barb lives, to be seen again.  Monday’s Hope.

So I keep walking…and waiting…and looking for signs…“Open up the heavens/We want to see you/…. Show us, show us your glory, Lord.” (Meredith Andrews, Open Up the Heavens)