Thursday, November 14, 2013

Remembering Mrs. Lawson

From the 1980 Petit Jean.


Mrs. Lois Lawson, my 3rd grade teacher, went home to be with the Lord on November 1st.  If you have ever felt completely loved by a teacher, then you already know the kind of person she was.

Here’s a reprint of something I wrote a few years ago …

***

Our teacher, Mrs. Lawson, announced to our class that we would be memorizing First Corinthians 13, the chapter on love.  It seemed daunting.  A whole chapter?  All of those verses sticking in our brains and then coming out of our mouths?

She opened up her big black Bible to the book of First Corinthians.  She said, “Now, boys and girls, I want you to know that I am a very clean person.  I wash my hands every day.  But look at this page in my Bible.”  She held it up for everyone to see.  “I have read from First Corinthians 13 so many times that the oils from my hands have turned the page yellow.”

She was right.  The double-columned page with tiny black print was dingy and yellow.  It was kind of cool and gross all at the same time.

And so we began to memorize the chapter, a verse or so each day.  Mrs. Lawson would read a phrase from her King James Version Bible (always substituting the word “love” for the KJV word “charity”), and we would repeat it back to her as a class.

“Rejoiceth not in iniquity,” she would read.

“Rejoiceth not in iniquity,” we would respond.

After we had learned all the verses, we quoted it as a group for the rest of the elementary school at a Friday assembly.  I don’t think anyone clapped afterward, but they should have.  It was a sight to behold.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I still remember most of it today.

Thank you, Mrs. Lawson.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Songs of the Church

http://www.lisanotes.com/

This week, Lisa Burgess is guest-posting here.  Lisa is a writer who blogs at www.lisanotes.com.  If you’re looking for a good dose of encouragement and grace, Lisa notes is the perfect place for you. 

***

We had a hunch he was dying. He was losing too many pounds, coughing too often, and actually calling a doctor. 

That wasn’t like Daddy.

He’d always been the strong one, the one who never got sick, the one taking care of Mama in these dark days of her Alzheimer’s.

He’d also been the one who’d taught Bible classes and sat in elders’ meetings and led singing on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights in our little country Church of Christ.

But he was also the one who taught us to sing church songs around the piano in our living room.

Instruments and the name of Jesus were a forbidden mix in our religion. We had no pianos, guitars, or organs in our church building. Daddy didn’t fight against the prohibition. But he didn’t agree with it either.  

He used to pluck out tunes on our piano at home on Saturday afternoons to new songs he wanted to learn to sing on Sunday. I felt honored (and admittedly a little shaky) when he’d ask me as a young girl to also help play the notes.

But the greatest fun came when his brother Bobby sat down at the keys on Saturday nights and we’d pass out hymnals to share and we’d sing four-part harmony around the piano for hours. It was praise at its purest.

What Daddy was teaching me—without using words—was that worshiping at home was as important as worshiping at church. And that to hear the music down deep, it was okay to loosen up a little.  

It was less about us and our rule-keeping, and more about God and his grace-giving. That gave us something to sing about.

Otherwise, we’d spend our lives like many we saw, trying to be good enough instead of crediting God for being loving enough. That brand of religion never settled quite right with me.

Or with Daddy. Sure, he taught us to obey (when he snapped his fingers from the front pew, all four of us kids immediately sat straighter wherever we were in the church building), but he also taught us to question the rules. To see if they were from God or were from man. And to not sacrifice our freedoms unnecessarily on the altar of tradition.

So when this ex-Marine refused chemotherapy when he found out cancer had too big a head start on him, we knew he felt safe where he was heading.

And when cancer got too noisy, we sat around Daddy’s bed his last weekend here and sang hymns to drown it out, songs Daddy taught us to sing but could no longer sing with us.

We didn’t have a piano in his bedroom that Friday night, but I know Daddy wouldn’t have minded if we had. God either. God knows there are many ways we need to tell him thanks. Sometimes with lips. Sometimes with deeds. And sometimes with fingers on keys and strings.

God is worth praising every way we know how.

After Daddy’s funeral, we discussed what each of us wanted of his. Me? I wanted his leather-bound “Songs of the Church,” the songbook he led singing with for so many years. It rests on the family piano now in my living room.

It reminds me to let go of being a proud rule-keeper and instead be a humble God-worshiper. Because ultimately that’s what God is seeking. Exactly like my daddy taught me.