John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4 NIV

John the Baptist intrigues me. I am drawn by his passion and dedication, his message of repentance, his removal from society, and his lifestyle contrary to the norm of first century society.

Jesus captivates me. In contrast he was loving and caring, in the centre of society, teaching a new way to live, contrary to the accepted beliefs of the religious Jews. 
Both were used by God; both had large crowds following them; many believed their message, repented, and turned their lives over to God.
John was totally human and knew that he was the voice preparing the way for the Christ. I think by removing himself from society, he was able to focus on the task God had set before him. When he had completed his purpose, in a cruel twist of a woman’s mind, he was arrested and beheaded. 
Jesus conducted his ministry as God had directed him; he was fully God and fully man. Jesus met a cruel death at the hands of twisted people who feared he would take their place. He, too, completed the task God had for him.
But here all comparisons end: Jesus is the Son of God. He rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, interceding on our behalf. What a thrilling message for us today!

Do you have Jesus interceding for you? Today is a good day to accept him as your Saviour and this amazing provision will be yours, too. 
 


In that first year of Junior High, my teaching schedule was very diverse. I taught Music from Grades 1-9 (such a huge span of ages), and English subjects to Grades 7-9. It was challenging and exciting to move from class to class and adjust to the different ages and interest levels.

One of my most interesting classes that year was composed of all boys from two of the grade 9 classes. First thing Friday morning, two classes of Grade 9 boys had Phys. Ed. while the girls from their classes had Music with me. The Music room was directly across from the gym.

When first period was over, the girls left for their gym session and the boys came to me for Music. I’m smiling as I write this, the memories coming clearly to my mind. I hope you can imagine the setting.

Our gym did not have showers, so the boys came sweaty and fragrant! The first thing we did was open all the windows, even on the coldest days. The next challenge was to get them seated and quiet – they’d just spent 45 active minutes in the gym and were still running on adrenaline.

How interested do you think they were in Music at this point in their day? I knew I needed to be extremely creative to make this class successful. I came up with a plan that worked perfectly all year. Music theory was not going to be welcome, so I decided that we could dispense with it unless something came up where it was needed. The boys who were musicians already knew theory, and the others would probably never need or use it. Besides, they had been taking Music as a subject since Grade 1.

My goal was to give them a love for Music; all different types of music. We worked out a compromise that made all of us happy. My proposal to them was this; if they would accept my lessons for three weeks, the fourth week would be music of their choice (pre-approved by me, of course.) The idea was that I would plan fun and interesting things for them so my three classes would not be boring, and they would bring in their choices the fourth week. They loved the idea and we had a great year.

I worked hard to come up with interesting classes and they brought in some amazing music. I soon discovered that many of them had great signing voices, as well. From time to time I would bring in a musician to perform for them. One time it was a friend I had met at University who was a superb guitarist. He was still in University and the guys thought he was cool. They also loved his music. This class that could have been a disaster for them and for me, turned out to be one of my favourite times during the week. Well done, boys! You couldn’t have pleased me more with your willingness to compromise, accept, and contribute.

 



 

The pressure is on to move into my Junior High years. I softly and sadly close the lid on the box of memories of my first little class. You taught me so much; gave me a love of teaching; helped me develop compassion; and gave me such love in return for my love of you.

Although the year holds such precious memories, it also holds pain and anguish as I made the decision to return to University to complete my degree and never teach again. I do not want to walk the path of my apprenticeship under very difficult leadership. From other staff members I heard the story that the principal deliberately chose to “make or break” first year teachers. I’m ashamed to say that I was almost broken. But upon completion of my education degree, and a promise from the school board of my district that I could now have a placement in a Junior High classroom, I made the decision to try one more time. This happily led to twenty-seven more years in school!

My first placement was in the school where I had been a student for my primary, middle, and junior high years. I had always loved the school and I entered with great joy and anticipation. It proved to be everything I desired and much more! The rollicking, fun-loving, mischievous, mood-swinging, intelligent, thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, loving junior high students burst upon my life! From day one, I knew I was in the right place; a place that would hold my love forever. When I entered my classroom with my early teen students, I was totally at home.

And oh the stories! I’m smiling as I write. What’s even more fun is that several of them are friends on Facebook and although I won’t use names, or even locations, they’ll recognize themselves! But dear students, each memory is sweet and I trust you’ll see that I tell the little stories because I love you, and found such fun recalling them.

I, once again, learned so much from my students. My first story centres on a young boy who did not have some of the advantages taken for granted by others. He was charming and my heart was lost to him right from the beginning. On this occasion, the class was working on an exercise at their desks; I was at my desk helping students having trouble with the assignment, and marking answers as they were completed. At one point, I managed to bump a stack of assignments that quickly spread over the floor.

I was dismayed and upset with myself as I bent to gather them. He was instantly at my side, helping. He could see that I was upset and he looked up at me. I’ll never forget his words, “Miss Galbraith, don’t sweat the small stuff.”

He was so right! I’ve recalled his words so many times over the years when the “small stuff” threatened to swamp me. Then his voice would sound in my ears, “Miss Galbraith, don’t sweat the small stuff.” It always brings a smile to my face and a little visit with this awesome boy.

I’ve completely lost track of him. If any of you recognize the story and know where he is, I’d appreciate an update. Someday, I’d love to be able to thank him in person.

And thus began my “learning” in Junior High.



People are asking when I will move to the Junior High stories! Soon, soon! I thought I was ready today, but I remembered two more stories I’d like to share. Patience, dear readers, those awesome Junior High kids with their off-the-wall sense of humor, will be right along!

In my little class, there was one adorable little guy who always seemed to be happy and upbeat; a real joy to have in my class. During the spring, he appeared on several days with beautiful bouquets of tulips. I was always happy to receive his gift and put them in a vase where they graced my desk and added a special charm to our room.

It wasn’t until tulip season was over that I had occasion to drive down the street where he lived. I saw his house up ahead and to my surprise there was not a flower garden to be seen! I had supposed the tulips had come from their garden, but not so!

Then it hit me! Between his house and the school was a large bakery. Outside the bakery were lovely beds of tulips! And I remembered that they were the same type and colour as the ones that found their way to my classroom!

What should I do? How should I handle it? I made a decision; I’m not sure if it was the right one or not, but I decided that I would not challenge him on this. I had no proof that they had come from the bakery garden, and I would have crushed a little boy’s joy in bringing flowers to his teacher.

My sweet little one, I loved the flowers and you brought great joy to my heart in so many ways.



Have you ever felt the pulse of a city? The first time I experienced it was in Saint John, New Brunswick, many years ago. I was uptown for an appointment and standing on a street corner, mid-morning, I felt the pulse. It’s a nebulous thing, a feeling akin to joy and excitement, a living city on the move, awakening to a new day.

I’ve also experienced it in Toronto and most recently in Guelph. From my balcony, on an early morning, I love watching the city awaken. Cars swish by taking their occupants to destinations unknown to me. Seniors walk their dogs on leashes, the dogs straining to sniff each new thing in their path; kids on bikes welcome the day with shouts of laughter. I hear the thunk of tennis balls hitting rackets in the park nearby; a train rushes past behind the trees. I can just see the tops of the rail cars as they pass through the city.

This morning a plane thrusts into the air from the Airport in Breslau. Birds twitter in the pine trees just off my balcony. Squirrels chatter and chase each other along the fence, up the tree trunks, through the grass, in play or anger, I cannot tell. Voices of children playing reach my ear as I rock in the shade, quite private amid the bustle around me.

I love these early morning sounds and sights. I love the feel of the awakening city. I love to experience the pulse of a living, active, busy city. I love to feel a part of the awakening.

 



Jul

28


My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 27 NIV

During a recent trip to Scotland, I visited a sheep farm. The resident shepherd raises and trains Border Collies as sheep dogs and did an extensive demonstration of their skills. But my attention was on the sheep who moved to the east, to the west, around in circles, out to the field, back to the front, all at the voice of the shepherd.

When they strayed, he gave directions to the dogs to get them back where they should be. His series of whistles was known both to the dogs and the sheep. There was no question of hearing the piercing sound as it travelled over the field. The question was; would they obey his voice?

As I watched, my thoughts turned to Christ as the Good Shepherd and I marvelled at how we wander just like the sheep of this pasture. We hear his voice, but do we listen? Do we obey his leading? If we listen to the voice of Christ and move where he wants us to go, we will be under the care and protection of our shepherd.

The sheep seemed directionless. I couldn’t help but notice that they seemed simple and slow-witted. They need a shepherd! They wander as far as twelve miles away from the home field, but the shepherd walks the distance to minister to their needs. We, like them, wander. How comforting to know that our Good Shepherd seeks us and gently brings us back to the fold.

Are you under the care and protection of the Good Shepherd? Do you hear his voice and listen to him?

 


I’m still with my little people this morning. I’m reluctant to leave them. My story today concerns a student in another classroom but in the same school. It is another sad story.

This classroom had a very dynamic, caring teacher; one who understood her students and looked beyond the surface of behaviours to seek the reason behind.

There was a problem in the classroom. Students’ recess snacks were disappearing. Someone was taking what didn’t belong to them. This always causes heartache for the student who has lost the coveted snack, shock and dismay for the other students, and heartache for the teacher. She became vigilant and one morning caught the culprit. Today’s theft was a large, shiny apple.

The student was taken to the office where a discussion took place between the teacher and the student.

The question, “Why did you take the apple,” elicited the response, “I was hungry.” This was followed by, “Didn’t you have breakfast this morning? The response turned our staff upside-down. “No, I didn’t have breakfast. It wasn’t my turn to eat.”

I can feel the tears threatening to spill from my eyes. What he said was true. Further investigation brought us the information that the family could not afford to feed everyone, so they took turns eating.

Our response was swift and effective. Immediately a breakfast program was started in our school. The details are hazy after so many years, but I believe it began with this family and later developed into a wider program.

It’s hard to believe the level of poverty that existed and stills exists in our wealthy, first-world country. This child lived in a poorer section of town, but only a block away from well-to-do families. The children from the wealthy section mingled with the children living in poverty. At this early level, I don’t remember any distinction shown by the students. They were just all equally students at our school. I can only imagine that as they grew and became aware of the world around them, that the distinction became obvious.

My own little group were a mix from both worlds. It must have been difficult for my little ones who did not have the clothes, toys, trips etc. that they saw and heard about; but never once did I hear them complain.

Oh my little ones, where did you go in life? My hope for you is that you were able to rise above the circumstances of your childhood and follow your dreams.



Amidst the joy of life there is always sorrow. It’s the same in the classroom. I can’t leave this sweet class without adding a little about the things that nearly broke my heart.

Every morning I would lead these little ones into the classroom where they would remove coats, boots, and bags. The following few minutes fell into a delightful pattern. I would sit at my desk, they would line up beside me to tell me their stories from the few hours we’d been apart. It was such a special time of the day; the time before classes actually began, the time when I got to know them and their families a little better. Sometimes they would go on and on and I’d have to hurry them along so the person behind would have a chance to tell their story.

Most of the stories were funny and sweet, but sometimes in the midst of this joy would come a note of sorrow. The one that touched me the most was from a sweet little girl. This particular little girl was cute and lively, with a big smile that melted my heart. Her stories were usually charming and entertaining. One day as she approached the front of the line, the same smile was on her face, but her words belied the happy look. She, in a very matter of fact voice, told me that her father had hit her mother the night before. Her tone of voice told me that this was not an uncommon event. I was shocked. I asked her if her mother was okay. She assured me that she was fine.

The rest of that day, I kept a close eye on this little one, but she seemed to take it all in stride. What other things had she experienced in her young life? All these years later, I still feel sad when I think about this story. I’ve lost track of this little one and can only hope and pray that she had the opportunity to do what she wanted in life and to be free from any violence in her future.

My experience in the classroom over the years was coloured by this event. Whenever a child was acting in ways not usual for them, I was always aware that they may have left a difficult situation at home. Sometimes the cause would become clear later in the day or in the following days, but sometimes I just had to keep it to myself and wonder.

To you, my little one, I would love to send you a hug. I do hope that someday we may reconnect. You made an impact on my life with your ability to carry on during difficulties. I love you for that.

 



The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.” Gen 7:1 NIV

God graciously supplied everything that Noah and his family needed while God was destroying sinful mankind. The ark provided safety, salvation, security, life, protection, and provisions. The world outside the ark was harsh, treacherous, stormy, frightening, and deadly. But inside was peace through the storm, life rather than death, and protection from the elements.

This reminds me of what we have in Christ. We are safe in his arms. We are saved from our sinful natures. We are eternally secure. We have abundant life. We have protection from the evil one. And God has promised that he has given us everything we need to live our lives as Christ-followers.

In Philippians 4:19 Paul tells us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” What a wonderful truth. What a wonderful provision. Often our problem is that we expect him to meet all of our wants and when he doesn’t, we begin to think he doesn’t care. But he is faithful and fulfills all his promises. We need to align our wants to his perspective of our needs; then we will see that he has provided everything we need.

Are you safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, our ark? If not, the Bible reminds us that today is the day of salvation. Don’t delay the most important decision of your life.



I’ve subtitled this one, Fri-day = Lice-day!

Of all the schools where I taught, this one takes the prize for number of lice sightings! Perhaps it was because the children were younger than the ones where I would ultimately spend my teaching time, or perhaps it was the area, or the times. Whatever the reason, every Friday morning was lice-quest day. Are you surprised that I didn’t eat lunch on Fridays?

After the morning bell and opening exercises, it was time to have the children put their heads down on their desks, for me to get clean sticks from my desk drawer (similar to popsicle sticks), and begin the ritual. This was repeated by each teacher in each classroom throughout the school.

I would begin at the back of the row by the windows and work my way around the classroom. Holding a stick in each hand, I would carefully lift the hair, looking for the culprits. I knew where I would find them, but to spare any unnecessary embarrassment, each child would be checked. And although I knew where they would be, occasionally another student would harbour one or two due to the close proximity of the children.

There were always at least two heads that held the fugitives. How do you send these children to the office without the others knowing? Difficult, even impossible. I made it as painless as I could, distracting the others. Fortunately, almost everyone had them at least once during the year, so the embarrassment was shared. I must say, that never once did I hear a negative word said to anyone who had to be sent to the office. My little darlings were very accepting.

We, as teachers, were following policies set by the schoolboard. The child would be sent to the office where he or she would be checked again. The home would be notified and the child sent home with instructions on how to rid a head of lice. Once they returned to school, there was an office check, and then the child returned to the classroom, usually the next day.

I fully believe that our policies were correct, but all parents did not agree with our decisions or our suggestions for removal. All of our hard work was useless because of the heads that were not completely cleared. Sometimes it was an economic difficulty and in those cases we tried to supply what was needed, but some families would not accept our help. Other times it was a lack of caring or of neglect. It always amazed me that some parents really didn’t seem to care if the lice persisted. Perhaps it was an overwhelming problem in the midst of even greater overwhelming problems in the home.

I learned several things from my Friday mornings. I learned that I could check a head and not gag! This was a major breakthrough for me! I learned that my heart filled with compassion for these children who were unable to help themselves. They were at the mercy of the adults in their lives. I learned that I could bend over their desks and help them with their assignments without worrying about the possibility of sharing the lice. I learned that children have little or no control over the environment into which they’re born. I learned that the child with the dirty face and ripped clothing was just as loving and delightful as the scrupulously clean and well-dressed child.

The hearts of these little ones touched mine in a way that I could never have imagined. Even all these years later, I feel tears on my eyelashes as I remember their dear little faces. You were my first class, my little ones, and I loved you and the lessons you taught me. I will never forget you.



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