Monday, July 24, 2006


Every once in a while, a person comes into our lives - however briefly - and touches us in some way that leaves a lasting impression. Someone whose presence has influenced us so that we are never quite the same afterward.

Jon Francis is just such a person.

A little more than two weeks ago, I had never heard of Jon Francis. I met him on Sunday, July 9th, and briefly came to know him over the next few days that followed. He is a counselor at Luther Heights Bible Camp in Idaho, and I met him in conjunction with a day camp for children that he was staffing along with three others.

These four staffers were as wonderful with children as any folks I had ever met; their youth and enthusiasm for their project was palpable and contagious. They were kind to my own children, in particular adopting my six-year-old daughter under their broad wings, encouraging her, and helping her to feel comfortable in an environment somewhat unfamiliar to her.

The three other staffers deserve accolades as much as Jon does, but for their own privacy I will not name them here.

Besides nurturing my daughter during those four days, these young people came to our home and shared a meal with us. They were here on Tuesday, July 11th, spending the evening with us, sharing food and fellowship. They each told us something of themselves, and the experience of getting to know each better is something to be remembered. Jon was quieter than the others, seeming to enjoy listening to the chatter of our full house. He laughed at my son's knock-knock jokes, jokes my son told repeatedly with peals of giggles, turning from one person to the next. Jon related to my children as if he genuinely understood them, understood what it was like to be four and six years old in a house full of grown ups.

Jon told us that he hailed from Stillwater, Minnesota, and I told him that I have family near there. I proudly showed him the 1940s radio displayed on a shelf in our kitchen, purchased at an antique shop in Stillwater several years ago. Jon chuckled. "There's a lot of those," he said with a smile, referring to the shops lining the main streets through downtown Stillwater.

Jon struck me as a thoughtful young man, a man who would measure his words carefully, a man of deep faith whose purpose was to share that faith with the very young, the kids he so obviously enjoyed working with.

It was our privilege to have met Jon, to have known him even for such a short time, and that Thursday, July 13th, we bid farewell to him and his colleagues as they concluded the day camp and returned to Luther Heights.

On Sunday, July 16th, I arrived at my home church to discover a handwritten thank you note in my mailbox, a card written by four young people I felt blessed to know. I did not know it then, but by the time I stood in the quiet hallway, reading the note with pleasure, Jon Francis had already gone missing.

You can read about Jon here.

And here.

And if you do read about Jon, please spare him a thought or a prayer if you can. Please remember his family and those who love him. They don't know me, nor I them, but my family had the good fortunate to be blessed by Jon's presence, and we will not forget him.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"I'm just a bill, I'm only a bill..."

My kids love Schoolhouse Rock. They are watching it right now. We watched it yesterday, too - looking at the American history portions in particular, mindful of the July 4th holiday.

They can sing almost every word to almost every song.

"Lolly, lolly, lolly, get your adverbs here..."

"Conjunction junction, what's your function....?"

"Mr. Morton is the subject, and what the predicate says, he does..."

"Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five fifty, fifty-five, sixty..."

My son just came downstairs, loudly singing, "Eight times niiiiiiine is seventy-two!"

Yesterday, I told them I used to watch Schoolhouse Rock when I was a child.

"They had that when you were a kid?" my six-year-old daughter asked.

"Yes," I answered. "Way back then."

She paused to consider this.

"On regular TV?" she wanted to know.

"Oh, yes. We only had regular TV when I was little. No cable. No satellite. No tapes. No DVDs. Just regular TV."

"Oh. Did it come on at bedtime?"

"No, it came on between shows on Saturday cartoons and in the afternoons."

"You could only watch cartoons on Saturdays?"

"Saturday morning cartoons. Yes. Cartoons on Saturday only would do you some good."


"Never mind."


My singing son is now watching me write this, impatiently standing at my elbow and asking for a hot dog bun with Jif. He's looking at my song quotes, telling me repeatedly, "That song is called Naughty Number Nine. Say that, Mom. It's Naughty Number Nine. Put that on there."

He is pleased as punch now to see that I have included his suggestion.

I'm going to the kitchen. Hot dog bun with Jif, anyone?