My Tribute to Mrs. Blackburn

When I was nine, I had a Sunday School teacher named Mrs. Blackburn. (Funny, I still don’t know her first name.) On Sunday morning, Mrs. Blackburn would enter a cramped classroom with a handful of bouncy little girls. My friends and I would take our seats on the cold metal folding chairs with our backs to the window, while Mrs. Blackburn sat facing us on her folding chair situated next to the door.

I don’t know much about Mrs. Blackburn. I have no idea what she liked or disliked. I don’t know who her friends were or what she did in her spare time. About the only thing I know about her is what she taught me in Sunday School. She focused on the basics.

Mrs. Blackburn taught me to memorize the books of the Bible. To this day, when I’m trying to find, say…Amos, sometimes I have to recite every book in the Old Testament in order to get there. But I can still say them all because Mrs. Blackburn made sure I learned them.

Mrs. Blackburn also gave us a memory verse each week. She concentrated on verses that described my sinful nature and what Christ had done for me. She had a piece of poster board that hung on the wall beside her. It had rows and columns drawn on it. In each row was the name of a girl in her class. At the top of each column was the verse we were working on. If you said the verse correctly, you would get a little gold star by your name. It was kind of gratifying to look up and see a row of gold stars next to your name on the poster board.

Mrs. Blackburn taught us the ACTS method of prayer: Acclamation, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I don’t use this method every time I pray, but rarely do I bow my head without those four words racing through my mind.

I’m certain that we were typical squirmy little girls. I’m confident that I was often distracted, if not by the girl sitting next to me, then by something as simple as the lace on my dress. Mrs. Blackburn probably had those moments when she wondered if she was getting through to me.

I can remember Mrs. Blackburn taking us to eat lunch at her house. We piled in her car. I tried to sit lady-like in my Sunday dress. She turned around and gave us each a piece of gum. I could barely see over the front seat as we drove down the road. A few short minutes into the drive, the taste of clove gum hit my system. I’ve never wanted to spit out a piece of gum so quickly in all my life. Then we arrived at her house and had what, I thought, was quite a formal lunch around her dining room table. She made Dr. Pepper ice cubes so that when the ice melted in my glass, my Dr. Pepper tasted just as syrupy as when she first poured it.

On promotion Sunday it was the habit at our church for each class to sit next to their teacher. Mrs. Blackburn welcomed the fidgety nine year-old girls on her row. It was that Sunday that I publicly declared my faith in Christ.

Mrs. Blackburn was not flashy or exciting that I recall. As I remember, she was a short little old lady who wore her gray hair in a bun on top of her head. (But, then again, to a nine year-old everyone seems old.)

So why am I reminiscing about Mrs. Blackburn on a blog?

For one reason:  she was faithful.

I know Mrs. Blackburn wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Mrs. Blackburn couldn’t rescue me from my fallen, sinful condition. But Sunday after Sunday, in her simple, basic way, she pointed me to the One who could. And she made a lasting impact on my life.

This week as you are doing the simple, the ordinary, the seemingly mundane — faithfully — remember that God can use your faithfulness to draw a little life to Him. When you’re helping a child find the right book of the Bible, when you’re rehearsing memory verses with a little guy who can’t stop moving, when you’re teaching that Sunday School class full of talkative fourth-graders, when you are singing Jesus Loves Me with jumping four and five year-olds, remember that God is using you to point these little ones to Him.

You never know. You may end up being someone else’s Mrs. Blackburn.

PS.  Thank you, Mrs. Blackburn, for your faithfulness in pointing this “little girl” to Christ.

14 thoughts on “My Tribute to Mrs. Blackburn

  1. This article really makes you think about the circle of influence you have on those around you. We always have the opportunity to point others to Christ and his Word–especially in the “ordinary.” I always remind myself of Spurgeon’s “cook” at his school. He credits her for teaching him more theology than any Doctorate in Divinity could.

  2. Your blog makes me reminisce. I remember a little old gray-haired woman as well at a little old country church who taught us in Sunday School whenever we went to visit my grandparents. She was a nice lady and it was comforting to know she would “always” be the teacher when we visited. She used “flannelgraph” to teach the stories. Remember that? Thanks for sharing.

  3. Your Miss Blackburn is my Miss Glazebrook, a fifth grade teacher in a Christian school. A third grade teacher in a public school abused me (emotionally) and I ended up with an eye tic and began stuttering. My parents put me in a Christian school, but I was still “damaged goods”… but a year later, Miss Glazebrook told my parents, “I will love her back.” And she did. She showed me the love of God, and things began to turn around. She was faithful in not only teaching me, but in inviting me to her home and surrounding me with acceptance and a sense of worth.

    Years later, while serving with a revival team (Life Action Ministries), I was in a revival meeting and there was a Christian bookstore connected to the church. I went to the bookstore, and from across the bookstore, I heard and recognized Miss Glazebrook’s voice. She was by then an old, frail, woman, but I had the opportunity to bless her as she had blessed me.

    We never know how our words and actions might be the turning point in anothers’ life.

  4. I was really moved by the simplicity of your experience. Not that she was boring or dry or “not fun”, but as you said focused on the basics. That stuck with me. As it stuck with you.
    Sometimes, In my efforts to reach young ones, I find that I have to dazzle them. (I also find myself doing this with adults as well!)
    Thank you for the reminder that it’s not me, it’s Christ. All I can do is point to Him.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I came over from Tim Challies website.

    It reminded me of my freshman year small group leaders. They were exceptionally faithful! And when I say that, it just wasn’t that they showed up but that they were always faithful in loving me as a typical college freshman.

    Many times I either showed up late or didn’t show up at all. When I was there, I wasn’t exactly engaged. However, everytime they saw me or if I needed something, they would be there. Never talking down to me.

    I’m sure there were times I drove them nuts but Nate and Derrick, thank you for setting an example that I can still look to 16 years later.

    I can only hope to champion others as faithfully as you did for me during that critical year of my life.

  6. What a wonderful tribute, Carrie. God’s faithfulness from one generation to the next is astounding, and you have beautifully captured one of the main ways he passes it down the line to each of us in his family.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  7. Mrs. Ella Mae Blackburn was my 4th grade teacher, too. She had her husband make a little wooden shelf that held matchbooks covered in colored felt for different books of the Bible. She also took us on a field trip to the “Holy City” in the Wichita Mountains where an annual Easter Pageant was held. Years later, when I was discouraged and thinking about dropping out of law school, she sent me an encouraging note. I left my office and walked over to a nearby church during my lunch hour on the day I heard she passed away. There I cried and thanked the Lord for her faithfulness, too.

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  10. This means so much to me! My son sent it to me at a time when I so needed to be encouraged as a Sunday School teacher. I hope you don’t mind that I share it on my FB page – straight from here with all credits given to you and your blog.

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