• David Carlson

634 Sing the praises of all those people among us who are “a voice of one crying out in the desert

Day 634 Friday, December 10, 2021

I want to sing the praises of all those people among us who are “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”

- A reflection by Jim Fredericks


(Note Please pray for and keep Steve Lyman in our hearts -- Steve's having back surgery today.)


A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

I want to sing the praises of all those people among us who are “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”


In particular, I want to tell you about Ms. June Meese.

June Meese was my fourth-grade teacher. We called her “Miss Meese” in those days. I sing her praises this Advent because I can say literally and without exaggeration that June Meese taught me how to read. In doing so, she will forever be, for me at least, “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”


I struggled with “learning disabilities” as a child and I still struggle them as an adult. When I was in grammar school, we didn’t know very much about such things. In my first years in school, I remember the teacher writing a word on the board and hands going up all around me. My classmates would shout out the word the teacher had written.

But not me.

How could my classmates look at those squiggles and then, seemingly without any effort at all, come up with a word.? I was baffled and frightened.


My parents could not have been more responsible. I sat on my dad’s lap night after night with a phonics book full of senseless puzzles I could never figure out: pronounce “th” paired with “e” and then paired with “o” and then with “i.” My tears fell from my cheeks onto the table as I leaned over this demonic book. (It was an ugly gray). I can’t believe how patient my dad was. With equal patience, my mom would write words I had misspelled on a piece of paper.

“t-a-b-l-e” – not “t-a-b-e-l.”

Can’t you see the difference?

Well, of course I could see the difference. What I just couldn’t see was which of the two was spelled correctly.

School became a dangerous place for me. At any moment, a teacher could mark up the blackboard with her chalk and demand that I come up with a word. I had lots of friends and I don’t remember anyone calling me stupid, but I knew that something fundamental was separating me from them. All my friends could look at the squiggles on the blackboard and call out the right word. How could they do this? What was their secret? What was wrong with me?

Without a doubt, I can say this was the loneliest time in my entire life, and with a dread only a child can know, I entered the fourth grade.

Miss Meese frightened me at first. She came looming out of the stratosphere into my little, well-defended inner kingdom of childhood imagination and said,

“Well, Jim, now that you are in fourth grade, I think it is time we started to read.”


She told me that she would give me special lessons every day after school. Just the two of us.

And this is exactly what she did.

Like my parents, June Meese was endlessly patient.

“Try it again, Jim, you almost have it. Sound it out.”

Sometimes Miss Meese would write the word in a sentence using words I already knew, which made it easy to guess what the difficult word was. I still marvel at this kindness. She gave me special attention after class for an entire year.

I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but I was falling in love. I was certainly in love with Miss Meese, but I also was falling in love with all those words she was teaching me. They were like a bridge spanning the great chasm between my inner world and the world beyond. I began to love words, even as I still hated spelling.

I still love words. (Of course, I still hate spelling too).

So, … in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…

June Meese appeared to me in the midst of my desert.

She was like John the Baptist:

A voice of one crying out in the desert


And this voice crying out in my desert was telling me that what I had come to assume was impossible was, in fact, going to happen: the day would come when I would read.

In announcing the coming of the Messiah, the Prophet Isaiah wrote that the impossible would come to be:

“Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”


And Miss Meese was saying pretty much the same thing: One day, I was going to be able to read.

Sometime after my studies with June Meese, I became a college professor. (I’m leaving out some of the details of my life story). As a college prof, I had a habit of stopping in at the library on my campus in order to watch the students working in their carrels.


(C-a-r-r-e-l … I had to look it up).

Watching a young person absorbed in a book still brings out deep feelings in me.


I would look at the college students and think, with great emotion, that what is impossible was becoming possible. The great mountains and the deep ravines that separate us from one another were being leveled. The winding roads were being made straight and the rough ways made smooth.

Isaiah the Prophet got it right about the coming of the Messiah.

We are living in a lonely time. Many of us are in a desert of isolation. This is certainly true because of COVID, but there are other reasons for our loneliness as well. The world needs its John the Baptist this Advent.


June Meese was my John the Baptist. A voice of one crying out in the desert

And she did not just teach me how to read. June Meese taught me to go out and accompany others as they discover that the impossible is becoming possible.

So, as we make our way through Advent toward the birth of the Christ Child, please remember Miss Meese, my fourth-grade teacher. She stayed after school with me and, with infinite patience, taught me how to read. My life has been utterly transformed by her kindness.

I’ll bet you have a “Miss Meese” too.


The world is full of paths that are not straight, valleys too deep to cross and mountains too high to climb. The world is full of indecipherable squiggles that just can’t be read. There is much too much loneliness in this world.


As we draw near to Christmas, dedicate yourself to becoming a voice that prepares the way of the Lord so that, someday, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.




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