I’d almost forgotten what it was like, really. It’s been so long since I was in Miss Graham’s 5th Grade class at Marshall School in Granite City, Illinois, where I grew up. I remember some things pretty clearly. I started playing trumpet the year I was in the 5th Grade, and Mr. Meyers would come to our school to give us what they called ‘group lessons’ on the trumpet. Frank Thomas and David Cook both were in my group lesson, too. Funny how I can remember those two guys, and I remember my trumpet teacher, Mr. Meyers. And I can remember Miss Graham, too, and what she looked like.

But I don’t recall a thing about what I learned in the 5th Grade.

Last week, my granddaughter had a presentation to give at a local school here in town, and my wife and I made sure we were there early to cheer her on. Her presentation was given in a 5th Grade classroom, and as we sat in those little chairs that seem to always show up in a school classroom, waiting for the show to begin, I studied the many posters that decorated that classroom. It was obvious to me that one of the important subjects for this year in that class was … writing. There were posters on the difference between verbs and nouns; the difference between active and passive verbs, and the difference between nouns and pronouns. Metaphors were described on posters; simile and onomatopoeia were there, too. As a writer, I smiled as I looked around at what this 5th Grade class would be learning. Valuable tools for written communications.

But one poster seemed to take precedent over all the others. Larger, and with bold and colorful lettering, one poster stood out. It contained a list of four items. Obviously very important items the teacher wanted to give EXTRA attention to. Four questions of paramount importance for every person in that 5th Grade class, I thought. In fact, the heading at the very TOP of the poster made it absolutely clear the reason the poster was there. It read, “The Questions You Should Be Answering.”

And the questions were these:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What are you supposed to be doing?
  3. What’s the difference between those two things?
  4. What are you going to do about that reality?

As I sat waiting for my granddaughter’s presentation to begin, I pondered those four questions. Good questions to pose to any 5th grader who might be tempted to let their mind wander off into activities they ought not to be busy with. My mind remembered, again, a question God had asked the prophet Elijah. You may remember it, too? In 1 Kings, chapter 19, Elijah sat in cave feeling sorry for himself, when the Lord showed up in that cave and began to work.

The Book says He spoke to Elijah, and instructed him to … “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [e]a still small voice.

13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Back to school. Back to the classroom. Back to sitting in one of those humble chairs of learning that always seem to show up when it’s time for education in the things of God.

In the next few weeks, I’ll unpack those four questions I read in that 5th Grade classroom. I hope you’ll be a part of our examining again that poster called “The Questions You Should Be Answering.”

And the questions are these:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What are you supposed to be doing?
  3. What’s the difference between those two things?
  4. What are you going to do about that reality?

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