Tag Archives: Forever Young

Simple Songs of a Child

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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
    To him belongs eternal praise.

Psalm 111:10 (NIV)

It was a fairly warm day in early December this past year when Wendy and I got to spend the day with our grandson Milo for the firs time in almost a year. Wendy had some things she had to accomplish in town, so I took Milo to the park to keep him occupied. As we played on the swings, I made up a silly little song. It was simple:

Papa and Yaya love Milo.
Papa and Yaya love Milo.
Papa and Yaya love Milo.
Oh, yes we do.

After singing it a couple of times, I began again. This time I paused each time after the word love and Milo giggled and belted out his own name. Within a day, Milo himself sang it and he chose to alter the words…

Papa and Milo love Yaya.

then

Yaya and Milo love Papa.

The simple little ditty became a staple during their visit and it was so cute to hear him sing it. He always loved to sing all three verses to ensure the declaration of mutual love among the three of us was complete.

Instructional songs are as old as humanity itself. Music has always been a powerful way to learn and remember things. A quick memory job in the quiet this morning I recalled a number of songs I still remember by heart from shows I watched when I was a child; Shows like Sesame Street, Electric Company, Mister Rogers, Zoom, and Schoolhouse Rock. In seventh grade Social Studies class we had to memorize the preamble of the Constitution and, when tested, we had to write it word-for-word from memory. I guarantee you every one of us was singing the Schoolhouse Rock version in our heads as we wrote.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 111, along with its twin, Psalm 112, are written much like an ancient Hebrew form of Schoolhouse Rock, though this fact is essentially lost in translation to English. They are acrostic songs, with each Hebrew half-line starting with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. When I read today’s psalm this morning it reminded me of some of the other wisdom texts in the Great Story like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The phrase “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” in verse 10 is used twice in Proverbs. And, the songwriter twice references God’s covenant being forever.

Short song.
Alphabet acrostic.
Simple instructional concepts.
Repeated phrasing.

It’s got all the marks of an instructional song intended for children (or adults) to quickly memorize and remember so as to learn simple spiritual truths.

In the quiet this morning as I ponder these things, it has me thinking about Jesus’ rather simple spiritual concept:

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

and

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

When Yaya and I would tuck Milo into bed I sang the same song I sang to his mother when she was his age…

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others, and let others do for you,
May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung,
And may you stay
forever young.

What could be more simple and essential than teaching a three-year-old like Milo that he and Papa and Yaya form a circle of love. And what could be more simple and essential for this adult to remember always?

Papa Tom & Milo. January 2021.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Forever Young Maturity

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness,have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.
Romans 9:30-32 (NIV)

A few years ago our daughter, Taylor, was living in a Catholic Worker commune. Her fellow residents and the people “The Worker” served each day came from some very different realities than those in which Taylor grew up. One weekend when she was visiting with Wendy and me she shared about a moment of realization listening to all these people who were living on the razor’s edge with no safety net and no back up. There was no “Plan B” if the shit hit the fan.

I realized,” Taylor said, “that I will never know this reality. I have a huge safety net, people who love me, and I will always have a safe place to go.”

When Taylor and Madison were in the toddler phase of life, they were suddenly introduced to all sorts of rules:

“Don’t touch.”
“That’s a no-no.”
“No! You never hit your sister.”
“I said, ‘Put the toys away. Now!'”
“Wash your hands before supper.”

In the toddler phase life is pretty black and white for a child. There is a seemingly endless list of do’s and don’ts, and parents add to the list incessantly. If you follow the rules life hums along relatively swimmingly, and if you don’t follow the rules you learn about parental wrath and punishment. For children, life feels a bit like a legalistic system of merit. Parents and authorities reward me when I’m good and punish me when I’m bad. From a parent’s perspective you certainly love your child no matter what, but I wonder how much a young child comprehends this when the merit system rules his or her existence.

As the girls moved into adulthood our relationship changed as they became mature in their understanding of themselves, their parents, and the world around them. They began to make their own decisions and had to experience the natural consequences of their words, actions, and decisions on their own day-to-day realities. As a father, I still desire for them to make wise decisions. I’m happy to provide advice if asked. Ultimately, however, they have to choose for themselves because it is the right choice, not because of their father’s approval or wrath.

At this stage of life, like Taylor’s observation at The Worker, I’ve watched the girls come to an understanding, now more than ever, that our love and support for them is ever-present, unwavering, and unconditional. They’ve learned the lessons of their childhood. They’ve matured.

I’ve always pondered the notion that God’s relationship with humanity across the Great Story is a bit like the natural human life-cycle. When God gave Moses “The Law” it was essentially the toddler stage of humanity. Things were simple, brutal, and messy. A simple black-and-white system of rules is what humanity in the toddler stage needed, what it could comprehend and understand.

The period immediately following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is essentially a major life change. If feels a bit like a rite-of-passage shift into a new relational reality between God and humanity made possible by Jesus’ sacrificial atonement. Paul’s letter to the Jewish followers of Jesus in Rome reads like a sage telling the young adult that it’s time to wake-up, and grow-up, into a mature understanding of their relationship with God. Gone are the toddler days of rule keeping, now it’s time to step out and start walking in the maturity of faith in God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness made possible – not because you kept the rules – but because God showed love for us in this: while we were yet knuckle-headed, foolish children who sometimes go our own way, Christ died for us.

This morning in the quiet I’m looking at a canvas I discovered under the guest room bed this weekend while Wendy and I were cleaning-up. It’s a little something Taylor made for Milo while she was pregnant. It’s now sitting next to my desk, and I think I’m going to hang it in my office while the kids sojourn in Scotland. It’s the words of a song I sang to her repeatedly at bedtime when she was a child. It’s the words of a parent’s faith, hope, and blessing to a child, anticipating that the child will mature into a person of wisdom, Godliness, and yet retain the one thing that Jesus said was, ironically, a prerequisite to a mature person’s entrance to God’s Kingdom:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Toddlers, rules, grace, love, maturity, wisdom, parenting, Taylor, Clayton, Milo, Maddy Kate, Garrett, Jesus, Bob Dylan, child-like faith. That’s what’s tumbling around in my heart and head on this Monday morning.

May you stay Forever Young.

Have a great week my friends.