"This is for You, Sis" (by Dr. James Schaap)

Once upon a time, while I was going on and on about my very first new grandchild, an old friend pulled a quip from his back pocket and wryly gave me a line I’ve never forgotten, not because it’s true in my case–it isn’t–but because it’s probably true in every case.
“You know why grandparents get along so royally with grandchildren, don’t you?” he said.

I shook my head.

“Simple,” he said, “mutual enemies.”

I know, I know–it’s a dirty rotten thing to say, but you got to admit it’s funny.

The very first time I held a grandchild is a picture on the first page of the scrapbook my memory keeps. Twice, I stood beside my wife while she gave birth, but those precious moments aren’t framed in gold the way that one is. If we were in Lynden, Washington, right now, I’d take you past the house. I could show you the room. I could point to the rug and tell you exactly where I was standing.

Last night at a choral concert, that granddaughter and her brother, my grandson (I have no clue about where I stood with him in my arms for the first time) sang gorgeously. I understand that I’ve no right to use gorgeously because my grandparent genes bushwhack judgment something awful. I don’t care. I’ll use it anyway because we have rights, after all, us grandparents; and there’s endless forgiveness, as you know.  So I’ll keep that word there–forgive me, but that grade school concert was perfectly beautiful.

We didn’t know he was going to be featured in a little quartet, and neither did his parents. But there it was on the program–Pieter, one of four, the only boy–featured in a song the director claimed was the class favorite. And that’s how it sounded too.

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off song
That hails a new creation:
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

There he stood, up front, singing those words.

So how on earth was I supposed to stop from tearing up? He hadn’t bothered to mention his being featured; in fact, his mom and dad only came to understand he could sing a couple of weeks earlier when his teacher mentioned he’d asked Pieter to join a summer choir. Anyway, there he stood, up front, singing (gorgeously) those words, that song, making music with a soul that is the very foundation of his own Christian education.

Then, he and the three young ladies with whom he was singing walked back into the choir and happily took up the next verse.

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness ’round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

Now everything I’ve said would be cliche if there weren’t more to the story, as you know. You would simply excuse my bliss as the everyday braying of an audacious grandpa who truly believes there ain’t a kid in the world who can rival his own. I bet your’re thinking I wasn’t the only one with cloudy eyes in a crowd of a thousand other grandpas and grandmas, at least some of whom were also yawning away tears through the verses of that winsome hymn. Had to be.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

All of that’s true, I’m sure, but I sat there hoping that through some divine intervention, my mother was listening too because nothing would have pleased her more, this side of the great beyond, than hearing her great-grandson sing–and sing those particular lyrics.

And I got it on video. I had my phone along. And that was another reason I was wiping away tears because I knew–thank you, You Tube–that I could post this whole gorgeous performance where my sister could hear it too because I know my sister, and I know she’ll well up and drop a few salty tears herself when she sees it, when she hears it, because two weeks ago today she found herself in an ambulance beside an EMT who told her kindly that her husband of 47 years didn’t make it through the accident they’d just suffered on their way to celebrate their own grandkids’ birthdays.

So this is for you, Sis. The kid who stood up front and made me shed tears isn’t your grandson; but ours, right here, is saying something you believe, a particular faith and creed your own husband gave his life to, the love and regard we have for the King of Heaven and Earth, in whose love we live, day by day by day.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth

how can I keep from singing?

You’re a singer, Sis, and once upon a time, years ago, you told me that your favorite choral anthem of all time was a piece by a Russian composer named Pavel Tschesnokov, “O, Lord God,” a majestic prayer which includes a soaring testimony just about halfway through that suddenly steps out from the music in triumph and exaltation: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.” Even if you don’t, I remember you telling me how much you loved that music.

Pieter and his classmates weren’t doing Tschesnokov last night, but he and his friends were singing the very same thing–gorgeously, I might add. But then I’m his grandpa.

Our Mom would have loved it. So would Larry, your husband. I’d like to think they were both there.

So this is for you, from us and from Pieter and his classmates in the kind of Christian school you and your husband served all your lives long.


Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth

how can we keep from singing?