Hymns and Children

Yesterday I heard an interesting segment of Issues, etc, on teaching hymns to children. You can listen to the segment here.

This covers some of the same ground that I will be presenting in a few weeks at the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts in St. Peter, MN.  Here is a description of my presentation:

A Lutheran hymnal is a rich devotional resource that deserves to be used in every church, school, and especially, in every home. Already at a very young age, children are capable of learning hymns and participating in worship. These hymns provide solid teaching and strong comfort for Christians, young and old alike. This presentation provides practical and inspiring ideas and anecdotes for teachers, parents, pastors, and all who influence children and worship.

After the conference, I will post my presentation and materials here. But I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in Minnesota in just a few weeks.

Lord, Have Mercy

Our practice of home devotions has evolved over the last several years. Naturally, as the children have grown, our devotions have grown as well. The tricky thing, I suppose, with a family that spans several ages, is to find something that engages the older kids and that the little ones can also participate with. We’ve tried Bible story books (some have worked well) and devotional books (not as well, because they’re usually written for a specific age group).

We take time for this at bedtime, so nighttime prayers have always been included. “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and Luther’s evening prayer. Sometimes we have also sung hymns, at devotion time or after the kids were in bed. But I was seeking something more. Perhaps, I thought, we could follow something like Luther’s orders for morning and evening devotion in the Small Catechism (which I have written about here). Or, perhaps we could use elements of hymnal services like Vespers (Evening Prayer) or Compline (Prayer at the Close of Day).

So I compiled two brief orders of evening devotion, one based on Vespers and one on Compline. It’s quite abbreviated, so that each one fits on a half sheet of paper, front and back. It has actually worked rather well. The kids were already familiar with music for Compline, and the short responses for both of them.

I have long maintained that a strength of liturgical worship is how it allows even little children to participate through the rich repetition, especially with brief responses like, “Lord, have mercy, “Alleluia,” and “Amen.” I should not have been surprised to find that this same strength applies to worship around the family altar.

It seems that the kids’ favorite part of these devotions are the prayers in our “Evening Prayer” order. It is very similar to the Kyrie on p. 59 in Christian Worship, though I took some of the petitions from its counterpart in the Lutheran Service Book. The response is the same every time: “Lord, have mercy.” Isaiah (4) and Miriam (2) sing it the loudest. It’s simple enough for the youngest to participate fully, but these words are so far from being trite or trivial.

Evening Hymn

I can visually remember the words of the hymn up on the overhead in Mrs. Kraus’ first grade classroom. “Lord Jesus, who dost love me…” I can also remember having difficulty finding the hymn in the hymnal at home because we didn’t learn the first stanza.

Those final two stanzas of Paul Gerhardt’s evening hymn, “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow” have probably been sung in our home more than any others. I have sung them to the all kids at bedtime since they were born. I have also sung these stanzas frequently in hospital rooms and in the sick room.

Tomorrow evening our school kids will be singing this hymn during our Lenten Compline service at church. They have been learning it and practicing it at school, and we’ve been singing it at night before bed.

I took one year of piano lessons in grade school, and a few lessons here and there since then. I’ve always wished I had stuck with it, and I’ve always had a strong desire to at least be able to play hymns. For many years now I have spent considerable time at the piano playing through hymns, often slowly and with many mistakes. Since we have had a piano in our home, I have been able to play much more regularly, and there are at least a handful of hymns that I can play fairly well. This evening hymn is one of those. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to be able to accompany my children and sing these words with them.

Now rest beneath night’s shadow
The woodland, field, and meadow;
The world in slumber lies.
But you, my heart, awaken,
With prayer and song be taken;
Let praise to your Creator rise.

The rule of day is over
And shining jewels cover
The heaven’s boundless blue.
Thus I shall shine in heaven,
Where crowns of gold are given
To all who faithful prove and true.

Lord Jesus, since you love me,
Oh, spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though Satan would assail me,
Your mercy will not fail me;
I rest in your protecting arm.

My loved ones rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may he send you
And bid his hosts attend you
And through the night watch o’er your beds. (CW 587)

Baptized into Christ

On Sunday, January 9th, Joanna was baptized into the name of the Triune God. This was also the First Sunday after the Epiphany, on which we observed the Baptism of our Lord. Since we had family in town for the baptism, we decided to have the group sing in the service. We sang Kevin Hildebrand’s setting of “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It.” The kids sang the first stanza, the adults sang stanzas two and four, and the congregation joined in on stanzas three and five. The video below is the first stanza. It was recorded from the back of church, where the piano and clarinet were playing, but you can still hear the kids singing.

Joanna Eveline

Today at 11:24am, we welcomed Joanna Eveline Caauwe into our family. She weighed 8lbs, 5 oz., and was 20 inches long. She did break our “girl…boy…” pattern, but she gets us into the “four daughter” club—an exclusive group of families that have the privilege of raising four girls. I can think of a few closely related families which have that distinction.

I was reminded today what a treasure and a gift each child is. One might be tempted to think that the birth of the sixth might be less remarkable, as though “cheaper by the half-dozen” somehow made Joanna just “one more.” But it is never that way. My vocation as parent is not simply “child x 6”. With each child the complexity and privilege of this calling multiplies exponentially.

Our intent is that Joanna will be born again by Word and Water on January 9th, when we also observe the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord.

I have a gallery of pictures up here, which you can subscribe to if you would like to be notified when I add more.



This morning I had the privilege of accompanying my bride to an ultrasound appointment. Yes, in early January we will be expecting our sixth child.

I was just about to write about the fact that no matter how many I see, it always becomes real for me when I see the little fingers moving around. Then I thought to myself that I might have written something like that. Here’s what I posted on September 22, 2008, when we saw Miriam for the first time:

Today we got to see ultrasound images of our littlest one. We’ve seen plenty of ultrasound pictures, but seeing those little arms and feet moving around never gets old. It always amazes me to see four chambers of the heart and a cross section of this or that, or to measure the skull or abdomen. But what always gets me are the little fingers and toes.

The remarkable thing is that it gets me every time, but the reason that it does (I think) is because each new child is a new child. Yes, they have so many similarities and they do so many of the same things. But the thing that gets me about the whole things is just how different and unique they all are. Nearly every day I marvel at some unique trait of one of the kids. And that uniqueness starts now. This baby at 18 weeks is not same as any of the others.

Seeing a new baby squirming around in the womb brings home to me the reality that—God-willing—I will now have the opportunity to get to know a brand new member of our family. It reminds me that my vocation as father just got bigger. It reminds me that God has heaped upon me and my family yet another blessing from his gracious hand.

Let the Children Come

As I was getting ready for bed this evening, I turned to today’s selection from the book of devotions I am reading this year, called To Live with Christ by Bo Giertz. The devotions are arranged by the church year, not the calendar year. But it seems like it could have been written specifically for today, the 37th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Friday after the Second Sunday in Epiphany
“Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them.” Mark 10:14

This was a severe reprimand to the disciples. They thought children should wait until they were able to understand what the sermon was all about. That would be soon enough. But the parents wanted the right thing for their children.

Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts God can give. It’s also one of the greatest tasks you could ever undertake. Having a child together allows parents to share in God’s creative work. We couldn’t live here on earth or be God’s children eternally if the parents of countless generations before us had not labored with their own children and even given their lives for their children. Now it may be our turn to bring life into the world. We cannot take this task lightly.

God put us here in an immense generational context. Of course, not everyone is called to be a parent. Not everyone gets married and is gifted with children. But if you get the chance, you can’t deny children their right to live. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? You can’t exchange the life of one child as payment for the luxuries you want to provide another. Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.” It’s awe-inspiring. The first condition for being able to be a child of God and share all the joy that is the meaning of life, now and in eternity, is that there are people on earth who are willing to take upon themselves the task of parenting.”

One wonders just how many little children have been hindered, not just those who have been killed by abortion, but those who have never had the chance to “come to Jesus” because of a negative attitude toward God’s gift of life, marriage, sex, and children, which pervades our culture and society, of which Roe v. Wade is just one part. Kyrie eleison.

[Quote from: Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ. Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis, 2008. pp. 121,122.]

Ours Paso

When we lived in California, our kids thought that our house was California. When we moved to Texas, we had to explain that other people also live in Texas, but they have a different number (house number).

Now, Isaiah says that we live in Ours Paso. If you don’t live in El Paso, you live in Yours Paso. We live in Ours Paso.

It’s kind of cute the way a two-year-old tries to express his understanding of places. But even if he doesn’t fully understand it all, he gets this: Ours Paso is the place we call ours, that is, it’s home.

Not Unto Us

On Sunday morning, our school kids will be singing a couple stanzas of Kurt Eggert’s hymn, “Not Unto Us” (CW 392). Our kids have been practicing it both at school and at home. This evening while the kids were singing I managed to record a little bit. Consider it a preview. This is Hannah (6), Andrew (5), and Lydia (3). Lydia isn’t really in school, but she always learns the songs that the big kids learn from school (Go here for another example).

O faithful love—that shepherded through faithless years;
Forgiving love—that led us to your truth.;
Unyielding love—that would not let us turn from you
But sent us forth to speak pardon and peace.

“Not Unto Us”