This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.
My grandfather, James Reynolds Crook, was a Presbyterian minister and I think he had a great vision of God’s hand in the world around him. When I was small he and my grandmother retired to their mountain house in North Carolina, and many of my best childhood memories are of hiking and picnics with them, being taught the names of plants and things and hearing my grandfather’s deep voice tell me about why it is important to be good stewards of nature. To a six year old me, that meant not picking wild flowers or leaving trash in the woods and shaking my head at the rusty signs nailed up by “Kenneth J. Foreman and his wife Trustees” in an Appalachian land battle, but Grandaddy was also active in groups that tried to preserve the natural beauty of the mountains. He loved the hymn “This is My Father’s World” quoted above and I think he really did have an eye for seeing God at work in nature.
Once when I was visiting, Grandaddy listened to me say my bedtime prayers, in which I childishly said something like, “God, if you can, please help it stop raining.” Grandaddy stopped me right there and with great conviction, in his Southern gentleman’s accent that is neither hick nor effeminate, but smooth and rich and reassuring, he said, “God does not help the weather. God speaks and it is so.” That made a big impact on me, both in how I understood prayer and how I understood the way God works in the world.
I have so many great memories of my grandfather: like the summer when I was there for 4th of July and he worked it out so I could twirl my baton in the parade, or the time he built me a beautiful bed and trunk for my American Girl doll that are so much better than what they sold in the catalog, or how he used to love to eat cinammon raisin toast for breakfast and called my grandmother “Sugar.”
He died this morning at the age of 91. A country song keeps playing in my head today (have you noticed that, apart from the Psalms, country and rap are the musical genres that allow for honest talk about loss and redemption? I’m not sure why that is) and I like the sentiment.
When I get where I’m going there’ll be only happy tears.
I’ll shed these sins and struggles I have carried all these years…
I’m going to walk with my grandaddy, and he’ll match me step for step,
And I’ll tell him how I missed him every minute since he left…
I’m so glad that Grandaddy is home with God now, but it seems strange to think of the world without him here. Even though I live far away and only saw him on brief visits the past few years, I miss him. I’m sad to think that I won’t see him or talk to him again in this life. But when I do see him again, I’m glad that it will be in Heaven where he will be healthy and strong again, and I know I’ll love to hear his voice singing praise to God.
We have a picture of Grandaddy from when he was a toddler. He had big eyes and blonde curls like Jack does. I bet his mother felt about him like I feel about my own little boy and I think about how short this life really is. It makes me want to live more deliberately and take joy in creation like my grandfather did.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft’ so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not won:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and Heaven be one.