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Just dropping by ... As a little child

Yevet Tenney Published on 21 September 2011

My aunt Twila Hancock passed away in August. Her life was one of service and charity. She raised four beautiful children, who in turn raised children to follow in her footsteps.

We all congregated at the Hancock cabin in the forest to pay our last respects and bury her. She was laid to rest under the pines. Prayers were said, and the grandchildren sang “Where can I turn for peace?” What a glorious event.

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When it was over, we walked back to the cabin. As we walked, one of Twila’s great-granddaughters flew past me, her golden hair tickling the wind. She must have been about 4 years old, dressed up in her Sunday best.

“Where are you going so fast?” I asked.

She looked back over her shoulder and grinned, “I am having a race!”

I looked back to see her competitors. The country road was empty except for her parents who were walking leisurely behind us. She seemed oblivious to the fact that a race implies competition. She was racing for the sake of racing. She was racing herself, and she would win!

I smiled at her sweetness, and longed for bygone days when life was so simple. Life has become so complicated with rules and expectations. We rush from one self-imposed appointment to the next.

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We smile when we do not feel like smiling, and pick up the next burden and carry it to the treadmill where we spend the day. We jump off the treadmill to sleep a restless night, only to get up and start again. We give little thought to why we are doing what we are doing. We simply move like the tide, rushing in and rushing out.

All around us, unnoticed, glorious sunrises and sunsets spread across the sky. Roses bloom and petals fall to the ground and are covered with autumn leaves and then glistening winter’s snow. Babies smile and grow into toddlers and teenagers.

We blink as we rush past like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” When we arrive, it is a Mad Hatter’s party where nothing makes sense.

It is no wonder that Jesus used a child to be the greatest in the Kingdom and chose such harsh words for those who offend them:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

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3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:1-6)

Little children are free, spontaneous and naturally kind. They do not hold grudges and are quick to forgive and forget. Children notice and study things with intensity. Children can spend hours watching a bug cross the sidewalk. When their curiosity is satisfied, they move to something else.

They laugh and cry readily. Emotional honesty is their hallmark. They sleep when they are tired, even if it is in the middle of dinner while leaning over the spaghetti dish. They do not get bothered if they get spaghetti all over the floor; they are concerned about discovery and newness.

A few weeks ago, my younger sister, who is now a grandmother, brought her daughters and grandchildren to visit my parents. Mom has about 70 laying hens. The kids wanted to gather the eggs, but they were terrified of the chickens.

If you have ever seen chickens in a chicken run, you know they dash toward you every time you open the gate. They expect you to throw them some scraps or feed. The children thought the chickens were chasing them. Mother caught a few of the hens and let the children pet them. After that, they were not afraid any more.

Mom would take them to gather the eggs at four o’clock every afternoon. The oldest granddaughter, Tayla, especially enjoyed the project. She would wait patiently all day, until it was four o’clock.

Once, she asked her grandfather how long it would be until she could gather the eggs. He looked at his watch and said, “In about an hour.” She was so excited, but she was disappointed when he had to change his mind. His watch was on daylight savings time, and it would be another hour.

The day before they had to leave to go home, Tayla wanted to gather the eggs. She went down to the coop and proudly gathered every single egg. When she took the eggs to the house, she looked around and saw her little brother. She knew how he loved to gather the eggs too.

She went to her grandfather and whispered. “Grandpa, can’t we take some of the eggs back down to the pen and hide them so little brother can gather them?” She and her grandfather took the eggs back to the coop and left them where her brother could find them.

Her only purpose was to allow him the same joy she had felt. That is the kind of child we must be like to be the greatest in the kingdom of God.

Children are exceptionally kind, but they are also confident. My grandson, Isaac, who is 2, came to visit. He was wandering outside and noticed the horse in the corral. He came running to his mother and said, “There is a real cowboy horse out there! It’s John Wayne’s real horse.”

He loves John Wayne because he watches cowboy movies. That is his favorite thing to do. He couldn’t wait for Grandpa to help him ride the real cowboy horse. When he sat on the horse, he was as cool as John Wayne.

He was not impressed with me taking his picture. In his mind, that was not a John Wayne thing. He had a hero, and he wanted to be just like him.

We must be careful whom we allow in our home via the media. Children choose heroes very early, and sometimes they keep them all their lives. John Wayne is a great American and a worthy hero, but there are so many characters in the media that are not worthy heroes.

There are characters that would teach children to sell their souls for a “mess of pottage.” When a child has a hero like that, it will cause the parents to feel like a millstone is around their necks. The child goes from one bit of mischief to another, mimicking the behavior of a 30-minute sitcom character who has no feeling or human decency.

Children are God’s greatest gift. They come into the world innocent and pure. If they are defiled, adults are to blame. Parents who allow their children free access to the Internet, television and the media are stealing virtue from their children. They are stealing a child’s future chance to see the world as a beautiful place.

A child will follow where he or she is led. There is a high road and a low road. The high road is filled with beauty, kindness and love. The low road is contention, bitterness and hatred. Children will choose the road they see the most.

When my children were growing up, a very successful man at a seminar said in essence, “I only let my children watch Disney movies. I want them to have a chance at success.” I took his advice, and only allow certain movies in my home. Of course, now days you have to be careful of even the Disney movies.

You cannot trust the rating; you must be vigilant. You must ask yourself, what is the message of the movie? What will my child learn from the pictures? Does the movie teach correct and valuable principles of success? Do I want the images of the characters’ actions written indelibly in my child’s mind?

Do I want my child mimicking the leading man or lady’s actions? If the answer is “No,” turn off the movie, or in the future you will be haunted by Jesus’ stirring words. “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones ... it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Children are precious. Be with them and teach them. They are only children for a while. The pictures painted in their minds will influence them when they become adults. Help them retain their childlikeness so they might one day stand as the greatest in God’s kingdom. PD

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