Afternoon church services in my childhood would start with a hymn sing, and the organist would choose and announce these songs before the pastor got up and officially began the service. Especially exciting were the times that the organist would be confident in his ability to sight-read anything the congregation would throw at him, and would allow people to suggest hymns instead of choosing them in advance.
In my head I would always chant to those around me, “Choose number 1! Choose number 1!” I never would have dared to request it myself. But that first song in the hymnal held such a fascination for me. What could song number one be about?
One spring day, Dad had to do some fieldwork, and it was my turn to ride inside the tractor with him. As the tractor made its way through the fields, I told Dad how I wondered what song number one was and how I hoped that someone would choose it for a hymn sing. I shared this probably hoping Dad would request it the next time it was a brave organist playing for the hymn sing.
Dad did something way better. He sang for me then and there.
“That man is blest who, fearing God,
from sin restrains his feet,
who will not stand with wicked men,
who shuns the scorners’ seat.”
He sang it for me until I knew the first verse from memory. And while it was a psalm we did not sing often in church, it has remained for me a favourite one. And Psalm One was a natural choice for me to memorize in its entirety later in life. The image of the tree, planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – that was easy imagery for a farmer’s daughter to understand.
What made it stick, though, was the example of my godly parents, who spent time reading God’s word, who prayed with their kids, for their kids, and on their own. Parents who talked about their faith, who sat at the dinner table long after the meal was done to answer questions that had come up in the Bible reading. Who expressed their faith that God would use all things in our family to his glory and grace, even when we couldn’t see how that was happening.
My parents are truly Psalm One people.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1: 3