A group of men and women in traditional embroidered dress took the stage at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 5, 1922, for a performance that the New York Tribunedubbed“a marvel of technical skill.” The New York Timescalledthe music they made “simply spontaneous in origin and artistically harmonized.” The New York Heralddescribedthe costume-clad singers as expressing “a profound unanimity of feeling that aroused genuine emotion among the listeners.” The audience that cheered for encores and threw flowers on the stage didn’t know it at the time, but they had just heard what would eventually become one of the world’s most beloved and recognized Christmas songs: “Carol of the Bells.”
Onstage was the Ukrainian National Chorus conducted by Alexander Koshetz. At the end of Part 1 of the program at Carnegie Hall, they performed composer Mykola Leontovych’s arrangement of a traditional Ukrainian song the playbill called “Shtshedryk.” The audience likely also did not know that just over a year before the New York premiere, Leontovych had been assassinated by the “Cheka”—the Bolshevik secret police.
The song’s journey onto the world’s stage and its transformation into an American Christmas classic is a tale of musical inspiration, nationalism, and political violence. At its center is a beautiful, haunting melody that has captivated audiences for over a hundred years and spawned countless versions. (Quote source and the rest of the story is available at this link.)
“For it’s hard you will find to be narrow of mind when you’re young at heart”–Lyrics from the song, “Young at Heart” (1953)
Since my last blog post on this blog was titled, “Growing Old in America,” it is only appropriate that this blog post should take a look at another side of growing older–as in being “Young at Heart.” And I’ll start it off with a devotion I just read this morning titled, “Young at Heart,” written by Ruth Myers(1928-2010), who was a missionary with The Navigators, a popular conference speaker and beloved author. The devotion is found on “Day 6” (pp.34-36) in her devotional book titled, “31 Days of Encouragement as We Grow Older.”
“I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” —Psalm 71:14
Better than being young in years is being young in heart. We can stay young inside by looking forward to the glories God has in mind for us. Scriptural “hope” keeps us young in spirit.
Seek to cultivate this hope in your life–not “hope” in terms of wishful thinking that brings discontent, but hope that uplifts you. It’s not that we should be so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good, but we need the kind of hope that makes us of more earthly good because we’re anchored in Jesus. We can choose a happy confidence that fortifies us and makes life in a fallen world worth it all.
Isaiah 51:3says,“Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song”–a melody of love that we can sing to Jesus. The singing heart is the mark of young-heartedness.
Learn to let the Holy Spirit fill you with music in your soul. You may be blessed by lines from a really old song, like these:
Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight, Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm. In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls O’er my soul, like an infinite calm. (Sourcehere.)
Face to face with Christ my Savior! Face to face, what will it be When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ, who died for me? (Sourcehere)
Lord, more and more make me aware of thought patterns that pull me down, and hinder relationships, and rob me of faith and joy–especially negative or fearful thoughts about the future. Give me grace to clear out the cobwebs (or even the grime) of old ways of thinking. Keep my heart young and alive, filled with hope and melody.
Ruth Myers was a part of my parents’ generation born in the early 20th Century (in the 1920’s for her and my parents), and as I read through her devotional book, it reminded me of yesteryear when I was a child growing up in church, and the old hymns written in the 1700’s and 1800’s were what we sang in church on Sunday morning, and many of them are still sung today. The wording may sound quaint to the ears of many in today’s world, yet the passion of knowing Jesus Christ to those who seek him never wanes through the passing of one generation to the next.
Youth isn’t a matter of age, but a matter of attitude. Young people can harbor old, limiting attitudes, while older people can be positive and quite young at heart. The secret to staying young at heart isn’t found in facelifts and Botox, fad diets and anti-wrinkle creams. Staying young is more than skin deep. It’s a youthful feeling and outlook that comes from deep within your heart, mind and soul.
This can be reinforced by a connection to the Divine. When you feel connected to God, life can take on more depth, more meaning. You can have appreciation for the little things that will give you joy — things as simple as being mesmerized by a hummingbird, or having a laugh over a good joke. You’ll tap into that youthful spirit within that connects you to the Divine, and the Divine to you.
In the Bible,Matthew 18:1-5says,“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”
According to Melbourne-based psychologistMeredith Fuller, our attitude is responsible for keeping us looking, feeling, and acting younger, or casting us as being old and worn out.“People react to the way you project who you are to them,”she says.“If you are aware, act younger, are curious and interested in life, then you’ll be perceived as younger. If you feel old, are miserable and don’t engage with the world around you, you’ll appear older.”
She suggests music that you like, or music from your youth, as a prescription for staying young at heart.“We’re very affected by sound, so if you play music from a time when you were doing interesting things and happy, that revitalizes you. It floods you with feel-good hormones.
“If you feel uplifted, the muscles in your face relax more,”Fuller says.“You’ll stand and move differently — more upright and with confidence — and you’ll breathe more deeply, and that impacts on oxygenation to the skin and improves your complexion. All these subtle changes can help you look younger.”
Steer clear of people who put undue emphasis on “age-appropriate behavior.” These people will do their best to keep you from staying young at heart by telling you to grow up, that you’re being childish, or that you’re being immature. If you want to live life to the fullest in a way that suits you, go for it. People who make cutting remarks about your behavior are most likely envious, and are old at heart–even if they’re only in their 20s or 30s…
Another important component to staying young at heart is to have friends from a broad age range. This way, you’ll keep up-to-date with younger people, along with maintaining friendships with people who are older and have compelling lives.“They show you growing older doesn’t have to be depressing, and dispel the negative myths about aging,”Fuller states.
One vital component of staying young at heart is to accept growing old. If you can’t do this, you won’t grow old in a state of peace. There may be changes in your body and you’ll probably get some wrinkles. But if you maintain your body well by eating healthy, refrain from smoking or drinking excessive alcohol, you’ll physically and mentally age well.
Remaining physically active will help keep you youthful. It’s not necessarily mandatory to participate in a sport–just move your body through activities such as walking, yoga or gardening. Maybe even take dance lessons or swim. The point is to maintain your wellbeing by staying as active as you can.
Also, keep your brain active and alert. Read books that you like, as well as material you normally wouldn’t select to challenge and stimulate your thinking.
Research recently conducted regarding Alzheimer’s deduced that your neurons can be kept in good condition if you organize things. For example, if you plan a dinner with your friends, you’ll need to spend time thinking about who to invite, what type of invitations you’re going to send, where to seat your guests, what you want to cook, and how you want to serve it.
Along those same lines of keeping your brain active and alert, try a minimum of one new thing a week–maybe take a different route to work, engage in a new hobby or sport, spend a weekend at a location you’ve never visited before, or try a style of music that you don’t typically listen to. Fuller says,“When we try something new, we’re enthusiastic, and that is an attractive trait. People appear younger when they are engaged, interested, curious and enthusiastic. So don’t give up on living life.”
Indulging your creativity will keep you young at heart, whether you’re 17 or 70. Upon retirement, many people discover that they have hidden talents, such as painting or sculpting. It’s very important to your youthfulness to let that creativity sprout and grow.
Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? If you dwell upon the negative things in life, your chances of staying young at heart are slim. Train yourself to see the positive side of things, realizing that pessimism isn’t going to be your friend. Even if you are in your 60s and have the epiphany that negativity will poorly affect your life, it’s still not too late to change your attitude.
Along these lines, cast off negative emotions that anchor you to your past, such as guilt, anger, sorrow or regret. Resolving conflicts from your past is key to feeling young at heart. When we carry these emotions with us, they become so weighty that we have difficulty moving onward. Work on eliminating these emotions as soon as you can, since this task becomes more difficult as we get older.
Freed from the shackles of our past, we can more fully live in the present, and have a much greater appreciation for life. We’re not regretting the past, which is gone, or fearing a future, which isn’t here yet. A vital key to staying young at heart is the ability to live in the now, with an open attitude, curiosity, and a sense of humor–and gratitude that you’re lucky to grow old and have such a long, fulfilling life. (Quote source here.)
Several years ago, I taught the Open Bible Class, a Sunday school class for senior citizens. Now, I must admit that I had a few preconceptions about seniors when I first began teaching them. I thought they were, like, you know, “old.” And they were. The class has its fair share of eighty- and ninety-year-olds. What I did not expect, however, was the lesson I learned from close contact with those wonderful people: Just because you are old does not mean you have to act like it. A few of those eighty- and ninety-year-olds led a more active life than I did; they knew how to really enjoy the day.
Thinking about my friends in Open Bible, and reflecting onEcclesiastes 11:7–10, I cannot help but think that God wants us to be young at heart, even if our bodies are old.
The Preacher begins with a simple statement:“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”Since only the living can see light and enjoy it, what the Preacher is really saying is that life itself is sweet and pleasant. All things being equal, life is preferable to death. The gospel promises us eternal life rather than soul sleep or spiritual annihilation precisely because in the biblical worldview, God is a living God who offers his creatures a good life, if they will receive it from him with faith.
Life being good, the Preacher goes on to point out that we ought to rejoice in it, especially as we age:“So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all.” But that rejoicing has a tinge of sadness with it because of the tainting effects of sin: “the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.”As Christians, we cannot rejoice fully in this life precisely because it is marred by sin. But the gospel holds out the promise of creation’s restoration, as well as our own.
Not surprisingly—given his basic optimism about life—the Preacher counsels young people especially to live with gusto:“Rejoice…in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.”It almost seems as if the Preacher counsels too much gusto, to tell you the truth:“Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes,”in other words,“Do whatever makes you happy.”But, he quickly reminds the young to be guided by wisdom in their hedonism, for“God will bring you into judgment.”
The final verse sums up the Preacher’s advice:“Remove vexation from your heart and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.”The young can be carefree and pain free because, well, they are young. For the rest of us, living without pain and anxiety is a conscious, intentional choice. Chronologically, our youth comes and goes. It is a thing that goes“Poof!”Spiritually, however, we can choose to be young at heart and always to enjoy the life God gives us. (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with a few more words from the lyrics of the song, “Young at Heart” (originally sung by Frank Sinatra in 1953): And if you should survive to a hundred and five, look at all you’ll derive out of being alive. And here is the best part, you have a head start…
If you are . . .
Among the very . . .
Young at heart . . . .
YouTube Video: “Young at Heart” (1953) sung by Michael Bublé (feat. Frank Sinatra):
Photo #1 credithere (photo of some cast members in “Young@Heart,” 2007 documentary film) Photo #2 credithere