Last week as I was tucking our 3 year old son into bed he whispered to me, “Mama, I’m scared of the dark.” I tossed out the first thing in my brain that would make him feel better and make him stay in bed, “Don’t be scared. God is with you.” I really don’t like religious platitudes. For some reason I thought my toddler wouldn’t mind as much.

Immediately my child sat up in bed, looked around and said, “Where?”

rain-for-rootsAfter mentally going through the list of answers adults said to me when I was his age (your heart, right beside you, when you are nice to your sister), I pointed at the cross over his bed. He was either too tired or too worried about my theology to respond. I hung my head and thought, “Gotta come up with a better answer to that one.”

And then this week a friend told me about the kid’s album “Big Stories for Little Ones” by Rain for Roots. Up until this point in my motherhood adventure, I had steered clear of Christian kids’ music. The description alone strikes the same chord in me as “movies about chainsaw massacres.” I just envision it to be full of adult intentions to make kids behave better, all in the name of “God.” Thanks, but no thanks. In my own childhood the closest thing I had to fun, religious music for kids was Motown. And I consider that a blessing from the Lord above; Gladys Knight and the Pips never did me any spiritual damage.

So when I heard about Rain for Roots I did a little research. It turns out the incredible Sally Lloyd Jones is the lyrical originator of the project. That was all I needed to know. I bought the album post haste. Yet again, SLJ has offered a way for my adult brain to communicate the goodness of God to our kiddos’ sweet souls. Rain for Roots is based on the poetry Lloyd Jones wrote for another of her gifts to parents, the Hug-a-Bible. If you don’t own it, you should. I stumbled across the Hug-a-Bible in a rural monastic bookstore and was told it was their best seller. No, not Thomas Aquinas or icons of the Virgin Mary, but a kid’s Bible you can hug. Seriously.

But I digress. The music on ‘R for R’ is acoustic and beautiful. A collective of talented songwriters marry SLJ’s words with perfect melodies. The voices are both remarkable and totally sing-a-long worthy. All of it comes together into something that feels like an old hymn done in a new way. And of course the lyrics are brilliant. In true SLJ style, there is meaty theology offered in the most accessible and simple manner. My little boy spins in circles to “Jesus is Alive”:

Who died, but came alive again?
Who came to rescue you and win?
Who came to make all things brand new
Who did it all for love of you?
Who did this all for love of you?

So sing and dance and leap and run
His name is Jesus, little one.
Sing and dance and leap and run.
His name is Jesus, little one.

The other fan favorite at our house is her song “Jesus Loves Zacchaeus.” It is both moving and funny. Who doesn’t want to have Earl Grey with Jesus?

Zacchaeus was too short to see
But who saw him?
Who came to tea?
Who saw that small man in his tree?
Who loved that man who couldn’t see?
His name, his name, is Jesus.
And he loves you.

a4020952604_10Being a kid can be scary. There is so much to be afraid of: darkness, thunder and lightning, grown-ups who have “rules” about kale. Again and again, SLJ speaks directly to this innate powerlessness of childhood and the mercy of God. Her language about being a “little one” doesn’t demean the young listener. Instead, she validates what it means to be small. Frankly, I think this is why I have played the album on repeat. I feel like her songs are speaking as much to me as to my children. Because really, even in our best moments, we are all just grown up little ones. SLJ reminds me how much Jesus loves and treasures us in our smallness; no matter how insignificant and weak we may feel.

My toddler now has the answer he was looking for. The next time we face our fear of the dark together, I will sit on his dinosaur themed sheets, rub his sweaty little head, and sing SLJ’s take on Matthew 8: 23-27, called appropriately “Jesus Stops a Storm:”

The storm was big
The boat was small
But guess who was not scared at all?
Who stilled that storm
With just a word?
Who wouldn’t find it all that hard?

His name is Jesus
Lord of All
And he will answer
When you call.

PS: I am late to the Rain for Roots party. They have a second album (!) that just launched this spring called “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like.” It is based on the parables of Jesus. I can’t wait to check it out too.