Three Questions — #2 Favourite Hymn

Anna Brown asked me three questions. This is the second.

#2 What is your favourite hymn, with specific favourite lines?

(Good golly, girl. Way too many “u”s.)

Two hymns immediately came to my mind when I read this.

First, “When Morning Gilds the Skies.”

I am, through and through, a sunrise person. I LOVE watching the sun make its entrance every day and rarely miss it.

sunrise 1-15-14

Beautiful sunrise

Epic sunrise

Epic sunrise

Backyard sunrise

Backyard sunrise

Sunrise on the way to a swim meet

Sunrise on the way to a swim meet


Texas sunrise

First verse:

When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Favorite verse:

Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised

Other favorite verse:

Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

“When Morning Gilds the Skies” is just a good way to start each day, and I think of it when watching the sun rise.

My other favorite hymn is “Come Thou Fount.”

Verse 2 references an Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel set up a stone to commemorate a divine victory. An Ebenezer is, therefore, a reminder of a time when God helped through an impossible situation.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;

I don’t have a pile of stones anywhere — unless you count my Herkimer diamond rocks which I like because they sparkle — but I have markers in my mind of those times when God clearly intervened on my behalf. I return to them in times of trouble. I think it is important that we have Ebenezers.

I also love verse 3. All of it.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

What’s your favorite hymn?


Several weeks ago I made a crazy trip to Boston.

Crazy because the original purpose of my trip evaporated, with a canceled and then rerouted flight home for Helen. Crazy because I got lost at least sixteen times. Crazy because I really don’t “do” cities, especially not alone.

But there I was, getting lost in and around Boston.

The things we do for love.

IMG_6823When I found out that Helen was flying into Boston at the same time some dear friends would be at Boston Children’s Hospital, I was actually excited about driving into the city. I had wanted to meet to Joy for longer than she had been alive, praying for her parents, Tom and Deb, through the ups and downs of the adoption process.

Joy was only a few weeks old when the doctors discovered that she had a serious heart problem.

She is now over 9 months old and has had her second heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Gungor recently released a new album called One Wild Life: Soul. The music haunts me.  One song, Light, tells the story of their daughter, born with Down Syndrome and some congenital heart problems associated with it.

…Your heart was broken
The words were spoken.
The tears came tumbling down.*

Her name, Lucy, means light and they have found her to be a precious gift. She has helped them to see.

And the blind gain sight
As we met our light
All the joy and fight —
The gift of light*

Michael and Lisa intertwine their voices singing

I can’t take my eyes off of you all my life
I can’t take my eyes off of you*

And I honestly don’t know if they are talking about taking their eyes off God — because He sustains them, or off Lucy — because she is cherished beyond words.

I only know that I couldn’t take my eyes off the little fighter, so aptly named Joy, that I got to visit at Boston Children’s Hospital, who also had a broken heart.

* from “Light” by Gungor on One Wild Life: Soul

Favorite Child

This post is in response to Jacob’s question, “Which child is your favorite?”

IMG_0113One day, five sons came to Jesus and told him this story:

A woman married a man she loved. In due time, she gave birth to a child, a son, and loved him dearly.

Then, in the course of time, she gave birth to a second son, and loved him dearly, too.

She gave birth to a third son and likewise loved him.

This process was repeated until she had five sons. Each time she gave birth, her heart overflowed with love for the child in her arms.

When she died and stood before God, He asked, “Which child was your favorite?”

The sons asked Jesus, “How will this woman answer?”

Jesus answered, “You understand neither a mother’s love nor God’s love. A mother’s love is not a pie cut into pieces where one person may receive a larger piece. Neither is it a ladder on which the rungs are labeled in order of how highly they are held in esteem. A mother’s love is, instead, a waterfall, pouring over all her children. In fact, a mother’s love is so overflowingly abundant that she can invite others to stand in its cascade and enjoy its refreshment.”

The sons listened in silence.

“And I tell you this,” Jesus continued, “that just as the mightiest river can be dried to a trickle in times of great drought, so a mother’s love is not infinite. Only God’s love is everlasting and unending. To understand that, you must not consider the waterfall, but rather the ocean. It stretches farther than the eye can see and plumbs deeper than any rope can measure. It is both powerful and peaceful. It gives life and it takes life away. In fact, it cannot be comprehended. We can only stand in awe of it.”

The sons left pondering Jesus’ words.  A great cloud of dust followed them.


P is for Prayer.

Before my trip, with the Lenten season on my mind, I wrote a Collect for Laity Lodge.

To the God of Silence —

Speak to me in whispers
in gentle breezes
in birdsong
in the laughter of running water
and the tears of gentle rain.

Remind me now and again
that You are with me every moment.

Fill my heart with Your silence
and Your song

Through Jesus —
who heard Your silence in Gethsemane
and again on the cross
and who now sits at Your right hand.


 Elie Wiesel, in his foreword to the newest translation of Night, said, “[I] trusted the silence that envelops and transcends words… For despite all my attempts to articulate the unspeakable, ‘it’ is still not right.”  And later, “[Some things] need to remain between the lines.”

Night‘s awful story needs to be heard — yet it speaks as much through the silences as it does with the words. It is a powerful book.

And I found myself, during Lent, going again and again to God’s silence in Gethsemane and at Calvary.

So much is said between those lines.

God’s silence is powerful indeed.DSC03871


M is for multiple things.


Welcome to Monticello, now synonymous with broken buses

Like MonticelloThat’s where the bus broke down. It’s so easy to mentally go back to those broken down places.

But M is also for Moving  On.  It may be easy to go back, but it’s also important to move on.

M is for Mirrors, because reflection is important.

Frio River from the balcony

Frio River from the balcony

M is for Meals, each one a sumptuous feast at Laity Lodge. More than the food, though, is the sharing of stories that happens over a meal — telling the tales of broken down buses or lives, and finding peace and acceptance even when the whole story is told.

Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)

Dining at Laity (photo by Kristen Peterson)

M is for the Moon.  Its light is merely a reflection of the sun’s light. I don’t want to be corny about it, but my friends also reflect the Son’s light for me, and that’s very precious. Because sometimes the night is dark, and the only light we can see is a reflected one.

The moon at Laity Lodge

The moon at Laity Lodge

And M is for each Moment and the Miracle of living life — because each breath we take should no more amazing than that first breath from the womb.

Each blade of grass, each rock piled on rock, each bird at the feeder, each tear, each friend, each mountain, each sunset, each lift-off, each landing, each ( fill-in-the-blank ) — they are all miracles.

We lives a series of miracles most of which escape our notice.

Life is rich. Magnificent, in fact, when we choose to embrace it.

And Magnificent also begins with M.

Frio River

F is for Frio — as in the Frio River.

Every time I think about Laity Lodge and the Frio River, these words scroll across my mind – A river runs through it.

Because a river runs through the canyon and is such an integral part of the Laity experience.

We drive through the river to get to the lodge.

Driving in the Frio River. (photograph by Kristen Kopp)

Driving in the Frio River. (photograph by Kristen Kopp)

We can sit on the balcony to look at the river and listen to river.

Frio River from the balcony

Frio River from the balcony

Our view from the bluff looked down on the river and we could see how it wound its way through.

A river runs through it.

Years ago, I happened to catch the movie, A River Runs Through It, when it was shown on television. It is rare when I sit down to watch a whole movie unplanned, but something about it drew me. Something about it lingers, still today, in my heart.

Perhaps it was the mention of grace.

Perhaps it was the art, the stunning beauty of Montana.

Perhaps it was the human drama of a family and brothers and self-destructive behaviors and grace again.

Rivers run through our lives. They draw us together. We can stand in their waters side-by-side.  We can feel their coolness and refreshment. We are washed clean in them.

Yes, it’s all grace.

Shall we gather at the river?



“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Empire Swimming (and Easter)


Empire Swimming at LaGuardia

E is for Empire Swimming and Easter.

As a swim coach, I thought it funny that I ended up on my first flight to Laity Lodge with a swim team. I didn’t mind.  Swimmers are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Especially when I get to overhear conversations like this —

Swimmer A: This is my first time flying. I hope I get a window seat.

Swimmer B:  You know you can’t open the window, right?

I laughed, wondering if Swimmer A thought he could open the window and stick his hand out to zoom through the oncoming air.

When the plane took off, I thought of him again, especially when I got that giddy feeling that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time as the wheels leave the ground.

Flying is such a miracle.

Over a hundred people crammed into a metal tube, with their suitcases and laptops and books — but somehow that heavy thing climbs into the sky.

I really do grin like a 10-year-old and get the watery eyes of a senior citizen at the moment of transformation from earthbound to air-born.

It happened to me again yesterday.  Not the flying part, but the laughing/crying part.

Easter Sunday is, in my opinion, the most important Christian holiday. The crux of our faith lies in the truth that Jesus bore the penalty for our sins on the cross and then conquered death in His resurrection.

Churches around the world have traditions associated with Easter.  Over the years we’ve attended churches with sunrise services, cardboard testimonies, hymn sings, dramas, and traditional liturgies. Each new way of celebrating offers a fresh look at an old but oh-so-beautiful story.

The church we currently attend closes with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and a joyful procession of the children.

Curmudgeonly me, I said to Bud yesterday morning before church, “I’m ready to move on to something besides caterpillars and butterflies.”

I’ll blame it on the persistent headache I’ve had for the past week, but, more likely, I’m just a grump.

Caterpillar down the center aisle

Caterpillar down the center aisle

When the procession started, though, and the caterpillar came waddling up the center aisle, I felt that wheels-leaving-the-runway giddiness.

And when the children threw off the caterpillar shroud to reveal the butterflies, I confess, my eyes got a little watery.

As the procession continued with waving flags and ever larger butterflies, I was thankful for the joy that filled our sanctuary.

Because, if there was one thing I needed to be reminded of yesterday, it was joy.

Confetti-filled, silly-stringed, laugh-out-loud joy.

The kind where it doesn’t matter whether or not the window opens, because you can still feel the wheels leave the tarmac, and know that it’s a miracle, and that you’re being carried somewhere beyond, somewhere amazing.

Easter is that kind of amazing, pressed down, shaken over, overflowing.

The biggest miracle of them all.

For me.