Category Archives: Songs


Our woods and meadow are filled with fireflies right now, much to the delight of our grandchildren (…and children, and myself!). They look a little like “bright, shiny diamonds” as one of our children’s records used to say. Just as twilight makes taking photos difficult, tiny glowing lamps twinkle and beckon us to follow them. Because we have poison ivy around the edges of the wooded areas, we can’t really chase them with abandon, but I’ve been able to detain a few to light up the lives of our little ones, if only for a few seconds. Thankfully, Amélie is extremely gentle, so she doesn’t hurt them, and little Sophie is too timid to hold them, because they tend to crawl up our hands and fly off in the most scary way!  I’ve tried so hard to capture the magic, but my camera can’t translate such low light and tiny twinkles into the fairy dust feeling we experience. So much of life is like that! Tiny moments of joy and light in the twilight…but don’t blink, or you’ll miss the light, and don’t try too hard, or you’ll ruin the gift. Just allow that breathless wonder to create a magical memory in your soul.  It’s like the love of God. We can talk about it, and we can try to explain it to people, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

The Love of God
—Frederick M. Lehman, one hundred years ago, back in 1917!

  1. The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.

    • Refrain:
      Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
      How measureless and strong!
      It shall forevermore endure—
      The saints’ and angels’ song.
  2. When hoary time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.
  3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade;
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry;
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.



Big Sable Lighthouse…and Michigan’s 128 other Lighthouses!

Did you know that there are 129 lighthouses in Michigan?  There are 42 on Lake Superior, 43 on Lake Huron, and 44 on Lake Michigan. We’ve seen dozens of them.  (I would have said “most” until I realized just how many there really are).  No two are alike; each is unique, and all of them are picturesque.  Our local favorite is the Grand Haven Lighthouse, which is being totally refurbished and will include a museum when it’s completed.  Did you know that the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior
just north of Marquette also runs a bed and breakfast?* Wouldn’t it be fun to stay at a lighthouse?  Actually, quite a few of the lighthouses have conservancies to help care for them where you can volunteer for a two-week stint in the summer
serving as a host and giving tours.  While we were at Ludington State Park recently,   we visited the Big Sable Lighthouse.  We climbed the stairs to the top   for spectacular views of the Lake Michigan Coastline,  visited their museum and gift shop, watched a video,
and heard tales about rescues and shipwrecks.   Seeing a list of all the ships that have sunk in Lake Michigan
made me appreciate lighthouses even more!  Thousands have shipwrecked and lost their lives because they had no light
to guide them safely through the storms.  Spiritually, God calls us to be like lighthouses to draw others toward Him. 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).   Are you walking in the light? Can others see the light of God’s presence in you?

“Rescue the Perishing”
Refrain: “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (~from Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “Rescue the Perishing,” 1869…in the era when hundreds of lighthouses were being built!)

  1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
    Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
    Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
  2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
    Waiting the penitent child to receive;
    Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
    He will forgive if they only believe.
  3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
    Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
    Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
  4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
    Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
    Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
    Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

(* Photo of Big Bay Point Lighthouse from their website; I took the rest.)

Joy to the World…or is that even Possible?

poinsettias-and-orchids-at-meijer-garden-12-16Yesterday I shared about how I’m feeling this Christmas, but how are you feeling this Christmas? Are you happy and full of good cheer, or are you finding it hard to sing “Joy to the World”? I thought you might be encouraged to know that even the author of “Joy to the World,” Isaac Watts, had a very difficult life! He grew up England during the 1600’s, and his father was twice incarcerated for holding non-conformist (Huguenot) religious views. As a small child Watts had to be lifted up outside the prison by his mother so his father could see him through the barred windows. As a young man, Watts was denied entry to Oxford or Cambridge because he was not Anglican. isaac_watts_from_npg-london-public-domainThroughout life, Isaac Watts was small and weakly. Although he was a great preacher and considered the Father of Hymnody (composing some 750 hymns), the only woman he ever wanted to marry declined his proposal with the cutting remark that while she loved the “jewel” of his mind, she couldn’t admire “the casket that contained it.” Talk about pain and sorrow. Still, Watts discovered inner joy despite the rejections and difficulties in his life.  He learned that true joy doesn’t come from an easy life or pleasant surroundings but rather from embracing the wonder of our Lord coming to earth to save us! When we allow Christ to reign in our hearts, He overcomes the sin and sorrow that would otherwise consume us, filling our hearts instead with joy and hope!poinsettias-and-orchids-at-meijer-garden-mi

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

“Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”
(—Lyrics by Isaac Watts, 1719; Music by George Frideric Handel)

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Psalm 5:11).

Our Next Great Adventure

IMG_2801Fifty years ago, Brenda, Alice, Alan, Larry and I were all in high school together. As a wonderful gift from God, four of the five of us, with our spouses, now all live in the GR area and take turns sponsoring dinner parties on a regular basis.DSC00313Not long ago, Alice and her husband Bob came from Minneapolis (where Alice is still teaching at U. Minnesota) to join us for one of our dinner parties. What a treat! Alice’s father was the superintendent of our schools, and Alice spent her senior year in Europe as an American Field Service exchange student, so she never actually graduated with us and teases about being a high school dropout (although she went straight into university training on her return). Spending this time with Bob and Alice was really precious, and I hope they come again!DSC00317Our dinner parties are always a royal treat, so if any of you are from Soo High and see this…let me know next time you’re planning to come to GR, and we’ll try to add you to one of our parties!  🙂IMG_2799Alice shared one touching story that I asked permission to share with you. She was deeply attached to her grandfather, and although she didn’t think he was even ill before she left, her grandfather died while she was abroad for her senior year. Her parents thought she’d be heartbroken and really worried about the effect her grandpa’s death would have on her, but she said she didn’t grieve too deeply because her grandfather had prepared her. Before they parted, her grandfather had taken her to visit their cemetery and told her that someday his body would be buried there, but that everything would be okay, because he’d be off on his next great adventure!IMG_2800I just love that! How about you and me? Are we ready for our next great adventure? It could happen any time. The night before our dinner party, one of our other classmates lost her husband very unexpectedly. We’re getting to be “that age.” Are you fearful of “crossing the bar,” or are you looking forward to your next great adventure?

 “While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:35-37).

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”
by Edward Hopper, 1818-1888

“Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

“As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will
When Thou say’st to them, ‘Be still!’
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

“When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
‘Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
‘Fear not, I will pilot thee’.”

The Finest Hours

Cover jacket for The Finest HoursTo me, Disney’s new release, The Finest Hours, deserves an A+ rating,
Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic notwithstanding.

The Finest HoursIt’s a riveting dramatization of what’s thought to be the most daring and dangerous small boat rescue in the history of the United States Coast Guard. The Finest Hours 3It all happened back on February 18, 1952 off the coast of Cape Cod during a horrific Nor’easter when 60-70-foot waves sank two ships. The Finest Hours 6After boats had been sent to help the first distressed ship, it was discovered that the Pendleton (a 500-foot, 10,000-ton oil tanker) had literally split in half in the raging waters. The Finest Hours 1Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernie Webber, who was only 24-years old, and three other men (who were all younger, less experienced, and hadn’t previously trained together) were sent out on the boat known as the 36-500 to “cross the bar”

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) struggles to keep his ship, the SS Pendleton, from sinking in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thirller presented in Digital 3D (TM) and IMAX(c) 3D based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

and attempt to rescue 33 men who were stranded on the back half of the Pendleton. The Finest Hours 2I remember reading about this daring rescue at the Maritime Museum on Cape Cod, which has been nicknamed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of some 3,000 shipwrecks off her coast. According to the TIME magazine article recounting this event, “Tougias and Sherman describe the bar as ‘a collection of ever-shifting shoals with flood currents carrying ocean waves that can splinter small boats in a matter of seconds…just in normal weather’.”  The Finest Hours 5Did they survive? Well, I won’t give the ending away, but I will tell you I’ve read The Finest Hours 3that Bernie’s courtship went just about like it did in the movie, although the timing was different, and Miriam wasn’t really a busybody. The Finest Hours 4+Furthermore, it is true that the horrific storm really did tear out the compass, shatter the windshield, knock out the engine twice, and disable the radio so that they basically had no help or backup. Although it doesn’t come out in the movie, Bernie Webber was the son of a minister who was said to have “faith from above” that night. According to a CBS news report, one of the other sailors recalled of Bernie: “He said that God was on our side.” I also read that they didn’t sing a sailor’s song to comfort themselves; they were singing, “Rock of Ages” as they approached the bar:

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
—Augustus Montague Toplady, 1763  The Finest Hours 2Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2).

The Finest Hour Cover Jacket(If you’re interested in reading more, the complete story is written in Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman’s 2010 book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue.)

What about you? Are you ready to “cross the bar?”


O Tannenbomb

158 Christmas Tree copyWe were all sitting around after dinner, as cozy as could be, contentedly taking turns sharing the multitude of good things for which we’ve been especially thankful to God this year when it happened. Our beautiful Christmas tree, so artfully adorned by Joel with twinkling lights and delicate glass bulbs, suddenly  began a graceful swan dive to the floor. The lights blinked out and 2 gallons of water swept across the floor, engulfing the handful of cheery brown paper packages tied up with strings  that were already under the tree. Yikes! There was a mad scramble to rescue the gifts (including some books), and it took about a dozen towels to mop up the flood. The floor was a jumble of ornaments, shards of glass, and pine needles. Sigh. 😦  All of Joel’s tender, loving care…right down the drain!

Dan and Brianna’s “kids” (exchange students from Sweden and Korea) looked on with amazement. “Do you have Christmas trees in Korea?” I asked “O” to break the awkward silence.

“Not ones that fall over!” he replied stoutly.

Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve seen a Christmas tree fall over here in America before either, but I’m sure stranger things have happened! It did make me stop and think about the nature of Christmas trees, though, and I kept thinking of the words of the Christmas song: “O Tannenbaum.” It’s a German song, but the English translation goes something like this:

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidds’t us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!”

I hope that I never become a tannenbomb instead of a tannenbaum! May God grant each of us the ability to be as sturdy, constant and unchanging as the beautiful firs that we use to adorn our homes during the Christmas season…full of sparkling lights and with our faith placed firmly and forever in our unchanging God!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)

The Meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas TreeDid you know that the song we learned as children about the “Twelve Days of Christmas” is thought to have been a secret catechism taught and sung in England during a time of religious persecution? The twelve days of Christmas begin with December 25th, the day that Jesus’ birth is celebrated, and end with Epiphany on January 6th, which is traditionally the day of celebrating the arrival of the wise men (“Magi”) from the east, who came to worship Christ, bringing him gifts (which doubtless helped sustain the family during their flight to Egypt). It is believed that each of the twelve symbols represented a religious truth, and that by teaching and singing the song, Christians were able to remember the importance of the various aspects of their faith without fear of being arrested.White Tree

In the song, “My true love” speaks of our true love: God!  “Gave to me” speaks of the gifts that God gives to all of us who are his children by faith in Christ. Tree with Alan, Stephen, and Kathi While Alan and I were on vacation last week with Stephen and Joel, I looked everywhere for pictures I could take to represent the various days of Christmas.Blue Tree

Some of the pictures require quite a stretch of imagination, and I supplemented when I could with pictures I’d taken at other times, but I hope you enjoy thinking about the meaning of each “day,” and I pray we’ll remember the gifts that God offers us when we sing this (otherwise) somewhat frivolous and esoteric song. 🙂

Partridge“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.” 011. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus, 02who died on the tree for us.032. The two turtledovesDoves are the Old and New Testaments, the two covenants of peace and promise.Three Hens3. Three French hens French? Hen copystand for the three abiding graces: faith, hope,07 and unending love.Four Calling Birds
4. The four calling birds Grackle copy are the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…Calling Blackbirdthat proclaim salvation to all the world.Five Golden Rings5. The five gold rings represent the Torah (Law, also known as the Pentateuch), comprised of the first five books of the Old Testament.Geeese6. The six geese a-laying Geesestand for the six days of creation.Swans a-swimming7. The seven swans a-swimming SwansrepresentSwans copy the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.Milk Maid8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.Ladies9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Now, obviously these ladies aren’t happy because they haven’t been filled with the fruit of the spirit yet, but once they’ve feasted, they’ll be full of joy and start dancing. 🙂 )Lord Leaping10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.Piper11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.Drummer12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.Tree with Alan, Joel, and Kathi“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)