I Wish You

It was Suzanne’s college graduation party.  Family friends and relatives, schoolmates and old teachers all sipped punch and ate raspberry cake under the willow trees beside the gazebo at the creek.  She had played there as a child – fishing for catfish and catching turtles and garter snakes.  Memories raced across the green hillside and peeped out from behind the apple trees in the orchard. 

Friend Angela, Amy, Grandma Gaither, Suzanne, cousin Lisa at graduation party at the creek

Friend Angela, Amy, Grandma Gaither, Suzanne, cousin Lisa at graduation party at the creek

I listened as our friends wished her success as a writer, fame as a lyricist, fortune in her chosen work, and honor in grad school.  What would we wish her, Bill and I later asked as we sat in the yard swing apart from the others.  It wouldn’t be wealth, we decided, or notoriety.  And success would be awfully hard to define.  What we would wish her would be some grand times and some hard times, some wins and some losses, some sunshine and some rain. We would wish her growth…and vision…and the ability to feel what others feel who are hurt or left out or lonely.

As we had done so many times before, we found ourselves drawn that night to the passage of scripture that has been read probably more often in our home than any other, for it stated so well what we wished then for Suzanne and for all our children as they face life’s shifts and changes.

May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience that love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself. (Eph. 3:17b-19 NLB)

From this graduation experience came the song “I Wish You”. Soon we will watch a new class of graduates walk down the aisle to get their diplomas. One of those graduates will be our beautiful granddaughter, Madeleine. And this will be our wish for her as it was for her mother and her Aunt Suzanne her Uncle Benjy and for her brother Lee, and cousins Will and Jesse who have come before her.

wish you 2.jpg


I wish you some springtime
Some “bird on the wing time”
For blooming and sending out shoots;
I wish you some test time,
Some winter and rest time
For growing and putting down roots.

I wish you some summer
For you’re a becomer
With blue skies and flowers and dew;
For there is a reason
God sends every season;
He’s planted His image in you.

I wish you some laughter,
Some “happy thereafter”
To give you a frame for your dreams;
But I wish you some sorrows,
Some rainy tomorrows,
Some clouds with some sun in between.

I wish you some crosses,
I wish you some losses,
For only in losing you win;
I wish you some growing,
I wish you some knowing,
There’s always a place to begin.

We’d like to collect you
And shield and protect you
And save you from hurts if we could;
But we must let you grow tall,
To learn and to know all
That God has in mind for your good.

We never could own you,
For God only loaned you
To widen our world and our hearts.
So, we wish you His freedom,
Knowing where He is leading,
There is nothing can tear us apart.

William J. Gaither and Gloria Gaither
© 1977 Hanna Street Music (BMI). All rights reserved.

To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

signature for Gloria's blog.png

Letter from Mother

mother blog.jpg

I am thinking of my mother these days before Mother’s Day.  There are no words to express my gratitude for her:  her bright and questing mind, her compassionate heart, her sassy way of arguing with the world, the way she thought there was no end to my and my sister’s potential.  She taught us to love God and the world he made.  She showed us how to live our lives outward on a daily basis.  She was a warrior on her knees and would (and did!) fight the devil himself for our souls.  I received this letter from her in the early 70s, and I wanted to share it with you.

 

Dear Gloria, Bill, and children,

It is good to be alive and see the fast-moving panorama of history being made in our world.  We are living in explosive and important days.  But...

We are full of self-praise of our unheard-of achievements, and lazy with our luxurious conveniences.  We have paid a dear price for progress, and have been robbed in the process of sacred beauties, smells, and sounds that only the wind in the pines can suggest.  The tantalizing memories of common things are drowned out by the metallic clicking of computers and the static radio interference of electric fences.  Our speed and world-wide communications are marred by smog and antenna, which pollute our air and mark up our sky-lines. We strive to take a walk around the earth in endless space, and miss the joy of a simple walk around our gardens with a small child, the real wonder of the universe!

Yes, we accept these marvels with gratitude, but I am glad I have lived to see some other things, to feel the down-to-earth blessings of little pleasures, to hear the sounds of different springs and to smell the aromas associated with a much less complex life.  I am glad I have lived to remember:

mother plow.jpg

 A man plowing with a walking plow and a team of horses, his lines tied around his waist, and his dog following quietly behind him.  I have smelled the fresh-turned sod, and watched silver winged blackbirds picking up fat worms in the last furrow.

 A dash-churn, a wooden spoon worn thin from many stirrings, and bumpy from the tooth marks of little babies who have cut their teeth on its rugged edges.

A hand-hewn potato masher, and a “butter-print.” Fox-fire in a damp, dark woods, its eerie glow piercing the mist of a mucky swamp.

A one-room school house, with “dinner buckets” which were originally syrup-pails, standing in their shiny rows.

A “bobwhite’s” nest, and turtle eggs hatching in the hot sand. A mother opossum resting herself in the sun with her rat-tailed youngsters hissing, and tumbling over each other across her pouched belly.

An old-fashioned hog butchering, with barrels of scalding water, and kettles of rendering lard and sizzling cracklings.  The after-treat of fresh country sausage and hot biscuits.

Sliced apples, and cut-off corn drying on snow-white sheets and covered with cheesecloth on the sunny side of a shed roof. A dish pan full of wilted lettuce fresh from a spring garden.

A new-born calf getting a “wave-set” from his mother’s wet tongue.  Lilies-of-the-valley bowing gently in the soft breezes around the tombstones in a country church yard. A mother hen warning her clueless brood that a hawk is lingering near.

mother trillium.jpg

Trillium and May-apples blooming in a budded woods. My father splitting logs along the river bank.  I can still hear the quick out-let of his breath as the heavy mall made contact with the battered wedges.

Frozen ruts in a country lane, and ice designs in hoof-print puddles.  Mud dropping like too-stiff frosting from wagon wheels, throwing ruffled chunks along the roadway.

Real burning candles on a Christmas tree!  Home-made bread cooling on the reservoir of the old black, wood burning cook stove. Hunting a bee tree, and stealing the honey. The haunting call of the whip-poor-will at dusk.

Yes, it is interesting to watch on television the very battles of our men in the armed services on the other side of the world.  It is marvelous to ride 80 miles an hour in the luxury of air-conditioned cars on our super highways.  It is great to listen to stereophonic music, to enjoy push-button heating and have instant food . . . but there is a price to pay, and we are paying it.

Once, our big boys quit school to help “Dad.”  Now, we have shifty-eyed, shaggy-haired delinquents who roam our streets and shuffle down our halls in search of “kicks.” It seems that the more we obtain of this world’s goods the less we really appreciate those who provide them.  The more God gives us, the less we obey Him.  I am sure this need not be, and evil brings its own destruction.  None-the-less, we are paying a price for progress, and I am glad I have known these others things.
Lovingly, 
Mother

I am wondering what my mother would add to her list if she were here to write to me today.  Cell phones that keep us from looking at each other including our children?  Churches that smell of mildew and empty pews?  Kitchen tables around which families only gather on holidays?  Condo elevators instead of screened doors that squeak and bounce shut with the constant traffic of family activity? 

mother swan.jpg

Knowing my mother, though, I think she would love millennials and gen-xers for their inquisitive minds, their ability to ferret out phonies, and their amazing ability to navigate a complicated and often dangerous world. Her front porch would still be a stopping-by place for three generations of seekers with honest questions and a ready sense of humor. She would still be taking them “for a little walk around the creek” to see the newly hatched swan signets or inside to peer over the back deck to see the outrageous blooms on the magnolia I once pulled up and dumped on the trash pile. The coffee pot would still be on, the Bible with all its markings would still be open on the table, and a Mason jar full of zinnias she’d just cut from the yard would be there to give you when you left.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Art: The Language of the Soul

There are some things we cannot communicate to others or articulate for ourselves by using statements, spreadsheets or ledgers.  Words hammered into manuals, mission statements and creeds fall far short.  There are thoughts so much higher than our thoughts that they must come to us in inklings (they are all our finite minds can hold at one time), and even these droplets from the ocean of truth must come by revelation.

art stars.jpg

God used art.  He used it way before He carved simple rules on tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai –these were only emergency rescue measures, concessions to the destructive dictates of our small perceptions and fallen inclinations.

But in the beginning was a love song breathed into the formless void so moving that the building blocks of all things filled the void, and from these vibrating sound waves all things began to “live and move and have their being”.  He flung heat and warmth, color and light on the canvas of utter darkness, and, as James Weldon Johnson tried to put into words, he “spangled the night with a thousand stars”.  But, oh, it was much more than that.

art 2.jpg

With humor, with delicate detail, with intricate precision, He created, not just for the moment but for limitless generations of life to come with built-in safeguards and adaptive potential we are even now only beginning to recognize and appreciate.

Yet all of creation was but a postcard, inviting us to something beyond.  We can only imagine.

There has to be a song.  There has to be inspiration.  There has to be revelation for which we then need metaphors and pictures, drama and music and dance to hint at what we have perceived. 

art music.jpg

Some things are eternal not temporal, transcendent not immediate.  Some truths are so immense that they escape even the most sophisticated of measuring sticks and weighing scales the human mind has developed.  Glimpses of these truths overpower our systems.

And so we sing.  We tell stories and write poetry.  We employ the language of symbol.  We dance.  We dramatize for each other the insights too big for our formulas or explanations.  And we believe.  Yes, we believe.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Revisiting Good Friday

Each year I re-read the story of the days before the Resurrection from the book of Matthew, just so see if I had missed anything. This year was no exception.  I was reading the part in chapter 27 about Jesus on trial before Pilate, a story I had read and heard read since I was a child.  I had followed the story from the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples had celebrated in the upper room, Jesus’s act of washing of the feet of the disciples to show them how a leader should serve, the breaking of the bread calling it his “body broken for them,” the taking of the hallowed cup from the table and the drinking of it and offering it to them as “the cup of the New Covenant...that your joy may be full.”  I read  Peter’s declaration of total loyalty and Jesus’s prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the break of dawn, of His then telling Judas to “do what you do quickly.” 

good friday 1.jpg

 I had followed the story through the agony of Gethsemane and the vision of just what was in the cup, remembering as I read, the songs we had written inspired by these verses and the whole musical (In the Gardens) about the broader story of redemption stretched like a banner across three gardens (Eden, Gethsemane, and the garden of the tomb). I read on through the actual betrayal with a kiss of Judas, Peter’s striking of the guard with his trusty sword and Jesus’ rebuke of this act, followed by the healing of the severed ear.

 I followed the story from Gethsemane to the awful night of denial, flogging, shaming, and the mock crowning of “the King” with a crown braided of clippings from a cruel thorn bush by the soldiers guarding this “criminal.” I read again the proceedings of the so-called trial before Pilate and his questioning of Jesus, interrupted by the delivery of a note from Pilate’s wife.  She had spent a restless night troubled by a dream and sent the letter asking her husband to have nothing to do with this innocent man.

good friday 2.jpg

 Then came the part about Pilot’s tradition of releasing a prisoner on Passover, offering a choice between the serial criminal Barabbas, and Jesus. And about how the crowd, infiltrated by the chief priests and their cronies, having heard the offer, yelled, “Barabbas!  Barabbas!”  Exasperated, the account said,  Pilate asked for basin of water to wash his hands of the whole thing.  “See to it yourselves,” he had shouted, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man!” 

 Then came the line I had never really internalized before:  “All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children.’”

 I stopped reading.  Illumination flooded my soul.  This is the very prayer I pray for our children every day!  What the clueless crowd that day intended as a condemnation and curse, was, ironically, a prayer! And this was exactly what Jesus was headed to Calvary to do—to cover with his blood the very lives of those and their children who were condemning him to the cross, so he could pour his love and his very blood back on every heart that would accept it.

good friday 3.jpg

 No wonder the very guards that carried out His execution, as they had so many more, stood amazed at the end of that day and said, “Surely, this was the Son of God.” 

 This morning I prayed, as I always do, that our precious children and their children will know today that they have been covered by the blood of the One who came to show us what God is really like—that there is no end to this kind of Love, and that they have access to the power of it as they live their lives in a divisive and sometimes ugly world, bringing the healing of grace, forgiveness, and joy that only comes from something otherworldly.

 And, yes, another song came from the Word’s inexhaustible source.

LET THIS BLOOD BE UPON US

 Verse 1
Like the restless crowd that milled around the city,
Pilate’s wife tossed restless in her bed.
Was it fear or dread or was it pity?
She wrote an urgent note to clear her head.

 Verse 2
The trial found no crime to charge the prisoner;
The angry mob still shouted their demand—
“Then you see to it!” weary Pilate answered,
“From my hands wash the blood of this just man.”

 Chorus
Let this blood be on us and our children!
Let His cross cast its shadow over us.
Let this blood be on us and our children—
Let this blood, let this blood be on us.

 Verse 3
What the clueless crowd once screamed in agitation
Is the prayer our trusting hearts breathe every day;
It’s our only hope and sweetest consolation:
Let the precious blood of Jesus make a way.

 (repeat chorus)

 Bridge
Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us;
Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us.
Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us.
Let this blood, let this blood be upon us!

 (repeat chorus)
Lyric:  Gloria Gaither, © Hanna Street Music 2015
Music: Dony McGuire, © Rambo-McGuire Music 2015

signature+for+Gloria's+blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

The Prodigal's Mother

prodigal 1.jpg

I’ve often wondered what the prodigal son’s mother was doing all that time her boy was away. The biblical account says the father had been the one who had the confrontation with their son. The young man wanted his inheritance now. He wanted to take charge of his own life. He ­didn’t buy the old promise of deferred gratification.

The father must have come back to the bedroom and collapsed on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, and sobbed as he told the boy’s mother that he had given their son his share prematurely and that he was, even as they spoke, packing to leave the house and set out on his own.

prodigal 3.jpg

He ­hadn’t listened to reason; he ­hadn’t wanted to hear about how much richer he would one day be if he would trust his father to make wise investments for him and, as the inheritance grew, allow his father to teach him everything he would now learn the hard way. No, he ­wouldn’t hear of it. He wanted his share now, not when he was too old to enjoy it, like his father.

How torn that mother must have felt between the practical wisdom of her husband and a mother’s need to try to understand, too, where the boy was coming from. He ­wasn’t a bad boy. He was just immature, and she well remembered the passions that once drove this man whom she loved to take risks, strike out on faith. ­Hadn’t he loved her when she was a naïve and inexperienced girl? What had they known then of what the future would hold?

She could feel her heart splitting down the middle. She was helpless to stop what was happening to her family.

Prodigal m.jpg

She stood silently with her hand on her husband’s heaving shoulder. What could she say? It was done now. The boy was an adult for all intents and purposes, yet in her heart she knew that, protected and provided for as he’d been, he’d be a sheep among wolves once he got wherever he was determined to go. He ­didn’t have a clue!

It was as if that whole evening were moving in slow motion, like the recurring dream she’d had since she was a girl, the dream in which she was trying to run down the lane to her old childhood farmhouse. Something she ­couldn’t see was chasing her and she could feel it gaining on her, but her legs ­wouldn’t work right, and she ­couldn’t seem to scream for help. She just kept trying to run or call but ­couldn’t do either. She would wake up in a sweat, unable to identify her fear.

She felt the same panic rise now. It had no face, yet she could almost feel it breathing on the back of her neck. She could only pray that her son would come to his senses before something tragic happened.

The boy left. His parents stood and watched as he slowly turned into a speck on the horizon, then disappeared. They both went back to their routine after that. Thank God for work! But they kept feeling as if there was something pending, that all their sentences ended with question marks.

Their other son kept things going. They could always depend on him, and they were grateful. The farm prices stayed steady. The crops flourished, yet somehow their prosperity and good fortune seemed pointless. The color in their lives was gone, and they moved about through sepia-toned days.

prodigal 4.jpg

The mother would often catch her husband standing on the porch around sundown, looking at the place on the horizon where their son had disappeared, but he never mentioned how much he missed his son. She longed to talk about the things that gnawed at her heart and churned in her stomach, but her husband was a man of few words and she knew he would respect his son’s decision to walk away.

Often at night when the house was still and she could hear everyone’s measured breathing, she would slip down the stairs to the bench and table by the window. She would pick up the quill and write letters she knew could never be sent. There was no address for “a far country.” Or sometimes she would climb to the roof, where she could see the stars and feel the breeze stirring the night. Here where there was no risk of being heard by the household servants, she would send her son messages on the wind, for it must blow, too, where her son had gone. And she would pray.

prodigal 2.jpg

Her husband saw him first. He was standing on the porch like he often did at the end of the day, straining toward the horizon. He called to her. Did she see it? That speck where the road met the waning sunset?

At first she saw only the heat waves rising from the freshly plowed field. No, to the right of the clearing—did she see it?

She ­couldn’t dare to hope, yet the figure now materializing was unmistakably a man ... but her husband was already running down the lane toward the road.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Daring to Prune

prune 3.jpg

This is the season for renewal.  It is a time when old, spent foliage is sloughed off to make way for new buds to form.  It is a time for pruning while the sap still lies deep enough in the plant that the useless branches and parasitic suckers can be lopped off without damage to the healthy central core.

prune boy.jpg

Late last fall I cut back severely the grapevines that grow on the grape arbor we built several years ago over the millstone walk leading to our backdoor.  (Our kids and grandkids have always loved eating their way in grapes into our kitchen.)  We had put off the pruning too long because we love the cozy vine-shelter over the walk in the hot summer, and we have paid for that misplaced kindness in grape harvest. Last August just a few anemic orbs were there to be tasted.  It was time.  Past time.

prune 2.jpg

This winter we have felt bare and exposed as we went into the house.  The seasoned old grapevine trunk has shivered in the snow like swollen arthritic kneecaps and elbow joints exposed to the elements.  But, come spring, life – insistent, vibrant – will burst from these old gnarled roots.  Wild new sprouts will begin to wind themselves around the cables we’ve stretched between the timbers and make their way to the strong framework of wire overhead.  By hot weather great clusters of purple and red fruit will dangle above our heads exuding that rich aroma of communion I remember from childhood’s sacred celebrations.

Prune 1.jpg

 This time of year I’m thinking about other kinds of new growth and new sprouts and young vines that, full of glorious life and freedom, can wind their way across chasms, spanning empty cold spaces, bridging gaps with love and the sweet aroma of fellowship.  I’m longing for the people of God to find in a fresh new way to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and, being “rooted and grounded in love,” be “able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.”

prune hands.jpg

 I’m longing in my own heart to experience a new burst of courage to leave my comfort zones to  “Reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length!  Plumb the depths!  Rise to the heights!  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17b-19 The Message)  I want to dare to prune away old attitudes and preconceived ideas knowing that in the warm days ahead the fruit of bridge-building grace and mercy and love will be so plentiful and sweet it will drip down our arms for the sheer joy of it!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

I Declare - Psalm 19

declare sunrise.jpg

It was the sun pouring through the kitchen window at 7:00 am for the first time after the long winter that made me turn to Psalm 19 instead of the chapter in Colossians I had been reading that week to the kids at the breakfast table.  And I thought I knew that “nature psalm,” for I’d heard it since childhood.  I was reading it “for the kids,” right?  So they’d focus on this glorious first sunny morning of early spring. 

But as I read, I became overwhelmed with the way this fellow-poet had reached from the circumstances of his life (writing a song for this “director of music” to use) into mine more than two thousand years of mornings later.

The psalm was divided into five parts, I noticed as I read.  It opened with the familiar “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  It went on to say that day after night the articulate heavens and the knowledgeable firmament verbalize wisdom, and there is no corner of the earth where their voices cannot be heard and no language barrier that keeps everyone from understanding.

declare sunset.jpg

Next is a lovely metaphor.  Pretend that God has pitched a wedding tent in the sky and the sun is the bridegroom who comes out, greeting and spreading a warm welcome on all his guests.  Or pretend that the sun is a champion rider who gets his joy from racing perfectly from one end of the course to the other delighting everyone in the stands on the way.

Well, then, the psalmist asks, what are the heavens declaring?  And verses 7-11 are a list, an amazing all-encompassing beautiful list of what the heavens declare.  These declarations so powerfully bring into focus what life should be about, so speak to our human frailties, so heal our broken dreams, so reassure our lost confidences, so pinpoint our areas of weakness that the Psalmist literally falls to his knees in repentance.

His error and hidden faults, his smallness and willful sins are all exposed.  And more than that, he begins to ask himself if we are supposed to be the most articulate of all God’s creatures, what are our lives saying?  Are our faults and pettinesses, our selfish narrow-mindedness and lazy preoccupations, our lack of faith and our paralyzing fears making the declaration of our days?

Shamed by the articulate firmament, we hear our own voices praying aloud with the Psalmist’s in repentance and supplication. 

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation
of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
my Rock and my Redeemer!”

The children were very silent as I sobbed through the final words of the Psalm, then together we prayed:
Jesus, this day let our actions and attitudes be in sync with all creation.  May we articulate praise in the moments we have.  Amen

 A song lyric came from this morning’s devotion with the children.  I simply called it “Anthem”, and I wrote it to music by Michael W. Smith.  Steve Green recorded it.  Here are the lyrics:          

In the space of the beginning was the living Word of Light;
When this Word was clearly spoken, all that came to be was right.
All creation had a language—words to say what must be said;
All day long the heavens whispered, signing words in scarlet red.

Amber rays and crimson rainbows, twinkling stars and flashing light,
Punctuated heaven’s statement: “God is glorious, perfect, right!”
All day long the sun proclaims it like a bridegroom, dressed in white,
Coming from his tent to greet them, all his guests feel his delight.
Words of love and warmth he whispers, warming all who hear his voice,
“Oh, be glad and share my table, dance and celebrate!  Rejoice!

All creation, sing His praises!
Earth and heaven, praise His name!
All who live, come join the chorus!
Find the words! His love proclaim! 

Lyrics: Gloria Gaither © 1988 Hanna Street Music
Music:  Michael W. © 1988 O’Ryan Music, Inc.

declare night.jpg
signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Prioritizing...Again!

Today is my birthday.  I’ve always liked having a birthday on this day, because it is the only date that is a command to go forward:  March 4th!  And forth I intend to go.  But how?  And to where?

 This is not the only time I have paused in mid-journey to listen to the urgings of my soul and to ask God for wisdom in re-aligning priorities.  Over the years Bill and I have had to focus and re-focus on our main calling and the demands it might make for this time in our lives. 

Suzanne, Benjy, and Amy

Suzanne, Benjy, and Amy

 There were the years when we were new at being a couple and new at being parents of young children; we were new at being writers and had to sing our own songs if they were going to be heard.  Bill had sung with his brother and sister through high school and college, but by the time we were married, his siblings had taken another path, and he was directing the music at a local church, putting small groups together to sing with the choir.  We were both teaching high school and writing our songs; he would try them out on the choir at church.

 As the songs began to have impact, calls began to come in from churches where Bill, Danny, and Mary Ann had sung as kids, asking if he would come and sing the new songs.  He tried putting together various combinations, but finally said to me, “You need to sing; I’m just used to a family group, and we are writing these songs together.”  Like all preachers’ kids I had sung in our local churches, but never considered myself a “singer” in the professional sense of the word.  I was confident writing and speaking; those were my comfort zones. Vocal performance was not my strong suit.

My mother (Dorthy Sickal) and our middle child Amy.

My mother (Dorthy Sickal) and our middle child Amy.

 But priorities shifted.  To sing our songs enough to let people hear them, I had to balance that with keeping our little children our priority.  Between our two youngest babies, my pastor parents retired from the ministry and moved to Indiana to take over with the children on week-ends when we sang. We knew this was not an accident, and we began to write our travelling/familying life in new songs.

priortizing trio with kids.jpg

 Singing and traveling seemed to spawn other necessities if our concerts were to be effective:  our own publishing company, a choral division so church choirs could sing our songs, a recording studio so we wouldn’t have to be away from our kids during the week when we were recording, decent sound/lights/instruments, a road crew.  Still we were home during the week being a family, running a publishing company, and writing songs. On week-ends we took the child with us who seemed to need special attention that week.  I was writing books, too, and at first Bill was still teaching, but soon his night job took over his day job.  Prioritizing again.

Slide2.jpg

 For more than twenty years we traveled and sang, first with Bill’s brother Danny (when he moved back to our home town) and then with Gary McSpadden.  But when our first daughter graduated from college and our other two were in high school and college, I felt God stirring around in my soul again, and I knew it was time for another chapter—to quit traveling so much to concentrate on finishing my Master’s Degree in English and to be available to “launch” our beautiful emerging young adults.  Suzanne and I took our Master classes together, another delightful mile on my journey.

 I began speaking more and writing more books.  The Vocal Band had continued traveling and felt as if maybe their tenure might be coming to an end; they decided before they “hung it up” to do a Southern Gospel flavored project to honor and thank the aging heroes who had drawn them to gospel music as kids.  Pretty much by accident, Bill discovered a television camera (we had avoided television to protect our children and private lives), and another chapter of our journey began:  The Homecoming Videos.

priortizing store.jpg

 Out of that holy accident came a new traveling chapter of Homecoming Concerts, the Homecoming Magazine, and creating a place to enjoy the people who started to travel to our home town studio to see where the videos were being taped and recorded.  We started what we called Gaither Family Resources and the Pure & Simple Restaurant.

prioritizing studio.jpg

 We remembered when our little sheet music business was in our garage.  Song evangelists and traveling groups would stop by our house to get music for the road.  I would fix them lunch, Bill would show them new songs, and after a sweet time of fellowship and stories, they would get sheet music and be on their way.  When we outgrew the garage and moved to a real office with a warehouse, we always missed seeing and praying with the artists.  So when the need arose again, we created a homey place with food, music, great books, and all kinds of resources for home and family where people could find much needed solitude and real community. For 23 years Gaither Family Resources and Gaither Studios have welcomed people from every state and scores of foreign countries.

 Now we find ourselves in another season of prioritizing. We are assessing our time and energy for what may prove to be our final miles of the journey.  Again we have asked ourselves the question:  With the time and energy we have left ahead, what is to be our focus, our main calling?  We have come full circle, perhaps.  Now we feel it is time to simplify our lives down to our first and consistently central calling.  As someone has so aptly said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  Our main thing for the days ahead is to love God, treasure our marriage and home, enjoy and encourage our three grown children and their children (ages 9-26), and to make music.   Bill will continue to travel with the Vocal Band with a doable and enjoyable schedule, working with young artists, and writing and recording great songs.  I will write—all the kinds of writing that I love the most, including this blog.  Thank you all for not only reading it yourselves but sending it on for others to enjoy and for sending back your comments.  I read them and they give me more ideas.

 If we’ve learned anything over time it is that simple is better and less is more.  (Sorry for the length of the blog this time!) We’ve learned that keeping our private lives central keeps our public lives true.  To tell you the truth we’re more excited about life than we’ve ever been.  And to the next miles of our journey, I say, “Bring it on!”

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Visiting Presidents

Bill and I have spent many hours over many years traveling the United States and Canada in our tour bus.  You’d think we surely had seen most of the beauty of America and visited every national shrine, but the truth is we mostly have driven right past the wonders of this great country because of the tyranny of our schedule.  Most of the time we have traveled at night after a concert to get to the next date; we have awakened in the backstage parking lot of another city arena or auditorium.

 Last summer we asked our driver, Jimmy, if he could block out some days to go with us to see some of the places we have missed.  Bill is a history buff and his reading is mostly biographies of great world leaders and our American Presidents.  When he finishes a biography, we see together every documentary we can find on that leader until we have exhausted the subject and then move on.

 Our list for last summer’s trip was to see three of the Presidential Libraries and really absorb the beauty of our great land, especially the Grand Canyon.  What an experience that trip was!  We found each Presidential Library to be as unique as the personalities and passions of each President they celebrated.  The regions of the country that nurtured the formative years of each life were evident in the strengths and viewpoints each brought eventually to the Office.

 Abraham Lincoln was every bit a product of the Midwest—Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois—that shaped his values and developed his courage to walk alone, if he had to, to do the right thing.  It molded his sense of justice and mercy.  His library is a down-to-earth experience of the simplicity of his childhood, reflecting the long strides not only of his tall legs, but of his determination to walk the lonely road to freedom for the oppressed.  Yet he battled depression and was belittled and ridiculed by the press.

 We drove across the vast belly of the country that has come to be known as “the bread basket of the world” to Abilene, Kansas, and the Eisenhower Presidential Center.  On the grounds are not only the library, but the Eisenhower family home and the whole restored neighborhood where Dwight Eisenhower grew up, and a chapel called the Place of Meditation, where Eisenhower himself and First Lady “Mamie” and their first-born son are buried.  Also, on the grounds are an Eisenhower statue placed in a circle named “Champion of Peace” and five pillars, representing the stages of the President’s life.

 The Kansas small town neighborhood, the traditional house, and the Chapel of Meditation all seem to represent a well-grounded man who knew balance—a man who went from being one of our history’s greatest generals and Commander of all NATO forces of World War II to being a peace-building President who opposed war and the military-industrial complex.  Yet, as is true of all great men and women, he was flawed and imperfect.

 The third Presidential Library we visited was the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Our son had checked with some friends to see if President Clinton might be in residence there.  It turned out he was and graciously agreed to meet us before opening hours, though he was leaving that morning for a trip.  It was a rare opportunity to hear first-hand the ideas this 42nd President had wanted to have built into his library to capture the tone and history of not only his administration, but also the nineties and the turn of the century.  The long corridor-style building implying the journey through each year he was in office (1993-2001) ended with a two-story tall glass wall looking toward the outside representing the future.  Along the elongated central walkway are alcoves containing visual and archival collections documenting the cultural, governmental, and global happenings day-by-day of each year, including Clinton’s own successes and failures.

presidents picnic.jpg

 On our trip we stopped in Durango, Colorado to visit our grandson.  He took us on a picnic up, up to a clear mountain lake high in the pines.  We inhaled the air, refreshing yet still hinting at the smell of the destructive fires that had recently swept through the forests below.  We filled our eyes and souls with the wonder of God’s beauty and provision.  We drank in these precious hours with our handsome, strong nature-loving grandson and the gift of being with him this day.  This moment.  This place.

We went on to visit the Grand Canyon, which I had never actually seen because we had always passed it in the night, even once parking the bus on the rim of it so our driver could sleep a few hours.

 We had planned to stay where we could watch the sun slip from full day to sunset, casting ever-changing shadows and revelations of color at day’s end.  What candy for eyes it turned out to be!  Every artist must long for paint and a canvas, yet knowing that this changing panorama could never be captured in a painting.  We stayed in a rustic lodge and went back the next morning to see what tricks dawn had up its sleeve.  Turned out morning had more light-shows that we could have imagined!

 The canyon, our sweet picnic by a mountain lake, and the visits to the archives of three American Presidents was a study in perspective for me.  It reminded me that relationships are more enduring than power or politics. It made me remember that each of us is a motley mix of strengths and weaknesses, even those who hold the highest offices in our land or positions of power in the world. We each—even Presidents—are a combination of great gifts and fragile flaws, or, as Shakespeare said, a “brief candle...a poor player who struts and frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more.”

 This Presidents’ Month I want to remember to appreciate the gifts of national leadership we have been given over more than two centuries and be grateful.  I want to remember that only God is God and His Kingdom is not of this earth; it is an invisible Kingdom built mysteriously in the hearts of those who believe.  I want to remind myself, too, that this Kingdom’s work can never be achieved by earth’s systems, but only by each believer being faithful to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the children, lift up the fallen, embrace the lonely, and pray for both our leaders and the powerless.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Heart Keeping

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life,” wisely advises the psalmist.  Heart keeping begins the moment a baby is born, before the child is able to do any heart keeping of its own.  Good mothers and fathers know this and begin from the first day surrounding the baby with soothing sounds, stimulating movements and colors, and all manner of visual experiences to help the baby want to connect with the world and people around him/her.  The fresh smells of lotion and the comfort of being bathed and clean and wrapped in soft clothing and dry diapers, the taste of warm milk while being cuddled close, and the sweet sound of a lullaby all are first efforts to keep the young heart “with all diligence.”

Liam’s first hair cut.

Liam’s first hair cut.

Right away our stories begin, and making memories together is and should be the serious occupation of the loving family.  As the child experiences all those amazing firsts, each person in the family gets to relive them, too, and regain the sense of awe and wonder that comes with splashing in the water, feeling sand between the toes, rolling in the cool grass, hearing the song of a bird, listening to music, experiencing new tastes, feeling a furry puppy….

Photographs, drawings, homemade recordings and movies, stories, poems, prayers, and jokes all become ways we use to preserve and relive those shared experiences that make each person both unique and a part of a family and community.  There develops an unspoken agreement between us to treasure the story that is being written with the days of our lives and to keep it safe and accurate so that we can from time to time when the need arises, remind each other exactly who and Whose we are.

heart will.jpg

As these babies we so tenderly hold begin to grow, there are piano and guitar lessons, sports accomplishments, academic achievements, pool parties, cook-outs, family vacations, and a hundred other moments to celebrate and store in our hearts and add to our scrapbooks.  Usually, during adolescence when kids sometimes try on other identities and tend to forget who they are, those who love them most are there to remind them of the person they are becoming and how valuable they are, “too good to waste” on influences that would pull them down.  We are the community of love that keeps singing the songs of the redeemed when other voices would entice them to trade freedom for license and enduring riches for cheap trinkets of the moment.

heart A&A.jpg

When they come through the maze and choose a life partner, a new heart keeper will join the circle, and promise before God and this community to love and cherish and keep the heart “’til death do us part.”  The new adventure begins that songwriter Andrew Peterson has called “dancing in the minefields,” a new relationship committed to keeping their hearts and joining them in the journey of being memory makers and keepers together.

It is the communities each of these two brings to this new union that will in most cases make or break the hearts, depending on how seriously and how well they have been memory makers and heart keepers.  Now the parents and families must begin the tricky dance of letting go without going away, keeping the treasures of who these two are and pondering them in our hearts.

heart couple.jpg

As we all make new memories on this journey, heart keeping sometimes makes more literal demands of us.  Some of us will find our memories turning to liquid and slipping from our grasp.  With the memories can go our identities, too, and we may have to then ask someone we trust, someone who has walked with us, who we are and where we’ve been and where we might be going.  How treasured then are those who have been the keepers of our memories, guardians of our hearts.  What a gift that long ago some lovers of life signed on to be the keepers of our hearts and the guardians of our true identities.  Thank God for those who have walked with us, shared our adventures, weathered our losses, celebrated our great joys and are still guarding not only their hearts with great diligence, but our hearts as well; for truly out of the heart flow the issues of life!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Best Story of All

best story Gloria3.jpg

I am a child.  I must be four or five years old.  It is Wednesday night, and we are having what we call prayer meeting but what is really, at our little church in the tiny farming village where my father pastors, an informal hour of singing, testimonies and a short study of a passage of scripture.  The person “leading the singing” is not a “musician” or a “minister of music.”  He is a farmer who has finished his chores, taken a shower, put on a clean cotton shirt and “work pants” and eaten a simple supper with his family before heading off “into town” to the service.  His wife plays the piano as those gathered in the little white church by Michigan State Road M-60 begin to sing.

best story church.jpg

I am singing, too.  I know the familiar words by heart to the first song “When We All Get to Heaven.”  But I have my finger in page 444, marking my favorite just in case the song leader says at the end of this song, “Does anyone have a request?”

I will be quick.  I am ready.  “Page 444!”  I say before anyone else even has time to thumb through the hymnal.

“Turn to page 444,” the song leader says with a twinkle in his eye and a smile in my direction.  I am suddenly bathed in the warm embrace of acceptance, love, and confirmation.  And I sing – do I ever sing! – at the top of my voice.

best story hymnal.jpg

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love;
I love to tell the story because I know ‘tis true;
It satisfies my longing as nothing else can do.

Now I am a songwriter myself.  I have written my life’s journey into nearly a thousand lyrics to the wonderfully accessible tunes my husband has heard in his head.  I’ve watched amazed as my words of praise, discovery, question, and revelation have found their way into other persons’ lives, words that at the time seemed so personal to our pilgrimage that I couldn’t imagine them helping someone else.

And I have come to believe that we as a body of struggling, growing, emerging believers need a shared history with God to stockpile against the winters of our lives and the dark nights of the soul.  Like the Israelites who carried stones from the bed of the parted Jordan River, we need to have resources in our possessions with which we can stoop to build an altar in celebration of those times when God “showed up” in our distress.  We need to be able to point to these altars – those Ebenezers along our path – when “Satan would buffet” and say to each other and our children, “I know God is with us!  He met us there, and there and there.  I know He will be faithful in this hour, too.”

The words I learned as a child flowed over me like a warm shower.  I loved the sound of them, the embrace of the voices around me singing them.  But decades have passed since then.  The words and the tune that glued them to my memory have been investigated and scrutinized under the glaring eye of reality.  What have I discovered? A resource of truth richer and deeper and broader then I ever could have imagined.  As the years have passed, life experiences have spotlighted the validity of different verses for me. 

 At this juncture of my journey, this is currently my favorite:

I love to tell the story for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest;
And when in scenes of glory I sing a new, new song,
‘Twill be its old, old story that I have loved so long.

When we tell the eternal story, let’s tell more than the punch line.  We need the whole song, all the verses and the choruses to serve us as our own story unfolds because, trust me, life is hard, but God is good.

 

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

January Bones

How I love the starkness of January!  I love that everything is shucked down to the bare bone essentials.  Oh, I love the lushness of June, too—the trees lavishly clothed in leaves, the outrageously vibrant greens of the grasses, the surprising flashes of color from flowers and birds, the blue, blue of the summer sky.

starkness6.jpg

 But January tells the truth.  It confesses the framework that holds everything together--the skeletons of the giant maples and oaks, cottonwoods and sycamores, black against the pale gray sky, the brave sticks of bushes and vines that in summer inched their way sunward through the thicket of obstructions while holding up the weight of foliage and fruit.

Starkness.jpg

 January exposes the crimes of men who under the guise of “tree trimming,” assault and rape the pride and grandeur of hardwoods, slashing the branches off like a privet hedge, wounding and forcing the proud oaks and maples to form knuckles of scar-tissue, making them vulnerable to disease and insects, and, eventually, making the tree send out twig shoots as if they were saplings.

 Nature does no such assassinating.  Even an ice storm picks and chooses, pulling down branches grown too heavy or eliminating limbs hollowed by disease. But January also lays bare the beauty of trees that have survived storms and injury to spread their giant arms over fields and meadows to shelter wild life, shade cattle herds, and cool homesteads.

starkness7.jpg

 January reminds me to be thankful for the framework that holds up our lives as well—thankful for the laws that protects our freedoms, the social systems, like hospitals, schools, government agencies, and churches, that hold the communities of breathing peoples together, giving society shape, structure, and strength.

starkness ch1.jpg

 The starkness of January reminds me to be thankful for the gracious mercies of God and for hope and love and faith that hold us together when we forget to be thankful.  And in the chill of winter when the sky is black and dotted with constellations, I am reminded to be grateful for the Greater Law, the very breath of God that holds together our fragile universe and those beyond, galaxies unending.

Thank you, God, for January, that reveals that you are the ultimate framework that
holds all things together.  Without you, we are just leaves and thistle down, fragile
grasses and chicken feathers the wind blows away.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

The Gift of Memories

Bill and I got for Christmas one of the best gifts ever from our kids, their spouses, and grandkids!  It seems it was their solution to giving something meaningful to parents who are in the “riddin’ out” phase of our lives, as Bill’s Aunt Lillie used to say. We hear it was Amy who came up with the idea, but eventually all three of them, their spouses, and all of the grandkids (ages 9-26) eagerly signed on.

memories jar.jpg

 What we received when we got together at Benjy’s and Melody’s house for our big Christmas dinner was a huge glass jar filled with folded slips of paper.  They all seemed to hold their breath while Suzanne explained that this was our main gift. Each person—all 13 of them—had been given color designed paper on which to write their best memories growing up with Bill and me on our homeplace.

Memories blue.jpg

 What a joyful adventure we have been on ever since!  Each morning while we are having coffee in our old farm kitchen, Bill and I take out a handful of slips of paper and take turns reading the “memories” aloud.  Then we sort them into piles from each person.  We have laughed.  We have cried.  We have giggled at each experience remembered by each of these thirteen very different personalities.

memories 2.jpg

 Almost every day since Christmas, we have texted or called various contributors to say how much their memory of life on this hillside has meant to us.  We can’t wait to eventually reread each stack of memories from each separate person.  They are such unique personalities that each collection of memories will be better than a personality profile or DNA test.

 The beauty of this very special gift is the assurance that all those years of trying to make memorable their experiences in this house we built 54 years ago, actually have become treasured memories to them.  Little do they know that we could fill another jar with our memories of and with each of them!

 When we watch the snow fall and stack high on the iron framework of the slide and swing set, when we see how tall the maples, oaks, and pines have grown that we planted when Benjy was six, when I pick daffodils Mia and Liam helped me plant, or hang the child-sized hammock we got for Madeleine, our hearts are flooded with the moments God has allowed us to have here as a family.

 We are ambushed by memories from behind every hedge, from the “fishin’ rock” by the creek, and in the English garden.  They will never know the joy and richness each of them has brought to our lives.  And best of all, now we know they remember, too!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Dreaming The Best Dreams

The Bible is full of dreams and dreamers.  According to this reliable source, dreams may turn out to be the roadmap for our lives, the warnings that keep us from tragic blunders, and the aspirations so lofty that we spend the rest of our lives trying to live up to them.

Dreams may usher us into heaven or leave us with a limp that will always remind us that it’s worth wrestling with angels to find our true identity in God.

One thing is sure: as the wise man said, “Without a vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)  There must be a dream.  There must be a hope.

dream girl.jpg

I love the idea that God has a dream for us.  We are a “promise” He has made to himself and to the world.  Brian McLaren suggests in his book The Secret Message of Jesus that we might even paraphrase the line from the prayer Jesus taught us to pray that says “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” this way: “May all your dreams for your creation come true.”  If we pray this, of course, it means that we must “trust God and God’s dreams enough to realign our dreams with God’s, to dream our little dreams within God’s big dream.”

As we live this year out, may we dare to “Dream On”, and may those dreams be lived inside the eternal dream of God, a dream so big that “we will never see the end of it or fully understand it” until we are at last “filled up with God himself. “ (Ephesians 3:19b)

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Give It Away

In the U.K. December 26th is Boxing Day.  The tradition started when servants who worked hard during the labor-intensive Christmas holidays, were given time off the day after Christmas; gifts of needed clothing, food, and extra money were given them by their masters. But in the U.K. today, this day has become the day to box up things families have accumulated or outgrown and give them to charities that serve the needy.

give toon.jpg

 But not just on Dec. 26, but as a way of life, maybe “Give It Away” should be more than a catchy song title, but a revolutionary way of living that goes against the grain of almost everything we see or read or hear in the culture around us.  We hear much about accumulating as much as possible, protecting and securing what we accumulate, and making sure that when we die, we keep our accumulations from being taxed, siphoned, stolen or diminished any more than is absolutely necessary and legal.

But Jesus taught a different way and invited those who want to be truly happy to totally tip the culture up-side down.  If we spend our lives always striving to win, He taught, we will ultimately lose.  But if we spend our lives giving ourselves away, we won’t be able to even hold all the winnings.  He said the gentle-spirited folks would end up with the whole earth, and that the comforts of life will fall to those who know how to mourn.

give women.jpg

Now, it seems, psychologists and counselors are catching up to what Jesus said.  Ingrown living tends to contribute to depression, fear, and anxiety, while caring about others, getting involved in great causes, and investing energy to be the answer to the problems we see and sense is an incredibly enriching, joyful, and rewarding way to go – and an effective cure for sadness, depression, and feeling overwhelmed.

So, after this season of gift-giving how shall we live?  We can “live large” or stay small.  One thing is promised: we can never outgive the Giver of all good things.  Go ahead.  Just try!

give men.jpg

If you want more happy than your heart can hold ,
If you want to stand taller – if the truth were told –
Take whatever you have and give it away!
If you want more happy and a lot more fun
And deep satisfaction when the day is done –
Throw your heart wide open and
GIVE IT AWAY!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Touch Christmas

What a wild circus of textures Christmas is!  Come, let’s “feel our way” around the glories of this tactile celebration!

touch hands.jpg

First feel the soft skin of a baby, who is God-made-most-touchable, most-vulnerable for us who “were afar off.”

Touch a baby; tenderly embrace a child to honor Him who was Love in a baby blanket…. in our arms.

Touch the rough texture of a well-worn wooden manger and the prickly straw that fills it.

Touch the moist noses of the cows and horses that stand, curious, around.  Feel the night air.

touch liam.jpg

Then touch the celebration that has gradually come to surround this “most touchable” happening.  Feel the needles of the evergreen tree and boughs that announce that because of Jesus we shall always live!

Touch the snow that covers the ground and remember the “covering” – the atonement – that makes us “whiter than snow” in the eyes of God.

Touch the red berries on the branches we gather and put in all sorts of containers, remembering that this child would one day shed his blood that its life-giving qualities could fill us all no matter the shape, size, or condition of our containers.

Touch the lights as they burn warm, string them everywhere.  Light the streets and the houses, the cathedrals and the back streets with them, for the chill of death has been replaced by warmth and light.

touch pine.jpg

Touch your children, your neighbors; the community with reconciliation.  Take someone a warm cake; extend a warm handshake; offer the thawing warmth of forgiveness.

Hold and ring the gold and silver bells.  Ring out the news that the Creator of the galaxies has touched us.  Yes, ring the bells and pass them on!  Touch someone else.  We are not alone!

 

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Christmas in the Country

I believe there is a homing device in every human heart.  Even if we’ve never had a good home to go home to, there is an innate yearning for one where we are cherished and understood.  In our yearning, we see this as a place of peace where there is no pretense and where we are accepted for who we truly are – not for what we’ve accomplished or how we look.

Country Chirstmas.jpg

And there is no time like Christmas for pulling us back to such a place.  Usually, how much we love and look forward to Christmas as a holiday is in direct proportion to how close to this ideal home really is.  Sadly, for many the reality of the holiday is one of the most painful experiences of the year.

Perhaps the reason we cling to the ideal at Christmas more than any other time is that this celebration is in honor of the One who came to bring true peace, joy, love, and a place to belong.  And the truth is that no family home and no human relationship can ever totally give us what we need.  Every parent fails sometimes.  Even love falls short.  Every child disappoints and turns prodigal at one time or another.  No sibling is totally supportive or faithful to protect the secrets with which he or she has been entrusted.       

Even so, home is the nearest thing we have to a metaphor for belonging.  The imperfection of us all keeps us yearning for another place – that place that will truly be Home. 

Thankfully, our memories tend to preserve the good and forgive the flawed.  I’m sure my Grandma’s house in the country was not as good as I remember it.  The “front room,” as she called it was not as big, the kitchen not as warm, the snows not as white or as deep as I remember trudging through to get to that farmhouse with the fieldstone porch.

As I recall, she and grandpa opened the big double doors to that front room only for special occasions.  The piano was in there, and she would always have the old itinerate piano tuner come just before Christmas so we could sing carols around that piano when we all crowded in.

Country Christmas tree.jpg

The Christmas tree she put in that room was not a pine, but a cedar tree Pa would cut fresh from the woods behind the barn.  The ornaments were of World War II vintage and before – scenes painted on clear glass balls – and there were strips of foil we called ice sickles, big lights of every color and real candy canes.  Grandma would always make fresh popcorn balls with sorghum molasses, wrap them in a new thing called Saran Wrap® and hang them on the tree for us kids to “snitch” when no one was looking.

Grandma baked for days before Christmas: pies of apples and cherries from their orchard, fudge, taffy, and “divinity” layered in boxes between buttered sheets of waxed paper, cinnamon rolls for breakfast and homemade bread.  These were all prepared before the real cooking started.

To this day I find myself running my fingers over mixing bowls in antique shops that have brown and gold sheaves of wheat on them or picking up green Fire King baking dishes and pie pans longing to take them home to see if they would somehow turn things I make into the magical tastes of my childhood for my grandkids to remember.

Country life always seemed to separate the boys and the men from the women and girls.  The guys would “mosey” out to the barn to talk to Pa while he milked the two cows they always kept to supply them with milk and butter.  The boys would help him throw down hay for the night, feed the cats and gather the eggs from the henhouse.  On summer mornings gathering eggs was Grandma’s job, but in the winter when she was less sure of her footing, Pa brought in the eggs.

Meanwhile, the women would take up stations in the kitchen peeling potatoes, opening jars of green beans Grandma had canned the summer before and cutting up squash, onions, brussel sprouts, and turnips.  The girls would set the table in the living room, then work on the puzzle that became a family project all through the days of Christmas. 

I don’t remember much about the gifts.  They were simple, practical and usually handmade.  I do remember hugs and thank you’s.  I remember Grandma loving whatever I gave her as if she’d been wanting it all her life.  I have a picture of someone in our family holding up a string of pearls – probably ordered from the Sears catalog (“the wish book,” we called it) – and looking as if this necklace was as precious and rare as diamonds.

Country Christmans Reading.jpg

There was never any doubt why we had Christmas.  Since Grandma had lost most of her eyesight, my daddy read the Christmas story from Luke while the children sat on someone’s lap or on the floor leaning back on some seated grownup’s knees.  We all knew the words by heart, but familiar as they were, they always brought tears to our eyes – like we were hearing this wonderful story for the first time.

Grandma would pray, and when she prayed, the angels quit fidgeting around, swishing their wings and got still.  We knew that sooner or later every one of our names would be specifically mentioned; Grandma would thank the Lord for the gift of each one of us and ask His tender care and guidance as we grew and changed and became what He intended for us to be.

After prayer and presents, the music would begin.  Grandma played both the piano and the guitar; Pa played the “fiddle” and the “mouth harp.”  We all knew sooner or later he’d grab Grandma by the arm and try to make her dance around the room; she’d say, “Oh, Pop, quit!”  And we’d all laugh.

The children would ask for their favorite of the songs that Grandma had always sung to them:  “Redwing,” “Mockingbird Hill,” or “Listen to the Mockingbird.”  It never seemed strange that all our favorite songs were about birds. 

We also sang Grandma’s favorites: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “I Must Tell Jesus,” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

It seems to me now, looking back, that I was the most adored of children, and I know all the grandchildren would say they thought they were.  Truth is we all were.

As night fell and the kerosene lamps were lit, it seems to me that the love in that house could be touched – like soft velvet or the smooth fur of a kitten.  The snow could pile to the eaves for all we cared.  We were home, we were fed and we were loved.

country Christmas nativity.jpg

When Bill and I started thinking about recording a video for Christmas with the Homecoming Friends that would come to be called Christmas in the Country, it was the images of Christmas at Grandma’s house that came to mind.  To that, I added the memories of my own childhood home and the rituals that have been now handed down first to Bill and me then to our children, and now to their children.

Someday there will be a new celebration in a new Country. There will be no gap between the ideal and the reality; the relationships around that circle will be perfect and totally beautiful. There will be songs of thanksgiving and praise for Christmas completed, for the One who brought heaven to earth will have then brought earth to heaven, and we will all finally be home.

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Thank God For Grandparents

Amy with her grandma Lela

Amy with her grandma Lela

Thank God for grandparents everywhere who love with perspective, and to grandchildren everywhere who so need such love.

Sometimes I think that love – to be it’s sweetest – must ripen on the family tree one generation beyond the parent stage.  Oh, parental love is tough – like a fruit picked partially green; it will take a lot of jostling.  But to be infused with the sweet juices of compassion, humor, and understanding, love needs a little ripening.

Someone has said the generation gap is only between succeeding generations.  Defenses seem to wane after that.  When you can’t tell your parents, you can always tell grandmaIf daddy can’t fix it, grandpa can.  And don’t we all deserve to have at least one person in our lives who thinks we’re the prettiest, the smartest, the cleverest, and the least flawed person on the face of the earth?

With environmentalist Lee in Colorado

With environmentalist Lee in Colorado

Simon with is papaw Bill at Culver Academy

Simon with is papaw Bill at Culver Academy

Let others warn, discourage, point out the pitfalls.  Grandparents are for encouraging, embracing, accepting and risking the moon.

Of course, grandparenting has changed.  Granny, these days, is seldom knitting in her rocker.  She is more likely to be racing her grandchildren down the street on her motor scooter or teaching them in-line skating.  Grandads are more likely showing their grandkids to speed-shift the convertible than to plow a straight furrow.  But grandparents still think you can, believe in the impossible, and take the time.  They may even, if you’re good, let you stay up late watching Gaither Homecoming videos!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

Thanksgiving -- A Hymn Of Praise

You are probably in the middle of plans either to “go home” or to prepare for family and friends who are “coming home.”  The foods you are preparing have a history with your family and just thinking about them brings back waves of memories: grandma’s pumpkin pies, Aunt Lillie’s banana pudding, mother’s homemade yeast rolls.   Even the recipes cards are smudged with fingerprints made by mamma’s butter-covered hand or a drop or two of turkey broth someone smeared on the page as they stirred in the now familiar ingredients.

thanks counter.jpg

The tables will be set soon with linens someone gave you, and the arrangement of the house will likely be the way it was last year that seemed to work best for a crowd.  You may go out and cut the flowers for the tables from the rosebush Aunt Evelyn started for you or the hydrangea your daughters sent to celebrate your twenty-fifth anniversary.  And the autumn or Christmas candles will be set in the crystal candle holders that came from dad’s side of the family.

If you stop to consider, you will, like our family, find yourself being so grateful for the long line of memory-makers that have made life rich and beautiful, who taught by being thoughtful, caring, generous and selfless what is truly important in life.

thanks barn.jpg


There may be other memories, too, those memories that made you vow to “never say that to a child” or “always notice when someone is lonely.”  Negative memories shape us, too.  We can choose to take a different course, to forgive instead of holding grudges, to embrace instead of pushing away.

thanks kids.jpg

Rituals are those habits we make in celebrating what is good and sacred and important.  They are sometimes the motions we go through – the framework of our lives that holds us together until the more worthy emotions return after love has been betrayed or promises broken.  Rituals and heirlooms help us remember our better selves, our purer natures, our more admirable moments.  They call us home to our ideals and reestablish our center of being.

In the end Jesus is the only ideal against which all else can safely be measured.  He is the center of our joy.  He is the ground of our gratitude.  He is the focus of our family celebrations.  He is the Source of all that does not disappoint.

May this be the year where like a magnet draws metal, your family and ours will be drawn to the centering force, the only inexhaustible Source for all we expect from holiday relationships: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, long suffering, forgiveness, tenderness…and great memories!

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below:

What Good Are Love Songs?

love song Ezekiel.jpg

Ezekiel must have been an amazing speaker.  (He must have been the Tony Campolo of his day!)  He warned, he told stories, he reminded people in colorful terms of their history with God.  He called out wicked leaders and exposed corruption in high places.  He predicted the very collapse of the country God had chosen for them and with which he had blessed them.

 He drew great crowds!  The people said, “You’ve got to go hear Ezekiel!  He is such a passionate communicator!  He’s incredible to watch and hear.”  But when all was said and sung, they went home entertained and stimulated, but nothing really changed.

 Ezekiel fell on his face before God for some answers, and God spoke to him giving him even more things to say to the people, things so dire that it tore Ezekiel’s heart out to have to preach them.  Then God said this to Ezekiel: 

 As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come, and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’  My people come to you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.  With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words, but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 33:30-33 NIV)

love song praise.jpg

What God wants is for his creation to not only listen but turn. He woos; he gives a land flowing with milk and honey.  He longs for His children to bask in His love, feast from his amazing supply, love each other, and dwell in His sweet peace.  He longs for us to reflect and spill out mercy to others, joy in His presence, and rest from our frantic and empty pursuit of pseudo-living.  He promises that if we follow the “decrees that give life,” we will surely live.

There is still time to turn.  There is still time to do more than enjoy the music and the poetry. There’s time to internalize the message and let the music draw us into the dance God intended life to be. 

Once there were prophets, but we wouldn’t hear them.
Once there were wonders; we wouldn’t believe.
Fire and manna once rained down from heaven;
Great mighty winds once parted the seas.

When we were blindest, God sent his vision;
When we were deaf, He spoke and we heard.
The Light of the World walked through our darkness—
Jehovah, Himself, the Incarnate Word.

love song eagle.jpg

But what good are love songs, if they don’t make us lovers?
Why be an eagle that won’t spread its wings?
Why write our hearts out?  We’re not moved by the passion,
And if love songs don’t change us, then why do we sing?          

                                   
                                               

Lyric:  Gloria Gaither ©Hanna Street Music (BMI)
Music: Woody Wright Wouldhewrite Music(ASCAP)

signature for Gloria's blog.png
To share this post with others on Facebook, click below: