Day 6: Grace and Gratitude

I’m spending a few days in the North Carolina mountains, here for the Montreat Music and Worship Conference. I have walked these great hills once before and so I knew it to be a beautiful and gentle place. Now I also know it is holy. Founded in the late 19th century as a place for physical and spiritual restoration for the Christians called there, the settlement’s name, Mountain Retreat, was eventually shortened to the more simple Montreat.

Grace is palpable here. The mountains rise and fall, summer’s blues and greens lie up against each other in a harmony so perfect  it takes your breath. It also brings immeasurable peace. The natural world knows it, too, I swear. The brooks and trees and flowers and birds somehow embody the spirit: life lived in glory to God.

(You may know Montreat was the chosen home of Reverend Billy Graham and his wife, Catherine Bell Graham. One afternoon is all it takes to understand why.)


AND SO I HAVE BEEN filling my soul here in Montreat. Along with 16 youth and adults from my church, I have spent these days in choral rehearsals, vocal classes, bible study and tear-stained worship. And I have had a ton of fun.

Let’s just start with this:




It’s my grand fortune that Dr. Mike sets aside two afternoons for a little trout fishing with the youth. I came along as an interested bystander and photographer, but it didn’t take long until I was able to wrestle a pole from sweet Laken who needed something from the snack bar.

(She had to wrestle the pole back from me when she returned, I’ll tell you that.)




I didn’t catch a thing. Didn’t get a bite, but that hardly mattered. I loved every second hanging with those kids who taught me a great deal this week about love and generosity.


working it out
working it out


youth and adults in on the fishing action
youth and adults in on the fishing action


They are quite a bunch.


at My Father's Pizza: Morgan, Virginia and Cathy
three of a kind at My Father’s Pizza: Morgan, Virginia and Cathy


I have other tales to tell, and I’ll save them for other days. For now, I’ll close with a mention of my deep gratitude for this greatest of privileges: a week spent singing with my cherished friend, Cindy.


Soul Sistas, concert-ready


She was my roommate, my patient guide, and my biggest cheerleader.

Thanks be to God.



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