Love Claimed the Victory

Monday, March 28, 2016

I’m a faithful choir member, but I don’t sing solos. Not usually, anyway. But our choir director was looking for several people to sing at the Good Friday Tre Ore services, and most people were at work then. Since I have a flexible schedule, I volunteered.

I decided to sing “What Wondrous Love Is This” because I love the melody and it fits comfortably within my range. But when I looked at the words, I had a problem. Here is the full hymn.

What Wondrous Love is This

(American Traditional, Author Unknown)

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul,
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul.
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul. 

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down.
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul. 

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing. 

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And thru eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And thru eternity, I’ll sing on.
I didn’t think the last two verses worked well for Good Friday, but a single verse wasn’t long enough and the second verse didn’t feel like a good ending point. Should I find something else to sing?

Fortunately, one of the advantages to being a writer is that if you need a new verse, you can write it yourself. So that’s what I did. I sang the first two verses of “What Wondrous Love Is This,” but I left off the last two and ended with this one of my own composition.

He died upon a tree, for my soul, for my soul,
He died upon a tree, for my soul.
He died upon a tree, from Sin and Death I’m free.
Love claimed the victory for my soul, for my soul,
Love claimed the victory for my soul. 

It’s not great poetry, but neither are the other verses. And it achieves what I wanted. It works for Good Friday while anticipating Easter.

More importantly, it’s true. Christ’s death on the cross was pure love, and it did claim the victory for my soul. My soul and yours.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!


The picture shows part of the detail of a stained glass window in Cologne Cathedral. I took the photo while visiting Cologne, Germany last year.

Mama's First Easter in Heaven

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sunday will be my mother’s first Easter in heaven. No, that’s not true. Every day is Easter in heaven, and she’s been celebrating since December 15.

Mama donated her body to the University of Michigan Medical School, so there was no funeral. Instead, my brothers and I planned a memorial service to fit into our families’ existing schedules, which is what Mama would have wanted.

We celebrated Mama’s earthly life and death on March 16 at First Presbyterian Church in Holland, Michigan, where she sang in the choir for more than thirty years. That’s Mama on the far right of the picture.

There were several things that I found memorable about her memorial service. I’m very happy for Mama, but my eyes did tear up when the choir sang. As I looked that way, I noticed that Mama’s empty chair was draped with a robe and a stole. Afterwards, someone told me that they had looked for and used the robe with her number. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

Seeing the robe also affected my niece, Rachel, as she sang Mama’s favorite solo—“I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked” by Geoffrey O’Hara. When Rachel got up to sing, she noticed the empty chair with the robe and stole and choked up. She recovered by the second verse and made it through the third, as well, with one small falter right at the end. I hope she realizes how affecting her performance was.

I have the memorial bulletin with the skeleton of the service, but there were a couple of other incidents that I want to remember. One was at the beginning, where Mama’s pastor walked over to the baptismal font and poured water into it while noting that Mama had been a child of God ever since her baptism. Rev. Knieriemen said something like, “perhaps in a Presbyterian church,” noticed me shaking my head, and asked for the denomination. I was pretty sure it was Congregational but I wasn’t positive, so I was glad that my younger brother answered the question.

My younger brother also gave the meditation. At several points, Gordon said, “Presbyterians [or Calvinists] believe . . .” We were raised Presbyterian, and Gordon is a Presbyterian minister. But I married a Lutheran and joined his church, and we raised our children in that denomination. I even have a Lutheran minister for a son-in-law. So whenever Gordon said “Presbyterians believe” or “Calvinists believe,” the Camps and Ills all thought, “so do Lutherans,” “so do Lutherans,” “so do Lutherans.” When asked about it afterwards, Gordon said he thought Lutherans might agree but he didn’t have time to look it up and he wanted to make sure he didn’t misrepresent what we believe. That’s a worthy intent, but we still kidded him about it.

The only other glitch in the service came with the first hymn, which was “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” We grew up with the tune “Diadem,” and that’s what Mama wanted. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication somewhere. The organist played, and the congregation sang, the more common tune “Coronation.” But it’s still a great hymn, and I’m sure Mama no longer cares which tune we used.

Memorial services are a good way to bring closure to family and friends, but there is no closure for Mama. She’s living an eternal Easter.

And that’s something to celebrate.

Juggling Books

Monday, March 14, 2016

No, not juggling the books. I’m not doing anything funny with my taxes or other financial accounts. I’m just trying to read three books at once.

That’s pretty typical for me, and last week was no different. I often have one book that I’m struggling to get through, one that I carry in my purse to read while waiting in line or at the doctor’s office, and one that I enjoy during my at-home reading time. But that creates a problem when I start reading the book in my purse and become absorbed in it before I have finished the one I’m reading at home.

The book I was enjoying at home is Rescuing Ivy, an early middle grade book by Karen Kulinski. It’s a five star book with plenty of cliffhangers to keep me turning the pages. But I had to put it down in the middle on Saturday so I could run errands before my writer’s critique group meeting.

While out, I stopped at a restaurant for lunch and began reading my purse book, which was An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by PD James. Even though I had read it before, I had trouble putting it down. So when I got home after my meeting, I had to choose between two books when I really wanted to read both. I may be good at multi-tasking, but I’ve never learned to read two books at the exact same time.

In the end, I chose to finish Rescuing Ivy because it was a much quicker read. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman has now become my home reading. But I really should get back to . . .

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe is the book I’m struggling with. I’m a sixth of the way through, and not much has happened yet. What little action there is was wrapped in description and lecture the way Ralphie’s little brother was swaddled in snowsuits and scarves in A Christmas Story. That was a common practice for authors in the 18th and 19th centuries, but writers like George Eliot at least managed to make the wrapping interesting.

So why do I keep returning to The Mysteries of Udolpho and trying to slog through the next bit? It isn’t a compulsion to finish every book I start—I broke myself of that in graduate school when we were assigned to read Portnoy’s Complaint. But The Mysteries of Udolpho is considered the archetypal Gothic novel, and Jane Austin makes fun of it in Northanger Abbey. Although few people claim that it is good literature, it did influence many first-rate authors, so I feel that I should read it. Still, I’m not taking bets on whether I will ever make it to the end.

For now, I’m happy to get back to An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Let’s hope I finish it before I start my next purse book.

Because I love to read but I don’t always want to juggle books.

A Lonely Job?

Monday, March 7, 2016

I’ve heard people say that writing is a lonely job, but you couldn’t prove it by me. In fact, you couldn’t prove it by most writers I know. This was my schedule this past Saturday:

  • 11:30 a.m.—Eat & Exchange. In this spring series sponsored by the Indiana Writers’ Consortium, writers get together to discuss a writing-related topic.
  • 1:00 p.m.—IWC Conference Committee meeting to plan the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference.
  • 3:30 p.m.—Highland Writers’ Group. This is a critique group that meets weekly.

Sure, many parts of the writing process require solitude. When I sit down to put words on paper, I’m the only one in the room. But I don’t know if there are any truly solitary jobs, and writing certainly doesn’t qualify.

Most writers can find plenty of opportunities to interact with people who understand the writing life. By “most,” I mean 99.9%. The only writers who are excluded are those who live hours away from a town and don’t have the Internet or a cell phone. And even those people might be able to attend a conference once a year.

So if you are a writer who feels lonely, seek out other writers. Most genres have a national organization, and those organizations often have local chapters and methods for hooking up with other members. Or see if your local library or bookstore has a list of writers’ groups.

In Northwest Indiana, we are blessed with a number of writers’ critique groups as well as the Indiana Writers’ Consortium, which provides educational and networking opportunities for writers. To learn more about IWC, go to

And while you’re at it, mark your calendar for the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference with keynote speaker Cathy Day. It will be held on November 12 at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana, and more information will be coming soon.

I hope to see you there or at another writing event.

Because writing is not a lonely job.


I took the photo at the head of this post during last year’s IWC conference with keynote speaker Bryan Furuness.