When We Went Down to the River to Pray

Laity 2012

Two Staircases and One Burning Bush. Laity Lodge, 2012.

[From the archives. I’m on my way back to the river today.]

And Talk. And Sing. And Eat. And Rest.

Sunday night, late, my dear husband picked me up at LAX. He even parked the car and came inside to meet me at the baggage claim, which I  claim as a love offering.

So how was it?  He asks.

Awesome, I tell him, conjuring the classic sense of that word. I’m still processing, I say. The stories aren’t ready yet. But I’ll tell you. Soon. 

Wise, dear husband that he is, he didn’t push, choosing instead to point us homeward on the freeway and ask me where I’d like to stop for dinner.

Today, the tales still aren’t ready. If I were kneeling beside the Frio river, panning for story nuggets, they would still be swirling around with the sand and grit and water. But I am beginning to see a few promising glimmers blinking up from the pan. Some glimpses:

Ellie Holcomb taught me that one can sing like a Nashville angel with a beautiful baby balanced on one’s right hip. It burned a hole right into my heart. I’m still waiting for the words to settle so I can tell you about it.

I didn’t know I had a question for God in my luggage, but He blessed me with a clear answer anyway. It seems that for me (and some of my dearest people), Laity Lodge, perched on the bank of the river in Leakey, Texas, is the thinnest place of all.

Tears sweeten the Lord’s Supper. Especially when you’re sharing that most wondrous of meals with your favorite heart-brothers and soul-sisters. It might move you to the point that you find yourself approaching the altar arm in arm, bawling, like some blubbering cancan line.  And it’s fine. You get to take the bread from a tearful brother and kiss the cheek of a glowing sister.

CalmTerror is a real emotional state. You arrive there when, for example, you follow a tug on your heart to stand before the assembly in your zebra sweater and blue jeans to read your work. It peaks when you realize you will not quite finish in the allotted time. It breaks over you like a cranky wave when you choose to just stop when time is up, right there, no fudging to eke out a few more sentences.

Aircraft seatmates are always divine appointments. Honest. Trust me on this.

There’s more. Specifically, something about anthropologists is ricocheting off my synapses. People like Marlon Hall. When that anthropology part firms up enough that I can apply words to it, I will let you know.

These interwebs, this “place” where we find each other and visit and share and weep and buy stuff? It’s a tool. It  can foster real relationships. It can be applied for good. Laity Lodge and my people there are Exhibit A. Promise.

rabbit conga

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.

Psalm 119:35 (NASB)






  1. Panning for story nuggets. [Grin]

    There’s gold here already. Looking forward to its processing and refining.

  2. Thank you, Laura. Me too.

  3. Sheila, I’m right there with you. This brought tears because I can feel all that emotion. That baby on the hip really got to me too! And Marlon. And all the music. And you. Still processing here. I’m in good company. Love to you.

  4. And you, dear Laura. I too, am in fine company. Thank you.

  5. Oh, Emmylou… what a beautiful thing that was.

    Yes, there’s gold here–nugget by nugget. This is a thin place… thick with God’s presence. So basking in that glow. And processing. Love you, friend.

  6. Yes, I’m gonna hold you to following up on each and every one of these things you’ve promised to elaborate. And I do understand needing time to tell them.

    I had a tearful (okay, bawling, falling-to-the-floor) Communion at Laity a couple of years ago. Gordon was part of it. It also has to do with my spiritual journey. I don’t know whether to congratulate you or offer you my sympathies, but I certainly do understand.

    • Oh, Megan. It was such a treasure to sit with you. Just to share air was a gift.

      These communion tears were sweet. But if I were bawling and falling to the floor, I think Gordon would be a fine person to be near.

  7. Looking forward to some more flesh on these very lovely bones, Sheila. Thanks for the glimpses.

  8. I’ll never get to Laity Lodge (I know, never say never, but I’m being realistic) but there is a similar place in my life where God draws us together in a unique way. I love how He knows exactly what and *who* we need to encounter during life’s journey.

    • Carol, while I would LOVE to retreat with you at Laity, I am glad–so glad–to know you have a thin place of your own. We all need that community.

  9. yes, what you said “perched on the bank of the river in Leakey, Texas, is the thinnest place of all.” joyful tears come with that one…so glad to be there with you

  10. A blubbering cancan line? Really, Sheila? I’ve never seen a cancan line wear cowboy boots.

    • That’s a point.

      I could say, though, that my boots were not of the cowboy variety. And I did not inspect the footwear on Laura and Marlon.

      So tell me, dear one, how would you describe it?

      • Well, if you will remember, I was holding Laura’s hand and taking point on that trip to the altar for a good portion of it. And I certainly had cowboy boots on. I think we were just a bunch of weepy warriors. It would have been nice, maybe, if we had all four presented ourselves at once and had them serve us as a group. We’ll have to try that next time. And coordinate our footwear ahead of time.

  11. Sounds like a delightful blessed time. That is one retreat I would love to attend someday and to meet you too.!

  12. Love the singing with the baby part. When my son was a toddler and had trouble sitting apart from me in church, I played drums with him on my lap (or half my lap). I hoped it would make him a drummer someday. 😉

    • I love that image, Monica. How old is he now? And how does he make music?

      PS: I have a grandson named Cadence, you know. He’s my little drummer boy.

  13. I can’t wait to hear the stories as they unfold. So glad to have met you in person, to have hugged you, seen your eyes from behind your locks. And glimpse what God just might be doing next. Cheering from VA!

    • You were my first contact at THC, Cheryl, and your kindness struck me then, via email. It was such a treat to meet you face-to-face! Thanks for your encouragement. You offer lots of it.

  14. Sheila, this is such a lovely snapshot of Laity Lodge and the High Calling retreat. I’m featuring over on the “featured posts” page at The High Calling. I wish I could have been there, but those of you who’ve written about it have blessed me. 🙂

  15. So much wonderful stuff to process, Sheila! Like you, I’m still savoring all the nuggets. It certainly was a God thing, this Laity Lodge experience!

  16. Such sweetness in these words. Each nugget provokes a story in me. Can’t wait to stop by and continue to read where your nuggets take you!

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