Saturday, September 17, 2011


on e-book!
(which is about the only way you're gonna find it,
other than used)
I first heard "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" twenty-odd years ago in rehab.

Heres' the passage from Parched (which just made the 10 Best Addiction Memoir list at

At the beginning of my third week, Pam appointed me house mother. "I can't be an authority figure," I protested. "I hate authority." But she made me do it anyway and, secretly, I was just the teensiest bit excited at the prospect of running the meetings and organizing weekend activity hours.

Saturday afternoon, we were all in the kitchen cleaning cupboards when a woman from a local church dropped off a stack of hymnals.

"Okay, I'm the boss around here," I announced. "Who wants to sing?"

A chorus of girlish squeals went up: "Pam never makes us sing!" "No WAY! They made fun of me in school." "Count me out, I couldn't carry a tune in a suitcase."

A mannish voice cut through the babble: "They tell me I don't sound s'bad." I looked over. Mo had one hand on her hip. With the thumb, fourth and fifth fingers of the other, she held a broom handle. The remaining two gripped a Chesterfield, stained ruby at the tip.

"Thank you, Maureen," I said. "I'm glad to see someone around here is willing to participate in her own recovery.

"I'll sing soprano," Naomi piped up.

"I'm alto," rumbled Mo.

"You’re more like basso profundo," I said, "but we'll make do."

We started out with "Praise to the Lord” and gained a couple of new voices on “Holy, Holy, Holy.” “That’s the spirit,” I urged them on. “Who gives a shit about cleaning the kitchen?” By the time we got to "All Glory, Laud and Honor," half the unit had set aside their sponges to join in. A bunch of us launched into "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," and then Mo taught us a hymn I'd never heard before:

"Boisterous waves obey Thy will
When thou sayest to them, "Be still."
Wondrous sovereign of the sea
Jesus, Savior, pilot me."

Even the non-singers were impressed. When I suggested charades after dinner everyone joined in without a peep, and we all had such a blast I let everyone stay up past their bedtime...

Anyway, trolling youtube, I came across a couple of versions of this splendid hymn (written by Edward Hopper (1818-1888, so not THE Edward Hopper)) that I especially liked. (Both, unfortunately, have to my mind hopelessly hokey graphics, so if you feel the same way, just close your eyes).

The first is by the great, the inimitable Mahalia Jackson. And the second is by Laura Gibson, who I stumbled across by accident. Who knew a hymn could be catchy?...

Laura Gibson: Jesus Savior, Pilot Me


  1. Ralph Stanley has a beautiful version, with (I'm pretty sure) the late Keith Whitley singing the lead part. Link:

  2. Don't forget about about finding "Parched" at your local library or through interlibrary loan! I place it on staff recommendations and it goes pretty quick. Perhaps the red (paperback version) first catches the eyes.

  3. Don't forget your local library or interlibrary loan. I place it on staff recommendations and it goes pretty quick (unlike the excellent "Paul Goes Fishing" by Michel Rabagliati). Both softbounds have red covers to catch the eyes.

  4. Parched is a great read, Heather. I had no trouble getting a used copy via Amazon a few months ago.
    As someone who lost three relatives through alcohol related illnesses, I applaud your twenty years of sobriety, and I remember you in my prayers.
    Thanks for your courage in sharing your story.

  5. Twenty years sobriety? Good on you. Your style of writing is engaging and entertaining. Thanks for using what you've been given.

    I used to work in-patient - eight years I think. I kind of miss the craziness - but only for a second or two.


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