Trips to The Cove uplifting for body and soul

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2023

No evening in a week changes me as much as one spent at The Cove. When you arrive at Billy Graham’s training center, a delicious, chef-inspired dinner awaits. You’re seated at round tables in a dining room inspired by picture windows with gorgeous mountain views. Glorious sunbeams stream through glass, while outdoor views of God’s creation loom large.

Following an overnight stay at the Pilgrim’s Inn, just waking with my head on a pilgrim’s pillow gave my nightly prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep” a whole new meaning – one of the most peaceful slumbers, ever.

Before returning home, we were served a sunrise buffet that was fit for a king. Inside the dining room, a magnificent yet humble, handcrafted grapevine cross is hung above the buffet line. A hearty breakfast awaited our arrival. Fluffy, hot scrambled eggs and bacon, baked southern cheesy grits, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, slices of French toast, and oodles of freshly baked breakfast bread and pastries were washed down with glasses of fresh juice and mugs of steaming roasted coffee.  And that’s just about the edible food served.   

After food and fellowship with other spiritually minded folks, one thing’s for sure – you never leave the table hungry.  Seekers are filled by both – the Spirit and physical sustenance.   We Southerners do know best how to comingle every grand and glorious occasion with delicious food. And glorious it was. Holy, in truth.

Echoing the words of Christian songwriter, Brandon Heath, who performed the evening before, “Although I’ve been coming here for years, each time I enter the gates of The Cove, I know I’ve entered a Holy place.”

Brandon wrote his Christian hit single, “That’s Enough” while on the grounds at The Cove. The songwriter spends several days a year there because it’s in this sacred spot where he derives the inspiration to write many of his songs. Don’t we all need a holy place where we can pray, write, create, and sing at home? Our homes should be a place of peace.

Just a few days before Brandon’s performance, Billy Graham’s grandson, Will, had taken the songwriter to see his grandfather’s original home at Montreat. Feeling as if he’d been gifted with something sacred, Brandon concluded, “There’s no way it doesn’t rub off on you. I got a little tree sap on my pants – and didn’t want to wash them. I felt as if a bit of Billy Graham had rubbed off on me.”

I think every one of us who attends an evening at the Cove feels the same way. Whether it’s GiGi Graham greeting you at the dining room door or dining at a table beside Will, your Spirit will recognize theirs – and a little bit of Billy Graham and his family will rub off on you.

Brandon opened his concert with these words, “Come let us sing to the Lord, and may this night be one of praise because you are worthy, Lord.” The night was one of worship to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Brandon shared a few heartwarming life stories and simple truths while entertaining in The Cove’s media theater center.

White staying on the grounds of The Cove, the songwriter wrote one of my favorite songs about his stepmother titled, “I’m Not Who I Was.” Even though his parents divorced when he was 3, memories are etched in his mind. Writing about them has been a soothing therapy. Age, wisdom, and maturity have given him a different perspective on his childhood. Through writing, Brandon’s come to understand the power of forgiveness – and we all have that power to forgive one another.   None of us have to be who we were. Each day is new and a new beginning.

But whatever your story is, whether you’re up on a mountain or down in a valley, you are going to leave The Cove in a better place.

Brandon’s evening concert was closed with truth – the church is our other home – a place we can go. We are called to go to church. When you don’t know which way to turn – when you’re not together – go to church. We are shepherds for one another. Go and get washed in the water.

These words from the hymn, “Eternal Lord of Love,” spoke to me:

“Eternal Lord of love, behold your Church.

Walking once more the pilgrim way of Lent,

Led by your cloud by day, by night your fire,

Moved by your love and toward your presence bent,

far off yet here – the goal of all desire.

God speaks truth into our lives. Every time we come into God’s presence – we should leave differently.

Moved by His love and toward His presence, we are bent.


8-10 ½-inch cut corn tortillas

½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

6 chopped cloves garlic

1 diced green bell pepper

½ chopped jalapeno/green chili

1Tbsp. salted butter

1 ½ tsp. cumin

5 chopped ripe tomatoes

2 Tbsp. salted butter

8 beaten eggs

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

4 thinly sliced green onions

Hot sauce

In a skillet, heat oil. Fry tortilla strips in oil until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. (You can use tortilla chips if not too salty or oil and break them up into bite-sized pieces.) Wipe out skillet. Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter and saute garlic, green pepper, and chili for 1 minute. Stir in cumin and chopped tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes on medium until tomatoes aren’t runny. Remove from skillet, set aside, and wipe out skillet. Melt butter in skillet and pour in beaten eggs. Cook over low while stirring until eggs begin to set. Stir in reserved tomato mixture and tortilla strips. Cook and occasionally stir until eggs are as you desire. Top with chopped cilantro and green onions and serve with bottle of hot sauce.


8 thick slices bacon

2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

4 tsp. packed light brown sugar

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a rack over the foil. Spread one side of each piece of bacon with mustard and sprinkle with brown sugar. Arrange bacon on the rack. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Drain on paper towel.


6 1-inch slices French bread

4 beaten large eggs

½ cup whole milk

1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp. almond liqueur

3 Tbsp. salted butter

¼ cup toasted sliced almonds

Powdered sugar

Warm maple syrup

Arrange bread slices in a butter-greased 13 x 9 baking dish. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, sugar, extract, nutmeg, and liqueur, if desired. Pour mixture over bread, and allow to stand 10 minutes. Turn once. Cover and chill 8 hours or longer. In a 15 x 10 baking pan, melt butter.  Transfer the bread slices and lay flat in the pan. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn and bake 8-10 additional minutes until golden. Sprinkle with almonds and powdered sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup.


30 oz. pkg frozen shredded hash browns

4 oz. shredded parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp. salt

Toss together all ingredients. Cook hash brown mixture according to package directions.


1 cup buttermilk

1 ½ cup whole milk

¾ cup grits

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground pepper

½ tsp paprika

2 beaten eggs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, heat butter, milk grits, salt pepper, and paprika. Remove from heat when grits begin to thicken. Stir in beaten eggs and cheese. Pour into a greased 8 x 8 baking casserole dish. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 35-40 minutes.


10 slices trimmed, cubed white bread

4 oz. cubed cream cheese

1 cup fresh blueberries, other

9 beaten eggs

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ cup half and half

¼ cup pure maple syrup, plus

Cover bottom of a butter greased 9 x 13 baking dish with 2/3 bread cubes. Evenly sprinkle top with cream cheese and blueberries or favorite berries. Top with remaining bread cubes. In a bowl, beat eggs. Beat in milk, half and half, and maple syrup. Evenly pour over the layered bread cubes. With a spatula press liquid down evenly into the bread. Cover and chill overnight or at least 10 hours. Bake 1 hour in a preheated 325-degree oven until light brown. Serve with additional maple syrup.


1 med. orange

½ cup softened, salted butter

1 cup sugar

2 lg. eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Large granular sugar

Finely grate orange peel with no white pith, juice the orange, and set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, thoroughly mixing after each addition. Fold in flour and baking soda while alternating with buttermilk. Fold in pecans and orange zest. Mix well. Bake in well-greased muffin/baking cups in a preheated 575-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven. While hot, spoon orange juice over muffins and sprinkle with large granulated sugar. Allow standing 5 minutes before removing from pan.


2 sticks softened, melted butter

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 can favorite fruit pie filling

Large decorator sugar

In a bowl, slightly melt butter. Mix sugar and vanilla into butter. Add egg and 1 cup of flour at a time until thoroughly mixed. Spoon ¾ of batter to the edge of a well-greased rectangular pan. Pour favorite fruit filling on top of batter leaving 1-inch clear from the edge. Spoon remaining batter on top of fruit filling. Sprinkle top with large granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden.


2 cans peach pie filling

1 can drained pineapple tidbits

1 can drained sliced pears

1 can drained apricots

1 can drained Mandarin oranges

3 cups halved seedless grapes

1 jar drained maraschino cherries

3 chunked bananas

In a bowl, combine pie filling, pineapple tidbits, pears, apricots, oranges, grapes, cherries, and bananas. Gently toss until pie filling thoroughly glazes all other fruit. Serve in a clear serving dish. You can use fresh fruit when in season.


1 cup of each:

Sliced natural almonds

Pumpkin seeds

Sunflower seeds

Unsweet coconut

Untoasted wheat germ

5 cups rolled oats

¾ cup honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾-1 cup safflower oil

1 cup dark raisins

In a bowl, combine almonds, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds, coconut, wheat germ, and oats.  In another bowl, combine honey, vanilla, and oil. Pour over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for 45 minutes while stirring every 10 minutes. In the final 10 minutes, add raisins. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. Store in airtight container.