Worshiping God After a Hurricane

The Fury of the WindIn early September of 2005, I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to work with a disaster relief crew following Hurricane Katrina. We spent ten days preparing and delivering meals to survivors, those whose lives and possessions had been ravaged by the wind and water.

As an Iowa native, I’ve seen what weather can do. We’re no strangers to tornadic destruction. But the aftermath of Katrina was unlike anything I’d ever seen in person.

v1a - FuryAs we worked that week and then returned home, the words of Job stuck in my head (Job 26:14): “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

Job rightly declares that the power of God we witness in nature is only a fraction of his strength. The Lord himself will later force Job to reckon with his sovereignty by pointing to his mighty acts among his creatures.

v3a - FuryJob is forced to confess (42:1-6):

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

“Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.”

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.

Like Job, I was humbled by the thought of God’s power. If this hurricane had been only a whisper of his power, I wondered, what would it be like to experience the fullness of his wrath?

v4a - FuryFortunately, I understood that I will never be able to answer that question. Christ bore the fullness of God’s wrath on my behalf, laying down his life in my place in his crucifixion. More that that, he rose from the dead, giving me both present forgiveness of sins and the promise of future resurrection.

That thought gives me comfort for both the future and the present. As Job says (19:25-27):

v4b - Fury

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

The outcome of meditation on Hurricane Katrina and the book of Job was a hymn text — “The Fury of the Wind.” A few years later this text became my first collaboration with Jeff Bourque, who composed a fitting tune. (Hear it here.)

“The Fury of the Wind” is included in Worship in the Joy of the Lord, selections from Chip Stam’s Worship Quote of the Week newsletter. (Chip was a professor and friend while I was in seminary. He encouraged my hymn writing and challenged me to write well. Read more about Chip here.)

This hymn text was the subject of an interpretation, “What will the preachers say? What will the people sing?” by Mary Louise Bringle in The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song, (vol. 57, no 2, Spring 2006) published by The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. It is reprinted here by permission. (Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.)

April Giveaway — The Rabbit Room

Rabbit Room BooksThrough the end of the month, you can enter our April Giveaway, featuring a stack of books from The Rabbit Room.

Free Download

There’s still time to snag a free download of Joshua Otte’s recording of my Easter hymn “He is Risen.” Visit the song page for a link.

We Are Listeners — What Do We Hear?

Let Them HearWe are listeners. It makes sense that, if the Lord created the heavens and the earth by his Word, then his creatures would be wired to listen.

Our problem is not that we listen. The problem is the voices to which we listen. This too is evident in the creation story. Adam and Eve did not fail because they listened, but because they listened to the voice of the serpent and not of the Lord.

We follow after our first parents, walking through a world filled with a thousand voices. Continue reading “We Are Listeners — What Do We Hear?”

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

Song Promo“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

That request, made by Jesus on the Mount of Olives the night before his crucifixion, was no serene or stoic prayer. Luke tells us Jesus prayed “in agony… and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”

In his plea, Jesus confesses three things: Continue reading ““Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.””

Author Spotlight & Book Giveaway: N. D. Wilson

The winters in Iowa are dark and cold—a long stretch of months during which it gets dark before dinner and imprisons you in the house every evening until Easter. Kids get cabin fever. You (and they) need to escape to another world.

Wilson BooksDuring one winter, several years ago, I found myself spending the evenings from dinner until bedtime reading fiction aloud to our oldest three boys. I had somewhere picked up a copy of N.D. Wilson’s Leepike Ridge. I loved it and finished it in one night. A straight-forward, uncomplicated but fantastic adventure, it inspired me to try my hand at writing a book. (I’m still unpublished—but I’ve got two books down and two more half-written. Thanks for the inspiration, Nate!) I had a similar experience with Boys of Blur.

Continue reading “Author Spotlight & Book Giveaway: N. D. Wilson”

Thanks for Your Support!

Greetings, friends! I’m so thankful for your support. I’ve heard encouraging feedback from many of you about this month’s songs — “I Have a Champion” and “The Right to Write (and a Song to Sing).”

Thanks so much for listening and for sharing links and posts on your social media accounts. Those little things go a long way in helping me share these creations with new listeners.

Continue reading “Thanks for Your Support!”

Something My Father Said

My dad and I sat in the front room around winter break of my freshman year in college. I had finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

Sometime during my first semester at the University of Northern Iowa, I joined a thousand other students in an auditorium, mesmerized by the words of a man whose story had been released as a popular film a few years before. In the wake of his new-found popularity, he now toured the country sharing his story with students as a motivational speaker.

“I want to be a motivational speaker.” I laugh now to think of that aspiration.

My dad didn’t laugh. He asked a simple question, “What are you going to say?”

“That’s the problem,” I admitted. “I don’t know what I want to say.” Continue reading “Something My Father Said”

My First Country Song

Several years ago, to my surprise, I found myself listening to a significant amount of country music in my (radio-only) car. I appreciated the way country songs told stories, usually sad ones, which often smuggled important ideas into the heads of unsuspecting listeners. (For what it’s worth, I also like the songs about nothing and dogs and pickups and girls…)

One day I had the thought, “I bet I could do that.” (Humble, I know.) So I sat down over my lunch hour and whipped out a story-poem about a boy and his big brother — “I Have a Champion.” I emailed it to my friend Jeff Bourque, trusting his Nashville-sense could tell me if it was any good. He wrote back, “Made me cry. ‘Nuff said,” and went to work on a tune. Though it is one of my favorite collaborations with Jeff, we haven’t done anything with it in the years since.

I Have a Champion (book)Last June, my wife and children surprised me with a Father’s Day gift, one they had evidently worked on for some time—a storybook containing the song lyrics with illustrations by my kids. (Probably my favorite Father’s Day gift ever.)

Continue reading “My First Country Song”

Hope and The Last Rose of Summer

It is no secret that the end of the year can be a depressing time for some. The holiday parties and family gatherings are over—leaving us to say goodbye to loved ones or remember those who departed this year. The decorations and lights come down. The days are dark and cold. The trees are brown and the fields are barren. A year draws to its end, perhaps with reminders of unaccomplished goals and the speed with which life progresses, and we wonder if the next year can bring anything different. For some, the world and the future appear bleak. Continue reading “Hope and The Last Rose of Summer”