I love Advent songs and Christmas carols. I love the tradition, the nostalgia, the familiarity. Most of all, I love the way a good carol points us to who Jesus Christ came to be and who he is for us today.
One of my favorites is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This carol has its origins in a set of seven Latin antiphons known as “The O Antiphons” or “The Great Antiphons.” The verses may have originated as early as the 6th century. They were used in the Benedictine Abbey, being recited by leaders in descending order before presenting gifts to members of the community. The O Antiphons were shaped into Latin verse in the 12th century. Continue reading “The O Antiphons — An Ancient Advent Devotion”
To most Iowans, the name “Merle Hay” is associated only with a mall in Des Moines and the road that passes in front of it, both of which bear his name.
Growing up in Glidden, Iowa, I knew of Merle Hay as our hometown war hero—the first Iowan and one of the first three Americans to die in World War One. Friday, November 3, 2017, marks the one-hundredth anniversary of his death. To honor him and his sacrifice, I’m sharing a new song, “The Ballad of Merle D. Hay.”
September 12 marks the anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death. There are few people who I haven’t met who have impacted me as much as The Man in Black.
To honor his life and legacy I’m publishing this new song—CASH.
I wrote the lyrics a few years ago as my attempt to tell Johnny’s story, based on something Cash said: “Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight.” Continue reading “Remembering Johnny Cash”
Jenny and I leaned against the gazebo railing watching the moonlit waves roll in on the Jamaican beach. We were celebrating fifteen years of marriage. Our conversations covered the joys and sorrows, blessings and difficulties we’d encountered, been surprised by, and moved through in that decade and a half. We talked about our hopes for the future, the ways in which we hoped to grow and change.
Just out from the gazebo stood a solitary pillar of stone, around which the waves broke. I wondered about how long it had stood there. Had it always been alone? Or had it once been part of a shelf of rock, now eroded and gone?
The Rabbit Room’s community of authors and musicians has blessed and inspired our family through their creative endeavors. I’m excited to giveaway some of their books this month (see below for details).
Andrew Peterson’s music is a family favorite, to the point that our middle child once tried to get out of garbage duty by announcing, “I’m not a garbage man; I’m Andrew Peterson.” (Does Andrew take out the garbage? Inquiring parents want to know…) And here he is (six years ago now) giving it his all, playing through Andrew’s Christmas album, Behold the Lamb of God.
In 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.
As 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?” Continue reading “Worshiping God After a Hurricane”
We 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.
“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.”
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.
During 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.