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.
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?”
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.
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.)