Merle D. Hay: One of the First Americans Killed in World War One

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.”

Merle David Hay was born July 20, 1896, on a farm near Carrollton in Carroll County, Iowa, the son of Harvey and Carrie Hay and the older brother of Basil and Opal. In 1909, the Hay family moved to a farm east of Glidden and continued to live on various farms around the Glidden community. Continue reading “Merle D. Hay: One of the First Americans Killed in World War One”

Remembering Johnny Cash

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”

The Waves, the Caves, and the King of Grace

A New Song — Wave Upon Wave

Listen to this week’s new song—Wave Upon Wave.

The Story Behind the Song

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?

I knew that over a thousand years of waves crashing against it, the pillar had been—and was still being—shaped and changed. Nevertheless, to the human eye—especially to the eye of a one-week visitor—the pillar seemed the same each day. Continue reading “The Waves, the Caves, and the King of Grace”

Author Spotlight: The Rabbit Room

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.

Continue reading “Author Spotlight: The Rabbit Room”

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”

A Christmas Carol

The season of Advent is incomplete without the singing of Christmas carols.

This week’s song— “How Beautiful the Mystery” —is  based on a Christmas carol I wrote in late 2000 as the text of our Christmas card. (Go ahead. Follow the link and have a listen. You can finish this post later.) I set the original text of this song to the existing hymn tune “Manoah.” Ten years later, my friends David Ward and Jeff Bourque would write a new tune, for which we added a chorus and additional verse. Continue reading “A Christmas Carol”

When the Worst Thing Happens

Naomi is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Her story is told in the book of Ruth (which, in my opinion, is misnamed—Naomi is clearly the main character).

This week’s song— “A Sweet and Pleasant Providence” —is a hymn based on the story of Naomi. (Go ahead. Follow the link and have a listen. You can finish this post later.) Continue reading “When the Worst Thing Happens”

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

Twenty years ago today—November 7, 1996—I met Jenny Thayer. Twenty months and a few weeks later, she would become Jenny Schumacher, my wife.

In honor of these events, the first song I’m posting here is one that I wrote for our fifteenth anniversary—“Fifteen Years.” (Go ahead. Follow the link and have a listen. You can finish this post later.)

I wrote a song for our wedding, which I sang that day. It started: Continue reading “It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…”