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Ink Between the Lines

Not a day goes by that I don’t look down and see it. Every day, at least one person asks about the symbol tattooed on my arm. “What’s your tattoo mean?” I never know how to answer that question. Well, that’s kind of a long story . . . it’s from this book I read . . . Fin Button (the protagonist in Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green) is an icon of my own passions and fears, my own wounds, my own desire to voyage out into the world to do something with my burning heart. She embodies some of the most fundamental aspects of our human existence: the need to love and be loved, the yearning for a place to belong, the burning desire to be who we are in the world and to nurture and protect the places and people we hold dear. Every time I return to Fin’s story, I hear the last stanza of Christian Wiman’s poem, “And I Said To My Soul Be Loud”: For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things and I will ride this tantrum back to God until my fixed self, my fluorescent self my grief-nibbling, unbewildered, wall-to-wall self withers in me like a salted slug Fin’s journey through pain and into beauty is, like our own, dizzy with light and darkness, joy and suffering. It follows no pre-determined formula for traveling from Point A to Point B and takes on the non-linear and wildly free traveling pattern of a ship at sea—destination in mind, but swept along by the breeze of life. There are enemies and allies, tragedies and victories; mistakes are made, and lives are taken. The smell of gunpowder is strong, but there is music floating across the deck of the Rattlesnake. In the transformation of pain into beauty, what is calcified in us is softened; what is artificial and grief-stricken finds its way to joyful authenticity; what is confined and lost in wonderlessness recovers the innocent eyes and imagination of childhood.*

Monday Music Update – 4/21/14

Don and Lori Chaffer recently put the kick in Kickstarter campaigns by raising over $40,000 toward a brand new double album from Waterdeep. The total more than doubled the original goal, which means the Chaffers plan on delivering the music twice as fast. That last part is not true. Randall Goodgame will be playing two free Slugs & Bugs shows this weekend. The first is on Friday, April 25 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The second show will be on Sunday, April 27 in Vincennes, Indiana. Check the S&B tour page for full details. Andy Osenga will play a special Stageit show on Tuesday, April 29 at 7:00pm. Appropriately titled "Andrew's Reverse MidLife Crisis Eve," it's Andy's last show before joining Capitol Records in his brand new full time job as A&R for their Christian music division! The show begins at 7:30 CT. Andrew Peterson spent two days with Ben Shive in the studio recording his version of the Rich Mullins song "Calling Out Your Name." The track is for an upcoming CD release related to the film Ragamuffin. Several familiar faces contributed on vocals, including Jeremy Casella, Andy Gullahorn, Andy Osenga, Eric Peters, and Jill Phillips. After a hugely successful Northeast Spring Break tour (eight shows in eight days thanks to you, Rabbits!), Son of Laughter is currently scheduling another series of living room shows throughout the country this summer during the months of June and July. While he is starting to line up shows in the Southwest and Midwest, he is open to just about anything. If you're interested in organizing an event, contact Chris Slaten at sonoflaughtermusic@gmail.com.

New Beginning

I've wanted to be a musician since I was a kid. Had posters on my walls of Jars of Clay and Steven Curtis Chapman (before I discovered Pearl Jam). I dreamed of playing arenas, being in a recording studio, making music with my heroes. It has been an incredible gift and honor to, one by one, put little checkmarks on each entry of the dream list. It's also let me see the reality of touring/musician life, and that being "bigger" or more successful is not something I actually even want. It would mean more travel and more things pulling me from my family, which to me is a much deeper calling. I've come to a place where it feels I have to choose between providing for my family on the road or being with them at home. This past year I've found myself praying for a way to keep working with people I love on music I love, while coming off the road and being with my family.

Garden Tomatoes and Rocket Ships

If all goes according to plan, in the fall I will be filling in for my colleague on sabbatical and teaching the course “Sustainability in Action” at Point Loma Nazarene University. The purpose of the course is “to equip us as scholars and citizens of the United States, the world, and Christ’s Kingdom to be effective champions of the changes humanity must make in order to live sustainably within the ecological and social limits of earth.” In preparation for the class I have been brushing up on my agrarian readings. Today I have been enjoying Norman Wirzba’s edited volume, The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land: The Essential Agrarian Essays. By itself Barbara Kingsolver’s “Forward” is worth price of the book. Yet, this afternoon I took a break from reading agrarian prescriptions for sustainability to watch the livestream of the SpaceX Falcon launch to the International Space Station. It was killer! And yesterday’s news from NASA that the exoplanet Kepler 186f orbits within the habitable zone of its star was awesomeness on a Perelandraic order. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to confess I am secretly writing a sci-fi story.

How It All Ends: A Poem for Holy Saturday

I have to admit... Christmas is everyone's favorite holiday (mine too), but something about the Lenten and Easter season feels deeper, more profound as I get older. Yet what do you do with Holy Saturday, that single dark day in between despair and hope? Last year, I did my best to capture the tiniest glimpse of what it might have been like for those left behind who didn't yet know for sure how the story would end... She used to say she loved those TV movies about Jesus, but hated the crucifixion scene even though it was toned down in the grains of 1970s film, palatable to the eyes of those eating dinner in front of a flickering screen. This is us, now, knowing how it all ends, knowing in three days the lungs of God would reinflate. Knowing the ending, could I ever comprehend the blackness, ever imagine the darkest Saturday in history? A King’s body shrouded in spices and linen lay withering behind stone, The budding bloom of salvation, crushed careless trod by His creation. Oh my God today the sun scatters clouds the sun that once turned away at your final earthly breath as the lion lay shorn and still. May I never forget the darkest day of history, spring stopped, waiting, pressing her face at the tomb’s door.

Lenten Trilogy

Lent I On Noah In your dreams you saw water and death. In your days you saw darkness and evil. How far we have come from the gates of paradise, spewing a wretched trail in the wake, vomiting the rotten fruit of our first sin. And yet how does this horror of water and blood manage to be our sole salvation? I run to the secret place and hide, resolving to cling to the dark mystery of grace.

The Vaster End of Blood

[This Good Friday, I commend to you the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of Robert Farrar Capon's most outstanding The Supper of the Lamb.] In the Law of the Lord,      Leviticus, the eighth chapter, the fourteenth verse: Aaron      and his sons laying hands upon the bullock's head, blood      poured at the bottom of the altar to make reconciliation;      the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys and their      fat---all burnt by fire for a sweet savor. Smoke, incense,      wave breast, heave shoulder, rams of consecration, the      pomegranate and the golden bell, sounding upon the      hem of the robe round about; priest and temple, death      and holocaust, always and everywhere. Why? It is tempting      simply to write it off as barbarism, nonsense, superstition;      to fault it and forget it; But the fact of blood still stands,      reproving materialist and spiritualist at once; gainsaying      worlds too small and heavens too thin. This superadded killing,      this sacrifice, these deaths which work no earthly inter-      change, this rich, imprudent waste Witnesses The City's undiminishable size: Man wills to make of earth,      not one Jerusalem but two; this sacramental blood de-      clares the double mind by which he wills to lift both      lion and lamb beyond the killing to exchanges unaccount-      able and vast. Man's priestliness therefore      bespeaks his refusal of despair; proclaims acceptance of      a world which, by its murderous hand, subscribes the      insupportable dilemma of its being---the war of lion and      lamb having no other likely outcome here than two im-      possibilities: The one,      a pride of victors feeding on the slain; but leaving the      lion as he was before, trapped in ancient reciprocities by      which at last all power falls to crows; And the other,      a hymn to despair no victim will accept; it is not enough,      in this paroxysm of martyrdoms, to stand upon the ship-      wrecks of the slain and praise the weak for weakness; the      lamb's will, too, was life; he died refusing death. Sacrifice therefore Not written off, but recognized,      a sign in blood of the vaster end of blood; a redness      turning all things white; an impossibility prefiguring the      last exchange of all. The old order, of course,      unchanged; the deaths of bulls and goats achieving      nothing; Aaron still ineffectual; creation still bloody; But haunted now by bells within the veil      where Aaron walks in shadows sprinkling      blood and bids a new Jerusalem descend. Endless smoke now rising Lion become priest And lamb victim The world awaits The unimaginable union By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain And, Priest and Victim, Brings The City Home. [Artwork by Chris Koelle.]

Rabbit Room Review & Reprise 04/18/14

As I sit here and wait for a truckload of Thomas McKenzie's book, The Anglican Way, to be delivered, let me recap the week. well1-51On Monday, Heidi Johnston delivered a post called "The Pursuit of Community," and it hit close to home for a lot of people, me included. "Community is part of who we are. In its purest form it is a beautiful reflection of the intimate relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whose image we are made. We have good reason to hope and long for it. The problem is that the practice of community can be a lot less romantic than the theory. The perfect ideal sits in tension with the fact of our brokenness so that life in relationship rarely works out the way we have pictured it." Read the entire post here. aspen-grove-harry-strharskyA couple of years ago at Hutchmoot, we asked for essay submissions. We got a lot of great entries, but Alyssa Ramsey's stole the show. This week she's here as a guest contributor with a beautiful post called "Tremble - A Lenten Reflection." Take a few minutes this Good Friday and check it out. noah-la-7-11-12I saw Noah on opening weekend and really enjoyed it, but I decided to put off a discussion of the film until the ugly firestorm of controversy died down. This week I posted my thoughts about the movie, and some good discussion has followed. I'd love to hear others' thoughts as well. It's definitely a thought-provoking film---and that's a good thing. I'll also commend to you this short video that was brought to my attention by Aaron Alford; I think it hits the nail on the head. Janner 2 bannerYesterday, illustrator Joe Sutphin checked in with a behind-the-scenes look at his work on The Warden and the Wolf King. In the post ("How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner" ---2014 recipient of the Longest Post Title Award), Joe discusses the approach he took to developing the appearance of one of the book's main characters, Janner Igiby. The Warden and the Wolf King is being printed as we speak, and it, along with all the other Kickstarter rewards, will be delivered to us here in Nashville in the next week or so. We hope to start shipping them out to all of you before the end of the month! We'll soon be sending out a Kickstarter survey to collect shipping addresses.

How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner

[Editor's note: Rejoice, Kickstarter backers! The presses are rolling on The Warden and the Wolf King. We'll send out a Kickstarter survey in the next few days to collect shipping addresses, so keep a close watch on your email.] Around two years ago, Andrew Peterson and I were just shooting the breeze now and then about a nice illustrated map for the fourth and final chapter of his acclaimed Wingfeather Saga. I was pumped about it and itching to get started, but I was secretly telling my wife Gina, “I wonder if Andrew would let me do some other art as well. Like, for free.” Well it just so happened, while we were on the phone about this time last year, that he popped the question. And I said, “NO, Andrew! I'm happily married!” Wait . . . that's not how it went at all. We were discussing the map when he kind of fished around, wondering if I would be up to doing some additional art for the book. It kind of sounded like this: “Well, I would REALLY love to have the book be heavily illustrated, but we don't have a budget, or any money at all . . . so I probably can't pay you much---or anything---but I'm sure we'll find a way to pay you something, somehow." [Editor's note: Let the record show that thanks to all the generous Kickstarter backers, we did indeed pay Joe for his hard work.] I didn't care about the money. I had no major projects in front of me, and I was worn down from my endless search for work amongst the NY publishing elite. I was ready to just do some real art for once, and this series already had a fantastic fan base. So, I agreed to do some art---for free. We weren't sure how it would all work out, or turn out, but we were excited to collaborate and make something great, no matter what it took.

Discussing Noah

This isn't a movie review, I'll leave that to Thomas, but I do want to talk about my impressions of the film and hopefully start some (civil) discussion. It's undoubtedly a film that challenges expectations and a lot of the comments and reactions I've seen online tell me that there are some who aren't sure what to do with those challenges. If you ask me what I do when a movie like Noah unsettles me, here's my answer: think about it (calmly and rationally), and then talk about it (calmly and rationally). To begin with, let me tell you I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The script has a few clunky spots and some things work better than others, but overall it's fascinating and packed with good performances, rich visual storytelling, and complex human characters behaving in often surprising yet understandable ways. Yes, the Nephilim are giant stone "ents." No, that doesn't bother me---in fact it really excites me. Yes, the story goes some strange places that aren't factual. No, that doesn't bother me either, especially considering that the story remains biblically accurate in its essentials. The film certainly embellishes the tale in imaginative ways, but I consider that a good thing, especially because in doing so it raises some thought-provoking questions. In fact, as I sit here and ponder it, I can think of almost no other "biblical" film that has been this interesting, this thoughtful, or this artful (though that's more a critique of "biblical" films than it is a praise of Noah). In order to have a meaningful discussion, I'm going to assume you've seen the movie. If you haven't, or if you're on the fence, it's definitely a movie to see in the theater (don't wait for the DVD). I'll also say that you should leave young kids at home; this isn't your Sunday School Noah's Ark story. If you don't want to know the details, now's your chance to stop reading. As River Song would say: Spoilers!