Eleven years ago I knew exactly what kind of parent I was going to be. I had decided what books my daughters would read, what songs they would love to sing and how I would handle difficult situations. It turns out that life cares little for my theories. The challenges facing our children seem to grow on a daily basis and the truth is that some days I go to bed feeling like every choice I made turned out to be the wrong one. It feels like the future is approaching at an ever-increasing pace, relentlessly mocking my naïve arrogance and tempting me to give in to the fear that I have not adequately prepared my daughters for what lies ahead. For me, one of the most sobering moments in the entire Old Testament narrative is when the children of Israel discover that the land they are ready to conquer is inhabited by giants. Crippled by fear for the future of their children, the Israelites turn back and head for the wilderness. Every time I read it I wonder whether I would have acted any differently in their shoes. Honestly, I doubt it. Sometimes, when I look at the world around me, the temptation to retreat can be almost overwhelming. It strikes me that the thing which swayed the Israelites more than any other was the voice they chose to listen to. All twelve of the spies saw the same thing when they looked at Canaan. Giants. Strongholds. Danger. The facts were inescapable.
Next Saturday night we're hosting a house concert for Julie Lee at North Wind Manor. We told you last week that Julie would be joined by Corrie Covell and Sarah Masen Dark, and this week were happy to announce that Ron Block will be joining in as well. We can't wait to have you over for the evening. Bring a snack and enjoy the music (and the company). There are only about 20 tickets remaining and they're available here. Unfamiliar with Julie's music? Check out this video of her performing the title track from her most recent album, Till & Mule. And don't forget about Rich Mullins Cover Night at next week's Local Show. Tickets here.
Jill Phillips premiered the songs from her forthcoming album, Mortar & Stone, at Hutchmoot last week, and those who were there even got the chance to buy advanced copies of the CD. The official release day isn't until November 18th, but today we're happy to announce that pre-orders are open to the rest of the world. When you pre-order, you'll be able to instantly download two tracks from the album: "Mortar & Stone" and "Bear With You." Click here to pre-order. If you picked up a copy of the record at the show, let the rest of our readers know what you think. Here's one of the tracks you'll be able to download when you pre-order: "Bear With You" by Jill Phillips from the album Mortar & Stone [audio:Bearwith.mp3]
The fifth annual Hutchmoot has come to an end. It's hard to compare one Hutchmoot to another because each one has had such a different flavor, but this year was one of my favorite of the bunch. From Luci Shaw's keynote (not to mention her presence with us all weekend) to Jill Phillips's concert to the Local Show to session after session that I wish I had been able to attend, we were overwhelmed by good stories, good music, good food, and time to think deeply about beauty, calling, obedience, and the Kingdom. Now comes the tricky part. Now comes the daily grind, the reintegration into our vocations, our churches, our families, the long work of building the Kingdom brick by brick, book by book, meal by meal, day by day. I want to offer a resounding THANK YOU to all the volunteers, session leaders, kitchen masters, trash haulers, painters, organizers, and encouragers who gave so much of themselves this weekend, and to give each of you a chance to sound off on the impact of the weekend. What were your favorite parts? What did God teach you? In the words of Stephen Trafton at the end of Encountering Colossians, "You know you have been changed. How?"
On Saturday, October 25th, we're hosting Julie Lee for an intimate house show at North Wind Manor. There are only 30 seats available. She'll be joined by Sarah Masen Dark and Corrie Covell. This is going to be an awesome show, and if you aren't familiar with Julie's music, you are in for a real treat. You're all invited. Please bring a snack to share---we've got the drinks and music under control. What: Julie Lee---with Sarah Masen Dark and Corrie Covell When: The show starts at 7:30pm on October 25th. Doors open at 7:00pm Where: North Wind Manor, Nashville, Tennessee Why: Because you love great music Click here for your tickets. Rabbit Room members, don't forget to use your member discount.
It happens all the time. I get an email from an angry reader who says, “Why are you wasting time talking about the technical aspects of a movie? What really matters is the message!” From now on, when that happens I’ll probably encourage the disgruntled reader to read an article called “Lazy Cultural Engagement,” which was published today at Christianity Today. One of my favorite writers on the subject of art, faith, and culture — Alissa Wilkinson — has seen Gone Girl, the new film by David Fincher. I know a lot of Christians who will ask, “Why did she give any attention to Gone Girl? It’s dark. It’s violent. It’s R-rated. And there’s nothing Christian about that movie!” I know others who are likely to hear from their pastor, or read on a “progressive” Christian website, that Fincher’s film is about “the wages of sin,” or it’s about “Christian themes,” or it’s about “what happens to marriages when husbands and wives don’t know Jesus” … and they’ll decide it’s worth a look. For what it’s worth, I’ve been both of those people at different points in my journey of faith. And in both cases, I was looking at art through glasses that distorted my vision and prevented me from having a rich, meaningful experience. That’s because there is a distressing delusion at the heart of so much Christian engagement with art: It’s the delusion that says “The style and the substance are two different things. We should care much, much more about substance than we do about style.” Here’s the thing: Style is substance.
[Editor's note: Brian Rowley handcrafted a set of Rabbit Room pipes for last year's Hutchmoot, and we're honored that he's back again this year with more. What follows is a short message from Brian about this year's set. They'll be available at Hutchmoot for $295 each.] It's that time of year again. The shape has finally been decided upon and blocks have been selected for the 2nd annual Rabbit Room Pipe of the Year! Seven pipes have been crafted to be the same in size and shape, but completely unique in finish. Each has it's own look and feel and character, so you can chose the one that speaks to you. And each is stamped with the Rabbit Room stamp solidifying their belonging to the set. Without further ado, I present: The Gruffman So, you're not the conversational type. Don't let them hold it against you. There’s plenty of talk to go around, and even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent. This is the pipe for you, the quiet one, the one who watches the others from the edge of the room. It doesn’t mind if you're mulling over the latest commentary on Plutarch or simply enjoying the evening air. Quiet is quiet. This is a pipe that recognizes that one of the marks of good friendship is the capacity to sit together and say nothing at all. ---Panegyrics by Adam Whipple The Gruffman is my version of a classic Danish Rhodesian, which is a member of the Bulldog family. A Bulldog is known for it's diamond shank and canted bowl, with rings separating the top and lower half. While the Bulldog typically has stark straight lines, the Rhodesian is a sleek curvy cousin, trading it's straight diamond shank for smooth sloping curves. The wood used to create these particular pipes is Erica Arborea, which we know to be called Briar. The briar I use comes direct from Italy, from the best supplier in the world. The stems are each individually hand carved from German Ebonite and German Acrylic. I am honored and excited once again be able to present the Rabbit Room community with these pipes. ---Brian
We were honored to host Chris Slaten, a.k.a. Son of Laughter, for the inaugural house show at North Wind Manor earlier this summer. Chris is currently working with producer Ben Shive on a new album, and the new songs peppered throughout the show gave beautiful glimpses of the full-length record to come. The night was also highlighted by familiar songs we've grown to love, and our song of the week is the title track from Chris's debut EP, The Mantis & The Moon. Few songwriters can craft such meaningful stories, let alone keep things as beautiful and lively as Son of Laughter. "The Mantis & The Moon" is a great example of why we all fell in love with this EP in the first place. “The Mantis & The Moon” by Son of Laughter from the album The Mantis & The Moon [audio:Mantis.mp3] [Use coupon code "Mantis" to get 20% off the EP in the Rabbit Room store this week. And grab your tickets to tonight's Local Show featuring Andrew Peterson, Buddy Greene, Ben Shive, and Lori Chaffer.]
[The following is an excerpt from my essay by the same title in the forthcoming Molehill, Vol. III.] Rembrandt is in the wind. The sea surges and swells. The little fishing boat has no hope of holding on to the churning foam below. The bow rides up the back of one white breaker while the stern dips in the valley beneath it and the next. Waves break over the sides. The half dozen men to Rembrandt’s right shout and strain at the sails, struggling to keep the ship from capsizing. The five men to his left plead with Jesus of Nazareth to save them. Rembrandt stands in the middle of the boat, his right hand tightly clutching a rope, and his left pinning his hat to his head. His name is scrawled across the useless rudder, as though this is his boat on his sea and they are all caught in his storm. He and everyone else in the ship are soon to be lost unless their leader intervenes. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt’s only known seascape, is one of his most dramatic paintings, capturing that moment just after the disciples knew they would die if Jesus didn’t save them and just before he did. The five foot by four foot canvas hung in the Dutch Room on the second floor of the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum for close to one hundred years. Everyone who looked at it saw the same thing; Rembrandt looking out through the frame to us---looking us dead in the eye. The terror on his face asked us what the disciples were asking Jesus: “Don’t you care that we’re perishing here?”
Hutchmoot planning is in full swing. We made the big announcement last week that Jill Phillip's will be the musical anchor for the weekend as she celebrates the release of her new album, Mortar & Stone (which will be available for pre-order soon). She'll be playing a full-band show on Friday night---you guys are in for an evening of fantastic songs. Hutchmoot sessions are nearly finalized and we're lining up a few extra guests and special events. No spoilers though. You'll just have to wait and see. Click here to take a gander at how the sessions are lining up. Singer-songwriter team Jenny & Tyler got together with Sara Groves and a whole slew of internet folks to record this awesome cover of U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Speaking of U2, what's everyone thinking of the new album? Last week's Local Show was a blast. The show featured Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga, and Jeremy Casella---who realized once they got on stage that they all went to college together. We didn't plan that, but it was great to see old friends supporting one another. They closed the evening with a beautiful Rich Mullins cover, which you can see below. Tickets are now on sale for next week's show, which features Andrew Peterson, Buddy Greene, Lori Chaffer, and Ben Shive. The Local Show - "Calling Out Your Name" from The Rabbit Room on Vimeo. David Bruno has been reading his Wendell Berry. Check out Dave's post, "Sustainability & Place" in which he discusses the importance of finding a place and sticking to it. Easier said than done? Almost certainly. Worth the commitment? Dave thinks so. Let us know what you think. Jen Rose Yokel takes a look back at how she fell in love with poetry in a post called "Emily & I." We'll give you three chances to guess who "Emily" is. Hint: It's not Emily Rose---but wouldn't it be awesome if it was? Read Jen's post here. Dr. Rogers took a break from all his bow-tie wearing, grumbling, and waffle-eating to share some sage advice for writers. In a post called "Tradecraft: Seeing What You See," he points out that writing down the concrete details of what's happening around you often makes for far more interesting reading than you may at first suspect. Listen to Dr. Rogers. Smart he is. And speaking of Dr. Rogers, he's got a new (old) book available. The World According to Narnia has been out of print for years, and Rabbit Room Press has amended that situation. The book is now out in a brand new edition and is available wherever great books are sold. Not to be stopped at merely offering advice and writing books, Dr. Rogers also has an online writing class and an in-person seminar coming up. Click here for details. And yesterday, Joe Sutphin recounted the nearly-fatal tale of "Bonnifer Squoon and the Cat Hair of Doom." This should not be confused with the Dog Hair of Doom, which is, even now, lurking along the baseboards of North Wind Manor and awaiting the howl of a Hoover. That's it for now. Grab your Local Show tickets now. They are going fast.
This past February, the Wolf King team hit crunch time. I was in full swing, inking one illustration per evening after work and two per day on the weekends. I was also in the throes of finalizing art for an early readers picture book. I was on the home stretch and had reached a scene with the brothers and good old Bonifer Squoon, which I was anticipating with excitement. I began cranking away at inking the "Spidifer" scene and was about 75% finished when it happened. After one of my frequent dips into the inkwell I realized there was a small cat hair resting on my nib. Without a second thought, I blew a quick puff at the hair to toss it off. And then my eyes focused on the illustration below and the spray of black acrylic ink that freckled its once-pristine surface. My heart cramped. My instinct was to somehow brush this dust off of my drawing. But it wasn't dust, and I knew it. It was there to stay. I could barely believe it had happened.
Imagination is a serious business. It gives substance to our yearnings for something beyond ourselves. Imagination is what convinces us that there is more to the world than meets the eye. And isn't that the first principle of faith? The Chronicles of Narnia awaken the reader to the imaginative possibilities of the gospel that have been there all along. The Chronicles serve as a reminder that if the gospel doesn't fill you with overwhelming awe and joy and fear and hope, you may not have really understood what the gospel says." ---from the IntroductionRabbit Room Press is proud to announce that Jonathan Rogers' long out-of-print The World According to Narnia is back on the shelves. It's available through the Rabbit Room store and wherever great books are sold. Special thanks to Chris Stewart for the great work on cover design. Writing Classes with Dr. Rogers Also note that Jonathan has opened up a new section of his online creative writing course, "Writing Close to the Earth, Part 1," which is now open for registration. And on Thursday, October 9th, he'll be holding a one-day in-person writing seminar here in Nashville. It's called "From Memory to Story: Writing the Short Memoir"---and if you're coming to Hutchmoot, don't worry, class will adjourn in plenty of time to make registration and dinner. For more information about Jonathan's classes, visit his website. And click here to pick up your copy of The World According to Narnia.
Originality may be the most overrated of the writerly virtues. Much more important is the skill of seeing what's in front of you and rendering it faithfully. The world is a varied place; every person in it is a miracle; every setting is unusual; every event, every encounter is a thing that has never happened in the long history of the world. On top of all that variety is the fact that every observer's vision is unique. If you will allow yourself to see what you see, and then write what you have seen, you can be sure that originality will take care of itself. That's not an easy thing to do. Few people write what they have seen. More often, they write what they think they ought to have seen, or they shoehorn experiences and people into familiar categories. It's a hard habit to break; categorizing and sorting the firehose-blast of experiences and ideas that come our way is a necessary survival skill. But writing is different. Writing is a chance to release experience from man-made categories and say, "Look at this---this thing that exists in the real world." Writing comes alive when you do that. Oddly enough, faithful imitation is the front door to originality.
What did you love in your high school years? A band? A movie? A book that kept you up all night? It’s amazing how, in that fragile time between becoming an adult and still hanging on to childhood, those attachments you can’t explain can shape your passions for the rest of your life. If I think about it long enough, go back far enough, I’d say I write poems today because of Emily Dickinson. She’s a staple of the earliest literature classes, like Shakespearean tragedies and Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” the old stuff you have to read. Demure in photographs, with wide collared dresses and hair pulled back tight. But for me, and I suspect many other slightly awkward and shy teen girls, her poems burrowed deep into something I didn’t have a name for yet. My text books taught the “cleaned up” versions that toned down her eccentric obsession with dashes, but being drilled into memorizing “To make a prairie” and “I never saw a moor” stirred a sense of vast possibility.
The antidote to an unsustainable life is to stick around a place. I have been thinking about this a bit. At the university where I work, this semester I am teaching as an adjunct, handling the course "Sustainability In Action" for a colleague on sabbatical. Texts on sustainability tend to focus on the very real challenges of climate change and emerging economies and dematerialization. It is good to think about these issues when we think about sustainability, and to try to work on solutions to them. But preceding the sustainability problems that make news headlines comes a decision that regularly goes unnoticed. It is a decision by some person or persons to leave. Here is the versified form of what I am attempting to say.
People these days pack up to get to the next place. No one seems to stick around anymore. Who can say they’ve heard laughter after the decades; the same laughter that they’ve heard, over and over before, or the same tears splashing down on the same old floor? People these days hurry off to the next place. Everyone seems headed through a door.