The Archives

Blind Spots

I am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots---realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about. Such is the nature of a blind spot---I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine. A friend asked me recently what I thought was my greatest weakness as a writer. As I thought about it, I discovered I did not know the true answer---a fact which itself may be the best answer I have to offer. My greatest weakness is that I am in many ways oblivious to my weakness. I don’t know what I don’t know, which means sometimes my writing is the work of a blind-folded man with vertigo stumbling around a china shop.

Concert Window: Eric Peters / Andy Gullahorn Double-Feature

On March 31st, at 8:30pm EST, Eric Peters will travel from his living room to outer space and then descend upon the world once again, landing directly in your own living room. We're not making this up. All you have to do is go to ConcertWindow.com and watch the magic happen. But wait, there's more . . . At 9:30pm EST Andy Gullahorn---and his special guest(s)---will swim through your living room like a live shark and try to catch anything you dangle in front of him. The best part? He'll do it all without cracking a smile. He may also play music at some point, but that remains to be seen. Tune in to find out. The show starts at 8:30 EST (Eric Peters) and continues at 9:30 EST (Andy Gullahorn) on ConcertWindow.com (Note that each concert is at a separate Concert Window link.)

Rabbit Room Retreat Special Guest: Ralph Wood

We're headed into the Texas wilderness this week to convene the Rabbit Room Retreat @ Laity Lodge and we wish all of you could come with us. This year our guest speaker is Dr. Ralph Wood, author of The Gospel According to Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-haunted South, and Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God. As you can tell from that remarkable list, Dr. Wood will be right at home in the Rabbit Room crowd. Dr. Wood has served as the Baylor University's Professor of Theology and Literature since 1998 and comes to us bearing a lifetime of scholarship and wisdom. He's an engaging speaker, a sage theologian, and a kind man. We look forward to introducing him to many of you this week at Laity Lodge. For more information about the Rabbit Room Retreat at Laity Lodge, visit the website at Hutchmoot.com. Those not able to attend may want to join us in absentia by enjoying some of Dr. Wood's work, which is now available in the Rabbit Room store.

Song of the Week: “Any Other Way”

Jill Phillips' says her new album is filled with the stories of brokenness and redemption of family and friends around her. Those of you who are familiar with Jill's music will know that her many albums are also filled with personal, vulnerable melodies penned from her own journey of faith. "Any Other Way", our Song of the Week, comes from Jill's album The Good Things (2008), speaks from a perspective of the trials shared with her husband, Andy Gullahorn. It's the sort of substantive song we've come to expect from Jill. “Any Other Way” by Jill Phillips from the album The Good Things [audio:AnyOtherWay.mp3] Use coupon code "GOODTHINGS" this week in the store to get 20% off the album.

The Local Show w/ Andrew Osenga and Co.

Andrew Osenga is playing host for tomorrow night's edition of the Local Show. That's right, Leonard the Guitar-Wielding Astronaut himself is running the show, and he's bringing with him a group of Nashville's finest. Who's that? We're glad you asked. First up, Derri Daugherty. If that name doesn't ring a bell, it might be because you're more familiar with his legendary band The Choir (with Steve Hindalong). The Choir's music played a big part in the lives of a lot of folks around here and having Derri at the Local Show is an honor. Next up, Christopher Williams. Chris is no stranger around town. He's a hard-working and talented singer-songwriter with eight albums to his credit, and he's a neighbor and friend to most of the Rabbit Room's songwriter community. If you haven't heard his music, you should come out tomorrow night and rectify that. His new album, The City Makes the Man, is now available in the Rabbit Room store. And filling out the line-up, the inimitable Don Chaffer. Don hosted the first-ever Local Show and we're always happy to have him back. Don and his wife Lori (aka Waterdeep) have been part of every single Hutchmoot, and together or apart they are a musical force to be reckoned with. When Don's around, there's no telling what might happen, but you can bet it'll be worth your time. Tickets for this edition of the Local Show are available here. $10 in advance. $15 at the door. $5 at the door for Rabbit Room members---just flash your membership card.

Announcing Hutchmoot 2015 Registration

On October 8-11, the Rabbit Room will convene Hutchmoot 2015 at Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee. You're invited to come and enjoy a weekend of live music, great food and conversation, and a series of discussions centered on art, faith, and the telling of great stories across a range of mediums. If you're unfamiliar with Hutchmoot, we invite you to visit Hutchmoot.com for more information. This October, Hutchmoot will enter its 6th year. We've had so much fun since 2010 that it's hard to believe we get to keep on doing this, but as long as you good folks keep coming, we'll keep hosting. We've got some great stuff planned for this year and can't wait to see how things develop. There will be a slew of Rabbit Room regulars on the roster. We'll release more specifics as we confirm plans, but rest assured that it'll be a weekend worth your time. We'll see you in October. We're lining up another great program and will be announcing our full list of speakers and events as we draw closer to October. Click here to view the (preliminary) schedule. Hutchmoot 2015 is capped at 140 attendees. We're sorry that we can't accommodate everyone who would like to come, but we are limited by the size of the venue and are dedicated to keeping the event comfortable and intimate for everyone involved. Registration will begin at noon CST on March 31st. There will be 70 tickets available during this first registration window. Click here for the Hutchmoot registration page. Once registration opens, this page will link to iTickets, who is handling all ticketing for the event. Another 70 tickets will go on sale at 4pm on April 14th. One those are gone, Hutchmoot is sold out and we'll begin compiling a waiting list. Please do not ask to be added to the waiting list until the event sells out. We'll provide more information about the waiting list once Hutchmoot registration closes. Important: Hutchmoot registration is non-refundable! Please do NOT purchase a registration unless you are certain you will attend.

Poetry and Pressing Into Lent

Back about 10 years ago, three things converged in my life that would prove momentous to my personal growth: I started getting serious about writing poetry, I was discovering the literary legacy of Lewis and Tolkien, and I was also beginning to uncover the riches of the church calender. As it happened, Easter was approaching, and I was eager to practice Lent. I had always been soberly and mysteriously drawn to Passion Week in all its agony, ecstasy, and wonder, and I wanted to honor the story in my own way. Having steeped myself in the ambitious poetry of T. S. Eliot and the epic recreations of Tolkien, I thought to rewrite the Passion as a heroic "lay," in an exercise of personal devotion. So week by week, I poured over the Gospel accounts, and let my imagination cast the story in the mode of a bard. Sixteen poems later, I had completed the last part of what would eventually become The Lay of the Lord trilogy: Birth, Life, and Death & Triumph. I had attempted to present the spirit of "True Myth" which J. R. R. Tolkien talks about in "Fairy Stories," without getting too archaic for modern sensibilities. Engaging in such a project enabled me to see the story of Jesus with fresh eyes, to recapture a sense of the drama and the characters involved: the impending doom of Jesus' ride into Jerusalem, the intellectual parry and thrust of His sparrings with the Pharisees, the darkness of Gethsemane, the gloom of Golgotha. Doing so allowed me to slip past the watchful dragons of my own settled thoughts about these all too familiar tales.

The Gentle Archer Meme

I had an entire post in my head about the archery I've been getting into, inspired by my best friend who recently relocated back to Nashville. I had cool pictures of the brand new arrows I bought and custom-fletched (so proud of those dang arrows). I was going to reflect on my friendship with Patrick, how he surprised me with the Shakespeare 'Purist' recurve bow, and the ways in which archery is now playing into our friendship as a common bond. It was going to be a beautiful post. But then I thought up this meme. It started out innocently enough.

Those Who Repent Together, Stick Together

A story is told of a wise old theologian who learned every jot and tittle of the Bible. Say the name Belshazzar in his presence and he would expound Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for an hour, then continue for sixty more minutes with a history of the Medes. He knew his stuff. One Sabbath a young woman new to the faith approached the theologian in the narthex after the eleven o’clock service. She wanted to get things straight and understand the details of this religion that had so smitten her. The old sage’s reputation preceded him. Though she was nervous, she was more earnest than scared. She inquired, “Tell me sir, I would like to get things straight and understand the details of my new Christian faith. What must I know first?” The old bookman opened his eyes wide and raised an arthritic finger to the sky. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” he said. He spoke with such conviction, the young woman looked up, half expecting to see the Sistine Chapel overhead. She collected herself. “And what must I know next?” she asked excitedly.

Rembrandt Is in the Wind

[Today, March 18, marks the 25th anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, during which two thieves made off with thirteen irreplaceable works of art from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet, and others. It was the largest single property theft in American history, worth an estimated $500,000,000. The stolen art has not been seen since. I spent the better part of last year digging into the story, and wrote this essay about the art, the museum’s builder, the heist, and the Gospel. Maybe the visibility this anniversary sheds on the missing pieces of art will lead to their return. This essay was published in The MoleHill, Vol 3. The Molehill is a wonderful collection of essays, fiction, poetry, and art from some really amazing writers and thinkers. It’s an honor to contribute each year.]

Think of how bored they get, stacked in the warehouse somewhere, say in Mattapan, gazing at the back of the butcher paper they are wrapped in, instead of at the rapt glad faces of those who love art. Only criminals know where they are. The gloom of criminality enshrouds them. ---John Updike
  The Heist The security guard sitting behind the main desk of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum looked up from his homework when he heard the buzzer for the Palace Road entrance. On the monitor he saw two uniformed police officers standing outside. Through the intercom, the officers told him they had received a report of a disturbance in the museum’s courtyard and needed to check it out.

There is a Narnia

A little over two months in, and this brand new year has already beaten us up pretty good. I should have known it was an ill omen when, instead of the dinner party we’d planned with friends, we spent New Year’s Eve in the ER with my dad. We got home just in time for a somber little champagne toast by the fire and a rather tearful listen to Over the Rhine’s Blood Oranges in the Snow. When the neighbors’ fireworks boomed and flowered in the night sky, we went out onto the back porch to see what we could over the trees. I remembered another New Year’s when the neighbors’ display of shells and repeaters had been a tangible symbol of hope for me, kindling fires of faith in my heart. I sighed, and drew my cardigan close. Then I went back in the house. “I’m afraid to open the door to 2015,” I whispered to Philip. “I don’t trust it.”

Album Preview: Josh Garrels’ “Home”

It's no secret that many of us here at the Rabbit Room were big fans of Josh Garrels' last album, Love & War & The Sea In Between. It remains among my personal favorite albums of all time, and Christianity Today named it the top album of 2011. Four years later, his follow-up is finally set to arrive on April 7. Home is the name for the new set of songs, and I can tell you firsthand that they are a domesticated set, tamed from the epic, wild nature of Love & War. These songs are intimate and warm and speak of familial themes more than any other --- from a love song for his wife ("Heaven's Knife") to a kingdom understanding of home ("At The Table"). Check out a new preview of the album below:

Say it Out Loud

A few years ago I attended my first Hutchmoot as a guest illustrator. The strange part for me was actually being treated like one. With me that weekend was a portfolio of largely unpublished work and a handful of Wingfeather sketches brought to convince the hoard that I might be worthy to illustrate the final chapter of the saga. Despite the respect shown to me by all who stopped to talk, inside I was still just the packaging engineer who had struggled for years to get noticed in the field he adored: children's books. I never referred to myself as anything other than a packaging engineer who had other artistic hopes, even though I had work published and a Wolf King on the way. That Sunday morning in Nashville I stood at the counter at a Starbucks, ordering my coffee, when the barista asked a simple question. A question that changed my perspective. "What do you do?" That's all he asked. What do I do? I thought. And I said something crazy.

The Pencil and the Keyboard

What's better for your creativity: handwriting or typing? Here is a short but fascinating video making the case for both as essential tools: The basic suggestion here is to use handwriting for note-taking, brainstorming, and synthesizing ideas for yourself, but to use a computer to create pieces that give information to others. Or more simply, always carry a pencil and learn to type faster. As a writer who frequently switches back and forth, this rings true for me. All my poems begin as scribbly drafts on paper, but many an article or blog post was written completely digitally, when my fingers need to keep up with my ideas. (This may also explain why, since breaking my arm a few weeks ago, I've come up with a ton of ideas but have nothing to show for it. Science! One-hand typing is hard. Yes, I am making excuses.) So let's discuss. Writers, what's your preference, and when do you pick a keyboard over a pen? Do you find your medium affects your ideas? Artists of other types (music, visual arts, etc), what role does technology play in your creative process? (H/T Austin Kleon)

England: Day One

DAY ONE. NASHVILLE to LONDON I'll start with a confession: I'm an ancestry junkie. Once, at about eleven o'clock at night, Jamie asked if I was coming to bed. I told her I was almost ready, I just had to check a few more things on Ancestry.com, and then I was turning in. When I looked up I wondered what that strange light on the horizon might be and I realized it was the sun coming up. I came to bed just as Jamie woke and we both pitied my weakness for treasure hunting. One of my Christmas presents (to myself) this year was one of those DNA tests where you spit in a vial and mail it off to what I presume is a laboratory full of people in white lab coats worn primarily because they deal with peoples' spit from all over the country. They do some scientific voodoo and email you a few weeks later with a readout that tells you exactly what you're made of. My main reason for the $80 splurge was that so many people (including Asians) have asked me if I have Asian ancestry I wanted to know if, indeed, one of my great-grandparents from Sweden had married someone from the Far East.