The Archives

Rabbit Room Wrap-up 08-29-14

Michael the GreyTonight at North Wind Manor we're delighted to be hosting Michael Card. Mike, who Andrew affectionately dubbed the "Gandalf of Nashville," has just published the last of his Gospel commentaries, this one on the Gospel of St. John. He'll be at the Manor tonight to discuss the book, and more importantly the Gospel. Seats are filled for this event. If you RSVPed, don't forget to bring a snack to share. The event begins at 7:00pm. localshowrrJoin us at The Well coffeehouse in Brentwood next Tuesday for the first of what we hope will become a long-running tradition: The Local Show. This first show will feature Don Chaffer, Eric Peters, Randall Goodgame, Sandra McCracken, and at least one special guest. The Local Show will take place every other Tuesday in September, and then we'll ramp it up to EVERY Tuesday night in October. You never know who'll show up, so you may as well come every chance you get. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 at the door. If you're a Rabbit Room member, just flash your card at the door and you can get in for only $5. writing classJonathan Rogers has just unveiled a writing seminar he'll be leading called "From Memory to Story." It takes place on Thursday October 10th from 10am-3pm so if you're coming to Hutchmoot this is a golden opportunity to come a little early and get a little more out of your time in Nashville. Here's how he describes the course: "You have a story to tell--many stories, no doubt. You need to tell your story, not only to be understood, but in order to understand yourself. In this one-day seminar on the short memoir, Jonathan Rogers will help you find your voice and shape your memories into written stories." Click here to visit the website and get all the details. Theater Les MiserablesDavid Bruno fears he may have permanently scarred his children by exposing them to Les Miserables a few years too early. But might some scars be worth carrying? We should clarify that we're talking about the theater production here; No one will ever be old enough to avoid being scarred by the movie abomination---and those are definitely not the sort of scars you want to be saddled with. Read the entire affair in "Comic Parenting Guilt." White stoneWe had an excellent guest post from Shannon McDermott in which she discusses how the Wingfeather Saga has taken old superstitions about names and naming and used them for better ends. The piece is called "A Superstition Transformed" and it's a worthy read. Sadly, however, it does not address why my wife has forbidden me to eat any animal we've named (our chickens for instance---good thing we don't name the eggs). BOSSRuss Ramsey has taken a step into true manhood by committing an entire year of his life to the music of the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Not only does Russ now have more hair on his chest, he's also got a little gravel in his throat, and way more hats hanging out of his back pockets. He's written this great post about the experience, and I have it on good authority that he plans to dedicate next year to Lita Ford. violin lightSarah Clarkson, student of Oxford University, was in London recently when Britain observed the anniversary of their entrance into World War One. This post about her experience at a concert that evening is extraordinary. Don't miss "Light Eternal in London.

Light Eternal in London

A little over a week ago, my brother Joel and I forayed out into the darkling streets of nine o'clock London to catch a late concert at Royal Albert Hall. We wanted to stave off the end-of-trip rue attending our last night in London by filling it with music. Solemn, startling music as it happened. When Joel discovered that it was John Tavener's Ikon of Light we were slated to hear, he was quite enthused. Even I, with a far lesser knowledge of classical or choral music, was glad to find that this was the concert on offer. Oddly enough, I had encountered snippets of Tavener here and there and found his choral music arresting, if not always easily accessible. photo 2We barely made it in time, fairly sprinting from the Tube stop to the doors of the Hall, sinking into our red velvet seats in a summer flush just as a voice summoned us to settle in for the opening of the concert. The lights dimmed a little as the host for the evening, a calm man in a dark suit, took the stage and addressed us with quiet, engaging gravity. I was still breathing hard, trying to collect breath and body into stillness, distracted by the rustle and thump of the fidgety audience. I was only half aware of the introductory comments, but the man on stage seemed almost to reach up and touch me, abruptly, when he spoke these words: "In tonight's piece, one must think of the string section's part as the cry of the soul, its reaching toward the light. And the answering choir, as the voice of the light itself."

The Local Show!

Featuring Don Chaffer, Eric Peters, Randall Goodgame, and Sandra McCracken September 2, at 8 P.M. The Well Coffeehouse 690 Old Hickory Blvd, Brentwood, TN 37027 $12 in advance, $15 at the door (or $5 at the door for Rabbit Room members). Buy tickets here in the Rabbit Room Store. Follow the Local Show on Twitter. Like the Local Show on Facebook.

The Year of the Boss

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” ---Jesus of Nazareth Several years ago I decided that I was going to give Paul Simon my undivided attention. For reasons I cannot explain, I had never really listened to him beyond what I heard on the radio and MTV back when MTV played music videos. Since so many of my friends regarded Simon as one of their favorite songwriters, I decided I would download the iTunes Essential Paul Simon playlist and listen to nothing else for at least a month. I was immediately taken in by the brilliance, complexity, and originality not just of the music, but of the artist himself. Paul Simon has been a consistent treasure in American songwriting for over five decades. I find that amazing. Early this year, I decided I would do for Bruce Springsteen what I had done for Paul Simon. This would be The Year of the Boss.

A Superstition Transformed

[Editor's note: Say hello to Shannon McDermott. She wrote this piece after reading the Wingfeather Saga and she's agreed to let us use it here as a guest post. Thanks, Shannon.] Outstanding among those beliefs that are universally characteristic of the religion of superstition is the conviction that “a man’s name is the essence of his being” (one Hebrew text says “a man’s name is his person” and another, “his name is his soul”). ---Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition There’s an old superstition that names are powerful. Many cultures have believed that to know a person’s name is to have power over him, or to be freed from his power. The principle has been extended to the supernatural, with people seeking to conjure up the power of gods, angels, and demons by invoking their names. Like all superstitions, this one shows both fear and a desire to control. Magic, real magic, has made great use of it; sorcerers, too, believed in the power of names. From the eleventh century come reports of witnesses – “learned and trustworthy men” – who claimed “that they had themselves seen magicians write names upon reeds and olive-leaves, which they cast before robbers and thus prevented their passage, or, having written such names upon new sherds, threw them into a raging sea and mollified it, or threw them before a man to bring about his sudden death.” This idea has endured in folk tales – most famously in Rumpelstiltskin - and is now an established trope in modern fantasy and even, on occasion, sci-fi. Despite its various disreputable associations, it has a presence in Christian fantasy.

Comic Parenting Guilt

The inaugural Hutchmoot in 2010 was something else. All the speakers were amazing. Walter Wangerin, Jr. was masterful. Months later, Wangerin visited San Diego to see the premier of the Lamb’s Players Theatre production of his The Book of the Dun Cow. Chauntecleer and Cockatrice battled it out above the stage suspended by theatrical wires. It was awesome. There is a small café next to the theatre and during intermission Leanne and I sat chatting with Walter Wangerin. We mentioned Hutchmoot. “You’re some of those young musicians then,” he said. “No, just fans of the musicians, and of writers like you,” we replied. I added, “Clearly, you have never heard me sing.” We discussed writing and his writing process and publishing and some small talk I cannot remember anymore. The mission of Lamb’s Players Theatre is to “tell good stories well.” It's one of the most simply stated mission statements I have ever read. Over the years we've spent quite a bit of time at Lamb’s and so have experienced their mission statement in action. They fulfill their mission with abandon. When Les Misérables made the lineup for Lamb’s 2014 season, I knew we had to take the kids. Our oldest daughter saw the movie. That's one of my major parenting regrets, that I took her to see that royally stupid movie before taking her to the theatrical production. Just one more topic to discuss with her therapist some day. “So then Eponine sings, ‘...a stranger’s just a stranger...’ and like literally a stranger walks right by her. And I am wondering, what am I missing? Tom Hooper must think I’m like an imbecile.” “Hmm. So, your parents took you to see the movie before the Broadway production?” “Yes.” “We’re going to need at least three more sessions,” says her therapist jotting something down on a yellow legal notepad.

The Evangelizing Power of Beauty

Next Thursday, Joseph Pearce, renowned biographer of Christian literary figures such as Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton, is giving his inaugural lecture as Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College. The lecture is entitled "The Evangelizing Power of Beauty: Converting the Culture," and it will rely heavily on the work of both Lewis and Tolkien. Sounds like interesting stuff, and it's free to the public. We hope to see some of you there. For more information about the lecture, visit the event page at Aquinas College's website.

Coming to North Wind Manor: The Gandalf of Nashville

He has a magnificent beard. He seems both old and young. He's wise. I'm pretty sure he has a walking stick. He's always traveling from here to there, there to here, appearing when you least expect him. He's a teacher and a student. He's an author, a singer/songwriter and a banjo player, he's a carpenter, a hobby astronomer, and a hunter. I'm pretty sure there's only one person on Earth who meets all the above criteria, and his name is Michael Card. I first met Mike at an artist's retreat hosted by a ministry in Knoxville, and, knowing his name for years and years as "the guy who wrote 'El Shaddai'," I was surprised that he didn't play us a single song the whole weekend. He seemed perfectly content---eager, even---simply to teach and to talk about the Bible without throwing a guitar into the mix. Truly, his teaching was so stimulating I didn't miss the music by the end, either. Since I didn't grow up paying any attention to Christian music it was a long time before I heard songs like, "Come to the Table" and "Immanuel," and when I finally did it was live, in a church jammed with people singing at the top of their lungs. Goosebumps, I tell you. A few years ago I was in dire need of a mentor. I needed someone older and wiser, a Christian to whom I could stay accountable, someone to encourage me to read my Bible, to guide me in some kind of formal relationship. Late one night I emailed Mike and, with fear and trembling, asked him to be that mentor. He emailed back the next day saying, in effect, "No." He went on to explain that he wasn't interested in a mentoring relationship. "What I need is friends," he told me. "We can get together and hang out, but not just to talk about spiritual stuff. Let's just be friends. And in this town, the only time you really get to hang out with your friends is on the road, so why don't you open for me for a few shows?" I was disappointed at first (about the mentor thing, not the shows), but several years later it turns out Mike was right. I asked for a mentor and ended up with a friend---a good friend, which is a much better thing. My disappointment was a sign of my immaturity. It was as if I had emailed someone and asked if I could pitch a tent in their backyard, and they said, "Sure, you can stay. But you're not sleeping outside---you're going to be in the guest cottage." Mike's friendship, I believe, has yielded far more encouragement and edification than an accountability partner ever would have. Several more Mike Card stories come to mind---like the time he shared the stage with Frederick Buechner and Walter Brugemann, or the time we were watching the History Channel and he read a snippet of Isaiah from a scroll they flashed on the screen, or the time he showed me his new rifle with a laser sight, or the time he asked if he could record "The Silence of God" after he had already done it. I'm so grateful to call this man my friend. AND I'm grateful that he's coming to North Wind Manor in two weeks to talk about his new book. Mike has written about a zillion books, but his latest four are commentaries on the Gospels, part of the Biblical Imagination Series. Think about that for a second. Can you imagine writing not one but four commentaries? On the Gospels? Most of us would feel like we had just run four Iron Man races. So congratulations, Mr. Card, and we thank you for bringing your musical/poetic gifting to bear on the Scriptures so the rest of us can see it afresh. On August 29th, at 7:00, the Gandalf of Nashville will be teaching from the Gospel of John, and I hope you'll join us. Trust me, there's nothing quite like seeing Mike turn into a little kid while he talks about Jesus. Admission to the event is totally free, though we do ask that everyone bring a snack item to share (drinks are on us). Space is limited, so if you intend to come, it's very important that you RSVP via an email to pete@rabbitroom.com. There are only 30 seats available. RSVP quickly if you want to secure a spot. We'll include the address to the Manor when we respond to your RSVP. This event is now full. What: Michael Card discussing the Gospel of John When: Friday, August 29th Time: 7:00pm Where: North Wind Manor, Nashville Admission: FREE (but please bring a snack to share) RSVP to: pete@rabbitroom.com

Rabbit Room Review 08-15-14

The big news of the week is the announcement that renowned author and poet Luci Shaw will be our featured speaker this year at Hutchmoot 2014. By way of introduction, Andrew Peterson wrote up a post featuring some great quotes from Luci about the imagination and how it intersects with our faith. If you aren't familiar with her work, I encourage you to read a couple of her books (Breath for the Bones is a good place to start) and check out her website. We also marked the occasion by releasing a few more tickets to Hutchmoot. If you got one, congratulations! If you missed this last chance, don't worry, we're sure to moot again next year. WA2N Cropped 2That wasn't the only big announcement this week. We also pulled back the curtain on the re-release of Jonathan Rogers' long-out-of-print The World According to Narnia. Rabbit Room Press is issuing a new edition that will be available in early September. Click here to read an excerpt from the most excellent introduction, and you can pre-order the book here. imax_jerusalem_cityHeidi Johnston, our resident resident of Ireland, brought us a reflection from her studies of Deuteronomy and Lamentations in the form of a post called "The Inevitable Plot Line." Much like the Israelites of old, Heidi knows what it's like to stand, filled with expectation, on the cusp of the Promised Land, only to find herself later weeping in its empty streets. Beautiful post. Read it here. And a couple more quick notes: 1. Congratulations to Ben Shive on a whopping THREE Dove nominations! 2. Congratulations to Lanier Ivester and Sarah Clarkson on being accepted to Oxford University! 3. Mark August 29th on your calendar. That's the date for the next live event at North Wind Manor. More on that next week. Have a great weekend.

Now Available: More Hutchmoot 2014 Tickets

Did you miss your chance to grab Hutchmoot tickets back in March? Do you need one more so you can bring a friend? Here's your chance. Today we are releasing 12 more tickets to the public---the final twelve. Once these are gone, the Hutch is full until next year. The price is $295 per ticket. We're delighted to have Luci Shaw as our guest speaker this year and if you're looking to do some preparatory reading, we highly recommend her book Breath for the Bones (but anything you read of hers will be a good investment). Click here to get your ticket.

The Inevitable Plot Line

Sometimes, in a particular season of life, a passage or book of the Bible can grab hold of you and wrap its words around your soul. For me that book is Deuteronomy. For several years now it has been a faithful companion, its thinly veiled beauty stirring my heart and giving me a clearer picture of the God I have claimed to know. I love it because it pulses with the hope of a new beginning. The Israelites are almost there. Egypt is finally behind them and the wandering has come to an end. The home they sang about when slavery broke their backs and bent their heads is so close they can almost touch it. Anticipation runs high as the dying flame of hope bursts into life once more. As they stand there, poised between the dream and the reality, Moses tells the old tale once more. The story of a God who made a promise and then kept it against all the odds. A God who heard the cries of his people and rescued them, freeing slaves and making them sons. Then, from the heart of this God to the heart of his people comes a plea to choose to live in the fullness of all that he is and all that he has done. Pursue me. Love me. Obey me. Make me your starting point, the goal of your journey and your strength along the way. Anchor yourselves in my words and my commandments so that you will know me and live like you are mine. Let me fight for you and guide you and hold you in my arms. Let me show you how I love you. Believe that you are the treasured children of the Most High God and then live like it is true. Choose life. Heady with anticipation, the promises come quickly to their lips. Hearts full of all that he offers, they forge ahead into the Promised Land.

Rabbit Room Press Announces: The World According to Narnia

The fall of 2005 was a big time for the Time Warner media empire. On the movie side of things, they put out the Dukes of Hazzard. Time Warner Book Group, meanwhile, was publishing Jonathan Rogers' book, The World According to Narnia: Christian Themes in C.S. Lewis's Beloved Chronicles. The excitement, apparently, was more than Time Warner could handle. The very next year, Time Warner sold its book division to Hachette Book Group, and shortly after that The World According to Narnia ceased to exist as a paperback book. (The Dukes of Hazzard, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine). But Time Warner's loss is the Rabbit Room's gain. We are happy to announce the new, Rabbit Room Press edition of The World According to Narnia. We are now taking orders, to be shipped in early September. If you order now, you will be helping to fund the first print run. We appreciate all orders, of course, but pre-orders help us order bigger print runs and save per-unit.  To give you an idea of what to expect from The World According to Narnia, here's an excerpt from the introduction. If you like what you read, order here.

Introduction: Imagining Reality

  C.S. Lewis once received a letter from the mother of a nine-year-old boy named Laurence. Laurence was afraid the Chronicles of Narnia had led him into idolatry: he felt he loved the Great Lion Aslan more than he loved Jesus. What, the mother wanted to know, should she say to her son?

Breath for the Bones: The Wisdom of Luci Shaw

Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water was the first book I ever read that explored the role of the Christian in the arts. For me, it was a game changer. Not only did it rearrange my thinking about what I felt called to, it affirmed and distilled many of my beliefs (and opinions) about the way Christians should approach their work---not just art, but any work. After Walking on Water I discovered more and more books about the creative life---a much richer subject than all those how-to-write books I was reading. The former is a healthy and helpful exploration of a corner of God’s kingdom (the process of subcreation), about the great mystery of the creative act and its implications for a Christian---the why of art. The other sort of books, the How to Write a Novel in Five Easy Steps sort, may be helpful to a point, but spending too much time there is getting the cart before the horse. Why books are all about the horse; How books are about the cart. You can fill your brain with practical advice, but that’s akin to loading a horseless cart with cargo. You’ll just sit there. (Good grief, I’ve gone this far, so I might as well exhaust the metaphor.) Reading L’Engle’s book was like strapping a galloping Clydesdale to my little wagon. Along the way, many of those parcels of advice rattled loose, or I cast them off once I realized their lack of usefulness, but the horse? It's still moving.

Rabbit Room Recap 08-08-14

We're in the process of lining up another event at North Wind Manor and we hope to announce it next week, so look for that news soon. We've also got another big announcement coming up regarding this year's Hutchmoot special guest, and if you missed out on getting a Hutchmoot ticket, you'll want to pay special attention to the blog next week. There may be some new...opportunities. More on that next week. Elsewhere in the Rabbit Room... LivingLettersIn Nashville earlier this week, Stephen Trafton performed the latest of his "Living Letters," this one entitled Encountering Colossians. We had a good turn out and and Stephen put on a great show. His ability to shine new light on scripture in this way is pretty incredible. If you get the chance to see one of these shows, do not miss it. And I bet Stephen would love to talk to you about performing at your home church. Visit his website for details. UntitledFrom the "bench at the bend in the trail" Andrew Peterson delivered a post called "Digging Tunnels," both literal and metaphorical. "Something about having a few acres wakes up the survivalist in a man, which is part of why I so enjoy gardening nowadays. The less I depend on the machine the more connected I feel to the remnants of Eden shimmering at the edges of the natural world. Before you think me too hippie, I should remind you that I’m writing this on a computer, and I enjoy my Netflix account." Read the entire post here. bilboChris Yokel popped up last week to stir the Hobbit pot. He's one of those oddities who think the second Hobbit movie wasn't awful (yes, I'm serious), but despite that strike against him, he's got a good discussion going on about the nature of adaptation and the expectations we bring to such things. Read the post here and join the conversation. We'd love to know what you think. FlannerySelfPortraitThis past Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death. Far be it from O'Connor maven (yes, maven) Jonathan Rogers to let such a day go unobserved. His post, "Beyond the Region of Thunder," sums of a good deal of what made O'Connor so complex, so fascinating, and so unique. It also contains some of Dr. Rogers best writing, and if you haven't read his O'Connor biography, The Terrible Speed of Mercy, you're missing out on a great book. Read his post here. pota2Thomas McKenzie tackled The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the One Minute Review. This is my favorite movie of the year so far, and I agree with Thomas: Get thee to a theater. Movies this good don't come around very often. Hail, Caesar. Click here to watch the review. VanAugust 4th marked another notable literary date: the 100th birthday of Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, which is Lanier Ivester's favorite book. She celebrated the day with a post called "O, Cavalier," and treated us to a poem of her own dedicated to Sheldon "Van" Vanauken. Read the post, and the poem, here. appendixaAndrew Peterson is in the studio this week re-recording a bunch of old favorites for his forthcoming best-of album, so we featured an old AP favorite as the Song of the Week. Here you can listen to a rare live recording of "Canaan Bound" and get a coupon code to use when buying the album (Appendix A) in the Rabbit Room store. Jill-ITH-Fence-535x266Jill Phillips is also working on a new record and Matt Conner interviewed her about the project. The album will be out later this year and here's part of how she describes it in the interview: "It’s been bittersweet, sad to watch people struggle, sad to watch people die, sad to watch things happen that you don’t want to happen to people that you love. At the same time, my faith has been increased a hundredfold. So that’s where I want to write. I want to write in that place, the place that a good friend of mine calls the “both/and.” The honesty of the struggle and the hope." Read the entire interview here. christmas cardsAnd finally, Jamin Still gave us a little taste of what he's been painting lately: a set of Christmas cards---one of which is a snow-covered rabbit topiary. What'll be next? I'm putting in my vote for a T-rex. Click here to read the post.

Work in Progress – Christmas Cards

I've been working on some sketches for a series of Christmas cards that I plan to make this fall. Here's the first in my topiary animal series that I started this morning - I thought you folks might appreciate it. I'm open to suggestions for the other animals...   Click the image below to view full size. christmas cards