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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

Rabbit Room Interview: Jill Phillips

[Editor's note: Jill Phillips has been working on a new album. So, "Matt Conner," I said, "get you gone and find out what she's up to." Thus did he sally forth, and thus with this interview did he return. I have no idea why I'm talking this way.] Just to start, I'd love to get an update on exactly where things are with the new album. I've taken a little bit more of a pause in the past month-and-a-half for obvious reasons. We've been traveling and everything. But before school let out, we'd gotten to where there were basic tracks for all of the songs---percussion, some overdubs. We actually did some recording three or four weeks ago with Ben Shive, who did piano for one or two songs. We've had a cellist come in. So we've done a good bit. Maybe we're a little over halfway done. I still have to do my vocals. I have maybe one or two finished, but I really didn't want to do those piecemeal. I wanted to be in the zone and do it, so I did one, took a pause, and then I'll get to the others when the kids start school next week. When they're home for the summer, it's just impossible to get that much work done. [Laughs] My goal is to have it done by Hutchmoot. Maybe that's ambitious, but we'll give it a shot.

Song of the Week: “Canaan Bound (Live)”

Andrew Peterson, our faithful Proprietor, is hard at work on a special "best of" collection, re-recording several old favorites selected by a special fan vote taken earlier this summer. Such compilations are great portals into an artist's full body of work, but what AP's fans might not realize is that he also has a great selection of Appendix releases available with demos, alternate versions, live tracks, and other rarities. Our song of the week is a lovely live version of "Canaan Bound" and is one of 25 tracks found on Andrew's Appendix A: Bootlegs & B-Sides. If you've never ventured into the Appendix series, they're a great addition for any AP fan, old or new. You can use coupon code "CANAAN" to get 15% off of Appendix A in the Rabbit Room store this week. “Canaan Bound (Live)” by Andrew Peterson from the album Appendix A: Bootlegs & B-Sides [audio:Canaan.mp3]

O, Cavalier

Today marks yet another important date: it is the 100th birthday of Sheldon Vanauken, author of my favorite book of all time, A Severe MercyHaving honored dear Davy with a sonnet on her illustrious centennial, I could not bear to let this day pass without acknowledging our great chum Van in like manner (though his gift is in the form of a bit of free verse). Reading A Severe Mercy not only incited an absolute volcanic eruption of latent longing and desire in my life, it breathed a loving affirmation that at once broke my heart and healed it. And though our copy has been nearly read to pieces over the years, I cannot so much as crack the cover without a burning rush of that original joy. This poem refers to Van’s final and ultimate surrender to Christ, some twenty years after Davy’s death, a “return to the Obedience” which led to the writing of this immortal book. Happy Birthday, Van. We owe you the greatest debt. Look forward to telling you all about it over a heavenly pint someday. ~~ O, Cavalier! When once that gallant head went down In fealty unforsworn, And rebel heart consigned to Mercy’s cause, Love’s triumph shook the earth for such proud prize And heaven stooped to smile. Knighted with a poet’s sword, Branded by a lover’s seal, The beauty of your breaking pierced the world.

Tonight: Encountering Colossians

Tonight at 7pm @ Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Stephen Trafton will be performing the second of his Living Letters shows, Encountering Colossians. It's an imaginative theatrical performance designed to take the audience back to first-century Colossae to encounter the arrival and delivery of Paul's letter in its original context. Stephen's performance of Encountering Philippians was a big hit two years ago at Hutchmoot and since then he's performed his Living Letters shows all over the country. We hope you'll come out and join us tonight. The show is free, but we will take up a love offering at the end of the show to help support Stephen in his ministry. Encountering Colossians Church of the Redeemer @ 7pm 920 Caldwell Drive, Nashville 37204

One Minute Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis is back, covered in CGI fur, and doing an amazing job. A simple plot, emotional storytelling, and solid directing make this film one to see. Also, check out Thomas's reviews of Snowpiercer and Safety Not Guaranteed.  

One Minute Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

Beyond the Region of Thunder: Flannery O’Connor’s Last Days

[Editor's Note: This Sunday, August 3, is the fiftieth anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death. This memorial is adapted from Jonathan's biography of O'Connor, The Terrible Speed of Mercy, which is available in the Rabbit Room store.] Fifty summers ago, Flannery O'Connor was thirty-nine years old. She had battled lupus for most of her adult life, managing the disease with massive doses of corticosteroids, which themselves had serious side effects. As she wrote to a friend, "So far as I can tell, the medicine and the disease run neck & neck to kill you." In the spring of 1954, a major surgery reactivated O'Connor's dormant lupus; the tell-tale "lupus rash" broke through the protective steroid barrier, signaling that the disease was back in earnest. O'Connor spent a month in Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital--from May 21 to June 20. A prodigious letter-writer, O'Connor kept up her correspondence from her hospital bed. Through her many hospital stays, she almost always kept up her letter-writing. But she tended to put off fiction-writing until she could get back to her typewriter. The fact that she wrote much of "Parker's Back" in Piedmont Hospital, in longhand, suggests a sense of urgency that was unusual for this most deliberate writer. O'Connor seemed to understand that there was something different about this hospital stay, about this recurrence of a disease that had come and gone but had been mostly manageable to that point. The letters she wrote that month didn't have the same cheery tone that she usually assumed in her hospital letters. "I don't know if I'm making progress or if there's any to be made," she wrote her friend Maryat Lee. "Let's hope they are learning something anyhow."

Hobbits and Adaptations

So the first trailer for the last Hobbit film has been released, which means the re-commencement of The Battle of the Five (or more) Opinions of The Hobbit Films. Here in the Rabbit Room we are passionate about our books, our films, and our books made into films. When it comes to Peter Jackson's second foray into Middle-earth, I know there are strong opinions on both sides. All of this brought to my mind the idea of adaptation, and how we think about that. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to teach The Hobbit to high school students. One week I had them watch the two films, and then we discussed the films vs. the books. In my own search for material, I stumbled across a very helpful discussion of adaptation, and how we think about book-to-film adaptation, by Tolkien scholar Corey Olsen. He deals with the buildup to The Desolation of Smaug, but also spends a bit of time discussing general principles of adaptation. The lecture is pretty long at 2 1/2 hours, but well worth your time if you'd really like to listen. Listen here Olsen's lecture, and the reemerging discussion with the release of the last Hobbit trailer, has brought some questions to mind that I thought I might share here, and spark some discussion on adaptation in general: 1. How much responsibility does a filmmaker have to adhering strictly to a text vs. creating their own vision of a text? Is an author's opinion and vision of their own work the final authority? Consider that when you read a story, how you imagine the characters and environment may be very different than how the author does. Does this make you wrong? 2. Is it possible for a filmmaker to improve upon a book in some ways? 3. Is it possible to love both a book and a film adaptation of the book, even if they are significantly different, without betraying a sense of "loyalty" to the original story? 4. How do we navigate the gap between two very different mediums, which require two very different storytelling styles, in a knowledgeable way? Let's have a good, respectful discussion. Duels are only allowed over whether Galadriel is the fairest of them all.

Song of the Week: “Silhouettes”

Many of you will already be familiar with Colony House (formerly known as Caleb). They toured with Andrew Peterson for many of the shows in support of Light for the Lost Boy, but what you are likely unfamiliar with is the way they've matured as songwriters and performers. Their new album, When I Was Younger, produced by Ben Shive, conjures up comparisons to bands like Keane, Phoenix, Leagues, and The Killers, and the infectious blend is nearly impossible to resist. Check out their single "Silhouettes" for yourself. “Silhouettes” by Colony House from the album When I Was Younger [When I Was Younger is now available on iTunes. You can also use the coupon code "CALEB" to get 15% off of their To the Ends of the World EP (from back when they were known as Caleb) in the Rabbit Room store.]

Digging Tunnels

I'm writing from the bench at the bend in the trail. When we moved to the Warren these woods were a claustrophobic tangle of thorn, privet, and bush honeysuckle (don't be fooled by the name--bush honeysuckle is a bane). Jamie and the kids and I crouched our way under the brushy eaves, lopping branches here and there, looking for good trees, marveling at huge slabs of limestone and granite peeking out of the soil, wondering how all those old beer bottles ended up under the humus so far from the house. Eventually we cut a series of trails, the path guided by the shape of the land and the fattest trees we could find--mostly cedar and hackberry, but along the way we happily discovered a couple of young sugar maples, a beast of a shumard oak, as well as the Goliath of our woods--a massive tree that neither of the two experts I've brought out here could identify. "It looks like a white walnut," one of them said, "but if it is, that's the biggest one in Tennessee."