The Archives

Work in Progress – Christmas Cards

Here are the first few cards that I've painted. I took a lot of your suggestions and, well, take a look! This has been a fun project and I think I'm going to do more. One of the reasons for this is when I painted the squirrel, several people told me it looked evil---its eye creeped them out. But it turns out that its creepy eye is what made it a favorite among several other friends. You can't please them all. Or maybe you can. I figured, why not make another line of cards, a line of slightly odd and creepy Christmas cards for my friends who appreciate the slightly odd and creepy? And so that's what I'm going to do.

topiaries

From Smallest Seed: Music inspired by community and conservation

There are so many things to care about, so many broken things that need fixing, so many wounds that need mending, so much good waiting to happen in our world. As a songwriter by vocation and a biology teacher’s daughter, a couple years ago, I found myself standing (metaphorically) at the intersection of writing songs and hymns, reading National Geographic, nurturing my two young children, and performing as a musician. I made an album called Desire Like Dynamite which explores conservation, faith, and relationships. Nature. God. People. Three elements, one revolving dance. Around that same time, I met Peter and Miranda Harris, founders of A Rocha International, a Christian conservation organization. I found such resonance in their vision for hope and renewal in the world. I started wondering what a life that includes conservation could look like for me personally, and for our community in Nashville. To backtrack several years: I had been part of an annual retreat of songwriters in Tulsa hosted by my friends (and pop-star-harmony-singing-brothers) the Hansons. Each year, different songwriters were invited to come for a weekend to write in rotating small groups. It was a fruitful experience, and it sparked much growth and creativity from all the artists through the practice of collaboration.

The Thin Places of Fantasy

Why would you go back to normal, if you found out that life could be so much more? If you found a reality so much better than what the world was offering you?

This is what some of the best fantasy literature reminds me of and points me toward.

Now when it comes to fantasy, there are different kinds. There's the fantasy of a Tolkien, which immerses us in an entirely different realm from our own. Then there's the fantasy that starts grounded in the normal world then pulls back a veil into a realm of wonder. This is the fantasy of Lewis's Narnia books, of the Harry Potter series, and of some of my personal favorites like Stephen Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy and, most recently, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere. And while I love Tolkien, what I particularly love about these latter books is the way they reawaken me to the magic threaded through the fabric of creation. Alan Jacobs argues along these lines in a recent essay, “Fantasy and the Buffered Self”:

[T]he desire for a world resonant with spiritual meaning, of one kind or another, does not easily die — perhaps cannot die until humanity itself does. Technology is power, but disenchanted power. And so the more dominant mechanical and then electronic technologies become as shapers of the social order, the more ingenious grow the strategies of resistance to their disenchanting force — the strategies by which we deny the necessary materiality of power. In the literary realm, the chief such strategy is the emergence of fantasy genre.

Why is this drive to re-enchant ourselves so tenacious? Or even further, why is it important? The reason is that such fantasies, while not true, do point us to a truth about the world, that the physical is woven inextricably with the spiritual.

Behind the Soul EP

This is the second of four EPs from the "Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone" collection, each individual project being an exploration of a different genre. Soul is the kind of music I play when I'm just sitting with a guitar, thinking about something else. I've always loved old Van Morrison records, and I wanted to make music that gave me that same feeling. This collection of songs turned out to be mainly a love letter to my family. (And kind of also to my Strat.) These last few months have seen some major life change as I chose to leave my full-time touring-musician career for the 9-to-5 A&R guy gig. These songs are the obvious working out of a new set of goals and priorities. They were also about the most fun I've ever had making music. Shane [Wilson] got amazing sounds and Brent [Milligan], Jacob [Schrodt] and Ben [Shive] were the best band you could imagine. Also, this was the first time my entire family has participated in one of my records. That was a blast. Here's a bit more about each song. "Set Me Free" [audio:1_Soul_clips.mp3] Let's be honest. This one's mainly an excuse for that groove.

Tokens Tickets Taken (I just wanted to alliterate)

Thanks for all the entries, folks. The contest is now over and we've chosen four couples for the eight available tickets. The winners will receive an email in the next few minutes with details. If you missed out, tickets are still available at TokensShow.com. If you're a Rabbit Room member, check your email for a special treat. We'll see you at the show.

Want Free Tickets to the Tokens Show?

The next Tokens show is Tuesday September 9th at Lipscomb University in Nashville and we've got eight tickets to give away. The show---which the Nashville Scene calls Nashville’s Best Local Variety show and a “grass-kicking shred-fest” with “genre-bending creativity,” and the Tennessean calls “awesome” and a “virtuoso ensemble”---is a mix of music, theology, storytelling, comedy and---did we mention music? The September 9th show is titled "Shame and Presence: Fig Leaves, Truth-Telling, and the Encumbrance of Things Hidden." It features special guests Ellie Holcomb and Andy Gullahorn, along with old friends Jeff Taylor and Buddy Greene as members of the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys (the house band). It's always an entertaining and thought provoking evening and if you've never had the opportunity to attend, here's a great chance to score some free tickets. We've got eight tickets to give away. Shoot us an email at [email protected] and put "TOKENS TICKETS" in the subject line (let us know if you are entering for 1 or 2 tickets). Tomorrow afternoon we'll randomly select eight winners by means both secret and mysterious. Good luck! Visit the Tokens website to learn more about the show.

The S Towns

There’s a string of three towns outside Fall River, Massachusetts that I nicknamed “The S Towns” because Somerset, Swansea, and Seekonk all line up along the highway as you drive toward Providence. (Technically, Rehoboth is in there somewhere, but for the sake of mnemonic I pretend it isn’t. Sorry, Rehoboth.) In my many visits over the past year and a half, I learned them by their names and landmarks. Somerset is across the Braga Bridge as you’re leaving Fall River, and the first thing you see are the power plant’s water cooling towers (we call them the “cloud-makers”). Seekonk has a freestanding Starbucks in a sea of Dunkin Donuts and the Irish jewelry shop where my engagement ring was found. I think I have relatives in Swansea somewhere. So there are The S Towns. I saw them laid out on a map the other day and it made more sense. Home is where you know how the roads intersect and you can always find your way back to family and a hot meal after a long day of exploring. You don’t have to worry about the oncoming night. You make your way, trust your instincts, and soon you can see the welcoming lights in the window.

Coming Soon: The World According to Narnia

Jonathan Rogers' new (old) book is heading off to the printer today and we thought we'd give you a look at the final cover, which was ably designed by our own Chris Stewart (who also designed the covers for The Molehill). Pre-orders are available here. We expect to start shipping the books in the next couple of weeks. cover store

Sticking It To God: Rebellious Stories As a Cliche to Play Against

“The sacred exists and is stronger than all our rebellions.” Czeslaw Milosz Skipping the qualifiers, we live in an era where rebellion has been mainstreamed. Rebellion is, ironically, very conventional. Pedestrian even. The pervasiveness of rebellion extends to literature and media for children, driving the stories most kids are exposed to every day. I’ll go on record and say this is mostly horrible. Like, civilization-destroying, enemy-embracing horrible. We want our kids to be who they are uniquely called to be. We want them to have disruptive imaginations. Of course, it all depends on what they are disrupting. Since rebellion is conventional now, the unconventional thing is to reject rebellion. What we want is to disrupt this very religious, institutionalized, conventional rebellion. We want to object to this tired routine of being out-of-order. Since we are Christians, we are called to submission. This terrifying word is the primary characteristic of the follower of Christ. It is literally what being a disciple means (to follow behind). We are called to a different story than the conventional rebellion of the ancient dragon in the garden. The story is a familiar one, and here we are, still in it.

Tonight: The Local Show

Mike CardFriday night at North Wind Manor we hosted the venerable Michael Card for an evening of discussion about the Gospel of John. Andrew Peterson both kicked off the evening and closed it with a song (one of them brand new), and in the intervening 90 minutes Michael kept the room spellbound as he talked about his approach to the gospels and researching his commentaries on each of them. He has a way of talking about Scripture that kind of blows my mind. His knack for putting things in context and enabling the listener to see the story come alive in new and exciting ways is something I've rarely experienced. Here's hoping he'll be back for more in the months to come. But enough about last Friday night. Tonight kicks off the first of what we hope will be a long-standing tradition: The Local Show. It's at The Well Coffeehouse in Brentwood (right off I-65) and each show will feature a different line-up of songwriters and special guests. Tonight we've got Don Chaffer (of Waterdeep), Randall Goodgame, Eric Peters, and Sandra McCracken. They'll be playing in the round and having a blast starting at 8pm. Doors open at 7pm and you're invited. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door (Rabbit Room members can flash their cards at the door to get in for only $5).

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!

November 11th - November 11th - Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Jeremy Casella, Buddy Greene, Randall Goodgame, Eric Peters, Arthur Alligood, Jenny & Tyler, Andrew Peterson, and ??? The Well Coffeehouse @ 7:30pm 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.