To Him who presses curiosities four-to-a-row across the dimpled backs of infant hands; Glory be. To Him who has made the dust of the hay barn settle in drowsy glory through a slant line of sun; Who has birthed three naked, new mice, just pink, bare thumbs, sucking out blind thirst in a mother’s tossings and tendings of the grasses of the earth; Glory be. Who has swelled the heavy teats of the cow? Who has made them drip milk in drops, sweet, white puffs and sighs on the dry brown barn floor? Who has wetted her brown, round, empathetic eyes? Who has given her a tail to smack against her meat? Glory be. To Him who has made the cool March wind snap the curtains to applause; Who hovers (might He even cluck or coo?), wing thrown round about His beloved, heady as the hot underside of a hen; Who opens up the earth like a lap, belly out, leaned back, arms thrown wide, feet planted in a father's welcome, Glory Be.
“Clean your little corner up and see what starts to change” --Andrew Osenga, “Don't Lose Heart” When I think of myself being “creative,” I default to my natural gifts, poetry and songwriting. But in the past few months those have been hard to come by. I had to prepare for one of the biggest changes of my life: finding a home and getting married. Back in February I was lucky to find a small third floor apartment from a kind old lady looking for good tenants. Jen and I stared at the blank walls and empty rooms, awaiting our touch like the unwritten days and weeks of our new life together. March was a month of hard labor and going to bed tired every night. You see, I'm not a tradesman by any means. I teach and read and write for a living, so while I'm not above physical labor, it's just not what I'm involved in every day. But that month I did more painting than I'd ever done in my life. I also became a frequent friend of hardware and furniture stores. I became obsessed with this new domestic space—how to make it better, how to make it pleasing for my soon-to-be wife. And yet, it felt like it was taking me away from my “creative” endeavors. Almost every spare minute after work and other responsibilities was poured into it until I collapsed on my bed at night. Something felt missing, like life usually feels when I'm not writing something.
At Hutchmoot 2012, one of the most memorable parts of the weekend was Stephen Trafton's one-man performance of Encountering Philippians (yep, that's Jennifer Trafton's Broadway-veteran brother). His Living Letters series is a project that Stephen has developed over the last few years that's designed to bring Scripture to life in a way that audiences almost certainly haven't experienced before. It's a dramatic performance, a piece of genuine theatre, and it casts you, yes you, in the role of a first-century Christian hearing for the first time a letter that Paul has addressed directly to your local church family. Stephen sets the scene, introduces the characters, and delivers Paul's letter in one seamless performance. Speaking personally, it's a powerful experience. When Stephen first told me about the show, I admit I was skeptical. I thought it sounded a little Sunday-schoolish. But boy was I wrong. Hearing and seeing Paul's letter delivered (in a way very like it might have been to the first-century Philippians) moved me in the best ways; it shifted my perspective on the text enough to let me see in it new colors, new angles, new life. I think it's kind of like poetry---it's one thing on the page, read silently in your head, but often quite another when it's made vocal and visual, enacted bodily. It makes for great theater, as well as great Bible-study. Since that memorable performance at Hutchmoot, Stephen has performed Encountering Philippians for thousands of people all over the country, and now he's developed a new show centered on another of Paul's letters. On Monday night, August 4th, at the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, you're invited to join us for his performance of Encountering Colossians. The show will run about an hour and I'm pretty sure Stephen will hang around afterward to talk with folks and answer questions. Hope to see a lot of you there. There's no admission fee, but we will take up a love offering for Stephen after the show. Spread the word. Bring a friend or a fellow Rabbit. It's going to be a fun night. When: August 4th @ 7pm Where: Church of the Redeemer, 920 Caldwell Lane, Nashville 37204 Admission is free
To Him who permits the storm-torn hickory to cross upon itself, savage as thrown ink lines, Glory be. To Him who grants the turkey vulture a bare red face, so that she might reach between ribs of the dead and pick meat off their bones; Who beholds the rusted eye of Jupiter, blasting? (Like a woman in her fury? I cannot tell.) Even so, glory be. Nor can I tell if He ordains or simply allows hail to bruise the soft bodies of tree frogs; or why he does not stop the wild dog from laughing (by my judgment) overloud. Glory be to Him who shaped the teeth of the wolf in their sockets 'ere any shepherd shaped his staff; To Him who planted a fruit-bearing tree then spoke, "You shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Glory be. To Him Who has been from the beginning other, Who cannot be etherized, elucidated, abridged; Who grants to life gravity and resistance, Who is untamed by those who would harness Him, Who spins the moon round, round and round again, from dissonance to resolve until she flushes white and clean, shining like Moses fresh down from the mountain; Glory be.
Last year, Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter) delivered a roundhouse kick to my brain with his EP The Mantis and the Moon, and I'm pretty sure his performance at Hutchmoot brought a full Van Damme down on quite a few other brains as well. Since then he's been all over the country playing house shows and raising money to record his first full-length record (for which he's already written all the songs). Part of our vision for North Wind Manor is that it be a unique house-show venue, and we've asked Son of Laughter to be our inaugural guinea pig. With that in mind, we've been working hard to get the house and grounds in order. Rooms to paint, weeds to pull, air conditioning to install, flowers to plant, screen doors to fix---the list is enough to make me tired just thinking about it. But we're looking forward to having a big group of all of you out next Friday night to put the place through its paces. Tickets are just $5 (free to Rabbit Room members) and we're limiting the show to 40 people. We also ask that you bring a snack or side dish to share. We'll provide the drinks. The event begins at 7:30pm and you're welcome to stick around and enjoy fellowship with friends after the show. We will also be taking donations for Chris, which will go toward funding his new record. We think you're in for a real treat. Here's what another house show host had to say: "Chris Slaten's songs . . . reminded us of longings and hurts and loves we had not known how to voice . . . He provided for us a space and a common language in which to reveal our lives to one another." ---Dr. Tim Basselin, Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Worship - Dallas Theological Seminary And here's a taste of Son of Laughter's particular genius in the form of a song from the current EP, The Mantis and the Moon. It's called "The Fiddler" and . . . well . . . just listen. [audio:Fiddler.mp3] Click here for tickets. We'll see you at the door. [Note: If you aren't able to make the show at the North Wind, Chris has another show the following night at the Riverside Assembly Hall, also in Nashville. Click here for more information on that show.]
Friends, Skreeans, and Hollowsfolk! The official release of The Warden and the Wolf King is in three weeks, and we’re throwing a costume party. On July 22nd at 6:30 PM, at Parnassus Books (one of the best bookstores in Nashville), we’re ushering into the world the conclusion of the Wingfeather Saga, and we’re pulling out all the stops. We’re loosing the thwaps. We’re---we’re---herding the toothies! In true Hollish style we’re having a rowdy time, and I’d love for you to come. Why would you want to come to such an event, you wonder? 1) Because you’ll be able to try honeymuffins and sugarberry buns (and maybe some maggotloaf?). 2) You’ll be able to sip Hollish bibes of many fruity flavors. 3) You may want to to quote Oskar N. Reteep’s favorite books to one another. 4) There will be a COSTUME CONTEST—the winners of which will receive mind-blowing prizes. (One prize for each age group.) 5) My daughter Skye (the inspiration for Leeli Wingfeather) will be on hand to sing “My Love Has Gone Across the Sea” (from The Monster in the Hollows) with me like the Song Maiden that she is. 6) I’ll read from the new book and answer as many questions as I can. 7) Aedan and Asher Peterson will be there to autograph copies of Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, to which they both contributed vast amounts of talent. I hope you can come celebrate with us. Beware the toothy cows. AP WHAT: Wingfeather Saga Book Release Party WHEN: July 22nd at 6:30 PM. WHERE: Parnassus Books, 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215 (615) 953-2243 WHY: (See above list.)
Here is a literary exercise which might help illuminate a dilemma nagging my real life. When we are done with the exercise, hopefully, you can give me counsel. Think of one or more novels (or movies) that have shady characters. In the comments, list the title of the novel (movie) and the shady character. Now, by shady I mean to imply a character of doubtful reputation. A shady character is not definitely bad. Neither is she certainly good. Usually a shady character seems to be up to good but somehow gives the impression her motives are dubious. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are not. Other characters are attracted to a shady character but never feel comfortable they should be drawn to her. Almost always, no matter how the shady character turns out in the end, the other characters are better off for having journeyed with the shady character for a time . . . but not always. A shady character can be as subtle as Mr. Tumnus leading Lucy Pevensie into the woods. A shady character can be as enigmatic as Sunday taking Syme on a wild goose chase. A shady character can be as unpleasant as Haymitch Abernathy mentoring Katniss Everdeen; Katniss herself is a shady character. Shady characters are most of the people sitting around Edna Spalding at church in that final scene of Places in the Heart.
Hello, Rabbit Roomers. We're narrowing down the list of songs to include on the "best-of" record releasing later this fall (as opposed to a "greatest hits" record, which would be very short, indeed), and I'd love to know which songs you think should be included. This is tricky because I'm torn between making sure the album is listenable (i.e., it can't be all slow songs) and trying to choose songs that might have the deepest impact for new listeners. If you could take a few minutes and let me know a couple of your favorites from each my albums (not including Behold the Lamb), I'd appreciate it. If you aren't familiar with the record, just skip the question. Thanks! Click here to take the quick poll. You can leave comments here, but the poll is the easiest way for me to keep track. Gracias.
I recently had a conversation with my pastor about how visual art might be used to enhance or possibly expand the congregation’s worship experience at our church. He speaks to us every week, but what if I got up every once in a while to explain my visual interpretation of some of the themes that we’re studying? I already choose or create the artwork for our podcasts, so what if I talked about why I choose what I choose? My pastor thought this sounded like a good idea. And so this week I spoke about this image (click here to see it full-sized). This is a piece I painted years ago, well before we started going through Genesis, and even though the painting isn’t about Genesis, it is about two of the themes that we’ve been studying. This was the first time I had told anyone what the painting was about, and I want to share it with you as well.
It took us a little longer than expected to get the new mugs sent out to all of our members, but they are finally in the mail. Here's a look at the new design and color (the brown actually has a bit of a purple fleck in it which is hard to capture on camera). These are available exclusively through Rabbit Room membership (which you can find out about here).
This is a moving example of what Tolkien called "sub-creation"---in essence, using your gift to speak light into the darkness. This, by the way, is hand-drawn animation. Thank you, Glen Keane, for making something beautiful. (And thank you, Brannon McAllister, for the link.) And if you want to dig a little deeper into just how much work, thought, and attention went into the short film, watch this and be inspired.
First things first: Happy birthday to my wife! She's an amazing thinker and writer, a beautiful woman, and a wonderful person to share life with. Yes, I know that sentence ended in a preposition, but "with which to share life" is just too cumbersome---she's also a great editor. Happy birthday, babe. I'll buy you some baby chickens later today. Now, on to business... All pre-orders for The Warden and the Wolf King have shipped and should be showing up in your mailboxes any time now. We've got a huge load of orders that have come in since the unofficial release on Tuesday and we're working to get all caught up on those by the end of the day today. So hold tight, readers, we're working as fast as we can. We haven't had a recap in a couple of weeks so I'm going to cover a lot in this post. The biggest news is that the Rabbit Room has moved its physical location. We were sad to leave Baja Burrito (our former neighbor) behind, but we're super excited that the office is now located at our new property, which we've named North Wind Manor (I'm sure any George MacDonald fan can illuminate the etymology of that name for you). We've got a lot of hopes and dreams for this old place and it won't be long until we'll be inviting you out for our first Rabbit Room event in the new place. More on that in the next week. Andrew wrote a post about how we ended up here and you can read that for more details. Rebecca Reynolds wrote a fantastic piece called "Providence" in which she digs into her childhood memories to recall her grandparents. Rebecca's writing is always a joy to read and this essay is an exceptional example. She's got a great eye for telling detail. Read the post here. Melanie Penn released a new album a couple of weeks ago and if you've heard it, you're probably in love with it. Melanie stopped by the Rabbit Room with a post about one of her favorite songs from the record. The song is called "Before a Fall" and you can listen to it by clicking the play button below. Pick up the record in the Rabbit Room store. [audio:BeforeaFall.mp3] If you're heading to the movies, Thomas McKenzie has a couple of recommendations. Click here to check out his One Minute Reviews of The Edge of Tomorrow and X-men: Days of Future Past. Hint: they are both pretty darn great, and it's hard to go wrong with Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, and Emily Blount. In a post called "A Difficult Generosity," Sarah Clarkson ruminates on the the nature of art and creativity and the way in which we approach our gifts. Good reading. Excerpt: ". . . the artists and storytellers and makers of song offer the inner vision they have known as a sign of hope to the hungering world. They invite us into the sacred, inmost rooms of their minds and let us stand at the windows of their own imaginations where we glimpse, ah, wonders we might never have dreamed alone." Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible is out the gate and currently taking the world by storm, and now the Slugs & Bugs: The Videos Vol. 1 DVD is joining it. The DVD features a whopping 17 animated videos of Slugs & Bugs songs like "Tractor Tractor," "Bears," "Mexican Rhapsody," and "Who's Got the Ball," from the entire Slugs & Bugs library and is available now in the Rabbit Room store. Last week, Andrew, John & Janna Barber, Matt Conner, Arthur Alligood, Andy & Alison Osenga, myself, and about 2500 of our Nashville neighbors got to see Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Counting Crows at the Ryman Auditorium. The show was one of my person bucket-list items and the bands did not disappoint. Toad has been a huge influence on Andrew and his music and he tells us why in his post "Toad the Wet Sprocket: An Appreciation"---which Toad retweeted a couple of times, sending it spiraling across the entire internet. Awesome. Anyone who's worked as a substitute teacher should have an almost unlimited number of stories to tell. Barbara Lane is no exception, but she's got more than just a story, she's got a great essay on the power and importance of stories and words themselves. It's called "Every Life's Telling" and here's an excerpt: "To articulate and share our own stories, to encourage and receive the stories of others---this is vital to our sense of self, of community, and of belonging. Simply and emphatically put: Your story matters." The Warden and the Wolf King doesn't go into wide release until July 22nd, but we've decided to make it available now in the Rabbit Room store. Maps, Creaturepedias, and other goodies from the Kickstarter campaign will be available soon. “Prepare to have your heart stirred by Peterson’s bittersweet and sweeping finish to the Wingfeather Saga.” -N. D. Wilson And finally, Lanier Ivester has poked her head up once again and delivered another piece of stunning poetry called "Sonnet II." Isn't she awesome? Yes, yes she is. Just wait until you read the ghost story she's writing for this year's issue of The Molehill. Well, we've got a couple of hundred more orders to pack and ship (and I've got to get to the doctor for a steroid shot to save me from poison ivy), so have a great weekend. We'll see you on Monday. [If this post is rife with typos, I apologize, but I'm about to be late for my doctor's appointment!]
Demandez l'étoile matinière et prenez aussi votre amour terrestre. My heart in grief’s a stricken dove which leans O’er hidden nest of given things, mild head Inclined unto dark mercies, awful means, Whereby kind Love woos living from the dead. For Joy, my pinioned soul takes leap in art Of blackbird’s liquid song, and blood-stained wing The blessed wound I bear from Love’s trained dart: Old earth but veils the heaven which I sing. From Love itself my frantic spirit flees In Fear, a maddened gull that won’t be tamed By peace, but lights on waves of doubt the sea Casts up, or flies in storm’s black face. Unshamed, Love sends my lover, in whose arms this wild Bird’s snared, content to be by love beguiled.
“Prepare to have your heart stirred by Peterson’s bittersweet and sweeping finish to the Wingfeather Saga.” -N. D. WilsonBut wait, release day isn't until the end of July, right? That's right, but from now until then, the final book of the Wingfeather Saga is available exclusively through the Rabbit Room store. Click here to snatch up your copy (or a Wingfeather Bundle). I was a Kickstarter backer, where's my book? The last of the Kickstarter rewards have shipped. If you haven't received your book yet it's because of one of the following reasons: 1) You haven't logged in to Kickstarter to fill out your shipping survey---which means we don't know where to send it. 2) You live outside the US. International orders began shipping on Friday and will take 2-4 weeks for delivery. 3) The postal troll ate your books. If you suspect that the postal troll claimed your reward, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll investigate. I pre-ordered at a Christmas show, where's my book? As of yesterday, all Christmas show pre-orders have been shipped. Please allow 5-10 business days for delivery. I pre-ordered through the Rabbit Room store, where's my book? As of this morning, all RR store pre-orders have shipped. Please allow 2-10 days for delivery (based on your chosen method of shipping). I want to buy a giant full-color map of Aerwiar, or a hardback edition of The Monster in the Hollows, or a Pembrick's Creaturepedia, where can I do that? These items were designed exclusively for Kickstarter backers. However, now that Kickstarter rewards have all been shipped, we do have some extras of all three items. These will be made available exclusively through the Rabbit Room store sometime in the coming weeks (probably around the public release date of July 22nd). What about audiobooks? Weren't they part of the Kickstarter rewards? How can I get one of those? Audiobooks for The Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King were indeed part of the Kickstarter campaign. The Monster in the Hollows audiobook has been recorded and is being edited now. Andrew will be recording the final book any day now. Once the audiobooks are complete and delivered to Kickstarter backers, they will also be made available through the Rabbit Room store (download only) and other digital audiobook channels. If you have any other questions about the release, we'll be happy to answer. Just leave your question in a comment. Enjoy the book! [The Warden and the Wolf King is available in the Rabbit Room store.]
“Without the truths that are lodged in every life's telling, the old narratives thin, become brittle, and shatter, and we are left in chaos, no trail to follow home.” —Kim Barnes
The scratch and tap of pencils filled the room, punctuated by miniature drum beats pattering through a set of headphones. I was substitute teaching in a high school classroom. When I’d arrived that morning, the teacher’s scrawled instructions were waiting on my desk: Have them write a response—“If you were to create a self-portrait, how would you reveal yourself and what materials would you use?” After a collective groan, my students set about their task. I drifted between desks, answering questions along a trail of pencils poked into the air. With a distraught sigh, Sarah raised her hand. When I reached her desk, she looked at the floor and shuffled her feet. “I dunno what to write,” she whispered, fighting tears. “Besides, nobody’s gonna read this shit.”
—In a culture requiring little more of our stories than a 140-character “tweet,” areas of language easily fall into misappropriation and disuse; our abilities to think critically and exercise imagination suffer. Stories are a primary means of establishing identity and forming relationships. But as I read through the pile of essays left on my desk that day, I realized that the limited capacity for language that so restricted the expression of my students’ stories was only a microcosm. I could see traces of the same limitation in my own use of language and hesitance to see my story as a thing that others needed to hear.