The Archives

Cracks In The Canvas: Encountering Art

The other day I had a chance to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Even though most of the exhibits remain the same, I like to go at least once every year to refresh my experience and my memory. As a creative and art-conscious person, there’s something pilgrim-like about it. We travel to such centers of art in order to expand our vision and our senses once again. I was thinking something along these lines as I wandered the galleries. I was particularly struck by how galleries remind us of the “reality” of certain types of art. It seems today that more and more art is coming to us through digital means. We pick and download songs through the internet. We stream films or television shows likewise. We can even look at famous paintings or photographs via our computer screens. Granted, real flesh-and-blood artists played real instruments in a studio and created those sounds. Real actors got dirt thrown on them or played out their scenes on sets or somewhere out in the world. But that sometimes gets lost in the magical digitalization through which most of this comes to us. But at the MFA, I was in a repository of real, immediate, touchable art.

On the Easel

This frigid January day finds me working on a number of pieces. I'm rotating them out to let the paint dry and to keep myself engaged. Doing this also gives me time to mentally work through any problems that I run into as I'm painting. The detail of the ship is for an art festival I'll be participating in. It's in Albuquerque in March and I'll be bringing this and a van load of other paintings to sell, many of which haven't been completed (or started) yet. I'm having fun with these feathers. I think I'm going to carve up that wood, too. ship These last two details are from a pair of constellations I'm working on for my church, and they're supposed to convey the main themes of the book of Mark. I'm still not sure whether they're going to work or not, but I think I'm getting close. My idea is to illustrate the difference between the Messiah the Jews expected and the Messiah that actually came, highlighting those differences through use of imagery and color and line. I used the same star field for both of these paintings, but the oak and the acorn use different stars to make up their constellations - the larger, brighter stars make up the oak, and the smaller, less significant stars make up the acorn. As I said, a work in progress. tree acorn   On a side note, after I worked up the tree I decided I like painting constellations and so I'm going to do a quick series of them. Not real constellations, of course. Fake ones. Follow Jamin on Instagram Follow Jamin on Facebook

Song of the Week: “The City of the Lord” by Jeremy Casella

Jeremy Casella, an original member of the Square Pegs, is one of Nashville's great under-discovered (certainly not undiscovered) singer-songwriters. Last year's Death in Reverse, inspired by N. T. Wright's Surprised by Hope made the best-of lists of a lot of folks, and this this epic, soaring, U2-style anthem is one of the reasons why. Jeremy is playing an intimate house show this Saturday night at North Wind Manor, with special guest Andrew Osenga. Come out and enjoy the show. Tickets are available here. And this week you can use coupon code "DeathUndone" to get $2.00 off the purchase of Death in Reverse. "The City of the Lord" from Death in Reverse by Jeremy Casella [audio:CityoftheLord.mp3] The song that shakes the solid ground Should come as no surprise Every secret on the table laid bare No place to hide Heaven knows and names the sound That draws me from my grave You’ll know the weight of glory When it whispers you awake And you’re always waiting Always waiting, for how long? Always waiting, for how long? Always waiting here Your body lying on the ground Still I hold you in my arms I’m with you when you’re weeping And I hold you through the dawn Come on now love I made a promise Let me show you what it’s all about When you love someone Just hold on a little longer Let me help you with your wedding gown We’ll go slow dancing through the wreckage Slow dancing now, slow There’s a name that hold us both together The diamond ring, the vow, the ties that bind And there’s a place we’re bound to be forever A city squared as long as it is wide Heaven knows and names (Heaven knows and names) How many lovers has your heart been chasing? Who never left you at the altar waiting? I know it hurts too much to talk about it You’d rather stuff it down than scream or shout it You could be lost and never know it But you’re mine and I’m bound to show it Gave you my Word and you’ll know the sound Oh at the last when I bring it on down Bring it on down oh in it’s time I’m gonna bring it on down Slow dancing… How many lovers has your heart been chasing? Who never left you at the altar waiting? I know it hurts too much to talk about it You’d rather stuff it down than scream or shout it You could be lost and never know it Until the last I bring it on down The City of God The City of the Lord Come on now love I made a promise Let me show you what it’s all about When you love someone Just hold on a little longer Let me help you with your wedding gown Slow dancing through the wreckage The song that shakes the solid ground Should come as no surprise Every secret on the table laid bare No place to hide Heaven knows and names the sound That draws me from my grave You’ll know the weight of glory When it whispers you awake And you’re always waiting Always waiting, for how long? Always waiting, for how long? Always waiting here Your body lying on the ground Still I hold you in my arms I’m with you when you’re weeping And I hold you through the dawn Come on now love I made a promise Let me show you what it’s all about When you love someone Just hold on a little longer Let me help you with your wedding gown We’ll go slow dancing through the wreckage Slow dancing now, slow There’s a name that hold us both together The diamond ring, the vow, the ties that bind And there’s a place we’re bound to be forever A city squared as long as it is wide Heaven knows and names (Heaven knows and names) How many lovers has your heart been chasing? Who never left you at the altar waiting? I know it hurts too much to talk about it You’d rather stuff it down than scream or shout it You could be lost and never know it But you’re mine and I’m bound to show it Gave you my Word and you’ll know the sound Oh at the last when I bring it on down Bring it on down oh in it’s time I’m gonna bring it on down Slow dancing… How many lovers has your heart been chasing? Who never left you at the altar waiting? I know it hurts too much to talk about it You’d rather stuff it down than scream or shout it You could be lost and never know it Until the last I bring it on down The City of God The City of the Lord Come on now love I made a promise Let me show you what it’s all about When you love someone Just hold on a little longer Let me help you with your wedding gown Slow dancing through the wreckage

Author Interview: Russ Ramsey on Behold the King

[Editor's note: Behold the King of Glory is now available for pre-order in the Rabbit Room store.] We’re just around the corner from the release of Russ Ramsey’s book, Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In forty short chapters (just right for devotional reading), Russ tells the story of the Gospels. What I have said before about Behold the Lamb I say again about Behold the King:

Russ Ramsey tells a story you've heard a hundred times and still haven't heard enough. With remarkable attention to the facts of the matter, Russ brings to life the story that brings us to life. Here is glory made visible, tangible, audible. Which is to say, here is the Incarnation.

Russ and I recently had a chat about Behold the King, three-legged dogs, and the Millennium Falcon.

MLK to American Christians

I'm stealing this from Dave Bruno's blog because it's awesome and he forgot to post it here. Carve out a few minutes this evening, click the link below, and read Dr. King's sermon, "Paul's Letter to American Christians." Happy MLK Day. Click here to read the full sermon.

A Month by the Sea: Finding Solitude

Sunday before last [editor's note: It's now been quite a few Sundays before last], I stood on the airstrip of this little island of ours and watched a single-engine prop plane take off and disappear into the clouds. I felt very much like a heroine in an old black-and-white movie---and suddenly very alone. For Philip was on that plane, a kind pilot friend having offered to spirit him back to the city for the work week, and I was facing the prospect of camping all by myself for six whole days. Not that I was adverse to the plan---it was one of the things that’s making this time by the sea a possibility, and I am grateful, not only to my husband, but to our friend, whose generosity both simplified our scheme and gave Philip a good, old-fashioned adventure. (“You’ve got to see the marshes from the air,” he keeps telling me. “You’ll never look at them the same way again after viewing them from 1000 feet.”) Nor was I necessarily opposed to the prospect of so many days of aloneness: Solitude and I are old friends, and here was certainly an opportunity to renew her acquaintance in an entirely new way. Nevertheless, it was hard to think of being here in this loved place without the one whom my soul loves, and as I stood there under a leaden sky, with the wind snapping my skirt against my legs, a funny little desolation crept over me. I listened until the plane was out of earshot, then I walked slowly back across the runway to my car. The Airstream seemed so empty, even with a nine-month old puppy in residence---if 24 feet of aluminum-sheathed trailer can echo, I swear they did that day. And so, I did what any rational female would do: I sat down on the sofa and had a little cry. After that, I pulled myself together and made a Plan.

Epiphanytide, and a proposal concerning your day job

Once upon a time, many long years ago and in a land far, far away, a group of astrologers observed a stellar anomaly. "Look," said one. "That star. It doesn't usually appear there, does it?" The others nodded and murmured general agreement. What happened next is a matter for speculation only. Maybe the astrologers had a group epiphany about the significance of the star's odd location in the night sky. Maybe they held a council to debate its significance. Maybe they ran a series of tests, or deferred to the judgment of the eldest or wisest man of their cadre. Whatever their procedure, we do have from St. Matthew a surviving scrap of testimony about their conclusion: A boy had been born King of the Jews. The astrologers gathered some suitable gifts and set out westward toward the land of Judea; and, after consulting with King Herod and the priests and legal scholars in Jerusalem, found the Man Born to be King in a house in Bethlehem. That was over two thousand years ago. And to this day, much of the Western Church keeps an annual feast---Epiphany---where we re-tell the story of the first revelation of Jesus the Messiah to the Gentiles, a story foretold by Isaiah the prophet: "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."[1] Among other things, the story is notable for the vocation of its Gentiles: astrology, a vocation mocked for its futility by everyone from that same Isaiah the prophet[2] to the Onion. Indeed those Gentiles would never have got going, but for their vocation. Hold that thought for a moment.

Released: The Molehill Vol. 3

If you are a 2014 Rabbit Room member, your copy of The Molehill Vol. 3 is presently speeding its way toward your mailbox. If you are a 2015 Rabbit Room member, your copy of The Molehill Vol. 3 along with your membership card, membership certification, and 2015 Rabbit Room mug will depart the launch facility tomorrow morning and rocket its way toward your doorstep with terrifying rapidity. If you pre-ordered The Molehill Vol. 3, your copy will likewise achieve launch velocity tomorrow morning. If you are none of the above, heaven help you. You are missing out on one heck of a great collection of poetry, short stories, non-fiction, recipes, and other work by a whole slew of Rabbit Room word-engineers. Consider the following: ---a ghost story by Lanier Ivester ---a folk tale by Walter Wangerin, Jr. ---a piece of creative non-fiction about an art heist by Russ Ramsey ---new poetry by Luci Shaw, Andrew Peterson, Chris Yokel, Jen Rose Yokel, Russ Ramsey, Jonathan Rogers, and Sir Richard Roland ---Recipes by Lewis Graham (illustrated by Jennifer Trafton) ---A work of illustrated short fiction (in five parts) by Jamin Still ---A collaborative piece of cartoon poetry by Jen Rose Yokel and Jonny Jimison ---A never-before-published essay by G. K. Chesterton ---Let me say that last one again---a never-before-published essay by Gilbert Keith Chesterton!---(not even on the interwebs!) And there's even more. It's enough to cram your brain so full of good reading that it's entirely likely your head will explode and we'll have to call the school janitor to sprinkle that weird powder all over the puddle that used to be your head. We're sorry if that happens, but you can't say you weren't warned. Click here to order your copy of The Molehill Vol. 3. We'll aim it your way and hit the bright red candy-like launch button with reckless abandon and frightening alacrity. We swear it.

From Every Tribe and Nation, No Need for Space Colonies

One of my favorite anticipations of any new year is the first book I will read. Often the first book of a new year is a reread from years past, such as Augustine’s Confessions or Frederick Buechner’s Godric or C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy. But 2015 has started well with a new book from the aging (though apparently not much slowing down) historian Mark Noll. His latest book, From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story (Baker Academic, 2014) is typical of Mark Noll when he is asked to speak about himself: it everywhere tells the story of others. The agenda for the book, in the series Turning South: Christian Scholars in an Age of World Christianity edited by Joel Carpenter, is personal memoir. The outcome is an engaging narrative highlighting key elements of Noll’s faith journey and academic career. Yet the main character of the book is Christ’s church universal, which despite foibles and follies manages to survive and even thrive right up to the present day. [Warning: severe Interstellar spoilers ahead]

Live @ North Wind Manor: Jeremy Casella

Tonight's Bible study with Michael Card is filled up, but we've got another treat for you coming up next weekend. We're pleased to announce our latest house show. On January 24th @ 7pm Jeremy Casella (and maybe a special guest or two) will be here at the manor to play songs from last year's brilliant Death in Reverse album (and other stuff too). If you aren't familiar with Jeremy's music, you need to be. He's got one of the best voices in town and a songwriting knack for U2-style anthemic melodies that get stuck in your head in the best way. Death in Reverse is one of my top 3 favorite albums of 2014. Don't miss this show. Tickets are $12 and limited to 30 seats. We ask that everyone bring a snack to share with the group. Drinks are on us. Click here to secure your spot. We'll see you at the door!

That Hideous Weakness

Nate Wilson kicked off our friendship with a bang. When he came to his first Hutchmoot the first thing he did was hand me a first edition of Till We Have Faces, which is possibly (depending on the weather) my favorite  C. S. Lewis book. He didn't know it was my favorite, which made it an even sweeter gift. Last year I headed up to Moscow, Idaho, to teach at a workshop at New St. Andrews and Nate gave me yet another most excellent gift: a first edition of That Hideous Strength, the final book of the Space Trilogy. I had only read the first two (thanks to Kevan Chandler), and couldn't really imagine book three outshining the sweep and wildness of Perelandra. One thing is clear: opinions abound about That Hideous Strength. I know of no other Lewis book that polarizes like this one. I've talked to quite a few people who never finished it, others who finished it but didn't like it, and still others (like Nate) who claim that it's Lewis's finest work. Well, I just finished it. And while the book as a whole may not have blown my mind like Faces, and while it took me longer to read than any other Lewis book, its effect on me was undeniable for a number of reasons. There's a word that's given me a lot of trouble in the last few years. A word that we tout a lot around here. It's a word that's easy to use and hard to embody, a word that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and a word that, thanks to Dr. Steve Guthrie, I'm just now beginning to realize represents a great deal of power. That word is chartreuse. I dare you to say it without shuddering at its import! But seriously: the word is community. I've called the Rabbit Room "an experiment in community," and at Hutchmoot we talk about carrying whatever light we encounter back into our communities. I've lauded the way the community of Christians here in Nashville has shaped my life and work and ministry. The Local Show is (hopefully) a way to plant community seeds. Community, community, community.

Meanwhile: More Process

It's been a few years since my brother-in-law, poet-bard Isaac Gill, approached me about working on the cover art for his first official LP. He was going to Kickstart it into the world (an endeavor he did successfully manage) and he wanted me to illustrate/design the packaging. The first post I shared with the Room had a lot to do with process, and I guess that's where I find myself with this one too. Heck, that's where I find myself on a moment-to-moment basis, in everything. I'm sure we all do. A while back, Isaac was elated to find that Pandora had finally processed (yes, that word again) his album and was about to release his music into the world via the streaming radio thing they do. This prompted me to post some stuff to Facebook in celebration, and that took me back into some of my old sketch work for the record, which was both cathartic and educational for me. "Did I really generate this many test sketches for Isaac?" "How many different kinds of hand-rendered typography did I pitch to him?" "I can't believe I worked out the whole cover in water color before deciding to go with a digitally-rendered composite!" 

Miracle on Demand

Last night I sat down with a C.S. Lewis essay titled “Miracles.” Lewis is my favorite author, but I wasn’t expecting much from this topic. It’s not that I’m not interested in the mystical, it’s just that miracles aren’t very effective. People who don’t want supernatural evidence for God will grit their teeth and explain away a cosmic whamboozie, even if one smacks them upside the head. Miracles aren’t a problem for science, reason, or intellect. They aren’t some kind of cognitive hurdle to overcome. They are revelatory. They reveal what observers have already decided about God, based on old wounds and old battles. That’s why I wasn’t all that eager to engage. The topic didn’t seem very practical. However, Lewis takes an angle I wasn’t expecting. He writes that miracles tend to be condensed versions of divine engagements that happen to us every day. For example, 5000 people are fed from five barley loaves. “That couldn’t have happened!” we shout.

Superheroes, Space Outlaws, and the Church

What do a bunch of space outlaws, a raccoon, a sentient tree, and a handful of human and alien superheroes have to teach us about the church? Quite a bit actually. I had the chance to see Marvel's summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy back in August. With its story of a group of space misfits and outlaws coming together for a greater cause, it reminded me a bit of the TV show Firefly, the brainchild of none other than Marvel director Joss Whedon. Firefly, which attained cult status after its very brief run on Fox in 2002, follows the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew on the ship Serenity. These characters, all brought together from various walks of life and for sometimes questionable motives, are initially at odds. But over time they become a quirky family who learns to work together for a greater purpose, which in Whedon's follow up film Serenity becomes unmasking the corrupt Alliance government. What Whedon excels at is giving each character their own screen time and back story in which we learn about the ways these loners and oddballs have been broken or wounded, and why they really need each other. Whedon, of course, went on to direct Marvel's massive tag-team film The Avengers, in which Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and their associates come together to defeat the threat of Thor's adopted brother, the scheming and narcissistic Loki. Avengers plays out this theme of misfits coming together on a larger scale. For a superhero film, it's fascinating that Whedon spends almost two thirds of the time exploring the dynamics of these slightly dysfunctional, damaged, and extraordinary individuals coming together as a team. As Whedon has said about the film, “Ultimately these people don't belong together and the whole movie is about finding yourself from community. And finding that you not only belong together but you need each other, very much.”

At North Wind Manor: The Life of Christ with Michael Card

FULL! Both January dates are now full. We'll start taking RSVPs for February later this month. We're kicking 2015 off in style. Mike will be at North Wind Manor at 7:00pm on January 13th and 27th for the first two sessions of a series he'll be leading on the life of Jesus. We'll be making his Gospel commentaries available soon in the Rabbit Room store, and they'll serve as fine companions to the discussions he'll be leading. These events are open to everyone, free of charge, but we're limited by space, so if you'd like to attend please RSVP to [email protected] (we'll respond with directions). We also encourage everyone to bring a snack to share. Drinks are on us.