People often ask how they can best support the Rabbit Room, the work we do, the content we create, and the people involved. The first and best answer is to support the authors and musicians we feature and the books we publish. By purchasing those works through the Rabbit Room store, you can be sure that the artist is receiving the lion’s share of the profit, and the rest helps offset the operating expense of the Rabbit Room itself.
Many people, however, have asked how they can contribute in a larger way, and that brings me to Rabbit Room membership.
I’m expecting a truck to pull up any minute and start unloading hardback editions of The Monster in the Hollows for Kickstarter backers. Maps and The Warden and the Wolf King should be here early next week and Pembrick’s Creaturepedia shortly thereafter. I’m not sure where we’re going to put all these books, but we’ll figure something out. Let me see if I can get this Friday recap done before the truck gets here.
Going back to Good Friday, I reposted one of my favorite passages from The Supper of the Lamb. If you haven’t read the book, then you must. My wife likes to say that if G. K. Chesterton and N. T. Wright got together to write a cookbook, this would be the result. And reading it during Holy Week is a traditional worth keeping . . . this passage especially.
Then on Saturday, Jen Rose and Chris Yokel showed up with some Lenten poetry. Chris wrote a trio of poems fittingly called a “Lenten Triology,” and Jen’s, “How it All Ends,” specifically commemorates Holy Saturday. Let the poets know what you think.
On Monday morning, David Bruno decided to put together the two most disparate subjects he could think of. The resulting post puts Wendell Berry and space travel together for the first time and asks you for your opinion. Check out “Garden Tomatoes and Rocket Ships” and join the discussion.
Andy Osenga’s life is changing in a big way. He’s turning in his guitar for a desk—okay, that’s just me being dramatic, but it’s also partly true. He broke the news this week in a piece called “New Beginning.” I know Andy’s really excited about this new direction in his career, and I can’t wait to see where it takes him. Read the full post for the scoop.
Matt Conner checked in with the Monday Music Update (he was late, and it almost became the Tuesday Music Update, which isn’t nearly as alliterative). Read the post for news about Don and Lori Chaffer (Waterdeep), Randall Goodgame (Slugs & Bugs), Andy Osenga (Stage-It show), Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive (covering Rich Mullins), and Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter).
On Wednesday, Barbara Lane delivered a post of, in this editor’s biased opinion, impeccable literary taste and insight. The piece,“Ink Between the Lines,” takes a look at one very real way that Barbara has turned pain into beauty in her life (and in her arm). Luci Shaw and Fin Button make welcome cameo appearances.
I think I heard a truck full of books pulling up outside, so I’ll leave you with a couple of songs that Ben Shive wrote and recorded for his church during Holy Week. Enjoy.
by Ben Shive
“Into Your Hands”
by Ben Shive
[This Good Friday, I commend to you the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of Robert Farrar Capon's most outstanding The Supper of the Lamb.]
In the Law of the Lord,
Leviticus, the eighth chapter, the fourteenth verse: Aaron
and his sons laying hands upon the bullock’s head, blood
poured at the bottom of the altar to make reconciliation;
the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys and their
fat—all burnt by fire for a sweet savor.
wave breast, heave shoulder, rams of consecration, the
pomegranate and the golden bell, sounding upon the
hem of the robe round about; priest and temple, death
and holocaust, always and everywhere.
It is tempting
simply to write it off as barbarism, nonsense, superstition;
to fault it and forget it;
But the fact of blood still stands,
reproving materialist and spiritualist at once; gainsaying
worlds too small and heavens too thin.
This superadded killing,
this sacrifice, these deaths which work no earthly inter-
change, this rich, imprudent waste
The City’s undiminishable size:
Man wills to make of earth,
not one Jerusalem but two; this sacramental blood de-
clares the double mind by which he wills to lift both
lion and lamb beyond the killing to exchanges unaccount-
able and vast.
Man’s priestliness therefore
bespeaks his refusal of despair; proclaims acceptance of
a world which, by its murderous hand, subscribes the
insupportable dilemma of its being—the war of lion and
lamb having no other likely outcome here than two im-
a pride of victors feeding on the slain; but leaving the
lion as he was before, trapped in ancient reciprocities by
which at last all power falls to crows;
And the other,
a hymn to despair no victim will accept; it is not enough,
in this paroxysm of martyrdoms, to stand upon the ship-
wrecks of the slain and praise the weak for weakness; the
lamb’s will, too, was life; he died refusing death.
Not written off, but recognized,
a sign in blood of the vaster end of blood; a redness
turning all things white; an impossibility prefiguring the
last exchange of all.
The old order, of course,
unchanged; the deaths of bulls and goats achieving
nothing; Aaron still ineffectual; creation still bloody;
But haunted now by bells within the veil
where Aaron walks in shadows sprinkling
blood and bids a new Jerusalem descend.
Endless smoke now rising
Lion become priest
And lamb victim
The world awaits
The unimaginable union
By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain
And, Priest and Victim,
As I sit here and wait for a truckload of Thomas McKenzie’s book, The Anglican Way, to be delivered, let me recap the week.
On Monday, Heidi Johnston delivered a post called “The Pursuit of Community,” and it hit close to home for a lot of people, me included.
“Community is part of who we are. In its purest form it is a beautiful reflection of the intimate relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whose image we are made. We have good reason to hope and long for it. The problem is that the practice of community can be a lot less romantic than the theory. The perfect ideal sits in tension with the fact of our brokenness so that life in relationship rarely works out the way we have pictured it.” Read the entire post here.
A couple of years ago at Hutchmoot, we asked for essay submissions. We got a lot of great entries, but Alyssa Ramsey’s stole the show. This week she’s here as a guest contributor with a beautiful post called “Tremble – A Lenten Reflection.” Take a few minutes this Good Friday and check it out.
I saw Noah on opening weekend and really enjoyed it, but I decided to put off a discussion of the film until the ugly firestorm of controversy died down. This week I posted my thoughts about the movie, and some good discussion has followed. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts as well. It’s definitely a thought-provoking film—and that’s a good thing. I’ll also commend to you this short video that was brought to my attention by Aaron Alford; I think it hits the nail on the head.
Yesterday, illustrator Joe Sutphin checked in with a behind-the-scenes look at his work on The Warden and the Wolf King. In the post (“How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner” —2014 recipient of the Longest Post Title Award), Joe discusses the approach he took to developing the appearance of one of the book’s main characters, Janner Igiby.
The Warden and the Wolf King is being printed as we speak, and it, along with all the other Kickstarter rewards, will be delivered to us here in Nashville in the next week or so. We hope to start shipping them out to all of you before the end of the month! We’ll soon be sending out a Kickstarter survey to collect shipping addresses.
This isn’t a movie review, I’ll leave that to Thomas, but I do want to talk about my impressions of the film and hopefully start some (civil) discussion. It’s undoubtedly a film that challenges expectations and a lot of the comments and reactions I’ve seen online tell me that there are some who aren’t sure what to do with those challenges. If you ask me what I do when a movie like Noah unsettles me, here’s my answer: think about it (calmly and rationally), and then talk about it (calmly and rationally).
To begin with, let me tell you I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The script has a few clunky spots and some things work better than others, but overall it’s fascinating and packed with good performances, rich visual storytelling, and complex human characters behaving in often surprising yet understandable ways. Yes, the Nephilim are giant stone “ents.” No, that doesn’t bother me—in fact it really excites me. Yes, the story goes some strange places that aren’t factual. No, that doesn’t bother me either, especially considering that the story remains biblically accurate in its essentials. The film certainly embellishes the tale in imaginative ways, but I consider that a good thing, especially because in doing so it raises some thought-provoking questions. In fact, as I sit here and ponder it, I can think of almost no other “biblical” film that has been this interesting, this thoughtful, or this artful (though that’s more a critique of “biblical” films than it is a praise of Noah).
In order to have a meaningful discussion, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie. If you haven’t, or if you’re on the fence, it’s definitely a movie to see in the theater (don’t wait for the DVD). I’ll also say that you should leave young kids at home; this isn’t your Sunday School Noah’s Ark story.
If you don’t want to know the details, now’s your chance to stop reading. As River Song would say: Spoilers!
First things first: Tomorrow morning at 11am, bring the family to Logos Bookstore in Nashville for the double-feature of Jonathan Rogers’ re-release party for the Wilderking Trilogy and a Slugs & Bugs sing-along with Randall Goodgame. Good times. Good folks. Hope to see some of you there.
Kicking off the week, Matt Conner brought the Monday Music Update. Click here to check out news from Ron Block (and Jeff Taylor and Rebecca Reynolds), Andrew Osenga, Rain for Roots (Ellie Holcomb, Flo Paris, Sandra McCracken, Katy Bowser), Waterdeep, and Ben Shive (and Kelly Rae Burton).
In addition to taking pictures of fine imbibables (pretty sure I made that word up, but it definitely needs to be a word) and doodling, Barbara Lane also teaches English as a second language. This week she wrote a post called “Wordlessly” in which she talks about the ability of words and stories to build bridges between people.
A while back, Doug McKelvey began a series of posts called “Subjects With Objects Unplugged,” in which he shares a behind-the-scenes look at his method of extracting meaning from (or possibly imparting meaning to) Jonathan Richter’s paintings. I LOVE these posts, and this latest one, in which he waxes eloquent on the nature of materialism, is one of my favorites.
Chris Stewart is the last of our new contributors to enter the Room. He’s an illustrator and a graphic designer (you may recognize his work from The Molehill covers or the Hutchmoot 2013 poster), and he debuted this week with a post about procrastination and the importance of trusting in the process of the creative act. But wait! It’s a double-whammy and turns out to be a great post about Easter and New Creation as well. Nicely done, Chris.
And finally, Jason Gray’s new record, Love Will Have the Final Word, was released a few weeks ago, and here he is with a short breakdown of the album, a look at how it came together, and a few other good words about the project.
Have a great weekend. We’ll see you tomorrow at Logos Bookstore.
The biggest news this week was the more or less instant sell-out of Hutchmoot 2014 tickets. Once again, we wish there was room for everyone who wants to come, but it just isn’t so. For those who snatched up a golden ticket, we’ll see you in October. For those who weren’t so lucky, you’re welcome to shoot me an email at email@example.com and I’ll add your name to the waiting list—and neither is that an empty hope; each year we’ve gone all the way through the waiting list trying to fill last minute vacancies. Here’s what else has been going on lately:
Eric Peters recently sat down with Barry Dunlap of the Twelve-Minute Muse to discuss music (including his new EP, Counting My Rings), books (including the Book Mole), painting, metaphor, inspiration, and a whole passel of other things (including LSU football). If you’ve got 12 minutes (or so) to spare, check it out here, or just hit play below.
Allow me to make a confession. I’ve never heard any of Gungor’s music. Chris Yokel has, though, and his post last week about their new film, Let There Be, sounds fascinating. I suppose I’m going to have to get out of the old folks’ home and go listen to some of that new music. We’ll see. Where’s my cane?
The cat-maligning Sam Smith poked his head out of the Story Warren with a few words of wisdom about introverts and . . . Star Trek. Can a bizarre Patrick Stewart meme be far behind? All joking aside, it’s a great post. Sam never ceases to amaze me with his ability to shine light on things and speak with gentle wisdom. If only he’d stop hiding all that good stuff behind his raging cat-hatred.
Ben Shive is working on lots of new projects these days, and one of them is a record from a young artist you probably haven’t heard of, Kelly Burton (check out her Kickstarter campaign here). I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Ben and Kelly working in the next room, and I’m really looking forward to the finished album. Ben wrote a great article this week about the processing of co-writing. If you’re a songwriter, or really an artist of any sort, and you’ve found yourself in the sometimes-awkward position of collaborator, this is definitely worth your time. Good stuff. Check out the link to listen to a rough cut of one of the tracks Ben co-wrote for Kelly’s record.
In cooperation with Rabbit Room Press, Jonathan Rogers has finally put his long out-of-print Wilderking Trilogy back into readers’ hands. The books look great and you can order them in the Rabbit Room store, or anywhere else great books are sold. In commemoration of the release, Andrew Peterson wrote a post this week about his introduction to Jonathan and his work. Read it here.
David Michael Bruno dropped in with a post called “Good Middle,” which happens to be great from beginning to end. He writes about relationships, both between each of us and between us and God, and illustrates the importance of making sure “there’s some good middle happening.” Strangely, the subject of jelly donuts is not addressed. Confused? Don’t be. Read his post.
And last, but definitely most, Andrew Osenga gave birth to a new EP this week. Heart is the first of his four-EP project, Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone. He wrote up a song-by-song analysis of the record for us and you can read it here, along with previews of each track. Good stuff. Thanks, Andy.
Andy Osenga kickstarted a project to record four EPs this year. He called the project Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone, and each EP is to feature a different style of music. Today marks the public release of the first of those EPs, Heart. What style is it? Heart. Okay, that’s not so helpful. How about we say it’s very much in the style of my favorite of his solo records, Photographs. Those of us who kickstarted the project have been listening to the new EP (and loving it) for a couple of weeks. Now let the rest of the masses join in. The EP is now available in the Rabbit Room store. Here’s a sneak preview.
“Out of Town”
by Andrew Osenga
Later this week we’ll have a song by song breakdown of the record straight from the horse’s mouth.
Hutchmoot 2014 will take place on October 9-12th, and tickets will go on sale next week. We’ll have more details in a couple of days, but I wanted to let everyone know in plenty of time. There are 140 tickets available and the price will be $295 per person. I can’t wait for you guys to see what we’ve got planned. It’s going to be a great year.
First of all, I want to point out that Andrew Osenga’s new EP went out to Kickstarter backers this week and I love it. Fantastic job, Andy! The EP, Heart, will be released to the public in the next couple of weeks and will be available here in the Rabbit Room store.
Lanier Ivester’s post on Monday, “Love Begets,” kind of shocked me with how good it was. I suppose I should have learned by now—if Lanier writes it, it’s going to be awesome. Go read it, and don’t be fooled, it’s about much more than her dog. “Fear is a taste of hell because it cuts us off from the ever-offered rest of God’s love. And fear cannot do one damn thing to avert the thing feared. Sorrow, on the other hand, is a kind friend, and when it comes, grace comes, too, and all the tender mercies of God.”
This week in the Monday Music Update: Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter) is taking a break from teaching and heading to the Northeast to mount a spring tour. Almost all of these dates are linked to Rabbit Room folks and it looks like a lot of them are shaping up to be “mini-moots.” Check out his tour schedule here to see if there’s a show in your area.
Also in the update: Jill Phillips began recording this week for her new album due out this fall, and Ron Block and Jeff Taylor are still hard at work recording their new album in collaboration with Rebecca Reynolds. Check out the complete music update here.
Dr. Rogers pulled another priceless anecdote out of his seemingly bottomless well of them. This one’s called “A Tricycle, A Leg Trap.” With a title like that, does it really even need a story? I’m not going to spoil anything, but every time I read one of these things, I thank God that there’s someone out there like Jonathan Rogers to write them down. This stuff is too good not to be true.
Barbara Lane made her Rabbit Room debut yesterday with a story about an encounter with a hitchhiker—which sounds like a set-up for a Jonathan Rogers anecdote but isn’t. The post is titled “Lend Me Your Eyes.” Read it and welcome Barbara to the Rabbit Room. We hope to hear much more from her in the months ahead.
My own project this year is to write a series of short stories, one each month. The process began in February and this week the first one is available. The series is called Tales of an Unremembered Country and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll explain that a little. But for now, I’m proud of this first tale called “The Timely Arrival of Barnabas Bead,” and I hope you enjoy it. It’s available as a PDF in the Rabbit Room store and on Amazon via Kindle (Amazon reviews are much appreciated!).
And finally, Ed Stetzer invited Thomas McKenzie onto his show, The Exchange, to talk about how Christians engage our culture through filmmaking and film-watching. It’s a great discussion that asks some hard questions. Check out the video below. Well done, Thomas.
This tale, “Timely Arrival of Barnabas Bead,” is about a hapless colonel and his long-suffering lieutenant, who are reassigned to a Confederate outpost in the Appalachian Mountains. The road they take to get to their new garrison, however, might just lead them somewhere else entirely. If you’ve read the Fiddler’s books, you may recognize some parts of the world in which this is set. I’ll leave it at that.
The story is available as a PDF in the Rabbit Room store (you can read a sample here), and in the Amazon store via Kindle (Amazon reviews are much appreciated!). This month’s tale includes an illustration by Jonny Jimison, and I hope to involve a variety of illustrators in these stories throughout the year. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll have another for you next month.
A few weeks ago, Jakob Lewis (a friend from church) sent me the first episode of his new podcast, Neighbors, wondering if it might be of interest to the Rabbit Room community. He said it featured a story about Thomas McKenzie, and, knowing that there are no dull stories about Thomas McKenzie, I was intrigued.
I listened to the episode and was immediately impressed. Not with Thomas’s story (though I would be), but with the quality of the podcast. I’ve been a Radiolab fan for years and I could tell right off the bat that Jakob was too. I loved the sound, style, and pace of Neighbors, and any favorable comparison to Radiolab is a positive thing.
But Jakob’s ear for a good story was just as in tune as his technical ability. He let Thomas’s experience with the death of his father play out just like it should, with grace, insight, and a bit of revelation.
When I told Jakob how much I enjoyed the podcast, I learned that he’s just been accepted to a residential radio storytelling program on Cape Cod. The course is led by Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich and This American Life’s Nancy Updike. They only accept nine applicants and Jakob was lucky enough (and talented enough) to be one of them.
The two-month course means that Jakob will have to take leave from his job and be away from his wife for two months, though, and he’s currently in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign to try to raise money to defray his expenses. He’s not asking for much, but if you appreciate the kind of storytelling that Jakob demonstrates in this episode, consider helping him out. I did.
When Jakob completes the residential course he and his wife are hoping to drive across the country and collect stories along the way. Based on his work in this first episode, I can’t wait to hear them.
You can stream the episode below. Check it out for yourself and visit the Neighbors homepage.
Neighbors, Episode 1
“Our Father: Two Fathers Trying to Out-Father One Another”
by Jakob Lewis
First of all, let me apologize to Andy Gullahorn for the awful Beyond the Frame joke you see in the picture above; I stole it from Sally Zaengle so you can blame her. That’s Kathleen Norris being a good sport with the guitar.
We left for Texas on Thursday morning with quite a bit of anxiety. The opportunity to hold a “Hutchmoot” event at Laity Lodge was a dream come true, but none of us knew how well it would work. Would people recognize it as a uniquely Rabbit-Room-ish event? Would the community aspect translate in the same way it has at past Hutchmoots? Would the more spacious program still leave people fulfilled? Would Kathleen Norris feel at home and enjoy her time with us? All these and many other questions were on my mind when I got off the plane. And now, after three and a half days in the beauty of the Texas hill country, after lots of Psalms and poetry, after tables spread with great food including some legendary scalloped potatoes, and after lots of great conversation, I’ll say that the answer to all those questions is a resounding “Yes!”
Thank you to all who came and participated so richly. Thanks to all the speakers and musicians (Andrew Peterson, Jennifer Trafton, Jill Phillips, Eric Peters, Andy Gullahorn, Paul Soupiset), you guys were fantastic; Saturday night’s concert was one of the highlights of the weekend. And I’d especially like to thank Kathleen Norris, who had no real idea what she was getting into, but who came with curiosity and a beautiful, earthy humility. Her humor and wisdom were an absolute delight and it was a privilege to be able to sit at her feet and learn for a few days.
Now that we’re home, I’m anxious again—but not with questions. I went to the desert drained, but now I’ve soaked up the poetry of the weekend and I’m full. I’m anxious to write—and that’s a good thing.
I’m also anxious to get to work finalizing plans for Hutchmoot 2014. The dates are October 9-12. We expect registration to begin sometime in mid-March. We’ll see you in October.
When we threw the first Hutchmoot back in 2010, we didn’t think anyone would come. We definitely didn’t expect that four years later, Hutchmoot itself would be bursting at the seams and we’d be flying to Texas to launch a Hutchmoot Retreat. But here we are, and we’re super excited about this weekend. Laity Lodge has been a big part of the lives of quite a few folks in our community and partnering with them to host this new evolution of Hutchmoot is an honor.
Best-selling author and poet Kathleen Norris (The Cloister Walk, Acedia & Me) has also had an impact on a lot of us and having her anchor the weekend as our featured speaker feels just exactly right. She’ll be guiding us through an exploration of the Psalms, and our other speakers and musicians (Andrew Peterson, Eric Peters, Jill Phillips, Jennifer Trafton, and myself) will be following her lead. It’s going to be a great weekend and we can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned. We think you’re going to love this little corner of the Texas desert as much as we do. We’ll see you at the river.
Ellie Holcomb’s first full-length album hits the streets today. If you aren’t familiar with Ellie, you may remember her as the special guest on this past year’s Behold the Lamb tour. She Kickstarted this record last year and if you were a backer you’ve probably been listening to it for a couple of weeks now. Ben Shive and Brown Bannister co-produced it and I know they can’t wait for the world to hear it. Now’s your chance. Check out Ellie’s website for more information.
Here’s a preview. Trivia: This song was inspired by a scene in North! Or Be Eaten in which Podo Helmer is almost (but not quite) eaten by a dragon. Cool. (Read Ellie’s blog post about it here.)
from As Sure as the Sun
by Ellie Holcomb