For the past few years, Nashville’s Lipscomb University has been hosting a live event called “Tokens.” It’s the brainchild of Lee Camp, Lipscomb’s professor of theology and ethics, and saying exactly what Tokens is is a bit of a challenge, but let me put it like this: It’s an eclectic descendant of The Prairie Home Companion and This American Life—with a little bit of Grand Ole Opry thrown in. It’s an old-fashioned radio show full of great music, satirical comedy, sound effects, and recurring characters, but it’s also an exploration (and celebration) of theology, art, and complex social issues. If you’ve ever been drawn in by an NPR show and found yourself, hours later, wondering where your day went, Tokens is your kind of show.
Each show has a different theme. Each is performed only once and only two or three are produced each year. I was lucky enough to see the “Tales of Reconciliation” show a few months ago (featuring Miroslav Volf, and Fred Gray (Martin Luther King’s lawyer)), and it was the first Tokens performance to be filmed for national public television. The new show, “The Welcome Table,” opens this Sunday evening at the Ryman Auditorium. It too will be filmed for national public television, so hopefully you’ll be able to catch it when it airs if you can’t make the live show here in Nashville. Here’s the official list of players and guests for “The Welcome Table”:
We’ll be joined by special guests Dailey & Vincent, Vince Gill, The McCrary Sisters, JohnnySwim, best selling author Brian McLaren, The Nashville Choir, and our friends Buddy Greene, Brother Preacher, Charlie Strobel, Our Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys, and the Tokens Radio Players. And of course you never can tell who else might wander out on stage…
In addition to the Tokens show, Lee Camp also hosts a podcast called Dispatches from the Buckle. The most recent episode features an extended discussion with, and music by, our own Andrew Peterson. You can listen to that episode here and subscribe to other episodes here via iTunes.
I got the chance to sit in on a rehearsal of Blackbird Theater’s production of Red last night. I knew it came with high recommendations. I knew it won the Tony for best play. I knew it was about art. What I didn’t know was exactly what to expect.
The play is a two-man show about abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. If the name Mark Rothko doesn’t ring a bell, I can pretty well guarantee you that you’ll recognize his work. He paints those big fuzzy rectangles of black and red that hang in the dreaded (to many) modern art galleries. It’s a style of art that tends both to fascinate me and to make me a bit uneasy—uneasy because it’s often difficult to know what to think of it. If you’ve ever had even an inkling of that uneasiness as you’ve strolled through an art gallery, this is a show for you.
Lee Camp, professor of theology and ethics at Lipscomb University, is the creator and host of Tokens, a sort of radio show (Prairie Home Companion-style) existing at the crossroads of comedy, music, story, and theology. I came across this article on the nature of “Christian art” on his blog a while back. It’s worth your time. Here’s an excerpt:
The world does not need more “Christian art” or “Christian movies” or “Christian music” or “Christian television.” That would be like saying the world needs more cheese spread. The world needs instead more people caught up in the liberating vision of life bequeathed to us in our living and active faith, who go out and design and build and compose and play, with their faces toward the Son, letting all and every aspect of life speak and sing and play in the melodies of God’s good Kingdom.
If you ever get a chance to attend one of the Tokens shows, you’ll be glad you did. Read the entire post here.
Whew. The floors have been swept, the trash collected, the lights dimmed, and the doors locked. The Moot has adjourned for the year. I’m finally home and sitting on my couch, and I’m more than a little wonderstruck by it all. I’m so tired, but I’m so, so full of gratitude and satisfaction. Everything went just about as well as one could hope, and more often than not it went one better.
I look forward to sharing the sessions in the form of posts and podcasts so that those who couldn’t attend can get a taste of what went on. But for right now, we’d like to hear from all of you. If you write a blog post of your own about your experience at Hutchmoot 2012, please link it in the comments here. If you aren’t a blogger, we still want to hear from you. So I’ll ask again what Stephen Trafton asked at the end of his Encountering Philippians performance on Sunday: You know you have been changed. How?
Hutchmoot 2012 marked the launch of The Molehill: Volume 1. What’s The Molehill you ask? That’s a very good question. The short answer is that it’s a Rabbit Room journal including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, recipes, and art by people like Walt Wangerin, Jr., Sally Lloyd-Jones, Justin Gerard, and G. K. Chesterton—in addition to each of the Rabbit Room contributors. But to give you a better idea of what this 300-page collection of unpublished work is all about, I offer the long answer in the form of my editor’s letter entitled “Say You, Say Molehill.” I can’t wait for you to see what we’ve cooked up. The Molehill is now available.
“Say You, Say Molehill”
by A. S. Peterson, Editor, The Molehill
Several years ago a good friend, aspiring curmudgeon Jonathan Rogers, stabbed his bony finger my way, stepped onto his well-worn soapbox, and proclaimed: “It’s time the Rabbit Room stopped talking about culture and started creating it!” I’ve forgotten what happened next, but I’ll bet it involved either a waffle or an alligator.
Matthew Perryman Jones is celebrating the one year anniversary of the making of Land of the Living (not to be confused with the also great Eric Peters album of the same name) by giving it away for free for one week only. It’s one of my favorite records of the year. If you don’t have it yet, head over to Noisetrade and pick it up (and leave a tip—musicians deserve to be paid).
After much hand wringing and deliberation, the Hutchmoot 2012 session list is, at last, complete. I’m really excited about our line-up this year which includes good folks like N. D. Wilson, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Andi Ashworth, Steve Taylor, and a few other special guests in addition to our already great cast of speakers.
I get several emails a week in which people plead with me to find a way to record all the sessions and make them available, and while that’s a near impossibility for a number of reasons, we do have plans to get some of them recorded. Which ones? Well, we’ll just have to see how things work out. But we hope to have a meaty chunk of new content for podcasts once Hutchmoot is over—which by the way is only a month away! Wow.
Here’s the final list. The book list is also complete, and all titles are available in the Rabbit Room store.
Adventurous Storytelling: Young Adult author N. D. Wilson and S. D. Smith discuss the powerful draw of adventure in the stories we tell.
The Art of Caring: Author Andi Ashworth and writer Lanier Ivester discuss the importance of creativity in how we care for the people around us.
Recovery Through Song: Musicians Jason Gray, Eric Peters, and Andrew Osenga discuss ways in which music and creativity can be powerful means of spiritual and emotional recovery.
Art in the Kingdom: Pastors Matt Conner, Russ Ramsey, and Thomas McKenzie discuss the unique power and place of the arts within the Church.
Gospel Uses of Comedy: Author Jonathan Rogers and singer-songwriter Andy Gullahorn discuss the use of comedy to communicate the Gospel in unexpected ways.
Tales of the Fall: Musician and author Andrew Peterson and author Travis Prinzi examine the ways in which art continually, and necessarily, retells the story of our fallen world.
The Art of Spiritual Subtext: Author Sarah Clarkson and writer Lanier Ivester discuss the delicate tension of spiritually-informed storytelling and how authors like Elizabeth Goudge and Evelyn Waugh avoid crossing the line into preachiness.
Productive Collaboration: A number of artists who have collaborated together discuss the pitfalls, highlights, and methods of working with one another creatively. Speakers include Don and Lori Chaffer—the husband and wife band better known as Waterdeep, producers Cason Cooley and Ben Shive—the production team behind Andrew Peterson’s Light for the Lost Boy, and Ron Block and Rebecca Reynolds who have worked together long-distance-style to write Ron Block’s newest album.
Playing with Words: Children’s author Jennifer Trafton will lead a writing workshop using some of the fun-filled methods and activities she employs for teaching creative writing to kids. Come prepared to stretch your imagination. No writing experience or aptitude necessary.
The Cinematic Imagination: Filmmaker/musician Steve Taylor (Blue Like Jazz), producer Chris Wall (VeggieTales), and filmmaker/songwriter/author Doug McKelvey (Centricity U) discuss the value of cinema in our culture and the ways in which it informs and shapes the imagination.
The Theology of Theatre: Greg Greene and Wes Driver, the creative team behind Nashville’s Blackbird Theater Company, discuss the history of theatre as an early form of worship, the ways in which the theatre arts are analogous to the Incarnation, and ways in which audiences can best engage the theatre from a Christian perspective.
The Ragamuffin Legacy: Musician/author Andrew Peterson and musician/producer Ben Shive look back on the work of Rich Mullins and discuss the lasting impact of his life and music.
Tales of New Creation: Author A. S. Peterson, author Jennifer Trafton, and pastor Thomas McKenzie discuss the importance of art and story within a fallen world and how our daily acts of creation are signposts pointing toward the world to come.
Art in the Family: Author Sally Lloyd-Jones, writer S. D. Smith, author Sarah Clarkson, and musician Randall Goodgame discuss the importance of engaging the arts within the context of everyday family life.
Illustrating Wonder: VeggieTales producer Chris Wall will lead illustrator Justin Gerard in a discussion and demonstration of the methods he has used to create his many awe-inspiring works.
In 2002, Andi Ashworth, the co-founder of Art House America (along with her husband, music producer Charlie Peacock) published, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring. The book is Andi’s care-filled challenge to find creative ways of bringing beauty into the lives of those around us, and it’s become a book beloved by readers everywhere. Sadly, Real Love for Real Life went out of print and copies became scarce. When Andi approached us to discuss the possibility of putting it back into print as a second edition, we were more than happy to help.
Rabbit Room Press is now proud to announce the June 26th release of the second edition of Andi Ashworth’s acclaimed Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring, featuring a new preface to the second edition written by the author. If you, like many, have been anxious to read it but haven’t been able to find it available, fret no longer. It’s now on sale in the Rabbit Room store. Books ship on the 26th of June.
For better or worse, I’ve been a fan of Stephen King’s work since I was a teenager. I’ve always said there’s more depth in his books than most people give him credit for (as is easily evidenced in stories like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), but his books certainly aren’t for everyone.
Last week, CNN published a story called “The Gospel of Stephen King,” which is far from comprehensive, but is interesting nonetheless if you’ve ever wondered about the Christian themes in King’s work. Here’s an excerpt:
Zahl, the Episcopal priest, says so many heroes in King’s books are broken people: physically frail, alcoholic, disabled and lonely. Even the evil people are rendered with compassion.
“King understands grace at a deep level,” says Zahl, author of “Grace in Practice.” “He typically concentrates on the marginalized and the outsiders who ultimately carry the day. God often does his work where people are the most messed up.”
Follow your gifting, hone your skills, and no matter what your gift, pursue it with excellence and integrity. Anyone can be an artisan–even David Rees. This video will give you all the proof you’ll ever need. Watch and be amazed (do not fail to check out the website).
I came across this last week and was immediately sucked in by Sir Ken’s fancy Michael Caine accent and his hilarious sense of humor. He also happens to have some great stuff to say about creativity.
We’re happy to be able to announce that our Friday evening event at Hutchmoot 2012 will be the official release show for Andrew Peterson’s forthcoming album, Light for the Lost Boy (releases August 28th). The concert will be a full band show featuring Andy Gullahorn, Ben Shive, and the guys from Caleb (who you just met yesterday). You are in for one heck of a good show.
If you’ve registered for Hutchmoot, your admission and reserve seating are included in your registration. If you didn’t get into Hutchmoot this year, never fear, this event is open to the public! Tickets are now available in the Rabbit Room store. Get them while they last. We’ll see you in September.
Here’s the first single off of the new record. Enjoy!
by Andrew Peterson
from Light for the Lost Boy
Sometimes when I sit back and look over the records that have been put out by this community, I’m utterly and completely amazed by the talent and craftsmanship I’m surrounded by. In the last couple of months we’ve had incredible works by Eric Peters and Andrew Osenga and just wait until you get to hear The Proprietor’s forthcoming Light for the Lost Boy. But perhaps the album I’m most often in awe of is Ben Shive’s The Cymbal Crashing Clouds. I can think of no reason why this record ought not be numbered among all time favorites in ten years, twenty, and beyond. This song is one of the reasons why.
A Last Time For Everything
by Ben Shive
Song of the Day special: The first twenty people to use the following coupon code get $5.00 off their order of The Cymbal Crashing Clouds. Coupon code: TheLastTime
I want to say thanks to all the folks who came out and helped us welcome Bishop Wright to Nashville. As the Square Pegs sang their songs last night, I couldn’t help but get a little misty-eyed. It was as if each of the songs was an offering, a gift given to a guest in welcome; a gift given to one who’s given to many. I was proud of my friends, proud of my community, proud of my church. And after Bishop Wright gave us his address, I was inspired to awe when he responded to the gifts of the community with songs of his own. He sang three songs: “Friday Morning” by Sydney Carter; a rewrite of the Beatles “Yesterday” titled “Genesis” that he co-wrote with Francis Collins (leader of the Human Genome Project); and a rousing, passionate, show-stopping rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In.”
The evening’s joyful exchange of music and humor and knowledge was nothing less, in the end, than the Kingdom come, the Kingdom made plainly visible in the present. It was present in the brother next to me, in the sister laughing across the room, in the theologian imagining the universe into order, in the musician creating aural spaces for the Spirit to move, in the brownies and chips offered on the table, in all of it the the presence of a King and a Kingdom was apparent and palpable. It was a blessing, in the most real and literal sense. I’m grateful to have been a part of it, and I’ll venture to guess that Bishop Wright is grateful for it as well. In fact, he told Thomas on the way back to the hotel that he had had “the most fun in a long time.”
And really, what could be better than that?
My dad gave me the gift of woodcraft when I was a child. I grew up watching him, and later helping him, make furniture in the garage, and a lot of what he made is still in good use. I expect I’ll inherit some of it one day, and it’ll go on being of good use in my own home. The craft he gave me has served me well for my entire life. I built a violin when I was writing The Fiddler’s Gun, and though it’s far from a masterpiece, I’m still proud of it. Every time someone picks it up and plays it, I get a little tear in the corner of my eye. I built two cedar canoes a few years ago and that experience was something very akin to a love affair. It’s hard to spend months caressing the curve of a handmade boat without coming to feel a strange affection for it–an affection that’s doubled when it’s set afloat for the first time. I read a quote once that went something like this: “Happiness is crossing a still water in a vessel of your own making, and landing upon an undiscovered isle.” If you’ve ever built something and seen it put to good use, you’ll understand how true that statement is.
A few days ago, Dave Bruno shared the following short film from the Christianity Today website. It’s about a furniture maker named Harrison Higgins, and I wonder if he might tell us that “Happiness is sitting down in a chair of your own making to eat a well-prepared dinner.” The act of creation, the craftsman says, can be either a sacrament or a sacrilege, depending on how we approach our work. The film is only about 5 minutes long, but it’s something like a love letter to the art of woodcraft–a subject near and dear to me.
Watch it here: Furniture Fit for the Kingdom. And then read this excellent article about it: Artificial Grace: Why the Creation Needs Human Creativity. Special thanks to Dave Bruno for bringing this to our attention on the Facebook Hutchmoot page.