I go to the movies for a lot of reasons. I love adventure (John Carter, The Hobbit, The Avengers). I love watching another person’s imagination work its way out in light and color (Life of Pi). I love the way that movies use sprawling images and wild tales to wrestle with intimate, personal questions (Tree of Life), and eternal mysteries—even if they don’t necessarily succeed (Prometheus). But if I had to narrow my love of movies (or stories in general) down to a single defining factor, I think I could make a good case for “moral complexity worked out to an honest end.”
What the heck does that mean, Pete?
We hope you all have a great Christmas.Thank you to everyone that signed up to be a part of the 2012 Rabbit Room gift exchange. Once you’re done tearing open presents, laughing with family, and eating way too much pecan pie, we’d love for you to drop by here and say thanks to your Rabbit Room Santa. Some stayed anonymous, some spilt the beans, no matter. Feel free to share as much or as little as you like. I’ve already seen some of the pictures on Facebook and I hope we’ll see a few more (note that you can post images in the comments with basic tags—if you know how to do that). I hope everyone had fun. Merry Christmas.
Today was a hard day. Ben Shive’s “A Last Time for Everything,” kept running through my head as I watched the news updates from Connecticut. In Ben’s book, The Cymbal Crashing Clouds, he tells the story behind the song and I think it’s especially appropriate today. I’ve excerpted it below in images to maintain the unique formatting of the book.
“A Last Time for Everything”
by Ben Shive
If you were at Hutchmoot you may have noticed an odd gray book hiding on the merch table. It was a strange little thing filled with bizarre portraits and sometimes funny, sometimes poetic, sometimes inscrutable captions. It’s a book that’s almost impossible to pick up and not be drawn in by. I’ve got one lying here on my desk. It’s been here for a couple of months now and almost every day I pick it up and thumb through it utterly mesmerized (even though I’ve read it in its entirety at least a dozen times).
The sign up window is now closed. Thanks to all the folks who chose to participate! If you sent us your name and address prior to 10:30am (cst) today, then you’re in. We’ll get emails sent back out to everyone with the name and address of the person to buy for in the next few days.
One of my favorite things about the Rabbit Room is the sense of community that’s grown up among the readership. If you stop and think about it, it’s genuinely amazing just how many of the people who read and comment here know one another. And not just on the internet. Thanks to Hutchmoot, hundreds of you have met in real life and formed face-to-face relationships. That’s something that I think very few “blogs” can boast of.
So this Christmas season I’m hoping to start something that will become a Rabbit Room tradition. We want to invite you to exchange gifts. Think of it as our version of a “Secret Santa” program (just like the ladies at church have every year).
This how it’ll work:
1. If you choose to participate, email your name and shipping address to firstname.lastname@example.org (put “Community Christmas 2012″ in the subject line). Please do not post any personal information here on the website; we want this to remain secure for everyone involved. By electing to participate you agree to allow us to send your name and shipping address to one randomly selected person (use a P.O. Box or business address if you don’t want to give out your home address). Note: Due to shipping costs, we have to confine this to U.S. addresses only.
2. We’ll randomly select names and email your name and shipping address to one other person who has elected to participate. This person (“Secret Santa”) will buy you a gift and ship it directly to you.
3. Everyone who participates will receive a randomly selected name and address. Buy a gift for the person whose name you are assigned and send it to them. Keep your own identity secret (if you wish). If you elect to participate, you agree to spend at least $20 on the gift you buy (shipping included). You’re welcome to spend more, of course, or to buy multiple gifts (if you wish).
And that’s it. This isn’t a ploy to get people to shop in the Rabbit Room store. You’re free to buy your gift wherever you like (or even make one—so long as you’d value it at about $20). But remember, this is about giving, not getting. We hope everyone who participates will do so in good faith and no one will be left out. But we’re on the honor system. If your “Secret Santa” drops the ball, don’t take it personally. We’re counting on each of you to make it work and make it fun. Surprise someone. Send something completely unexpected. Make someone’s day. Make someone smile. Be generous. Have a merry Christmas.
If anyone has any questions, post them in the comments and I’ll address them as quickly as possible.
We’ll take sign-ups until December 5th, and then we’ll assign names and let the fun begin.
Trevin Wax (is it just me or does that sound like a Jedi name), with The Gospel Coalition, recently put up a great interview with Jonathan Rogers in which they discuss O’Connor’s work and Jonathan’s new book, The Terrible Speed of Mercy. Great reading. Here’s an exerpt:
Though O’Connor was writing from a distinctly Christian worldview, religious readers didn’t seem to understand her any better than the literary elite, and they liked her less. She was misunderstood because she was writing into a culture that expected Christian truth to be nice and safe and tidy, and she refused to accommodate those expectations. The Jesus of O’Connor’s fiction is a “wild ragged figure,” not the sort of fellow you would invite to Sunday dinner unless you were ready to get your table tipped over.
I’m reluctant to use the term “prophetic” to describe O’Connor’s work, but I will say that her fiction is uncomfortable and offensive in some of the ways that the Old Testament prophets’ words were uncomfortable and offensive to their original audience. For that matter, Jesus’s parables are calculated to offend and are easily misunderstood.
Of all the books I’ve read this year, there’s a single standout that has found a comfortable home among all time favorites like Godric, Jayber Crow, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Lord of the Rings. It was written by an Anglican priest named Robert Farrar Capon, it’s called The Supper of the Lamb, and it is, of all things, a cookbook—or a “culinary reflection” as the subtitle would have it.
Some of you may recall that Evie read a passage from it before Saturday’s dinner at Hutchmoot 2012, and one day either Jonathan Rogers or I will give a full account of its greatness. Today is not that day and this is not that post. But I’d consider it unforgivable to let Thanksgiving week and its many feasts go by without a mention here of so fitting a book. If there was ever such a thing as a “Thanksgiving book” then surely this is it. Equal parts cookbook, comedy, theology, liturgy, and poetry, it’s a book that somehow encompasses almost every aspect of life, and the life to come, and does it all within the context of food.
I’m going to shut up now and quote a piece of it so you can see what I mean (it bears mentioning that this passage follows immediately upon an argument for the joys of belching and a citation to be read over the magnificence of baking soda).
Travel safely this week. Give thanks. Enjoy the feast.
“For all its greatness (trust me—I am the last man on earth to sell it short), the created order cries out for futher greatness still. The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion. All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love esacpes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, a higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.
You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself—and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetittes, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”
And, finally, a benediction from Chapter 15:
“I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men.
We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot … Come then; leap upon these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts—for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem.
Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthoood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed.”
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.