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 But to give you a better idea of what this 300-page collection of unpublished work is all about, I offer the long answer in the form of my editor’s letter entitled “Say You, Say Molehill.”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.
Eric Peters’ Birds of Relocation CDs are now shipping. Head into the store and pick up one of the best records you’ll hear this year. Here’s a brief glimpse of what people are saying about the album. And don’t miss this great interview at The Sound Opinion (Part I here and Part II here).
“Mature but not morose. Fun but hardly frivolous. Honest yet optimistic Self-assured but no where near self-absorbed. Eric’s newest album is a toe-tapping, sometimes tear-jerking, joy to listen to.” –Thomas McKenzie, pastor
“Eric has written a really beautiful collection of songs here. I’m proud of him. I would say that the theme of this record is a movement from darkness to light–which might also be the theme of Eric’s soul at the moment. We tried to capture that in the recordings. There are definitely some dark moments (fittingly so), but the songs always seem to step into the light. Anyway, I think you’re really going to like Birds of Relocation. I do.” –Ben Shive, producer, singer-songwriter
“Eric Peters is a chronicler of his journey; he’s been a faithful steward of the story God is telling through him, and this newest chapter, Birds of Relocation, is Eric’s testimony that along the way there are moments of deep joy and gratitude–they may seem brief, but they’re bright, and they’re worth singing about. The joy I hear on this record heralds a long and welcome peace.” –Andrew Peterson, author, singer-songwriter
“I have been a huge fan of Eric’s music for a long time. The beautifully personal and revealing songs on this new record not only make me love Eric’s art even more, they make me love Eric more. Birds of Relocation is an open window into the heart of a brilliantly broken man.” –Andy Gullahorn, singer-songwriter, producer
“Birds of Relocation is a soul-awakening, triumphant, honest survey of a year of life and loss. Eric’s tell-it-like-it-is voice combined with these aching melodies come together to pronounce both heartache and hope, bringing these two opposite sides of the same coin into view simultaneously. This musical offering is a needed spark of inspiration in a cultural moment heavy with cynicism. These songs speak. They lift. They comfort. Eric skillfully blends melancholy with sunshine. And the end result is magnetic.” –Sandra McCracken, singer-songwriter
“In painting, chiaroscuro is the effect of depth and luminosity created by sharp contrasts between light and shadow. I kept thinking of this word as I listened to Birds of Relocation. I heard a portrait there–a canvas swathed in bleak tones of past troubles, out of which emerges a brilliant face illumined by thankfulness. A searingly honest songwriter, Eric has earned the right to sing of light and hope because he knows how deep the darkness can be.” –Jennifer Trafton, author
“Eric has been writing great songs for a more than a decade, but his newest album, Birds of Relocation, feels like a much-anticipated arrival. It feels like the culmination of a life-long journey through the highs and lows of the human heart. Each time the last notes of the record fade, I feel like I’ve stepped back from a window, having been, for a short time, a voyeur peering into the epic and ultimately victorious struggle of another soul.” –A. S. “Pete” Peterson, author
“I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Eric Peters–yet another amazing collection of songs, each one it’s own journey. It’s whimsical in ways but in an instant becomes the cry of every man’s heart to be loved with songs like “Soul and Flesh.” I can pretty much bank on the fact that every two years or so another Eric Peters record will wind up among my top choices for the year. But this one might well be his best ever.” –Bebo Norman, singer-songwriter
“Birds of Relocation is an inspiring album for so many reasons. The inspiration that sticks with me between listens is that intangible feeling that comes after listening to a great collection of well-crafted, well-produced songs. Makes me wanna relocate back into my studio and create, think, ponder, and worship the God of ALL creation. The sonic landscape that accompanies Eric’s earnest and honest vocal performance is rich and tasteful. The sounds on this album not only affirm Eric’s creativity, but also Ben Shive’s instinct as a producer.” –David Spencer, producer
“Eric Peters’ music is at the top of what gets played around my house, in my car, and while I’m running. I am a big fan. He writes incredibly honest and poetic lyrics coupled with memorable pop melodies, and I can think of no better combination.” –Jill Phillips, singer-songwriter
“The bright, summery nature of Birds of Relocation gives Eric Peters’ incredible vulnerability a new level upon which to fly. A beautiful, soaring record that deserves to be heard by many.” –Matt Conner, pastor, writer
“This is Eric’s best record, and I’ve been a fan of the earlier records. Birds of Relocation has a brightness to it, not a false naivete, but a fresh-breeze-after-a-storm kind of clarity. He gets bits of truth stuck in my head all day. Can’t ask for more than that.” –Andrew Osenga, singer-songwriter, producer
“Eric Peters doesn’t write songs so much as he opens up a vein and bleeds them. That’s why his songs feel more like a transfusion than anything else. His music is most meaningful, I think, to others who have lost some blood of their own. To them his songs are life-giving and life-saving.
I think we live in a culture that by and large refuses to bleed or otherwise enter into the gift of pain. But the slow death of denial keeps us from finding our hearts and ultimately from truly coming alive. Into this world, then, comes the gift of Eric Peters’ music–a gift that wounds while it heals. Eric’s audience is likely to be that brave but small group of people who aren’t afraid of the sight of blood because they recognize it as the life-giving force that it is.
It falls upon the living to care for the dying. Most of the hymns of our pop culture are broken anthems to self-indulgence and escapism, and they lead to a literal dead end. In a culture that sends Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ to the top of the charts, the humanity of Eric Peters’ ‘Voices’ is especially meaningful.
The more I hear Eric’s music, the more I’m aware of how generous he is, always giving away every bit of hope for the journey as he finds it. When I buy an Eric Peter’s record, I’m not just adding to my music library, I’m participating in his artistry and making space in the world for songs that bleed life, truth, hope, and beauty.” –Jason Gray, singer-songwriter
Birds of Relocation is now available in the Rabbit Room store.
You may have missed our listening party a few weeks ago, but here’s a recap:
Track 1: “The Old Year (of Denial)”
[Note: This has been adapted from the Hutchmoot 2011 session of the same name. Click here for a portion of Travis Prinzi's contribution to that same session.]
What does the shape of a story look like? A lot of people might say it looks like a Bell curve: setup, rising conflict, and resolution. That’s the typical answer, and there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, there’s a lot that’s exactly right about it, and there are a thousand and one books on the subject to prove it. But I don’t think that’s the whole picture. The reason for the question is that we want a way to predict whether a story is going to work. We want a pattern for our creation. We want rules to write by.
So what makes a story work? Every critic’s got a theory, me included—or you wouldn’t be reading this.