...wouldn't you want to? I certainly would. He may have died long before I was born, but his books came to me like letters from a kind and witty and child-hearted godfather. Narnia companioned my childhood. Cair Paravel became a home within my thought that I roamed in imagination. The Pevensies were comrades in my play and challenged me to bravery. Talking stars and valorous mice and dryads peopled my dreams. When my siblings and I rigged up the oak tree in our front yard and called it a ship, it was the Dawn Treader I considered myself to be sailing. And it was Aslan's country I desired to find. Ah, Aslan. Bold and beautiful, never tame. Who can fathom the power of a story in which Christ bounds in, unfettered by the usual assumptions and in a form so wondrous and wild? I loved Aslan. And even as a little girl, I knew it was God I was learning to love through him. When I grew up and began to wrestle with the reality of that God, again Lewis (and the old picture of Aslan) came to my rescue. I have read letters that Lewis wrote to his actual godson, and the kindly, bracing advice, the take-yourself-lightly tone and the urge to throw one's whole self into the loving of God were familiar to me. I had already encountered that eminently insightful voice in Lewis's spiritual and apologetic works. Like the kindly godfather he was, he walked me through doubt, assuaged my frustration; his words pulled me back from the brink of disbelief. And the stories that came from that vivid imagination of his taught me to hope that every longing of my heart would one day find its home. So yes, if Lewis were anywhere on earth, I'd trek my way to him, shake his hand, and say the thanks that's been years in the making. I can't wait to do it in heaven. But I can make a down payment on that thanks right now. And I simply have to tell all of you about this rather momentous opportunity. I know this is a place where C.S. Lewis is greatly loved, so... perhaps you'd like to join me?
I remember what it was like to want a baby. I remember how it felt to walk through the grocery store watching others dispose so recklessly of everything I ached to be. I remember mothers (or so-called mothers) snapping off ugly words to curly-haired toddlers. I remember mothers (or so-called mothers) sighing in exasperation, ignoring bundles of angel on earth, telling them to hush. I remember seeing from a distance the wonder of ten little curved fingers, dimpled knuckles, wrapped sweetly around a shopping cart handle. I remember small voices saying, "Momma, Momma," and wondering what unforgivable thing I had done to become unworthy of that name. It has been sixteen years, but I will never forget Mother's Day empty-armed, trying to smile politely, running to the church bathroom, weeping the long, hard, labor of grief behind a locked door. Because of this, I define motherhood a little differently than most. I define motherhood as the womb of creativity and breasts of recreativity made full. Motherhood is an idea fluttering and kicking, compassion fluttering and kicking, music birthed, books nursed, social healing held upright on wobble knees until it walks, wounds of the heart and body dressed and bandaged. Motherhood is entrance into dark rooms where fright cries out from sleep, and motherhood is chasing away the monsters. Motherhood is the renaming of the rejected, it is the embrace of the lonely, it is a Saturday picnic packed for the hungry, it is the rocking of the forgotten in the lap of an old, sweet song. Motherhood is the soft, feminine hand of love on the cheek of the world's need. For children are born and tended in a million different sorts of ways. The earth cries out, and here you are to answer. You are maternity, and you are beautiful.
[Zach Franzen is frequently seen arguing for a culture of gratitude over at Story Warren. Here he is rallying us all to that cause with the irresistible call of poetry about the smell of ironing. He includes his own old-fashioned illustration to pair with Dorothy Aldis's charming poem. --S.D. Smith] ----- ----- ----- I recently read an article urging Christians to be more countercultural. By countercultural I think the author meant that Christians ought to get arrested more often and sing “in your face” anthems at their parents and/or capitalists. Of course, we know that a protest culture isn’t precisely counter to our culture. It’s as mainstream as a discontented child screaming and grasping in a Toys-R-Us. Still, Christians ought to be more countercultural, and certainly this extends to our artistic and creative offerings. One way to push back at our culture is through the simple elevation of gratitude. Christians see gratitude as essential to happiness, but in our Freud and Marx influenced culture, gratitude is the undignified badge of surrender. Dissatisfaction is seen as the way to rally the masses to overthrow corrupt Western power structures and bring in the Utopia. Gratitude (much like a Norman Rockwell painting) is perceived as an obstacle for vital social change. But it isn’t.
This summer, July 4-7, Dave Trout and Under the Radar (UTR) are hosting their first-ever annual conference/music festival called Escape to the Lake on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. I wanted the Rabbit Room community to know a little more about this Hutchmoot-ish event so I've taken the opportunity to interview Dave about it. I hope our conversation will allow you to get to know him a little better as well. EP: For those who haven't discovered UTR, what is it that you do for living? Dave: In short, K-Love (mainstream Christian radio) isn't for everyone. And Rabbit Room readers already know this, but CCM Top 20 lists are not a really good reflection of the best art being made by Christians. So UTR began about four-and-a-half years ago to discover and share some creative, thoughtful, and truly under-appreciated songwriters who are doing their thing without much support and radio fanfare. We offer a one-hour weekly podcast of "gourmet music"---which also is syndicated on over 225 radio stations every week. But it's really more of an anti-radio program. EP: Music is subjective. Are you trying to get people to buy into your tastes in music?
John Cleese is one of the funniest men on earth. Not only does he have a fantastically silly walk, he's also got great stuff to say about the work of creativity. You should listen to him. The following is an excerpt from a talk he gave in (or around) 1991. Click here to listen to his entire 30-minute talk.
[Clay Clarkson is a treasure too wonderful to bottle up over at Story Warren. Here's more on fostering (and equipping) holy imagination in your home from a very wise man. --S.D. "Sam" Smith] ----- ----- ----- Bear with me. This will make sense in a moment. I got a new car this year. Gently used, actually. I turned in the keys to the family van that had been mine, a well-worn 2002 Honda Odyssey. Sally wisely declared that at 61 it was time for me to have a bit more manly ride. My son Joel found the car at a used lot in our little town. It was a good fit, and a quick decision. A late model, dark grey Subaru Outback with 70,000 miles. My car’s name is Gandalf (the Grey). As I drove my “Subie” to my office this morning, I realized that being in a new car has changed my self-perception and outlook on life. When I am in my new ride, I enjoy the trip, listen to great music (like “Light for the Lost Boy” and “Birds of Relocation”), and find myself imagining new books, songs, ideas, and projects. I think about new things. Maybe it was just the change that changed me, and not the car. But reflecting on its effect reminded me of a principle of cultivating creativity in our children that was a fixture in our toolbox of parenting: New things do things.
The choirboys sang at dawn in Oxfordtown, birdnotes chiming from tower’d nest of stone above the mink-brown Cher. I have never heard them do it but by the heart’s hard listening, that fancy-flight of longing that makes an actuality of the imagined, till the real is more dream than the dream. And while I dreamed an inexorable sea away, they sang, white robes ruffled like fledgling feathers breathed upon by auroral breezes, round mouths wide to drink in all that dew of blushing morn and maiden May. The earth is glad once more— their sweet song rouses it with a shout! And I awake, dispossessed of all that happy dream. My morning broods, welling tears of unshed rain, while the green world waits, shuddering at one long, low sob of thunder. Yet the wild roses breathe out a holy incense, flouncing their frills over western hedges and showering a veil of bridal white from the low-sweeping pines. In the breathless orthodoxy of this newborn day that first, wild, young madness of honeysuckle plies an arrow through my awakened heart. And at evening, we sit beneath a windswept sky, remembering how the sun kindled her honeyed face and how the rain silvered the hoary fretwork of her spires. “To England,” he says, lifting a glass of stars, summer wine enflamed by one glance of that great light.
(Part 2) At Hutchmoot 2012 we invited Greg Greene and Wes driver, the creative team behind Nashville's Blackbird Theater Company, as well as Broadway actor Stephen Trafton, who has appeared in shows such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, to discuss the many ways in which faith and theater interact to provide a deep and meaningful experience. [audio:Episode38-2.mp3]
In the middle of my ballet class last week I was struck with a sudden memory that almost made me topple out of a pirouette. (At least, that’s what I’d prefer to attribute it to, and not to mere laziness over finding my center before attempting said pirouette.) For whatever reason, my brain chose that inopportune moment to summon a recollection that was nearly twenty years old. I was nineteen (I said nearly twenty years, mind you) and I was attending the teachers' intensive put on by Ballet Magnificat in Jackson, Mississippi. (Y’all do know about Ballet Magnificat, right?) For three weeks I had been taking master classes from some of the best teachers in the country and scribbling frantic notes on lectures ranging from anatomy to choreography to grant writing. (Okay, I confess, I kind of checked out during the grant writing session.) Every day I got to attend morning chapel with a roomful of dancers who were head over heels in love with Jesus Christ, and every night I fell into bed wholesomely exhausted from an impossibly rigorous schedule. It was an amazing time that left a permanent mark on me, and I loved every minute of it. Almost. You see, there was one item on the schedule that made me a little uneasy. Creative Worship.
At Hutchmoot 2012 we invited Greg Greene and Wes driver, the creative team behind Nashville's Blackbird Theater Company, as well as Broadway actor Stephen Trafton, who has appeared in shows such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, to discuss the many ways in which faith and theater interact to provide a deep and meaningful experience. [audio:Episode38-1.mp3]