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Call It Good: Thomas McKenzie, Helena Sorensen, Russ Ramsey, & Malcolm Guite

New to the Rabbit Room Podcast Network is Call It Good: Conversations on Creative Confidence. Hosted by Matt Conner (host of The Resistance), Call It Good is a limited series of conversations with authors, artists, and pastors about the invitation before us to join with the Spirit in the act of re-creating the world.

We’re excited to share with you not one or two but FOUR in-depth interviews on creativity, the Creation story, and what it means to bless the work of your hands. Read on for a word from Matt about each of these guests and what they bring to the conversation.

Thomas McKenzie

From the moment I had the idea for this podcast, I knew I needed to sit down with my friend Thomas McKenzie as the cornerstone conversation. Thematically speaking, as a podcast exploring what it means to create in the image of a Creator, it felt very important for me to begin with some theological guard rails in place, so to speak.

After all, if we’re talking about the image of God, inspiration from God, and our interaction with God, then we’ve got to establish some theological norms pretty quickly. What made Thomas the ideal interview subject was easy: I trusted him. Not only was he a longtime friend but he was also my pastor at Church of the Redeemer for the years that my family lived in Nashville, Tennessee.

And while I knew he was beloved by so many, it wasn’t until his recent funeral after a horrific car accident that claimed both his life and the life of his daughter, Charlie, that I learned just how many others had trusted Thomas the same way I had.

Listening back to this interview stirs so many emotions in me. But one of those is certainly gratitude. He was always filled with so much wisdom and love when speaking on matters of the spirit. Thomas was such a beautiful co-creator with the Spirit and was a man who understood Genesis 1 as an invitation to join in the same process of calling forth beauty from chaos.

Even now, it’s a gift to hear his voice and receive his words in this episode. And I’m so glad we were able to carve out the time to make this happen last summer. We certainly hope it’s helpful for you too, as we begin to explore what it means as Christians to call it good.

Helena Sorensen

If you’ve hung around The Rabbit Room over the years, then you’ll likely recognize the name and wonderful work of writer and speaker Helena Sorensen. She’s a frequent contributor to The Rabbit Room site as well as a presenter at Hutchmoot. She’s often featured with our friends at the Story Warren as well. As the author of the Shiloh series as well as The Door on Half-Bald Hill, perhaps her meaningful prose has found a home on your shelves, too.

After charting a theological course with Thomas McKenzie (which you shouldn’t miss in our first episode), I wanted to continue the conversation with Helena because I had been privileged enough to see her creative journey up close. I knew that she’d become a fountain of wisdom about this whole process.

When I first met Helena, she was a disciplined writer who was obedient to her craft and devoted to excellence. But she was also completely in the closet. Over the years, it’s been so heartening to watch the ways in which she’s grown to find an audience, and then to serve that audience with encouragement, coaching, and the authentic sharing of her own story. I’ve watched Helena walk through this very process of partnering with the Spirit to bring something to the world. And I’ve watched her offer it with open hands.

On this episode, I asked Helena about her journey to date and what she thinks about the idea of chasing excellence, finding her worth in what matters, and this whole idea of calling it good in the first place.

Russ Ramsey

Talking to Russ Ramsey made sense from every angle.

As a practitioner, Russ is an excellent author and writer who just released his fifth book, Rembrandt Is In the Wind. As a pastor, he not only shapes sermons each week for his Presbyterian church plant in Cool Springs, which is just south of Nashville, but he also shepherds his congregation toward those same sorts of endeavors that we’re interested in discussing.

Even more than that, Russ has a lifelong passion for art and beauty. And if you follow him on social media you know exactly what I’m talking about. For quite some time, Russ has been publishing Art Wednesdays, as he calls it, a simple infusion of beauty into our social feeds in the form of hourly posts that showcase meaningful works and their context. That’s also the subject of Rembrandt Is In the Wind, by the way.

On this episode of Call It Good, Russ reminds us how some of history’s greatest artists struggled with their own work and how he’s learned to apply the idea of creating in the image of a Creator to his own life, work, and congregation.

Malcolm Guite

We can’t venture very far into our exploration of Genesis 1 without contending with the form in which it’s been given to us. The creation narrative isn’t something to analyze and apply like a textbook. Instead, there’s cadence and meter, there’s rhythm, repetition. It’s a poem after all.

It was clear to me fairly early on that I wanted to discuss the creation narrative—imbued as it is with themes of creating in the image of a Creator, rest and reflection, and participating in the Spirit-led recreation of all things—with someone who could approach it for the poem that it is. And I knew of no one better suited for that task than Malcolm Guite.

To be quite honest, I was very nervous to sit down with Malcolm, although that’s not anything to do with his own posture. Rather, as a man so well versed in poetry and literature, a captivating author and speaker, I knew all my insecurities would rise to the surface. And then the idea of having those permanently imprinted on a podcast episode just made me feel a little ill. However, I also knew he would be the perfect interview subject to carry us further, to help illuminate the action of calling it good.

Talking to Malcolm about Genesis 1 turned out to be like drinking from a firehose. Even in our pre-interview banner before we started recording, he was quoting off the top of his head Shakespeare, Keats, Wendell Berry, and George Herbert.

Malcolm is a poet and priest, author, and chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge. He’s written several books on theology and the arts and several more of his own poetry anthologies. In short, we needed a poet to appreciate the poem. And that’s exactly what you’ll find on this episode with the wonderful Malcolm Guite.

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