A few of my favorite things…

18 05 2012

The Rabbit Room. The Beatles. The Bishop of Durham.

So many of my favorite things, in one place … this is genius…and a whole lot of fun! Click below to see Bishop N. T. Wright sing his own version of “Yesterday” in Nashville, Tennessee.

Review: North! Or Be Eaten!

17 09 2009

image002Andrew Peterson, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, has recently ventured into the world of children’s fiction, through a fantasy series called The Wingfeather Saga.  I just finished reading Book 2 of the series, North! Or Be Eaten!, and discovered, to my joy, that Peterson’s writing is every bit as quirky and profound as his songs.

First, a disclaimer: I jumped into the middle of the series.  Not having read Book 1, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness , I couldn’t quite find my bearings in Peterson’s strange fantasy world and had to read the first page several times before it started making sense.  Who were all these people?  Nia, Janner, Tink, Leeli, Podo, Peet, Artham, Nugget … how were they related?  And what the heck was a toothy cow?

At first, I worried that this was just going to be another “journey story” that would throw together completely unrelated events under the guise of a journey  (From the title, I’m sure you can guess what direction they were headed).  But I wanted desperately for there to be more to this story than a destination.

Throughout the novel, Peterson remains faithful to his musical roots.   When the Igiby children stop and do their homework, they are not learning science or math, but the Three Honored and Great Subjects: Word, Form, and Song.  Janner excels in writing (Word), Tink in drawing (Form), and Leeli in music (Song).  The last subject, in particular (Song) is manipulated by the forces of both good and evil, and this musical dichotomy sets the stage for the final showdown.

Yes, there is a final showdown.  (Warning: spoilers ahead.  I’ll try not to reveal too many details, but I was so blown away with the ending of the book that I have to talk about it).  Throughout the novel, there is talk of building up armies for an epic battle: Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs versus Gammon, the Florid Sword, and the Kimerans.

But when the final fight actually begins, the Igibys find themselves in the midst of two other, unexpected battles: one involving Podo and one involving Tink.  These are battles of the heart, and it is in these encounters that Peterson’s writing becomes incredibly poignant.  As in the beginning, I found myself rereading pages at a time, this time not out of confusion, but in awe.

It is difficult to avoid comparing this novel to its literary predecessors (The Chronicles of Narnia, in particular, comes to mind).  But North! defies comparison; its symbolism is subtle, unique, and somehow magical.  Peterson goes further than simply retelling the Christian message in fantasy-land.  Instead, he is able to represent it artfully (but not exactly) and move his reader to a heightened understanding of the original story.

I love that the book does not end with the happy cliché of the Igibys reaching their final destination (although they are certainly getting close).  The narrative has shifted; although they are in the final leg of the physical trip, it is apparent that their spiritual journey has just begun.

Yes, it is a “journey story,” of sorts.  But, more than that, it’s a story of hope and transformations and art and mercy and good and evil.  And sea dragons.  And toothy cows.

Sneak Peak – North! Or Be Eaten!

15 09 2009

Stay tuned for the full book review on Thursday.  But in the meantime, here is one of my favorite passages from Andrew Peterson’s new fantasty novel North! Or Be Eaten!

What’s magic anyway?  If you asked a kitten, ‘How does a bumblebee fly?,’ the answer would probably be ‘Magic.’  Aerwiar [the setting of the book] is full of wonders, and some call it magic.  This is a gift from the Maker — it isn’t something Leeli created or meant to do, nor did you mean to see these images.  You didn’t seek to bend the ways of the world to your will.  You stumbled on this thing, the way a kitten happens upon a flower where a bumblebee has lit  … The music Leeli makes has great power, but it is clear the Maker put the power there when He knit the world. (ch. 57, pg. 278)

Meditation on Faith

24 07 2009

(I know that this is formatted differently from most posts.  It was inspired by a creative journal entry that I wrote last year, and I tried to convey the imagery of the journal using colors, indentations, and font styles.  Think of it as a work in progress…)

You of little faith!    – Matthew 6:30b

Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
– Matthew 17:20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval…

Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6

By faith we understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which were visible…

I say, faith is a burden.  It’s a weight to bear.  It’s brave and bittersweet.  And hope is hard to hold to.  Lord, I believe!  Only help my unbelief!
– Andrew Peterson, No More Faith

“…God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  – Romans 12:3

“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another [is given] faith by the same Spirit…”  – 1 Cor. 12:48

Preach faith until you have it.  Then, preach faith.

So what, then, is this faith thing? An assurance, a conviction?  A burden?  A gift?

It’s hard to understand the fact that God has given people faith in different amounts, and yet the world testifies to that very fact.  There are people who struggle as they search for a faith that they don’t really feel, and others who can’t help but believe,  as though that faith was programmed into the core of their soul.

Everywhere there are people who claim that even the “best” non-believers are still living in sin because they do not believe.  But Scripture teaches that faith is a gift, just as teaching is a gift, and healing is a gift.  And exercising any one of these gifts without love is nothing: a clanging symbol, a noisy gong.  In other words, useless.

But what happens when you exercise one of these gifts without faith?  Surely no gift is greater than the other; in the body of Christ, there is room (and necessity) for each person to exercise his or her unique gifts, in proportion to God’s allotment.  And so, I can’t help but wonder…is there room (and necessity) for the non-believer to exercise his or her unique gifts?

I am reminded of a conversation that I once overheard between a Christian and a rabbi.  The Christian asked, “Don’t you get tired of having to live up to an unrealistic standard of righteousness in the laws?”

The rabbi answered, “I’d rather ask myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ than have to always worry, ‘Do I believe enough?'”

…Because what happens when you can’t measure up to that standard?  What happens when you find your soul devoid of faith? Is the advice passed on by John Wesley enough: can you preach faith until you have it, and hope that by doing enough, you will train yourself to believe enough?