Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Peterson’

The Import of Story

I recently told you about a great a superlative book I read recently called The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson (pick up a copy here) (It’s the third in the Wingfeather Saga).  I thought I would let you know about how it helped me in a sermon and in a hospital visit.  As I was preaching on Sunday it came to me – a quote from the book.  I held up my finger (indicating that everyone should wait a moment) walked over to the piano and picked up a pen and wrote a note to myself in my notes…where I could use this quote.  I was preaching on the story of Joseph.  Actually, I’m trying to preach a spring/summer series on the larger story we’re a part of.  We started with Adam and Eve, hit Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and this week was Joseph.  Kind of hard to do.

You have to tell a long story and then land on one particular scripture passage in the middle or at the end and draw out of it what God has to say.  Anyway, it was Joseph this week.  I told his long up and down story: Up – Dad’s favorite, Down – Brothers sell him into slavery, Up – become slave-owner’s favorite, Down – thrown in jail for not sleeping with someone, Up – become head prisoner/warden, Down – have to tell someone that their dream means they’re going to die soon, Up – Become lord of all Egypt.

After telling the story we read the part where he was reunited with his brothers and says, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:8).  And in the middle of the story I remember this line from The Monster in the Hollows, “Evil digs a pit, and the Maker makes a well. That is His way.” ~Artham Wingfeather.  Dang! I wish I could write like that.  It fit well into the sermon, but then, on a hospital call it worked well, too.

The 6th floor of the hospital has a wing for mental health.  I was on the 6th floor of the hospital on the last day of May visiting a friend.  She asked me why all this was happening to her, and why God would put all this hardship in her life.  What possible good could come out of it all?  As is the case in many situations like that, I don’t have a good answer.  Not sure there is a good answer – at least not a good one that can come from people.  God’s got a lot of explaining to do in my opinion. 

With Joseph and Artham fresh on my mind we talked about the Bible story – one she had never heard.  Sometimes story is the only thing to tell in the middle of hardship.  Sometimes explaining things away only makes everything worse.  Take Job’s friends for instance: they did everything right until they opened their mouth.  So it was story for us on the 6th floor, and I let Joseph’s tale just hang there.

Thank God for story.  And thank God for storytellers.  And thank God for the larger story we get to participate in.


The Monster in the Hollows

May 26, 2011 5 comments

348 pages of captivating

I hereby review the best book of the year for anyone who likes the Neat, the Strange, and/or the Yummy.  Andrew Peterson has written the third in his Wingfeather Saga, The Monster in the Hollows, and I have no problem declaring it terrific.  It lands in the “sweet spot” of books for me.

It can be difficult to find novels that intentionally place themselves within the larger story God is telling, especially difficult to find ones that are great – or even good for that matter.  Too often a Christian writes a book for other Christians and spoon feeds them empty calories, but not Peterson.  He writes this story for young adults and old adults whether they are followers of Christ or just thoughtful humans. 

Do I have to read the first two in order to understand and appreciate the third one? You may ask.  To that I would say, kind of.  Peterson does a good job of gently reprising when necessary, but, like all good and longish stories it takes more than one book to get it across well.  So I would encourage you to read all three if possible.  If not possible, you could go it alone.

I’ve loved his music for over a decade so when his first novel came out I was uber excited to read it because I expected to find the quick pay-off I enjoy in his music.  When it was slow in coming with the first in the Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, I was a little disappointed – mainly because I like instant gratification.  Then, the second in the Saga came out, North! or Be Eaten, which won a Christy Award in 2010, and I found the pay-off I’d been looking for.

As The Monster in the Hollows came out I knew what might be coming.  Turns out I did and I didn’t.  I was right about the story going even deeper and more meaningful than the first two.  I was wrong about what the “monster” in the hollows was.  The tale Peterson is weaving is on its way to greatness.

All the aspects of our reconciled story in Christ is found within the pages (or promises to be by the end of the Saga).  Community, Trinitarian themes, forgiveness, redemption, and a beautiful story of strength despite the threat of a coffin are all found within. 

Warning: Cliche on its way.  “If you read one book this summer, make it The Monster in the Hollows.”  If you read two other books this summer before you read The Monster in the Hollows, make them On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (book 1), and North! or Be Eaten (book 2).  You can pick up a copy at the Rabbit Room store.

Hutchmoot Frustration

April 7, 2011 4 comments

Last year I really wanted to go to Hutchmoot.  It’s a gathering of artists (musicians, writers, visual artists, etc.) who are also thoughtful Christians.  They are the type of artists I dig on and who encourage me in my little corner of the world.  But, Hutchmoot sold out before I could get in.  I was determined to get in this year (they only take 100 people).  I found out that it sold out in under 6 HOURS!!!

So…I’m a bit frustrated because I was really looking forward to using Hutchmoot 2011 as my professional development.  I’ve been saving my prof. dev’t money in preparation, but now I’m at a loss.

See, there are tons of opportunities for pastors to gather and grow and learn and professionally develop, but…  Well…  I’m kind of picky and want to use my time not necessarily to take a class or listen to 20 steps to making your church become a megachurch or how to start a small group this or how to successfully do this or that.  I’d rather do something that fills my soul, empowers me and propells me in a similar-yet-nuanced trajectory.

So…if you’re interested in helping me out.  I’m up for suggestions.  Please don’t send me any ideas that start with “3,000 people will gather” or “Vendors will be present between sessions at…” or “Famous person so-and-so will share their helpful tips”.  If you do I will send you this reply: “Thanks so much for your suggestion of how I can spend my professional development time.  I will most likely attend said opportunity directly after I finish sticking bamboo shoots under my fingernails.”

Sorry for that…it’s a mixture of frustration about Hutchmoot and a cynicism around those types of big gatherings.  If you’re offended by me slamming your kind of gig, I’m sorry.  I can see the validity and importance of those things.  They’re just not for me right now.  Are we good?  Thanks.

But, if you have a good idea or you’ve done something that filled you up in a healthy way, let me know and I’d love to check it out to see if it’s for me, too.  Really…don’t be afraid to send me ideas.  I won’t be mean.

Day in the Life (8/1/10)

Tomorrow’s Plan:

7:15am: Brush teeth, get dressed, eat a bowl of Cheerios and blueberries, pack up my computer, make sure I have my sermon, kiss my kids goodbye.

8:00 – 9:45: go to church building, unlock the gate to the back parking lot, set up sound system, plug in the coffee maker, prepare for communion, sing harmony while Lee gets the songs in order, fine tune the powerpoint slides, run through sermon, turn on the air conditioning in the building, unlock all the doors, put the offering plate on the front row of chairs.

9:45: prayer with Lee and whoever else wants to join us.

10:07: promplty begin our worship service

11:09: give a benediction and invite everyone to mangle the chairs I set up so that we can turn our worship space into a potluck zone

11:15am-12:30pm: eat potluck food.

12:30-1:00: shut down the church building, usher my children into one of the cars.

1:00: go home and prepare to leave again.

1:38: get into the van alone and go fill it up with gas, and buy some M&M’s for the road.

1:50: launch out alone for a drive to Lee, Illinois.

6:00: arrive in Lee, Illinois and meet the people who own the house where a concert will be happening.

6:30: sit down and listen to the musical stylings of Andy Gullahorn who travelled from Nashville, TN to do a radio gig with Andrew Peterson on Monday, but came a day early to do a house concert for a small group of people who love good music and great storytelling.

I consider this time professional development because Andy Gullahorn knows how to tell a story.  He does a lot of things in his songs that I want to be able to do in my sermons.  It’s a two hour preaching workshop disguised as a concert.  And…since I haven’t gone to any big conventions for pastors to develop professionally – I have it in the budget to drive to Chicago area and pay the $18 for a ticket to pure bliss.

9:00: say goodbye to my new friends and hop back in the van for the drive home.

9:15: stop for more gas and M&M’s and find the local NPR station on my radio (and hope it’s not the kind of NPR station that only plays classical music, because that will totally put me to sleep).

1:00am: push the garage door opener and park the car, stagger upstairs, brush my teeth, flop into bed a happy man.

If you are interested in joining me for almost any of this (you are not welcome to brush my teeth) get a ticket at this website.

Music Review and Rave!

I don’t listen to a lot of music.  I tend to listen to NPR.  When I do listen to music it is one of the following situations: 1) I want to hear what a particular artist wants to say, and how they will speak into my life, and influence the way I understand God’s work in the world.  2) I’m somewhere where there is music playing and I have no say over what’s being played and how loudly. 3) My kids are sick of NPR in the car and ask me to play some music. 4) I’m traveling and can’t get NPR on a local station so I listen to whatever oldies station I can find.

I want to talk about situation #1 today, and in particular about one of my favorite artists: Andrew Peterson, and his latest album (came out July 27): Counting Stars.  I have owned it for 24 hours now and have listened to it 3 times, watched a rare music video of one of the songs twice and heard three of them in concert before the release date.  So, I feel more qualified than you to review it. 

Here goes: It’s freakin’ sweet!  You have to get this music.  If you like thoughtful music that is well done and can be considered poetry if you just read the lyrics, then this music is for you.  If you don’t…don’t talk to me, I don’t like you…you stand for all the things that I dislike.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  No…I really am kidding.  Mostly.

Counting Stars is aptly named for the way it reminds you of God’s promises through family.  You are often brought back to thoughts of God’s promise to Abraham of the children he would sire and the faithfulness that God would have toward his offspring.  The whole album seems to wander deeper and deeper down the path to those intimate and beautiful places where we hold our families: children, spouses, ancestors, and future family tree branches.

The thread of faith weaves throughout the album in a way that creates within you a desire to step closer into God’s presence so that you and all those whom you influence in faith will be drawn into a deeper relationship and tighter bond with the Almighty.

Also, Andrew Peterson, or “AP” as he’s known at our house, has an uncanny ability to look at the mundane and ordinary situations and pictures of life and find in them a deeper meaning that expands something small into a universe of meaning.  Take these few lines about his children sleeping:

Tonight I saw the children in their rooms,
Little flowers all in bloom—
Burning suns and silver moon.

And somehow in those starry skies
The image of the maker lies
Right here beneath my roof tonight.

Go buy this album and listen to it 206 times.  I’m a fan…can you tell?

An Encounter with a Saint

I cut and pasted this blog entry directly from The Rabbit Room (a blog I follow regularly which is written by thoughtful artists who are Christians – you can find the link to the right).  I hope it brings you courage – it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a while.

An Encounter with a Saint

POSTED BY Andrew Peterson

A little boy approached me after a recent concert with something clearly on his mind. He had waited till the crowd dispersed, and his parents sat in the pews at the back of the auditorium, wanting to give him his space but unable to avert their eyes. He wrung his hands and shifted his weight from sneaker to sneaker. He wanted to ask me a question, he said. I said that was fine, and uncapped my Sharpie marker for the autograph I thought I was about to sign.

Then he surprised me. He didn’t want an autograph, and he didn’t want to ask about songwriting. (I’m embarrassed at my presumptuousness.) He asked me, “How can I be sure I’m saved?” I blinked. I glanced across the room at his parents, then back at him, and saw that he was dead serious. I bought myself some time by answering his question with a question. I sat on the stage steps and asked him why he was asking.

He told me he had been reading Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats, and also in Revelation about the final judgment. He was troubled by the parable of the sower, and said he was afraid he might be one of the seeds that fell by the wayside and was gobbled up by the birds. He told me he had doubts about his faith; he was troubled in spirit. By the time he was finished, his voice was shaky and he was on the verge of tears. What a burden for such young shoulders!

I was overcome with admiration, and I told him so. That he was wrestling with these things was no indicator of a lack of faith, but an abundance of it. If he was wondering about things like salvation and judgment and the nature of Jesus’ love, he was farther along on his journey than I was at his age. Anne Lamott said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” Faith is obedience in the face of doubt, which is to say, faith requires doubt in order to survive. Faith is a courageous act of defiance, not always a happy-go-lucky frolic.

So the problem wasn’t his doubt; the problem was his fear. “There is no fear in love,“ says 1 John 4:18. So ask your questions, lie awake wondering, wrestle with angels, even shake your fist at the heavens, but don’t be afraid. Perfect love drives out fear, and Jesus’ love is perfect. It is strong enough for our doubt, our sin, and even our secret fear.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about my encounter with this young saint was that after he left and I packed up my guitar, I felt a glow in my chest. My own faith was brighter, stronger, more vivid to me because of his trembling confession. The boy revealed his darkness to me, and God turned it to light.

May I remember that next time I’m tempted to carry my burden alone.

To The Foundations

(Today’s blog entry is by a guest blogger: my brother-in-law, Dan Smith of Marshall, MN.  They just bought a house and are beginning to blend a new household.  I’ll be officiating at his wedding to Denise in August.  Dan’s a high school English teacher, baseball enthusiast, and all around theatre nerd.  Enjoy.)

We had a really great weekend with the kids working on the house.  We ripped out all the carpet, and as we expected,Getting to the bottom of things found some odd surprises along the way.  In the kitchen, there were 2 layers of carpet on top of 2 layers of old linoleum that were glued to the old hardwood.  The hardwood itself only covered 1/2 of the kitchen and was ruined from the glue, so we ripped that out too.  Then we took out a little shoulder-height wall that divided the kitchen and dining spaces–it opened up the kitchen WONDERFULLY and created a great space for a dish-washer.  Then we got back to the floor.  We ripped everything out so that we’re back to the original base layer of wood.  Then we reinforced the boards with new decking screws to take away all of the squeaks and today we’ll put in new sub-floor and then new vinyl. 

 A floor upgrade was at first a difficult decision to make.  There is very little glamour in a floor.  Instead, we wanted to get rid of the old yellow countertop, golden fridge and stove, and the kitchen sink that looks worn-out.   We had enough money to make one big repair and really wanted to do the countertop and sink.  However, we decided that the yellow counter replacement was 90% aesthetic, while the floor is foundational work. New appliances and countertop would look pretty and maybe even impressive to early visitors, but the basic floor problem would only have been covered, rather than fixed. 

 So we went to work…and we needed all of the hands we could get.  Besides being a gifted carpenter, Denise’s dad is an amazing grandfather who got the kids ultra-involved in the project.  Ariel was a little bummed that she didn’t get to hang out with friends as much as she’d like, but Dale kept saying to her (not negatively)-“this is a family project and you’re part of the family, so here’s your hammer, my darling little blondie!”

 Then last night a really cool thing happened.  Ariel had gone to a friend’s house after we ate supper at Dale and Flo’s.  She had been there for an hour when I told her that we were going home.  She begged for more time there, but I made her come home with us.  She was (of course) pissed and hung her head low in a classic teen-ager belly-aching pout.  She slammed stuff around as she put away clothes that I had folded and then slammed the door of the computer room to emphasize the fact that she was going to spend some time on facebook…away from us.  Denise and I showered (individually) and then went to bed around 10:00, both tired and sore. 

 A few minutes later, our door creaks open and Ariel walks into the bedroom and sits on the end of our bed and we start talking.  Then Danny gets done watching “The Sandlot” and he shows up on the end of the bed and joins the conversation.  Then Danny invites Beatrice (the dog) up onto the bed and there the 5 of us sit, talking, laughing, telling stories, etc, until 11:00 when I finally say that I need to get to sleep since I have to work in the morning.  But then Danny reminded me that he had wanted to read the story about Samson, because he’s been watching the Veggie Tales episode based on the Samson story.  I started with my Bible, but Danny was a little confused, so I grabbed a copy of “The Message’ and we read the whole story out of Judges.  It was funny because Danny kept interjecting details from the Veggie Tales version–he seemed delighted and even a bit surprised that they lined up!  Then he started asking theological questions.  He says to me…”so, the stories in the Bible, like the one about Passover in the Andrew Peterson song, and the story about Samson…how do we know that they happened?”  That lead to a little conversation (way over his head) about faith and the importance of thinking about what the stories show us about God and our relationship with him instead of worrying about whether they happened exactly like they’re told.  Both kids kept asking really interesting and insightful questions…some of which were designed to postpone bedtime…but others were their minds working to make sense of some of this stuff.  In the end, I told Danny that the most important thing was that he was asking good questions and encouraged him to keep thinking about those questions and keep asking more.  It was really cool. 

 The entire experience reminded me how important it is to invest in the stuff that counts in the long run, even if there isn’t instant gratification.  That’s not easy as a parent in a traditional household and (without complaining), I’ve realized how much more difficult it is to do in a broken home where the kids bounce back and forth.  I live in constant fear that our home will become the anti-fun prison zone.  A couple weeks ago, Ariel said to Denise…”you guys expect so much more out of me and you have so many more rules than mom does.”  Often, I see Ariel’s mind running through this thought process:  “At mom’s we get to watch TV and movies, hang out with friends, play video games, and buy stuff at Wal-Mart whenever we want; at dad’s we have to do chores, go to bed early, and both our computer and TV time are limited.”

I watch this in fear that the former will be much more attractive than the latter and in a couple years, she’ll want to stay out all night at frat parties with her mom (at some point, I know that this will happen–I just hope that Ariel isn’t hurt too badly in the process), but what I experienced yesterday convinced me again that eventually the stuff built on a solid foundation stands.  And even though it might not have amusement park-style attraction, I believe that the kids see that a weekend such as the one we just experienced is authentically good stuff.  Even though Ariel complained “Dad, it’s summer!  Would you relax a little!?!?!” when I made her leave her friend’s house last night, something led her to closedown facebook and walk into the bedroom to talk.  Even she seems to understand the value of those times.