Why It [Hutchmoot] Matters

To sum up my most recent weekend and why it’s important to me, I’m just going to show you some pictures and let Sara Groves sing. These are not polished, beautiful pictures by any stretch, but if I waited for that I’d never post this. So here is my raw experience.

(press play and scroll down)

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IMG_20151010_191454617Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that’s been told us
Of the power that will hold us

IMG_20151008_163853412Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
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Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating

IMG_20151009_092302447_HDRWhy our efforts of narrating

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About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters
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Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town

IMG_20151011_201817447IMG_20151011_111554815And its protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

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Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissension

IMG_20151010_175958439Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters
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Like a single cup of water
How it matters

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Going Home to Hutchmoot

I’m going home this weekend. I’ve only been there once before.photo (1)

This weekend is Hutchmoot, the in-real-life gathering of people who are a part of The Rabbit Room community.

Last time I attended, it was my first ‘Moot. I was painfully nervous walking in. I tried so hard to match faces and names, never mind the stories that came in behind the faces.

Is it possible that this collection of 150 people in an Anglican church in Nashville contains this many kindred spirits?

And yet…yes. Here they are. And they believe they wouldn’t be the same without you.

Here is food, wine, and beautiful places to sit long and talk around candlelight. Here is music that shatters the pretense and falseness so prevalent in today’s song. Here are authors who have shut themselves away for hours, toiling in solitude so that their stories can find but one reader. Here are prayers said in gratitude. Here are words, the Word, and the people of the Word.

Nashville is calling to us over the mountains, extending hospitality, lavish love and grace, and community. And we’re answering. Would you pray for us?

And if you’re curious what a Hutchmoot is, this might help. Then again, maybe it won’t.

What is a Hutchmoot? from The Rabbit Room on Vimeo.

Heard at Hutchmoot: Learning to See

Heard at Hutchmoot: A Series on Words From Our Weekend in Nashville

One of the sessions I attended at Hutchmoot was so overcrowded that they had to move it outside under the white tent on the church lawn.  David and I were a little late, so we found a seat towards the back. This would turn out to be a mistake. We should have pushed up to the front amongst the seat-savers.

The morning was still damp, but the first heat of the day was beginning to crawl over the grounds. A neighbor was out mowing his lawn, droning back and forth across the compacted dirt, weeds, and grass that made up the yard. The church air conditioner cast forth its pompous song, unyielding to the speakers, the crowd, or anyone who might try to hear anything nearby.

The session was led by Andrew Peterson and Jonathan Rogers, and was called “Writing Close to the Earth.” The topic was broad, but it focused mainly on creating in the midst of Earth.

That is a terrible way to say it.  Let me try some more and make it worse.

You know the phrase, “so heavenly-minded, he’s no earthly good”? As Christians we sometimes feel it necessary to lift our thoughts up above the earthly plane and relate on what we perceive as a more spiritual level.  We want to boil a story down and sum it up in a spiritually pithy little line.  We want a neatly-packaged lesson to apply.

However, this tendency causes us to miss the value in the everyday, “earthy” things.

(Like that lawn mower. And the church air conditioner, which is so loud that surely it should be cooling half of Nashville with its smug noise.)

Sometimes authors feel the need to sum up their meaning with a moral instead of letting the story speak.  Jonathan likened this tendency to that moment in “The A-team” when Mr. T would show up and tell kids to stay in school and not do drugs.

If you go on GoodReads, he said, you will find that most of the quotations people set aside to remember are those “abstractions” — the summary statements that make a moral assertion.  I am guilty of this habit. I have a Commonplace book where I keep quotes from things I’m reading.  My most treasured quote from Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River is “Exile is a country of shifting borders, hard to quit yet hard to endure, no matter your wide shoulders, no matter your toughened heart.”

(Enger’s book is not an example of over-moralizing, though. It’s a story first and thoroughly. )

The Christian community welcomes with open arms books and movies that preach at us didactically. Want a neat little moral tied up with a bow and a Bible verse? Look no further than the Christian fiction section. The suffering Amish heroine will both give her heart to Jesus as well as fall in love with the handsome, brooding Christian widower by the end of the book. The reader will come away with a happy feeling that everything will be happy in the end…or something like that.

If we are looking for an escape — an unrealistic one — we can look no further than those books.  Unfortunately life isn’t like that much of the time. Most of the time there are unfinished storylines with messy scenes of stumbling words and missed opportunities. At other times, there are flashes of beauty that can’t — and shouldn’t — be boiled down into a “moral of the story.”  What then?

As the session moved along, Andrew read to us excerpts from a Chesterton essay (“The Riddle of the Ivy”). One of the session attendees fought a valiant battle with the air conditioner and finally got it to sit still and listen for a minute. The neighbor completed his mowing, and the early autumn morning was quiet for a moment.

The speakers began fielding questions. Suddenly, a hawk, tail feathers vibrant in the sun,  descended from the sky and blazed into the trees behind them. A gasp erupted from the audience as we realized — that is what we miss when we over-moralize. Beauty that tells of a creator. Story that makes us see.

It takes focus, determination, and discipline to rise above the lawn mowers and air conditioners of the world and see the hawks. But oh, they are worth the effort.

Like Emily said, “…I don’t want my need for answers and connections to keep me from exploring story for the sake of the story and nothing more. Sometimes I write because I have something to say, and other times I write because I want to remember how to see.”

Heard at Hutchmoot: Solidarity of Mortality

Heard at Hutchmoot:  A Series on Words from our Weekend in Nashville

Friday evening at Hutchmoot, David and I sat down to dinner with the mysterious DKM.  If you meet the man in person, he does not seem all that mysterious, and he will even tell you his real name.  He also had a non-mysterious daughter with him, who was bright and funny in her own right.  We talked about his writing career, television shows, movies, and books.

DKM is the voice behind the Rabbit Room press book Subjects with Objects.  He teamed up with artist Jonathan Richter for the publication.  The book itself is hard to explain concisely; you should go read the interview or look at the samples in the Rabbit Room store — and then buy it.  I will only say that it is a great mind stretcher and conversation starter.

Without spoiling the entire book for you — because I think you should buy it, have I made that clear yet? — I will tell you that a concept it introduces is what DKM calls “the solidarity of mortality.”  The solidarity of mortality is that realization that every man, woman, and child on this earth will die at some point. As a result, we are all unified in that reality.

This indisputable truth should affect our interactions with other humans in some way.  It should cause us to look on with some sympathy people who might otherwise repulse us.  What if you knew that the person who is frustrating you today — yea, even that politician — would die tomorrow?  As DKM puts it, “We recognize something shared between us and we grieve for them, and then, in a mysterious juxtaposition, realize that we’re grieving for ourselves.”

you have never met a human soul

who didn’t feel the curse’s toll

who didn’t wish that death would die

– Andrew Peterson, “Day by Day”