When I am getting acquainted with someone I do not know very well and I have an opportunity to visit them in their home, one of my favorite things to do is to peruse their bookshelves. I am curious: what do these people like to read?
Just over a year ago, a middle-aged couple visited the church I attend. Lew and Jackie sat in the row just behind Steve and me, and my husband and I were delighted to welcome these newcomers to Grace.
About a month later, Lew and Jackie invited our family to a Christmas open house they were hosting the first Saturday in December. They were in the process of restoring a Greek revival house built in the early 1900’s, and Lew gave us a tour of this beautiful work in progress.
Lew pointed to the dark walnut shelving in the front parlor and explained how they had to use the cabinetry to hide ductwork when they installed central heat and air. I wasn’t very interested in the ductwork, though. I was too busy scanning the rows of books which lined the shelves.
Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Sinclair Ferguson…so many of my favorite writers! I was excited to discover that Lew and Jackie and I had so many “old friends” in common! Suddenly, this couple were no longer new acquaintances: instead, I felt like they were old friends.
“We have two tickets to an Andrew Peterson concert in Nashville, but Wally had a conflict come up, and he can’t go. Will you go with me instead? It’ll be my treat.”
I didn’t have a clue who Andrew Peterson was nor any idea whether I’d like his music. However, I love spending time with my friend Reni, so I said, “Sure!”
A couple of days later, we grabbed an early dinner at a drive-thru and then hit the highway for the two-hour drive to Nashville. Little did I know I was about to meet a new old friend. After Reni and I settled into our seats at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the house lights dimmed and a young, slender, sandy-haired man stood up onstage.
In the white hot beam of a single spotlight, he read:
The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together….
—Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible. ©2007; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
I recognized the passage the young man read: it was from the opening pages of Sally Lloyd-Jones’s The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is my very favorite children’s Bible, the one I have read countless times to my own grandchildren!
The young man on stage was Andrew Peterson. I liked him instantly, before the first note of the first song. Andrew Peterson and I, we had a friend in common: a beautifully-crafted children’s book about a Prince who gave up everything to rescue the one He loves.
As it turned out, I learned that Andrew Peterson and I have a lot of friends in common. As Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ” concert progressed, one “old friend” after another stepped up and contributed their part to the evening’s music.
Sara Groves, Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb…Peterson’s “band” for the concert was a collection of several of my favorite Christian artists, all great musicians in their own rights. No, I have never actually met Andrew Peterson or Sara Groves or Derek Webb—just as I have never met George MacDonald or G.K. Chesterton. But their work has blessed and inspired me. These musicians and writers have enriched my life. The fact that the artists on stage that night knew and appreciated and encouraged one another made me enjoy their music even more.
Even from my seat in the auditorium, the concert I attended several years ago with my friend Reni ended up feeling like a family reunion. Andrew Peterson says this of his music:
Art is one way of trying to make sense of the great mystery of our lives. It’s a way of assimilating, with our tiny little brains, the vast amount of information we encounter as we’re bustled forward through time….
When I was a young man, I heard a call as clear as day, and that call led me here, to a life of writing stories and singing songs, doing my small part to proclaim the Kingdom of God—both its presence and its coming consummation….
I have no real choice but to look at my life and tell about what I see, to whomever will listen. I hope you will. And I hope you hear echoes not just of your story in these songs, but God’s.
Peterson’s music is a mix of folk, blues, pop, country, rock, and bluegrass, and his albums have consistently made the Top Ten of Billboard’s Christian chart. Peterson’s hit singles include “After All These Years,” “Rest Easy,” “Dancing in the Minefields,” “Family Man,” and “Nothing to Say.”
But Andrew Peterson is not only a musician; he is also a writer. He has published several books, including the fantasy/adventure series The Wingfeather Saga, comprised of four volumes: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King.
After a visit to the Oxford home of author C.S. Lewis, Peterson created a blog to foster Christ-centered community among authors, artists, and songwriters. He named it The Rabbit Room, after the back room in the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings—including C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien—shared their stories. (Ah! So Andrew Peterson and I have a few more mutual old friends!)
Why are community and spiritual growth things Andrew Peterson wants to develop and encourage among Christian artists? At The Rabbit Room, Peterson writes:
I believe strongly in the value of the artists in this world. I believe that when someone who was made to strive to create beauty in the world is, as Brennan Manning said, “ambushed by Jesus,” the art that results bears a God-given power that draws men to Christ.
Those works of art are the fruit of obedience to the artist’s calling. The burden God places on each of us is to become who we are meant to be.
We are most fully ourselves when Christ most fully lives in us and through us; the mother shines brightest with her child in her arms, the father when he forgives his wandering son, and the artist when he or she is drawing attention to grace by showing the pinprick of light overcoming the darkness in the painting or the story or the song.
Peterson has been faithfully fulfilling his calling as a musician while investing in musicians and artists around him. He has also been investing in his family. Peterson and his wife Jamie have three children, and they have chosen to educate their children at home.
At each of the 2017 Great Homeschool Conventions, sponsored by WORLD News Group and the National Center for Life and Liberty, Andrew Peterson will be performing in concert on Thursday evening. He will also lead a special workshop on Friday morning.
Everyone registering for one of GHC’s regional conventions will receive a free sampler album of Peterson’s songs.
Titles on this album include:
- The Dark Before the Dawn
- We Will Survive
- Be Kind to Yourself, from Peterson’s album Burning Edge of Dawn
- Day by Day and You’ll Find Your Way, from Light for the Lost Boy
- Invisible God, from Resurrection Letters
- Dancing in the Minefields and Planting Trees, from the album Counting Stars.
While you are checking out all the great workshops and resources at the Great Homeschool Convention nearest you, make time to attend Andrew’s Thursday evening concert. I guarantee you and your family will be blessed. And you just might discover a new old friend.
Great Homeschool Conventions is offering four regional conventions in 2017. For information about speakers, registration, and accommodations, click on the links below: