Birth Order

Many sites delve into the dynamics of birth order.  My favorite treatise on it, however, is not a website based on studies and research, but a fictional book series by Andrew Peterson, collectively known as The Wingfeather Saga.

The Igiby/Wingfeather family has three children: Janner, Tink, and Leeli.  Janner, as the oldest, is naturally protective of his two younger siblings.  Tink, the middle child and the second son, is adventurous and impetuous.  Leeli, the youngest, a little girl who needs a crutch to walk, provides balance to her two older brothers.

Spoiler alert:  the children discover that they are, in fact, a royal family.  Unlike the traditional royal family, however, the crown does not go to the oldest son, but to the second.  The firstborn’s job is to protect the younger, a nearly impossible task when the youngest has a strong mind of his own.

I have the feeling that Andrew drew on his own relationship with his brother as wrote the stories.  Peet the Sockman, in later books, bears a strong resemblance to Pete the Peterson.  Andrew does a wonderful job developing the resentment each can feel toward the other at times, and yet always there is an undercurrent of love. I’m afraid to give too much away because I think everyone should read this series.

Start with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, a Christy Award nominee, which introduces the reader to the family and begins the adventure.

Then read North or Be Eaten!  This won the Christy Award in 2009.  The adventure continues.  The plot thickens.

The Monster in the Hollows, my favorite so far, takes place in the Green Hollows.  If I were given the choice of visiting the Green Hollows, Narnia, or Bilbo’s Shire, it might be a tough decision.

The fourth book, The Warden and the Wolf King, has finally been written, and now we await its magical appearance on our bookshelves.  Even now, rabbits are scurrying around the Rabbit Room to make that happen.  Soon.

My favorite scene from On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is when Janner begins to understand his role.

“So, if my father’s dead, then that means… I’m… king?” Janner stammered.

Nia looked at him carefully.  “No, son.  No, you’re not.”

Janner’s cheeks flushed.

“It’s all right, dear,” she said, placing a hand on his arm.  “You see, in Annieria, the kingship is passed over the eldest son.  For as long as there have been rulers in Anniera, the position of highest distinction is that of protector.  Too many kingdoms have fallen because of envy, greed and lust for power.  So the second-born wears the crown.”  She looked at Tink.  “Your brother is the rightful heir to the throne.”

While I was looking through pictures recently, I found this:

Philip and owen

I love that God places within each child a unique set of gifts and talents, and a natural tendency towards certain behaviors — protection being one of them.

To the oldest goes a strong sense of responsibility and protectiveness for his younger sibling.

To the second, a kingship of his own, with great things ahead.

Within a family, our lives are inextricably intertwined.  I’m so thankful for the part we can play with each other.

For I Know the Plans I Have For You

There’s this kid, Janner, and I see the man he’s going to become, but he has to journey to get there.  He has to go through all sorts of hard things and hard places in order to become the man he’s meant to be.

Several years ago we heard Andrew Peterson in concert in Cortland, NY. What I remember most clearly about the concert was him talking about his books, collectively called the Wingfeather Saga.  (Book One:  On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Book Two: North or Be Eaten!, Book Three: The Monster in the Hollows, and, now in progress, Book Four: The Warden and the Wolf King.)

I’ve gone back to what AP that night said over and over.  It’s parenting advice.  We can so easily focus on the person we see today, and fail to miss the long-range view that God takes of each one of us.

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah.  One of the most oft-quoted verses from the book is Jeremiah 29:11.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  It’s a popular graduation time verse.

Oh, yes, God has great plans for us — for welfare, for a future, for hope.

Read in context, however, Jeremiah was speaking to a people in the midst of being taken into captivity by Babylon.  It doesn’t sound like a great future.  Lying prophets were saying things like, “I will break the yoke of Babylon within two years.” (see Jer. 28:11) I’m sure Judah was nodding a collective head in agreement.  Yeah!  That’s the God I’m talking about!  Two years and we’re golden.

Except that wasn’t the truth.  God needed to bring Judah through a hard place, 70 years of captivity, because He saw the people He wanted them to become.

Sometimes the here-and-now is hard.  But God does have a plan for us.  He is shaping us, through hard time and difficulties, sometimes through 70 years of captivity, to make us who He wants us to be.

Thanks be to God.


For more information on the Wingfeather Saga, check out Andrew Peterson’s Kickstarter campaign for the final book.  It’s not too late to get in on the action.

Little Boy Heart Alive

102A lime green gun lay in the grass by my front steps when I walked out the door this morning.  I smiled when I saw it.

My children are too old to play space pirates anymore, but I had watched our new neighbor’s little boys chasing each other up and down the street with their weapons yesterday.  My husband and I had found a plastic silver light-up sword on our front lawn when we got home from church.  Someone had been disarmed right in front of our house while we were at worship.  Bud picked up the sword and carried to the house where the boys were now playing.

Later in the afternoon, the small passel of boys was in the backyard next door, swinging, climbing on a platform for battle, and jumping in the leaves.  Only one of the children belonged to the house where they were playing, the rest just came because that was where the skirmish-of-the-moment was. They were laughing and jousting and doing all the things little boys are supposed to do. I could watch it all from my kitchen window and it warmed my heart.

I drove my youngest son, now 16, to school this morning.  His days of playing with plastic pistols have been eclipsed by soccer and homecoming dances and a certain young lady. I knew the firearm on the grass wasn’t his.

When I returned from dropping Karl at school, I passed a older man trying to walk his grandson to the bus stop.  The little boy, one of yesterday’s combatants, was tugging in the opposite direction and wailing.  Oh, such a wail! I could hear it in my car even with all the windows rolled up. “Noooooooo….. Noooooo….” It broke my heart.

Although only one word was coming from his mouth, I knew all the things it meant.  Please, please, don’t make me go to school today.  I want swing on the swing and jump in the leaves. I need to duel with villains. Someone needs to chase lions and dragons off our street.  Please don’t make me sit at a desk, not on a day like today, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.  Let me stay home and do what I was meant to do.

I walked past the abandoned gun on my way into the house. Inside, I grieved for a little boy, whose name I don’t even know, but whose heart I understand.

Andrew Peterson wrote a song about it: Little Boy Heart Alive

Open the door and run outside
Your little boy heart alive
Into the morning light
Into the deep and wide

Dinosaur bones in the flowerbed
Rockets in the clouds
In a fight with a spider’s web
Tunnels in the ground

Winding to China
To the mist of the distant shore
Better be home by suppertime
Back through the planet core

Feel the beat of a distant thunder
It’s the sound of an ancient song
This is the Kingdom calling
Come now and tread the dawn

Come to the father
Come to the deeper well
Drink of the water
And come to live a tale to tell

Pages are turning now
This is abundant life
The joy in the journey
Is enough to make a grown man cry
With a little boy heart alive

Kings and castles in the neighborhood
Swords on the forest floor
Dragons in the magic wood
Better saddle your battle horse

Fighting Goliath
Better choose your weapons right
Five little stones and a faith on fire
In a little boy heart alive


Met a kid at the railroad track
He had a stick and a nylon sack
I ran to the house to pack
I wanted to follow

Take a ride on the mighty lion
Take a hold of the golden mane
This is the love of Jesus
So good but it is not tame


Ever the road goes on and on
Ever the road goes on and on and on

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM  Comments (4)  
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The Liberty Press

While some hid in their cars on the first day of Hutchmoot, I knew where I was going.  I headed straight to the living room where I could nestle into a comfy chair.  It’s the advantage of having been there before.

The first year I sat on a bench in the main foyer.  I had watched the returnees greeting each other with hugs and joyful words. I remember wondering why I had ever thought it was a good idea to come to this.  The intimacy of such a small group both attracted and repelled me.  It’s harder to hide when the numbers are small.

This year I sat in the living room with a handful of people. Pete Peterson walked in, and, good Lord, he remembered my name.  That is a gift of hospitality.  He made me feel like maybe I do belong here.

Jennifer, his wife, sat across from me, legs curled, in an armchair. She smiled and said something sweet about my girls.  They are blessed to have her as a teacher.

But then Andrew Peterson walked in.  I tried to shrink back in my chair just a little.  Singer, songwriter, author, artist — how many talents can one man have? I confess that I am in awe.

The first year that I attended, Mary had sent me with a handwritten list of characters she wanted him to include in his final book of the Wingfeather Saga. (We’ll do a tally when the book comes out later this year.) I hesitated to give it to him because it meant that I would  have to say something, so I tried to give it to his wife.

“No, no,” she said. “He loves stuff like this.  You should give it to him.” So I did, mumbling something about my daughter being a fan. He was so gracious.

This year he walked in the living room where I was hiding, and sat right down beside me. “Have we met before?” he asked.

“Umm, well, kind of, not really. I’ve been to Hutchmoot before,” I babbled.

I started fumbling around in my bag.  I had, again, brought something from Mary for Andrew.

Over the summer Mary had worked as a Young Interpreter at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown.  She was assigned to the Print Shop where she learned to operate their 1828 Liberty Press.

On our rides there, she had peppered me with questions, which initially I thought were just small talk. “What’s your favorite Jason Gray song?” she asked. “What’s your favorite Andrew Peterson song?”

These are the kinds of questions for which I have no answer.  I would list off three or four songs each time.

Then, she started talking about the Wingfeather books.  “Where’s The Dark Sea of Darkness?” she asked one day.

It was then that she told me about her Young Interpreter project, how she had to typeset and print something by herself.  She chose a poem from The Dark Sea of Darkness and printed multiple copies on different types of paper.

These were what I fumbled out of my bag to give Andrew Peterson.

He looked at it for a minute, then said, “How did she make these?”

I explained that she used an antique printing press, that she placed each letter individually into the tray, that she placed the spacers and chose the border.

“Wow,” he said. It was quiet for a minute, and I felt awkward. “How did she do it again?” he asked.

I was in the middle of explaining when Pete came through.  Andrew jumped up with that boyish energy that he has. “Look at this!” he said excitedly. “Her daughter made it.” He gestured to me, and added, “How did she do it again?”

I felt like I had hit a home-run. He signed two, one for Mary and one for the museum. I gave the rest to him.

Giving back — it’s something I wish I could do more of at Hutchmoot.  I receive so much from these beautiful people that I wish I had an adequate way to say thank you. A poem printed on an antique press will have to suffice for one.

The Carriage Comes

summer 2013 099

The Liberty Press

Operating the press

Operating the press






Nothing to Say

Palm Sunday — the day we wave Palm fronds in church to welcome the King of Kings.

Musical Memory Lane takes me back to the early ’70s when Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar was a smash hit.

Our church in Cooperstown put on the production.  Not many tiny towns can claim this, but we had not one, but two, future opera stars in our midst.  Rick Croft played Jesus in that production long ago.  (I don’t think his younger brother Dwayne was in the show, but Dwayne was closer in age to me, and we sometimes sat together on band bus trips.  He was a trumpet player at the time.  Who knew he was future opera baritone?)

I don’t know if it was Rick’s singing, or Tim Rice’s lyrics, or Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical genius in the song itself, but Hosanna is etched in my memory.  It is a song I think of every Palm Sunday, especially when Jesus says/sings,

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop its shouting.
If every tongue were stilled the noise would still continue;
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.

It fits so well with Luke’s account of the Triumphal entry (found in Luke 19) -

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

All creation cries out giving glory to God.  Even today.

My new favorite Palm Sunday song is Andrew Peterson’s Nothing to Say.  He wrote this, I think, after seeing the Grand Canyon where the rocks and stones did cry out, and he realized he had nothing to add to that chorus of praise.


Published in: on April 1, 2012 at 8:30 AM  Comments (5)  
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The Lion’s Claw

Today marks (with ash) the first day of Lent.

It’s a season marked by giving up pieces of our lives, fasting in one form or another.  Some people give up chocolate while others give up Facebook.

I woke up this morning and put on music — “All Things New” from Andrew Peterson’s Resurrection Letters II.

Come broken and weary
Come battered and bruised
My Jesus makes all things new
All things new

In the spirit of giving up something for God, of allowing Him to make all things new, I sketched out a plan for the next six weeks.  Each week will have a different focus.  Each week I will seek God to make something new in my life as I leave something behind.

I had a mental picture this morning of Eustace Scrubb feeling the Lion’s claw ripping through dragon skin to pull off layer after layer of dragon.  (see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis)

This Lenten season, I want to lay myself bare to the Lion’s claw.

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 9:56 AM  Comments (3)  
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We once had a pastor
Who liked to talk about stretching.
“God is stretching you,” he would say,
Or, “You are being stretched,”
Making it passive,
Like I’m Gumby,
Or Silly Putty,
In the hands of a child.

Conversations would go like this –
“You should do this or that.”
“But I don’t know anything about those things.”
“God is stretching you.”

“Someone asked me to do this thing that I have neither the time nor the inclination to do.”
“You should do it. You are being stretched.”

Does God operate like that?

But I’ve been thinking about stretching again,
Stretching on a medieval torture device.
Except the stretching is not head to toe;
It’s arm to arm,
Hand to hand.

On the one hand are my children,
But these are not torture.
I love them more than life itself.
I would do anything for them.

On the other hand are my parents,
But they are not torture either.
I love them, too, more than life itself.
I would do anything for them.

There is not enough of me.

Maybe my pastor was right.

God is stretching me;
I am being stretched
To make my arms longer.

It isn’t torture.

It is just so hard to hold up my arms sometimes.
They are too long,
Or not long enough.

That’s where you come into play –

Moses needed Aaron and Hur *
And I need you,
Dear friend, dear family,

To hold up my arms
Like Moses in the desert
When the battle ran long
Hold up my arms
We can go at this together
When my arms aren’t strong **

God is stretching me.
I am being stretched.
Not as a plaything,
But as clay
In the Master’s hand.

* Exodus 17
** Andrew Peterson “Hold Up My Arms” (Clear to Venus)

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 7:25 AM  Comments (1)  
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Insider Trading

I love to be an insider.  Who doesn’t?

The other day a Hutchmoot friend posted on her wall:

“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” – F. Buechner

When I saw it, I was surprised.  I had always attributed those words to Andrew Peterson in his song “Lay Me Down.”  That’s because I was an outsider, but, now, I’m an insider.  I know now that Andrew Peterson read Frederic Buechner. (Mental note:  must read Buechner.)

In Jill Phillips song, “Show Up,” (which is on her newest album, In This Hour, which is wonderful, which you should consider adding to your music library) she uses these words in a riff:

No great things have I  done;  only small things with great love.

I recognized those words as one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa.  Ha!  I was already an insider on that one!

Some inside lines seem so obvious to me that I’m quite sure everyone gets them, and yet, if you’ve never read C. S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, how could you possibly know what Andrew Peterson is talking about in his Centricity U video, when he says, “I mean I’ll try a wardrobe at least a hundred times before I just give up on it.”  Okay, there are references to Narnia before he says that, but really, to truly get the joke, you have to have read The Chronicles of Narnia.

Sometimes, I wonder how much humor and wisdom I am missing because I haven’t read enough.

We do have our own little bits of insider stuff in our home, most based on children’s books I’ve read a hundred times.  Like sometimes, when I’m headed out the door, I’ll say, “I’m leaving!”  And somebody else will complete the sentence with “and you’re never coming back?”  It’s not that I often threaten my family with abandonment;  it’s just a line from Rosemary Wells’ book, Noisy Nora.

This morning I was reading in A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.  He used a series of quotes in the prayer for today, and I kept thinking, I should recognize these.  Wanting to become an insider, I started looking them up on the internet.

Here are some of the quotes.  Can you recognize them?

  1. The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
  2. Our wills are ours to make them Thine. 
  3. Nothing for me is too early or too late which is in due time for Thee. 
  4. Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God. 
  5. In His will in our peace. 
  6. Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.

Here are the sources for those quotes:

  1. William Wordsworth
  2. Lord Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H.
  3. Marcus Aurelius
  4. William Carey
  5. Dante
  6. Saint Augustine

Now you are all insiders on these prayer quotes.  This is insider trading at its best.


Slugs and Bugs

Every time I hear Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson together on a Slugs & Bugs CD, I think of the Smothers Brothers.

I’m probably dating myself by saying this, but I loved listening to the Smothers Brothers.  I don’t know what albums we had (my father had put them all on reel-to-reel tapes), but I listened over and over, and knew them all by heart.  Not only were they superbly talented folk singers who could harmonize beautifully, but they were also superbly funny.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about the Smothers Brothers.  It’s about Slugs & Bugs.  Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson, like the Smothers Brothers,  make a good comedy duo.  There’s good music, good harmonizing, and some genuinely funny stuff.  The CDs are intended for children, but I think adults are allowed to like them too.

The latest Slugs & Bugs CD, Under Where?, contains three songs by the pair:  Mexican Rhapsody, Under Where, and The Wagon Song.  Between these and Tractor, Tractor from the first Slugs & Bugs CD, I can’t help but think of the Smothers Brothers.  It’s the banter.

The rest are sung by Randall Goodgame.  Randall Goodgame is like a Christian version of Raffi.    The song God Made You Special is particularly Raffi-esque in its gentleness.   Some songs are tender, like Sweet Baby Boy.  Some are a little more boisterous, like Ninja.  Some, like Tell It to Jesus, have a decidedly Christian flavor.  Sleepy Time is a sweet lullaby that is especially comforting with its musical allusion to the old hymn, It Is Well With My Soul.

If you have young children, you need this CD.  If you’re old (like me) but still like children’s music, you would enjoy this too.  It’s great music and great fun. It’s not to late to pre-order by clicking HERE.  The release date is October 25, 2011.

If you’ve never heard Randall Goodgame, here’s a sample from the first Slugs & Bugs CD.

One wee criticism (pun intended) is the potty-training song, Where You Gonna Go.  When you’re in the potty-training stage of life, you feel like it is never going to end.  When you’re done with the potty-training stage of life, you don’t really want to go back.  Someone should make a CD of just potty-training songs, that, when all is done, can be nuked in the microwave or have some other celebratory disposal to signify “WE ARE DONE!” (Is there a way to flush a CD down the toilet?)  It’s a fine song.  I’m just past that stage.

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 8:21 AM  Comments (1)  
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Created in His Image

Part of the recommended Hutchmoot reading was Dorothy Sayers’ book, The Mind of the Maker.  Early in the book, she references the Genesis creation story and points out -

 The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and the ability to make things.

In other words, amazingly, God, the Creator, created creatures who are creative.

On the first night of Hutchmoot, we had a great concert put on by the Square Peg Alliance.  (As an aside, I just want to say that I love the name “Square Peg Alliance” because it reminds how we are all square pegs trying to fit into round holes.  Yet God made us perfectly to fit into the Body.)  Andrew Peterson opened the evening with a welcome and little talk on “verbing.”

Verbing is that thing we do these days when we take a noun and turn it into a verb.  The most obvious example of this is Facebook “friending.”  People friend on Facebook;  people unfriend on Facebook.  He had numerous examples of other words.  I’m sure you can think of some yourself:  Googling (“I’m going to Google that”), Skyping (“Let’s Skype later”), forking (“My friends forked the pastor’s yard”  — and if you don’t know what “forking” is, ask Dawn Bennett… or me, although I’ve never actually done it.)

AP went on to talk about “nouning” which is taking an adjective and turning it into a noun.  The example he used was “creative” and the fact that a group of creative people may refer to themselves as “creatives.”  He rather decried this whole thing, though, because referring to yourself as a creative has an air of elitism about it.  He made the point that we are all creative.  Obviously musicians and writers are creative, but a mother turning a house into home is also being creative.

As he was talking, I thought about that Dorothy Sayers quote.  We show the mark of the Maker through our creativity.

But I love the way God always operates on at least two levels:  the seen and the unseen, the visible and the invisible.  We bear outward signs of inward things.

The concert was amazing.  We had two rounds of songs from Square Peg Artists.  I’m not going to get the right order, but we heard Jason Gray, Andrew Osenga, Andrew Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Eric Peters, Randall Goodgame, Ben Shive, Andrew Peterson, and another lady whose name escapes me.  Most memorable song of the evening was easily Andy Gullahorn’s “Skinny Jeans.”  Thank goodness I don’t wear skinny jeans!

Anyway, I was sitting in the same row as Andrew Peterson’s family.  I had seen one of the boys earlier and knew immediately that he was Andrew Peterson’s son, the family resemblance was so strong.  But as I looked the row during the concert at these fresh faces soaking up the music and laughter, I again marveled at how much the children looked like the father.

By the end of the evening, Skye had fallen asleep with her head in her mother’s lap.  It was a beautiful picture and reminded me of something I read once about Yo-Yo Ma, the great cellist.  He considered it the ultimate compliment when people fell asleep to his music.  And here I saw a little girl, sleeping to the sound of her father’s voice.

We bear a resemblance to our earthly parents in our outer appearance.  We bear a resemblance to our heavenly Father in an unseen creative ability that marks our very being.

And, oh, to fall asleep to the sound of my Father’s voice.

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 10:06 AM  Comments (3)  
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