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Andrew Peterson: Fueling Your Kids’ Imagination

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
June 15, 2022 2:00 am

Andrew Peterson: Fueling Your Kids’ Imagination

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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June 15, 2022 2:00 am

Musician and author Andrew Peterson chats about fueling kids' imagination and creativity to open doors for the Kingdom of God.

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The church has produced the best and most beautiful works of art that the world has ever known. And I think that that's actually still happening now. It's just not always what people know about in America. You know, it's like there's this undercurrent of amazing novelists and writers that don't broadcast the fact that they're Christians necessarily, but they are.

And they're sowing really good and beautiful seeds. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Well, we have Andrew Peterson in the Family Life studio with us today. Welcome to Family Life, Andrew.

Thanks for having me. Hey, you know, I don't even know this. How many times have you been on Family Life?

Oh, I don't know either. It's been a long time. Yeah, it's been a while.

I feel like we did the cruise a few years back. And before that, man, I've been doing music for like 20 some odd years. And so I'm sure I've popped in quite a bit over the years. We're excited to have you. Thank you.

Yeah. So I mean, a lot of our listeners know you as an artist, a writer, a songwriter, a singer. We've been listening to your music all day.

Oh, thanks. And filling our house, which has been awesome. And an author. But, you know, most importantly, you're a husband and a dad. How many years you've been married and how many kids?

26 years now, about to be 27. And we have three kids who are 23, almost 22, and 19, two boys and a girl. Both boys got married within a month of each other this past summer.

Wow. So we have two new daughters-in-law, who we love dearly. That's fun.

And kind of just hit empty nester phase in about the last year or so, which is weird because they keep coming home. So I don't know. It's because they love you guys.

Yes. We figured out that if we offer them free food, then they show up. And that's all good. But it's been so fun to see Jamie, who we homeschooled the kids. I say we, she homeschooled the kids.

Worked really hard for many, many years. You know what I mean? And this is her first year to not have to, like, do lesson planning. Because we were in a co-op, so she had to kind of go and teach other people's kids sometimes. And, like, she has just flowered into my- I've told people empty nester Jamie is my favorite Jamie. She's just having the best time not having to do all that stuff. So, yeah, we're really loving this season.

That's really fun. Well, it's interesting, too, because we've been listening to your story. I didn't know that you guys got married so young. You were 19, and Jamie was 21. Well, we got engaged when I was 19. She was 21, and we got married when I was 20. Yeah, she was 22. So we were still in college. She was a senior.

I was a sophomore. And, yeah, we just kind of liked each other a whole lot, loved each other. And we're like, why would we wait? It was weird. I remember I've told this story before, but her dad, who's this great guy, for some reason wasn't crazy about his 22-year-old daughter getting engaged to a 19-year-old singer-songwriter guy.

Yeah, I mean, what's the problem with that? Did he say, how are you going to live? Yeah, I mean, I was like, Larry, I've got a job at Baskin-Robbins right now. I'm a part-time youth pastor. It's going to be fine.

I've got these songs. So anyway, now that I'm a dad of a 19-year-old girl, I completely get it. I don't think it was a bad thing for us at all. We loved it. And no regrets. It's really fun because we had kids fairly young, too.

And to be 47 and to have the potential of grandchildren coming down the line is pretty awesome. We want to talk today about just imagination. Obviously, what you do as a songwriter and author comes from this past and this journey, which is something I resonated with as you were influenced early in your life by the dark side of the moon.

Oh, man. Some people don't even know what I'm talking about. Pink Floyd and Skynyrd and Journey. And I found that fascinating because I'm a guitar player. I played in bands. I played all those songs growing up. And so I also had this tension as I was listening to that.

My mom was telling me I shouldn't be listening to that. Talk about that, because you've also got this Rich Mullins influence. You talk about an interesting combination. Well, yeah.

Walk us through that. Let's go back to that, because you even talked about, Andrew, in college. You went to Bible college thinking that you need to learn how to argue to be a good Christian. Yeah. But you had this artistic side.

That's what I mean. That took you into the arts and you had that dilemma that Dave was talking about. Yeah, I think a lot of it for me was growing up. I'm a pastor's kid growing up in a small community in North Florida. A typical, pretty healthy, southern Christian upbringing.

But it was also a very cultural Christianity, right? And so I somehow managed to not really know Jesus terribly well or understand some of the basic things about the gospel. Namely, the fact that God loved me.

I understood that in an academic sense. Yes, God loves us, but I didn't really believe it. I was mainly scared of him. And so church to me and scripture, Christianity in general, was something that I kind of just accepted. It made a kind of sense to me. And God made sense to me, you know? But then the idea that there was this actual person named Jesus that was pursuing me and loved me dearly and knew me, knew the mess that I was and loved me anyway. That was something that hadn't hit me yet. And so part of the disconnect for me was that the thing that was waking my heart up was all this music. It was Pink Floyd and, you know, Skynyrd and sometimes it was classical music, but or good movies or fantasy novels. I felt this like this kind of butterflies in my stomach when I would read a certain kind of story.

And it wasn't until I was older that I read C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy, his memoir about how he came to faith, really. And he talks about that same thing, that feeling that some works of art, they kind of open a door in us, right? And sometimes we can hear Jesus calling to us through those works of art.

That's not to say that they supplant scripture by any stretch, but all of creation belongs to him. And so for me to grow up in this situation where, according to our paradigm, it was like, well, rock and roll, that music, it's probably dangerous. We're going to regard it with suspicion.

There are some dangerous things about it, to be fair, but also that doesn't matter nearly as much as Sunday school. And so I felt as a young man very confused because I was being told that I ought to feel a certain way about church, but I didn't feel it. And that I ought not feel a certain way about certain kinds of music or art, but I did feel it. And so that journey of reconciling those two things has been, Rich Mullins was the connecting tissue for me. What I heard you say was you, you know, a friend wanted you to learn a Rich Mullins song so he could sing it and something happened. I think that the Holy Spirit used that song to help me, to draw me to himself.

It was this song called If I Stand. And I had never really listened to Rich Mullins before. I was very, it's funny, in the way that my parents were suspicious of the music I liked, I was suspicious of Christian music. You know, it's like, this sounds dangerous.

It could be really bad and cheesy. And so I took the tape into the church late one night and learned the song and heard Rich's scratchy, imperfect voice. And I heard his wonderful use of language and poetry. And I heard that the way he talked about Jesus helped me believe that Jesus was really there, you know. And so there was something about his music that kind of just, it was like I was in the forest and his music kind of like showed me a path through. And Jesus was at the end of that trail. Does that make sense? Yeah. So that, I remember not long after that kind of saying to God, if there's any way that I could make somebody else feel that way, then if you'll let me, I'd love to do it. And then the same thing happened later with C.S.

Lewis. I just said, oh, Lord, I love the way these stories help us to know you a little bit better. And if there's a way that I could tell a story that could do that for some kid, I'd love to do it.

So how did you tap into your imagination? I mean, obviously, here in that journey, that was part of how God made Andrew Peterson. You know, even as I was listening to you, Andrew, I was thinking, boy, the day I came to Christ in the middle of my college days was at a concert. It was a long story, but I sort of thought Christian music was sort of not very good, sort of cheesy. It wasn't done well because that's what I'd experienced at church. And I was invited to hear this Christian band.

And I can remember it right now like it was yesterday. I'm sitting in this gymnasium at a college, and I remember thinking, they're really good. They're skilled.

They're excellent players. The songs they're singing are very creative and very profound. And I walked forward and gave my life to Christ. And until you just said that, I never connected. Probably the fact that music was part of that salvation message for me connected the dots that I wanted to give my life to Christ. So I heard a little bit of that in your story. So what did that bring alive in you?

Because now you're doing that. Well, yeah, I mean, the biggest thing was that once I realized how good the good news was. And, you know, that's an ongoing thing. The more we know Christ, the better he is. And so I just was like, man, if I grew up in the church and I missed this thing, then surely other people are in the same boat. And I can't wait to tell them about it.

You know, C.S. Lewis talked also about how the Narnia books were a way of smuggling the truth past people's watchful dragons. And I love that idea that we, especially now, I think a lot of people think they know what Christianity is.

And so they've written it off. And so it makes our job as artists harder and also more crucial. Because it's like a really good movie or a really good story has a way of surprising people with the truth. And I don't mean smuggling it in as if like, it won't work if we're going, oh, well, we're just going to write a story in order to sneak past the walls.

That's not how it works. You've got to write the great story and trust that a good story can do this thing that the Holy Spirit is in charge of, not me. And so as a Christian, if we're making art and we're surrendered to the mystery of what it means to make something, which it's all thanks to the Lord that we get to do this. Then you also kind of have to come to terms with the fact that what he intends to do with your work is none of your business. You know, you kind of go, I have some things that I hope he does, but it's not up to me. The only thing I'm in charge of is being obedient with the gifting. And I can work really hard and I can dig in and do the thing.

But after that, it's on him. I know as a mom and even as a young girl, like I was consumed with books because the same thing, just like a movie, books, it's all a story and it just pierces your heart. You know what she loves to do, Andrew? She loves to read books out loud to me.

And now that our kids are gone, I want to do it today. I'll be driving the car and she goes, let me read you this chapter. I'm like, no, you don't need to read it out loud, but she just loves reading it out loud.

I love it too. Like you, I read all the Narnia books to our kids. And as an adult reading them, well, let me say this. I had never read them.

I didn't grow up in a Christian home. I had never heard about them. So I'm reading them sobbing at times with the kids. And they're like, what is happening right now? Dude, I had the exact same experience.

Really? I think the Narnia books are best experienced as a parent reading them to the kid. Like, because there's something about you, you kind of are hearing it through their ears and hearing all these wonderful truths in that way. And so I bet there are a lot of kids who are confused about why mom and dad are crying.

But I just tell them, wait, wait until you got kids and you'll understand it. It's really tremendous what he did with those stories. And that was a reminder to me of how much I love those kinds of books. And so we were at that age with our kids where we were reading aloud a lot. Some of my best memories are of our family sitting around me doing voices and the kids asking for one more chapter. And I think when I read them the Narnia books, I was like, I've got to know what it's like to do this. Like, I'd tried many times to write a novel. And once I had an audience, a captive audience and my kids, I was like, I told my wife, I'm going to try to do this thing. And so she fully supported me and took me about 10 years. But we shared the whole story with the kids as I wrote them. And it was just, it's a dream come true. And that series is a four-book series called The Wing Feather Saga.

So talk about that. Like, how old were your kids when you started writing these? They were probably between five and eight around that age, you know, the perfect age. Kids are better listeners than grownups are because they inhabit the story in a way that it's taken for granted. When you're a kid, that's what stories do and they dive in. You know, parents, we have to try a little harder to remember what it's like to receive a story in that way. But they noticed all the inconsistencies.

And if I got one accent wrong, they would tell me I'd already used that voice for another guy. But yeah, it was crazy. We put the books out. The first one came out in 2008, I think, and it took about six more years to finish the whole series. And then we released this short film as a pilot so we could shop it to go out to L.A. and talk to Netflix and all those people. And then Penguin Random House amazingly republished all four books in beautiful hardbacks. And so now when I'm on tour, I sneak into Barnes & Noble and sign them and post where I am, you know.

But then that led to this series. So we're making a TV show, season one, Angel Studios, the people that did the shows and we're partnering with them. And we got the funding in like 20 days and we're deep into it. Really? You got the funding in 20 days? Yeah, five million bucks of investors.

Yeah. And for this thing to be, you know, at this point, 10 or so years old and people are just now discovering it is just a dream. And so I spend a lot of time nowadays. I have these Zoom calls, several Zoom calls a week because I'm one of the executive producers. And I get to like, OK, whether or not the swords are cool enough, you know, like there are all these designers making characters and we get to make notes on the town and like, oh, no, it's supposed to look more like this and shaping the story and the scripts and everything.

So it's really it's a huge, huge gift to get to do this. Talk about how that's not only shaped you. Has it shaped your kids?

What has that done for your kids? The three main characters in the Wing Feather Saga are loosely based on my kids. And all of our kids in a weird way grew into what the characters were kind of like. And so I wish that I had written them to be doctors and lawyers and lottery winners. But no, it's interesting, like, I don't know what it's like for my kids to like be in their 20s and have, you know, the characters in this book were loosely based on them.

But I think that they think it's cool. But I will say this, that like all three of our kids are deeply involved in the arts and in the ministry. And it's like one it's one of the coolest things. Christmas tour with my daughter, she's out singing, she's releasing EPs of songs she's writing. She has a real heart for the gospel.

My son, Asher, is a record producer, is making all these wonderful albums that are going out in the world. My son, Aidan, the oldest is an illustrator, just illustrated a book called The Story of God with Us. And so it's so cool to see that they didn't have that weird separation of imagination and the gospel. Like the two can live in the same space for them, you know, and they grew up in this community where it was taken for granted that as Christians, we were meant to steward our gifting for the kingdom of God.

And so they kind of grew up with that as the norm. And so they're like, well, why would we not paint pictures that help proclaim the truth? You know, why would we not make music that can surprise people with the beauty of the gospel? Well, talk about that, because, you know, typically the church hasn't embraced. Maybe I'm wrong, but I know that when we started our church 30 years ago, one of our core values was we wanted to do the arts with excellence.

And our arts director even said, if we do the arts with excellence, we will attract excellent artists. They'll want to come to a church that says this matters and you don't do it mediocre. You do it with the highest skill because you're doing it unto God.

That hasn't often been embraced by the church. It's sort of like, yeah, the artistic part is just not that important. It's only the word, the word, the word. But obviously you have embraced that and your whole family and your kids. So talk about that a little bit. Well, it's tricky to talk about that because it's like, I can't toot my own horn. You know what I mean? Like, as soon as I think that I'm really good at what I do, I just read, you know, Tolkien or listen to Paul Simon or James Taylor. And I'm like, oh, yeah, that's right.

I have no idea what I'm doing. So that's part of it. But I don't know, man. Like, I think that there is this tendency to try to control the ends. And I think that that a lot of times in church, you know, where people are trying to figure out how do we get from A to B?

And really, like I said earlier, that's not our business, really. Like our business is to care for the poor, love our neighbor, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us. Meanwhile, of course, you try to do good work, you know, whatever you're doing. But it would be easy in my mind to almost make an idol out of the excellence of our work, you know, as if that's the main thing we're meant to be doing. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all. But if you're doing that at the expense of like the very basic simple, this is what it means to walk in the way of Jesus, to delight in his will and to walk in his way to the glory of his name.

That's the thing we're in charge of. So that can include, of course, caring about beauty and excellence and craft. But, you know, I think it's only in these this last hundred years or so that I think the American church in particular, or maybe I could say the Western church, we tend to think of the art we produce as being, you know, hokey or cheesy or shallow or whatever. But I mean, Bach, my goodness, he was a Christian musician, you know. So the church has produced the best and most beautiful works of art that the world has ever known. And I think that that's actually still happening now.

It's just not always what people know about in America. You know, it's like there's this undercurrent of amazing novelists and writers that don't broadcast the fact that they're Christians necessarily, but they are and they're sowing really good and beautiful seeds. One of the ways that I like to think of it is that somebody just was talking about the wing feather books and they were like, well, they're not overtly Christian, they're deeply Christian. And I love that idea that the work that we're called to do is meant to be deeply Christian. Let it let like its foundation is that.

And then there's all this wiggle room for expression and beauty and the overtness of it kind of takes a backseat to what the Holy Spirit intends to do with this thing. As you talk, you're an artist, you're an author, you're a dad and a husband, but go back to that dad piece. Like as you reflect back now that your kids are getting a little older.

Tell us a couple of things that you did right and a couple of things that you think, oh, I wish I'd have tweaked that or changed that. Oh, man. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Andrew Peterson on Family Life Today. We'll hear Andrew's response in just a minute. But first, Father's Day is coming up this weekend.

But you knew that already, right? I hope so. And well, we want to send you a copy of Brian Laritz's book called The Dad Difference. The four most important gifts you can give your kids is our gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this week to support the work of Family Life Today. You can give securely online at or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

That could be a one time gift or a recurring monthly gift as well. Again, the number is 800 F as in family, L as in life. And then the word today. All right, now back to Andrew Peterson and what he did right and what he did wrong in parenting. I'm sure that I traveled too much.

It's funny. I heard Eugene Peterson. He was kind of a hero of mine and heard him talk one time about his life in the ministry and somebody asked him if he had any regrets. And he said, I wish I had had more vacation. And I grew up a pastor's kid, you know, and my kids are actually amazing.

They work really hard. But I look back and I'm like, I know that there were times I could have said no to some things and stayed home. But I was driven by some weird combination of fear that I wouldn't be able to provide or ambition, you know, this like drive to make a name for myself.

And I think that that if I could go back, I would have said no to more things and been more present. That's good. One of my friends who's a pastor said that he reminds me you've only ever had one provider. And so if you're a self-employed singer songwriter, that's a good thing to remember, you know.

So that's that. As far as the things that did right, I think we just one of our mentors when we first got married said he was talking about the fact he was a pastor. And he was talking about the fact that his family wasn't super good at having like family devotions.

And he was like, my kids are at church like eight times a week. You know, it doesn't work for us. You know, we just don't do that. We'd rather just sit around and watch Magnum P.I.

or whatever. And so he said, so instead of having these formal devotional experiences as a family, he said that we just made it so that our Christianity was a matter of course in the home. It was just taken for granted that this is who we are and this is how we think and how we see the world.

And the quote was Christianity ought to be as ordinary in your home as dirty laundry and corn flakes. And I love that because it was like, I think that our kids, it's never been weird for us to stop what we're doing to pray for somebody, you know. Or the conversations about movies that we're watching or shows that we're into are integrated seamlessly with, okay, what does that mean about how is Jesus speaking through this thing, you know. And so I think that's one of the things we did right was that we treated the gospel as if it mattered in the little things as well as the big things, you know. And to raise our kids with this real sense of the kingdom, you know, the presence of the kingdom, that Jesus has begun his reign and we get to be these priests in this new creation now. It's like I grew up in a church tradition that didn't talk much about the end of the world. It was like, well, we'll figure it out when we get there.

All we know is that this is all going to burn or whatever. And actually that's not the story the Bible tells. I mean, Peter says some things like that, but the real picture we have is that God loves his creation and that in some way, I believe that the work we're doing now in his name carries over into that new creation. And that there is this new earth, a new heaven and a new earth that we're living into. And so our kids, like, we tried to help them see that the good work that they're doing now is a part of that, you know.

There's not as hard of a dividing line between the two as I think that I grew up assuming. And so it kind of ennobles and sanctifies the small ways that we love in Christ's name now, because they are a part of the story that he's telling. That's Dave and Anne Wilson with Andrew Peterson on Family Life Today. His book series for kids is called The Wingfeather Saga. And you can learn more about Andrew's books and music and the upcoming animated version of The Wingfeather Saga at or in today's show notes. And if you know of anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it'd really help us out if you'd rate and review us. And tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson are going to be talking with the president of Family Life, David Robbins, as he helps us see that as a spouse, our imperfections point to our need for grace and why that's a good thing. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-11 17:13:20 / 2023-01-11 17:24:48 / 11

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