Online Conversation | What Really Matters with Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth

In a world of hurt, what power do we have in our own small spheres to face the pain around us and offer hope, healing, and comfort? Do we need epic plans – or can we begin the work of repair with something as simple as a meal, an open home or a handwritten letter?

Grammy Award-winning music producer Charlie Peacock along with his wife, author Andi Ashworth, have written Why Everything That Doesn’t Matter, Matters So Much: The Way of Love in a World of Hurt. In this collection of letters, Charlie and Andi help Christians and spiritual seekers explore topics of creativity, relationship, and a theology of imagination.

We hosted an Online Conversation with Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth on March 22 to explore how we can become forces of healing in a hurting world.

Thank you to our sponsors, Scott and Cindy Anderson, and to our co-hosts, Rabbit Room and Hearts & Minds, for their support of this event!    

Online Conversation | Charlie Peacock + Andi Ashworth | March 22, 2024

Cherie Harder: Welcome to all of you joining us for today’s Online Conversation with Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth on “What Matters Most.” I’d like to thank our friends at The Rabbit Room, as well as Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds, who are our co-hosts for today’s program. We love working with you all and really appreciate it. And would also like to thank our sponsor for today’s program, Scott and Cindy Anderson. We are grateful for your support.

We’re delighted that so many of you are joining us today, and I’d like to especially welcome our first-time registrants, as well as our 100 or so international guests, joining us from at least 14 different countries that we know of, ranging from Fiji and Malaysia to Portugal and Panama. So thank you for joining us from across the miles and across the time zones. And if you haven’t already done so, drop us a note in the chat box. Let us know where you’re tuning in from. It’s always fun for us to see just the range of people all over the globe who are united in watching this program together.

If you are one of those first-time guests or otherwise new to the work of the Trinity Forum, we seek to provide a space for leaders to engage the big questions of life in the context of faith, and to come to better know the Author of the answers. And we hope today’s program will be a small taste of that for you today.

We live in a time that values and valorizes productivity, speed, and scale and emphasizes precise and perpetual measurement and management of those markers. The belief in the consulting adage that “you are what you measure,” or “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” has spread far beyond commercial enterprises and increasingly prompted not just businesses, but a whole range of organizations, including nonprofits—even churches—as well as individuals, to believe that what is valuable is empirical and measurable, and that those measurements show us what’s real and what really matters. Our guests today offer a radically different way of seeing the world. They assert that it is not the empirical but love that is, in their words, “the highest way of knowing and the trustworthy basis of the imaginative and creative good.” They recount, through a series of letters, their own experiences in seeking what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.” And they offer insight as to what might seem to be the small aspects of life, whether it’s cooking or gardening, music making, hospitality, or family matters—the things that seem sometimes not to matter so much—are actually what matters most. 

It’s an invitation to a new way of understanding and living, and it’s hard to imagine guests who better embody or articulate what it means to live an artful, faithful, and deeply fruitful life that our guests today, Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth. Charlie and Andi are creatives, writers, and the founders and leaders of the Art House America movement, who together directed the Art House in Nashville for nearly two decades. They’re also distinctive artists in several ways. Charlie is a jazz and pop recording artist, a four-time Grammy Award–winner, a composer, and a producer whose credits include the bands Switchfoot, Civil Wars, and artists such as Ben Rector and Amy Grant. He’s also the founder and director of the Commercial Music program at Lipscomb, and the music editor for Christianity Today. Andi Ashworth is a writer whose works include Real Love for Real Life: the Art and Work of Caring and Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children. Their most recent work together, which has just come out, Why Everything that Doesn’t Matter Matters So Much, is available now and the reason that we called them in here today to discuss their work.

So Charlie and Andi, welcome. It’s great to see you.

Andi Ashworth: Great to see you Cherie.

Charlie Peacock: Thank you, Cherie.

Cherie Harder: And as we talked about a little bit before, and probably our frequent attenders will notice, my background is a little bit different. I’ve actually shifted into the living room. And the peacock is an homage to you, Charlie. So welcome.

Charlie Peacock: Thank you, thank you. I feel so at home in your home. Thank you.

Cherie Harder: So one of the things that struck me about your work right away, and that I really love and appreciated, is you approached writing this book in a very different way. You know, usually books are pretty straightforward, but you actually wrote this book together as a series of letters. And I understand that letters have actually played a big role in the life of your marriage and your family. The two of you have written a lot of letters to each other. You write regular letters to your children, and as a family, you read them out to each other each Valentine’s Day. I read that you write a letter to each of your grandchildren when they turn 13. So I wanted to ask, why did you write this work this way?

Andi Ashworth: That is such a great question. I’d love to answer it. As we turned in the first draft of our book, our wonderful editor, Lisa Jo Baker, saw this thread in our writing right off the bat, because we had talked about this aspect of our family life that had been going on since our children were young, little, and now they’re in their 40s with their own children. And, you know, the latest version of that is the 13th-birthday letter. We have one grandchild who’s going to receive hers in about, I think it’s about a week. And so our editor saw this thread and said, you know, this might be a beautiful way to form this next portion of the books. What would you guys think about that? And so we thought, well, we know how to do that. That would be great. And so it was really because of her direction and her vision that we turned them into letters, which turned out to be such a great way to frame the little bit that we had written and all that we would write after that.

Cherie Harder: Absolutely.

Charlie Peacock: I would like to add one thing, though, too. I mean, we’ve been married quite a long time, boyfriend and girlfriend since we were 14 and 15. So I would like to say that I was a master of the teenager love note first, so it was mastering that letter first that led to all the rest.

Andi Ashworth: True, that’s true.

Charlie Peacock: Okay, I was waiting for you to say. 

Andi Ashworth: I affirm that. 

Cherie Harder: Another thing that struck me—and really, this is true of both of you, although I’ll ask you to start with this, Charlie—is both of you described yourself, or really your practice of writing, because both of you are authors, as an exercise in epistemology, that, you say, you write to figure out what you think. So what were you seeking to know in writing this work?

Charlie Peacock: Yeah, for me, I’m very, very quick to get a generalist view of something. So you and I could, like, just take any subject right now, and I would be able to extrapolate from other subjects to that subject and sort of formulate a kind of tentative, generalist view of it. And I’ve just been able to do that since I was a little boy. And so, for me, the work that I’ve had to do as a student is to learn to drill down and to really get to the specifics and then test those. Right? Test my theories or what I profess to believe. And sometimes I find, you know, a lot of correction and excitement and a new enthusiasm for ideas when I begin to write about them. And I learned that very early on, too. And then I did a number of different practices from a songwriting standpoint. There was a time where I decided that, when I had something that is serious, that for me it was like, wow, I don’t want to just write a lyric. I know how to do that. I want to write about this verse. And out of what I learned through the writing, I’ll write a better lyric. So that was kind of the first way that I used to do it.

And then I started doing, as a habit, or as a tradition, at the end of every year, I would write about that year, about what I learned. And so, again, that was like a revisiting of it. Sometimes it meant going through journals, when I journaled back then. Andi’s the really faithful journalist. But, yeah, I just found that the more I did it, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m learning so much through this process.” And it also meant that, like, I might jump up and remember a book and grab that book and then study it for a while or say, “Oh, no, wait, I read that in Ephesians,” and then I jump to the Bible and look there. And it just became the way for me, as primarily an autodidact, that that was just really the way that self-learning worked for me. I mean, I’m a visual learner to a certain extent, but really learning by writing is really my thing. 

Cherie Harder: Your book covers so much about what’s important in life, and there’s a big emphasis on vocation there. You mentioned really loving, both of you mentioned, loving Os Guinness’s book The Call. And I’m a big fan of that as well. And it’s a different view of vocation that he articulates than is sort of commonly understood. And one of the things I think is probably somewhat just unique about your own story is not only have you both had just fascinating professional and personal lives, but you’ve also, you know, your sense of shared vocation is so robust and thick. And I would love to kind of hear you talk—and maybe, Andi, we can start with you—about what you’ve learned about vocation over time and what counsel you might give to people just starting out in terms of understanding their own call.

Andi Ashworth: Okay. I remember reading Os’s book and it just opening up the world. And I think that he said this—possibly I said it after reading him; now I’m not sure—but it was “vocation is not just one job or one task, but the whole shape of our life.” And that was just so helpful to me to understand that, of course, it makes sense that all of the life that we’re given—relationally and the way our gifts are used, the daily-ness of all that we are involved in, whatever it is—that all of that would have to matter or, really, none of it would matter very much. If only part of it mattered, then that would say something about who God is. And so that was just a really beautiful, helpful thing to me. So I began to see that both—. You know, at the time I was learning and beginning to ask those questions [about] “what does vocation mean?” we still had one child at home. One was gone. We had this increasing, increasing life of having guests all the time and all of the things that go along with having guests, which is, you know, cooking and cleaning up and creating in the realm of beauty and gardens and all these things. And then I was beginning to write. And so there were all these different threads. And so the word “vocation” really helped me to see that there’s a comprehensiveness, a thread that draws through all of those things. Some of them are developing as I’m going along in life and as we’re going along in life, and some of them are old pieces of who I am, who we were when we were young, but they found their way to show up in different places of our life but with these strong threads. As our friend Steven Garber says, “the longer, deeper stories of our lives.” So kind of all of that put together would help me to get up in the mornings and find this great meaning in the whole.

Charlie Peacock: Yeah. And Os’s connection that he made between sort of flipping the primary and secondary vocation was so important, to front-load the primary in terms of what Andi just described. And then we could, we might have several secondary locations through our lifetime, things that we may give ourselves to, whether it be what we call “vocational ministry,” or it could be being a vocational musician. And then in your sixties, changing that to being a vocational gardener or something, you know. But, really, all of those secondary vocations serve this primary vocation of being God’s kind of person in the world, being interested in the same things that Jesus is interested in. And I think that’s what Os really laid out.

And then for me as an artist, he gave me language that I’ve used ever since, which is to be God’s musical person everywhere and in everything and as much as God resources me for that and calls me to that. So that has been my calling, which is why I don’t call myself a “Christian musician,” because there’s a genre of music called “Christian music,” which goes against what I just shared, right? I can’t be God’s musical person everywhere in everything if I commit to a specific genre. And I just happen to be one of those musicians that is gifted in pretty much all of American music and neoclassical music. So I want to be available to make that music if I’m resourced for it and God calls me in that direction.

Cherie Harder: You know, a lot of the people watching aren’t going to be aware of Art House America and all that it’s done. But I would love for you to tell the story and even how, you know, essentially, this dream came to fruition and eventually helped spawn, from my understanding, a major movement that helped save the lives of 40 million people in Africa. So I would love to hear you tell the story about how you all moved from music making and writing to playing that role.

Charlie Peacock: When we moved from Sacramento, California, to Nashville, Tennessee, we moved purposely to work within Christian music. I’d been courted by one of the large record companies, Sparrow Records, and then one of the biggest management companies and labels that managed Amy Grant. And they all wanted me to come to Nashville and work and said, “If you come to Nashville, you’ll never stop working,” which was absolutely true. So I’m very grateful to them for how they gave me so much work. And I was able to, to make so much music. But on arrival, I realized, oh, the one thing I don’t share with these brothers and sisters is this deep commitment to this thing called “Christian music” as a genre. I definitely share a commitment to creating the music of the Church, so we’re in sync there. But I’ve got a lot of other interests, and God through my life has prepared me for making lots of different kinds of music. So I realized, you know, is that just for me? Or should a certain amount of God’s musical people be prepared for that inevitability, to play first-chair violin in the Boston Symphony, to be the world’s greatest jazz bass player, and so on and so forth. 

And then the more I thought about that, I was like, you know, I want to be a part of telling that story and creating a theology that is understandable to people so that when people encounter those possibilities, they can pray about it, [and] they can say yes to them if they feel led to them without any sort of feeling like they’re somehow betraying God or betraying this Christian mission or anything like that. So I realized that that story needed to be told. They needed to have that freedom. I was so fortunate, as a very young Christian, to run into a little IVP pamphlet called Art in the Bible, written by Francis Schaeffer. And that just really freed me up to realize that, you know what? I can be a part of these different kinds of things that people might say, “oh, that’s explicitly Christian,” but I will always be, you know, an explicit Christian because I belong to Jesus. And so wherever I go in the world, I’m going to be telling these Jesus-centric stories, that sometimes are prescriptive, sometimes they’re just descriptive, sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit. And I just wanted to create a place where this kind of dialogue could happen. And so that’s how the Art House happened.

We also had a pastor that we met when we first moved to Nashville, Scotty Smith, and he was a big help in it and taught a Bible study every week. And then we got so much help from academics and theologians that would come to the Art House. And, even, you know, I had a 20-minute meeting with Frederick Buechner one time, and I remember mispronouncing some famous poet’s name and being so embarrassed, and he was so gracious to me. And the very first person that ever gave to the work of the Art House was Frederick Buechner. It was just so kind to have a sweet note from him, and a gift, monetary gift too, because he did get the vision of it. And, of course, he understood. I mean, he’d been doing it his whole life, right? He was loving the Church and loving the world and creating great literature and also helping brothers and sisters draw closer to Christ. And that’s all I wanted to do and all I wanted the Art House to be about.

And then fast forward, as you said, many years later, decades later, one of our very early Art House students had, you know, was all grown up now and his name was Jay Swartzendruber. And he was a huge U2 fan. And so if, you know, if U2 had coughed or sneezed somewhere in the world, I mean, he knew about it before anyone else. And so he knew that Bono was coming to the States. And of course, our mutual friend Mark Rogers was keeping us abreast of it as well. And Jay was just very bold in saying, “I think we should ask Bono to come to the Art House.” And I was like, “Jay, that’s a very noble idea. But do you realize how complicated their world is?” And he said, “I just think we should do it. Let’s ask Mark if he’ll deliver a letter.” And so Jay and I sat down and wrote a letter to Bono, and, fortunately, I had a little bit of a connection because I had been on Island Records before, and I knew that a mutual friend of ours had played the guy some of my music before, and there was at least something, an introductory conversation that I could put in the letter. 

Well, you know, he came! He wrote back, and then we entered into the U2 universe, which was, it was on again. It was off again. It was on again. It was off again. And then it just happened. And then he was there. And I think for the listeners, really, the takeaway is something called PEPFAR. And for Americans, that means the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief. So I put together, along with several other people, including my friend Steve Taylor and others, a room full of musicians—what people would call influencers today. And so we put together all these people from our community, and Bono was able to speak to them and really stirred their hearts for what he called Africa’s HIV emergency. He used the word “emergency.” And that really helped all of us to grasp how important this moment was, and were we going to get on the right side of history? We were also so fortunate to have Senator Bill Frist from Nashville who was the Speaker of the House at the time. And it was just the right time, the right group of people. And, you know, a year and some change later, there was the president announcing PEPFAR and then fast-forward to 2023 and I think you said, you know, it’s like somewhere between 25 to 40 million lives, I mean, that’s what people say, have been saved through that program.

And what the folks in that meeting at the Art House did? Well, first of all, we gave our imprimaturs to the entire project, right? We stood behind Senator Frist in photo ops. We signed, you know, a zillion petitions. We went out to the churches, the music festivals. We told the story. Bono did videos, which we then edited, put music to—I can remember doing music to one of them—and took them all around to festivals. And we changed the Church’s view of what the problem of AIDS was and why to enter into it and to be part of the solution was exactly what neighbor-love is. And believe me, it was messy. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of infighting, a lot of people not liking what was happening. “Who’s this guy Bono?” You know, I mean, it was the whole thing. But it was one of those cases where to use—you mentioned Steve a minute ago—but Steve Garber’s word “proximate” that he uses a lot. Like, was it perfect? Absolutely not. Did it do a lot and get a lot done in the name of love? Absolutely.

Cherie Harder: So, Andi, I’d like to ask you, in the midst of all of this going on and all these musicians kind of tromping through Art House and meetings with Bono happening and the like—you have, well, at least one chapter on hospitality and it’s a chapter I love, and it’s an area where it seems more attention should be paid. And perhaps part of the reason why it hasn’t been in the past is it’s just sort of been an assumption of, you know, “the women will handle it” and not perhaps given its proper due. And I wanted to ask you both about the—I mean, this was a joint venture, but you led so much of the hospitality efforts there. And you talked about the importance of hospitality in your chapter. And you quoted Eugene Peterson or his translation of Romans—I think it’s like Romans 12:3 or something like that, 12:13—”be inventive in hospitality.”

Andi Ashworth: Yeah.

Cherie Harder: I wanted to ask you both how you became so inventive in your hospitality, because this is kind of a new concept that the two of you largely pioneered. But, you know, in addition to that, you are really leading this huge hospitality effort with all the people coming in, all the people staying, at the same time that you’re trying to be a writer, which is kind of by nature a solitary business. So I would love to kind of hear you talk about both the vision for hospitality and what you would counsel to others interested or who believe that that’s part of their vocation, but then also how you managed what seemed like opposing vocational poles of a more solitary writing versus the necessary attunement to others that hospitality entails.

Andi Ashworth: Yeah, yeah. Well, we followed the breadcrumbs of our life. I’ll just say it. It was like that. It wasn’t like we were young and we set out to have this life where we lived in an old country church that we renovated and had as a family home and a place for people to gather and a recording studio, which is what the Art House in Nashville was and where it started and how it became. But when we were quite young still, we had had a very difficult first few years of marriage. So when things began to get better, we really had this sense of gratitude. And it was “we rent this little house in Sacramento, California; we want to share it.” That was the beginning. It was genuine gratitude. We have almost lost everything. But we haven’t lost everything. Now we’re together. We have these little children. We have each other. We have this house. We want to share it. And so it really started like that. It was very natural.

And then, over the years and then especially moving to Nashville, we just kept following. And Chuck was very invitational, so he would, as a touring artist, he’d go all over the world. He’d invite people to, if you find yourself in our area, come see us. So, you know—.

Charlie Peacock: Consequently, people found themselves in our area a lot.

Andi Ashworth: So there was a lot of responding, you know, for me. Like, here are people and they need to be taken care of. And then the responding began to grow more— out of responding, I grew more intentional. I grew to see how much it mattered to just be with people, to sit with people, to have a conversation. It mattered to me. It mattered to other people. It was a way of being that you had to understand, kind of put yourself in the place of somebody else and say, “I really value when somebody is like that for me and with me,” and to also see how much it meant to— you know, the sharing of the table was important, but it’s not the only thing that hospitality means. It can be a part of it. It’s not the whole thing.

So I came to see over years and years of hosting, growing up, growing older, that it is a word that can’t be made small. And I wrote so much about it as I lived because, again, we’re trying to understand our life, right. And so after my first book, I was asked to come speak often on the subject of hospitality, but I was often asked to come speak to women. And I would always say, this is not something that’s just given to women. Please, you know, broaden the idea of it. And so now I just see it as something that is so big and so lifetime and so small also, that it’s about attentiveness and curiosity and listening and being present and something that you can do and be at the grocery store and something you can do in your home, something you can do when you’re walking around your neighborhood, is that you can show an interest in somebody. You can sit with somebody and get to know who they are and offer your own stories back and forth. So love, neighborliness, hospitality—just a huge topic for life.

And then for us, it’s had a seasonal aspect in that we definitely do not live the kind of work of hospitality that we once did. We live in a different place and we do have much more privacy for writing. And that tension between being with people all the time and being a writer, I think, was something that was always present for me in our life at the Art House. And so I see my calling as a writer as something that I have returned to and return to and return to—over a lifetime. 

Cherie Harder: You know, switching gears a little bit, both of you are writers as a vocation, or songwriters—storytellers, would be one aspect of your vocation. And this is kind of a challenging time for storytellers, I would think, in that, you know, at least we as a culture are kind of losing our shared sense of what is real and true, which is really kind of essential to telling a story that everyone can resonate with. And one would hope that this would not be the case, but conspiracy thinking, by every measure, is just as widespread within the Christian community as outside of it. And we’re getting our increasingly customized social media feeds; we all are increasingly inhabiting a bespoke reality. How do you tell stories that will resonate in a context when we are increasingly not sharing a same sense of what is real or true? And, Charlie, maybe we can start with you on that.

Charlie Peacock: Yeah. There’s a couple of approaches that I’ve tried, hoping to measure, kind of, efficacy. And one might be that I simply reinvent language. Like, if I were going to look at, okay, here’s the top ten trigger words that as soon as they’re read or heard, people go off in this direction and then you lose them, right? And so how would I say the same thing without using that word and write pieces like that or do a speaking engagement or something and speak in that way. So I’ve found that to be partially effective. It can create brand-new problems, particularly for Christians. I’ve often seen Christians being very needy to have the signs and signals so that they feel safe that you are a Christian and that you share the same values, cares, and commitments that they do. And so they’re looking for certain language. And if you don’t give them that then they may be suspicious as to whether you’re really “in the family,” so to speak, or not.

So then the next step is that you have this writing that gets inflated in a sense. Right? Because you’ve tried to be concise, but you’re reinventing language, but you’re being concise and you’re hoping that a lot of people sort of pick up on what it is you’re doing. So then the second way is that you make the writing more bloated because you, in a sense, pause for a second to give an apologetic for what you’ve just done. so that’s another way that I’ve tried as well.

I find that when you try to publish that writing, editors edit that. And for all the right reasons. You get it. They would rather you say the specific word that you want to— you know, the trigger word, right? Or the words that everybody wants to hear that makes everybody feel nice and warm and fuzzy and ready to listen. My issue has been that I usually don’t do those things, not because I’m just not doing them for spite or that I want to rebel against it; I really do have a plan in motion, and that is to write and speak in such a way that the whole world can listen in, or as if they’re looking over your shoulder. That is the kind of Christian that I feel called to be in the world. I understand inside language. You know, if we’re over at our neighborhood fellowship and we’re talking about some specific theological idea and various positions on it, I understand we’re going to use some inside language there that’s not necessarily going to work out on the street. So I get all that. But when I’m writing or working on my podcast, anything that’s going to be in public, I am so aware that my artistic dream, my citizen dream, is to write in such a way that the whole world can listen in, and the least amount of people be distracted, and the most amount of people receive my writing as an invitation to enter in.

Cherie Harder: We’re going to turn to audience questions in just a minute. But before we do, one of the things I wanted to ask is, you know, in many ways your book seeks to sort of reframe what is meant by a good life. And you suggest that really success is not what we should be aiming at. And, Andi, you describe pulling out your knapsack of words and instead suggesting fruitfulness as the measure or the goal. What is the difference in your mind between success and fruitfulness, and what difference does that make?

Andi Ashworth: Success, when it’s understood to be something that is measurable—that can be anything from how much you sell of something, how many social media followers you have, whether you have a salary or don’t have a salary for your work in the world, just any way that measurement is used to value a human life—is where it goes wrong to me, and where it doesn’t fit and where it’s never fit. And so it’s been a word that I’ve had a bit of a tussle with over the years, just knowing that there’s so much that it doesn’t fit. And fruitfulness is something that I tucked in a long time ago into what I call my little knapsack of words, which include words like “vocation” and “dependence” and “grace” and just really important things to keep in mind. And fruitfulness is what God talks so much about, what Jesus talks so much about, and it is really something that he is doing in us and with us as we turn towards him and we follow him. And it’s what I love as a way of— because we can’t really measure it. We can’t really see it. We don’t tally it up for ourselves. It’s more of a trust, that if we walk in the faithful path that God has for us and we walk as pilgrims—always proximate, never perfect, following our breadcrumbs—that we can trust that there is a fruitfulness and that it’s God’s to measure or to know or to not measure, but to just know about. And so I think there’s a real freedom in that to not have to try, to say, “Well, I know what is fruitful and what is not. I know how to measure my own value.” Because our value is already taken care of. We are valued. And the fruitfulness is also taken care of. Yeah. So it’s a matter of trusting and walking in that. 

Cherie Harder: Well, we’re going to turn to questions from our viewers. There’s a number of them here. And just as a reminder to all of our viewers, you can not only ask a question, but you can also “like” a question. And that helps give us an idea of what some of the most popular questions are. So the first question comes from Ken McElrath, and Ken says, “Mako Fujimura and David Brooks call themselves ‘border stalkers,’ people who cross tribal norms to see the whole, to navigate in between walls erected to protect the tribes. Do you view yourself this way, and if so, can you elaborate on this concept further?” Charlie, I’ll toss that one to you.

Charlie Peacock: Yes. Most definitely. I mean, we all know each other. We’ve all talked about this concept. And, you know, I probably wouldn’t use the same language to describe it. I would go back to what I learned from Os which was “everywhere, in everything”—would be another way of saying “border crossing.” Having that preparation to be everywhere and in everything. Yes, that is essential to my life. I do want to be in a number of different communities and be called a friend in those communities. And I have to consciously—again, it’s sad—but often in Christian community, I have to work even harder to help brothers and sisters understand why that is so important to me, and why I think it is so deeply linked to the Jesus mission that we are all professing to participate in. And it does take different shapes and have different areas of emphasis. I totally get that. But I do think the invitation to follow is that big. I think it is one of border crossing. 

Cherie Harder: So our next question comes from Mike Loomis. Andi, I’ll toss this one to you. And Mike says, “Tomorrow I’m preaching at my cousin’s wedding. What one thing would you say is a key to a successful marriage? I may quote you.”

Andi Ashworth: [Laughs.] Let’s see. I think being a safe place for each other. I think we would both say that has been the work of our life is to try to come to better and better and better places of being a safe place for each other to be so that we can communicate and so that we don’t judge before the communication is even finished, before we’ve finished expressing ourselves. Yeah, I think that would be my number one thing and something that we’re still working on. But, yeah, as we have grown more in that way, that’s been really essential to us.

Cherie Harder: So Nathan Swanson asked, “What advice do you have for those living out these practices and concepts in careers outside of the arts?” And whoever wants to take that can start.

Charlie Peacock: Yeah, I would go back to the Eugene quote that we talked about hospitality. What was the word? The invention–

Andi Ashworth: Be inventive in hospitality.

Charlie Peacock: Inventive. 

Andi Ashworth: No cookie cutter.

Charlie Peacock: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think that’s a great starting place for all vocations is to begin with invention. And for me, I would use the word “imagination.” So, if somebody asks me to come speak about creativity, I always speak about imagination first because there is no creativity without imagination. So there is no creating in your vocation, doing the work, without inventing and imagining and calling into being something that you’ve given some thought to. And so in every vocation, as I’ve done in mine, I know that you can constantly ask questions of yourself in that vocation. What does it mean to move the vocation forward? I mean, in my world, when I was a kid, a teenager, I discovered a saxophonist named John Coltrane. What was the first thing that I learned about John Coltrane? It’s that he moved the saxophone forward. He did things with the saxophone that no one had ever done before. So in his vocation, he dreamed a good dream for his musical instrument. He created all of the scales and—or discovered them—and all of the different patterns in order for him to grow as a musician. The same thing can be done if you’re a surgeon. The same thing can be done if you’re a landscaper. All of that is just to say, how do I move my vocation forward? How, in ten years from now, will my vocation be different because I dreamed a different dream for it? I dreamed for one that would contribute to cosmic betterment, you know, the common good. And, yeah, that’s my main advice. Start with the imagination. You know, imagine what you want to see in your work and how you want to improve it and how you want to improve. So that requires having some self-critique and self-analysis. And I would, again, for me, writing would be one of the first things I would do. I would dive in. I’d start writing about it. 

Cherie Harder: That’s great. Andi, I’ll toss the next one to you. Cliff Miller asks, “It seems to me that the spiritual gifts of hospitality and encouragement are deeply intertwined. Do you agree with that? And how would you describe that relationship?”

Andi Ashworth: I do. That’s a great way of saying it. Well, we encourage each other as we attempt to turn to each other and know each other. Which is so much, I would say, a posture of hospitality is “I want to know you. I want to know your stories. I want to listen back and forth and talk to each other and find out who we are together.” You know, what our stories have been. And along the way, we affirm and we encourage. And some of what we do, I think, that’s a beautiful gift to each other is to name— as we see something in each other, we name it and we speak it back to the person. And that can be a lovely part of hospitality, too. A hospitable way. Yeah. To help name, to help encourage, to welcome.

Cherie Harder: That’s great. So, J.K. Miles asked, “What is the hardest thing about code-switching from an insular Christian community and the wide world? I’m an academic professor and a part-time pastor for a small community, so this is a practical question for me.” Charlie, what do you think?

Charlie Peacock: Yeah. I mean, I’ve probably said at least three or four times now just in the last few minutes just how difficult that is, the switching. And I think it’s almost like the stages of grief, you know, that you go through. I’ve been through times where it’s just angered me so much or it’s saddened me so much, or other times where I’ve been able to grow through that and then get to the point where I can quickly switch to a place where this is just how it is. You’re only responsible to change the little things that are right in front of you, and you can’t change this whole thing. Because I would love to have, you know— again, my dream is more for seamless integration. But there can be just sort of like that speed bump, you know. Like where you’re like, “whoa, yeah, I just entered into another world.”

But it starts with me. It really does. It starts with me being able to kind of smoothly, seamlessly move between these two worlds. So that means I will have to pause at some point and give it some thought about how I’m going to do that. And again, that goes back to what we started with, with the writing and just asking myself those questions: “What is this?” Okay. So what is it that happens, like you’ve gone from this one environment, everyone’s speaking this one language, and now you’re shifting to another one very quickly. The language changes. Things may become wildly more intellectual and stimulating, or they could become very coarse and sort of like, “I’m not even really sure I want to be here.” You know, you can just have this kind of jerked-around feeling. And I think it helps to think about each one of those scenarios as you experience them and then do some writing about it. Think about, like, what do I feel when that happens? Do I feel scared? Do I feel lonely? Do I feel that I don’t have the words to say? And if that turns out that it’s like I don’t have the words to say, then maybe it’s like, okay, if I really stop to think, next time that happens, what would I like to say? You know, in the best part of my person, how would I respond in that way?

Well, again, it’s taking the time to figure out how you want to be in the world, and that does mean pushing pause. It doesn’t have to be big, you know? I mean, you can push pause for five minutes and say, next time I go over to that building and meet with those people, I’m going to be a little bit more prepared. And I’ve just found that to be incredibly helpful. It’s really broadened my ability to fit in and also just to love more unconditionally. But I’ve definitely had to push pause and think about it. I couldn’t just wing it. You know, I mean, I’d find that I was really good at winging some things and just really bad at others.

Cherie Harder: Actually, I’ll ladle two together, both on hospitality. And, Andi, maybe you can start, but we’d love to hear from both of you. So an anonymous attendee asks, “Do you think that hospitality looks different for men and women, or is it just a matter of taking the opportunities and dealing with the people that the Lord puts in front of you?” And somewhat similarly, another anonymous attendee asked, “Hospitality often requires a sacrifice of time and money from the host. Do you think it’s possible on limited resources?”

Andi Ashworth: I do think it’s possible because we, all of us, give out of what we have, whether it’s time or place or, you know, relationship or a little bit of food and Trader Joe’s, you know, frozen dinner. Maybe we have an extra one we can share. I mean, everybody has such individual, unique contributions, and we start with where we are. We offer from where we are and what we have. So I think it’s just something that is very possible for anybody. And what was the first one? Oh, it was—.

Cherie Harder: Does hospitality look different for men and women?

Andi Ashworth: Oh, boy. Well, I think it looks different, I guess, according to— I don’t think it has to be for men and women, but obviously we all have different and unique gifts that we bring and that are cultivated along the way of our life. So, again, we never set out to kind of divide things up the way it ended up happening, but I just got better at cooking and— I mean, I was just better. And more used to it, you know, and—.

Charlie Peacock: And wanted to. Had friends who were really great chefs.

Andi Ashworth: Exactly. Yeah. My imagination was very captured by the kitchen, you know. And also I’m very relational. I really, really love sitting and getting to know somebody. But I think that’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because it’s the way that things developed in our life. So I don’t think I would put it in terms of gender.

Charlie Peacock: Yeah, we worked on— I mean, the hospitable life that we tried to cultivate, in particular at the Art House, was very much a team effort. It just had different areas of emphasis that were based on interest and based on gifting and skill and ability. And we would talk about it sometimes and kind of divvy things up. But most of the time, by that point in our marriage and partnership in the Art House, there was a lot of unspoken movement and kind of job assignments that we would take on just knowing that, you know, this is what I’m good at, and that’s what you’re good at.

So to give an example, like, Andi is the ultimate arbiter of what is beautiful, in terms of when we think about what do we want people to feel, to smell, to taste, to experience when they walk into a gathering or an event. But I might be the person that creates the infrastructure for that in terms of maybe setting the stage. And then Andi might be the person who is kind of the final say, like, “I think we should move this there now and this there,” and then I’m like, “Yeah, that’s perfect. That looks better than where I sat it” or something like that. So that’s just one example of the way that we would work together in having— working on hospitality together but having different functions.

Cherie Harder: That’s great. Well, in just a moment, Andi and Charlie, I’m going to give you the last word. But before that, a few things just to share with those of you who are watching. Right after we conclude, you will see flash up on your screen an invitation to take a survey. We really would appreciate you taking just a minute or two to fill that out. These are very important to us. We read these every time. We really try to take your suggestions and ideas to account. And as a special incentive and thank you to do so, with a completed survey, we’ll send you a code for a free Trinity Forum Reading download of your choice. There are several that we would actually recommend that kind of go along with or deepen some of the themes that we’ve talked about today, including Babette’s Feast by Isak Denison, “Hannah and Nathan” by Wendell Berry, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard, “Bright Evening Star” by Madeleine L’Engle, and “Letters from Vincent van Gogh.”

In addition, tomorrow we’ll be sending around a follow-up email with a lightly edited video link, as well as a list of further readings and recommendations and resources to help you kind of go further in some of the themes that we’ve described. So be on the lookout and feel free to share the video from today’s Online Conversation with others that you know.

In addition, we would love to invite all of you who are watching to join the Trinity Forum Society, which is the community of people united around advancing Trinity Forum’s submission of cultivating, curating, and disseminating the best of Christian thought for the common good. In addition to the joy of advancing that mission, there’s a number of benefits associated with being a Society member, including a subscription to our quarterly Readings, a subscription to our daily “What We’re Reading” list of curated reading recommendations, and as a special incentive with your membership or gift of $100 or more, we will send you a signed copy of Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth’s work, Why Everything That Doesn’t Matter Matters So Much. In addition, if you would be interested in sponsoring an Online Conversation, let us know. I think there’s an opportunity in the survey to tell us, or you can simply email us at

In addition, I want to let you know about some upcoming events. This is the last Online Conversation for March. For April we have several events planned already. John Inazu on April 19th on “Learning to Disagree.” And on April 26th, we’ll be hosting poet Christian Wiman on his new book, Zero at the Bone. March 3rd, our guest will be John Mark Comer on his new work Practicing the Ways. So mark your calendars and we hope to see you then.

And finally, as promised, Andi and Charlie, the last word is yours.

Andi Ashworth: All right. This is from the last chapter of our book. Just a little snippet: “Here’s the beautiful, remarkable thing about turning toward fruitfulness and away from metrics-driven success. Fruitfulness isn’t bound to the moment we’re in, or only what’s visible and measurable. The work of God’s Spirit can’t be contained, quantified, categorized, bottled, labeled, or counted in trophies. Day by day, God is calling us to things that might have the quality of eternal worth, but we don’t have to know how it will all shake out. I hope this is encouraging and freeing. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

Charlie Peacock: “Rest in a deep sense of dependence on Jesus to make lasting fruits. It’s what he does. Plus, remarkably, he’s invited you to become a worker in his proverbial fruit-bearing vineyard. If you’ve accepted the invitation, if you remain in him as he remains in you, you’re doing it. This is trustworthy truth to stand on. Let it settle your weary hearts. Your hope is not deferred. It is happening now.

Cherie Harder: Thank you, Charlie. Thank you, Andi. And thank you all for joining us.