Why We Read and Write Hard Things

When I was a kid, I had to write a book report in Senior English. Ms. Southern gave us a list of famous novels and works several pages long, and each student was to choose from among these. I was a rather morose teenager, enjoying moody music and—as with many teenagers, I expect—anything that smacked of resistance for resistance’ sake. As to what we were resisting, who could say? This being the case though, I perused the list and selected the suggestively titled Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

I didn’t know any Vonnegut. The title felt like a fragment of the cultural landscape, like a roadside hillock I had passed a million times without thinking about it. Plus, it seemed to imply violence of a kind, which fit well into my social lexicon. This was the dawn of the new millennium; Gladiator had come out, along with the acrobatic martial arts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My friends and I had recently discovered Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I enjoyed Michael Crichton novels and bloody Japanese cartoons. In that instance, violence at least felt like a method of enduring schoolwork’s rigors and ennui.

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Invisible Hope

It can be dark,
dark as night.

It can be thick, and damp, and endless.

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Thank You, Thank You!

We’re excited to give you another episode in our film series. This time, we’ve partnered with Robert Allen at The War Room to bring you a song by Glen Phillips, front man of Toad the Wet Sprocket and an excellent writer. We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

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All I Have Needed

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

—I Thessalonians 5:16-18

As a counselor, I tell people on a regular basis to tell the truth, even when it hurts.  At least twice a day, I commend making the choice to express healthy boundaries to others as a means of fully loving them. I ask others to take the risk of confessing things to their partners that will forever alter their relationship. I routinely discuss the cyclical nature of grief, and how even its most subtle rage and overpowering despair are reflections of the full gamut of emotions given to us by God. I sit with many people whose most searing pain and brokenness have been the only possible means to access vulnerability and freedom. I also sit with those whom freedom and intimacy seem to elude, regardless of the fervor of their pursuit. I am each of these in some way, and my regular presence with them helps to hold my own journey in focus.

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Gratitude?

I heard the story this way: One evening a man was taking a stroll down the sidewalk in his neighborhood. As he walked along, all of a sudden a rubber ball bounced over a fence and landed at his feet. He picked it up as a little girl came running toward him and stuck out her hand, obviously wanting her ball back. Trying to prompt the girl to say “Please” or “Thank You” he said, “Well, what’s the magic word?” With a frown on her face, the child shouted, “Now!”

We witness this story every day.

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Sacred Discontent: Behind the Album The Broken Seasons with Adam Whipple

Adam Whipple plays a house show in East Tennessee.

Loyal readers might remember we ran a review from John Barber of Adam Whipple’s new album The Broken Seasons here a few months ago. I would recommend you read it first, then come back and hear from the artist about the philosophy and planning behind the album and the songs. This isn’t meant to be a review, but a conversation that hopefully will give us a glimpse into his creation process. Then click on over to PledgeMusic and help this album drop into a world that needs its honesty. There are only a few days left.

John Palmer Gregg: First. This is an amazing album, and not just a collection of great songs, but it seems well put together. Awesome job man.

Adam Whipple: Thank you!

JPG: Can you briefly describe your songwriting process? Do you start with the lyrics, the music?

AW: I tend to woolgather a lot. Bits of lyrics will come, sometimes verses or choruses or bridges, and I record it or write down a sketch of the melody and let it percolate. The days of entire songs arriving like lightning are either gone or very rare. Sometimes a whole verse or two will show up. That happens a lot when I’m driving, when it’s inconvenient (or illegal?) to write anything down. Once in a while, music comes first, but I get so enamored with music that it often gets hard to see past it. Those times when music arrives first, it seems to open up lyrics that were already there, usually about things I’m dealing with at the time.

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Halloween and Tradition

For Halloween, we’re excited to present something a little new. We’ve made our first foray into audio publishing! We’re only partly calling it a podcast for now. We thought we’d dip our toe in the water and see how you felt about it. Editors Janna Barber and Adam Whipple sat down with musician, producer, and ceramic artist David Clifton, who has lived both in England and in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a discussion about Halloween and the value of tradition.

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