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Flesh – Track 3: “We Are Not Children Anymore”

This was kind of a gut reaction song. The past few years saw a lot of tragedy in my community. A lot of divorce and deep hurts. Some of these felt like they couldn't be helped. You grieved but you understood. And sometimes, from the outside anyway, it looked like somebody was just deciding to be selfish, knowing that it was destroying other people. In those moments, it's rarely wise, but you just want to shout "Grow up!" So I put it in a song that, as usual, ends up being more about me and my own issues than anybody else’s. "We Are Not Children Anymore" from Andrew Osenga's Flesh EP [audio:ChildrenAnymore.mp3] (click through for lyrics)

Flesh – Track 2: “I Was A Cynic”

Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us that you can never rest in your freedom but you need to actively continue to pursue it. That's why they're "recovering alcoholics" and not "recovered." I call myself a recovering cynic. It's a tendency I have and it's a place I willingly gave myself to for years. Wasted years. Life is better than that. Nobody ever hung out with a cynical person and left thinking "Well, that was really nice!" It's just a drain on everybody. How was I able to move past it? I saw people loving when it wasn't easy. I saw them have joy when they were hurting. I saw them failing each other, forgiving and being forgiven, and moving forward together. When you really see that you have to decide if you want in, or if you want to call it stupid and walk away. I want in. And I want to keep wanting in. "I Was A Cynic" from Andrew Osenga's Flesh EP [audio:Cynic.mp3] (click through for lyrics)

Flesh – Track 1: “Black Cloud”

This song is about the spiritual and mental malaise that seems to follow me everywhere some years. There are sometimes people, places, and things attached---and sometimes it's just an enveloping haze. The time I spend in this feeling is usually accompanied by a pretty critical mirror, showing me all that's not working about who I am---guilt, shame, mistakes that follow me, loudly mocking me and kicking my heels. The usual suspects. But like the black cloud that led the Israelites out of Egypt by day, and as a pillar of fire in the night, I want to ask whether this might be a natural part of being led through the valley of the shadow of death. Because that's where we all live. "Black Cloud" from Andrew Osenga's Flesh EP [audio:BlackCloud.mp3] (click through for lyrics)

Release Day: Andrew Osenga’s Flesh

There's no getting around the fact that referring to Andrew Osenga's Flesh is weird. But it's also a lot of fun. Consider the following promotional opportunities waiting to happen: Osenga's Flesh is on fire! Osenga's Flesh is delicious. Osenga's Flesh is smooth and white. The possibilities are endlessly entertaining---but so is the record. This is the third EP in Andy's Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone project. The first EP, Heart, was a stripped down acoustic collection. The second EP, Soul, was an appropriately soulful and bluesy job. And for this third entry, Osenga has gone full-tilt '90s rock. The result is awesome. You can hear how much fun Andy is having in every single riff. All five tracks are like getting in a Delorian and being whisked back to the early '90s when Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, and Stone Temple Pilots ruled the airwaves. Buckle your seatbelts and check your flux capacitors. For the next six hours we're holding a launch party. Each hour we'll preview a new song from the EP and Andy will share the story behind it. This week, Andrew Osenga's Flesh is available exclusively in the Rabbit Room Store (sorry, couldn't be helped). Click here to rock.

Transfigured by the World

I’ve been working my way through Christian Wiman’s memoir My Bright Abyss for roughly a month and a half. It was one of those rare random purchases, a book by an author I didn’t know but was willing to take a chance on with a Barnes & Noble gift card. Upon diving in, I realized this is the sort of book you savor slowly---a wandering collection of thoughts on faith, poetry, death, and beauty compiled over a number of years, “a mosaic” more than a narrative, according to the author. My Bright Abyss chronicles Wiman’s meditations on faith after learning he has an incurable cancer. I wish I could give you a neat little review that tells you what this book is about, but I can’t. It’s about faith and fear, life and death, beauty and sickness, hope and regret. It’s about poetry and creativity in some sense, but so much more than that. It’s the kind of book that I have to pick up in a quiet moment of the day, slowly work through a chapter, then put down and think about for a few days before starting back in again. It’s exactly the sort of poignant, urgent book a poet might write through years of staring death in the face.

The Local Show: Sandra McCracken w/ Lori Chaffer, Julie Lee, Chelsey Scott, and more…

Sandra McCracken is hosting the Local Show tomorrow night. Joining her on the stage are a fine line-up of singer-songwriters. Here's a look at what's in store: First up, Lori Chaffer. Lori is the better-half of the musical duo Waterdeep (sorry, Don), and she's one of the most unique songwriters we know. Here's a video of her singing in the canyon at Laity Lodge: Happy | Lori Chaffer from Laity Lodge on Vimeo. Back again is the eclectic Julie Lee. Julie writes and sings everything from blues and bluegrass to folk and gospel. She's an amazing songwriter and always a delight. And making her Local Show debut is Nashville-based singer-songwriter Chelsey Scott. You never know who else might show up. Come out and enjoy the show! Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Rabbit Room members can get it for just $5 at the door by flashing their membership card. We'll see you tomorrow night.

One Minute Review: Ex Machina

Is Father Thomas sentient, or does the One Minute Review only make him appear sentient? Only one way to find out! Watch the One Minute Review of the new sci-fi thriller Ex Machina.  

Story Seeds

Earlier this month I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for an arts festival. As I prepared my pieces for display, I tried to figure out how I could inject a little more story into my paintings. And so I decided to write a few lines that I would print on the back of the 2.5"x4.5" title/price tags. These would be story seeds, words to stir the imagination, a few lines to trigger the mind of the viewer. Well, they ended up inspiring me as well. These lines, written in haste, almost as an afterthought, have helped me (once again) to see that writing is not a massive and unmanageable undertaking. And so I'm writing. I'm taking a couple weeks off painting (so my Instagram feed is going to be quiet for a time) and I'm going to get a story or two out that I can turn into a picture book. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite story seeds and the images they accompany.

A Heck of a Thursday Night

There are two fantastic events happening tonight. Good luck choosing which one is the better use of your time. 11118606_909533115756365_343560394353350864_n At 7pm at New College in Franklin, Tennessee, author Jennifer Trafton will be delivering a lecture on poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the musicality of language. Hopkins is one of greatest ninjas of the English language who has ever lived. He did things with words that one wouldn't even think possible, and Jennifer is going to shed a little light on what makes him such a timeless and inimitable wordsmith. The lecture is free to the public. Click here for more information. 11174801_10153188216991083_8451043454248730107_n Also at 7pm, you can join Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Lori Chaffer, Don Chaffer, Andrew Osenga, Dan Haseltine, and Andrew Peterson for an evening of cover songs supporting the adoption fund that supports Church of the Redeemer, St. Mary's (Nashville), and St. John's (Franklin). General Admission seats are $25. Rows 3-8 are $40. Click here for more information.

On Living a Story Formed Life: Sarah Clarkson Live from Oxford

Our favorite Oxford student (since some dude named Jack Lewis) was recently interviewed about "living a storyformed life." I thought it'd be swell to share that here. Sarah talks about The Rabbit Room, her new book Caught Up in a Story, her website Storyformed, and about life as an adventure story. The podcast is called The Read-Aloud Revival and it's wonderful. Sarah Mackenzie is real ally for storytellers and has been a vocal advocate for The Green Ember, my own novel. I love what Sarah M. is doing and it was wonderful to listen to her interview Sarah C., another brilliant friend who has so much wisdom to share with us. Click here for the link, and consider subscribing to the podcast. [audio:Living_Story.mp3]  

Josh Garrels on His New Album: Home

In retrospect, Home was an obvious result. In the few years following Love & War & The Sea In Between, Josh Garrels found an ever-increasing, well, everything. From the number of tour dates to the sizes of venues to the numbers in attendance, the Portland artist’s popularity grew in scope equal to the epic album he’d released. His songs were heard in Starbucks and on American Idol, featured in Billboard and NPR, and over 200,000 people grabbed ahold of Love & War. For an artist as thoughtful as Garrels, it took considerable time to flesh out these new songs — or even to find the personal space needed to create again. In the midst of tour dates and a special DVD project with Mason Jar Music (The Sea In Between), Garrels slowly began chipping away at them — songs that would eventually embody the name of the album they’re on: Home. They serve as a response to the grand scope of his last release. They’re intimate. They’re warm and vulnerable. They’re also some of his best. SSv: At what point did you know these songs were going to be about this feeling and theme of Home? Josh: To be honest, I never really know what I’m working with, or toward, until I’m quite a ways into the creative process. On the front end I’ll have vague impressions, very few words, and upwards of 30 to 40 audio sketches. My first big edit is to cut this number of potential songs in half, and then begin further development of the remaining 15 to 20 songs by writing lyrics and adding some sonic layers. It’s not until maybe halfway into the album-making process that I realize which ideas, sounds, and themes I’m gravitating to in particular. Once the personality, or theme, of the work has been recognized, the task then is to create focus and harmony between the songs, which often means cutting a few more songs. In the case of Home, I was left with 11 songs that I felt could work together to create a cohesive album. Read the rest of the interview at Stereo Subversion.

Shakespeare and Christianity Celebration

The Aquinas College Center for Faith & Culture has some great events coming up, the first of which sounds like a fine way to spend a Saturday. Tomorrow's celebration of the Bard includes a full day of talks and performances on the topic of Shakespeare and Christianity presented by the Center for Faith & Culture and its director Joseph Pearce. The Center will also honor the winner of the inaugural Shakespeare and Christianity Essay Contest for high school students. For more information, visit the website here. They're also currently running an exhibit on the works of Walker Percy, and later this year will be holding a celebration of Lewis and Tolkien.

England: Day Five (Part Two)

[Day One] [Day Two] [Day Three] [Day Four] [Day Five: Part One] HAY-ON-WYE 02/23/15 Andrew wants to "throttle" me because I manage to outscoop him on a book he has been hunting for years. He and at least one other person on earth claim I have a knack for finding previously overlooked books on the very same shelves they themselves browsed not fifteen minutes earlier. Andrew says it's annoying, I say it's a gift. To the thoroughly meticulous victor belong the spoils. We reconvene at the B&B later in the afternoon where, after successfully squeezing an extra 20 minutes out of Hay's regular business hours by playing ignorant tourist, we lay out our respective hauls: sacks-full of wonderful-smelling, early 20th-century books. An old book is my version of comfort food. While showing off, and comparing (yes, and sniffing) our book acquisitions in a sort of awkward chest-thumping bibliophile display of bravado, I notice a shadow pass over my friend's Swedish face as I reveal the coup de grace: a dust-jacketed 1945 first UK printing of C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. Having not known Andrew has been on a years-long search for a copy in this state, he most certainly lets me know. I feel bad. But not too bad.

Designing a Book Cover: Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions

After reading the manuscript for Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions, the cover was the first piece of art I was asked to take on---and this was my very first book cover. So I quickly went to work designing a title/logo and a theme for the cover involving a stone arch and several character cameos on the bottom corners. I then came up with three different center-image options and presented them to the team at Abrams. The first was what I referred to as "Brace Yourselves." It was slightly ambiguous, with two of the story's main characters, Runt and Pismo, leading an army of hapless zombie minions in what appears to be a stand off with an unforeseen foe. This was not a scene from the story, but was intended to give a sense of urgency and unseen danger. My cameos for the bottom corners turned out to be Dr. Critchlore himself and his secretary, Miss Merrybench. Critchlore Cover Concept 3 The second option was taken directly from a scene involving a mysterious figure in peril, with our main character, Runt, coming to the rescue on the back of a dragon.

England: Day Five (Interlude)

[Day One] [Day Two] [Day Three] [Day Four] DAY FIVE HAY-ON-WYE 23/02/2015 "I just don't get this thing you have for old books," said lots of people, always. It's okay. Of all my strange affections, this is possibly the one about which I feel the least embarrassment. I've always been bashful about my tendency to read books with dragons, or my weird fascination with honeybees, or basically everything in thrift stores, but I am and will remain an unapologetic bibliophile. But I get it. I get why you think I'm crazy. How in the world, you ask, will I have time to read all those books, and why in the world would I let them take over my house--especially when you can store all that information on a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad? What could possibly be enjoyable about rummaging around in a dusty bookshop for hours? Let me explain, in bullet-point fashion for the sake of brevity.