A long-time favorite author of mine, Brian Zahnd, is releasing a really important book soon, and I have had the immense honor of designing the cover! The book is called Postcards from Babylon: The Church in American Exile, and it is set to release in January 2019. Stay tuned for more details and fun stuff like a giveaways :)
I had the privilege of participating in this event with 2 of my favorite people/writers at Centenary College here in Shreveport, LA on October 24, 2017. Music was played (by me), poetry recited (by Jennifer Strange), and books read (by Michelle Junot).
Below, listen to the audio of Michelle reading from her most recent memoir (a self-portrait constructed entirely from content in the Notes app on her iPhone) and from the panel discussion among the 3 of us about all things art-making, vulnerability, work and "real" jobs, the value (and confusion) of liberal arts education, health, etc.
Hope you enjoy!
"The ever-emotive sound and deeply thoughtful lyrics we’ve come to expect of Sarah Duet’s music are as present as ever in her new single, “River (Acoustic),” which is available now exclusively through NoiseTrade. “River” was born of personal reflection on current events woven together with wisdom from many of the world’s great spiritual traditions on the essential sacredness of water. All tips will go to support the Standing Rock Sioux resistance efforts."
Genre: Singer/Songwriter : Acoustic
A song I recently wrote & recorded––“River (Acoustic)”––was chosen by Noisetrade.com as one of their New & Notable features! The song was promoted in one of their email campaigns Wednesday morning and the album will be featured on their homepage all week. I’m amazed that as of Wednesday afternoon, it was the 5th most downloaded album on the site! I’m really grateful that the song is making it into more ears than it ever would have otherwise.
You can grab it for free, but 100% of the proceeds from any tips I receive will go to support resistance efforts at Standing Rock. I'd love to send them as much as we can.
If you’re one of the many who have downloaded it already, thanks so much! I hope it’s meaningful for you in some way.
"Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? ... Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (An excerpt of "Letter from Birmingham Jail")
So, as some of you know, I've started working on writing and illustrating a children's book! With so many friends and family who either have young kids or are about to very soon, I've begun thinking a lot over the last year or so about how I might contribute to welcoming these little people into the world. How can I help provide nurturing spaces for children to start learning the world around them and for parents to learn their children and themselves in their new roles as "mom," "dad," etc.? What can I make and give that can add even just a hint of the beauty that helps love grow?
I'm finding numerous answers to those questions, and this book project is just one of them. The progress will be slow and steady, but I'm keeping track of much of it on my Instagram feed under the hashtag #littlewolfbigworld, and I'll also be updating the blog periodically from this point forward. In the meantime, as the book itself is developed, I've opened an online store full of prints and other home goods that feature the characters and scenes from the book that folks can purchase. You'll find a collection of illustrations for Kids & Nursery, Coffee & Kitchen, Home & Family, and my Iconography series all available at society6.com/sarahduet. Check it out if you're curious!
And on a personal note, I've been finding the process of working on this to be quite enjoyable, and I think healthy for me as well. As a person who tends to take things pretty seriously, focus on complexity, and think in primarily abstract terms...it's a good exercise, I think, to immerse myself in work like this that requires a foundation of delight, simple communication, and very concrete ideas. It's been refreshing thus far and I think a valuable complement to my more introspective creative process for songwriting, painting, etc.
I'll keep you posted. Thanks for stopping in,
I had the pleasure and privilege of helping my friend/collaborator Caitlin Milam record some of her original music last month! I've wanted to help produce her work for quite some time, and the opportunity finally arose. We made some simple acoustic recordings of 3 songs, designed some minimalistic packaging, and put it all together for a few lucky folks to receive for Christmas presents. You can listen to one of the tracks titled "King of Glory" in the player below!
Also, you can hear these songs live on January 24th in West Monroe. Details about the upcoming gig can be found here.
I love learning about the lives of the saints in church history. Their stories can be so valuable as encouragement, inspiration, and motivation for us on how to shape our lives today. One of my favorites is St. Francis of Assisi, coincidentally the namesake of the current Catholic pope–appropriately I think, as Francis was one of the first to critique and warn against the dangers of capitalism, lived with a deep value and care for the environment/all of Creation, and was actively non-violent and doing the work of peacemaking in a time of war and crusades. We can benefit greatly from the wisdom of Francis, and today is the day the Church remembers him collectively...
"Today is one of the great holy-days of the year. Happy St. Francis Day!!!
Christians around the world remember one of the great heroes of our faith, and the Pope’s namesake – Francis of Assisi. But Francesco Bernadone (Francis of Assisi), who died on October 3, 1226 must be laughing at the irony of it all.
He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war. Even though it’s hard to imagine a saint whose life is more relevant to the world we live in today, Francis was not always so popular.
Legend has it, the first time he preached at the Vatican, the pope told him to go preach to the pigs. But later the pope had a vision: the corner of the church was collapsing, and little Francis and the youth of Assisi were holding it up. Arguably that youth movement was one of the most powerful restorations of church history. While he did not hold back on his relentless critique of the church, he remained humbly and hopeful. He stopped complaining about the church as it was and started dreaming of the church as it could be. As Francis said, he heard God whisper: “Repair my Church, which is in ruins.”
So perhaps it’s Providential that 800 years later the Pope is named after him.
Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, born into a society where the gap between the rich and the poor was increasingly unacceptable. It was an age of religious crusades, where Christians and Muslims were killing each other in the name of God. The Church and the world were in chaos… Sound familiar?
Francis did something simple and wonderful. He read the Gospels where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor,” “Consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow,” “Love your enemies,” and he decided to live as if Jesus meant the stuff he said. Francis turned his back on the materialism and militarism of his world, and said yes to Jesus.
One of the quotes attributed to Francis is a simple and poignant critique of our world, just as it was to his: “The more stuff we have, the more clubs we need to protect it. Be free like the lilies and the sparrows.”
With a childlike innocence, Francis literally stripped naked and walked out of Assisi to live like the lilies and the sparrows. He lived among the outcasts and ostracized. He lived close to the earth and, like Jesus, became a friend of the birds and creatures, whom he fondly called brother and sister. In light of that, many a birdbath wears his iconic image. But his life is worthy of more than a lawn statue. His life was a powerful critique of the demons of his day, which are very similar to the demons of our day.
One of my favorite stories about Francis was when he decided to meet with the Muslim sultan during the Fifth Crusade – in Syria of all places. It was a tumultuous time. War had become a necessity and a habit, and was sanctioned by much of the church. Francis was sent off as a soldier, but he could not reconcile the violence of war with the grace of Christ . . . and so he got off his warhorse and put down his sword. He pleaded with the military commander, Cardinal-Legate Pelagius, to end the fighting. Pelagius refused. Instead, Pelagius broke off all diplomatic relations with the sultan of Egypt. The sultan in turn decreed that anyone who brought him the head of a Christian would be rewarded with a Byzantine gold piece. Francis, however, pursued his vision in steadfast faith, surmounting all dangers in a journey to see the sultan. He traveled through fierce fighting in Syria and inevitably was met by soldiers of the sultan’s army, who beat him savagely and put him in chains, dragging him before the sultan himself. Francis spoke to the sultan of God’s love and grace. The sultan listened intensely and was so moved that he offered Francis gifts and money. Francis, of course, had no desire for the money, but he gladly accepted one gift, an ivory horn used in the Muslim call to prayer. He took it back with him and used it to summon his own community for prayer. Both Francis and the sultan were transformed by that encounter, offering much hope to our world of troubled interfaith relations.
Although the church is prone to forget his witness or to make a monument of his movement, we can still celebrate his critique of an economy that left masses of people in poverty, so that a handful of people can live as they wish. We still rejoice in his love for the earth as we work to end the ravaging of our world. We remember his witness that there is a better way to bring peace than with a sword.
These are the words of the famous prayer attributed to Francis. May they inspire us to become better people and to build a better world, right alongside Francesco Bernadone of Assisi and Pope Francis of Argentina.
Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is discord, union,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is sadness, joy,
Where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive,it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
NOTE: FOR A GOOD FLICK ON FRANCIS, CHECK OUT THE CLASSIC BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON"
Let's go behind the scenes of making the "Have Mercy" video in photo essay form...Ready?
Why would you do a video shoot/painting session without a solid spread of food & drink? Hint: There's no good answer to that question.
We filmed at my apartment where I love to make a peaceful, comfortable space for people where creativity can flourish, vulnerability is natural, and fun is easily found. These things seemed extra important for such a night as this, so I got excited and kind of went all out.
Sidenote: "Have Mercy" was written in the apartment and appropriately shot here as well.
Britney Winn Lee hard at work on the watercolors. She's my first call for watercolor work, but I guess her primary creative medium is words. Read some of the gems at britneywinnlee.com.
She picked a good one to tie the knot with a couple years ago. Luke Lee of Fusiform Design Workshop is an amazingly talented and generous friend who skillfully shot and edited the whole "Have Mercy" video.
A huge thank you to Luke and Britney for their time and efforts. I'm happy to share this video with you all and look forward to more of all this in the near future! Thanks for reading/watching/listening/caring...
I released a new EP this week! You can download "The Mercy Tapes" by using the buttons below:
In compiling a larger group of songs, I realized a pattern forming in this small handful that carry themes of mercy & making. So I got to thinking about how the songs might fit together and then got to work. What you hear in this project is the product of that process.
In Hebrew, the word for mercy is actually the same word as womb with different vowel points. In light of that, I’ve heard mercy defined as “womb-like mother love” or the willingness and capacity to give oneself over entirely for the sake of another. I’ve found that any encounter with mercy seems to be generative of some creative act–either it making something of the stuff of our experience or moving us to make in response to it (or more often some combination of the two). This connection in mercy’s etymology to the word womb seems to characterize that nurturing, creative aspect of it that I’ve intuited. And that’s exciting to me.
So these songs explore what mercy makes of us, what it makes of time, and how it can restore what we have made of things when we haven't done the best job. And they are something(s) I've made in response to encounters with great mercy.
As for the title, "The Mercy Tapes"... it is a riff off an author whose work I read gratefully. Dr. Brene Brown talks about the "shame tapes" that play in our heads that say things like "You'll never be good enough," or on an occasion in which we might start to believe we could be, "Who do you think you are?!" I'm well acquainted with these tapes, as it seems many of us are. The shame that speaks these lies isolates us. Shame erodes our humanity & sense of worth; it breaks us apart when we're meant to do this together. Another way I've heard mercy defined is a "generous connectedness to the other." My hope is that rather than those all-too-familiar, all-too-divisive shame tapes we might have different words on repeat in our minds–words that remind us who we are and that we belong to each other and that move us to connect generously. Maybe those words would more appropriately be called "mercy tapes.” I don’t claim that the words found in these songs would function as those tapes for all of us, but they are words that I have pieced together in my journey from shame to mercy, from hidden to known, and from alone to together. And I hope they can be valuable to you in yours.
So, “may mercy make much of us as only mercy can"...time and time again,
P.s. Lyrics and credits can be viewed below. (A PDF download of these files is included with your Noisetrade download...)