Saturday, October 27, 2007
"I can't just fight when I think I'll win.”
Why is a soft-spoken, introspective, Minnesota mother of three talking about fighting? On her new album, Tell Me What You Know, acoustic pop artist Sara Groves explores what she has learned over the past two years, lessons on the value of long defeats, and the defiance of hope in the face of insurmountable odds. Since the 2005 release of her last project, Add to the Beauty, Groves has been questioning just how, exactly, she is called to do that.
Sara explains, “I believe God invites us to add to the beauty of his plan, letting us participate in his redemptive work. But I found myself asking, ‘How have I applied this idea?' I had groomed and groomed and groomed my personal faith, but to what end?”
Her answers came in a series of global conversations and experiences, from the flood-ravaged gulf of Louisiana, to the genocide memorials of Rwanda, to the testimonies of Southeast Asia sex trade survivors. These experiences showed the disparity between some of the American pursuits of comfort and wealth and the joy of joining the difficult work of social justice and engaging in the suffering of the afflicted. “
One of the main inspirations behind this album is a girl named Elisabeth,” Sara says. “I knew about human trafficking and modern day slavery at some sort of global level, but I didn’t truly understand the personal stories behind what was happening until I met Elisabeth in Washington, D.C.”
Elisabeth’s story is both heartbreaking and phenomenal. The oldest of seven children living in Southeast Asia, the teenager had just finished her sophomore year of high school and decided to take a job in a neighboring community to save money for Bible college. But, tragically, she was betrayed by a traveling companion, kidnapped and sold to a brothel owner. She found herself days later in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, forced into a life of prostitution.
Sara relates the rest of the story: “Elizabeth prayed every night for God to rescue her, even though the other girls in the brothel mocked her. After eight months, an International Justice Mission operative was able to secure her freedom. While retrieving her belongings, they saw Psalm 27 written on the wall above her mattress in her tiny room: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?’
“The phrase ‘social justice’ can be loaded. To some people it is a political or a liberal conversation, but to me, it is a Kingdom conversation. There are people behind these stories and statistics, and God’s heart for justice burns on their behalf. I wanted to write songs that drew attention to the people like Elizabeth who know God deeply because of their suffering. There is a commonality in all of these friends, and that is the perseverance of hope.”
Much of what Groves has learned has come through her new friends at International Justice Mission, an organization that stands in the gap for victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression when they are left without an advocate. Her interactions with IJM, as well as recent mission trips to Rwanda and New Orleans, have brought a fresh sense of purpose and excitement to Sara’s life-long Christian faith. “
Much of what I had done before along the lines of service was guilt induced. When I would hear a horrific story, I would want to respond quickly, write a check, and be done with it. But I have met many incredible people who are responding with their lives, and that has exposed something in me. I have been given a lot of joy in life, but I’ve also missed something. All of my life I have been grooming my faith, but have missed something about the purpose of that grooming. If I understand scripture at all, I have to know that to enter into the suffering of the poor and the oppressed is to know Christ and his suffering.”
When listening to the new songs on Tell Me What You Know, it’s clear just how much Sara Groves has been learning. Groves’ songs have always communicated profound insight via an organic yet eclectic musical palette. However, this time around Groves accomplishes something even more incredibly rare, 11 tracks detailing hardship and injustice while defiantly and exuberantly celebrating hope. “I want this album to be enjoyable, for people to be able to listen to it in their car and not be heavy hearted about all the ills in the world. I’ve tried to create music that represents the joy that comes in getting to enter into this work.”
Her joy is contagious, and is certain to extend to her growing family. Sara was writing and recording this album while pregnant with her third child, Ruby Cate, born mere days after the final songs were mixed. Now as Sara and husband Troy welcome their first daughter to a home filled with the sounds of two rambunctious big brothers (Toby, 4, and Kirby, 7), the Groves’ family look forward to learning more about how their lives will be useful in bringing hope to individuals like Elizabeth.
That night in Washington D.C., Elizabeth was asked to share the Psalm she had written on the wall as part of her testimony, but Elizabeth refused, stating that Psalm 27 was for the brothel. Instead, she said, she would read Psalm 34: I sought the Lord, and He heard my cry. “When I met Elizabeth, I felt like I was in the presence of royalty,” says Sara. “She is a college graduate now, and with tremendous courage, has used her story to inspire action. I couldn’t get her out of my mind as I was writing these songs. She knows something about God that I will never know. Those verses are real to her in a way that I have never experienced. After meeting her, genocide survivors, and others who have suffered great oppression, I was humbled by my lack of understanding of life, of love, of courage, and of Christ, and was filled with a hunger to know more.”
Thursday, October 25, 2007
~Cole takes a turn at the "shaving horse," making shingles
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
We went to the arch (and I found out it was only completed in 1965--thought it was much older for some reason). It is so tall it is really quite difficult to take a picture of from the actual national park area, you just can't fit it all in. We were unable to go all the way to the top due to the fact it was a glorious fall day and half of St. Louis had the same idea as us.
We so enjoyed worshiping together at Greenville Free Methodist Church. Pastor Carl, from our church here, is now the pastor of discipleship and evangelism at this church. It was great to see him and his family. They graciously had us over for lunch even though their youngest was quite sick (a lesson in hospitality). We miss them a lot. Doug Newton's (senior pastor) message was very provocative and Tom and I enjoyed being able to discuss it on the drive home. He is casting a vision to his church to deal with local poverty by what he terms "substitutionary debt repayment." Meaning, you pay someone else's debt (consumer debts only) for 2 years with their promise to do the same thing for another family as a minimum. A certain percentage of those payments goes to already existing charities who are fighting poverty. The point is, too many Americans (yes Christian ones, too) can't give more, because their money is tied up in consumer debt. Pretty radical thinking, eh? It was really good for us, personally, to see the church taking up arms to fight social injustice...where have the Wesleyans and others from the holiness traditions gone when in the past this was one of our defining mandates? As Pastor Newton said, if you read Scripture in regards to feeding the poor it is deeply convicting...he doesn't have to say anything to exegete these passages...the Word stands alone...loudly.
My biggest critique is that this plan would only deal with local poverty and nothing on a global basis...I am assuming that this plan for debt repayment is to be in addition to your already planned mission giving, and help to foreign aid. It seems to me that is where the most help is needed. Especially after my eyes have been opened to the tragedy that is ongoing in Darfur.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I think she got two of my sayings switched around (I'm not joking, I am serious)
stir it ALL together
look what Isaac was doing...
Sunday, October 14, 2007
One of my best friends shared with me awhile back that her mother always told her "when you educate a mom, you educate a family." This quote also helps affirm my belief that we should always encourage our girls to receive robust educations even if their dream in life is "only" to be a stay-at-home mom. But in regards to Rwanda and Darfur, I think that as moms, we need to be educated on these topics (even though so, so hard to hear) so that we can raise a cultural sensitivity in our children as they grow. To teach our children there is more to life than working hard, accumulating wealth so you can have a comfortable retirement, support a few good causes but mostly lavish your family with every convenience they could dream of...all while such a large percentage of the world struggles for sustenance and existence. It is the one who will for Christ's sake lose his life~he is the one that will truly discover what living is. How do I model this, practice this, convey this and pass this on to my children?....who are so easily influenced and a mere trip to Walmart can stir discontent even when we live such a bountiful life.
I am horribly uneducated in these issues. I've seen two movies now, read a little, but have been deeply moved to do more....at the least, to take the time to care.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
Can you believe we went swimming in Lake Michigan and shot fall pictures (colored foilage) on the same day? It's been "Indian Summer" in these parts and then some. Tomorrow we are supposed to get a cool snap and I for one am kind of excited to pull out the fall clothing...
Monday, October 1, 2007
11 things to love about Isaac:
1. His messy hair in the mornings...for having little hair, he's had quite a few hair issues.
2. His friendly wave...he just sticks his arm straight out over his head, and grins the goofiest, friendlist smile ever. Consequently, everybody wants to stop and talk with him. I think more than any of the other kids, he really engages other people (probably because he has constantly been engaged himself by quite a crowd).
3. His giggle..so funny, if you "poke" him under the chin he giggles like a laughing box.
4. The way he smacks his lips when eating something he really likes.
5. The noises he makes when eating, "hmmm...mmmm...ahhhh!" ...he'd make a great commercial, every baby would want what he's having.
6. The way his face lights up when his brothers get home from school.
7. The way he says, "Da!" for guess who. How is it that I spend every waking second with the little man but he still can't master "ma"?
8. The complete look of peace on his face when he is sleeping.
9. The feel of his hand patting yours.
10. The smell of the crook of his neck.
11. The feel of the crook of his neck when you kiss him good morning, good day, and good night.