Monthly Archives: September 2011

Third World Symphony: A Review and a Giveaway

I bought this album before I’d ever heard a note because I believe in Compassion International and from everything I’ve read or seen about him, Shaun Groves is a powerfully effective part of their ministry. Supporting him is another way I can support them. But now that I’ve heard Third World Symphony, I’m doubly glad I bought it.

I’ve had the CD playing in the background of my day for almost a week now.  I find myself humming pieces of songs as I’m walking through the grocery store or while I’m brushing my teeth in the morning. But a few days ago I had a chance to be still and really listen to the words of the songs. Some of the lyrics felt like poetry:

Cathedral arches of reaching limbs
Crickets sing secret hymn over all of us

Fireflies tickle across our palms
Lit up like diamonds drawn from the black above

(from “Awake My Soul”)

As I listened, I heard words that sounded like my own heart’s cries.

Mercy come, justice come
Healing come, peace, Lord, come
Your will be done through us on earth

(from “Kingdom Coming”)

Even the cries that I try to ignore because they remind me of places I don’t want to be.

What in my heart ain’t twisted?
I’ve kissed for less than thirty pieces
Oh, God, can heaven even reach me – so far
Down here

(from “Down Here”)

Can I level with you for a minute?

I knew my life would be different now that my dad lives in Heaven and not here. My broken heart made sense to me and I had accepted that time would never completely heal the wound his absence has created.  I allowed myself some time and space to ask God tough questions and to be disappointed with His answers to my prayers for my dad’s healing here on earth. I still believe “unshakeable faith is faith that has been shaken.” I just thought my faith would have stopped shaking by now.

In some ways, I feel like what I’ve lived through has helped me appreciate this life more. I am much more likely to be in the moment and appreciate the time I have to spend with family and friends.

Hush away the hurry
Put to rest the worry
Come to quell and quiet me
In this moment given
Slow and fully live it
Drink up all the passing peace

Awake my soul to live this moment
Awake my soul,
give thanks and hold it

(From “Awake My Soul”)

Laughter comes easily again and I truly appreciate the blessings of my life.

But I’m still a broken girl.

All these months I’ve been waiting for all the pieces to be put back together. I’ve waited for everything to make sense. It seems like the pain I’ve experienced has made me more vulnerable to feel others’ pain as well. I feel like I’m always walking around with my heart on my sleeve.  I’ve put distance between myself and God because I haven’t been able to figure out why he won’t make life more cut and dry the way it used to seem to be. I’ve felt vulnerable and exposed. I thought my brokenness made me weak.

But as I was listening to the songs, I heard God say, “In your brokenness, I am strong.”

Come, we have nothing else God
And having You we want for nothing

(From “Come By Here”)

I feel ashamed of my questions and doubts. I wonder if God can still use me when trust comes harder than it used to. But in the still of the moment, through the words of a song, He reminded me that no matter how much distance I try to wedge between myself and Him, I can never get away from His love.

No death, life
Angels or demons
No depth, height
Can come in between us
And Your love, Your love, Your love, love

(From “Come By Here”)

Tucked between the verses of a hymn that feels like home, I heard words that felt like an altar call.

O I come to the Son, who can heal with His wounds

O I come to the Thief, who has robbed every tomb
O I come to the Victor, my Life and my Love
O Lamb of God, I come

(From “Just As I Am”)

For me, listening to all the words of this album felt a little like coming home for a little while. It felt like the first real prayer I’d prayed in a really long time. Oh, I’ve been saying words to God, but we haven’t had a real conversation in a very long time.  It wasn’t like an epiphany or a lightning strike of revelation from Heaven. It was more like an invitation to come over for dinner from a friend I haven’t seen in really long time. More like the eager anticipation of things to come.

I’m giving away two copies of Third World Symphony. I’ll randomly choose two winners from the commenters on yesterday’s and today’s posts. Feel free to comment on both posts to increase your already good chances of winning. Once again, I’ll give you a choice of questions to answer. 1. What’s your favorite hymn? 2. Do you have a special song that God has used to speak to your heart? 3. Do you pay more attention to the music or the lyrics in a song?

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Three Questions with Shaun Groves

             Stolen directly from http://www.shaungroves.com

I’ve been reading  Shaun Groves’ blog for awhile now. He’s a songwriter so I think maybe that’s one of the reason I like his posts:  I love words and I like to see what those creative types can do with them. I also appreciate his honesty. Shaun wrote a series of posts about his experience with depression that resonated deeply with me. In fact, I blogged about it and that post has a link to the series he wrote if you’re interested in reading them. But I think the reason I keep reading Shaun’s blog is because his passion for what he does is contagious and he makes me want to live my life more deliberately.

Shaun travels in support of Compassion International, “a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults” (taken from their website). What makes them different from a lot of other similar organizations is Compassion’s focus on ministering to children in partnership with the local churches in the countries they serve.

In one of his blog posts this summer, Shaun gave his readers an opportunity to email him any three questions in exchange for help spreading the word about his new album Third World Symphony.  So I channeled my inner Barbara Walters and sent him three questions. I was going to say they were my best three questions, but as soon as I pushed “send,” I thought of four even better questions, but he said only three, and I’m a rule follower. (Although, I think you’ll be impressed with how I was able to multilayer my questions so that they became questions within questions. It’s a skill.)  Without further ado on my part, here’s my interview with Shaun Groves.

AMY:  You are wildly passionate about your work with Compassion. I remember in one of your blog posts you told us when we blog for a good cause we should give stories, not stats, so what’s your story? Was there a particular child or country that led you to make Compassion your life’s work?

SHAUN:  My whole life, I now see, led me to this partnership with Compassion International. The short version though, the turning point for me, was a trip in 2005 to El Salvador to meet a little girl named Yanci that my family sponsors through Compassion International. Meeting Yanci, spending the day with her, put a face on the poverty statistics and hearing her story convinced me that Compassion International’s methods work. They partner with local churches in 26 of the world’s poorest countries to meet the physical and spiritual needs of more than 1.2 million children–children like Yanci. These church partners really do release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Seeing, for me, was believing.

AMY:  This is your first studio album in five years. I know some musicians and their connection with their craft is a powerful pull. Their music is a big part of who they are. But your passion for your work with Compassion has led you down a more non-traditional music career path. How has Compassion changed your music career goals and desires? Or do you still see yourself as a musician first?

SHAUN:  I don’t know what I am, Amy!! I know that when I speak or sing or write on behalf of Compassion International’s children, people in the first world respond generously so that more than 20,000 children have received sponsors. So I offer my few skills and my time and money to God and my friends and Compassion and say yes to however they want to put me to work. Friends at Compassion asked me to please not stop making music–so I began praying for songs and, well, I think God has answered. I have no idea if I’ll record again. I have no idea what is next. I have no plan for the future.

AMY:  I understand  your family is in the process of adopting a child/children from Ethiopia. I hate to use the word “trend,” but it seems like more and more Christian families are adopting children from other countries. Why do you think there’s been a sudden increase and what do you say to those who believe we should make life better for children in their own cultures and not take them away from their homes?

SHAUN:  Very tricky, Amy. Three questions with one question mark. Genius.

We were planning to adopt as many as four siblings from Ethiopia, yes. We had six months to a year left in that process when plans changed. Our agency called needing to place a little boy from another country in a home immediately. We took in this four-year-old and are now fostering to adopt him. And this is second best. We know that.

Assuming his mom and dad loved him deeply–and I believe they did–best would be a life with them, with access to health care and education and proper nutrition. But his mom and dad, like so many in the developing world, were not able to provide for even his most basic needs. So they gave him life by giving him to us.

This has changed how I view the ministry of Compassion International completely. It is, truly, orphan prevention. Through the local church we can provide nutrition, medical care, vocational training, education, and so much more so that boys and girls can remain in their culture with mom and dad.

But when moms and dads don’t receive the support they need to care for their children, and when moms and dads, die, adoption is one way to care for the orphans. I’m no expert on the orphan crisis, so I cannot appraise other options that exist, but I know there are some, and likely, the solution to the orphan crisis is multi-faceted and complex. Adoption is not likely THE solution–there are far too many orphans for it to be.

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Tomorrow I’ll tell you a little more about Shaun’s new album, Third World Symphony. If you leave a comment on this post and/or tomorrow’s, I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win one of two copies of the new CD. The two winners will have the choice of either receiving the CD in the mail or as an iTunes gift.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not the Pioneer Woman so your chances of winning a CD here or a lot better than they’re ever going to be of winning one of those Le Creuset French ovens or Kitchen Aid mixers (but I leave a comment every. single. time. anyway). If you leave a comment today and tomorrow, well, that’s two chances. I’ll draw the names Sunday night and announce the winners on Monday.  So start talking! Here are a few questions to get you started in case you can’t think of anything to say? Answer as many or as few as you want. Have you ever been on a mission trip? If you could go on a mission trip to any country, where would you go and why?  Do any of you have any personal experience with Compassion? Okay, that’s enough. You’re on your own from here.

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Hey, Lee, Here’s Your Coat, What’s Your Hurry?

This is the post I had intended to write yesterday because I had forgotten all about the OBU Blogabout. I used to be almost a little cocky about my ability to remember almost anything without writing it down.

And then I turned 40.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be “in my 40s” than, well, dead, but I never knew how much work it is just to live longer. I’ve never considered myself “high maintenance,” but ever since I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I seem to require more frequent “tune-ups,” if you will. I went to the optometrist to get a prescription for new contacts and he’s sending me to the ophthalmologist. I’ve had to add routine trips to the dermatologist ever since my skin cancer diagnosis this spring. It seems like each of my body parts is starting to require its own specialist all of a sudden. By the time the weekend gets here I will have seen four doctors in the last three weeks.  And I’m not even sick! I can’t imagine what life would be like if I actually had something that needed medical attention! So now like the senior citizen I’m rapidly becoming, I’m prattling on and on about my health and doctors’ visits. Don’t you just love old people?

So what were we talking about?

Oh, yes, I was going to tell you what I would have told you yesterday if I hadn’t been celebrating OBU’s birthday. I had planned to tell you about our Labor Day weekend. We had a guest:  Tropical Storm Lee. I hesitated to use the word “guest” to describe Lee, but to be fair, I had been hoping for some rain. It had been dry around here and we needed some relief. But have you ever had a guest who just didn’t know when it was time to go home? That would be Lee. He reminded me of a story that I think I heard Tim or Lydia Fowler tell about their grandparents. They’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong. They said that when people overstayed their welcome at their grandparents’ house, their grandfather would pat their grandmother on the leg and say, “Well, Mama, I guess we’d better go to bed so these nice people can go home.” That’s exactly how we felt about Lee.

IMPORTANT BLOG POST UPDATE:  It was Tim and Lydia’s uncle, Carrol Fowler, who used to say that. But through the magical world of Facebook, I found out that another college friend, Jenifer Norris, had a granddaddy who also used to say that. As far as I know, Tim and Lydia’s uncle is NOT Jenifer’s granddaddy. Who knows who I heard say it first. I can’t remember which day to blog what so you honestly expect me to remember who told me something over twenty years ago?

He started out as a tropical storm and then was downgraded to a depression, which aptly described our state of mind for at least part of the weekend. We had some big outdoor plans to enjoy the last weekend of summer, but Lee had other plans for us. His plans included fun activities like Tornado Drills in the hall on Labor Day morning before it was even daybreak. Or how about rain leaking in underneath the back door?  Good times.  In the end, we decided not to let Lee have all the fun and decided to make some for ourselves. Luckily the power didn’t go out, so I blew up the big Aerobed in the middle of the living room floor and when we weren’t huddled together in the hall listening to the tornado sirens, we watched movies together.

I also spent some time reading. I started and finished a book that I think may have to go on my Books You Should Read If We’re Going to Be Friends list. The book is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

from Amazon.com

My friend Renae had told me about it some time this summer but I just got around to reading it.  It usually takes me longer to read nonfiction than fiction books, but I could not put this book down. It’s an amazing story.

So, we read, played games, watched movies, and just enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company. Eventually Lee got sick of us having fun without him and he finally decided to head out of town. But not before he broke some of our stuff on the way out.

We used to have a fence there.

We used to have a basketball goal that was anchored to a tree and wasn’t bent.

Lee left lots of other yard trash and debris for us to pick up but if you’ve seen one pile of tree limbs, you’ve pretty much seen them all. And we never lost electricity, still have a roof over our heads, and we’re all safe, which is more than too many people can say after Lee crossed their paths.

Having five people stuck in a house for three and a half days leads to piles of trash and debris inside.  We never invited Lee inside, but we pretty much trashed the place all by ourselves. I guess we figured we were on vacation and we’d just let the maid handle it when we left. Except we actually live here. And we don’t have a maid. So, I’m going to sign off now and continue to put things back in some sense of order around here.

But first a quick “Coming Events” announcement: Shaun Groves, recording artist and Compassion International advocate, was gracious enough to answer three questions in order to promote his latest CD, Third World Symphony.  I had already planned a post to tell you about the CD (I got mine in the mail last week and I love it!) and to give one away to one of you, but now I think I’m going to need to make it a two post event. Hopefully I’ll have those posts up tomorrow and Friday. You don’t want to miss this. I promise. Meet me here. I’ll be waiting.

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Happy Birthday, Old Friend

Today my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University,  is 125 years old. In honor of this momentous occasion, OBU is sponsoring a blog festival over the next several Tuesdays. Today’s assignment was to share our favorite OBU memory.

Easy enough. Right after I do that, I will decide which one of my three offspring is my favorite child.

I couldn’t possibly single out one favorite memory from the four years I spent at Ouachita. Every time I try to focus on one special time,  at least four other remembrances crowd it out of my head. But since  I want to be a team player and complete today’s assignment, I looked for a common theme through the pictures and stories that come to mind whenever I think about OBU. It was no big revelation that all my favorite memories involve other people, but when I think about what makes me as passionate about Ouachita as I was when I graduated in 1991, and when I think about everything I hold dear about that little liberal arts school nestled in a sweet little Arkansas town, everything comes down to relationships.  My OBU memories are dear to me because the people I met there are still so very dear to me. I had friends before I went to college, but at Ouachita I really learned what it means to do life with other people.

For some reason, when I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I remembered a picture that I hadn’t thought about in ages. I pulled out my yearbook from my senior year at Ouachita and flipped through the pages until I found it.  It’s a picture of  my friends Susan, Anita, and me sitting on the steps of  the business school on a beautiful, late spring afternoon.

I cut off the rest of the caption but it said something about the three of us sharing a laugh together. We do look happy, don’t we? Three friends sitting in the sunshine, enjoying the day and each other’s company.

Now, the rest of the story….

Now kids, back in the day, we didn’t all have our own computers in our dorm rooms. We had to go to the “computer lab” to use the school’s computers and dot matrix printers. On the day that this picture was taken, I had just left the computer lab where I’d lost my senior thesis….for the third time that week. I’m sure it was operator error, but whatever the reason, I was one step away from losing my mind. The paper was due; I hadn’t slept in days; I had other projects that needed to be finished so that I could graduate; I had no after-college plan; and every time anyone mentioned that in I was getting ready to leave OBU and the life I’d made for myself there, I started crying like the world was ending….I was a complete mess. I don’t remember if Anita and Susan had agreed to meet me there or if it happened by chance, but I had just finished telling them the sad story of my lost paper when we saw that we were being watched…and photographed. I don’t remember if we knew the photographer or not, but the fact that someone was documenting the moment I went completely crazy was suddenly very funny to the three of us. We started laughing and couldn’t stop. If there were a picture of what happened after the one in the yearbook it would show the three of us lying on the stairs, clutching our sides, and laughing so hard that tears were running down our faces.

That picture still makes me laugh. It reminds me of obstacles that seemed unsurmountable until my friends helped me climb them. It calls to mind the people I shared my life with who in turn invited me into theirs. It makes me aware that the right friends can make me laugh even when I feel like crying. Ouachita taught me the importance of living in community with others. I learned to make myself vulnerable to others and invite them to be part of my life and they returned the invitation.

Ouachita is an incredible institution with beautiful buildings and impressive academic programs that rival those of other larger universities. But let’s be honest, it isn’t extremely difficult to find a place to get a good education. It is very hard, however, to find a place offering top-notch scholarly instruction that feels like home. To me, the best thing about Ouachita Baptist University is her people.  It’s the friends who become the family you choose for yourself. I couldn’t narrow it down to one favorite memory, but I did find one that illustrates what all of my favorite memories have in common: the people I met there who became a part of who I am today.

Happy Birthday, Ouachita!  Save me a piece of cake with a lot of icing!

To read more posts from the Blog About, click here.

If you’re here from the Blog About, welcome! Any friend of OBU’s is always a friend of mine. Please leave a comment and introduce yourself!

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