Third World Symphony: Not for the Simple-Minded

Alright, friends, lean in close.  Im’a bout to get real with you.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am one with deep faults.  I just am.  I know what most of my flaws are, although every once in awhile a new one (or old one that had been ignored, whatever) crops up that takes me by surprise. 

You mean I have to deal with that now?!

One of my biggest struggles and greatest weaknesses, however, is one I’ve known about a long time.  It just may be the thorn in my flesh.  Simplicity.

How is simplicity a fault (sin – let’s call it what it is)?

I’ll tell you.

I’m a “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” sort of person.  I always have been.  I’m not analytical.  I don’t sit and question and ponder and search and try to figure things out.  Since I was a child, I just knew and accepted my Faith as my own and I’ve never ever doubted who Jesus is – not to the world and certainly not in my life.

This is my greatest weakness – but it’s also my greatest strength.  It means that very little has ever shaken my faith.  Even the nasty, ugly trials of life never really knocked me off the foundation of who I believe God is.  And I’ve been through some ugly.  I’ve questioned Why, not ever really expecting or needing an answer but just because it felt good to ask, “Why, God?”

But in the end, I am very comfortable with the answer, “Because I Am.”

This spirals into weakness, however, when I find myself with little urgency to seek scripture for answers outside of, “God is Love.  God is Grace.  God is Mercy.”  I just don’t seek Him.

But blogging has challenged me in a lot of ways – or,more specifically, reading blogs has challenged me.  And the blogger that has most challenged me to think outside of my simple little box is Shaun Groves.  You’ve heard me mention his blog here before – I’m kind of a stalker.


But the fact of the matter is that Shaun’s writing has encouraged me in so many ways to search deeper into scripture.  Why do I believe what I believe?  What do I understand about God and who He is regarding the deeper issues of life?  Who is God?

Today, Shaun released his new album, Third World Symphony.  Inspired by his work with Compassion International, Shaun began writing and developing this album sometime last year.  And he brought his blog readers along the journey as he sought and wrote and dug into the heart of the gospel.

In case you hadn’t heard, this move has been kind tough on Lee and I.  Really tough.  Hard. About a week after we came down here, as I was wallowing in emotions, I hit play on Third World Symphony.  I had heard rough cuts of several of the songs, but this was the first time I listened to all of them.  And I sat in bed and wept.

You know that moment when lyric and song blend perfectly into a melody that doesn’t just please your mind but rather stirs your soul?  The moment when you hear harmonies so lovely that your stomach flip flops and your lungs constrict?  Yeah…I had a couple of those moments.

The album is really good.  You can see for yourself just how good it is by going here and buying a copy.  As an added incentive, when you purchase the album, I will personally send you telepathic fist bumps and feelings of all over awesomeness.

You. Are. Welcome.

I was not asked to write this post.  I just wanted to help spread the word about the album in the hopes that you can be as blessed by it as I was.

The End.

Friday Links

– Shaun Groves wrote this post yesterday that made me laugh out loud.  If you’re not reading Shaun you really should be.  He’s a great writer – genuine and funny.  Plus, who doesn’t love a guy in his thirties with a mohawk, right?  Or is it a faux hawk?  Anyway, read the post.

– Another blogger I love is C-Jane.  Her perspective on faith and God are very different from my own, but I love reading her thoughts, learning more about what she believes and laughing at her posts.  She’s an amazing writer and is very engaging.  She’s a daily read for me.  I particularly enjoyed this post.  (A few Cliff’s Notes: She calls her husband Chup or Chupa, her son is the Chief and her daughter’s name is Ever Jane.  This will help when you’re reading the post.)

– Nicole has an awesome advent plan for her boys.  If I were crafty, I’d be all over this.  But I’m not.  So I just look on in envy…

– A few years ago I had the privilege to work alongside the awesome Dana Loesch.  While doing this I got acquianted with her husband who is a wickedly talented musician and producer.  Recently Chris and his team at Shock City Music filmed this music video to go along with a song that he co-wrote.  Becky Kelly is the singer.  The song is really beautiful as is the video.  It’s a great reminder of what the season is about.  Enjoy.

Happy Friday everyone.  I’m headed into a week of insanity.  Taking deep breaths today. 🙂

Compassion International: Tell Us Your Story

It is no secret that I love Compassion International.  Sponsoring a child has been such a great experience for our family.  Our kids love to talk about our sponsored child, Jonri, and what he’s doing.  We love to receive letters in the mail with a picture he’s drawn.  And there is no sweeter prayer than that of our four year old daughter: “Deaw Dod.  Pwease be wif Jonwi an helwp him know about You.”

Let’s all say it together…Awwwwwww.

So when I received an email today from the Compassion team asking if I would join with others to tell my own story of how I was impacted as a youth and how the praise and love poured into me by an adult has shaped me into who I am, I quickly jumped at the chance.  First the premise:

Wess Stafford, President of Compassion, shares the “Tell Us Your Story” idea here.  You can read his words and his encouragement, or you can watch the video.  The basic idea of it is that all of us have been impacted in some way or another by someone in our past.  Whether positive or negative, we are all a product of our youth.  So what or who shaped you?  Who are you today and what led you to that point?

In thinking back to the many adults who have poured into my life in the past, I realized how deeply blessed I have been and how much encouragement I received in my formative years.  But when I thought about who I am today and what weighs most heavily on my heart, one specific incident came to mind that forever altered and shaped who I have become.  Here is my story:

“You have a real knack for languages,” he told me as I sipped my cup of hot tea.  I was freezing….the kind of cold where you can no longer feel your extremeties.  We were in a pizza parlor in Red Square, right in the heart of Moscow.  I was fifteen.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean you hear the sounds really well and you repeat them perfectly.  You should study russian.  You could come live with Helen and I.”

Five years later, I did just that.

Sergei Petrochenko was the interpreter for the squirrley group that made up our missions team on my first trip to the former USSR.  I shared with you how I wound up taking that trip and the man responsible for it here.  Gary Varner is another person I can quickly point to who spoke wisdom and grace into my life as a youth and drastically shaped who I am today.

Sergei and his wife Helen were young and adorable and I shared an immediate connection with them.  Maybe it was because I took such an interest in their language.  Perhaps it was because the moment I stepped off the plane I fell in love with their country.  It’s likely because when God Himself knit me together He placed a special place in my heart for that area of the world.  It was ordained from the beginning of time.

As Sergei and I stood and ate pizza, a dirty, wild looking man approached our table.  He held out dirt encrusted hands and mumbled something in russian.  I looked at Sergei who studied him closely then gestured his hands toward our unfinished pizza.  The man mumbled Spaseeba, grabbed two slices and quickly exited the building.  I looked curiously back at Sergei who for a solid week had engrained in all of our heads never to feed someone who came begging.

“Why did you give him food?” I asked.

“Because he needed it,” Sergei replied matter of factly, taking another sip of his tea.

“How did you know?”

“He had russian eyes,” Sergei replied.  And that was the end of the conversation.  It is a brief moment in my life that I have never forgotten. 

Fast forward five years.  I am twenty years old and I am spending a semester in Kiev, Ukraine with Helen and Sergei studying russian.  It turns out Sergei was right.  I did have a knack for languages and I had fallen in love with the nuances of russian.  It was during my four month stint in Kiev that I experienced another defining moment…and this moment was a direct result of the pizza parlor conversation with Sergei five years earlier.

I was on a taxi bus when I noticed an old man laying in a busy street.  He was close to the sidewalk, but fully on the road and he looked injured.  I tossed money at the cab driver and jumped out of the van, dodging cars as I dashed across the street.  I knelt down in front of the man, who smelled of liquor and had a deep gash on his forehead.

Pomogeetya, Podjalusta, he wept.  Help me.

I pulled off my scarf and pressed it to his head and began yelling for help.  And people just passed me by.  They looked right at me as they walked by on the sidewalk.  Two younger men laughed at me as they passed.  I heard one of them say to the other, “Stupid American.  He’s drunk.”

But as I looked into his eyes, I knew there was more to the story.  This wasn’t a man who stumbled in a drunken stupor into the road.  He had the “russian eyes” that Sergei had mentioned.  Eyes that conveyed a true sense of need, of pain, of desperation.  Yes, by the smell I could tell he had been drinking, butsomehow I knew that wasn’t what caused his fall.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, someone stopped and offered help.  In my broken russian I told the story as an ambulance drove up to us.  They loaded the man into the back of the truck and whisked him away…I never even knew his name.  The man who helped me shook my hand and introduced himself.  Pavel.  He spoke english.

“The man was robbed.  He said he was in the street for much time.  Why did you stop?”

I shrugged and offered the only explanation I had – “He had russian eyes.”

He looked at me for a moment, nodded, then turned and walked away.

I have the distinct blessing of having been poured into by many, many people over my lifetime.  A few names of the people who have impacted me: Gary Varner, Robert Burkhart, Mrs. Baumbach, my high school Liturature teacher who told me I had a gift with words, Richard and Candy Martin, the list could go on and on…

But Sergei Petrochenko’s words when I was fifteen set me on a path that God created me for from time’s inception.  Because of Sergei’s words my children are learning russian, my husband and I are praying about how we can have an impact in Russia as a family, how we can minister to orphans, if we should even adopt an orphan.  The last time I heard from Sergei was December 30, 1998.  After I came back to the States he and Helen divorced and I lost track of him.  How my heart longs to see him again.  How I yearn to show him the impact he had in my life…to introduce him to my children and let them show off their language.  I hold out hope in my heart that God has that reunion planned for someday…

Words have a powerful and life altering effect.  They can change a life for the worse…but, as in my case, also for the better.

How were you impacted as a youth by the words of an adult?  If you feel so inclined, please share your story.  I would really love to hear it.

Linky Loo’s

There will be no post here today.  I’m buried under a mountain of work.  You can read the post I wrote for STL Family Life, however, and I really hope that you do because I want as many local folks as possible to go see this show!  An organization called Variety the Children’s Charity has initiated a first of it’s kind theater experience merging children with disabilities with professionals to put on a Broadway style production.  Last year they did Tom Sawyer and this weekend they are doing OLIVER!  I spoke with some of the kids the other night and they are amazing.  I really hope that a lot of people have the chance to see the show because these kids will bless you!  Read more about it here.

I will be writing more in depth about this group and the kids I spoke with tomorrow on where I’ve been brought on as a contributor.  I will also have a post up tomorrow on Artistic where I’ve been contributing for the last several months.  Lots of work to do, which is good but makes for a tired mama.  I planned on getting up at 5 (in the MORNING) today to get some things done but apparently my body had other plans as I involuntarily shut the alarm off and no one woke up until after 7.  Yeesh!

A couple other links for your viewing enjoyment.  A friend of mine recently started a new church here in town called Broadcast.  Their button is on the sidebar.  Check out the website and I encourage you to visit one of their services if you’re looking for a new place to get plugged in.

Also, if you’re not reading Shaun Groves blog…you should be.  He is such a great writer, both funny and poignant, and he has a real depth to his writing.  I always finish his blog posts and walk away thinking a little more deeply.  So add him to your daily reader if you haven’t already.

Alright, I’m off!  I have pumpkin bread in the oven and it’s making my eyes water it smells so good.  I need to peel the kids away from that electronic babysitter called the television and get Tia to school.  Onward!