...tells us what she knows.
It's always a pleasure to chat with Sara Groves. So when i was offered the opportunity to meet with her during GMA week this past year, naturally, i jumped at the chance. Given all the events that surrounded the week, it was truly a Godsend.
Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a great conversation and it was an honor to meet Sara and her husband finally face-to-face. We talked about Sara's new album, her involvement with the International Justice Mission, the global conversation and need for justice and much more.
I'm happy to share this conversation with you.
So how have things been going? Obviously a bit of a whirlwind.
Sara: Yeah. It's good to feel, like you said, it's good to have a direction. After Add to the Beauty we were so satisfied. I felt like I had said something that I had been trying to say for a really long time. So I didn't know what else to say, but then, you know, as we've talked about, this seed of things started to grow again as it always does and I find myself excited when I didn't think that I could get that excited about something - you know, a new album and new ideas. And I find myself just as excited as I was about Add to the Beauty. I definitely have worried about making a fool of myself (laughs) because I just felt so good about Add to the Beauty, but you can't live life thinking about that.
We all look like fools at some point. It's part of life.
Yeah, and Troy says that I like to. . .
Troy: It's a daily thing for me.
What's your saying? I like to keep my mouth shut. . . what is it?
I can't remember who said it, but "It's best to remain silent and just look like a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
(laughs) okay, so I butchered that.
What is it? It's best to keep your mouth shut? That's part of it. . .
Which is my struggle. (laughs)
So what's the new album about? It's not totally done yet, right?
We are recording it right now. We tracked it two weeks ago and we're trying to envelope everything of GMA into a trip down to Nashville and we tracked the second week of April, did vocals last week, will do vocals after GMA is over and then hopefully warp things up. I think Brown might come up to Minneapolis to do some overdubs and stuff up there.
Well, you know, I guess that if Add to the Beauty was about looking at the Kingdom of God and just the inspiration of that - what was possible, what was open to us, what the actual blueprint was about. It wasn't about isolation and fear, it was about entering in. But I guess on Add to the Beauty, I talked in more general terms and this one is more clarification of terms, I guess. What would that look like and what kind of conversations does that lead us to? For me, that's led to a lot of life-changing conversations through the work of International Justice Mission (IJM). I've just been thinking a lot more about social justice issues, but when I go to write music anyway. . . Even when I write about faith and the album Conversations, from the start I was always trying to get past the guards.
So if I say a name to you. If I say "George Bush" or if i say any name or any topic, you have a whole list of categories and we're all quick to categorize things, because that's how we process new information as it comes in. It's always been my goal with songs about faith to get past the guards so that somebody is feeling something before they've categorized it. And then they're left with that feeling. What do I think about God? How big is He? What do I think about Creation and what the stars say about Him. All these different things.
In the same way that I've always tried to write about faith and get past the guards of believers who have been doing it their whole life and might not feel some of this stuff anymore or someone who's not ever come to faith to maybe raise a question or that sweet thing in their soul that's just sort of waiting to wake up, I'm trying to write about social justice and get past the guards that say, "That's too political" or "That's not for me." Whatever the conversation may be, I want to make it a human conversation.
That's good. There are a lot of expectations when you start talking about social justice and the questions always come up, like "Do we really do that?" or "Can we?"
Yeah. I seriously try to avoid finger-wagging, because there have been so many people who have been patient with me as I've come to my own understanding and crawled out of the rock that I was living under. I mean, I just didn't even understand much of the world outside of my little world. So the people who have taught me and modeled this work and this life for me have been very loving and very patient and full of hope. And I am not a teacher, I'm the learner, I'm the student in this album. I'm not coming from any place of. . . Maybe when you hear about social justice you think, "I just feel so guilty." Well guilt is a huge waste of time and that's not what we're talking about. We're not talking about feeling guilty, we're talking about the joy of entering into these stories. And there is for me been life-changing joy by entering into these conversations.
I think that guilt is very debilitating. It seems that people are looking for a feeling and if they feel guilty, they think "Well, maybe that's not the feeling I was looking for, but it's a feeling so I've done something."
So what kinds of things have you been doing through IJM?
Well, I'm not a lawyer. My knowledge of the law ends with my extensive watching of Law & Order, that's it. That's all I know about law.
(laughs) That's something.
(laughs) That's a good start. Jack McCoy is a good teacher, but I'm, well, I'm doing this. I'm writing songs. I'm finding that, in my own attitude, when I ask what can I do about these issues, a lot of times, the answers were: give money, pray, educate yourself and become an advocate. The education and advocacy parts, I kind of rolled my eyes at, thinking, okay, but what can I really do?
But now, I'm more and more understanding that. . . The thing I really love about IJM is that they're really not about building IJM - they're not about making their name so great. They're about introducing this conversation. More than anything, they want us to be thinking about God's heart for justice and how the church can be involved in having these conversations, educating ourselves and advocating for people who don't have a voice. So, I guess, yeah, I'm writing music. I participate in their banquets and fundraisers and things like that.
This weekend we just came from the global prayer gathering where their area directors come from all around the world to report on the human trafficking and the different praise reports and the great things that are happening and then sharing their needs which are great. So it's an incredible time. You go from country to country, from office to office, to hear what's happening in their area and in what ways you can pray and then we all pray together.
Yeah, in case someone, well, not everyone knows what IJM is, but International Justice Mission is an organization of lawyers and law enforcement officials who use their abilities to represent - basically public defenders to - the very least of these. In Africa, depending on the area, they work to restore land to widows because land grabbing - over 60% of widows have their land taken away from them. That's a lot of widows and orphans who are left without any resources. In Cambodia and Southeast Asia, they work largely to free young girls, minors as young as 5 to 15, from brothels and prostitution - rape for profit is a billion dollar a year industry.
" No matter what, do not let your love grow cold. Do not let that happen."
In South Asia, they work largely freeing families from bondage slavery. They've usually been bonded for debts of $25 to $100. A small debt will keep them bound sometimes for decades and they face brutality. It mirrors or is worse than any stories we've ever heard about our own history of slavery. Anyway, that's what their work is, in case anyone reading this doesn't know about them.
That's good. There are plenty of injustices around the world.
So has there been anything that you've been reading in the Bible or other books, that has kind of spurred this direction and desire on for you?
Well, I'm definitely reading the Bible in a different way. I've been reading Gary Haugen's book, The Good News About Injustice. He walks through the Bible and brings out all these verses that I've read all my life and have taken in sort of a spiritual sense that God wants to free the oppressed. I've always taken those things as sort of figurative, spiritual metaphors. When you realize that Jesus is really talking about the poor, when He says that the poor will always be with you. . . Yeah, why would I assume that these things are figurative or that it doesn't enter into my life as a Christ follower? So all those verses have come to bear. . . where now when I read them, I'm so motivated by God's heart for justice.
One verse that has stood out to me is Jesus at the very end of His life. His disciples are gathered around Him and they're asking Him: "What will it be like in the end times?" This is what they feel is their immediate future. They don't understand what's going to come and they say, "What will happen in these end times that you're talking about?" And Jesus says in Matthew 18: "Because of the increase of evil, the love of most will grow cold." And He says, "But a few will stand strong to the end and they will be saved."
I've just been ruminating over that because if that isn't the day we live in, then I don't know where we are. Even in the church, as evil grows, our hearts and love grows cold. We grow inward instead of outward, because if you've been hurt by 9-11 as a nation or personally by a relationship, your response is to shrink back. And Jesus is saying that evil is going to happen. Hard things are going to happen to you. Your days will be hard. I don't even know what my sons are going to face and I want to raise them up to say. . . There's a song on the new album called "Song for My Sons" and it's just saying: No matter what, do not let your love grow cold. Do not let that happen. Evil will come. I don't know what you will face, but do not let your love grow cold. I love what Jesus says that these people are standing firm in. It's not in creeds or doctrines. it's not in political ideals. It's in the love of Jesus Christ. It's in saying: God loved me and in the face of great evil, I will love. I will pursue justice. I will seek mercy. And what is it?
Walk humbly with the Lord.
Walk humbly. Thank you. (laughs) But I'll do these things still, even in the face of great evil. I think that a lot of us feel sort of entitled to this shrinking back, because we're. . . Ahh, conversations about how we're persecuted here just hurt my heart. I mean there are. . . There are believers in the underground church in China. They won't stop. They are going to the Middle East in droves and they're being slaughtered. They're being martyred. So when I hear people talk about how hard it is in the United States when our ideals. . . We're facing some of these public square conversations definitely, but man, for us to turn inward for those type of conversations, those words. . . And yet the underground church in China and these friends like I'm saying, who are around the world on the frontlines of these justice issues. Getting these young girls out of brothels. I mean, I just think. Man, I don't want to wilt or cower. I want to stand in the love of Jesus Christ in these days. I want to love, because He loved me when I had nothing. I want to stand in that. He said that that's what will save us and I want to be saved.
I heard something not too long ago - I think it may have been Donald Miller. He had mentioned that he was reading a passage in the Bible about the oppressed and while he was reading, it dawned on him that it wasn't written to him. It was actually written to the people that he had oppressed. . .
He was oppressing them by ignoring their needs. It's along the same lines.
And it's so easy to take on the victim mentality and be worried about getting made fun of or whatever, but it could be a lot worse.
Very much so.
It may be a lack of that education that you mentioned earlier.
And that's a hard conversation to have, when you're talking about culpability. What is our role in these conversations? It's hard to write songs that say, "We are all culpable in these conversations".
Hopefully the album is. . . I think you can listen to it, like Donald writes. You can read those books and he's got that way. Hopefully I'm doing that. You know, Good Monsters by Jars of Clay. They knocked it out of the park. The music you can just rock out all day long to it, but you're not going to listen to the song, "Oh My God" without being changed or at least without thinking about children underneath the bed. This is our inheritance. The main thing is that Donald puts forward, that Jars puts forward, that I hope to put forward as an artist is that, in our entering into the story, He is saving us. He is saving us. It's not about our entering in, about writing a guilt check and somehow giving some sort of charity. When we enter in. . . I've never felt such profound joy in life as I have the past two years as I've been entering into these stories and becoming an advocate and educating myself about my friends and my brothers and sisters around the globe. I feel saved. I feel what Gary Haugen, the president of IJM, says: that the poor will save us from our life of trivia.
That's good. I'm definitely looking forward to it.
And hopefully it's good and fun to listen to. I tried to go in some creative writing veins and musically write with a freshness and not just default to my chords (laughs). My Sara Groves chords. So hopefully it will have some of that, too.
And everything else has been going well also?
It's good. Baby on the way in July, album in November. Eleven weeks until it's "go time."
Album in November which may change, I don't know. I'm taking some time off for the baby. I won't be able to support that album until November. (laughs) If they want to release it earlier, they can.
Well they are telling us that our time is up, but it's been great to finally talk face to face.
Yeah, we've had some good conversations. I mean, I should say that I've talked your ear off many times.
For more information, visit SaraGroves.com - MySpace - International Justice Mission
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