Monthly Archives: March 2012

Eric Peters and BiRDS OF RELOCATiON

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This is happening in my front yard right now. In Nebraska. In March. It’s unheard of. It’s almost as if we had no winter this year, and I know that is true for many of you in other parts of the country as well.

It has been interesting to me to listen to people talk about this unusual  weather situation. There are those who missed having more snow. I get that some people find beauty in that cold white stuff. Sometimes I do too. But I have not missed the aching chill in my bones, the gray of the skies, or the general hibernation and withdrawal from each other that is typically part of a Nebraska winter.

Others have commented that the early spring must certainly mean we will have to pay something for it, in the form of a late freeze that kills what has begun to bloom, monster mosquitos, or a long, hot summer that will result in drought. Who knows? But then again, maybe this is truly Grace. A gift, with no strings attached.

In any case, today is beautiful. Color is back. Blues and greens, the pinks and whites of the crab apple and pear tree blossoms, the purple of the fragrant hyacinth in my friend’s front yard. The air has a softness about it. And the birds are back. I desperately miss them and their happy chatter  when they flee each year for warmer climes.

Today is also digital release day for my friend Eric Peters’ new album, “BiRDS OF RELOCATiON”. What this means is that he takes the work of his heart and sends it out into the world in the hopes that it will be received with kindness; and that it will, in some measure, bless the ones who are willing to welcome it.

This record is so dear to me, as is Eric. It is right and fitting that it should release on such a day as this. Because it comes on the heels of a winter season as harsh as this one has been mild.

Since Eric was in town opening for Sara Groves on March 16, he stuck around and played a couple of solo shows in the Omaha area over the weekend. Eric also agreed to be part of Bethany’s Sunday morning worship services. (He’s a certifiable early bird, by the way, who doesn’t strain in the least at those crazy high notes they put in the hymns at the liturgical service at 8:00 a.m. For both of those characteristics, I have to resent him just a little.) He sang wonderfully at all three services. No surprise there.

But there was more.

As I’ve seen him do so many times, Eric chose courage over comfort.  He chose to talk about the cold, gray season of his life that led him to the absolute brink of despair. He acknowledged his broken places and the darkness that plagues him. And in doing so, he made it OK for other people to do the same. As it happens, the timing of Eric’s long dark night of the soul happened to coincide with my own. It has been very good for my heart to know someone else has been on a similar journey back into the light.

And it is also VERY, VERY good to find myself, like Eric, other the other side of that harsh winter. I confess, there were many days when I doubted spring was a real possibility. Which makes it all the sweeter to be soaking in it now. Looking back, I see how faithful was the hand of God to provide just enough kindly light to illuminate each step forward. I am so blessed to find myself where I am, doing the things I am doing.  What great surprises God plans.

A couple of days ago, Eric sent me some unfinished mixes of his album, and I got to hear all of the songs for the first time.  Yesterday I got to help proof the final art work for the project. Like spring, both are full of light, bright color, and new life.  They made my soul sing along.

It is true that there might yet be a late freeze, or a long hot summer ahead.  Winter will surely be back to shock with full force one day.  But today, it is spring.  Blossoms abound, the sun is bright, and the birds have relocated back to my neck of the woods.  It’s the kind of day that must not be ignored.   The kind of day when the sky must be enjoyed.

I urge you to give reception to these new songs Eric has written and recorded.  They express the hope that is ours, always.  They are full of  the breath of spring.

The BiRDS have just now been set free to do their work in the world.  I hope you find as much joy in that as I do.  Here’s a link if you need these songs as much as I do.

Sara Groves

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Last summer, Immanuel Medical Center Auxiliary Coordinator, Barb Glendenning, sent an email to the staff at Bethany Lutheran Church in Elkhorn, wondering whether the church would like to partner with Immanuel to host a concert in celebration of the hospital’s 125th year of service to the community.  The idea was to feed the spirits of those who fill the many roles required in an organization dedicated to healing, to connect with the Bethany faith family in our common Lutheran heritage, and to welcome the wider community into an evening of grace and blessing.  I was privileged to serve as the facilitator between Bethany and Immanuel.  The artists selected to perform were Sara Groves, with special guest Eric Peters.  Both are long-time favorites of mine, making promotion and oversight of day of show details an honor and a joy.  Experienced and loving team leaders, staff and volunteers from Bethany, combined with enthusiastic and incredibly competent volunteers from Immanuel, made for one of the most stress-free and enjoyable concerts I’ve ever coordinated.  The list of people to whom gratitude is due is very long, but special thanks go to Barb Glendenning, Bob Copple (Immanuel Campus Operations Leader), and Kathy Treu (Immanuel volunteer coordinator), to the Bethany staff (I love you people), and to Cindy Kasten and Helen Ohm for a very long day of delicious made-from-scratch catering; also to Melissa Landholm for giving several hours of her time to pamper the artists.  That’s the tip of the iceberg, but to each of you who helped, my heartfelt thanks.  I know who you are.

Now a few words about the artists.  Today, Sara.  Tomorrow, Eric.

Sara Groves

I became a fan of Sara Groves about 10 years ago, when I found her album “All Right Here”.  I loved three specific things about her music:  First, the beauty of her voice.  It has a texture and tone that is somehow especially pleasing to my ear.  And she sings in keys that I can comfortably sing along with in the privacy of my car as I’m driving around.  Love that.  ♥ Second, she plays the piano. That instrument and the people who play it well hold a special place in my heart.  And third, she is a fellow word nerd.  Her lyrics reflect both her fondness for a well-turned phrase and her mastery at creating them.  Her songs have always invited me to imagine the bigger story behind them, and encouraged me to find my own place in that story.

I first met Sara and her family when she toured with Andrew Peterson’s Christmas tour in 2007.  Bethany had already booked the show when she was announced as the special guest for that year.  What a delightful bonus.  She played again at Bethany when she and her husband, Troy, teamed up with Charlie Peacock, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken and Brandon Heath in the fall of 2008 for the Art*Music*Justice tour, benefitting International Justice Mission and Food for the Hungry.  This is the little girl our family has sponsored ever since:

Marie Rose lives in the village of Gisanga in Rwanda — a village where the Groves’ long-term partnership continues to change lives for the better.

Which brings me to the bigger reasons why I am an unabashed Sara Groves fan girl.  Not only is she a skillful teller of stories, but she is also someone who re-writes the stories of the broken and the powerless. She continues to support the work of IJM in freeing slaves and rescuing young children from the sex trade around the world.  She plays concerts in prison, reminding society’s outcasts of their intrinsic value to God.  She and Troy also played an important role of encouragement in the life of at least one musician I know who was on the verge of giving up his art entirely.  Which would have been a tragedy.  And they have now founded Art House North – “a creative community established for the purpose of common good”.  I can hardly wait to see what grows from the seeds they are busy planting.

On top of all this, Sara and Troy are parents to three great kids, who they are raising to have the kind of hearts that will also change the world for the better.

I hold the Groves family in the highest regard, and count it a great blessing in my life each time our paths cross.

If you need some of Sara’s music, visit her online at www.saragroves.com.

Photo credits: Martha Kennebeck