Wednesday, July 22, 2015
As Jamie and I continue our training in an effort to complete the 40th Marine Corps Marathon (and our third) in Washington DC this October, we have taken the training as a great opportunity to explore as well. By the way, want to join us on team Nuru this fall?
Yesterday, we ran about six miles along the South Platte River in Littleton, Colorado. The weather was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining, and this river was just stunning to take in as we ran. But as we ran, we also had the realization we were running at an altitude higher than any point in our home state of West Virginia. Amazingly we were keeping up a faster pace than our typical longer runs, and we were feeling great...but our hearts and lungs were working harder to keep us going. I think I was averaging about 170 bpm for our little jog, but we both felt great. There are many elite athletes who train for long periods at higher altitudes because it makes their bodies more efficiently use oxygen--we won't be in Colorado long enough to take advantage of that perk tho.
And while our bodies were working a lot harder in this unfamiliar altitude, I think that because we have been very disciplined with our training and fitness, we were able to adjust somewhat well. And running at altitude gave me a different perspective than what I had anticipated. I had anticipated the hard work of my lungs and heart, along with great conversations as we explored this little riverside trail together, but I was granted something more.
It was this. Sometimes we need to change up our routines and rhythms to get fresh perspective. As we journeyed along the South Platte, our bodies were working hard, and every step afforded us a view of something largely unfamiliar to us. Whether it was snow capped mountains to the West or the fast running flow of a wide and shallow mountain stream there was a freshness and a crispness to the images and the air.
As we ran, I began thinking about the little miracles we have opportunity to see each day, if we just get out of our ruts and routines and take a look around us. Sure there are a number of hurts and tragedies in this world, and probably every person who is reading this has found themselves the victim of some hurt over the course of their life. But, at the same time, we have been given incredible gifts. We have been given today. We have been given an opportunity at a fresh start. We have been given an opportunity to either keep moving or start moving.
And if we start, while there's no guarantee that tomorrow will be better, it seems like it is a whole lot easier to keep going.
As we ran, Jamie and I reflected back to a run we took together in Westminster, Colorado two years ago as part of training for our first marathon. We didn't run as far. We didn't run as fast. And we were really tired at the end of our jog. But this time, we were able to go far, go fast, and we weren't nearly as tired. We have introduced a variety of habits into our lives related to fitness, to emotional well-being, spiritual growth, and mental sharpness during our journey together, but we shift the way we engage and develop those habits, and it keeps us fresh, it keeps us moving, and it keeps our perspective not on the mountains ahead, or the hurts of the past, but on the blessings of the present.
Wherever you find yourself today, may you be able to take time for some fresh perspective and some fresh air along the way. Keep moving!
Monday, July 20, 2015
Last week Jamie and I arrived in Denver, CO and we have been privileged to connect with a wide array of Nuru supporters and friends in this beautiful state. In fact, last Thursday afternoon we were able to meet with a few of Nuru's most longstanding supporters during a short trip to Colorado Springs. In addition, we had a rare privilege of connecting with one of Nuru's first supporters on the continent of Europe and a long time friend Naomi Triggs, AND it was her birthday!
Her story is just incredible, so I wanted to take a minute to reflect and share. She's quite the heroic individual and a definite change agent for good in the world. Back in 2003, Naomi joined about 30 other Americans (mostly from CO and OH) to start a church in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She traveled there as a student, worked as a nanny, and eventually went on staff with the church called Amsterdam50.
In 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2009, I had the privilege of visiting the church and bringing small teams from our church back in Morgantown to serve the community in Amsterdam. Jamie actually was on the last team with me in 2009. During each of those trips our teams were always blessed with the conversations we had with the community and staff of Amsterdam50 including Eric Asp, Patricia van Engelen, Sokol Hakrama, and Naomi Triggs. As I write this, I'm tempted to write about how each of these (and many others) have influenced and encouraged me by their examples of life and faith, but it's probably best that I focus on Naomi and her birthday. ;)
Naomi had been one of the key contacts for teams coming to the Netherlands, and during her years of living in Amsterdam, God had placed a deep burden within her for the hurting and the broken in the world. She found herself leading social justice initiatives in the church, in the city, and around the world. She spent time in India and Kenya working with orphans, she organized water walks through the city of Amsterdam, and in 2009, she set up an opportunity for me to share Nuru with a gathering of people from around the city.
Amsterdam is famous for many things, and not all of those things are good. One of those things is its Red Light District. While at the church, Naomi also got more involved in working to address the issues around prostitution, sex slavery, and human trafficking as well aftercare for women who have been able to escape these traumatic experiences. And her work on these issues led her back to the US. She is considering attending a seminary and getting a counseling degree so she is better equipped for caring for women who have been trafficked when she returns to Amsterdam.
When we arrived we had the realization that Naomi was back in the US for a brief period, and thanks to Facebook, we also had the additional realization that we might be able to see her on her birthday--AND WE DID!!! It was wonderful catching up with Naomi, and at the same time it was a bit surreal. Jamie and I had never seen Naomi anywhere other than Amsterdam (and vise versa). Interestingly, Jamie and I are working to learn Dutch, so we were able to get in a little practice with Naomi. :)
We have been honored to know Naomi for quite some time, and seeing her on her birthday was extra cool, but more than that, being able to follow the trajectory of her life has been amazing. She has been faithfully living out her calling as God has nudged her increasingly toward compassionate care for those who have been downtrodden and abused. Although this post is a few days after her birthday, our prayer is that this year would be one of deep focus as she continues to pursue the vision God has given her.
And for the rest of us, may we each grow more keenly aware of the opportunities that are presented to us to grow in our care for our neighbors and to work toward being instruments of healing, restoration, and reconciliation in this beautiful and hurting world.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
During the summer before my senior year of high school, I had the privilege of being one of approximately 200 West Virginia students who were selected to participate in the WestVirginia Governor’s Honors Academy. During that time, I made some incredible friends, many of whom I have been privileged to stay in contact with even today thanks to technologies like Facebook. Friends that I made at GHA have moved on to incredible positions of leadership in West Virginia and around the world. I remember our summer at GHA being filled with amazing field trips and fun lectures that pushed our thinking about ourselves, our state, and the world. I also remember a whole lot of laughs and adventures in what was for me my first significant period of time away from home.
And last week, I was able to return to GHA. This time, I was among those lecturers presenting (hopefully I was fun too). I was invited to keynote the first evening of the last week of the academy. My subject was Nuru International, Nuru's West Virginia roots, and how this generation of West Virginians could join the fight to end of extreme poverty.
It was wonderful sharing with these students on a number of levels. As an organization, Nuru has some deep West Virginia roots. Jake, Nuru’s CEO and founder, hails from Preston County. Two of Nuru’s board members, Andy Cogar and John Hancox, reside in West Virginia. Not only that, but Andy and I both attended GHA when we were in high school and it had a profound impact on each of us. I have been privileged to represent Nuru and share with a wide variety of audiences, but for me, it’s always a little extra special when I get to share with fellow West Virginians, particularly young leaders.
The people of our state when at our best have always exemplified an ethos of service and of caring not only for the neighbor across the street, but also the neighbor across the world. And folks from many small towns around the world can probably empathize with the difficulty these young people might have when it comes to thinking about the kind of impact they could have in this world. It’s so easy to let our minds tell us that coming from small towns, it just feels next to impossible to make a difference in this world.
As I shared Nuru with these students, I offered them a concrete reminder that it is possible to have a global impact coming from the small towns where they are from. I told them that there are more Nuru supporters in West Virginia than in any other state, and that Jake had just been selected by peers to give remarks and introduce former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at an event in Texas just a few days before.
Additionally, I told them about some friends of mine I’ve met during the time since we started Nuru. These friends were all young people, and they were courageous enough to believe they could make a difference fighting extreme poverty—and they were successful. I told them about how a school in West Virginia became the first school in the country to organize a full week of events for Nuru.
Before I shared with the larger group, I was able to grab dinner with a few of the students and hear more about their stories, their hopes, and their dreams. I told them about how when me, Jake, John, and a number of others met at WVU, we were dreaming big dreams, and we were privileged to be part of a community of friends who have stayed in touch and worked to help one another make a contribution in this world, and that they should strive to do the same for each other. Honestly, when I was in high school, I didn’t really know much about the social challenges in this world, but these high school students were incredibly globally aware.
As I listened to each of them share their plans, all I kept thinking was this. These young people are incredibly focused. And as long as they maintain their focus, they are really going to change the world. I went to GHA with a hope that I could inspire these students, and I pray that I did. But, as I left, I thought, these students have really inspired me. They leave me incredibly hopeful for the future of our great state, of our country, and of this world as they go forward and rise to positions of greater and greater influence.
May this GHA class continue to grow in its leadership and its ability to influence the direction of our state, our country, and the world for good. And may you and I be mindful of the responsibility we have to continue to live out an ethos of service and work hard while we can to make the world better as this younger generation looks to us for guidance as they rise to the challenge of leading and shaping tomorrow's world.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Sunday afternoon we were finally able to get the garden prepped and planted. We have had a lot of rain this spring, and days of sunshine have not worked out well in our schedule so far this year for getting our little truck patch set up and ready to go. Better late than never, and the way we see it, this just means that we will be able to share in a late harvest with family and friends! Plus, the rain has been great for other friends and farmers. Without regular rain, the crops just won't grow.
There is so much meaning in this little square patch of ground. Every year while I was growing up, Dad and Mom would work one or two plots of ground planting a wide variety of vegetables. Through the summer and fall, we would have plenty of food to eat, and my folks would send me around to neighbors with buckets of fresh vegetables to share. Mom would be hard at work in the kitchen canning beans, making sauerkraut, and pickles (among other yummy foods).
Back around the time Mom was in the last rounds of her fight with cancer (which she eventually lost and is now in the presence of her King), I plowed up a little spot in the yard here in Morgantown. I was coming to a realization around that time that my generation was quickly losing its relationship with the land, and we were not maintaining some of the traditional skills that we had witnessed our parents and grandparents participate in regularly. Things like growing food, repairing homes, sewing, cooking, and maintaining home and land seemed to me to be becoming less and less practiced.
So, since 2007 I have planted a garden each year with one exception. Jamie and I gave the land a sabbath after seven years as a reminder that God is our ultimate provider, and just like you and I need rest, the land needs rest as well. Each year, I plant some tomatoes and some peppers and potentially some other yummies, but I always make sure I plant the Three Sisters. Planting the Three Sisters helps me to keep connected to foods my family has always grown, but in a larger scope it is a reminder and a connection to our cultural heritage as Shawnee people.
My ancestors would take time as they planted (planting marked the new year), and they would seek to forgive others and make amends where needed. In fact, it was forbidden to carry a grudge or some form of unforgiveness into the new year. Each year, at the time of planting, everyone would start on a clean slate. I think our world would be a little brighter if more folks today practiced a similar tradition. As I worked the ground and dropped corn, beans, and squash into rows, I also took a little moment to give thanks for the provision of the Creator of the universe who sustains all things. I asked God to bless the crops in the hopes that they would provide me, Jamie, and many of our friends and family meals, sustenance, and that the harvest would be plentiful, and allow us to extend these gifts to others as well.
While our garden is not quite big enough to provide for all of our needs, I believe that it keeps us sharpening skills that farmers the world over employ to make sure their families are fed. It becomes for us not only provision, but also an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our neighbors around the planet who are farmers. And here in the US, it keeps us rooted and connected to the land. Honestly, as we spend time in our little garden, the act itself refreshes our spirits. Personally I feel more alive as I am working this little plot, and the food that comes from this garden tastes WAY BETTER than what folks buy in stores--it's always been that way too. There's something about having a little dirt under our fingernails as we work the land that is healing and magical.
Not only that, but every day we spend working this little patch, it's a small but poignant reminder that food comes from the good earth and from the provision of the creation. Real food doesn't come from a lab. It doesn't come from a box. It doesn't come in plastic and cardboard packages. It comes from the earth. As we tend and care for the earth, it takes care of us as well. Sometimes I think we forget that truth, and we become users instead of caretakers. We become users of both earth and people, and that leaves our relationships with both fragmented and broken.
Even if you can't plant a little spot on your land, maybe look around for a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative or a farmers market. Doing so might be a small step of solidarity with farmers, and a good reminder of where our food comes from. It also helps the local economy as well! Here in Morgantown we are part of Mountain Harvest Farms CSA, and we supplement our food needs from time to time with a quick stop to the Morgantown Farmers Market or by making meat and egg purchases from Working H Farms.
May we all be blessed in this Shawnee new year with a greater spirit of forgiveness as well as a stronger relationship with the land that provides so much to us.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
WOW! Nuru International CEO Jake Harriman Introduces Former Presidents George W. Bush And Bill Clinton
July 9th at 6PM ET, West Virginia native Jake Harriman gave a speech (starting at 57:30 in the above video) as part of his graduation from the Presidential Leadership Scholars (#PLScholars) Program, and at the conclusion of his speech, he introduced Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for their remarks to the graduating class. Jake is part of the inaugural class of 60 #PLScholars, and over the last few months he and his classmates have been receiving mentorship from these two former Presidents as well as their staff and the staff of former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George H. W. Bush.
To be accepted as a PLScholar, Jake and his classmates had to go through a rigorous application and interview process, and were charged to identify a key leadership challenge for themselves or for the industries in which they worked. For his challenge, Jake chose to explore what he would need to do to take Nuru into increasingly fragile countries to be able to improve the livelihoods of farmers and their families, and to help make the world a little more secure and safe in the process. Jake has been coming away with a ton of insights that are helping Nuru become a better organization, and helping him to become a better leader. You can read some of those insights here.
And now as Jake graduates from the program, his classmates selected him to give the opening remarks at their graduation and to introduce these two former Presidents. There's an ancient Hebrew proverb that I've been reflecting on a lot lately, "Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men." Jake has shown himself to be skillful in leading Marines, leading Nuru, and now, he has been given this incredible opportunity to stand before two great leaders.
Monday, July 06, 2015
|92nd Annual Lake Floyd WV July 4th Celebration|
And on July 4th, the day starts with Irish RoadBowling, then a parade. The parade is comprised almost entirely of all of the kids from the lake community riding in wagons, bicycles, tricycles, and other decorated riding toys. After this comes “the games.” Of course there are fireworks at the end of the evening, but “the games” are not to be missed. Different age groups of boys and girls, men and women compete in three-legged races, obstacle courses, tug-of-wars, wheelbarrow races, and even an egg toss. This was the 92nd anniversary of the Lake Floyd July 4th celebration.
|Open division wheelbarrow race July 4th|
And this year, I was asked to pray to open up the games. For me, it was a big deal because 1) I’m not a member of the community like Jamie and others are and 2) I have witnessed a few of the others who have prayed to open the time, and those men and women were patriarchs and matriarchs in the community. Men and women who were giants of faith, who led lives of service, and who were stalwart champions of goodness in their community. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not trying to place myself in that league—these are the exact reasons why I felt completely out of place standing in that position. At the same time, it made me want to aspire to live a life that could even be a shadow of the one they led.
|Jamie rocking a Nuru shirt and getting ready for the parade.|
Jamie’s cousin sang the national anthem (beautifully I might add), and the MC led the gathered crowd in the pledge of allegiance. And as these events transipired, I found myself reflecting as I stepped up to pray before the hundreds of men and women and boys and girls entered the “competition” at the 92nd annual Lake Floyd July 4th celebration. What I reflected on was a bit different than what others might have found themselves considering.
I reflected on this. What are we celebrating and highlighting when we come together at gatherings like this on the fourth of July. Are we celebrating our independence? Are we celebrating the freedoms we enjoy in America? Are we celebrating a successful rebellion from a tyrannical England that happened 239 years ago? In a sense we may be celebrating all of those things, but when I think about what values we choose to highlight on Independence Day, I think we are celebrating the fact that freedom imparts to us a need to take responsibility. Freedom means that we are called to serve and look out for the interests for others.
|Jamie and her cousin Genevieve speeding past the competition.|
As the list of those occupations and careers we typically honor on Independence Day are mentioned or listed they bear one thing in common. They the outflow of lives committed to the service of others. We often take time on Independence Day to pray for and honor the sacrifices of service men and women, first responders, fire-fighters, and police (among others), and these occupations share a common thread. They are careers and occupations when at their best demonstrate an ethic of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. There is a sense with each of these vocations that their practitioners have come to the conclusion that a life of “freedom” also means a life of “responsibility.”
I have been privileged to be surrounded by others who champion this philosophy that is not uniquely American, but it is a part of America’s roots. Growing up I saw it in my parents and relatives who committed themselves to hard work to make sure there was food on the table for me and my generation, or in my neighbors who were always ready and willing to chip in and share skills to help repair a vehicle or a home. They weren’t living for themselves, but were looking out for the interests of others.
As I grew older, I felt the tensions of an increasingly dominant culture that said that I needed to put myself first, that it was survival of the fittest, that only the strong survive and these principles were in direct contrast to what I had witnessed in my own family and community. As I went off to college, the dominant culture was winning. I was pursuing an education that would line me up for a career where I could make a lot of money and “have all of the toys.” But something kept drawing me back. Among other happenings, during my college years, I became a Christian, and I was part of a community of Christians who were striving earnestly to live out their faith in tangible ways (and I’m grateful to still be part of that community). In addition, I had the opportunity to become more involved with my own tribal community. One of the highest principles among my tribe, is that you are here to serve. And now, I work for an organization in which servant leadership is among the core values.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. has said, “Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve.” You want to lead? Serve. You want to be respected by others? Serve. President Kennedy said it this way, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
So back to Independence Day. I believe that part of what we celebrate on Independence Day is freedom of responsibility. I think what makes America great (among many other attributes) is this. There is a rich tradition of service that has been woven into America. Of course there are ugly patches in this nation’s history, and there is definitely a need for introspection and correction, but while some of these wrongs cannot be righted easily, they can cease to continue if more people commit their lives to the service of others.
Right now, in the faith community of which I am part, we have been studying the letter Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Philippi. One of the foremost themes of the book is service. Paul holds up multiple examples, including the life and example of Jesus Himself. Service brings out our best, and it actually can bring out the best in those around us too.
And while on various holidays and occasions we often celebrate those who serve, I look around and I see service trending downward. I see people who are caught up in their own interests. They have grabbed hold of an ethos of looking out for number one. They disrespect themselves, they disrespect rules, they disrespect property, and they, as a natural outflow, disrespect others. And yet, this is part of what it means to be free. We are also free to make bad choices. We are free not to take responsibility or expect consequences for our actions, but at some point there will be a reckoning. My hope is that as a society we can begin to course correct. My hope is that Americans can celebrate not only the sacrifices of past generations that have enabled us to continue as a democracy, but also look to imitate an ethos of service that makes us our communities better, and also makes this entire world a better place for others.
So as we return to our normal rhythms after celebrating Independence Day, I want to encourage you to strive to maintain or develop an ethos of service. Your family will be better off. Your community will be better off. Your country will be better off. And, I believe wholeheartedly this world will be better off. And this is the great irony, I believe you will be better off as well, because you will be living for a purpose greater than yourself, your bank account, or your own indulgence. There’s something about service that transforms us into a better version of ourselves than we would be otherwise. Will you take steps toward a greater ethos of service in your life by saying yes to others and no to yourself?
Friday, July 03, 2015
Early this morning I read a post my friend Bill Sembello shared on Facebook announcing that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, one of eight state recognized tribes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, recently received federal recognition as an American Indian Tribe. This is an incredibly significant leap forward for the Pamunkey and potentially for other tribes who are not federally recognized.
For most people who read this blog, you might know a little bit about my heritage as a Shawnee, but that doesn't mean you know a ton about Native American law, rights, or recognition in this country. You see, there tons of different agencies that seek to define who is a member of a tribe, who is an American Indian, etc. For instance, there are a number of tribes that are recognized by a state government or agency, and each tribe has distinct criteria for recognizing members. There's some great literature on this for any who are interested, here is a good place to start--the principal chief of my tribe recommended I read that book while I was in college. Being recognized by the federal government allows a tribe to be considered a sovereign nation within a nation, or as Justice Marshall wrote in his Supreme Court Opinion on Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, "domestic dependent states." Regardless of the rights and opportunities conferred upon a tribe when it is federally recognized, there's something more at hand, particularly for the Pamunkey.
The Pamunkey were the first natives that met the English at Jamestown in 1607. Heard of Pocahontas? Her real name was Matoaka, and she is probably the most famous Pamunkey Indian in Western history, and maybe one of the most famous American Indians in the last 400 years. In 1677, the Pamunkey Reservation was formed formally by the Governor of Virginia under the Authority of the King of England. The treaty is actually still honored to this day by members of the tribe bringing a deer to the Virginia Governor's mansion on Thanksgiving Day.
The British recognized the Pamunkey as a tribe. Virginia recognized the Pamunkey as a tribe. But, the United States did not formally recognize the Pamunkey as a tribe until July 2, 2015. The Pamunkey spent decades and more than 2 million dollars fighting for this recognition. They even had to fight against a resort who viewed their sovereignty (and potential for opening a casino) as a financial threat according to a recent article.
According to NPR, Pamunkey Chief Kevin Brown called this a vindication, and remarked that different groups had used "Paper genocide to attempt to erase us from the historic record." Most famously in the Commonwealth, this happened in the early 1900s through a man named Walter Plecker who drafted the Racial Integrity Law of 1924 in Virginia. It required that all births be registered as white or colored and aside from being an incredibly racist law in its most basic form, it also sought to eliminate Virginia Indians from the historical record.
Though many won't have the same level of interest in this decision, I'm personally incredibly excited for the Pamunkey, and for what this decision could potentially mean for the other tribes in Virginia currently seeking to be recognized by the federal government. And I'm also excited for what the recognition of the Pamunkey means for eastern Native people. For many, Indian people either no longer exist, or only exist "out West." In fact, this phenomenon led members of many Virginia tribes to share their stories in this book.
I used to make an annual trip with my Chief to an annual conference hosted by the Virginia Governor's Council On Indians. The people I met there have all been really great people--hard-working, community-oriented, faith-filled, and welcoming, and on the rare occasion I find myself traveling through the Commonwealth, I love getting together and catching up with all the good that is happening in their communities.
Regardless of what it means for other tribal communities, including my own, I am incredibly excited for the 208 members of the Pamunkey tribe. For one of the first tribes to meet European explorers and settlers to have survived and maintained their traditional way of life is a huge feat in and of itself, and honestly, this recognition is long overdue.