Monday, August 27, 2007

Glaciers and Icebergs

Over the past few days I've been reading and thinking about glaciers and icebergs. I've never actually seen either, but I am just finishing a book by Eugene Peterson called Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places and during the closing pages of the book, Peterson talks about an article he read about glaciers and the environment.

So I decided to go online and read a bit about glaciers. A glacier is a river made of solid ice. It is formed as snow slowly accumulates over time. A little bit, day by day. Patiently, the snow falls. Maybe one day it is two or three inches. Another day is a dusting. And yet another day is two feet. Slowly, the sheer mass of snow causes it to compress and solidify. It becomes solid ice, and over time, the ice gets thicker and thicker. One day the ice is 50 feet thick. And then, it begins to move. Gravity begins to pull this huge mass along as it seeks to find sea level. Nothing can stop it or get in its way. In Peterson's words it is the most powerful force on earth. Glacial ice is the largest source of freshwater on the planet too by the way.

And when a glacier gets to the ocean, bits of the glacier break off and become icebergs. Icebergs are interesting because you only see the "tip of the iceberg". 90% of an iceberg lies beneath the surface of the water. So icebergs have all of this potential that no one really sees, and yet they are extremely massive and powerful.

So I was thinking about icebergs and glaciers, and then I started thinking about us. It's really easy for us to get impatient. As I think about the nearness of the opening of our café, sozo, I get really excited about it, but I also would love for everything to be in place--right now. That's not how glaciers work though. Glaciers are part of a patient process--and once they get started, they are unstoppable. I think that's what the community of faith should look like, a patiently flowing ice river that changes the landscape. My buddy Sam told me that Glaciers carve a U shape out of the valleys where they flow. Wouldn't it be something if God took all of that mass of the faith community, and all of the mass of a project like sozo, and used things like that to begin a transformation of the whole community for the better? Or what about your community--what would it look like there for that kind of transformation to take place? Are you willing to wait for it and work for it?

And more specifically, what about you? I was thinking that as individuals, we are often like icebergs. We are mostly submerged with about ten percent of us available for the world to see. Yet we have all of this potential that's hidden below the surface. What if you began to live out your potential and live out your calling in such a way that the world around you began to take notice? Just some thoughts I've had in recent days about water, and us.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Rankings, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I had thought I posted to my blog yesterday, but when I went to show a couple of people the site, my most recent blog wasn't there. Unfortunately, I didn't save it anywhere else either. Lesson learned, maybe.

I have been thinking a lot lately about rankings. For some reason, in America we have a fascination with ranking and categorizing things. Our school, our state, our country, it doesn't matter, we categorize and we rank. We feel a sense of pride, or dismay at our rankings too. In fact, one can easily get a sense of identity from "our" group being ranked somewhere really high.

For instance, after a quick perusal of the Mountaineer Sports Network website, I noticed that we not only have the #3 football team in the country, and our men's soccer team is #14 and our rifle team is #4. Those rankings excited me. In fact I feel a sense of pride in our teams even though I had nothing to do with their rankings.

My friend Jeremiah sent me a link to an article featuring another ranking. It appears that WVU is the #1 party school in the country according to the princeton review. This statistic came as a result of surveying 120,000 students from around the country. Needless to say, not everyone is rejoicing over a ranking like this. Some students and alumni are excited and proud of this ranking. Obviously, it isn't the kind of ranking that an administration looks forward to seeing.

Personally, it is just a reminder of some of the many places where we can go to find our identity, and the unique influences of the spiritual and climate of a college campus.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

World Scout Jamboree

World Scout Jamboree, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Earlier today, my buddy Ricky Beamer sent me a link to a newspaper article he was in back in his home town. You should definitely check it out.

Ricky is an Eagle Scout, in Order of the Arrow, and currently serves as assistant scoutmaster for his troop when he is in Wytheville. He is also a fourth year Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering major. He has been involved with our college ministry in Morgantown since his freshman year, does sound and tech work for us, and also works with one of our canvas groups. He's an amazing guy.

And earlier this summer, he had the privilege of attending the World Scout Jamboree in England. Over 40,000 scouts from several countries converged in England for 3 weeks. Everybody got along. Nobody fought. They cleaned up after themselves. They helped each other. They took care of their environment. For three weeks, Ricky and his fellow scouts gave the world a picture of what life could be like. But I wonder how many people noticed.

If ricky and his friends from all over the world can get along for three weeks, what about the rest of us. Couldn't we at least start to make a change? I know that Ricky is extremely excited about the possibilities in our world as a result of the combination of his time in England, and what God has been teaching him through scriptures.

As you read this, I want to challenge you to begin to imagine together with me how God could use ordinary people like you and I to change the world. If the scouts can do some thing like this (and they are a great group), just imagine what the church could do if we began to find our satisfaction in Him and not walk around in fear, insecurity, and isolation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Greenery, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This year has seen more and more press given to "greening" our lives. From hybrid vehicles to Compact Fluorescent light bulbs, to buying locally grown foods (or growing your own), people are seriously considering lowering their ecological footprint. Your ecological footprint is a measure of how much resources you use by doing your weekly routine. Today, I just thought I would attempt to find out what my footprint is, and I found out that if everyone lived the same way I do, we would need 3.4 earths to sustain us. That's pretty dismal news, being that we only have one earth. (By the way, I would love it if you took the quiz and posted your results!!!)

Earlier today, I was listening to a podcast featuring Eugene Peterson, the guy who wrote The Message a version of the Bible in contemporary language (He has also written many other wonderful books). This in turn led me to a website with a further interview which led me to a Washington Post Article about Christians and the environment.

In the article, it mentions one of my favorite preachers, Dr. Joel Hunter of Northland Community Church. During four straight summers, I attended Dr. Hunter's church while in Orlando, FL. He is a thoughtful, articulate, and an exemplary storyteller. He also has been doing much to encourage Christians to engage in being socially active in their communities as a reflection of their faith in Jesus.

Anyways, the article really provoked me to think more deeply about how I can better love God and love others through my stewardship of the environment. Lot's of folks want to debate issues like global warming, or they want to complain about escalating gas prices, or the prevalence of environmentally related illnesses in our world today. But, how many of us really want to take time and effort to wrestle with how this (among many issues) can be simplified down to how effectively are we loving God and loving others?

I implore you to take some time today and think about some small changes you might be able to make to better care for God's earth. Things like walking instead of driving (short distances), riding a bike (weather permitting), or recycling go a long way, and they actually are good for you too (you just feel like you've made a difference when you recycle, and you see your number of bags of garbage drastically diminish). And when you decide what you are going to do (or are currently doing), post a comment. And don't forget to tell me your footprint.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the summit

On the summit, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last Friday, I drove to Seneca Rocks with my brother, nephew, dad, sister, and brother-in-law. Together we hiked to the top of the rocks. This is my third such pilgrimmage in the last month. This time, I had the privilege of sharing the journey with my family.

My brother, interestingly enough, also recently hiked to the summit of Mount Whitney in California. While the views were significantly different, the appreciation of the summit was highly similar I'm sure.

So this week, we all returned to our "normal" routines. I returned to Morgantown to fully engage in the prep work involved in opening a cafe, as well as the work involved with preparing a church, and a college ministry for the arrival of approximately 27,000 students. My brother returned to the busyness of caring for his wife and son and balancing responsibilities to work, family, and community in his daily life.

My dad and sister and brother in law returned to not having us around, not waking up and planning out what we would do as a family, not sharing hikes, laughs, and quality time together.

It's been a period of adjustment. But isn't that the case with life. We are always going through periods of adjustment. Some days we are on the summit, and the view is beautiful, and the wind is blowing our hair across our face. And then some days are like a valley that gets no air, and it seems somewhat sufficating.

In the middle of it all, God remains constant. God walks with us in tough times. God is our sustainance and our hope.

Sunday I was talking with my dad and sister briefly en route from a baptism at our church in Morgantown where over 60 people were baptized, and they mentioned that one of our relatives had a stroke. My sister called yesterday afternoon to tell me that the same relative, Lizzie Cooper, went to be with Jesus yesterday.

Lizzie was an amazing woman of God, and an inspiration to many. Her departure was both sudden and unexpected. She was just recently teasing my dad because he missed Sunday school (he came up to Morgantown that weekend).

Now she is with my mom who is with Jesus. Everything is better than being on the summit for them. For us, we will continue to grow and persevere in faithfulness, using our time, our efforts, and our talents to glorify our maker Who is the true satisfaction of our lives. We will remember the summits, but even more we will remember the One who gave us the summit. We will lament the valleys, but even more we will praise the One who rescues us from an eternity far worse than any temporal valley.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Bloom

Big Bloom, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
A little over a week ago, my sunflowers finally bloomed. When the bloom started to come out, they hit a growth spurt and shot up an additional 1-2 feet. This particular flower is over 10 feet tall.

I'm so glad I added these flowers to my garden. I have no idea how I am going to harvest the seeds or extract any oil from them, but sometimes we just need to see and remember beauty.

I've felt a need to be extremely pragmatic and efficient with my time and efforts over the last few days, and this flower is a reminder that you can be efficient and pragmatic and still let beauty shine. The sunflower's broad leaves and thick stalk are two traits that reflect it's effeciency and pragmatism. There is no way a plant could grow this tall without having those broad leaves to catch the sun's rays and a thick stem to give itself support.

The flower uses its limited resources to grow and develop so that it can flourish. In our lives we have limited resources of time and money (among many other things). How effectively do we use them? Is something beautiful coming out of our efficiency and pragmatism? Is there something coming out of our efforts that makes people pause and say--what a wonderful gift, and what a beautiful use of resources.

As we put in long hours this week on the cafe and in preparation for the return of students this is my prayer. It's also my prayer for you. That you would use the gifts, skills, and talents that the Creator of the universe has given you to bring beauty into your world--that He may be glorified through your efforts!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Del Monte Cup

Del Monte Cup, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Friday night, history happened! Some of my cousins had a bunch of us over for a summertime bar-b-q. It was a great evening of sharing stories, laughing together, and simply being family.

And then, I was introduced to a new game, and a new competition was born. I don't know, maybe you have heard of cornhole before, but I hadn't. Sure, I have seen people playing a game with what I thought were bean-bags before WVU football games, but I never took the time to find out exactly what was going on.

This game is a blast. I watched some of my cousins play the first round, and then my brother and I took on my dad and my uncle Bill. Then, my sister and her husband Ray stepped on the field of play. They totally dominated. Their only loss was in an overtime (tiebreaker) against a young duo of one of my second cousins and his buddy. (They later trounced the same team.)

Little did we know that there were stakes involved. (Although we had eaten steaks for supper earlier). The now famed "Del Monte Cup" was the prize for the top team of the evening. Now my sister and her husband are the envy and the target for the rest of the family. Serious training is under way. Who knows when the next competition will come about, but I know that I for one want to be ready. After all, it isn't just about bragging rights--the "Del Monte Cup" travels with the top team. I think it would look good on a shelf in a prominent position in my house.

The only problem is, I imagine there is a similar sentiment all through my family . . .

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Watermelon, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Over the last week, I have been traveling a lot. I've logged over 1000 miles on my car in my travels. My brother and nephew have been in town, and it has been awesome.

Over the last week, I have driven to Morgantown four diferent times. I've been privileged to share a lot of what I do vocationally with my brother, my nephew, my sister, and my dad during those times.

It has also been crunch time for me and the people I work with as the beginning of the school year is just around the corner. Folks have been working really hard to get sozo ready, and to get ready to welcome the 27,000+ students who will be arriving in Morgantown in a little over a week.

And I've got a watermelon in my garden. I'm pretty fascinated by the watermelon in general. I mean, just think, from a single little seed there are several feet of watermelon vine in my yard, and now watermelons are starting to grow along that vine. One tiny little seed is producing that. I'll probably talk more about that thought in another blog in the future, but today, I've been thinking about this aspect of the watermelon.

As I deal with the joyful fatigue of pouring my life into family, community, and vocation, I think about the watermelon. It starts as a tiny little seed, that yields its life to yield all of the vine and all of the fruit. From that seed, God takes it, and expands it, and makes it something far greater than outward appearance lets on.

I think that's kind of like our lives. As we yield ourselves to the Creator, He takes our small lives, and makes them grand. He stretches us, and we have a greater capacity to love, to give, and to yield fruit. As I have been driving and doing over the last few days, I have felt extremely stretched. But when I look at the variety of beautiful experiences I've been part of, I get a vision of what God has been doing in me.

When we lay down our lives for others, we have no idea the beauty and the fruit it produces.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sunflower Bud

Sunflower Bud, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Saturday evening, while enjoying some fresh cooked squash from the garden with my roommates, I noticed a change in the row of sunflowers I had grown. They all had buds. I wanted to capture a decent photo of one of these buds, but in order to even get this angle I had to climb on top of a chair.

I don't know how much you know about sunflowers, but I've been trying to glean as much as I can from watching these broad leaf plants grow. These particular sunflowers can grow up to sixteen feet tall. I can recall memories of little league and mouthfuls of sunflower seeds tucked into my cheek (when I wasn't chewing rain-blo bubble gum, or, for special occasions, big league chew). My sister woudl get sunflower seeds for an after school snack too, and my first experience with these seeds was probably bumming them from my sister.

But I haven't seen too many sunflowers in my day. We had a few planted on my tribe's ceremonial grounds a few years back, but that garden didn't lend itself well to day-to-day observation. Honestly, I just remember seeing huge drooping flowers.

I planted the sunflowers in the garden this year because I thought they would look cool, and I wondered how tall they would get. I also figured they would make a cool "pole" on which some of my beans could grow.

I used to think that the sunflower got it's name because it looked like a big yellow sun when it was fully mature. But after some observations I'm beginning to see other reasons. For one, the sunflower grows taller than any other plant in the garden--so its like they are growing closer to the sun than any other plant in the garden. They shoot straight up. Their huge leaves absorb massive amounts of sunlight. And, the sunflower bud is called heliotropic. It likes the sun and the bud actually moves during the day. It points eastward in the morning, and gradually moves west as the day progresses. This photo was taken around 6.30PM on saturday, so can you guess where the sun might have been in the sky based on where the bud is pointing?

I've been learning a lot about spirituality from this garden. The sunflower has been teaching me about standing strong--it's stalk is probably 1-2 inches thick at its base. It not only firmly roots itself in the earth, but also, it keeps an intense focus on the sun. It's leaves open widely to receive whatever blessings might come from above. When I think about this flower and what it understands about survival, I am shamed in my faith. How often do I keep that kind of focus, that kind of thankfulness and supplication, those firm roots? May we all aspire demonstrate this kind of devotion to the One who makes the sun rise and who is the true sustainer of all life.