Friday, December 26, 2008

Meineke Car Care Bowl Bound



White Out, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

Three days ago, I began a whirlwind of travel. It started in Morgantown, and the first stop was Parkersburg, WV for Christmas.

Today begins the next leg of the trip. Today, I leave for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. I think it's gonna be a great time with some great people. We will leave around noon for Huntersville, NC where we will stay at the world famous Nic and Tara Culp house.

And then tomorrow morning we will rise early (before noon) to drive from Huntersville to the center of Charlotte, NC. After the bowl, we will be traveling west towards Ashville, NC where we will be attending the 2008 Faithwalkers conference. Pretty exciting stuff! (Hopefully we will be able to find a station that covers the WVU/OSU basketball game too.

Of course after all of that comes a return trip to Parkersburg, then to morgantown, then to Pittsburgh, and then to San Francisco.

Soooooo. . . it may be a few days before I'm able to blog again, might even be 2009. I've got some books I wanna review, and I'm hopeful God gives me some cool adventures to share with you in the interim.

In the meantime, let's go mountaineers!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Presence






I hope you are with family and friends during the holidays, and I hope you can savor every moment. We have been given so much. Today we celebrate a baby being born halfway around the world in a small middle eastern town. Kind of crazy when you think about the impact that little baby has.

And kind of crazy when you think about this. According to the theme of the story, that little baby came into the world as a sign of the great LOVE the CREATOR of the universe has for us. He came into the world to be WITH people. God WITH us.

So today, as you read this message that I am writing and you are reading on a computer screen, I want you to do something that sometimes I feel like we've forgotten. I want you to be WITH people. Laugh with them, cry with them, open presents with them. Let your mind and your heart be there with them. The best present is your PRESENCE.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and that you savor the time you have with the people around you. In a world that seems to be running at an ever increasing pace, perhaps that's the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Me and Justin McRoberts



Me and Justin McRoberts, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last month the guy on the right in the photo above rolled into Morgantown for a concert. His name is Justin McRoberts. I first heard Justin's music when I bought his CD on a whim at a bookstore in Frederick Maryland called The Shepherd's Table. His voice was rich and robust, his guitar was simple and yet a perfect complement to his voice. His lyrics were very straghtforward, but there was something about his voice singing his lyrics that communicated passion, honesty, and a vulnerability I have rarely experienced.

I was going through a lot when I picked up Justin's first CD, and his music was a gift from God for me. I don't like to categorize music in this way, because all music is an opportunity to reflect the beauty of the Creator as we engage in the creative endeavor ourselves. Justin's words were simple yet true, and I found myself hijacking his lyrics and making them my own personal outpourings of prayer to God. Many times I would find myself in tears while singing the songs Reason for Living (which is also the name of the album) and Galatians 2:20.

It was great being able to connect with Justin in sozo of all places. Judging by the lyrics of some of the songs from his latest album (which I purchased that night), we are once again thinking in a similar vein about how to live this life of faith to bring God the most glory.

One other thing, Justin and I were able to talk about my recent endeavor of my friends Jake and John to do holistic sustainable development among the world's rural extreme poor. Justin does some similar work to promote another non-profit, and it was just cool to talk about our generation's desire to live out our calling in such a way as to transform some of the ugliness in this world into beauty.

If you get a chance, you should definitely check out justin's music, or catch him in concert somewhere. He's a talented musician, and it's evident after spending some time with him that his desire is to both sing and live from the heart.

What would happen if we all strived toward that a little more?

Postgame Prayer



Postgame Prayer, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I uploaded this photo a while back, but I haven't been able to write about it since. Been fighting a really bad cold/flu or some kind of malady, but today I feel like I am on the upswing.

This photo was taken after the final WVU game of the season, which was also Pat White and many others' last game in Morgantown. It was a low scoring game without a lot of big plays, but it was a great game to experience too.

One of my favorite parts came after the game was over. Pat White was surrounded by reporters, and he fought his way through those reporters for one last prayer huddle with both USF and WVU players on the 50 yard line. It's so cool to see a public testimony like the large swarm of players and coaches huddling together in the middle of a field surrounded by 60,000 people.

And after the game and the prayer were over, white did something I had never seen a player do before. He made his way slowly around the edge of the stadium and shook the hands/high fived every fan who reached their hand over the wall of the stadium. After making his "final victory lap", white was picked up by a golf cart and proceeded to start a second lap around the stadium on his way to the locker room.

I'm looking forward to seeing this guy wear the gold and blue one last time in Charlotte in a few days!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent Conspiracy



This video was on my friend Ricky Beamer's blog, and so I thought I would put it on mine too. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that my eyes are being opened constantly to the great needs in our world, and the fact that we in the west have tons of resources to do something about those needs. But it all starts with change. And I invite you to think about that word change in all of the senses it is used.

It starts with change--what do you do with your coins? Your loaves and fishes? Would you be willing to change how you spent your cash? And how you celebrated the holiday season? Is it really your cash anyway?

Every year, we all run out to shop and among Christians we put taglines in our greeting cards and even on clothing that encourages others to "remember the reason for the season." It's a great tagline, but I wonder how much we think about the fact that the Creator of the universe, the one who gave you that last breath you took, came to earth in the form of a baby. LOVE entered the world, and dwelt with us. And our response is to spend a bunch of money on junk.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Gifts aren't a bad thing either. I feel a strong temptation every CHristmas to go overboard with my gift giving. I want to be lavish and extravagant with my family and friends. And I think that's a great thing. But maybe more could be communicated if I spend less on gifts (definitely getting gifts for folks!) and more on time. Time is a precious commodity. I want to be fully present with people when we are together, and I have a hard time at that sometimes, I think we all have a hard time with that. But THAT is a far better gift than toys and such. Time communicates love better than any other gift. Where are you spending your time?

Lastly, as a thought that emerged from the video, how could you take a little bit of that money you save on gifts to help someone in need? A better question than how is WILL you take a little bit of that money you would spend lavishing on people you love, and lavish some of it on people who are forgotten? Or maybe even giving some of those gifts to groups who are laboring for change in the world.

I want to suggest a few places where you could give for a greater impact.

1) Your church. One third of Christians say they tithe, 8% actually do. Imagine a company running on 8% of it's budget, and what it would be able to do. If you don't tithe, you should start. If you do tithe, consider giving a little more to your church this Christmas so they can redistribute those funds to further the influence of the gospel. Unless you don't think your church is doing that, and then you probably should talk to your church about it or find a new church . . .

2) Nuru International. Of course I'm going to plug this organization. It was started by my friends. It is doing great work at meeting desperate needs among some of the poorest people in the world. You could actually be part of helping a community of 5000 people have access to clean drinking water through Nuru. Water for Christmas? That sounds absurd--I agree, but over 1 billion people would enjoy water more than you will ever enjoy that new ipod.

3) International Justice Mission. I've blogged about this organization before as well, have you heard of them? They help rescue some of the 27 million slaves in our world today. Most of these folks are children. You could make a gift that will help these kids have an advocate, and to gain their freedom. Think about it. Freedom for a Christmas present.

4) Another great organization. There are tons out there. Look around. Pray. See where God leads you to give, and then do it.


This christmas let's all try to change our spending habits. Spend your time this Christmas. Bake some cookies with your sister. Go for a walk with your dad. Make a difference in the world with the abundant resources you have been given.

Take some time today to slow down and consider how you can freshly communicate your love to family and friends, and your love to those who you may never meet.

Love generously.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

La Belle Rivière



La Belle Rivière, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This is one of my favorite places. It's the Ohio River. The french called it "the beautiful river" and it truly is beautiful. It actually starts in New York and goes by the name Allegheny River up there. One time I drove along many miles of the Allegheny with my mom and dad. Many times we have driven along the Ohio. Every mile of it is beautiful.

Technically, the Ohio starts where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join at Pittsburgh and then it continues south and west to the Mississippi. This river defined rivers for me as a young boy. I can remember many fishing trips, many bike rides, many car rides, and many memories in general along the banks and in the waters of this river.

The banks along the river have changed a lot over the years. There's a little bar and grill that pollutes my night time view from the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers now. There's also lots of new houses and businesses that keep springing up along different portions of the river.

The whole world seems to be in a state of flux. Things are changing constantly in our world, but the river itself, it never seems to change. I think maybe that's why this river has always been really important to my family and my tribe. The river offers serenity and stability.

Even as you read this, think about your life. Think about the changes you have witnessed and experienced. Consider how your life has been shaped over time and the beauty and agony of it all.

And then remember the river. Remember the water. Remember that there are somethings that give us stability in our life.

No wonder Jesus talked about rivers of living water that flow from within for those who know him.

I hope you can freshly experience that truth in your life today.

Superhero Family Photo



Superhero Family Photo, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo on Thanksgiving day while on a long hike with all of my siblings but one. My brother Chuck and his family weren't able to make it in for the holiday because they live in California.

My dad and sister walk every day. Willie walks every day that he visits my dad. ;)

It's incredible what walking does for a person. You know, I think the reason why so many folks are stressed and feel isolated so much of the time is because they have a hard time disengaging from the busy-ness for a bit and just walking.

i know I have that problem. I take some time out from time to time (like going to the WVU game), but that doesn't really cut it. Walking and talking or simply just walking and thinking--those help me to relax.

I used to take long drives, but I stopped for a couple of reasons. Gas prices tripled over the last three or four years, and it probably isn't the best stewardship of limited natural resources.

Plus walking is just good exercise. My dad and sister are in great physical condition because they walk. And Willie's health is improving as a result of his visits.

I hope you can take some time to disengage from the busy-ness as the year rolls to an end. Go for a walk. Breathe the air. Uncloud the mind. As I write this I realize, I'm in need of a walk myself . . .

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nuru Launches Episode 3



My friends Jake, Janine, Doug, and Nicole have been hard at work in a small village in Southwestern Kenya for the last 10 weeks. Their task? To listen to the people in a community of 5000 to help them to lift themselves out of extreme poverty--for good.

I'm tempted to write a lot, but honestly, I would rather you just take a few minutes and watch this video. If you like what you see then tell your friends about this blog, and about this video and organization. Also, go to the Nuru website for more videos.

Because we want to raise awareness of the crisis of extreme poverty that affects one out of every six people on the planet, we are relying on you. I can only tell so many people. But you can tell people I may never meet, and they can continue to tell people you may not know.

Together, we can end extreme poverty, one community at a time.

The only thing that needs to happen for evil and injustice to triumph is for good people to do nothing.--Edmund Burke.

So . . . do something!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Greatest Mountaineer Room



My cousin and his wife are finalists in the "Greatest Mountaineer Room" competition being sponsored by the book exchange. I am hoping that as you visit this blog, you would take the time to click this link and vote for my cousin's room. He is contestant #9 and the image at the top of this blog should be seen on the bookexchange website.

I'm asking not only that you vote, but that you tell other people to vote. You could share this blog with a friend and do to services. 1) You could help out my cousin. 2) You could spread word about this blog to others. (I'm always excited to have more folks reading)

I think you can only vote once, so it is really important that 1) YOU VOTE and 2) YOU TELL OTHERS.

Thanks for helping spread the word for my cousin and his wife. BTW, it's been a while since I've seen the actual room, but what I remember about it is that it is AWESOME!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

msi kah miqui




This is my tribe's tribal council house. I have a lot of fond memories of this place. The building has twelve sides and twelve posts. These posts represent the twelve clans of my tribe, as well as the twelve disciples of Jesus. In the center of the building is a center pole. It holds the weight of the building. It represents the shawnee nation as a whole, and the God of all creation who sustains all of life.

I'm writing this blog entry not just to tell you about the building. Although I could go on and on about memories of this space--it's a pretty sacred place.

This weekend at chestnut ridge church, I shared a little story about my chief. He was asked to speak on American Indian issues at a nearby National Park, and he had invited some of us younger guys to join him. It was pretty exciting--we were dressed in our traditional ceremonial regalia, and were walking along a footpath at this park.

Sometimes at these parks they have historic re-enactors around. At this event they had some folks who were representative of "redcoats" british soldiers. They had a guy playing a flute, a drummer, and a guy playing bagpipes. They even had folks carrying around black powder rifles. It was when I saw these guys marching along the footpath that I got an idea.

The area along the footpath was a marsh--there were cattails and bulrushes growing along both sides of the path. I told a couple of young guys with me that we should form a "war party" and "ambush'" these soldiers. And so we hid among the cattails until they passed us, and then we rushed out with blood-curdling war-whoops! We scared the daylights out of those "soldiers". It was like re-living some aspect our our ancestors lives.

But then the park rangers caught up to us. They began to lecture us, and even threatened us with ejection from the park. And then one of the rangers asked if we were Shawnees with Chief Raincrow. I answered yes, and then we got an even greater tongue lashing. We were representatives of my tribe and now we had created an "international incident."

I knew we had to tell my chief, so our little "war party" went down the path for our confessional. We were so bummed about the thought of disappointing our okeema. But he told us not to worry--that if anybody from the parks service talked to him he would deal with it. He thanked us for being honest and telling him what we had done. And then he winked at us.

He was kind of impressed with our tactical strategy among the reeds.

My chief had a way of letting people know they were accepted, protected, defended, and cared for. That's a very special thing. Everybody wants that. Why wouldn't they? it's great to belong to a community and have a strong leader.

Even greater than that gift, is the gift that God offers us--we are uniquely blessed by the creator of the universe. We belong to Him. He has reconciled us to Himself, and He is our great leader.

Just some old memories and reminders of great truths from a Shawnee.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nuru Celebrates Christmas For Kuria



The video above was edited and put together by a friend of mine named Doug Scott. He took the raw footage and put all of this together on the ground in Kuria, Kenya in a dirt floored staff house where he and three other friends have been living the last couple of months. Doug used to work for Willow Creek Community Church, but for the last 3 months he has been volunteering for Nuru and designing incredible videos, taking amazing photographs, and designing the content and layout for the Nuru website. This video is the first of a handful of videos he has produced while serving Nuru on the ground in Kenya--I thought you might enjoy this video, and perhaps you'll see a familiar face as you watch. ;) If you blog, or have facebook, or like to email your friends with cool videos, etc., then copy this url http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yprNOFFeIq8 and send it to some friends. Or you can just point folks to my blog--that would work too. I'm trying to get the word out about nuru to as many people as possible--will you help?

Oh, and there's a reason I'm posting this video and writing this blog today. I just looked on youtube and 89,000 people have watched this video. By taking three minutes to watch the video, you can help make the video even more popular on youtube, which will mean even MORE people will watch it and find out about this great organization.

Beyond that, today marks the commencement of Nuru's Christmas campaign called "Christmas for Kuria." There is a page on the website where YOU can leave YOUR greeting for the children of Kuria, Kenya. Click here, and send your Christmas greeting. Right now these children and their families are getting ready for the growing season, but the cost of seed and fertilizer is skyrocketing. Today, you can join Nuru in helping this community by making a donation to help purchase seed and fertilizer that can be loaned to the people of this community.

My buddy Willie's two children were the first to contribute to the campaign using paypal. They didn't give a lot by our standards. They gave a dollar each. That's more money than the average person in Kuria, Kenya makes in a day. And it was a lot for these kids too.

I'm really proud of them for their giving. I didn't ask them--they asked me. They asked their dad too. We were in awe of their willingness to give. "The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Will you join them in their generosity this holiday season?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Teamwork



Teamwork, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I had to write this. Simply because I’m astounded at what teams of people can do when they are united with one mind toward a cause that’s bigger than themselves.

First, I want to brag on the team that put on the 58 conference. None of us had any idea what a HUGE success the conference was going to be when we started planning it this summer. I’m in awe of what God did this past weekend through the efforts of so many of my friends. Lives were CHANGED. I entered into the work I’m doing because I wanted to change lives. I had no idea how much more powerfully that work is accomplished by working together with others. My friends at Chestnut Ridge Church put on one of the most phenomenal conferences I’ve ever been part of. I’m excited for our future teamwork on many more endeavors.

Second, I want to talk about the grassroots team that I’ve been able to work with to get the word out about Nuru. These men and women have helped mobilize thousands of people through facebook and other media. They’ve raised several thousand dollars to bring an end to extreme poverty one community at a time. And they constantly fill in the gaps amid my many flaws. There is simply no way Nuru would be in the place where it is without the men and women who make up our grassroots team.

Finally, I want to mention the kind of teamwork that happens when organizations work together. I’ve already mentioned my new friends Kyle and Conner with Dry Tears, but I loved the fact that this weekend we were able to talk about a few ways we might be able to work together to multiply the effectiveness of both of our organizations when it comes to mobilizing others to make change in the world.

Teamwork makes a huge difference, and there’s a synergy that’s created when we bring our gifts to bear together. Maybe that’s what Paul was getting at when he talked using our gifts. We were meant to work together. We need each other to accomplish anything of lasting significance. No one is an island.

Whatever you are looking to accomplish, we need each other. We need to be on a team. I think Jesus knew that, and that’s why he longs for us to be of one mind, but to each bring our unique strengths to bear for the ultimate goal—our lives completely used to be a sign of the Shalom of God in His world.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Parking Lot?



Parking Lot?, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I've got quite a few blogs to write, but for tonight, a little food for thought.

While I was at the University of Michigan I saw this "parking lot" in the middle of the law quad.

It's pretty cold in Morgantown right now, but I've seen an increase in the number of folks using bicycles to make their way around the campus.

What would happen if more of us took the initiative to start riding our bikes around town to run errands. Or better yet, what if we started walking.

I have some friends who are living in a community of 5,000 people in Kenya right now. That's about the size of Buckhannon, WV. There's only one car in the entire community. There's a handful of bicycles. Most people in the community live on less than a dollar a day.

We've got the privileged life here in the states, and it's very seldom we realize it. Imagine the positive environmental impact we could have by not taking advantage of some of these costly privileges.

What if our parking lots were smaller because there were more people on bicycles?

What if traffic was less congested, and folks were more fit because they rode bikes and walked more often?

Just a few thoughts I had while contemplating this little parking lot in ann arbor.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dutch Memories



Dutch Memories, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
As I was driving back from Michigan, I found myself behind this coffee truck. It brought back memories of being in Amsterdam. You see, as I left Amsterdam the first time, I brought back vacuum sealed packs of this coffee for everyone (along with chocolate and other sundry yummy gifts).

I don't know if it is still true, but back then, this was the official coffee of the church in Amsterdam--they brewed it for any social/church functions. Well, this and Max Havelaar.

Anyway, there's a strong possibility we may be taking a team to Amsterdam in March of 2009. If you are interested in being part of that team, email me, or comment on this here blog.

It's been a long time sense I've been able to visit and support my friends in the Netherlands, and I'm looking forward to being part of what they are doing. Will you join me?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Anaheim Hills Fire



The above photo was taken by Mark Boster for the Los Angeles Times.

Another round of fires has hit Southern California, and this one is close to home. Well, it's close to my brother's home. Right now my brother and his family are packed up and waiting for word from Emergency Services as to whether or not they will need to evacuate their home.

I ask you to pray for my brother and his family as well as for the many families who have already lost their homes. Right now the fire is three miles from my brother's house. They are praying that the winds would be minimal and help to contain the fire. They are waiting and watching.

If you want to read more about the fires, here's a recent LA Times article (approximately 4 hours old at the time of this post).

Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Autumn Forest



Autumn Forest, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo a few weeks back while hiking with my dad. It was good to be able to spend time together. I've been pretty busy the last few weeks, and haven't been able to connect with him as much, but I cherish those moments. (I actually got to spend the day hanging out with him on election day and it was GREAT!!!)

But that's not what this blog is about. This blog is about days like that autumn day. This blog is about days like today in Morgantown. The weather is beautiful here. It is unseasonably warm for late november. The sun is glowing as it reflects off the remaining leaves on the trees.

My brother sent me a blog that John Piper wrote a few days ago. I'll let you read it, and reflect. it's pretty short, so you can check it out by following this link. Some good food for thought . . .

Gas Under $2?



Gas Under $2?, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I think I finally figured it out. Why would John Beilein and Rich Rodriguez both move from Morgantown to Michigan? After my recent trip to Ann Arbor, the answer is obvious. Gas prices. What I remember of both of them while they lived in Morgantown is that they drove SUVs. SUV's don't get very good gas mileage. Just like the rest of america, escalating gas prices drove them to make some lifestyle changes.

The photo above was seriously taken on Thursday. That's where I bought gas to head back to west virginia yesterday morning. They couldn't get me to discard my loyalties just by saving cash on gas--that's why I drive a hybrid--it takes away that temptation.

Back in Morgantown the prices were significantly higher. $2.39 when I came in town yesterday. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I understand that prices are somewhat market driven and vary from location to location due to factors beyond my understanding.

Regardless, gas for less than $2 was a treat. But I don't plan on making the trip back any time soon for that treat. It's a nice place to visit (and buy cheap gas), but I just love these west virginia hills too much.

Of course life is more than gas prices, right? I hope you can enjoy the little things as your week comes to an end, but at the same time--remember that's not your treasure!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dry Tears



Dry Tears, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I've had a lot of stuff I wanted to blog this week, but I forgot my camera cable in West Virginia and I was in Michigan for a conference with GCM during the week (more on that later). For now, I'd like to introduce a couple of friends I met during the 58 conference . . .

As part of the 58 Conference I had the privilege of picking up a couple of people from the airport. These guys names were Conner and Kyle, and when Conner was a freshman and Kyle was a junior in high school, they started a non-profit called dry tears.

Yep, you read correctly. While they were both in high school, they started a non-profit organization. It all started when Conner was reading a magazine article that was talking about poverty. You see, he found out that there were kids in our world who were so dehydrated that when they cried they didn’t form tears.

Conner and Kyle thought there was something wrong with that, ]so they started raising money and paying for wells to be dug. So far they have been part of over a dozen wells being dug. High school students—changing the world. Can you believe it? They’ve raised thousands of dollars and partnered with organizations like Blood:Water Mission and Living Water International to see wells dug in Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve already started talking about a future collaboration between them and Nuru International in Kenya.

Beyond changing the world, Conner and Kyle are a couple of really cool guys. Conner is a senior in high school, and Kyle is a sophomore now at University of Georgia. They are passionate about following Jesus and making a difference in our world. These guys are both articulate and intelligent, and they also stayed at my house with me and my roommates this weekend.

Over the course of our time together, we shared a lot of laughs and some great stories. There’s something awesome that happens when brothers dwell together in unity, and with one mind.

I’m glad my friend Tiffany with Invisible Children told me about these guys, and we were able to get them to come to Morgantown. There’s something really motivating to a group of high school and middle school students when they see a couple of their own stepping out to make a change. And that’s exactly what Conner and Kyle are doing. They are making a change.

I know my life will be different as a result of meeting them. They inspired me. Check out their website, and spend some time with them, and I’m sure you’ll be inspired too. May more of our young people (and our old people) awake from the sleep that tells us that our contribution does not matter.

May this note wake you up to the crises in our world and motivate you to do something about them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

58 Conference: Afterword



This past weekend, we hosted our inaugural 58 conference at Chestnut Ridge Church, and it was truly amazing. What was it like?

It was like mobilizing over 90 volunteers to serve and connect with middle school and high school students from all over the state of WV.

It was like seeing these students hang out, connect, and discuss some life changing talks during the weekend.

It was like impacting an entire city as students and volunteers joined together to step out in faith and serve various non-profit agencies across the city of Morgantown during an early morning FAITHventure.

It was like changing the way a generation thinks about issues like hunger, clean water, and wealth.

It was like watching a generation of young West Virginians step up to make a difference in God’s big World.

Yup, it was a life changing historic weekend for us at Chestnut Ridge Church. We will be thanking our Creator for it for a long time.

Friday, November 07, 2008

58 Conference



For the last several weeks, a group of us at chestnut ridge church have been working furiously to put together a conference that culminates this weekend. The 58 conference is a call to follow in the footsteps of God the Defender and Provider. the 58conference is a call to defend the defenseless and to provide for those in need in our communities, our state, our nation and our world.

the 58conference is a state-wide gathering of high school and middle school students in West Virginia passionate about standing up for those who cannot, putting our faith in action, taking seriously the words of God, spoken through the prophet Isaiah…

“is this not the fast which i choose,
to loosen the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the bands of the yoke
and to let the oppressed go free
and break every yoke?

“is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into the house
when you see the naked, to cover him;
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

“then your light will break out like the dawn,
and your recovery will speedily spring forth;
and your righteousness will go before you;
the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

ISAIAH 58



In coordination with the conference, churches around the state have been participating in a state wide food drive to fill food pantries around WV.



Our goal with this conference is to see students come alive for God, and to see the great needs of our world, and God's desire to see them work toward bringing healing to the hurts of our world.

There are a number of great organizations who will be participating in the conference as well. These include,
Dry Tears--An organization dedicated to getting water to people who do not have access.
World Vision--an organization that works to bring compassion and justice to our world.
Nuru International--an organization dedicated to helping impoverished communities of 5,000-`10,000 people lift themselves out of extreme poverty for good.
Invisible Children--an organization dedicated to ending a 20 year civil war in Uganda.

If you think about it, say a prayer for us and our participants. The kids who are coming to this conference will be fasting for 30 hours as part of the conference, and we are praying for this to be a life-changing weekend for everyone involved.

Thanks!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hope



Hope, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Today, millions of American's are going out to vote. I was able to enjoy a free chik-fil-a sandwich as a result of exercising my civic duty. I love the fact that our government allows us to participate in the hiring of our leaders.

But you know what is frightening to me? It's frightening when we lose our perspective during all of the hype surrounding elections. Voting is important. Participating in the civic process is important. But the person who holds the position of an office like president isn't the person in which people of faith should place their hope.

You see, when Jesus was crucified and resurrected in 33AD, He established Himself as the greatest authority in heaven and on earth. And "the hour we first believed", we pledged allegiance to Him--He became our source of hope. And yet, when election time comes, it seems like we lose this perspective.

Don't get me wrong, elections are important, but I feel like there is so much hype around the events.

I want to offer a suggestion as the results come in from the election. Before we get frustrated or elated over a candidate, I think we need to ask ourselves what we are willing to do to make a difference in our world. No candidate for any office will ever be able to offer the hope that Jesus offers, and if you are a Christian, then that means you probably believe that Jesus' way of living is probably the best way of living.

So do you want things to change in our country? Do you feel like its all "going down the tubes"? Or that these are the "end times" being ushered in? I've heard all kinds of talk around the elections, and it's really astounding to me that people can get so hyped or depressed over something so temporal.

I think we're missing something. I think there's something to be said for standing up and making a difference in our world. I think there's something to be said for people like you and me choosing to passionately live a different kind of life during the 1460 other days when we aren't participating in a major national election. If we really want to see change in this world, We've gotta be willing to be that change. I've gotta start with me.

So rather than simply voting on a couple of issues, you and I gotta be willing to toe the line. I think what this world longs to see is a church that is willing to live as a sign of the reality of God's love being made tangible to our world.

I'm tempted to lay out what this might look like issue by issue, but I won't. There's far too many issues, and if you are like me, your attention span for reading online is very short.

I just want to encourage you to stand up and be a sign of hope beyond any election. I want to encourage you to live as a sign of the true hope we have in the Kingdom of Jesus.

May you, through your life, demonstrate to your friends, your neighbors, and your co-workers what life looks like when we live out the good news of Jesus in the world where we live.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Losing God: A Review



This morning I set aside some time to read my friend Matt Roger's new book. I have been carrying it around in my backpack for a little over a week, and i really wanted to be able to enjoy it. It's one thing to read and review books, but it's quite another thing to read and reflect upon something a friend has written. To start, I really enjoy Matt's writing because it's personal, it's vulnerable, and it's real. Too many people write books that look at problems clinically, or share their struggles from a distance, or talk about an issue in abstractions. Thankfully Matt doesn't write this way.

But sometimes reading authors like this is hard. Honestly, I felt like Matt was so transparent with his depression that it gave me new insights into the struggle. I have a few friends who each deal with depression on many levels. Because of Matt's book, I have a clearer picture of what it looks like to deal with the darkness of depression. Because of Matt's book, I can make a hearty recommendation of it to my friends. I have to warn you though if you read it that it is a bit serious and somber.

I learned a lot through it. I also thought it was cool to read his comments about my friends JR Woodward and Jim Pace as well. He really captured their personalities well, and the fact that both of these guys break the schema of what it looks like to be "pastors" or "ministers". JR and Jim have been great friends to me since I went on staff with GCM, and I loved his description/first impressions of both of 'em.

If you know anybody, family, friends, etc. who are struggling with depression I highly recommend you check out this book. At times I have grown easily frustrated with people I know who struggle with depression. This book helped me to have a better picture of how incredibly difficult it is for those who struggle. It also filled me with hope for others as well. There are some things in this world, and about God that we will never fully understand this side of eternity, and we need to learn to be alright with that.

I highly recommend this book, but I have to warn you that it won't leave you with warm fuzzies. If you or someone you know struggles with depression, this book might just be able to offer a ray of hope in the middle of a very dark time. I hope matt can produce an audio version too. I think his story would be great for someone to be able to listen to as well. The tone of his book is vulnerable and conversational. If you want to order a copy, you can probably find it locally, or you can order it here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cameron's Costume Party



Cameron's Costume Party, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So my last few blog entries have been a little more serious. Just in case you were wondering--I still have some fun.

Every year, my buddy Cameron throws a costume/birthday party at his house. And this year was probably the biggest one yet.

After our creative expression time, a number of us made a pigrimmage to the King's place on park st in Morgantown.

The guy on my right is Andrew Hitchcock (behind him, sneaking into the picture is nikki etris). Andrew and I used to be roommates, and unbeknownst to us, we had put together costumes that worked well together.

He was the world's largest leprechaun, and I was a blond rendition of the King of Ireland, Bono.

The party was a lot of fun and featured events like a limbo line and guessing the number of candy corns in a jar. Of course there were also many theme oriented jokes that made the evening even more fun.

For instance, Andrew was constantly looking for the gold that had disappeared from his pot, and I was constantly belting into song and talking to people about making a difference in our world (ok mine was a little more me just being me and had very little to do with my costume). The only theme oriented part for me was that all of my songs were u2 songs. (Many of them had a haunting eddy vedder or scott stapp feel to them tho.) ;)

Regardless, last night was a great time with some truly great people, and it was awesome to celebrate Cameron's birthday with him in such a fun and unique way.

Sunset Same Day



Sunset Same Day, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I had a rare privilege yesterday. I had the benefit of being around my house with a camera to capture the early morning view, and then, as we had our canvas group come over for creative expression, I had the privilege of being on my back porch to see this view last night.

The hill in the photo is the town of westover. It's funny because the view never gets old to me. Every time I am around my house at this time of day, and I think to grab my camera, I snap a photo like this. It doesn't matter the season of the year, although each season produces its own set of interesting colors.

Lately it feels like the world is traveling faster than the speed of thought. And then I see images like this that compel me to slow down, to savor the moments, to enjoy the journey.

We are a culture that values the destination over the journey. Last night we had a creative expression time at my house, and a group of us were given paint and a canvas and encouraged to work together to create something unique. After about 15 minutes of splashing vivid colors on a canvas, people felt like they were done and wanted to quit. A friend of mine told me that might happen, and so I encouraged everyone to stick with it for a bit longer.

And then something really cool happened. People really started to engage in the process in a deeper way. A couple of people said, "I want to try to do something like this at home in the future."

It takes time, effort, and concentration to engage in the process. It takes all of this and more to slow down from a blurring pace of life. And yet, when we make some small gesture toward slowing down, we experience change deep within our souls.

Our souls were made for moments like this sunset. Our souls were made for the moments beyond 15 minutes of splashing paint on a canvas. We were made to be fully engaged in our world. It's rare that we are able to do that. And when we meet people who have learned how to do that with regularity, our lives are impacted.

As this week comes to an end, may you experience that kind of nourishment for your soul. Get out and go for a walk through your neighborhood, or through some woods. Enjoy a sunrise or a sunset. Paint, write, draw. Slow down a little bit and savor the freshness that the Creator has placed all around you. Pennies and sunsets, and all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Autumn Views and Pennies



Autumn View, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's funny because lately I've found myself taking more photos than I have had opportunity to blog about. And it's even funnier when I think that my life has been so action-packed that I've not had an opportunity to do a whole lot of blogging period.

So, I've got a few minutes in between meetings today, and I wanted to share this image with you. This photo was taken behind my house this morning. Did I tell you that I found a penny on the ground too? The author Annie Dillard talks about pennies being like little treasures strewn all about, and says that it's a poor person indeed who can't stoop for a penny. Pennies are simple treasures, and we often overlook them while we are running to and fro during our day.

You see, I typically walk most places around town during the day, and behind my house there are steps that lead down the hill from the place I live into the campus and downtown Morgantown.

I walk up and down these steps at least once a day to get down to the campus and to sozo, our coffee shop in downtown Morgantown. It's kind of cool to be able to walk to work. (I used to do that when I was at Mylan too, and I got a lot of weird looks from co-workers as a response).

I like walking, because you engage the world differently when you walk. It seems like all of life is really hurried, but when you walk, there's a different pace that get's set for the day. Most of us live our lives flying through our days and wondering where the time went as sunset arrives.

Walking helps me slow down, and enjoy the journey--it always has. I found myself much better prepared for my days at Mylan when I started walking.

I think it's because when you walk, a space is carved out to really enjoy the world around you. I mean, this is the view from behind my house. I get to see this every day!!!

My family has lived close to rivers for generations. There's something calming about the water and being able to see it.

Beyond the water, there's something really cool about the way God gives us these impressive and simple views every day. This world is beautiful, if we would just open our eyes to see it and appreciate it.

I hope today you can take a moment away from the busy-ness of life, to enjoy the world around you. Often times we feel like we need to go somewhere far away and exotic to see something exquisite, but the Creator of the universe leaves little treasures strewn all around us if we'll just stoop to pick em up. It's a poor person indeed who can't stop to pick up a penny.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nuru Presents at Oxfam Conference


Nuru Presents at Oxfam Conference



Hey, I just posted a blog entry on the nuru website. It looks like you have to click the link above to see it. But go ahead and click it and check it out. Hope you are having a great day!

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nuru Launches New Website!!!



Josephine, originally uploaded by Nuru International.
Her name is Josephine. She lives in rural Kenya in a tiny hut made of straw, mud and dung. She has 5 children; 3 are sick with malaria. The youngest died last year on Josephine’s back as she frantically travelled 30 kilometers to the nearest clinic for medicine that would have saved his life.

Josephine walks 5 hours each day to get water, and the water sometimes makes her and her children sick. She doesn’t have access to fertilizer and good seed to grow crops to feed her family, so she must hire herself out to provide them their daily meal of porridge. There’s no school for her children to attend, and she wouldn’t be able to afford the small fees for books and uniforms even if there was. Her husband died last year of AIDS and she is most likely infected, however, she doesn’t want to be tested because there’s no medicine available, and the uninformed superstitions of the community regarding HIV/AIDS would label her and her children as outcasts.

Josephine is trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty. She has no choices. It’s not her fault. Neither she nor her children did anything to deserve this. Yet one in six people in our world today are like Josephine, living without hope.

Insert Nuru.
Fast-forward 5 years.

Josephine lives just a few minutes from a deep well that provides clean drinking water for her entire family. There is a simple medical clinic down the road with basic supplies and competent staff who educate the community about the causes of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and typhoid, and provide antiretroviral medication (ARVs) to keep Josephine well. She and her neighbors have access to high quality seed, fertilizer, and agricultural know-how that enable them to increase their crop yields by 100%. This bounty allows them to not only feed themselves but also earn a small income to pay school fees for their children and invest in next year’s crop.

Josephine’s children attend the primary and secondary school where they receive a sound education from qualified teachers. As the community continues to prosper, a village bank is established to provide micro-loans and training to promising entrepreneurs, helping them develop a business plan and learn fundamental skills. The small fees the community pays for its basic services are re-invested to spur further development and create sustainable growth, allowing the community to lift itself out of extreme poverty.

This is innovation in action.
This is holistic and sustainable development.
This is a dozen NGOs and thousands of grassroots volunteers working alongside the poor to break the cycle of extreme poverty.
This is NGO 2.0.
This is Nuru.

To find out more about Nuru, and check out the new site click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Life With God



Sunlight, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Recently I started reading a book called Life With God. It seems like a fairly simple and unassuming title. In it, the author puts forth an interesting statement about the Bible.

He says that the Bible is the story of how everyday people like you and I can enjoy life with God. As we read through the scriptures there is an overwhelming and emphatic statement that begins to leap off the pages. "I am with you!" "I am with you!" "I am with you!" It's like a loud whisper that calls out from the pages. All through scripture, God says this to a variety of people. He says it to Abraham, to David, to Enoch, to Nehemiah, to Adam, and to Jesus. He also says it to you and I. "I am with you!" Can you hear the whisper?

I don't know what you are going through today, but whatever it is, there's a certain degree of comfort in the thought that the God of all creation is with you.

That same God also asks a question of us though. It's a question that searches the depths of the human heart. "Will you be with Me?" Saying yes to this invitation thrusts us into that life with God. God, in his deep and abiding love, calls out to us. He longs for us to be with Him.

He is with us in the terror and joy and peace and frustration and anxiety and insecurity and wonder that is our life. Are we willing to be with Him? Will we respond?

Every moment we have an opportunity to choose to be with Him. He longs for our response.

It blows my mind the great love that has been shown to us. It blows my mind that so often I can find myself missing that whisper while straining to hear every other voice on the planet.

I don't know if you can relate to that. Whether you can or not, it's my prayer that today you will be able to drown out the distractions, and you will be able to respond to the One voice that beckons softly.

Rick Varner



There I was sitting in sozo monday afternoon, when this guy Rick Varner came into the shop. Rick is one of the people who volunteers at sozo. You see, we have a lot of people who work here, and most of them are volunteers.

So Rick comes in, and he says Billy I've got to tell you about this miraculous provision God has made. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. So I invited Rick to sit down and join me at my table. He began by telling me a little bit of his story. Twenty-one years ago, he was given five years to live after he had a heart transplant. He should be dead, but he's not. And then, four years ago, he found out his kidney was failing. He was told that it was next to impossible for him to get a kidney, because the wait lists for donors were so long. Part of the reason wait lists are so long is because it takes a long time to recover from giving a kidney. At least it used to take a long time. Now, Rick says there's a procedure that takes about a week for both the donor and recipient to be back on the mend. Not only that, but Rick's wife was tested for the possibility of being a donor. Spouses usually don't make great matches for organ donations. Children, parents, or siblings maybe, but not spouses. Rick's wife is able to donate.

This means that rick (who is already a very energetic guy) will have even more energy very soon when he has better kidney function.

Rick is thoroughly excited to be part of the sozo team, but he hasn't always lived in Morgantown. For a long part of his life he lived in Parkersburg, WV where he was a youth minister at North Parkersburg Baptist Church. I had a roommate by the name of Jimmy Shreeves who went to that church and was involved in the youth group. As Rick and I talked, I discovered that he was Jimmy's leader. Small world.

Aside from the miraculous work God is doing in Rick's life, I have to remark on the profundity of our meeting and sharing stories. If I hadn't talked to Rick, I would have missed out on this remarkable miracle. I would have also missed out on his connection to my old roommate Jimmy.

Now picture this. There are people in your world who have profound stories, miraculous stories, tragic stories. Until you stop and listen, you'll never know, and you'll never be able to learn from them or share in their story.

Beyond that, none of us are as far apart as we seem. We're connected in a way that probably won't make sense to most of us on this side of eternity.

So as you read this blog entry, you can choose to sit silent and secluded in your own private world, or you can begin to share, You never know what God may be able to do with your story if you are brave enough to share it. Or maybe you just need to listen, because someone else has a story that you need to hear. Don't live as an island. Life is too short to miss out on all it has.

Monday, October 20, 2008

LOSING GOD



So you might be wondering about the image above, and why I would post a book that is seemingly so antithetical to what I stand for. I'll tell you why. This, my friends, is the second book that my friend Matt Rogers had published. It's not what it seems from the title. The subtitle is this, Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression.

Matt tells his own personal story of his struggles with faith as he fought through a long period of depression. I have not read the book myself, but Matt asked me (and everyone he knows) to consider ordering a copy of it today. Matt's a great guy, and an impressive writer. I had the pleasure of working with him part of this summer during a Leadership Training program he directed in Carolina Beach, NC. We shared some thoughts on writing, ministry, and encouraging others to be faithful to pursue their calling. Despite what you might think from his book titles, he's got a great sense of humor. More importantly, he has a passion for helping others to connect more fully with the God of the universe. If his books can help people in the middle of their struggles, to fix their eyes on Jesus, then it's a success.

I want to encourage you to buy a copy of this book, not just to help out my friend, but because I think your life will be impacted by his writings. I was thoroughly impressed with his last book. When Answers Aren't Enough: Seeing God as Good When Life Isn't In that book, he told the story of dealing with the problem of evil on a personal level after he and his campus had witnessed the evil that manifested in Blacksburg, VA on April 16, 2007.

So I'm writing about Matt's book today to encourage you to help him out. If we all order a copy of his book today on Amazon.com, it will move his book up in the rankings and garner more attention from booksellers. Will you buy Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression on Amazon today?

Thanks for reading and considering helping him out--hope your week is starting well, wherever you are in this big world!

Monday, October 13, 2008

NURU BLOGS!!!





Nuru International, the organization my friends Jake Harriman and John Hancox co-founded to work toward ending extreme poverty one community at a time has commenced it's first project in Kuria, Kenya. The team left the United States on Monday September 22, and have been in Kenya for the last three weeks.

Three of the team members have started blogs to give people back here a little insight into their daily lives. (The fourth is working on content for a soon to be launched website for Nuru.) It has been more than a little eye-opening to read. The team's work is just beginning, and it is really wonderful to get stories of what life is like for them on the ground. I'm setting up a new category on the left so you can easily click to read their blogs.

Janine is nuru's health care specialist and started her blog by sharing a snapshot of one day in her life. One of the most eye opening portions deals with her work in the health care clinic. There are amenities and standards that we really take for granted here in the West among them being the quality of health care that is available here in the states. I recently made a doctor's visit, and there were four people (including the doctor) who offered varied assistance during my visit as I had a mole removed--the whole thing took about 20 minutes. One machine made an incision as another cauterized blood vessels to minimize bleeding. Such a fast procedure would be unheard of in much of the world. In Nyametaburu, there is simply a nurse who does EVERYTHING. No receptionists and no computers and all the records are handwritten by the nurse. No privacy either, patients just stroll in while the nurse is meeting and treating others. But you can read more about it allhere.

Nicole left Chicago to begin working to improve the water and sanitation in Nyametaburu. In one of her blog entries, she shares a very detailed picture of what water and sanitation is like for the people she is serving. As I started reading her accounts, I've had my eyes opened even more to what is the norm for over one billion people. For instance, she shared in one entry what it was like to get clean drinking water. First you have to travel to get to a water source--no plumbing. And then, the water must be boiled once you get back to the house. So then you've got a bunch of really hot water, and then there's still some stuff floating in it--dirt, etc so it has to be filtered through a clean cloth (you've gotta clean the cloth again once you go through this process once). And THEN, you have some clean hot water, so you have to let it sit, and cool down a bit. No refrigerators. No Brita filters. No ice either, so you never really have a COLD glass of water. So after you go through all of that process of acquiring and purifying the water, you wait for it to cool to whatever the temperature is that day, just so you can have a drink. We really do take A LOT for granted here! Wanna read more? Check out Nicole's blog.

Jake started his blog with a Bible story. It's a story of a young man standing up to insurmountable odds, and in the end triumphing over a monstrous evil. He ended that entry with a challenge, and it's a challenge I will echo and leave you with. You see, there's no reason why anybody needs to live this way. The technology and the resources are available--what the world needs is people who are willing to say "Enough!" and begin to DO something! It's time for our generation to STAND UP and GET IN THE FIGHT!

Will you join us in the fight?

You only live once…be the change you wish to see. Be hope…be light…be nuru.

Placed by the Gideons



Placed by the Gideons, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
While not the sharpest photo, I wanted to capture this little new testament the Gideons were giving out on campus today.

I think it's pretty cool that these gentlemen came out to give out Bible's on the campus to anyone who wants them. But do you know what I think is even cooler?

There's a statement about the Bible written on the inside of these little new testaments.
The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the travelers map, the pilgrims staff, the pilots compass, the soldiers sword, and the Christians character. Here paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object, our good is its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is given you in life and will be opened in the judgement and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Pretty good thoughts to consider on a Monday morning, or any morning for that matter!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Charlie Hall Band



Yesterday, Charlie Hall came to Morgantown, and were our special guest worship leaders for the special event we've created to help folks know God and connect with each other in downtown Morgantown. We call the event 17three. They came, and I believe they really helped us to help others connect with the living God. They are a wonderful group of guys, and their desire is to help others connect with God and with others.

It wasn't the first time I've had the opportunity to interact with these guys. The first time was back in early 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland for a conference called Ignite. I picked them up at the airport, and brought them back to the conference. We spent much of the afternoon connecting about what God was doing in our lives, and sharing stories with one another. The really beautiful thing about it all was there was a genuine nature to everything they were saying and doing. I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get a bit skeptical and wonder if folks are really the way they portray themselves in music or on Sunday morning. Maybe it comes from the general sense of distrust we have in our culture.

These guys are the real deal though. Every time I see them, we seem to be able to have a space of time simply for catching up. We are able to share what God is doing in our lives, and beyond that, we are able to spend time encouraging each other in the truths of scripture. The music these guys produce comes from places of deep pain meeting with the rich love of God.

I want to recommend their latest album to you because it is great music, but even more because I know that this great music comes from the heart, and it is the band's musical expression of their great love for Jesus.

In the same vein, I want to encourage you to be genuine as well. As people encounter you, may they experience the life of someone who has been radically transformed by the great love of Jesus!

Crazy Love




Recently, I had the extreme joy of being able to read a book by a person who is quickly becoming one of my favorite pastors, Francis Chan. The reason I enjoy Francis is that from what I read, hear and see, there is a genuine of that He has for God and for people.

As I grow more and more certain of the temporary nature of this life, I'm confronted with one simple truth that is echoed throughout scripture. Life comes from knowing God. What matters most in our life is that we are loved by God. A close second to this important truth is that the only normal response to the kind of love that God has for us, the only logical way to think about the fact that the Creator of the universe has a crazy love for us is to love Him back.

Over the last couple of months, I have been growing to love God more and more. Sure, I still do stupid things that displease Him, but I genuinely want to love God with all of my heart, my mind, my soul, and my strength. It's kind of funny, because many of you who are reading this recognize that as the first and greatest commandment. And yet, if we are honest, very little of our life is characterized by that kind of radical love. I mean, picture your love for your spouse, or your closest friends. Picture what it would look like to love anyone or any thing with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. That's the kind of crazy love God has for us.

I don't know about you, but when I think about God's great love for me, and I think about how easy it is to be complacent, I get a little scared. I get a little uneasy, because I realize I'm not capable of that kind of love. The only way I can love God with everything I have is if He gives me the capacity. And He is willing if we ask, if we abide, if we cry out.

You may be reading this blog and thinking this is crazy. What's crazy is that the God of the universe loves us with an abounding love, and our response is typicallly (in the words of Francis Chan) to "go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss."

Something seems amiss--doesn't it? I want to recommend Francis' Book, Crazy Love if this blog has stirred you a bit.

More than recommending a book though, I want to encourage you to respond to the great love that God has for you. Take a moment right now and just reflect on how deep God's love is for you--wherever you are and stop reading--this blog will be here when you get back. I'm serious. Right now. STOP.

Did you stop? If so you can keep reading. If not, go back to the previous paragraph!

Isn't it amazing to think that God loves YOU that much!!! Isn't it amazing to think that He even gives you the ability to love Him. As we grow in our love for God, our love for others will grow, and we'll find less and less pleasure in things.

Like I said, at the beginning of this entry. Life is very short here on this earth. Let us learn to love well!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

One Time . . .



One Time . . ., originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
your dad took me to Denny's . . .

I love my best friend in the whole world, Willie! We watched this movie a while back called Smoke Signals. The movie was actually recommended by another friend, Mark Darling.

This movie is essentially a movie about friends, about family, and about telling good stories. It's a road trip movie, but it is so much more. It's a movie about being American Indian in the present day as well. Seems like most Indian movies place folks back in history, but Willie and my dad, they are a couple of contemporary Indians.

So anyway, in the movie there's a scene where one of the characters tells the story of when another character's dad took him to denny's. Willie has been dreaming of the moment when this could come true for Him. It happened this past Saturday . . .

It was probably made even more cool in the fact that I wasn't there. From now on, Willie can tell the story of when my dad took him to denny's and the only way I'll know about the details is through his stories.

I imagine he had the grand slam breakfast with Juice! because that's part of the movie, but I'm sure there's more to the story.

And that's the bigger picture. We all have stories that we can tell and that we are part of. There's a great big story that all of creation is part of, and only when we share with one another, do we get to have a more robust picture of how the individual threads of the story come together.

As you go through your day, realize that your life and your day is a story worth telling. And the cool thing is that the way you live it informs the details. So live in such a way that you have a good story to tell. A good story has it's share of struggle and difficulty, but it also has laughter and joy.

Live the story God has written you into passionately!!! It is my prayer that as you read this, perhaps a new chapter will come alive for you, or perhaps an old memory will come to mind, and next time we get together you'll be able to share.

And it will go something like this,

"One time . . ."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Standing Between Heaven and Earth


This past weekend, I took a little road trip to Elkins, West Virginia to see my dad, and my best friend and his family. One of my roommates, Joel took the trip with me, and we skipped out on the WVU game.

I know--some of you are shocked. So am I. It was a challenge to leave my Mountaineers back in Morgantown, but the forest festival only comes once per year and the thought of enjoying it with my dad and Willie were just too much to resist.

So after enjoying the parade, we drove to the top of Bickle Knob (which is much faster and more enjoyable than riding a bike). That's when we took this photo.

I love it, because we are literally standing between heaven and earth. I read about that idea on a David Crowder album one time, and it has really stirred me. Everywhere we go, we are between heaven and earth, but it is sometimes more easily seen than at others.

I love this photo, because of the brightness of the grass and the giant like stature of our little group on top of the mountain. We look like superheroes or something--and maybe we are.

Maybe you are too. Maybe you and I stand between heaven and earth to bring a little bit of heaven to earth. Maybe we get the privilege of making a difference in this world. That's more beautiful than a picture even--that's a lasting picture!

According to the scriptures, there's this latent superhero status in each one of us. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. The sad thing is that we have that kind of power, and we don't even use it most of the time.

So, as you stand between heaven and earth today, be mindful that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you. Don't let that power sit idly--change the world today. Change a life. Maybe start with you, but change something.

And remember, to the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may just be the world!!!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life



It was a few years ago that I heard this message from John Piper, but this morning I saw someone reading a book he wrote with the same title.  He actually gave away 20,000 copies of the book to anybody who would read it because he was so thoroughly concerned that people would waste their lives on triviality.  As I watched this video, I began weeping, because in my heart I know how hard it is to resist the enticements of this world.

So last night in my CANVASgroup (that's our word for a small group in our college and career ministry), we started reading the book of James.  I don't know how familiar you are with this book, but I suggest giving it a read.  (It's actually part of a larger book called the Bible--great book, and amazing Author!)

Anyway, we were reading the first chapter last night, and it kind of related to the video.  You know, it's really easy to have priorities that are centered in the wrong place.  So much of our efforts in America deal with increasing our level of comfort, accumulating wealth, and acquiring more and more stuff.  Money, comfort, and stuff aren't necessarily bad things.  What's bad is when we center our lives on the pursuit of these things.  It's downright scary actually!

I mean as I think about my own life, I just feel like sometimes I can get kind of numb, and go on autopilot when it comes to the lifestyle I live and the way I steward my resources.  It's kind of like I'm on a lazy river, or a down escalator, and unless I am actively striving to go the opposite direction, I will just drift.

I guess as I think about it more and more, I don't want to be thinking about how I use my time, talents, and resources from an eternal perspective.  One hundred years from now, those investments will be the ones paying dividends, and from what I have read, there's a lot more security in that market than any in the world today.

I don't know if you ever feel the pressure to give time, effort, and energy to bigger houses, nicer cars, and really nice clothes, but I do.  I feel those pressures, not directly, but in the escalator way I mentioned.  I really have to fight against the natural drift.

May you consider this weekend, your resources, the great gifts you have received from God, and how you can best use those things for His glory.  May they be tools and not idols in your life, and may you be transformed.  Hope you like the video too!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Painting and Connecting



On Top of Bickle Knob, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This photo was taken of my dad after he hiked and biked to the summit of Bickle Knob on labor day weekend. He was all smiles after a pretty exhausting climb.

Speaking of labor day, this past weekend me, my dad, and my friends willie, derek, curtis, and josh all put some serious labor into painting his house. And dad was all smiles again!

It was awesome because my dad had been a little concerned about painting the house by himself and possibly falling from the roof or getting hurt. He was also a little worried about having the time and energy to put into the painting work.

Enter our work crew. We drove from Morgantown and Columbus, and in a few short hours, we painted virtually the entire exterior of the house.

We also had a great time connecting with each other on Friday night. After powerwashing the house (and getting a lil haircut for me), we ventured out to Mineral Wells where my friend Derek's parents live. We ate some beans and cornbread, and shared some great conversation and laughter.

Most of the crew packed up for Morgantown around noon Saturday morning, but me, my dad, and Willie stuck around and enjoyed the mountaineers on television. It was great to see us get a decisive win after a rough little stint on the road.

The best part was the time spent with my dad. People love spending time with him. And, I think he enjoys spending time with them too.

Take some time to spend time with friends and family--serve one another--love one another. Good words and good medicine for the soul!