Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Conspiracy 2009



Back in October I attended a conference called Catalyst in Atlanta Georgia. Over 12,000 church leaders from around the globe were in attendance in the Gwinnett Arena. When I I say that I attended the conference, I didn't actually go to the conference itself, but rather had the privilege of representing Nuru alongside about a dozen nonprofit organizations of varying types. Among other nonprofits represented were Invisible Children, Compassion Intl, Hope Intl, and a really cool organization called Advent Conspiracy.

Advent Conspiracy is a really brilliant idea (if you couldn't tell from the video above), that encourages people to re-allocate their funds and their time during the holidays. Last year, this organization raised $500,000 that was invested in the drilling of wells and brought clean drinking water to thousands of people. Not only is this a brilliant idea, but the people who are running this organization are top-notch. While at Catalyst, I was able to talk with them at length about the work they are doing and it really is exciting to see what happens when people change their spending habits just a little bit.

Don't get me wrong, it is great to give and receive gifts during the holiday season, but what if we made gifts instead of buying them. What if we gave our time instead of lots of stuff we don't need. Buying gifts for friends and family isn't horrible thing, but what would happen if we spent a little less on gifts, and instead gave some of that money to save lives and bring a little joy to a stranger. Imagine people having clena drinking water for the first time because of you! Imagine people being rescued from trafficking because of your gift! Imagine entire communities being empowered to lift themselves out of extreme poverty because of you!

To me, that's a celebration that can keep going long after the holiday season. By spending less on ourselves and our families, we can be part of bringing lasting change to others. And beyond that, if we spend less money AND time shopping, we could actually spend some of that time with our loved ones.

If we become part of this "Advent Conspiracy" it means . . .less sitting in traffic, less standing in line, and less money owed on a credit card bill. And this can mean, more lives changed, more quality time with others, and more joy during the holidays!

It's really hard though. We feel badly if we don't spend money on gifts. We feel like there's something missing around Christmas if there aren't lots of packages to open. We can fill that space with our time. We can fill that space with our love. We can cook together and laugh together and make and share stories together.

I hope you enjoyed the video, and that you join in the Advent Conspiracy this holiday season!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Managing the Non Profit Corporation




A couple months ago I had a facebook conversation with one of my mentors, Jeff Kern. He was the CEO of Great Commission Ministries for many years, and he’s an extremely organizationally savvy guy. During the conversation, I asked him if there were any books he would recommend for learning how to work/manage a non-profit organization that consisted mainly of volunteers.

Immediately, he recommended Peter Drucker’s Managing the Nonprofit Organization and I was really thankful. I was thankful because I had heard of Drucker (he was an organizational/business guru), and I had just ordered the book from Amazon two days before so I was glad I didn’t pick a lemon.

So I started reading the book, and there is so much great stuff in it’s pages. Not only does it share great principles and practices, but each section includes interviews with individuals who have led some massive nonprofits like the American Heart Association and the Boy Scouts of America.

I really enjoy the book because it doesn’t just keep principles in the world of the theoretical. It gives very tangible examples of how organizations have grown and thrived in an environment where the bottom line isn’t products being sold, but rather lives being changed.

As I read the pages of this book, I could hear echoes of this book in virtually every other book I’ve read in the last ten years on the subject of leadership. This book is great, and it is among a handful I would recommend to anyone working in the world of non-profits. It’s not edgy and hip, but it is very principled, sensible, and helpful for folks trying to make a tangible difference in this world through their endeavors.

Just thought I’d share this brief review and recommendation for anyone out there who might be interested.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ending Terrorism and Extreme Poverty? Jake's Story


The End (Jake's Story) from Nuru Media on Vimeo.


Today is Veteran's Day, it's a day when we honor those who have fought in the past, and we look toward a time when war will end. Veteran's day actually started as Armistice day and commemorates the end of fighting in World War I on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., known as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Today is also the day that Nuru chose to launch our latest video. The video tells the story of one veteran, Jake Harriman, and how he was forever changed by the link he saw between terrorism and extreme poverty. This video is being featured on a number of websites today (most of them much more well known than this blog), and many others are coming to similar conclusions to Jake. The end of terrorism is intrinsically linked to the end of extreme poverty.

Here's an ugly truth. If we don't do something about the issue of extreme poverty that makes a sustainable difference, not only are we choosing to ignore our neighbor instead of love them, but we are setting ourselves up to reap consequences through providing breeding grounds for terrorist organizations. We really need to stand up and do something about this issue.

And that's really the good news. We can actually do something about this issue. On this Veteran's day, will you join Nuru's efforts and get in the fight to end extreme poverty? What if we were able to say that our generation was the one that brought an end to extreme poverty?

One of the biggest ways you can help right now is by getting Jake's story out there. Will you take just a moment, and share a link to the video on your wall on facebook. Tell a friend about Jake's story. Blog about it. Write about it. Tweet about it. And then encourage your friends to get more involved as well. Will you join with Jake and others around the world who are fighting this fight to end extreme poverty?

I'll end this blog with a few words from Jake that he shared on the One Campaign's website.

"There is hope for those without choices. We can end extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and in so doing, answer the cry of the desperate, give a voice to the voiceless, and provide choices to impoverished men and women who have been struggling for so long.
A revolution has begun…a revolution to wake up and mobilize a generation to end this fight once and for all. There is no room in this fight for egos, partisan politics, or ideological differences. One sixth of humanity cries out to us today – asking you and me to simply put our differences aside and use our talent, skills and resources to empower them with choices. This Veteran’s Day, I ask you to step forward and get in the fight with us. In so doing, you will ensure that thousands of brave veterans and countless global citizens have not sacrificed their lives in this war in vain. Join the revolution. Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru"--Jake Harriman

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I AM NURU


I Am Nuru from Nuru International on Vimeo.


I am completely blown away from the latest video installment coming from Nuru's media team. They connected with people all over the United States as well as people in Kenya and recorded folks saying "I am nuru" . . . along with reason's why. It's hard for me to watch this video with tears welling in my eyes. It thrills me to see people take a stand and work together toward solutions to problems, and this video is utterly inspiring to me.

What I love most about this video is that it features people from all walks of life. It features people in Kenya who are being empowered and trained to lift themselves out of extreme poverty--for good! It also features people from all walks of life who are being Nuru in their respective fields. Doctors, school children, pastors, college students, business executives and politically minded individuals are all being Nuru in their respective areas. Also, there are a few celebrities who have gotten involved with Nuru too. Prominent author and leadership guru Nancy Ortberg shares some of what she loves about Nuru too. It's also thrilling to have the members of the up and coming band, Green River Ordinance making a cameo. Not only that, but the original score for this video was composed by Kendall Combes of the Charlie Hall Band.

It's so exciting to see just a few of the names and faces who are getting involved in this work to end extreme poverty by empowering communites to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Personally, the reason why I'm so involved in this issue is because I believe that this is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our generation. I also believe that the collaborative and empowering model that Nuru is using to engage in this work is absolutely incredible. Extreme poverty leads to other problems like terrorism, human trafficking, and slavery, and it doesn't have to be this way. I believe future generations will judge ours by what we did or did not do to end extreme poverty when we have the potential to eradicate it, one community at a time, together.

Will you join the people who have linked together in this endeavor? You can help today by joining the IAMNURU campaign on Nuru's website.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you will join me, and many others in confronting the crisis of extreme poverty.

Be Hope. Be Light. Be Nuru.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Forgotten God




I recently read Francis Chan’s latest book, Forgotten God and I thought I would share a few thoughts from it with you. It’s a great book, though not on the same ground as his first book Crazy Love, but hey, it’s a different book.

The premise of the book is that many Christians find themselves relying more on their own skills and talents than they do on the God of all Creation. He argues that it is easy to create a really cool hip church community, and easy to get caught up in doing things that require very little faith. In fact, he has noticed that it is very easy for people to pursue just about any lifestyle and then work to find scriptures that defend their position. What we believe about any given thing absolutely shapes how we will act.

The book is great because each section ends with a story about people who are doing some pretty amazing stuff as they have been led by the Spirit. The stories are compelling and energizing and sometimes indicting.

I just picked up the book again and started looking through some sections I had underlined. One of them was a call to action. Maybe it will be catalytic for you. A lot of his book has to do with obedience, and our willingness to listen for the voice of God and strive toward following that voice no matter where it takes us.

“I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.
It is easy to use the phrase “god’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It is much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to follow Him someday instead of this day.

I’ve heard many people tell me that they are waiting for God to call them to something. More and more, I’m becoming singularly convinced that this world needs more people who are present and obedient to radical love. Presence keeps us rooted in the world around us and the needs around us and not in the realm of possible needs. Radical love calls us to care for our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and even our enemies, those who would hurt and mistreat us.

May you be an example of radical love, presence, and obedience, that starts this day and in this place and not in some ethereal future.

And, if you are interested in reading more from Mr. Chan, I recommend Forgotten God, but don’t expect it to be lots of chummy feel good emo-stuff.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nuru Launches New Website


Nuru EP 6: Harvest from Nuru International on Vimeo.


I've been wanting to share this video on my blog for a while, but I was waiting for the perfect moment. I believe right now is that moment. This video was released by Nuru International, an organization that was started by my friends John Hancox and Jake Harriman.

I won't write a ton today, but I'm thinking about it. Instead, I will just suggest that you click the link and visitNuru's brand spankin new website.

You might see a few familiar faces if you explore the site too. Thanks for watching, and checking out the site!

Listener Project Video


Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town. from DAN SMITH on Vimeo.


Ok, before you hit play, brace yourself. This video is a little Different. My friend Cameron introduced me to this band about a year and a half ago when he had them come to Sozo, the coffee shop we opened in downtown Morgantown back in 2006. It's hard to believe how far Sozo has come since then, but I'm super grateful for the opportunity to be able to start something quality with my friends.

Ok, so back to the video. The guy who does the "talk music" portion of the video is named Dan Smith, or listener. The other guy, (whose name escapes me right now), goes by the name of fienix. The washing machine in the background goes on tour with the band. They actually beat the washing machine on stage, just like in the video.

The song is called, "Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town," and the concept of the song as I see it is that we tend to look constantly for cure-alls that make life easier. And because we are constantly looking, there are always people who are willing to sell us what we think we want, whether the solution actually works or not.

The style of music is a bit different for most people, but in my experience, each time you hear the Listener Project, the sound grows on you. Listener has a unique sound, and I'm really excited that they now have a video for people to share the sound and images of listener with others.

As you listen, pay attention to the words. Think about the things that you might be putting your stock in that just don't do what they claim to do. Take a moment, and step back from some of the snake oil you may be buying.

And beyond that, enjoy the tune and share it with others.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A million miles in a thousand years




So Donald Miller wrote a new book, and it is a NYT bestseller. So who is Donald Miller? He’s an author and a speaker, a cyclist, and a hiker to the top of Machu Pichu (more details about all of that in his book). Donald Miler wrote a book called “Blue Like Jazz” a few years back, and it’s a pretty fun read. If you haven’t heard of it, I recommend giving it a read. The subtitle is “irreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality.” It’s both engaging and funny—as are all of his books.

And this new book, well it is excellent on many levels. As a personal narrative about Miller’s life, it’s fun and endearing, but it is much more than a personal narrative. It’s a book about story, and what makes a good story. What makes a good story is this, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

Sounds pretty simple and straightforward right? We can think about that statement, and it makes sense. A good movie is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. The problem is that not every movie is a blockbuster. And not every conflict draws us in. Not every character is endearing.

The same could be said for a life. What makes an interesting life? Just like in the movies, it’s the same thing. An endearing character isn’t necessarily perfect, but is liing for a goal bigger than himself/herself. The conflict needs to involve serious risk. And the goal doesn’t have to be attained to have a good story—it just needs to be worth pursuing.

As miller writes the book he leaves his readers in the same predicament that he has discovered for himself. His story that his life was telling just wasn’t really compelling. He wasn’t taking risks for much of anything, and was avoiding conflict at all costs. I think many of us live here. Or if we do take risks, it’s just not for something compelling. Nobody wants to watch a movie to see if the protagonist is able to buy the Volvo or the bigger house. And yet, many of us live stories similar to this as the primary narrative of our life.

But before we wallow in despair, maybe we should consider changing the defining narrative of our life. What if we risked something for other people, or for a cause that was bigger than ourselves, or maybe we laid it all on the line for the sake of helping our neighbors.

I have to admit this is a poor synopsis of the book, so you might want to laugh a bit more by reading the actual book.

And in the meantime, think about the story that you are living out, and how it interacts with other people’s stories. Maybe today is a great day to begin to write a new narrative, to live differently, and to take some healthy risks for the sake of bringing more beauty into this world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Encouragement for the Journey



That's the view from my house. I took the photo last fall. I usually walk down a set of stairs/sidewalk for a few blocks to enter the heart of Morgantown and the heart of WVU's campus and start my day of work. I think it's pretty incredible to live in a town where I can walk to and from my primary workspace, and where there's a pretty reliable public transit bus system to boot. The morning air in Morgantown refreshes me, but when I see a view like this image every day, it's just a great encouragement as I start my day.

Do you know what else is an encouragement to me? The words of others. Late Saturday night, my friend Jim Pace sent me a message across twitter. Jim and I have both been involved in the spiritual development of college students and young professionals for the last few year. We also spent a few summers working together in a summer leadership training program that we (along with a few others) led for college students. He's a great friend, and he's just written a book called Should We Fire God? Jim leads a church of about 1000 students at Virginia Tech, and has walked through some really difficult times there. In fact, he had the challenge of representing the faith community of Virginia Tech on major network television and walking his parishioners and staff through the grieving after the shootings back in 2007. Honestly, he is an inspiration to me.

And that's the irony. Late saturday night, I received this message on twitter. "@chanchanchepon just want to say this... You inspire me man. No joking, you really do." I don't know what prompted the message, but I do know that it meant a lot to hear words from my friend.

A similar thing happened to Jamie Sunday morning before church. She received a text from a mutual friend that said "Thanks for bringing me to Jesus." Can you believe it? What a text! It was from a mutual friend who left the area just a couple of years ago. Needless to say, Jamie was very touched by that text, and honestly, so was I.

You see, I've come to a realization lately that we end up touching people's lives far more than we realize. And yet, we are so slow to share that truth with others. Maybe you've shared your faith with friends or family members and then lost contact with them, and they now have embraced a life of faith. Maybe you took the time to listen to a friend when they were hurting and didn't know where to turn, but you comforted them. Maybe you were the one whose words may have seemed to sever a friendship, but they were actually the words that rescued someone from destroying their life.

Or maybe you are reading this, and realizing, "You know what, when ________ said or did _______, it really helped me, and I never took the time to thank them or let them know."

You know what I think? I think that YOU have had more of an impact on others than you may ever realize in this life. I also think that YOU have a great opportunity to encourage someone today just by sending a note, a text, a tweet, an email, or (deep breath) a letter. Never, never underestimate the power of your words or your presence in the life of another.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking about all of the people who have touched your life (to be honest it's what I'm doing too). You probably feel overwhelmed (because I do). Can I make a suggestion? Take a moment to send a little encouragement to just one person today.

Honestly, your note could make more of an impact in that person's day than you realize, and it will probably make a difference in your own day as you take time to remember the kindness of others.

So get to it. Seriously. It'll just take a second, and it's a really good thing.

.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What do you do with all that power?



I took this photo two and a half years ago while attending the Native American Literature Symposium in the heart of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation. The subject I presented on was the articulation of power through the "pen and ink witchcraft" used to describe treaties in general, and a treaty that was signed with my tribe back in 1795.

It's funny because this blog was initially going to be about a far different subject, but now that I've started writing about this treaty, it's gotten my mind going in a completely different direction. It has to do with power. Yesterday, shortly before the WVU/Marshall game, I had this great conversation with one of my friends about power in the educational sphere. My friend is from Bremen Germany, and his name is Heiko. If you ever get a chance to meet him, he's an incredibly brilliant and articulate guy and a great conversationalist. (And he is responsible for most of the words and phrases I know in German!)

I first met Heiko while he was beginning his graduate academic career here at West Virginia University. He came to check out our campus church service in the late summer of 2005. We had cancelled our gathering that morning, so Heiko and I had lunch at a local Morgantown restaurant called Madeleine's and thus began our friendship. Heiko has since then finished his degree, married another friend of mine, Liz (formerly Bailey), and begun his PhD in Education.

His focus for his dissertation is the use of power in the teacher/learner roles in the classroom. He's doing a lot of his writing about the idea of not holding on to power. There are tons of philosophical writings from people like Michel Foucault who talk all about this kind of power use and usually the idea is held that you need to hold on to power and that all of our relationships are actually about domination and enforcing roles of power.

What if instead we were to yield power and authority? What if instead of teacher's holding all of the cards they empowered students to be proactive in the learning realm. This is what Heiko is exploring. I think his research will be very interesting.

Reminds me of the way God works too. Jesus, the most brilliant person who ever lived, said it this way, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves" Think about it, Jesus, with all of the power available in the universe, sets it aside and serves and empowers. As He does so, He turns everyone's thinking on it's head. The King of the universe, washed feet and lived a yielded life where He sought to empower others. AND He still, empowers others to this day.

What about you? What do you do with the influence and power you wield? Are you an authoritarian? Do you seek to dominate others? Or do you live by a model of service and seek to empower others to achieve even greater good than you? How do you interact with others in your household? Your job? Your classroom? Your friendships?

May you find ways to use the power and influence given to you to serve and empower others, and may you trust in the example of the One who set His life as an example of service and humility.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Walking Through The Neighborhood



I took this photo a couple of days ago while walking through my neighborhood with my friend Ryan Huffman. The view was actually pretty stellar, but my photography skills with the iphone are a little lacking.

The last few weeks/months have been lived at an incredible pace, and as a result, I have not been blogging as much--if you have been following this blog for a while, you probably noticed. I had a few moments this afternoon to reflect and write (and I'm looking forward to more time for this soon--lots to say!), so I thought I'd take a moment or two to talk about an experience I had Tuesday night with my good friend Ryan Huffman.

During his sophomore year, Ryan got involved with the college ministry I was leading at the time, h2o. He had grown up knowing about Jesus and putting his faith in Jesus, but during his time at WVU, his faith became more concrete and tangibly lived out. He served as an intern for a semester with GCM and volunteered much of his time to serving within the community. I can remember many great conversations with Ryan through the years as well as some pretty stellar times of creating music in a unique band we started with a couple of other friends. The music was a mix of shawnee vocables, percussion, keyboard, and guitar.

I officiated Ryan's wedding. Not like a referee but more like a reverend--that kind of officiating. Anyway, while we've remained good friends, we kind of lost touch over the last several months. This past tuesday, we were able to catch up a bit. Part of catching up involved a walk through my neighborhood, some good chinese food, and a little bit of caffeination from the local starbucks.

Walking through the neighborhood was simply a cool experience. Sometimes my life gets so busy that I forget I live in a neighborhood. Growing up, my neighborhood was really important to me. My neighbors were some of my family's closest friends and supports during times of trouble. Kids in my neighborhood would play kickball, wiffleball, basketball, or even jump rope in our street.

Is it just me, or have we lost touch with that sense of community? Have we lost touch with the idea of presence, of inhabiting a space? Maybe our spaces have just changed, and we inhabit in much the same way we always have. It just looks and feels a bit different.

My walk with Ryan made me nostalgic though. There's something to be said for a walk through the neighborhood. Maybe, if you haven't done it in a while, you could take a few minutes today to walk through your neighborhood. Visit a friend. Call a relative. I know we are all living incredibly busy lives, and you probably can't call everyone, but maybe you could connect with one person. Maybe you can't walk through the entirety of your neighborhood, but you could walk through a few streets.

May you find a space to connect today. Connect with people. Connect with God. Connect with the space in which you live. Be present, and enjoy the presence of others.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sukkot




Sukkot is also called the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles. I took this picture yesterday as I drove by the Tree of Life Synagogue in Morgantown. This festival has been celebrated for thousands of years by hebrew people. This year the festival started at sunset on Saturday October 3 and will end on Friday October 9.

It's a bit ironic that I saw this Sukkot booth at this point in the week. Over the last seven days, I've driven over 1000 miles and will be close to 2000 miles by the time the feast of booths ends. The feast of booths is a reminder that once the people of G-D lived in tabernacles, and G-D provided sustenance. For 40 years, the decendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wandered the wilderness, and G-D provided for the people in their journey.

Sukkot is celebrated immediately after Yom Kippur, and recalls our renewed fellowship with the Creator of the Universe as well as his sheltering care and provision for us in the wilderness as well. Sukkot is also a celebration of harvest and is often also called the Feast of Joy.

Whether you are on the road traveling, or enjoying time in your temporary home. Take time to celebrate the joy of the provision of the Creator. We are sojourners. We are pilgrims. If you have a garden, this is the time of final harvest, give thanks for the food that has come from the earth. If you have extra, share it with others. Feast, and invite friends.

If you can build a tabernacle this week, do it. Take a night this week, and sleep under the stars. That's a big part of Sukkot too. Try eating a meal outside.

Take a moment to be joyful and thankful for the provision that's been given to you in this season. In the words of one of the most famous members of my tribe, Tecumseh, "If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with you."

May your heart be filled with wonder as you reflect on the provision that has brought you to this season.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

U2 360º Tour in FedEx Field



The above photo was taken a few minutes before showtime last night for the U2 Concert in Washington DC. After putting in a full morning, Jamie and I began the drive from Morgantown to DC hoping we could beat rush hour traffic and get situated in a timely manner. She had to be at work at 7AM this morning, so thankfully she slept the entire way back!

As we arrived at the arena, we went for an exploratory walk where we found a taco bell and the metro where we would later meet a few friends who happened to be in DC including my friends Don Jorgenson and Jake Harriman. They were joining us for the concert, and it was a great opportunity to bless my buddy Jake, who has spent most of the last year in Kenya, with a cool birthday present.

While waiting near the metro, I met a ticket "broker" named Lucas who tought Jamie and myself a few of the tricks of the trade. It was pretty amazing to watch him work--he had a charismatic personality and his story (told between crowds exiting the metro) was definitely engaging. Perhaps something for another post . . .

Anyhoo, the concert itself was phenomenal. I think it was one of the most inspiring concert events I've been part of, and it definitely was a participatory event. From lights, sight, sound, and the personality of the band, this legendary band put on an epic show. Bono began the concert by telling us that we were going to take a trip into outer space together, and I believe that his claim lived up to expectation. The concert was an out of this world experience that were at times comical while other times sobering and even worshipful.

As the concert progressed, I found myself personally inspired, reflective, encouraged, empowered, and even somewhat changed by the experience. There was a magic in the arena, which, if it were somehow able to be tapped into beyond the night, might lead to radical positive change for this world.

A personal high point for me was when Bono sang a verse of Amazing Grace during the second encore. He started with this song, and then the band began to play Where The Streets Have No Name. (On a personal note, that song has had a powerful meaning and sentiment for me both during and after my two periods of extended solitude, silence, and prayer
in the Joshua Tree Desert.

On a different note, I found myself reflecting on the perseverance of Bono and the band. They've been making music together for nearly 30 years, and they've also been engaged in the fight to end extreme poverty for over 20 years. They've leveraged their position in the world of rock and roll to bring about change in the world of people who have never heard of U2. They've lived their faith out tenaciously and aggressively in a way that challenges and frustrates both skeptics and committed people of faith. There's something to be said for " . . . a long obedience in the same direction."

There are still a few shows left for this tour, so if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out one of 'em. And the next time you listen to a U2 song on the radio, think about perseverance. Reflect on the idea of making a tangible change in this world. And take action to make this world a better place.

May you start today, and may you be a tangible taste of God's Kingdom come, and His will being done, on earth as it is in heaven . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kavi The Movie


Kavi - The Movie from Gregg Helvey on Vimeo.


About a month ago, I attended a conference called the idea camp in Washington DC. While at the conference I was able to attend a screening of kavi. It's a movie about a family of modern day slaves who work as bonded labor in a brick kiln in India.

The guy who made the movie has been nominated for an Oscar for best short film. He won the collegiate academy awards. THe film is incredible, and I highly recommend watching it if you have the opportunity. I'd like to see it screened locally in Morgantown, but perhaps you could host a screening in your town as well.

While the film is fictional, the story being shared is all too common. There are over 27 million slaves in the world today. This is more than any other time in the history of humanity. Some are victims of human trafficking or forced into the sex industry as CHILDREN. Many are slaves who are forced to work on cocoa or coffee farms, or brick kiln operations. These are people just like us. THey are made in the image of God. Men, women, and children from families just like our own are living in a world without hope and without opportunity.

How does this happen? Sometimes people are sold by family members in order to feed the remainder of the family. Other times, people are tricked into moving to a bigger city to find 'career opportunities' where they can meet people. Often entire families are forced to work off a 'debt' that never gets cancelled.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many great organizations that are making a serious difference in the lives of these people. They are eradicating poverty, rescuing slaves and bringing perpetrators to justice. Many of the people who are engaged in this issue are motivated by their faith. They are stepping out and striving to "Love their neighbor as themselves."

Maybe you've been sitting on the sidelines and wondering how you can get involved. Maybe now is your opportunity to step up and become an advocate. Support an organization that's making a difference in the world. Need help deciding where to start, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. I'd love to help you take the next step.

As you go through your day today, you might get cut off in traffic. Your order might be a little slow at the restaurant. Someone may not have smiled at you as you passed them on the street. Another person may have taken 22 items into the express line. As you encounter these obstacles, remember that in our very same world, there are people who walk for hours daily to get drinking water, who can't afford a car or a trip to the grocery store, who are trapped in slavery and need someone to be an advocate, to care about them.

Remember them. Please.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rose Among Thorns



My brother was back on the east coast for a ten day period that ended on September 15th. Since it has been over two years since he or any of his family have been back home, you would have thought we would have gone crazy snapping photos, but that was not the case. We were so busy making memories over that ten day period that we hardly took time to capture them.

I guess we were relying on our minds to capture the memories, but every once in a while, it's nice to have a camera around to supplement those memories. This photo was taken on the last night that me, my sister, and my brother were together at my dad's house.

My sister get's a fair share of grief from her brothers (I think that's the way it typically happens), but you know what? My sister is an incredible lady. She puts up with me and my brother's teasings, but she also simply sacrifices her time and energy to help others. She's incredibly disciplined, and puts her all into anything she does.

It was incredible spending time with her and my brother, but I want to dedicate this post to her. She truly is a rose, and as much as I tease her (as most brothers do), she has my utmost respect for the woman she is. If you ever get a chance to meet her, you'll understand what I mean.

So this post is going out to all of you brothers who give your sisters a hard time. Maybe take a minute or two today and let your sister know how special she is. Call her. Write her a note. Blog about her. Whatever it is, just take a moment and let her know she's loved.

Seriously. Do it.

17three Retreat



This past weekend, I traveled to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland with between 60 and 70 leaders from the various student ministries of our church to pray, to plan, and to grow in our community as we prepare for the coming year. The exciting thing about the retreat was the simplicity around which it was centered. It was also pretty sweet to spend time in nature enjoying things like waterfalls, black bears, fall colors, and campfires.

The goal of the retreat, as well as the goals of all all the leaders was to help people know God better. Instead of long messages and strategic plans, the retreat was a bit of a hybrid. The central theme was this--"What do you LOVE about God?" And that's exactly what our church's college, young professional, and student ministries will be asking of people and talking about.

Here's the key concept. John 17three says "This is eternal life, that you would know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent." So these local church ministries are centered around helping people to know God better. One of the best ways to get to know anyone better is to spend time reflecting on what you love about them, and special memories you've shared with them.

Think about an old friend or a family member. What is it that you love about them? Are there some cool memories you have shared? What is the most exciting thing you have done with them together?

Beyond that, what could you do to get to know that person better? Of course spending time together with them would be great. How do you get to know anyone better--spend time together.

So, the entire weekend was centered around a group of young folks learning about God and spending time with him and with each other. But that's not the end of it all.

You see when you are with person you care about, it makes it easier to go out and be bold and serve others. I get kind of excited about the implications of what this little group is doing. Folks are talking about adopting service agencies with some friends, and getting beyond the walls of the church to go out into the community to lend a helping hand.

There is a world that is hurting, and there are huge problems that need people to care, to love, and to serve in order to solve them or at least mitigate them.

To me, as I reflect on the weekend, I get excited for the potential good that can come out of helping people to grow in their love for God and their love for others. It's not a fancy or flashy mission, but it seems like this echoes the word's of what Jesus told folks to be about back when he walked the earth--loving God and loving others.

This blog has been just a short snippet of ideas from the retreat--sorry it isn't more detailed. I want to leave you with this thought as you start your week though. Take a moment and reflect on this--it might breathe fresh wind into your Monday. What is it that you love about God? You don't have to write an answer on this blog--just think about it. What is it that you love about God?

Have a great Monday and a great week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Saw The President!




Ok, well I saw his limo drive by. Yesterday around 2PM as I was attempting to take my brother to the airport in Pittsburgh, traffic was halted altogether. Curious as to why traffic was at a dead stop, I pulled into a parking lot overlooking the highway I needed to drive on to get to the airport. People were standing and looking at the road. I asked what was happening, and they said, "President Obama's motorcade is coming through!" Just as they uttered that statement, I saw motorcycles coming down the road. I quickly pulled out my iphone and snapped the photo above with the presidential limo heading to the airport.

President Obama was visiting Pittsburgh because next weekend (Sept 24-25), Pittsburgh will host the G20 Summit. "What's the G20 Summit?" Glad you asked. Here's a link that explains a bit about the G20. Essentially these are the leaders of the 20 most populated and financially powerful nations in the world. They essentially come together to talk about ways to better manage and influence the global economy. Here's a wikipedia article that tells more about who these leaders are and why they are meeting.

The Pittsburgh area is really excited for the event. If you live near Pittsburgh, I think some of the major roads will have limited traffic as the event gets under way. For me, it's pretty exciting to think that a group of twenty world leaders will be meeting just a little over an hour from my house. Of course, as you can imagine, the G20 event will draw in a variety of protestors and participants. I'm sure there will be some great news coverage in the days ahead as well. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of these meetings.

In the meantime, I'm glad traffic got back to normal quickly after the President drove by, and my brother was able to make his flight back to Orange County.

The Idea Camp


ICDC Behind the Scenes from The Idea Camp on Vimeo.


A few weeks ago, I had an awesome privilege of participating in a really cool idea that was created by my recently made friend, Charles Lee along with many, many others. The Idea, a FREE conference that would bring together some of the top minds in non-profits, churches, and social ventures to share ideas, to create, and to collaborate. The idea camp's tagline is "a collaborative movement of idea makers" and the conference experience is dissimilar to any conference in which I've ever participated. The theme for the idea camp conference in Washington DC I attended/participated in was "Compassion and Justice" and was hosted by a group called International Justice Mission

During the conference a group from Nuru International participated, and then Nicole Scott and myself "led" an idea session. The session was called Lessons from Silicon Valley: Innovation and Collaboration with "Competitors", and the discussion was centered around the idea of partnering with other organizations in one's area of focus to accomplish more and to do so in a better way. Click the link to find out more about the session, and some of the ideas that were generated during it.

That's one of the cool and different concepts around the idea camp. Rather than listening to a person talk for an hour and fifteen minutes, the facilitators share a brief introduction to the topic and then open the room up for questions and discussion from the entire group. This allows for people who are "attending" a session to participate, and to hear from each other. Not only that, but new ideas and collaborations form as people discuss an idea or concept in the session or beyond a session.

I understand that there is another Idea Camp forming in Portland Oregon on November 20-21st. The theme will be "Being Present with the City" If you want to find out more, check out the idea camp website.

I think there is a lot to be said about collaborating with other idea makers, dreaming big, and seeing ideas become implemented.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Family Time



My brother came into town Saturday September 5th for a ten day surprise visit . . . and surprises were all around. I was surprised Saturday September 5th in the morning when I found out my dad spent the night in the ER in Parkersburg with stomach pain and was being transported to Charleston for further examination because of a weird EKG. (He turned out to be alright, and the hospital staff believes he had food poisoning or some type of virus).

My dad was surprised when a familiar voice asked if about joining dad for lunch as my dad sat down in my car when I picked him up from CAMC Sunday morning.

Later that day, my sister was surprised when my dad and I joined her and her husband to go for a walk in Parkersburg's City Park. It was so awesome because neither my dad or sister had a clue that my brother was coming in. Thankfully, my dad didn't have to spend much time in the hospital either.

As we were finishing up our sixth mile of hiking, we saw a couple of familiar children sitting by the city park pond. They were my best friend in the whole world, Willie's, children. And they added to the surprises. Willie and his wife Sue came walking through the park and it was a pretty awesome time of reunion.

Later on, Jamie and her mom came down to visit for a bit, and we had a big surprise meal to finish off the evening.

I was able to spend two whole weekends with my brother and my family and there is something richly satisfying in that. The surprises were great (except for the hospital visit), but the greatest thing for me was spending time with my family. It has been a little over two years since my mom went to be with Jesus, and she is still deeply missed. Even though there is an empty spot where she would have sat in the photo above, and an empty spot in all of our hearts, I know she would be glad that we still love one another deeply and simply spend time laughing and enjoying one another.

Family and friends are a great treasure for me, and I will cherish the many simple memories I was able to share with my sister, my brother, and my dad over these last couple of weekends. I don't know when we will all be together again, but it will never feel soon enough or long enough. Time together is a rare gift indeed.

If you are far from your family and friends, I pray you have time very soon that you can spend with them. If you are close, give thanks for the opportunities you have to create memories together. Time together with loved ones is truly a precious resource.

Birthday Wishes



That photo is of my good friend Meghan Baird. Not sure if you know her or not, so I'm going to give a brief introduction. Meghan received her undergraduate degree in Art from Shepherd University. She then proceeded to come to WVU and added a degree in International Studies with a specialization in Africa and International Development. While here, we became friends through the college ministry of Chestnut Ridge Church. It's called 17three and if you are ever in Morgantown, you should check it out.

Anyway, Meghan went on to spend a year teaching in Sudan after graduating. While she was in Sudan, some other friends were starting Nuru, and so I told her about the organization. She applied for a posiition working with Nuru when she came back from Sudan, and was hired as the first education program manager for Nuru's project in Kuria, Kenya. Now part of Nuru's model is that anyone serving on the ground in the developing world will do so for a period of six months, and then will return to the USA for a period of about 10 months and work in one of three areas. Meghan is working with me in Morgantown on our grassroots team.

So why all of that introduction? Meghan's Birthday is in a couple of days. And she, along with a couple of other friends, Tara Rickard and Stuart Godwin, have decided to use their birthdays (all are happening this month) as an excuse to fight extreme poverty (which, if you didn't know, is exactly what Nuru does!). So they joined Nuru's cause page on facebook. This cause page has a cool feature. It allows you to "make a birthday wish" and invite people to give to your favorite cause instead of giving you a bunch of presents.

So if you want to join in celebrating Meghan's, Tara's or Stu's birthday, here's an opportunity to give. Here are the links to follow. For Meghan's wish click that link. If you want to help Tara's birthday wish come true, then click this link. And if you want to pass on birthday wishes to Stu, well, you know what to do.

Or, maybe you have a birthday coming up pretty soon. Ever thought about using the day you were born to bring hope to the lives of others? Now is your opportunity. If you are on facebook, join Nuru's cause and invite others to contribute. If you aren't on facebook, you could still do something creative like this with your birthday or another holiday. Think about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chasing Rainbows



Last week, I was traveling through the Canaan Valley/Dolly Sods region of West Virginia when we saw this beautiful image show up in the eastern sky. It was a vivid rainbow, and as we pulled our car over to capture a photo of this natural beauty, we noticed three cars behind us do the same thing. For folks on facebook, I realize that many of my imported blog entries don't show images, but feel free to visit my blog here.

There's something wonderful about rainbows, and to see one like this that filled the sky, well it was more than a little bit captivating.

As i stopped to consider the rainbow, and our journey along the road, I thought about the old saying "chasing rainbows." The saying is used to describe a situation where a person is pursuing a goal that can never be accomplished--like finding the end of the rainbow and getting a pot of gold. Sometimes I think the same phrase is used to describe someone who is a dreamer or who fails to accept the status quo and the "way the world is."

People probably thought Mother Theresa was chasing rainbows when she started to serve lepers in Calcutta, India at the age of 40. Some people probably thought she flipped her lid. While they were accusing her of chasing rainbows, she was out changing the world.

I bet people said that about Martin Luther King, Jr. when he shared his dream. And now, look at the accomplishments that have been made for civil rights because of that man's dream.

And then I think about my buddies Jake Harriman and John Hancox. They started a non-profit called Nuru International. It has the goal of ending extreme poverty. It seems like a ridiculous and insurmountable goal. But already, a community of 5000 people in southwestern kenya are beginning to lift themselves out of extreme poverty for good. Thousands more are beginning to engage this issue back here in the states. I wonder what will be said of my friends in forty years.

I encourage you today to chase rainbows. Dream big, but as you do, take action steps to make that dream a reality. This world needs more people with vision, more dreamers of dreams, more people who can imagine a different way of living and life. There are some massive problems like extreme poverty, slavery, human trafficking, disease, the environment, genocide, and more. And there are solutions out there. The world is waiting for some people who are daring enough to dream big and who will put their dreams into action.

May you pause to ponder the possibilities that present themselves to us every day, even on the road in rural West Virginia on a rainy sunny day.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Social Media Revolution?



So I just received a link to this video on twitter, and thought I'd share it with you. Here's the gist of it. This video explains a MAJOR shift in the way people communicate. The cool thing for all of you who aren't up on social media is that people still communicate by talking face to face, writing letters, and even using their phones. But, I imagine if you are reading this blog you have used at least one of these other communication methods. Email, skype, facebook, myspace, twitter.

And if you haven't used any of these, well, it appears that this may be the direction the world is taking. Ironically, while people are using these sites more and more, and reconnecting with many friends old and new, the number of relationships we can successfully maintain has not fluctuated much. According to social theorists, the magic number is around 150. And according to a recent article written in 'The Economist', that number hasn't fluctuated with the advent of social media.

It's pretty wild to think about the rapid shifts that are taking place with new technologies emerging. It's hard to imagine that it was less than 100 years ago (1933) that FM radio came into existence. We make the assumption sometimes that these technologies have always been around.

Even though social media has helped facilitate connecting with others, I get an eerie feeling that we are living in an age with greater feelings of loneliness than any other. So, while these technologies can be very handy, and they do help us reconnect in a fairly splintered society, maybe we need to experience a deeper and more substantial connection than tweets, homepages, and even skype calls can manage. Maybe what we really need is to somehow learn to share a real experience with others, and to know presence.

May you experience the presence of the One by which and for which you were created. And may you find community in this world that is only supplemented by social media, and not substituted.

Movement



It's been a few days since I last blogged, and what really stinks about it is that there has simply been SO MUCH happening and I haven't been able to really document it. The photo above was taken while I was riding from downtown Morgantown out to Chestnut Ridge Church for a few meetings last wednesday. Although I took the photo last week, I hadn't uploaded it to the web until this morning.

So why the bus picture? Well, there are a few reasons. One of them was that last night, I was talking to a new friend who had been reading my blog before we ever connected face to face. Among the many subjects we discussed, one was the idea of environmental sustainability. The bus photo gives me an opportunity to remind me and challenge us all to be considering greener ways of going about our days. When I ride the bus, I can read, study, listen to messages and music, talk with strangers, and more, and I don't spend money on gas (or burn extra fuel) in the process. Also, I'm able to walk to the bus-stop, and that means great exercise. We all need to exercise, so why not be productive at the same time!

But that's not the only reason I chose the bus image. I also chose this image because it conveys a few other concepts I've been thinking about. The last few weeks of my life have been defined by movement. In fact, I would argue that much of each of our lives our characterized by movement. The bus relates to that motion of life.

But even amid the flurry of activity, there is a deep desire in our soul for stillness. I believe it's not only a craving, but it's truly a need of our souls. There is something about stillness and rest that refreshes and restores. The Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel talked about a Hebrew idea called Sabbath. He said it's not just rest so we can keep moving, but rather, it's the destination. While we are compelled to move, the discipline of rest reminds us that our life isn't defined by movement.

It's frighteningly easy to let life get out of rhythm and fail to take moments to rest. It's frighteningly easy to let inertia have it's way and to not stop moving. But our inmost being needs rest. My hope is that you and I will be able to find intentional space for rest and refreshment. And that when we are in motion, we'll use public transit or other green options when available. ;)

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Perseid Shower



Well, even in Morgantown, it proves a bit difficult to watch this meteor shower, but I'm hoping to make it out to a place that it might be a bit more visible.

Just hearing about it has gotten me thinking. My ancestors used to set up mounds and earthworks that were oriented to the night sky and the cycles of the sun and moon. Pretty crazy how much we are disconnected from the rhythm's of this world. I mean, when was the last time you were just looking in awe at the night sky? How many of us live in a place where the night sky is even visible.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we were somehow able to go back in time a bit. What would it be like without iphones and laptops (like the one I'm using to type this blog)? What if the only music we heard was live, and we didn't have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to hear it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not becoming a Luddite--I really enjoy the technology we have at our disposal. At the same time, I am very aware that a laptop is no replacement for a night in the woods next to a campfire, or conversation with friends while gazing into the night sky.

I hope you can find a place to view the meteor shower, and that you can view it with friends at that.

May we never lose the wonder that our ancestors had with the majesty and marvel of creation.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Advocacy



Recently, I had the privilege of visiting the Capitol building in Washington DC. I literally stood in the center of DC as my friend JR gave me a tour of the place where the legislative branch of our government does it's work.

It's pretty wild when you think about it. I was walking around this building at the same time that elected representatives from all 50 states were making decisions based on what they believed YOU as their constituents wanted. Of course sometimes, it's easy to get jaded and feel like folks don't really have a voice, but our government was founded on the principle that the people have a voice.

We vote for representatives, but then we also have an opportunity to be advocates for legislation we believe in. Over the last few years, I've been provoked to take a more active role in participating in this kind of advocacy. My involvement within my tribe along with many non-profits including International Justice Mission, Invisible Children, and Nuru International have led me to not just talk about change but literally do my part as an instrument of change.

There are so many great needs in our world, and so much hurt. Every day I hear about yet another form of injustice, and I'm stirred once again to enter the fight. Earlier this year, I posted a video that told a horrible story of human trafficking and child prostitution. If you click that link and watch the video please take a minute to read the blog entry associated with it before watching the video. The sad part is that it doesn't have to be this way. We can step up and make a move toward positive change.

Change doesn't happen with passivity. Change happens with pro-active steps. One pro-active step is to write your congressional representative. There is a piece of legislation seeking support right now that would make a major stride in reducing this injustice. Want to join me and write? Here's a a template IJM offers for anyone interested in writing for congressional support.

If you are feeling apathetic, maybe writing a similar letter could be your first action step. The problems of this world are HUGE, and maybe the Creator of the universe placed YOU in this world for such a time as this.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dad can ride a bike with no handlebars



Ok, so that's dad on the left. You might remember him as the guy who had a massive heart attack and four way by-pass a few weeks ago. I had a few minutes free today, so I went into his cardiac rehab space, and took this photo of him. He's doing incredibly well.

Saturday night, I went for a walk with him, and during the walk, he averaged about 4 miles per hour over the course of four miles. For those of you unfamiliar with walking paces, this is about the fastest most people can go without breaking into a jog. The last mile, dad completed at a 4.2mph pace.

He also walks 4mph at a 4% incline in the rehab center when he's on the treadmill. That's pretty impressive for someone at any age. Dad is 68 and he is a total stud. After a big scare at the end of April, he is like a new person. A month ago, his cardiac surgeon told him that he looked like a new man.

Tomorrow he goes to visit his cardiologist. We are praying for a few things to happen tomorrow. We are praying that Dad will be able to stop taking some of his medication (like coumadin) and cut his dosage in others (like lipitor). We are praying that the ejection fraction of dad's heart (a measure of it's efficiency) will have improved from 35% to somewhere above 40%. (40% is the upper cut-off for a condition called congestive heart failure). We are also praying that Dad will be given the green light for more activity (like bike riding). My dad used to ride his bike a lot, and he misses it. It would be great if he were released to do this again.

My dad has made amazing progress. While he hasn't returned to walking 12 miles per day yet ( I think the most he's logged is about 6), he has so much more energy and vigor with which to carry out his walking that it is like he is a new man. Me, my sister, her husband, and Jamie, all have trouble keeping up with him.

Pray with us for a good report and some more positive changes tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nuru Appears on SF Bay Area News!!!



This video is incredible. KMTPTV interviewed Jake Harriman, the CEO of Nuru International, and another good friend of mine, Sangai Mohochi about the work they have been doing for the people of Kuria, Kenya.

This video allows folks to see and hear what motivated these men to work to fight extreme poverty. I personally find it inspiring to hear them tell their stories, and I hope you do too.

And right now is a great opportunity for you to join in the fight and bring Nuru to your campus if you are a college student. Follow this link to find out more and begin filling out your application.

And, if you aren't a college student, consider what ways you might be able to contribute toward ending extreme poverty. Got a cool idea? Share it here. Gonna go do something really cool? Tell the world about it.

I'm blown away by the work Nuru has done and I'm humbled by the incredible work so many of my friends do every day!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yielding Everything?



I guess I've been thinking a lot about the garden. It's really producing a lot of squash and zucchini. I love seeing these beautiful blossoms, and enjoying the fruit being produced (actually I guess they are technically vegetables. It reminds me of this scripture.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.~John 12.24


I planted a seed, in the ground, and as a result beautiful squash blossoms have emerged from the earth. I think there is much to be learned from a squash seed.

Recently I received an email from an old friend who has been going through a lot of difficulty. He was reading a devotional book, and he was challenged by that particular day's message. He said, "I just don't know how to do it - how to "let go of personal desires, wholeheartedly embrace Jesus’ way, and walk closely with Him". I could use some input." What follows are a few thoughts I shared with him, and that I submit to you as well. I hope they are of some encouragement to you today.

As far as letting go of everything to grab hold of Jesus, I personally think it's verbiage that folks talk a lot about, but very few people give any real clear steps to accomplish it. I think Alex Aronis' book, Developing Intimacy With God offers a lot of helpful insights in this area. Beyond that, I can only say from experience that it is small steps of letting go. One exercise I've found helpful is to take stock of everything I "own" and yield it to God. It's really His anyway. Then I realize what He has done is entrust me with gifts. After I yield things to Him, I'm able to enjoy them more fully without letting them become the source of my enjoyment. I'm also able to let them go a little more easily too.

It allows my life to become a little more simple. We live in a world where people pride themselves on the stuff they amass. Whether it's cars, clothing, property, or whatever. The reality is that there are a few things we truly need, and God has more than provided those. And really, when you boil it all down, what we really need is God Himself. He is the greatest treasure in the whole universe, and for the most part, we get caught up in chasing after the wind and very empty things for much of our lives. He sustains us and ultimately, when our hearts are most yielded to Him (which is never easy), we experience the deepest satisfaction of our lives.

I also think walking closely with Jesus means we immerse ourselves in His words. This isn't necessarily reading large volumes of scripture, but rather taking small quantities of the word and soaking ourselves in them. It's especially important to immerse ourselves in the words He shared while He walked the earth. When I slow down in the gospels and immerse myself in the Gospel stories I find myself pulling away all new insights about Jesus so that I can learn to be more like Him.

Unfortunately for me in my impatience, the process is never fast enough. I think it's that way for all of us. The reality is that God rewards those who seek Him day by day with a clearer picture of Himself, His heart, and His desire for us. And as this happens, we are able to yield more and more of our lives to Him.

As you read this, may you take steps toward the practice of making God your ultimate treasure. And in doing so, may we all experience the joy and satisfaction that has been eluding us in our pursuit of lesser things.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Squash Blossom 2009



For the last few years, I've been growing a garden in my yard in Morgantown. This year, I think I've taken fewer photos, but I've been trying to spend more time in the actual maintenance of the garden. Recentyly I've started waking early to run and get started with work for the day, and by the time I make it to the garden, the blossoms on my squash and zucchini plants have closed.

I'm getting plenty of zucchini and yellow squash from these plants though. In fact, me, Joel, Jamie, and Derek have been enjoying quite a few meals featuring rice, squash, zucchini, basil, and onions (all but the rice is coming from the garden).

It's pretty cool to think that during these summer months, I can get a large part of my sustenance (and also feed others) from a small square garden in a little corner of my yard. What's even cooler is the idea that I'm joining in solidarity with the majority of our world who still live through small subsistence farms--I'm not even growing enough for subsistence, but I must say there is something different about eating vegetables that have come from a small piece of land 50 feet from your doorstep.

It's a good reminder that God is the one who causes growth, and that He brings good things from the earth. I planted the garden, and my roommates and I cultivated the soil, but God has brought much food from a small grain of seed that fell to the ground and died. Much of what Jesus said about fields, about grain, and about farming can only be understood superficially or in theory by those who have never grown crops. Next year, regardless of where you live, plant something and watch it grow and produce miraculously.

I think you'll be amazed at it all. God not only produces a lot of food, but He produces beauty while He's at it. He takes the time to make the flower on the squash one of the most beautiful large flowers around. It's a reminder. We in the West are caught in the snares of pragmatism--we work for efficiency. God does something different. He produces, but He always takes time for the aesthetic, for the beautiful.

Take a look at your life. There may be the pain from dying to yourself like a seed. There may be productivity from all of the work of your hands each day. But more than anything, there is a deep and abiding beauty in your life, and in the lives of others as we are faithful to the calling God has entrusted to each of us.

May you catch a glimpse of your own God given beauty as you are faithful to your call today and every day!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Livstrong and the Tour



I saw this Livestrong/Nike video yesterday, and I just had to share it with you. To me, Lance Armstrong is an inspiration. I know he has affected many lives through his Livestrong campaign to fight cancer, and raise funds for research toward a cure.

But there's something more about this video to me. When I watch it, it reminds me not to take the life I have for granted. I'm reminded that every single one of us has critics. There will be people who don't like you simply because of your faith, or your ethnicity, or your hair color, or the place where you come from, or your wealth or lack of it, or for countless other stupid reasons. It doesn't matter.

What we do in this life, we don't do for our critics and nay-sayers. We do it for others. As a Christian, I am challenged by this video to live more passionately for my God and for other people. Lance Armstrong shames most people with the passion and the discipline he shows in his workouts, and in his life. Maybe you are a nay-sayer. Maybe you are a critic of Lance. But maybe there's something you could learn from this guy.

I'll be cheering Lance on in the Tour this year. But I'm not just cheering Lance on. I'm cheering on the cancer survivors and the others who have been knocked around by disease and poor circumstances. Keep on fighting and pushing.

And I'm striving to live life with a similar passion. I know there will be critics--I'll probably be chief among them toward myself. You probably do the same thing to yourself. Stop it. Get out there and ride, and serve, and live, and care, and pour it ALL out for the glory of God, and for the betterment of this world.

May you stand strong in the face of criticism, be resolute in your discipline, and serve and inspire others through your life today, and everyday.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Water For the World


BH2O+ Day of Recap Video from Nuru International on Vimeo.


This video highlights Nuru's first nationwide awareness event; it was called bh2o+ or Be Hope To Her. It was pretty amazing to see students on eleven college campuses take steps to increase awareness, and also experience directly what it is like DAILY for women and girls in the developing world to get water for themselves and their families.

This event did a lot to raise awareness and to inspire folks to confront not only the water crisis, but the crisis of extreme poverty. There is more work to be done though, and there's always opportunities to take new steps to join in this endeavor to end extreme poverty. The task of ending extreme poverty is enormous, but the steps to get there can be small and simple if many join in making them. I just found out about one of those small tasks recently. It involves writing your congressional representatives and signing a petition. Like I said, the steps toward ending extreme poverty can be small and simple.

So here, give this a read, and decide whether you will take a small step. There are over a billion people who hope that you will. I stand with them in their hope.

So here's the action step.

Sign this petition this petition for support of the "Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009."

This act has a goal of helping to provide 100 million people with sustainable access to safe, clean drinking water by 2015.

This petition is something that everyone can sign, but it would be phenomenal if folks took an additional step. Write your congressional representative a letter. Let them know about the great need for work to be done in the area of clean drinking water. Tell them about the work Nuru is doing, and about the opportunity they have to join in Nuru's efforts for holistic sustainable development, by supporting the "Water for the World" bill.

Want to read more about the act itself? Follow this link.

This is a great opportunity to take action and encourage our elected representatives to do the same. Who knows, maybe your letter will be what inspires them to confront the crisis, not only of clean drinking water, but of extreme poverty!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beautiful days in Almost Heaven



Since my best friend Willie gave me an iphone, I've been trying to use it for some photo opportunities on the fly. The other day, I was heading down the road, and the sky and trees just looked too incredibly crisp to not take a photo.

The weather over the last few days has been beautiful here in almost heaven, West Virginia. After my trip to visit my buddy Seth's church, I made a journey toward Parkersburg to see my dad since I hadn't seen him in three weeks.

He was having a rough evening, but I think it meant a lot to him to have a visitor. The next day, we took a walk (he walks almost daily). He walked over two miles with me and my friend Derek, and averaged slightly under 3.5mph during that walk. He went out for a second walk with my sister and brother-in-law later that evening, and walked another three miles.

My best friend Willie was planning on getting in shape while my dad was on the mend. I hope Willie is being disciplined, or else he may be in for a rude awakening the next time he walks with my dad.

It' pretty amazing to see the progress my dad has made since his surgery. He's lost five pounds since he returned home, and I believe that it is as a result of eating a much healthier diet than he did before his surgery.

Tomorrow, he's going to see the surgeon who performed the four way bypass. I can't wait to hear what the surgeon thinks about dad's progress, and what his next steps will be.

Unfortunately I won't be able to join my dad and sister on this trip to see the Doctor, but I look forward to hearing the results (and sharing with you).

In the meantime, I hope you can get out to enjoy some of this unseasonably beautiful weather in WV (and if you don't live here, I hope you can come visit soon!).

Monday, June 29, 2009

South Ridge Church



Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing and talking with several friends as I visited South Ridge Church, in Fairmont, WV. If you are looking for a church in the Fairmont area, I highly recommend this little faith community. They've been at it for about five years now, and the community has grown TREMENDOUSLY in the last five years. South Ridge Church has a gret community of small groups, awesome youth programs, and great messages that help people understand and apply the scriptures to their lives. SRC was started when a team of people from Chestnut Ridge Church, led by my friend Seth Broadhurst, stepped out in faith to care for a new community.

I shared a little bit about Nuru during the church's Mission Sunday. As Seth introduced me, it brought me to tears. He could have just introduced me as a friend who was going to talk with folks about Nuru. Instead, he told about how God used me to help him grow with God nine years ago. I had no idea the significance of my impact on his life.

And the truth is, most of us rarely realize the impact we have on other people's lives. In the lobby, a gal by the name of Twyla came up and introduced herself to me. We went to Governor's Honor Academy together MANY years ago. She recognized me, and told me how great it was to see me there serving. She works at my former employer, Mylan Pharmaceuticals. As we talked, and shared a little bit of our respective life journeys/adventures, she pointed across the room to her husband, Brian. And then she nearly brought me to tears as well. She said, "That's my husband over there. He just got saved about 18 months ago. Seth led him to Christ. Thank you for pouring into Seth, because God used your friendship with Seth to reach my husband with the gospel."

I was floored. I had no idea. We rarely do have any idea. I wonder how many people we all impact in significant ways through our care for other people. Here was a guy who I had never met in my life, and yet, we were connected through God's work in my life, in Seth's life, and in Twyla's life (and many others). No wonder Paul said, "One plants, another waters, but God causes the growth."

My friends at South Ridge had a profound impact on my life yesterday. They were an encouragement that I can't put into words. They were a reminder that the little things we do can have significant impact beyond what we see presently.

As you go about your work today, as you go about your relationships today, I want to ask you to be considerate of one thing. Love. Love deeply. Care about the people you are serving. Whether those people are family, co-workers, or customers. Speak the truth in love. Take time for them. Be mindful that your work, your time, in whatever you are doing, is NOT insignificant.

God has blessed each of us with wonderful people made in His image that we can love them and love Him. May you walk in that love. You may never see the impact of that love in this SUPER SMALL segment of our eternal lives, but WOW! When we pass from this life to the life eternal, what rejoicing and delight there will be as we see the fruit of our love, and even more so, the GREAT OBJECT of our love, Love Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.