Monday, August 30, 2010

Snapshot of Obedience

Earlier this summer, my long time friend Meghan Baird called me to ask me a favor. She wanted to get baptized, and she was wondering if I would be willing to do it.

I first met Meghan when I was working with the college and young professionals ministry of Chestnut Ridge Church which was at that time called H2O--you can listen to some of the H2O Podcasts here. She was working on her second college degree after completing an undergraduate degree in Art at Shepherd University. Her focus this time was International Studies. She had been exposed to some of the great needs in this world, and she had set a goal of gaining educational experience that would help her serve others. Currently she is working on a Master's Degree in Counseling, and she wants to use this to serve mission agencies and educational programs in the developing world.

What struck me about Meghan from the first time I met her is a contagious passion for Jesus and justice. During my life, I have been fortunate to meet many who have these deeply linked passions, and I have had the privilege of helping them pursue both together. For eight years of my life, I worked for a ministry called Great Commission Ministries, and Meghan was one of the amazing leaders I had the privilege of working with.

When Meghan called to ask me to baptize her, I marked my calendar, and zealously guarded the weekend she was planning her baptism. Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of listening to her share her story, and why she wanted to take this step of obedience to Jesus and demonstrate this outward symbol of her deeply held faith. She told a community of about 100 friends of her faith in Jesus, her zeal for living as a sign and witness to Him, and of her desire to share this special day with all of them.

I had the pleasure of working with her not only as a member of our college ministry, but also as an employee of Nuru International. Meghan served as the Education Program Manager on Nuru's second foundation team, and also worked for a semester with the Nuru grassroots team and helped lay the foundation for our campus chapters as well as our nationwide awareness event, Be Hope To Her.

Yesterday, I had the distinct honor of baptizing her as her brother and as her friend. As I walked into the water with her, my mind flooded with many of the memories we had shared over the last five years. I thought about her baptism, and knew that her roommate would be taking photos as we walked into a small pond. And then I thought about the idea of obedience, and the snapshot, symbol, and gesture of obedience that baptism offers.

Each day, I believe we are challenged to live a better way. As C. S. Lewis has said, "It's not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God." As you read this, may you find yourself in multiple situations that lead to snapshots of obedience where you choose to do right, and leave the rest to God.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ritzy Lunch

Earlier today I made a stop in Clarksburg, WV at the Ritzy Lunch. Jamie's dad told me they have the best hot dogs in the area, so I thought I would give em a try. Turns out that not only did I get a delicious lunch, but I also had an opportunity to visit a restaurant that dates back to the depression era. The Ritzy Lunch has been in business in Clarksburg for seventy-seven years, and is run by a local family.

I walked in and saw the daily special, and thought it would make a perfect lunch. Two hot dogs, fries, and a drink for $6.00. I wasn't super crazy about the fries, but the hot dogs were delicious. I think next time I'll skip the fries, and get another hot dog. If you like fries though, I'd say go for it and grab the special.

I had no idea it was such a popular restaurant. I came in around 1130, and by the time I left at noon, the place was pretty much full. There were even people in line for carry-out. (I saw Jamie's high school track coach in line for carry out, but I don't think he recognized me).

Have you ever visited the Ritzy Lunch? If you are a fan of old style hot dog and hamburger joints, I highly recommend the Ritzy. We had a place in Parkersburg where I grew up called "Smitty's" or "The Broadway Sandwich Shop". There's something about these restaurants that I feel like we are losing as more chains come into the region.

Do you have a favorite West Virginia restaurant? Or, if you are living in another part of the world, what should folks definitely check out while they are in your town?

Looking forward to reading your suggestions.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weeping With Tears of Joy

You know, sometimes one can get so overwhelmed with emotion that words don't fully express. I wonder if tears are some type of biological response to being so saturated with emotion that it leaks out in salt water drops from one's eyes. Maybe tears are liquid emotion.

So lately I've found myself weeping a lot with gratitude. I look around me and I see blessings that are unfathomable, and I'm speechless. Even as I've started writing this little post, I've been weeping.

You see, I've been so privileged to be able to do work that I love, and to do this work together with my friends. And it's happened for years. My friends are so special and so precious to me, and I love it when we can do things together.

The photo above was taken three weeks ago when a group of friends gathered together to assemble and mail out packages to the many people who have begun financially supporting the work of Nuru. We had a full evening of hard work, joy, and laughter, and I treasure times like that.  I also think about what is happening as a result of nights like that. Literally thousands of people's lives have been changed forever.

My friend Jake was talking with a group of people about tears too. Jake had recently shown a video from Nuru called "I AM NURU" to a group of Kenyan leaders in Kuria. As the video was playing, tears began to well up in the eyes of the Kenyan staff. Jake apologized to Philip Mohochi, the chairman of the Community Develop Community for the video because he was afraid it had upset these Kenyan leaders.

Philip looked at Jake and said, "There's no need to be sorry. We are not crying because we are sad. We are crying because we are in awe that so many people who live half-way around the world care this much about us here in Kuria!"

It is a beautiful thing indeed when people give of their time, talents, and resources to care for others.

And here I am in Morgantown, WV weeping with tears of joy for the opportunity I've been given with my friends to be hope, to be light, and to be Nuru.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Philip's Question

Last fall, Nuru released a video that told the story of our CEO, Jake Harriman, a West Virginia native, and Special Operations Platoon Commander for Force Recon who had a life changing experience on the front lines of battle that got him engaged in a different fight, the fight to end extreme poverty.
Now Nuru is sharing a different story. This is the story of a man who is literally an ocean away from most of us. His name is Philip Mohochi. Philip is from a small tribe whose homeland is on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, the Kuria (It’s pronounced like the country Korea, but nowhere near it geographically.). Philip is the chairman of Nuru’s Community Development Committee (CDC) in southwestern Kenya. He found out about Nuru through his brother Sangai Mohochi, who was a professor of Kiswahili at Stanford University and one of Jake’s teachers there.
Philip’s question first came into his mind when he was a small boy. Filled with an inquisitive nature and unable to comprehend the intense poverty that he and the other people in his homeland experienced, he asked the question, “Why are we poor?”
It was a question that stirred him to his inmost being, and caused him to make a youthful commitment. It was a commitment that many probably make in varied forms during their lives, but it’s a commitment that few hold fast to as the years go coursing by. He committed himself to help his people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
Late in his life, he left a very successful career in the city of Nairobi to return to his homeland because he wanted to be faithful to the commitment he had made in his youth. There are many people asking the same question as Philip. They are looking for answers, and they are looking for guidance in seeking solutions.
As you watch this video, and listen to Philip tell his story, may you be reminded that together, you and I have an incredible opportunity to make a life-changing difference in the lives of people we may never meet in this lifetime. Though we are oceans apart from Philip and the Kuria people, our world has become incredibly small, and stories like his can be heard now all over the world. The question that always lies before us is what will we do with what we have heard? Will you join with Nuru as we work to equip even more people with the tools they need to lift themselves out of extreme poverty? Make a donation today--$29/month can empower an entire family out of extreme poverty!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ivory Soap

Ivory Soap, originally uploaded by Bravo Six Niner Delta.
About a month or so ago, I read this blog post about how people had started using dilute vinegar and baking soda solutions to wash and condition their hair, and it really got me thinking about my own use of shampoo and conditioner. The article talked about how shampoo was a fairly recent innovation, and how conditioner was necessary to replenish the natural oils that one loses by use of shampoo. The article went on to describe how there is a period of 1-2 weeks that one will experience really oily hair as the body adjusts to not having to make up for its loss of oil.
Since my roommate Derek and I started a road trip at the beginning of July, I thought I would try going without shampoo and just using soap instead. It’s been an interesting adjustment for sure.
Two weeks into my new washing regimen, I talked to my dad about his use of shampoo. He said he rarely uses it, but rather uses soap, and has for most of his life. I took his experience as a confirmation of sorts that maybe I didn’t need shampoo and conditioner. The irony is that I had just purchased some eco-friendly shampoo and conditioner, and now I may just be saving it for special occasions.
My latest conundrum has been with regard to what soap to use. I looked at some castille soap, and considered buying a bar, but then I thought back to my childhood and ivory soap. I read the ingredients, and they seemed simple enough, so I’ve started using Ivory again for the first time since my childhood.
I’m not sure I’ll stick with it, in fact, I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding soaps and shampoos. (I hear that some people make their own soap out of olive oil or coconut oil too!)
Derek just made up some laundry detergent using Ivory soap, borax, washing soda, and water. I’m curious as to how it will work. It ends up costing us about a penny/load to use this detergent in our front loading washer.
The irony of this post, is that I hadn’t intended to write about all of these uses of Ivory, but I felt I should explain before telling you about my olfactory memory and using the soap for the first time since childhood. The aroma took me back to learning to wash my face and body in the bathroom sink alongside my dad. As I breathed in, I found myself remembering being little, and putting the soap in a washrag and lathering it up as I scrubbed my face and arms after playing all evening in the dirt. I can remember our little bathroom on fifteenth street, and moving from an old bathtub with feet to a shower during my gradeschool years. I remember my dad standing at the mirror with me and we would wash at the same time—I think partially because much like many little boys, I avoided washing like the plague (after all, my dirt was a badge of honor and a mark of the fun I had while playing—plus sometimes soap would get in my eyes and burn). Then he would take a cup full of some kind of magic concoction, and wave a brush in it, and then he would use the brush to apply this concoction to his face—his shaving cream wasn’t in a can, but a cup.
Because we only used Ivory growing up, it’s aroma is one I identify with what “clean” smells like, and it’s one that brings back many memories of our life growing up before the days of the internet, blogging, facebook, and twitter. It reminds me of catching fireflies, eating cherry pie made from the cherries out of our back yard, and swinging on our old rope swing. It was usually before or after those summer events that I would find myself lathering up and cleaning up.
Hope that your week is off to a “clean” start, and that it is filled with aroma’s that evoke nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reading and Seeing Proverbs

This morning I read this ancient Hebrew proverb, and it has been stuck in my mind all morning. The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice. It stirred me so much I figured I would tweet it and share it with others too, but here's why I think it had the affect that it did.

As you probably know, I work for a non-profit that helps rural communities living in extreme poverty lift themselves out of extreme poverty in a period of five years or less. It's called Nuru International. It was started by two really great friends of mine who I've known for half of my life. The organization is called Nuru International, and if you haven't already, you should check it out because it's doing some pretty amazing work--and it's proving ancient Hebrew proverbs true.

You see, in the communities where Nuru is now working, there are a number of farmers. Before Nuru arrived, these farmers would produce one to three bags of maize per acre of their land, which isn't enough to feed their family through the following growing season. These people were malnourished and living without opportunities. At one time their land had sustained the entire community, but after colonization, this community was converted to be tobacco farmers, and the land began to lose it's vitality for growing crops. These people had lost a very productive way of life, and because they were "off the radar" of the rest of the world, suffered the injustice of a lack of opportunities and livelihood because they lived in extreme poverty.

Less than two years ago, the Nuru's first foundation team arrived in the community and began to listen to the unique problems of the community from agriculture to water and healthcare. The staff of Nuru came alongside the people of Kuria, Kenya and helped them to begin the process of lifting themselves out of extreme poverty. Nobody should have to suffer like these people did and many others do on a daily basis.

As a result of somebody caring enough to come alongside this community, the fallow ground of these poor farmers is now producing 12-15 bags of maize per acre. When we come face-to-face with injustice, and choose the way of justice changes happen. People are empowered and have opportunities and choices where at one time there was despair and oppression.

Now it can be said, The fallow ground of the poor does yield much food, when injustice is swept away!

Will you consider joining Nuru in its efforts to end extreme poverty?

As you go about your day today, may you look for ways to sweep away injustice so that the potential of others may be fully realized.

Beamerfoto, One Voice, Amsterdam, and Justice

My friend and current roommate Ricky Beamer is an excellent photographer. He has travelled to many different parts of the world, and captured some really quality images during his journeys. The image above was taken while we were serving in Amsterdam on a short term mission trip. As I was looking at some of Ricky's photos on his site, I looked at an album of images from our Amsterdam trip and it brought back many memories.

I wore a "One Voice To End Slavery" hoodie virtually every day. About a month prior to our trip, I had met one of the cofounders of JustOne. During a presentation he gave, I learned some alarming statistics about trafficking, slavery, and how the sex industry as well as the chocolate industry were linked to both of these issues.

I think in some ways I've always been an advocate of sorts, and so I figured that a simple way I could help combat these issues involved both changing habits, and also letting others know. So I bought a hoodie as a conversation piece, and proceeded to wear it nearly everywhere I went. Among the places I went--Amsterdam.

On the day that this photo was taken, our team was working with a group from YWAM in the heart of the Red Light District. We were standing on a bridge, but in every direction on the street there are women in windows waiting for "customers". It's estimated that 90% of these women are in these windows against their will and that approximately 75% have been trafficked to Amsterdam.

As we walked from YWAM's headquarters at a place called De Cleft to spend time talking to people on the bridge we walked along a narrow street. On either side of this street (which felt more like an alley) there were windows. We probably passed by 25-30 windows with crimson lights providing a border and communicating to passersby that the people behind the windows were prostitutes.

It's one thing to hear about an issue, but it's another thing to come face to face with injustice. To my right as we walked down this street, my fiancée Jamie was an emotional wreck. She was trying to get her mind around the idea that someone would think it was ok to sell another human being for sex. Being in the middle of it all, stirs the heart and mind to think about issues of justice, if one takes the time to let the gravity of the situation sink in.

Sometimes I think we go on auto-pilot because we can't deal with the gravity of the situation, or because we don't care. As visibly stirred as Jamie was, there were other people walking along the street oblivious to the women behind the glass, or worse yet, there were people ogling and mocking these women who would work to seduce a new customer whenever eye contact could be made.

May you have eyes to see, and a heart and mind that will fully engage with the world around you. As you see injustice, may you be stirred to do something about it. And may you bring hope into this earth where we live.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Inspiring words from Bono about ending Extreme Poverty

Bono, originally uploaded by Timothy Schenck.
Back in January, my then girlfriend, and now fiancée shared a quote with me from Bono through a facebook message. I have left the message marked as unread for the last eight months so I could one day sit down and write a blog post about it.

Here’s the quote.

It's an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. That should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it's become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it's "difficult" justify our own inaction. Be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don't have is the will, and that's not a reason that history will accept.

I love the quote because it’s both inspiring and challenging. I think about Bono and the mixed reviews he gets in the social justice circles, but I must admit I’m inspired by his perseverance in his efforts to end extreme poverty. Since the 1980s Bono and U2 have worked pretty tirelessly to expose their fans to more than a concert or some new tunes. They have pushed, prodded, and encouraged engagement with the hurts of this world. I can remember being very young listening to U2 and hearing about their work toward justice, long before I had any inkling of the severity of hurt and suffering that exists in our world. Bono inspires in this quote by pointing to a truth that all of my friends at Nuru and in many other development organizations hold to tenaciously—we can end extreme poverty!

I believe with all of my being that we can! But what I wonder about is whether we have the will to accomplish the task. As much as there are a growing number of people who have said enough is enough, ours is a generation of distraction as well. Saying yes to ending extreme poverty means that we need people who will persevere in contributing to the end. It doesn’t mean that every person needs to change their career, but for some it does. It did for me. It doesn’t mean that every person needs to contribute financially to ending extreme poverty, but again, for some it does. Again, it did for me. What it does mean, is that every person needs to take stock of their life and ask if they care enough to do something. I believe it’s going to take a contribution from all who are able if we want to see the end of extreme poverty.

When she shared this quote, she sent me an additional note, and encouraged me by saying, “You have the ‘will,’ keep running hard!” I know that there are many who have already joined the fight, and who are contributing toward ending extreme poverty, but there is still much work to do. Will you run with me? Will you exercise the power of your will to eradicate this generation’s greatest humanitarian crisis?

There are over one billion people on our planet who are waiting for you to join us in the fight!

Let’s go!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Biking in Ohiopyle

I don't know if you've ever ventured into the Laurel Highlands Region of Pennsylvania, but one of the favorite bike rides for me and my dad can be found at Ohiopyle State Park. This weekend we took a trip along this flat eleven mile bike route that connects Ohiopyle to Confluence, Pennsylvania. The journey was beautiful and calming. The cool wildnerness air combined with the lush greenery of the forest canopy that shaded our way made the trip almost dreamlike, especially in light of the intense heat and humidity we have been experiencing on the east coast this summer.

As we rode along, we were greeted by many friendly cyclists and hikers, who had experienced the humanity rejuvenating power or the created world. I remember Jamie made the comment that the natural world had an awe inspiring power that regrettably fewer and fewer people take time to experience. We live in a world that is too busy, and running too fast in an effort to be efficient, effective, and accomplish our very important work--whatever form our work takes.

The Youghiogaheny River stretched out like a ruffled whitewater blanket alongside our bike path, and we could see many people enjoying the outdoors with fishing rod, raft, and kayak as we journeyed along.

When we finally reached our destination, Confluence PA, we stopped in at the River's Edge Cafe for an incredibly delicious meal that gave us just what we needed for the trip back to Ohiopyle.

This was the third trip along this path I've taken with my dad, but it was the first time we stopped for a meal in town. I'm grateful for these forays with my dad that exercise our bodies and refresh our souls.

If you have the opportunity, and a bicycle, I highly recommend a trip with friends along the Youghiogaheny and a visit to Ohiopyle. There's only a couple of months of ideal biking weather left, so make the most of it!

Battle of Bushy Run

Among the stops made with Dad and Jamie this weekend was the 247th anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run. This particular battle is believed to mark the turning point of the French and Indian War and resulted in a treaty being signed at Fort Pitt just a few months afterward. The Native confederacy was led by a man named Pontiac who was an Ottawa. He and his intertribal group had started their uprising in detroit, and had pushed settlements as far east as Bedford, PA. He is considered one of the great Native leaders in history, and his idea of an Indian confederacy was revisited a few years later by a leader from my own tribe, Tecumseh.

I found out about the event through following the twitter account of Pittsburgh City Council member, Bill Peduto, and I had hoped that the event would afford me a bit of a walk down memory lane. Usually these events have a large array of primitive artisans and craftspeople, and I thought it could be a cool way to share a little bit of my own culture with Jamie as well as remember other occasions where I would share old tribal songs with re-enactors and others at similar events.

By the time we arrived, the events of the day were mostly over, but we were still able to see a plethora of people dressed in the period attire of eighteenth century british, colonial, or native people. There's a really unique community that surrounds these living history events, and it can be like a large reunion for the participants. While I did not personally reunite with any of my kinsmen or any re-enactors, I enjoyed seeing and hearing the passion this community had for preserving the nuances of the early history of the United States as they gathered on the site of the Bushy Run Battlefield.

I wonder what these passionate people will conspire to organize for the 250th anniversary of the battle?

Lakeside Baptisms

This past weekend, I did a good bit of traveling, but as the weekend came to an end, I found out about an outdoor baptism being organized by Chestnut Ridge Church at Cheat Lake in Morgantown, WV. After a delicious lunch at Twila's Restaurant in Bruceton Mills, my dad, Jamie, and I made the trip to Cheat Lake to join with those who had gathered to celebrate this step of faith and obedience in the lives of over 20 people (not sure the exact number) in front of a large crowd gathered by the lake, and even a grouping of boats who watched from the water.

There's something about being gathered outdoors for anything that sparks a series of wonderful memories for me. All of my tribe's ceremonies took place in a field on our land in Maryland, and I've always felt a sense of serenity when immersed in the realm of trees, plants, and water. It was quite a journey out a long narrow road to make our way to this little secluded park, and as I stood on the shore watching people take a steps into the water and toward a symbolic and real step of obedience to Jesus, my mind took me back to my own remote baptism. It was October 1997, and I was in Garrett County on my tribe's land. There was a group of eight of us Shawnee people who wanted to take a step of obedience to Jesus. As we waded into the frigid mountain waters of Bear Creek, we benefited from both a sprinkling and immersion as our chiefs baptized the group of us one by one. I had brought a pair of shorts, but I loaned them to another guy who had just placed his faith in Jesus and wanted to be baptized too. So all I had left to wear into the water was my breechcloth. I imagine there was once a time when many more Indian people were baptized in breechcloths, but on that particular day, I was the only one.

Back at Cheat Lake yesterday, there were no breech cloths or tribal chiefs present, but there was a strong sense of community and celebration as young and old took their physical steps of obedience into the lake in front of a gathering of friends and family. There's a beauty to this ancient ceremony, and I hope that those who participated in this tradition will carry the memory with them for a very long time.

I moved from standing to sitting and I listened. I listened as story after story was shared about how Jesus had changed each person's life, and how these people wanted to take a step of faithful obedience to him. The stories were beautiful, personal, and intimate, and so was the setting. Sometimes, it feels like we are so driven by closed spaces and separation from the created world, and I think the outdoor atmosphere made a wonderful step of faith all the more wonder-filled.  Besides that, with an outdoor baptism, one doesn't waste water and heat by filling up a baptismal and heating it for a few hours, only to empty it after the days's events have concluded.  Lakes and streams get heated by the sun, and nobody has to drain them afterward. :)

I hope you can spend some time outside today and that your heart and mind are filled with wonder as you immerse yourself in the calm of creation.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Allan W. Eckert is one of the great modern writers of the frontier era of America. He has written several books that chronicle the history of the Ohio River Valley through creative non-fiction. My old chief was a huge fan of Eckert's books, and was always quick to suggest his books to young Shawnees wanting to learn more about their heritage. It was through his suggestion that I found myself thinking about going to see the outdoor drama that Eckert wrote called Tecumseh!.

In the middle of July I took a trip from Parkersburg, WV to Chillicothe, OH with my dad, sister, and brother-in-law, and met my best friend in the whole world, Willie, and his family at the site of the outdoor drama for a performance. It was interesting because Willie was a theater major in college, and was offered an opportunity to perform with the outdoor drama. On one hand, he thought it would be cool to celebrate his own Shawnee heritage through the drama, but on the other, performing would mean that he would be unable to participate in tribal functions during the summer months. While the drama would have been an unforgettable experience, Willie chose to spend time with our own tribal community--and I imagine he has no regrets.

The performance was pretty stellar as performances go. One of the most powerful aspects of the recording It was well worth the drive and the $22.95 price tag. There were aspects that I didn't feel accurately reflected traditional Shawnee life as I have learned it from my tribal leaders, but overall it was a pretty incredible performance. In particular, I felt that the battle scenes were immersive and gave the audience a view into what it would have been like to be in the woods at night 200 years ago as explosions were taking place from cannon and gun fire. I think at times we can sanitize the brutality of warfare in movies and media, but I couldn't help but think of the fear that would course through an individual as real canons and guns and explosions that could take one's life were felt and heard in close proximity.

Seeing people ride horses and swim them across a small pond that was used to represent the Ohio and other rivers was also pretty cool too. Through the performance, people could gain some really vivid insights into life along the american frontier during the eighteenth century. Also, seeing some of Eckert's ideas of Tecumseh's tragic flaw of excessive trust in his brother Tenskwatawa was interesting to me as well. It made me think that if Tecumseh had not been guilty of nepotism, that perhaps history would have played out differently for native people in the United States.

If you can, I recommend taking a road trip to see it. And whether you can or not see it or not, I recommend picking up one of Eckert's books and giving it a read. Want to expose your children to a bit of Shawnee culture too? He's even written a children's book called Blue Jacket. I included links to some of his books on Amazon below.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I now have an iPhone4

Well, last Wednesday I took the plunge and bought iPhone 4. I haven't used all of the features yet, but so far I'm really impressed. My old phone was an iPhone 3G that was given to me by my best friend in the whole world, Willie. I used it pretty heavily, and it served me well for blogging, tweeting, emailing, phone calling, and more during the time I had it, but the last few months it wasn't quite working up to par. I talked with a number of people before taking the iPhone 4 plunge, and all agreed that regardless of proximity sensor, antenna, and other issues that iPhone 4 would be a massive improvement from my old phone.

So far it's been great! I had a brief scare on Friday when the phone didn't turn on. I took it to the apple store to check for possible tech problems, but it was an easy fix with a reset. So far I've only had a couple of issues with dropped calls, and on one of those occasions it was directly related to the way I was holding the phone. I'll probably take advantage of Apple's generosity and apply for their iPhone 4 case program.

Right now my big issue is the proximity sensor. Sometimes I mute calls or put people on speakerphone when the touchscreen touches my face. Again, I can make adjustments and prevent a repeat of the problem.

Anyhoo, I have really enjoyed the privilege of being able to have access to this phone. Is it for everybody? Probably not, but this phone's predecessor was a huge help to me over the last several months, and I'm sure that iPhone 4 will be a great tool for managing my schedule, responding to emails on the go (when necessary), and even serving as a great telephone.

Who would have dreamed that there would be day when we would carry our phones around with us? Who would have dreamed that we would be able to have video phone calls on these portable phones? Who would have dreamed that a telephone would have a more powerful computer with more memory than the standard desktop of ten years ago?
Beyond this, who would ever imagine we would live in a world where people communicate by text, email, tweets, phone, and more?

It's pretty amazing how much technology has advanced in ten years. What do you think about smart phones, and all of the portable technology to emerge since the year 2000?

Belated Independence Day 2010 Thoughts

One month belated though it may be, I just thought I’d include an image and some thoughts from my fourth of July driving from Columbus, OH to Knoxville, Tennessee.

This year marks the 234th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of freedom from the British Empire. Of course, folks still speak English, and carry on with a number of British customs, but this is the day that celebrates the beginnings of the United States.

During my road trip with my good buddy Derek Roberts, we made a stop at Fort Ancient State Park in Southwestern Ohio. We saw mounds and earthworks that pre-date the united states, and even pre-date Columbus’ famous voyage. As we were driving away from these ancient earthen works, Derek began reading a blog post from an activist named Shane Claiborne about Independence Day, and ways we can celebrate it every day. Give it a read. I think you’ll enjoy it and I know you will be challenged by it.

After a long journey across Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, we finally arrived in Knoxville, and I was able to meet with an old classmate, Anna Hoskinson, and her boyfriend Chad. Later that evening, we was able to meet up with another old friend, Christopher King, and his family in downtown Knoxville to enjoy the fireworks. Between Anna, Chad, and Christopher, I was able to soak in an amazing series of historic sites, stories, and anecdotes of the land around this Tennessee town.

Christopher also allowed me to consider another insight. What did it mean to Francis Scott Key, to see the flag still waving when bombs were bursting in the air and America was under fire from Britain. Maybe fireworks aren’t just a celebration, but the sound of the explosions are meant to be a reminder to us of the very real explosions that endangered people’s lives as they fought for the freedom of America.

It probably wasn’t awe that they felt as they heard explosions similar to the ones that delight and refresh us on independence day. It was more likely fear, coupled with incredible perseverance to stay the course and to survive. How refreshing indeed would it be to see a flag still waving after watching and feeling explosions through the night.

And what can we learn from those who persevered? I’m sure there are tons of lessons to be gleaned, but the one I hold most tightly to this independence day is the lesson of perseverance and hope. We must persevere to hit goals that we have set, and we must hope that in spite of our circumstances, we may yet see our world, our communities, our loved ones, and ourselves transformed to become a better, even the best, version of ourselves that we can be.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Uncle Bob and Fighting Cancer

On Saturday, I took a trip to Washington DC with an old friend. Among the many topics we talked about as we drove were healthcare, the environment, and the increasing incidence of cancer in our world.

Last night, I was reading a book by Wendell Berry that included an essay that was called "The Unsettling of America" and it told the story of colonization in the United States. It started with the displacement of the Native American peoples for the sake of progress, and then told of another displacement for the sake of industry. Early agrarian settlers, and even current farmers are facing a fight to maintain a simpler way of life. All of the displacement is said to be done in the name of progress, but now in our generation, there is a fee associated with all of our basic needs--food, clothing, shelter, water, and air. Of course we don't have to buy air, but we pay a price for it in the way of pollution.

So what does this have to do with my uncle and cancer? Well, I have a pretty strong conviction that the reason why cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent because of the way we live. We eat and drink things that are not the best for us. We breathe air that is contaminated with mutagens and pollutants, and while our water is supposed to uphold certain standards, I've heard many around the globe complain about the strange taste of their tap water in recent years. Many of the choices we are making in the name of "progress" may be giving us short term successes but may also be contributing to our long term destruction through slowly poisoning our bodies and maybe even our inmost being.

And yesterday, I received a call from my dad. He told me that my Uncle Bob is in the University of Michigan medical center with stomach cancer. He has two to three months left on this earth. It seems like some form of cancer has latched hold of nearly every member of my family. My brother, my dad, and myself seem to be the only remaining ones who haven't had to get some form of cancer reduced or removed, or worse yet, have lost their lives to this ugly malaise.

My uncle Bob is a man of serious faith, and he has raised his family with the same deep faith. Right now, I want to ask you to stop reading for a minute, and if you would be willing, pray for my uncle and his family. I know that the the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, and this could be one of the greatest acts of support you could demonstrate toward my uncle and his family.

My uncle Bob and his family have faithfully read this blog for many years, and although they have lived pretty far away for most of my life, this little outpost on the web has helped them stay connected with family events through the years. I don't know my uncle well, but I am really bothered by the challenges being imposed by aggressive inoperable cancer in his stomach right now. I know that his is not the only fight being fought right now against cancer, but there's something immediately disconcerting and alarming when we discover a loved one suffers.

May the Spirit of the living God heal, comfort, and guide my Uncle Bob, his wife, and his daughter, as they look to Him for those things and more.

And for the rest of us, may we all fight the good fight and finish the race well.