Friday, June 29, 2007

Squash Blossom

Squash Blossom, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Over the last few days I've grown fascinated with my garden. In particular I've been mesmerized by the blooming of squash blossoms. I don't know a ton about the plant, or about the blossom itself except that my ancestors were also fascinated with the squash blossom. Folks used to put a squash blossom design on knife pouches, personal bags, moccassins, etc. Until I witnessed the blossom myself, I was a little perplexed by this intense interest--but there is something magical about this flower. (If you click on the image, you can see a bee in the upper right corner of the picture--I think he too is mesmerized.)

Even this spring when I traveled to Michigan and spent some time among our tribal cousins, the ojibwe, I saw squash blossoms everywhere. In the hotel where I stayed, squash blossoms were carved into the design of the woodwork, and a feature in the flooring, the paintings, and even the carpeting.

The blossoms close as the day progresses, and they open to their fullest late at night and in the early morning hours. I captured this photo at around 8AM this morning.

My ancestors not only and planted and ate squash, but also enjoyed eating squash blossoms--I've eaten two of the blossoms that had fallen to the ground from the rain. There's something cool about beginning to eat from my garden, and the squash blossom has been a first fruits of sorts.

Seeing these beautiful flowers has made me miss my mom tremendously. I would love to talk to her and ask her questions about these beautiful flowers. I would love to share this image with her, but I can't. I can enjoy these flowers though, and I can take time to appreciate their beauty and their splendor.

I've spent a good bit of time sitting with these flowers over the last few days, and trying to think about what made them so significant to my ancestors--I imagine it's probably the same things that capture my imagination with them.

I bet my ancestors were reminder of beauty by these flowers. The frailty of the bloom probably reminded them to walk gently on the earth, and to be gentle with the creation God had entrusted to our care. Not only did they see beauty in these flowers, but perhaps they were reminded to look for beauty, and to look for God's hand of provision in all of the world. Maybe the fact that the blossom's closed every day as the day progressed told them that sometimes you have to get up early or make some extra effort, and spend a lot of time around an entity to see its beauty unfold. Maybe as they ate the blossoms they were reminded that ultimately it is God who provides our sustenance. maybe they were reminded of community because the flowers emerge in clusters and not alone. Maybe the vine of the plant pointed them to the beautiful weaving together that happens when we live in community with one another.

Whatever the case, as long as the blossoms linger, I plan to make their presence a part of my daily meditation. The Bible tells us, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:20). Maybe in the end, these little blossoms told my ancestors, and are telling me and maybe even telling you, about Jesus--if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Walking in the Wilderness

Traveling, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last weekend, we made some really grand plans of traveling to our fishing camp near Elkins, WV. When the weekend came however, we found ourselves without the energy that we needed to make the trip. We had the desire, but in the end, after discussing the travel we decided to stick around home.

Willie and his family came to visit, and we all took a hike through a wildlife refuge near parkersburg, WV. I traveled down from Morgantown Friday afternoon, and we began doing what people typically do when they get together for a limited time.

We tried to plan and do too much. Somehow, we believe that we can do more in one day (or a couple of days) than what is reasonable or even possible. Do you ever find yourself in this situation?

I think part of the problem is that we don't have a good understanding of time. Technology allows us to do a number of things at once, or a number of things better, but in the end it still takes time (and energy!) to pack, prepare, and actually DO whatever we have planned to do in a given amount of time.

It's funny because we all thought we would have the energy for a trip to the mountains, but even with our little hike near town, most of us required a mid-afternoon nap.

Even today, I find my day full of meetings, and all that I had aspired to do I have a haunting suspicion will not be completed.

Interestingly, I've been reading exodus, and thinking about the forty year period it took for Israel to make it to the promised land. I bet they knew that the land was really close. I bet they knew that they should be able to make it into the land in far less than forty years. And, I'm sure they grew frustrated at times as they felt they were accomplishing far less than they should.

And that's maybe the lesson, I'm learning in the middle of looking at the intersection of scripture with my life. Sometimes it isn't about accomplishing things. Sometimes it is just about the journey and enjoying that journey with the people who are around you. If we get too caught up in getting to the end, we may find ourselves frustrated, and we also may find that we have missed a lot of what is happening along the journey.

If you are frustrated by the fact you can't get EVERYTHING done in the time you have allotted, take heart, you aren't alone. More than this take some time, reflect on your situation, and ask God what He wants you to see as He is journeying every step of the way with you, just like He did with Israel.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Song for Billy's Mom

Last weekend, I met up with my best friend (brother) on the planet, Willie and his family in Wheeling, WV before going to see Brett Cain.

We went to the Ohio River and ate Di Carlo's Pizza. We walked along the river, and we prayed together. It was a beautiful time as we mourned and rejoiced together and enjoyed the sunset on the Ohio.
At one point Willie left and grabbed his guitar and out of his van. Then he shared this beautiful song that he wrote for my mom to honor her.

I wept incredibly as I listened to the lyrics because not only were they filled with love and honor, but many of them walked me through memories of the last few days we had with Mom.

While Willie is a little disappointed in the quality of the video/recording, I believe it is an incredible gift.
As He brought out the guitar and the lyrics, I thought to myself, "My mom is the kind of person that people write songs about!" And she is!

I love and miss my mom, but I'm overwhelmed with Joy that through it all she pointed us all to her King Jesus. Now she's with Him!

The chorus of this song is my favorite, because it is one that we can all make very personal and sing to Jesus. "I'm yours!"
If you haven't made this decision already, I pray you will read this blog, listen to this song, and tell Jesus that you are His! It's the best decision you will ever make--of that truth, I'm incredbly sure.

If you already know Jesus, maybe this song can be a reminder to you and an encouragement, and a point of rededication--to be His.

I really hope you enjoy this beautiful song, and I am soooo thankful to my brother Willie for writing and sharing it with the world!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gateway Arch and Westward Expansion

Well, yesterday I found a wireless hub out in Missouri that didn’t charge $10/day for the service. Unfortunately I only had a few minutes to use the network, and didn’t get a chance to blog. So I’m trying to make up for that today.

Monday we started driving at around 5AM, and arrived at our destination late Monday night. We passed through a few cities, but probably the most famous was St. Louis. (Interestingly, we also passed through Louisville a few hours earlier. I guess when the French acquired the land the really were trying to honor King Louis--after all, much of this area was acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

So while driving down the road I was able to get this shot of the gateway arch. I had no idea, that this monument was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of westward expansion. Isn’t that the way with so much of our life though. We see symbols all of the time, and they have a degree of familiarity, but we don’t take time to contemplate what the origin of a symbol might be. We enjoy landmarks, but don’t really take in the appearance of the landmark beyond it’s aesthetic.

When you think about the gateway arch, it symbolizes the westward expansion of America. But often we don’t think about the cost. We don’t think about the lives lost, the lives, displaced, and the lives enslaved that made that expansion possible. We don’t take in the fullness of what a symbol represents.

The cross is a similar symbol. Many people wear crosses for aesthetics, they take comfort in seeing the cross. But how often do people fully consider all that the cross represents. Do we think about the cost of the cross? What exactly did it mean and feel like for Jesus to “become sin”? How utterly excruciating was the suffering that He underwent? When we say we are thankful for the cross, how often to reflect upon what exactly that cross meant, and how deep our gratitude should be?

When we use symbols, we are attempting to pack a robustness of meaning and sentiment in a simple way. It’s kind of like a picture being worth a thousand words. I encourage you to reflect on the cross, and I also encourage you to take a look at the signs and symbols that surround you. What are they communicating to you? What does the cross tell you about you? What does it tell you about God, sin, love, mercy, beauty, and sacrifice?

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Traveling, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This week, I have the privilege of traveling with a group of leaders from church to meet with other leaders from across the country in Missouri for a conference.

This means at least two days of travel in a 15 passenger van, and more than likely a few energy bars. It also means a reunion with a number of leaders and peers from across the country, and extended time for prayer and the word of God.

I am unsure how this trip will affect my ability to blog this week, but I will make a valiant attempt to find wireless and stay connected.

The last few days have had their share of travel and adjustmenst as well, but I've been able to enjoy some wonderful times with friends and family, and I was even able to enjoy sunset on the ohio river with Willie and his family Saturday night.

It's late, and I need to wake up early for travel, so there's not a lot to say--except I'm tired. Perhaps this conference will provide an opportunity to experience a unique refreshment and rejuvenation from the LORD amidst my travels.

Hopefully I will be able to connect through the week, but if not, I will be back to blogging by the end of the week--Lord willing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


iDad, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Me, my brother, and my sister chipped in together to buy my dad an iPod nano for his birthday. He's been looking at my iPod for a while, and has been thinking about getting one himself. He walks around 5 miles a day, and this little gadget will probably be travelling with him.

Before we could allow him to enjoy his birthday present, we had to transfer all of his CDs to his computer. Then we walked through how to move songs from his computer to his iPod. He doesn't have enough to fill his iPod, so he doesn't have to worry about being too selective.

He can also listen to his favorite podcasts, like H2O Morgantown Live, or any other podcasts that are available free on itunes.

There is always a learning curve when it comes to using new technology, and I was wondering if Dad would get a little frustrated by that process. We walked through a few steps of how to use his ipod, and then he just started chillaxing to his tunes.

We ran a few errands together, and he continued jamming out to his iPod. Sometimes when you buy a gift there is a bit of worry about whether or not the recipient will enjoy it. Well, me and my siblings hit the jackpot on this gift. Dad loves it! So don't be surprised if you see him at a basketball game next year with me in the student section jamming out to his ipod!

What about you? Do you enjoy the gifts you've been given? Take some time as you finish reading this entry and reflect on all of the gifts you've received. They may not be as portable as an ipod (things like jobs, family, cars, houses usually aren't), but they are definitely worth taking the time to appreciate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Siblings, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Yesterday was my sister's birthday. She began the conversion to the world of Apple with the acquisition of an ipod nano--I'm so excited for her!

Yesterday was also the day my brother had to catch a flight to the west coast.

The three of us had an awesome day together, and I think we ended up arriving at our destination around the same time. Chuck called me just as I was dropping becky and her husband off at their house.

You know, this last year has afforded the three of us more time together than we have experienced since my brother graduated college. It's been a wonderful time, and it gives me a greater and greater appreciation of my siblings, their talents, and their love.

It feels kind of weird today as we are slowly going back to our "normal" routine. The whole past week seems pretty surreal to be honest.

I already miss my brother, and my sister, well over the last few months I have been able to more fully appreciate what a wonderful lady she is. I'm honored to be her brother, and I find myself learning from her every time we're together.

To be honest, I revel in the moments I have with my siblings. It's a shame we aren't together more, but I think that's the way you are supposed to feel about people you love.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mourning Hair and Celebrating Tradition

Mourning Hair, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
My ancestors had many traditions that made them unique. Over the last several years I have worked to learn, teach, and share many of them. One of them has to do with hair.

The men of our tribe would grow their hair long as a symbol of freedom. It was meant to reflect the fact that we have an unconquerable spirit, that we are always shawnee, and that we are free.

I used to wear my hair short. Then, on November 12, 1994, I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I became a Christian. I was set free from my slavery to sin, death, and evil. Because I was finally free, it was an appropriate time to start growing my hair. If you've ever wondered, the growing of my hair is both a symbol of my heritage as a Shawnee, and a symbol of the true freedom that Jesus offers each and every one of us when we put our trust in Him.

My ancestors also had another tradition--when a loved one passed on, they would cut their hair as a symbol of their mourning, and as a way of honoring those who went before them.

Saturday, after my mom's funeral service, I honored her in this ancient way. I celebrated our common heritage as Shawnee people. I celebrated her life and mourn her departure from this world as well. Even though I know she is with Jesus, I'm going to miss her dearly--we all are.

I gave the hair that was cut to locks of love so that someone else who is fighting cancer like my mom did can wear it. It's another way participating in this tradition can bless and serve another human being.

Already, people have begun asking about my "new style" so I figured this blog would be a helpful way to introduce people to this ancient tradition I participated in, and it also might explain to many why I wear my hair long in the first place.

Sometimes in our modern world we lose sight and are confused by the diversity of traditions that are out there. We have very little idea or understanding of the swirl of cultures around us. I encourage you today to take some time and learn a little bit about the beautifully intricate world and people among which we live.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Myrrh, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Yesterday was mom's funeral. You know it was so amazing to see so many of my friends come out and show support for me and my family, and to pay a tribute to mom.

My best friend in the whole world, Willie, was one of the pall bearers. Before the funeral service, he came up and gave me a bag with some small stones in it. I asked him what was in the bag, and he said it was myrrh, and that he had been wanting me to have it for a long time to be able to burn at times when I pray.

When he gave it to me I had a couple of thoughts. I took out one piece of myrrh from the bag for my dad, my brother, my sister, and myself. I explained to my family a little bit about the use of myrrh in Jesus' day.

You see, when Jesus was born, wise men from the east brought him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gold reflected Jesus's royalty--He is King of the Jews. The frankincense reflected his divinity--He is God in the flesh. The myrrh symbolized his humanity--Myrrh was used in burial preparations for those who passed away. The myrrh given to Jesus pointed to His eventual crucifixion where He conquered sin and death.

My mom is going to be cremated. I suggested to my family that we each place a piece of myrrh on her body, and it would be one last way we could annoint and honor my mom. As she is cremated the myrrh will burn and we will have honored our mom in a very special way. We each placed the myrrh on her body solemnly and reverently before her funeral service saturday afternoon.

As I thought about these special preparations, I realized that my mom was also blessed as my sister, her best friend, and my sister-in-law had a special evening with my mom the last night she was in this world. They took fragrant lotion and moisturized mom's skin with it as they shared a "girls night" with her. I don't think any of us realized what they were actually doing that night. They were preparing mom's body in a similar way to the woman who poured out the spike nard on Jesus. What they did was a good thing, and it deserves to be told again.

We're all going to miss my mom, but I'm glad that each one of us could honor her in some very ancient and special ways. She is a beautiful lady, and we have been blessed to be able to serve and honor her in beautiful ways even after she has departed from us.

May we all remember those who have gone before us, and live faithfully honoring the One who went before each of us to conquer the sting of death and give us victory and life eternal.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Off To Be With Jesus

Off To Be With Jesus, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Yesterday at 1:10PM, my mom left her body on this earth, and went to be with Jesus. My brother had spent the night in her room with her, and called the rest of us to come down because she wasn’t being real responsive.

We came down and sat with her from about 9AM on. We prayed with her and talked with her, and told her how much we will love and miss her. We shared memories with her as she lay there before us. One by one, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends gathered by my mom’s side and spoke words of love to her. She was sent off with prayers and words of love from so many people. (As I tried to recount this to you, I started weeping because it was such a beautiful experience, and I can’t fully convey to you in this brief blog exactly what was happening in my mom’s presence.)

Her room was packed. People were trailing out the hallway. She was loved by so many people. We’re all going to miss her, but we were all mixing tears of sadness with tears of joy in that room as we spoke to my mom. My mom is with Jesus right now. She doesn’t have cancer, or arthritis, or any number of other ailments that were afflicting her. She has joy unlike any we’ve ever experienced.

Watching my mom pass out of this world and into the presence of God, I am so thankful that we are a people of hope. The gospel allows us to persevere in hope for a day when there are no more tears, no more hunger, and all of the injustice in the world we see will be made right.

My mom is gone, but she has left a wonderful legacy and challenge to us as a family as we attempt to imitate her faith, hope, and love—and to tell others of the joy she, and we, have found in joyful surrender to King Jesus.

I’ve had a great deal of technical difficulty communicating with people over the last day, but I figured I might be able to use this blog as a starting point. Even as early as yesterday afternoon, I started receiving emails, txts, AIM’s, and voicemails of encouragement from many wonderful people. It has been unfortunate that I haven’t been able to respond to everyone’s encouraging words, but I am so thankful for your kindness, your prayers, and your support in this difficult time. It’s beautiful to see how the Church rallies at times like this to love and care for those in need and to bear one another’s burdens.

I know some are wondering about arrangements, and I would like to communicate that through this blog. The details of her obituary can be found by following this link and clicking on Patricia Ann Williams (that's Mom!). You can even sign an “online guestbook” through the funeral home.

I’m tremendously grateful again for the grace God has shown my family throughout my mom’s battle with cancer. As she told a fellow believer when they were both diagnosed—“No matter what happens, we win!!!” Indeed we are more than conquerors!

Thanks for continuing in support and prayers for me and my family. Please forgive me for an apparent lack of response, but I truly do appreciate your comments, emails, AIMs, txts, and voicemails. They are a blessing to both me and my entire family.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster, originally uploaded by Markku_.
I found this photo on flickr, and I believe it represents a strong similarity how we’ve been feeling back here over the last couple of days.

Well, it’s been a couple of days since I could blog about what’s happening here. I’m so grateful for the ability to keep in touch with so many people through this blog. It’s been difficult to stay connected as well as I would like with folks, but this blog certainly helps. In fact, a few folks have left some wonderful comments that have been an encouragement to me and the family.

Overall, my mom is doing amazingly well. We were prepared for her to go be with Jesus the moment we removed the chest tube. Saturday she shared one of the longest and most spiritual monologues I’ve ever heard my mom utter. She shared a vision she had experienced of heaven. We were all deeply moved to say the least. We reassured her that if she felt like going off to be with Jesus we were all going to be ok. She said that she knew it, but didn’t want us to send her off just yet. She said she wanted to stick around a while longer if that was alright. We emphatically assured her it was fine with us!

Sunday, we continued sharing stories, and laughing. I even had a couple of friends come down from Morgantown and offer prayers and counsel for the family. Saturday night, we started a rotating shift of folks staying in the room with mom. We just wanted to have constant care for her. I’ve stayed here two of the last three nights.

Nobody expected mom to respond so well. In fact, the hospital moved her into a “Transitional Care Unit” yesterday. It’s the equivalent of an in-house nursing home at the hospital site for people who are “to healthy to be in the hospital, but not quite strong enough to be at home yet.”

She started a fairly intense PT regimen today. She will be getting assistance twice a day. My brother and I started a log to keep track of medical reports/needs so as we “change shifts” we can make sure that none of her needs are overlooked by the staff here.

So what’s up with the roller coaster? I would say that over the last few days, our entire family has run through a wide spectrum of intense emotions. We still aren’t sure of mom’s status,but we get the feeling that the physicians aren’t quite sure what to make of her either. I think rotating in shifts has been helpful, but we are all pretty tired—which makes me incredibly glad to see how well mom’s doing.

In spite of our physical, emotional, and mental fatigue, we are staying close together and loving and supporting one another through every step of my mom’s journey—we have been together in this since day one. While we’ve all experienced the thrills and the twists and turns of the roller coaster, spiritually we have been sustained amazingly through all of this. Regardless of the outcome too, we are each realizing more and more, the treasure that we have in our mom, and the importance of each moment.

It’s kind of like Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We’ve all been resting and trusting in the Messiah in increasing degrees of the last few days. He truly is our strength and shield. I hope that as you read this you will also take a moment to let Jesus words soak into your mind. In the middle of life’s roller coasters, He is THE Source of stability and strength. May you know His peace in the same richness we have experienced here in our own situation.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sharing Stories

Sharing Stories, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Earlier this year, I presented a paper at the Native American Literature Symposium which was held on the Isabella Indian Reservation in Mount Pleasant, MI. The Isabella Indian Reservation is home to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan. This photo was taken in their cultural museum. This particular exhibit shows one of the ways which traditions are passed from one generation to another. It is as we gather together and listen and learn from our older people we learn and pass these stories on to future generations. It is this way among the Shawnee as well as the Chippewa, and probably true of all peoples--problem is many people don't take time to listen to the stories anymore.

That's definitely not the case with my family.

Yesterday we had several visitors in my mom's room at the hospital. She is staying in one of a handful of suites that were designed for such a purpose. Among the visitors have been my nephew and sister in law, many friends, and a number of our extended family members.

While it has been an emotional time for all of us it has also been a good time of celebration of our many memories with our mom and with each other. All through the day and night we have been sharing stories with each other and with my mom. My mom has also been sharing in special ways with each one of us.

It is truly a gift to be able to sit at my mom's feet, and at the feet of so many other godly people and continue to soak in their wisdom and life lessons. As the younger ones of our family sit at the feet of these wisdom keepers, we relish in the joy of hearing their words and learning from them. At the same time we realize the responsibility also lies with us to pass these lessons on. That has always been a part of our way of living.

Do you take time to listen to the older people in your life? Who are the teachers in your family who you need to take time to listen to? Or maybe you are that teacher--are you passing your stories on to the next generation?

I marvel at the greatest Story, and how the Great Storyteller allows each one of us to take part in a long legacy of sharing our own stories of how Jesus has walked with us. He has made his presence felt in a very intimate and sacred way to our family during these last few days. It has been beautiful, wonderful, and utterly indescribable. May you know Him in such a way as you read these words!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad Fishing, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So not only did my mom celebrate her first full day off the ventilator today, but also my dad celebrated the anniversary of his birth.

My dad is a year older today. I'm not at liberty to say his exact age, but he is definitely older than me.

Today my siblings and I spent a great deal of time thinking about how truly blessed we have been to have such wonderful parents. Mom and Dad are truly rare gems.

This evening we celebrated dad's birthday in the hospital room with mom, and it was a wonderful time. Mom was starting to get her voice back, and we all just laughed and shared stories. Tonight was the most lucid and energetic my mom has been.

It was great being together as family, and it was even better to honor my dad on his birthday. He's a personal hero of mine. His love for Jesus, his wife, and his family radiate from him all of the time. We are all very uniquely blessed to have a leader like him in our household.

If you have an opportunity, you should take time to thank God for the family leaders and mentors you have in your life. They are a precious gift from God meant to be savored and enjoyed.

Support and Family

Support and Family, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This year, I knew I would be staying in Morgantown for the summer working on getting our café ready for the fall, and developing our leaders in the community of h2o. As a result, I decided to try my hand at planting a garden.

Among the different seeds I planted were corn, beans, and squash. Among, American Indian people (at least from my own Shawnee culture but I've heard the practice is widespread), these three crops are planted together. Typically, when non-indian people think of "Indian food", they think of corn, beans, and squash.

According to tradition, there's a reason these are planted together. They are called the "three sisters" and they help each other grow. You see, the corn takes nitrogen from the soil as it grows. Beans provide nitrogen for the soil, and so they add to the nutrient base of the corn. The squash has broad leaves that spread over the ground and eliminate competition from other weeds that would try to hurt the other two sisters.

There's a lot we can learn from these three sisters. As my family has been walking through my mom's illness together, we have often relied on one another's gifts and strengths to support each other and support Mom. Yesterday, we took her off the ventilator, and it was a really scary and traumatic experience for all of us. The nurse explained to us that she may go on to be with Jesus in a matter of seconds or days.

We stayed there with her and told her how much we loved her, and that whatever she wanted to do would be fine with us. If she wanted to go be with Jesus, we were all ok with it, but we would miss her. We wept and prayed with her, and she is currently in a different room in the hospital--after nearly three weeks she is out of ICU.

Now she can have multiple visitors, and people can stay longer hours with her. We are so thankful for the grace God has given us in allowing my mom to stay with us and share time with us.

In the middle of it all, I am personally very thankful for the love and support we as a family have shown each other through it all. We have prayed, wept, and loved each other strongly through the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who indwells each one of us. We have walked through many difficult decisions together, and in the middle of it all we know that it is God who sustains and supports us and causes our growth, but it sure is beautiful to be reminded that He has given us each other to contribute in unique ways as we grow and to support one another, just like the Three Sisters.