Friday, September 28, 2007

Buckwheat Festival

Buckwheat Festival, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last night some members of my "canvas group" went to the Preston County Buckwheat Festival as a bit of a "faith venture". My dad also joined us for the the fun. I asked the folks at the fire hall if I could take a picture, and they put this together for me--after I had already eaten more than my fair share of food. But regardless, these little beauties made for a great photo.

Now I could talk about what faith ventures and canvas groups are in this entry, but I think I will save that for another occasion--and perhaps another location. But if you want to learn about buckwheat--and by this I mean something beyond the character from The Little Rascals then click here.

For now, I want to talk about the event itself. Because of the rain and overcast nature of the evening, attendance wasn't all that high last night, but there were a decent number of people out for this auspicious event.

This year is the 66th annual Preston County Buckwheat Festival, and last night was the night of the big fireman's parade. The parade celebrates and honors the fire departments of the region, and features dozens of firemen and fire trucks. Of course there is also the crowning of King Buckwheat and Queen Ceres as preliminaries to the festival.

Part of the tradition of the Buckwheat Festival is to go to the Kingwood FIre Hall, and enjoy some buckwheat cakes. For $7, you receive two sausages, endless buckwheat cakes, a carton of milk, applesauce, and bottomless cups of coffee and water. Eating at the fire hall is a real treat because you literally see people from every walk of life, and from all over the world enjoying a meal together. To me, it's a little picture of what heaven will be like.

It's also a reminder of a different way of life. In the events leading up to our arrival, I noticed myself running through my day in a hurry. From the point I work up, I was moving at high speed. I was also spending the day with my dad, and he wasn't geared to the same frenzy. While at first this was frustrating for me, it began to be liberating and eye opening. I found myself getting incredibly impatient as time ticked away. I found myself becoming easily angered.

And then, I realized that I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. While I seem to be moving through life at a relaxed pace to others, I am often frenzied in my efforts. Can you relate to the frenzy?

By the time the buckwheat festival rolled around, I had changed demeanor entirely. While tired, because it was toward the end of the day, I found myself able to simply enjoy the time I had with my dad and my friends. I also found myself able to enjoy buckwheat cakes and a parade and even a craft/livestock show.

Sometimes we can get so busy, that we fail to appreciate there is a whole world going on around us, and that is really sad. While we are trying to make a difference in the world in a "big way", every day, there are people making a difference in the world in subtle ways. Have you ever given consideration to the fact that there are people who make their living through a craft, or through the raising and sale of livestock? The idea seems a bit foreign to me, but then I remember my mom. She raised birds and dogs during most of my childhood, and she constantly made and sold crafts of various types.

Her pace of life was always very relaxed, and she didn't get bothered easily. And through the contributions she made with her skills she touched many people.

As I started writing this blog, I intended for it to be a simple celebration of buckwheat cakes and sausage with friends and family. As I close it, I realize there is so much to be said for making a unique contribution in the place where God has positioned you, and to relax and enjoy the world around you.

Of course, we live in a world with big problems that need solutions, and these just can't be ignored, but we also live in a world in which we benefit greatly from slowing down, and easing up our pace.

So, as I am asking myself this morning, I will ask you the same thing? What's your hurry? What is it that you are trying to achieve by living at frenzied pace? Are you being an instument of God's grace as you interact with others? And are you enjoying and savoring the moments before they slip away?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yom Kippur

Alone with himself, originally uploaded by ido1.
This picture was taken a year ago on the evening before yom kippur. While I didn't take the photo, I thought you might appreciate it's composition.

Last Saturday was Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement. It is considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, and it serves as a reminder to all of the final judgement of the world.

Literally it means the "day of covering, canceling, pardon, reconciling." Today Jewish people take it as a day of fasting and repentance, but during the days before Jesus came on the earth, it was an even greater ceremony. You see, it was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the name of God to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Literally, a goat was slain and it's blood was the ransom for the sins of the people. This blood atoned for the sins of the people, for that year. The life blood of the goat was given as a substitution for the life blood of the person. It was a symbolic expression of an innocent life being given for a guilty life. But then it gets even more interesting, because before killing or sending out a scapegoat (I should blog about this term sometime--pretty interesting), the sins of the people are confessed over the animal and imputed to the animal. The animal "becomes" the sin.

Yom Kippur is also believed to be the day that Moses came down from Sinai with the second set of tablets with the ten commandments.

To me this day is really special because our savior Jesus has become an even greater sacrifice than a goat. He has become sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The innocent took the iniquity and paid the price for the guilty, you and I. Jesus also served the role of the high priest, and He made the sacrifice of Himself so that we no longer have to make a sacrifice to be reconciled with God.

I could write about this festival for a long time, but instead, I want to offer a suggestion. Jesus the High Priest has offered Himself as a payment for our transgressions against God. We can have right relationship with God on the final day of judgement based on trusting Jesus.

But each year, on the day of atonement, there is a reminder for us. There is a reminder for us that the innocent paid the price for the guilty. As such, Yom Kippur provides each of us a great opportunity to examine our lives, and to practice the tradition that has taken place for thousands of years on this day. We can confess our sins and come before our righteous king in humility and repentance.

This is a little different blog for me than the usual, but I've been reading and thinking about our Jewish roots a lot lately, so I thought I would share just a bit with you.

I hope you can take time to treasure the reconciliation to God that Jesus offers you today, and to examine your life so that you better understand the extent of His payment.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Broken: Connection

Yesterday, we continued our series at h2o called broken. We have been looking at how "The Fall" resulted in a series of broken relationships that we still suffer from today. Last night we talked about how our relationships with one another were broken as a result of sin entering the world.

You may be familiar with the story of Cain and Abel, and how Cain slew his brother because he was angry with him, and resentful of Abel's favor with God. How often do we carry a grudge? Is there a person in your life that you carry resentment toward.

Jesus said that when we are angry with our brother, we commit murder in our hearts. He also told us that if we know there is an issue we've got with someone, go and make amends quickly. Even if we are about to leave an offering, reconciliation with our brother/sister takes precedence over that offering.

I don't think we view reconciliation as such a high priority though. We allow bitterness to form toward others. The picture above was taken in a country called Rwanda which is in Africa. There are two tribes of people in Rwanda, the hutu and the tutsi tribes. There was a long history of bitterness and resentment of the hutu toward the tutsi. In April 1994, the Hutu let their anger and resentment take over. In a period of days, 800,000 Tutsi were killed. This skull represents a young person who was killed with a blunt farm instrument. Women and children were slaughtered in the streets, in homes, and even in churches. There was no safe place from the bitterness and resentment from their fellow citizens. Indeed, our connection with one another was severely devastated, and this shattering of our relationship with one another continues to be seen in our world.

And while most of us could read this blog and tell ourselves that we would never murder someone, perhaps we end up doing something nearly as devastating. We live in superficiality. Rather than pursuing rich relationships and friendships with those around us, we find ourselves holding grudges, and keeping our relationships with others on a superficial level We want to avoid conflict, and so we hide ourselves away from it. When someone hurts us or offends us, we keep quiet, and we keep that friendship superficial. We begin to build walls around us, and even separate ourselves from our neighbors with stockade fences and gated communities.

In the end we don't murder others, we leave ourselves isolated and alone. And yet Jesus tells us to be reconciled. To forgive as we have been forgiven. The Cross has put to death the enmity between us and God. It has restored us to a better understanding of our God given identity. And it has put to death the enmity that exists between us and others.

Maybe there is someone you need to be reconciled with. Jesus tells us to do it quickly. So maybe you need to talk to that friend or that neighbor or that relative or whoever it is, and work to make things right between you and them. You know, if you don't like someone, and you end up spending eternity with them, that might be pretty awkward.

Rob Bell, a pastor and author, said it this way, "When I respect the image of God in others, I protect the image of God in me." When we move toward reconciliation with others, we honor Jesus, and we become more like Him, and we treat others with the God given dignity they deserve. Go and be reconciled with that person you are holding a grudge over. Stop being superficial and stop committing murder in your heart!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saturday Afternoon Campus

Saturday Afternoon Campus, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last Saturday afternoon, after working a bit downtown, I walked through the campus and snapped this picture. If you are from Morgantown there should be something that strikes you as odd in this photo.

Maybe it is the intense blue skies that strike you as odd, or maybe it is the lack of traffic. It was a beautiful cool late summer afternoon. What strikes me as odd is the lack of people.

It is a very rare occasion indeed that one sees this section of University Avenue completely devoid of people--especially during the semester. But WVU played football on a Thursday night, so people weren't traveling to see a game. No classes were in session, and it was a really quiet afternoon.

Anyone familiar with Morgantown knows that this section of campus is typically so full of pedestrians that cars get backed up as they crawl through campus. Yet there are no pedestrians (other than me), and there are no cars. It's a quiet Saturday afternoon.

It's almost as if the city was enjoying a sabbath. People were resting. Many students probably traveled home for the weekend. But it really struck me that there was no activity.

And what about us? Do we take time to "cease striving" in our weeks to know God? I've been feeling worn down a lot lately personally. When I see an image like this, it reminds me that we are to enjoy Christ in a Sabbath rest of sorts. My friend Jerry Haynes stopped by last night,and talked to one of our "canvas groups" here in morgantown about sabbath and the feast of tabernacles. Both festivals are reminders that we are not slaves to production but that we are beloved who are cared for by the living God. They remind us to take time to saturate ourselves in His life giving word, and in His goodness.

So, if a college campus can take time to be renewed on a saturday afternoon, can we? Are we willing to carve time out of our endless agendas to be refreshed, renewed, and restored?

Just a little something to think about as our most likely opportunity for refreshment approaches--the weekend. I hope you can experience renewal as you enter into both the Autumn and the weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
My brother forwarded me this picture along with several others in recent email.

I don't know if you have heard of Nick Vujicic, but he's got a pretty amazing story. You see, he was born with no arms or legs, and no one is sure why. No one, that is except for Nick and God.

You see Nick sees this as an opportunity. An opportunity to talk to people about the goodness of God. You see Nick wrestled during his youth with self esteem, loneliness, and being bullied. He even contemplated ending his life. Now Nick sees his life and experiences as a means to inspiring others to accomplish their hopes and dreams and to live to their fullest potential.

He had read a verse in the Bible that radically impacted his life, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."

Now Nick has an accounting degree, and he shares his story with students, churches, and even major corporations.

If you want to read more about Nick and his story, click here.

But in the meantime, think about your life, and the opportunities that have been presented to you. Do you count it all joy when you suffer from a trial? Do you dream big, or are you satisfied with mediocrity? When I think about Nick and his story, I can't help but reflect upon my own self-absorption and that of most of the people I know.

As Ravi Zacharias once quipped, "To be handcuffed by a lie is the worst of all imprisonments."

I hope that today's blog helps you to reflect and to let go of any lie that might have crept into your head about the Creator. He is good, and we can trust Him with everything.

Nick says that John 9 had a tremendous impact on his life. It starts with this story. "As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him,"Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

So maybe you are going through some tough times. Maybe things didn't work out in life according to your plans. But maybe, just maybe, God wants to display His grace to the world through your response to your circumstances.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Soup's On

Soup's On, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Well, most of my blogs in recent days have been a little more serious in tone. Amid the grieving and brokenness in our world we have little rays of sunshine that offer some respite.

For me, a little ray of sunshine happened to me last Thursday afternoon in DC. As I was walking around the city, I saw a sign for a farmer's market in downtown DC. I was a little shocked and amazed to see a farmer's market right in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. Downtown DC isn't known for small grocers--it's known for being a world center for politics. It's also a space filled with huge government buildings and museums. So when a saw a sign saying that today was the day for the farmer's market, I had to check it out.

While the farmers market was cool, it made me really proud of the quality Morgantown farmer's market--if you live in Morgantown, you definitely should consider buying some of your groceries here. And wherever you are, you should consider supporting your local farmer's market. Here's a site that lists some reasons why you should buy locally grown food. Check it out!

So my original intent wasn't to tell you why you should buy locally, but to share a little ray of sunshine in the nation's capital. Of course, farmer's markets can be little rays of sunshine. But read the bottom of the Quail Creek Farms sign in the photo.

"WVU Rules!" Now that's definitely a ray of sunshine for a forlorn traveler from the West Virginia Hills wandering around the nation's capital.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Broken-Man, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
My best friend on the planet, Wilie, took this photo of me in June about a week after my mom's funeral. That's when he first shared the song he wrote in honor of my mom as well. If you haven't heard it/watched the video, I hope you are blessed by it as you watch.

I thought I would try to dedicate at least one blog each week to the messages we are giving at h2o, the campus faith community of our local church. We have been exploring a myriad of broken relationships that have occured as a result of the fall. You can actually listen to the podcast of the message on "H2O Morgantown Live" if you have itunes installed on your computer. Otherwise, you can just click this link and check out the most recent podcast on this site.

This week, we talked about the brokenness of humanity that has happened as a result of the Fall. You see, before the fall, human beings had an understanding that they were made in the image of God, and it is in Him, from Him, by Him, and through Him that we are meant to have our identity.

It's kind of like as a result of the Fall, we have been separated from who we really are. So because we are unsure of who we are, we walk through this brokenness clutching onto anything and everything to give us a sense of identity. It's like men and women all over are grabbing hold of area's of life not so much for a pure enjoyment, but to meet this longing to know ourselves and feel secure.

And so we go out into the world in which we live wrestling through our brokenness and trying to really discover our identity and purpose.

Often, we find our identity in the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the people we hang out with, how much alcohol we can consume, how many places we've visited, and even where we work or how hard we work.

We weren't meant to find our identity in these ways. In the end our identity comes from knowing that we were made for an intimate relationship with our Creator, and that as we honor Him with our lives, we discover healing for the brokenness that exists within each of us.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Remembering Mom

Remembering Mom, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Today is my mom's birthday. I started thinking about it a bit yesterday. I went to Washington DC to connect with a few old friends and to see WVU play Maryland.

It was kind of a weird experience for me. I took the metro into DC to meet up with a couple of friends, and I got there around 4PM. The last time I was in DC, I went to the Georgetown/WVU basketball game with some friends. As I got off the metro and emerged from the station, I started walking.

I realized as I walked that the last time I was in DC, it was around the same time of day, and in the same place. I remember calling my mom while I was there then. My dad was out walking, and she had ridden her exercise bike like 2 miles that day. We laughed and joked and celebrated her victory in the world of exercise. Times were a lot different.

Yesterday, I felt a sweeping sadness as I walked on the same sidewalks, and thought, "I really want to talk to my mom." There was a farmer's market in the city, and I thought, "I could get her some flowers for a birthday present, but . . ."

So today, I've been kind of sad, I just miss her. Yesterday, my brother and I talked briefly about Mom and he said something so beautiful I want to share it with you. He said that Mom was a little bigger than the average person, and we were often concerned about that being a potential health problem. But then he said that she probably had to have a bigger body because her heart was so HUGE, and that was the only way to contain it.

I think that's the thing I miss most of all. My mom's big heart. I miss the example of Christ she was in so many people's lives, including my own. As I write this, tears are streaming down my face.

When walked around DC, it seemed like there wasn't enough time available for me to thoroughly process all of the emotion I was feeling, but writing this blog has been a start.

In the end, I know she is much better off. She is eternally in the fullness of the presence of King Jesus. Cancer can no longer weaken her huge heart, and she is even more radiantly beautiful than she ever was as i knew her.

I'm thankful for the example she has given me, my friends, and family to follow in loving people. May our hearts, though in different bodies, imitate her Christlike love for people as a way of honoring her and our gracious loving God in whose presence she now lives.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recapture the Wonder

Recapture the Wonder, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This past monday, I captured this beautiful cluster of butterflies dancing along the bank of the Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River, just outside where my family's cabin lies.

Seeing these butterflies in this picture reminded me of a story my old chief used to tell about how easy it is to lose wonder in our contemporary world. I would like to share a little bit of the story with you. It goes a little something like this . . .

Do you remember the first time you saw a butterfly? Maybe you were four or five years old. Maybe you uttered a word like "Wow!" more as a gasp or a whisper than an exclamation. Or maybe you just stood there with a big wide open look of awe at something so delicate and so beautiful. You didn't necessarily have a question to ask about what you saw, you were simply struck with amazement at it's simple beauty.

And then someone tells you, "That's a butterfly." When you hear it, you respond with "Wow! Butterfly!" You name it. And it still fills your heart with wonder.

And then, something changes as you get older. You lose the awe. You begin to discover that the butterfly is a monarch butterfly, or another type. (Like this one--I have no idea what it is? Maybe a Spicebush Swallowtail?) We get caught up in facts.

We learn that the butterfly is really just a phase in the metamorphic life of a caterpillar. Instead of being caught up in the awe of it all, we get bogged down in the facts. The irony is that these details should inspire us to greater awe, but often we get more caught up in the fact that we "know" what it is we are looking at.

After we go through all of this classification and learn the details, we end up at a place where we often say--that's just a butterfly. We lose the wonder of it all.

But what if we were to take time out and appreciate it? What if we could take a step back and enjoy the butterfly for its beaut? What if as adults, we took time to look at a butterfly with the eyes of a child? What if we allowed the physical world to bring us to a place of awe before our great Creator?

Do something today. Take a step outside. Look at a tree. Or a butterfly. Don't classify it. Just enjoy and appreciate the design and the beauty of what is before you. Take a moment and let yourself be awed. Let it bring you to a place not only in awe of what dances before your eyes, but let it take you to a place of greater wonder of our fantastically creative God.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Broken Trust

Broken-God, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this picture the last time I was in Amsterdam. This sculpture is inside one of the most beautiful churches I've ever entered. It's called Niewe Kerk I believe. (Any of my dutch friends can help me here!)

This past week we started a new series at h2o called broken. In the series, we are looking at the story of the fall, and how as a result of this event, we experience an abundance of broken relationships in the good earth that God has made.

This past week we talked about Adam and Eve and the eating of the fruit. Have you ever thought about the fact that it wasn't just about the original sin. I heard someone refer to this as the original intent to sin as well. Much of the time, when we choose to sin, it doesn't take us by surprise. We think on it. We reflect on it. Then we do it.

In the fall, it wasn't just about eating a particular fruit either. The act of eating the fruit, was the initiation of a broken relationship, a betrayed trust if you will. Adam and Eve had a relationship with God, and they betrayed that relationship in a clear act of rebellion. And now, it's like that predisposition to betray and to rebel is caught up in our DNA. All of it stemming from a deceptive belief that God in Himself isn't trustworthy or He doesn't have our best interest at heart.

When you think about the fall as a betrayal of trust. You see things differently. Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Have you ever had someone cut you deeply by doing the very thing you asked them not to do? Have you ever had someone betray your relationship by intentionally going and performing an act of betrayal? According to statistics, 60% of marriages experience this kind of betrayal.

And in the middle of this world of broken trust, God has performed the ultimate act of reconciliation. He has given His son and allowed Him to be broken, so our broken lives and broken relationship with Him might be healed. That's amazing love.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mountaineer Football 2007

Mountaineer Football 2007, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Well, this past weekend I spent one hot Saturday afternoon sitting in the sun and enjoying Mountaineer football with my good friend Matt Thorn. He and I are veteran fans, and it was really cool to kick back and enjoy the game while sitting in the sparsely populated (at least by them) Western Michigan section. Matt is going to law school in Michigan, and he drove over to WMU to pick up some tickets for himself and a few friends (including me) from their ticket office.

This fall's game marked the first time since my undergraduate days that I have made it into the stadium before gametime. During grad school, I would hang out with friends from Mylan and other places before the game only to come to a massive conglomeration of students waiting to get into the stadium. Sometimes it would take as long as twenty minutes to get in through the student gate--but it was always worth it.

If you aren't familiar with WVU football, or "the pride of WV" (the WVU marching band), that's them in the shape of our great state on the field.

It's funny because as I grow older, I enjoy different aspects of game day. I used to solely be about the game and getting as loud and as rowdy as possible. And while I'm still loud and totally enjoying the talent displayed on the field, I find myself enjoying game days for different reasons now.

Gameday brings people together. As I walk through the tailgates and the stadium, every game I run into dozens of people whose path I would not cross otherwise. Every game, I find myself catching up with old friends and making new ones. Every game becomes a celebration of this state, of family, of friendship, and of community.

While some of my fellow fans get a bit excessive in their celebration, there is something to be said for the fact that for a few hours on a saturday a mass of people gathers to participate in something larger than any one tailgate or touchdown run. There's something deeply spiritual going on, and for the most part we are oblivious to it, but just the same it is undeniable.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Bicycles, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this picture a couple of years ago while on a short term mission trip in Amsterdam. I am fascinated by the fact that the dutch have such a developed transit system that includes bikes. There are 900,000 people who live in Amsterdam, and about 500,000 bicycles. My friend Jeremiah sent me this article that was recently featured on the site.

And maybe the trend is changing here in Morgantown. Sunday I was approached by two friends who offered me an opportunity to go on a bike ride with them. It is such a healthy form of transportation. Cycling is ecologically sound, and it is a great form of exercise.

The challenge is time. We are in a constant rush. This past monday, I rode my bicycle out to a friends house for a little gathering we had for our faith community here in Morgantown. The total distance was about 22 miles, and it was mostly uphill.

Being that I haven't really been able to ride either of my bikes most of this year, this probably wasn't the wisest decision. I was extremely exhausted, sweaty, and late when I arrived in Preston County. But, i realized that if I were in better physical shape, the ride would be more doable.

There are some limits to cycling in Morgantown though. Travel out to my church offers one challenge. While the multiple mile downhill to the church would be a blast, the trip back would not be much fun at all.

A few of my friends are actually riding 150 miles in a race to raise funds for multiple sclerosis this weekend in the southern part of the state.

What if more people started taking to the bicycling trend of amsterdam. What if more people in your town started taking a bicycle to the store for groceries, or to run errands around town. What if we rode our bicycles to visit our friends, or to do in town travel. Sure it might be a little slower than travel by car (depending on the distance and the traffic), but think what an impact it could make.

I think our top challenge is time. We are in a hurry, and cycling requires us to slow down a little bit. Some of us just aren't in physical condition to ride a bike or walk instead of taking a car--but most of us are. Will you consider beginning a healthy change today?

Slow down, ride a bike, practice good stewardship, and enjoy the good earth God has given us.