Friday, January 25, 2008

Into the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

It seems like everywhere we go, people are in a hurry. I took this photo Tuesday afternoon in Chicago’s O-Hare Airport. It struck me because not only are people in a hurry, these folks are trusting in moving sidewalks to get them from point A to point B even faster. There were literally thousands of people in this airport as I scurried from one gate to the other to continue my journey. I was in a hurry too—my flight had just been changed and I had to proceed from one end of the airport to make my flight.

So why was I in this hurried crowd in the airport? On Tuesday, I flew traveled from Morgantown to Pittsburgh to Chicago and then to Los Angeles to make final preparations for a wilderness retreat I am doing with a handful of staff from around the country who are involved with GCM.

The goal of the program is to for staff to experience a period, of solitude, silence, simplicity, fasting, and prayer in order to connect freshly with God. Once I enter the desert I will set up a camp and will not see or hear any other staff until it is time for me to leave next week. The director of the program has said that people either spend an extended time in the presence of God or go through an intense struggle as they realize their own inner emptiness. Most people experience a combination of both. What a time of clarity and direction—no wonder Jesus went to the desert before starting his ministry on earth!

Of course this means I probably won’t be answering my cell phone, or responding to emails, or blogging for that matter, but I plan to return to blogging when I re-enter society. So, while I won’t be able to blog for a while, don’t lose hope—I’ll be back in a week or so. In the meantime, I’ll tell you something you can do. You can pray for me as I venture out into the wilderness. This morning I was reading in the gospels about how Jesus, when he began his ministry, went out into the desert for 40 days to fast. I’m not Jesus, and I’m not going for forty days. But just the same, I have a feeling that there are spiritual forces that would love more than anything to distract me from connecting with the Creator of the universe. With that in mind, pray for my health and safety as well as for my time with God. I want to tear away any distraction in my life to hear Him clearly.

I think this will be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. It is with awe and trepidation that I make my final preparations, and it is with an expectant and humble heart I enter the wilderness.

Only God knows what lies ahead . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Leadership and Calling

Leadership and Calling, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

That’s one of my good friends in the picture. His name is Adam Zakowski, and when I took this photo he had walked out about 100 ft on a frozen lake. He was one of 25 people who spent Monday in Deep Creek seeking to clarify what God wanted to do through him in life.

Sunday night and Monday, we had a leadership retreat for h2o, the next generation ministry of Chestnut Ridge Church. The focus of the retreat was developing your Chazown or your personal calling and vision.

My friend Chris Backert shared this quote with me a few years ago, and it really stirred our lives back then as it does now. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Some people hear a quote like that and they are bothered. Shouldn’t one say that everything rises and falls on prayer? Or everything rises and falls on scripture?

Chris, in our conversations, pointed out this scripture. Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever Hebrews 13.8-9

If you look at biblical history, or any general history, you will see over and over that nations and organizations have done well or failed as a result of their leadership. For instance, read the stories of the kings of Israel. When Israel had a good king the nation did well. When Israel had a bad king, things weren’t so great for the people.

So 25 people left Morgantown on the coldest night of the year to stay the night in an even colder Deep Creek Lake, MD. It was 2 degrees F, when we left Morgantown at 9PM—It was significantly colder as night progressed in Maryland.

But these folks came out to make steps to look at their life, and seek to understand what is was they were made for. How were they called to lead out of their calling in h2o, in their career, and in their world? Everyone is going somewhere in life, but very few people are going on purpose. It’s funny because it seems like “What on earth am I supposed to do with my life”? would be the question that we spent a significant amount of time searching out the answer to. But many of our lives reflect the truth that we simply go from day to day with a vague understanding that we have very little idea of what we were made to do.

The retreat was divided into three parts. People started by looking at Where they were, then proceeded to where they want to be, and how they plan to get there. To me, it was one of the most refreshing things I have been part of in quite some time. Being with these leaders, and listening to them share the story of what God has done in their lives was touching. And then to hear them work through the wounds and victories of their past to see clearly how God had been with them every step of the way was inspiring! Now these folks are looking at how God has shaped them and they are beginning to make steps toward passionately pursuing the vision God has for them!

What about you? I pray that today finds you living out your calling in a way that enriches your life and makes the world in which we all live a better place.

MLK 2008

I've been unable to blog for a few days, but I have had much to share. Last Sunday, we talked about One Day during h2o, and I mentioned a few different leaders who made daily commitments to give their lives to things that would carry on after they died. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those people.

The video above is a recording of the last public speaking he did on this planet. What powerful words! He had no fear because he had been in the presence of God Almighty--he wasn't a man who was letting his circumstances or what was the norm define him, because he knew there was more than this life, but he was committed to changing the world during this life as a sign of what was to come. He was committed because he knew his God was greater than any persecution he would come up against.

And the persecution was great. It's hard for those of us born after his assassination to imagine that there was a time when people of different ethnicities weren't allowed to share the same resources. It's hard to believe that 50 years ago, black people were compelled to drink from different water fountains than white people. It's hard to believe that people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds were treated as second class citizens (or worse), and that this bigotry was not only accepted--it was considered good and right and normal.

As I went into a meeting yesterday at my nephew's school, I started thinking about MLK. My nephew's school has a definite mix of people. He's among the few American Indians in attendance, but there were people of a variety of ethnic groups represented as I went to this meeting. 50 years ago, not only would this be abnormal, but it also probably wouldn't have happened.

Because Martin Luther King was committed to taking risks, to reflecting, and to giving his life to things that will go on after he dies, we have seen a massive change in America.

As you finish your MLK week, take note of your world--where does God want you to step out in faith and make a difference? Have you been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land? Maybe it's "business as usual" for you because you have forgotten Who is on your side . . .

Take some time today to reflect, to pray, and to act.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

168-One Day

168-One Day, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This week at h2o, we continued our series, 168, we looked at the number not just as the number of hours in a week, but the number of hours in a day. Each day we spend about 16 hours awake and 8 hours sleeping.

As one breaks down the routine of the day (again taking averages), one comes to the conclusion that our days are extremely busy. If you work full time, you will work about 9 hours each day. I you eat, you take about 2 hours of your day for your meal times. That leaves 5 hours a day to work with. But then the average person can eat up an hour with showering, picking out what to wear, and taking care of hygiene stuff. (Especially in a fashion conscious society like ours.

Then the average american watches about two hours a night of TV. So that brings us to two hours of time. After that, we have IM, myspace, and facebook to consider along with exercise. If you factor in 15-30 minutes for surfing the web, and 30-45 minutes for exercise, that brings us down to one hour/day.

During that time we can squeeze in time with scripture, hanging with friends and family, involvement in a Bible study, and working toward world peace.

At the end of our day, we have very little time. So it's important how we use it.

My friend JR Woodward shared a redemptive concept with me a few years ago in an article he wrote. He had read about a group of people in their 80s and 90s and they were asked if they had their whole life to live again, what would they do differently.

Overwhelmingly, they said three things. They would . . .
Risk More
Reflect More
Give their lives to things that will go on after they die

That article had a significant impact on my life. As a result of it, I am more conscious of the decisions I make, and I am not afraid to take risks. As a result, I also carve out time each day to reflect on what God has done in my life and the lives of those around me. And finally, I am reminded daily that I want to be giving my life to things that will go on after I die.

As you read this, I want you to consider (1) healthy risks that God might be leading you toward, (2) places in your day in which you could slow down, and (3) what are you giving your life to? There are things that matter, and there are things that in the grand scheme don't at all. In the words of Maximus from the movie "Gladiator," What we do in life echoes in eternity. What will be echoing through your eternity?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Way of the Heart Part 3

“Very few ministers will deny that prayer is important. They will not even deny that prayer is the most important dimension of their lives. But the fact is that most ministers pray very little or not at all. They realize that they should not forget to pray, that they should take time to pray, and that prayer should be a priority in their lives. But all these “shoulds” do not have the power to carry them over the enormous obstacle of their activism. There is always one more phone call, one more letter, one more visit, one more meeting, one more book, and one more party. Together these form an insurmountable pile of activities.

This starts the section of Nouwen’s third part to his book, The Way of the Heart. It seems like prayer, although it is one of the most important and unique aspects to the life of faith is also often quite readily neglected. Even in my own life, it is so easy to get caught up in a flurry of activity, that I neglect speaking and listening to God through the habit of prayer. Nouwen says it this way, “The temptation is to go mad with those who are mad and to go around yelling and screaming, telling everyone where to go, what to do, and how to behave.” That is not a life of prayer though.

In Nouwen’s book, he reminds the reader of the importance of prayer above all things. It is through prayer that we are able to discern what other parts of our life are truly born out of true servitude and what parts are born out of a need to stroke our own egos.

C.S. Lewis calls prayer “the irksome discipline.” We often attach it to various parts of our day, but I believe often it can become just a formality before a meal or at some other time. Nouwen reminds us, “Our compulsive, wordy, and mind-oriented world has a firm grip on us, and we need a very strong and persistent discipline not to be squeezed to death by it.”

I think we value being productive so much that prayer doesn’t reap the kind of instant results that we like to see, and have grown so accustomed to. I mean, I was just driving by the hospital in Morgantown last night, and I was amazed at the fact there are multiple new buildings going up that really just got started in the summer—these buildings are HUGE!!! We can be so productive and see the fruit of our labors almost immediately, so we avoid the real work of faith—prayer.

I was just thinking as I wrote this, that sometimes God manifests Himself instantly when we pray. But many other times, it is like starting a garden. We till the soil of our heart with the word of God and then plant a tiny seed of prayer. God takes that tiny seed, and something beautiful and life-sustaining emerges from it. The challenge is that sometimes God lets that seed germinate over several days or weeks. And sometimes, for whatever reason, God in His sovereign wisdom sees that the best response to the planting of a seed is to let it change and become a tool for other seeds to grow—to fertilize the ground.

I’m always challenged when I read any book or essay on prayer because I realize the extreme challenge it gives me to nourish and strengthen this aspect of my life. After all, Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.” Nouwen’s book reminds the reader that as one grows in the prayer of the heart, that prayer becomes a form of rest in God which we remain in constantly.

As you go through your day today, ask yourself. What is my prayer life like? Does it have much life at all? Is it a smattering of knee-jerk reactions to circumstances or is a way of abiding in the gentle yoke and easy burden of Jesus. Do my prayers become manifest in the way I live? Do I really seek “His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” I hope as you read this note you join me in reflection, in growth, and in gently and patiently planting seeds of prayer in well tilled soil of the heart.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

168: One Life

One Life, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
While I was in North Carolina at the Faithwalkers Conference, i took this photo of a cross that also served as multiple cell phone antenna's function and form at their best.

I thought it was an appropriate image to correspond to the first blog of our new series at h2o 168. The first message is One Life. The series started as a thought about what we do with our time. We have 168 hours every week to use to glorify God or to focus our energies on something else. The average lifespan of a human being on the earth is about 68 years, so we thought that the first week it might be good to talk in a broad sense about our life and what each of us is living for as a priority.

Psalm 90.12 says, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." In that spirit, we began our series by examining how many days we have in this life.

We have one life to live. If we live to age 68, the average person will spend one third of that life sleeping. (approximately 23 years). That's if they get 8 hours of sleep a day during their 24,820 days.

The remainder, approximately 45 years of our life are what we spend eating, drinking, watching tv, going to school, going to work, and spending time with friends and family among other things.

But the goal of all of this time, all 24,820 days, is to learn how to make God the number one priority. So that He informs our leisure, our study, our work, and our conversation. In essence, so that we live all of life for His glory.

One of the best first steps to seeing that become a reality is to make time with God a priority. When our days become crowded, our time in scripture and in prayer seem to take the hit before anything else. So the first step is to change our priorities and make time with God number one.

We can do that by spending time in His Word as well as in prayer.

In the words of the missionary Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." When God is the priority, everything else in our life falls into it's proper place.

As 2008 gets under way, I want to encourage you to make that your goal for 2008--begin the transformation. You only have one life, and, if you are fortunate, you might have 68 years. Make them count for Christ.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Way of the Heart Part 2

Silence, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's been a while since I posted an entry on one of the books I've been reading lately. (Actually there are quite a few different books I have read, or been chewing through lately, so they may become a frequent topic for this blog.) Dutch author Henri Nouwen's book, The Way of the Heart is a book I've been reading with a group of friends in the faith in preparation for a wilderness retreat.

The book is primarily an exploration of three spiritual disciplines--solitude, silence and prayer. Before Christmas, I blogged about solitude and ironically I have had little opportunity in recent weeks to practice solitude.

As I continued reading through the section on silence, I was impacted by the following quote.

"Wherever we go we are surrounded by words: words softly whispered, loudly proclaimed, or angrily screamed; words spoken, recited or sung; words on records [or cds, or mp3s], in books, on walls , or in the sky; words in many sounds, many colors, or many forms; words to be heard, read seen, or glanced at; words which flicker off and on, move slowly, dance, jump, or wiggle. Words, words, words! They form the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of our existence."

Of course as you are reading this, I realize that I am adding to your word count for the day. ;) But sometimes, I think we are simply bombarded with words all hours of the day, and we don't have any filters for them. Or we begin to filter and ignore most all of them. Perhaps that's why we need periods of silence and stillness.

Beyond all of the shock of words, what about noise in general? I know soooo many people who must have background noise happening around them all of the time. Whether it's an ipod, or a television set, it seems like we are always looking for noise and running from silence.

Consider this quote Nouwen offers as well Keep in mind this book was written in 1981. This is before most people had more than 13 channels on their TV, personal computers weren't even known of, and the walkman, hadn't come into existence. And yet people craved noise. It's nothing new--only the methods have changed.

"One of our main problems is that in this chatty society, silence has become a fearful thing. For most people, silence creates itchiness and nervousness. Many experience silence not as full and rich, but as empty and hollow. For them silence is like a gaping abyss which can swallow them up. As soon as the minister says during a worship service, "Let us be silent for a few moments," people tend to become restless and pre-occupied with only one thought: "When will this be over?" Imposed silence often creates hostility and resentment."

I know in my own experience, I've felt this anxiety. Even when leading others through an exercise in silence, I feel the tension that the silence brings about. How I long for it to be over. How I long for noise to return. I think part of the reason we fear silence is that there is no creaturely comfort there. All that is left is God, and the question in our mind about whether or not we can be satisfied with Him. Often to our detriment we find ourselves running to anything and everything else. Our minds race with to do lists. Silence makes us feel unproductive. We feel like nothing is happening, but in reality, there is probably more happening in our hearts, minds, and lives during silence than during any other time.

I encourage you to take some time to turn off all of the noise. Don't go running around accomplishing tasks. Amid the silence, maybe, just maybe God will be able to speak to you freshly, and you will hear Him because you are undistracted by all of the other words and sounds that fill our lives.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reflections on 2007 Part IV (Fall)

Well this is my last installment of reflections on my previous year. It's pretty unreal to me just how much happens in our life in one year, or one day for that matter. Much of the time I think we are fairly unaware, but perhaps this year will be different. Perhaps today will be different.

My fall seemed to be one defined by taking time to reflect. Sozo, the coffee shop, was up and running, and we had a tremendous fall at h2o. But amid all of the busy-ness, I found myself focusing on taking time to reflect during the day. In the summer, I felt like I really didn't find too many spaces for Sabbath to my shame. So I made sure to carve out time for family, and for myself. (Including a short vacation in California).

Fall always brings a myriad of festivals to West Virginia, and so the fall kicked off for me withThe Preston County Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood, WV and the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins, WV.

And then, the most significant event of the fall occurred in the wilderness of West Virginia. Jacob Allen, an eighteen year old autistic boy, and a member of Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown was lost for four days in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. Several hundred people joined in the search, and thankfully he was found! I believe God used Jacob to expand people's faith and sense of community here, and all over the country. I know my life won't be the same as a result of all that happened in the wilderness that week.

In other news, our entertainment life has suffered as a result of the Writers Guild Strike in Hollywood.

I think that more than any other time of year, I was able to see how little gestures go a long way. From my connecting with lenny in los angeles, to my simple step of riding a bus as an act of stewardship on a snowy day, to spending time in a nursing home I saw the large effects of seemingly small decisions and commitments.

As you and I journey through 2008, there will be tons of "little" decisions that will have an impact for the either the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of self. May you and I take small steps every day that lead to large impacts for the sake of the gospel of the Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reflections on 2007 Part III (Summer)

Well, as I continue my reflections on 2007, i'm still just amazed at all that happened in my life. You know, I think it is really easy to miss out on the profundity of the moment. I read a book a few years back in which one quote remarked, "There are no ordinary moments." If there is anything I have learned from blogging about my life (among other subjects), its that life is anything but "normal" and routine.

Even supposedly "routine" aspects of our life teach and shape our lives in profound ways. As the squash began to blossom this summer in my first ever garden, I began to learn new insights about my ancestors that I could pass on to future generations of my tribe. I also learned about the ability that a small seed has to feed many people. What an amazing gift from God!

And then, a month after losing my mom, my sister calls to give me some challenging news. Thankfully her situation resolved itself quickly, but again--no ordinary moments in life.

We began to spend time at the family cabin this summer too. I think it's going to be a place that will bring back good memories of mom, and hopefully we as a family will be able to create some great memories there as well. Like the time I I almost ran out of gas with friends, or the time my dad and I journeyed up seneca, or even the time my brother and nephew were in, and the whole family traveled to the cabin and to seneca.

But my whole summer wasn't spent on a mountaintop (literally or figuratively). It was a time of starting some new ventures though. Much of the summer was spent getting a coffeeshop ready to open in the heart of morgantown. And this summer, I started dedicating one blog entry per week to the subject of the message given at h2o.

Were there new commitments you made in 2007 that have now become routine? Now's a great time to reflect on changes made during the year, and once again remember as you reflect--there are no ordinary moments!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reflections on 2007 Part 2 (Spring)

As I started reflecting on the last year, I realized--there were a ton of things going on in my life in 2007. I don't know about you, but sometimes even the complexity of life can seem so routine that I can run through days and weeks and feel little sense of accomplishment. Or perhaps my days (and yours) are so chock full of busy-ness that we don't fully grasp all that is going on in our world--inside and out..

Or maybe big goals are accomplished after a long grind, and life has so many challenges we fail to celebrate major successes. For instance, back in May, when I graduated with my Master's degree in English as the culmination of 5 years of study, it really didn't register with me because I was alone and didn't really celebrate. A few friends attempted to brighten my day by taking me out to dinner, but my mom was in the hospital. What I remember most about that day was how deeply alone I felt amid all of the families celebrating while my mom was fighting for every breath. My solace that day was having my mom tell me "Every day you make me proud," as I left her hospital room telling her I'd try to make her proud walking across the stage at graduation. She really wanted to be there , but she really needed to be in the hospital.

On top of graduation, I also was captain of a team in the Wood County Relay for Life. My dad, one of my best friends, Dan Van Valey, and I made a front page appearance in the parkersburg newspaper. We were so hopeful that my mom would be out of the hospital. She spent much of the week on a ventilator, and I think she came off it on Thursday. We were thrilled to say the least! And our team of 20 people raised over $1000 dollars in a very short time as a handful of us walked through much of the night.

And then after a tumultuous 3+ weeks in the hospital, went home to be with Jesus. I miss her dearly, as I'm sure everyone whose life she touched misses her. She was a beautiful human being who led a beautiful life on this earth. These last few months have been really strange without her presence here. My best friend in the whole world, Willie, wrote a song for my mom. If you never met my mom, suffice it to say, she was the kind of person people write songs about. I miss her!

It seems like every season has a mixture of joys and challenges. As I reflect back on this time, I can't help but see how Christ was walking with me in all of the pain and all of the rejoicing. He sustains me and gives me direction when times are tough. He also reminds me that as long as I have breath, I am to seek first His kingdom in all that I do.

Was 2007 defined by challenges or triumphs for you? Whose Kingdom are you seeking with your life? In the middle of the challenges and the triumphs I am tremendously thankful that he has given me a community of friends and family who love me and support me in every situation. Last Spring brought that truth out to me in the form of txts, emails, voicemails, and visits from people who gave Jesus hands and feet in the middle of my world.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Reflections on 2007 Part 1 (Winter)

Reflections on 2007, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I remember reading several years ago that people would reflect more if they had an opportunity to live their life over again. In that spirit, I wanted to make an attempt to reflect on a few of the things God has done over the last year. Many of the things I blogged about, and being able to look over some of those blog entries and images really stirred me to see the massive amount of trials and triumphs I have been part of in 2007. Now some things didn't make it into the blog, like the opening of our coffee shop, sozo and the start of a monthly mixer for college students and young professionals at Chestnut Ridge Church. As I began to piece together this blog entry, I realized it might be better to break it into four parts and walk through the seasons, so this entry represents a few highlights from the first three months of 2007.

I leapt into the new year with a visit from my best friend in the whole world, Willie, and a list of lofty goals from fitness to faith, and I actually achieved a few along the way (including running 100 miles in the month of January).
I tried to be a little more environmentally responsible and started recycling and making some changes around the house (including changing light bulbs) in order to work toward better stewardship of God's good earth.

In Winter, Waterboyz mania swept Morgantown and the world.

My family also purchased a cabin near Elkins, WV. It has become a place of retreat and refreshment for everyone in the family.

I also had an opportunity to speak at the Native American Literature Symposium and represent my tribe, and the university as I presented a paper I wrote.

That wraps up a few highlights from Winter 2007 for me. What was going on in your life last winter? What changes did you make and what habits did you start with the new year? I would love to hear, and I want to encourage you as you finish reading this to take time to reflect. I'll continue in the future with reflections from Spring, Summer and Fall 2007. Also, if you decide to visit the links I have included, I would love to hear your thoughts on my most memorable or impactful blog entry from this past winter.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Nashville at New Years

Me and Mandolin Mike, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So it's been a while since I could blog. I was at a conference for most of the last week near Ashville, NC. After the conference, I traveled with a group of eight other people from the conference for a faith venture in the country music capital of the world. That's right, Nashville!

On new years eve, we ventured out on the town to take in a variety of experiences. It was kind of funny because looking back on it, there was so much going on. At the beginning of the day, I encouraged people to strive to be "God aware" for the day, and see what experiences He brought across our paths.

Three experiences that come to mind for me were these.

1) In the afternoon, we visited a lifesize replica of the parthenon. While we were setting up for a photo, a guy attempted to steal a purse from one of the people in our crew. He then proceeded to pretend that wasn't the case and began "kickin it" to one of our ladies. She wasn't impressed, and so he quickly left. After he left, I think he heightened our awareness of what was going on around us for the rest of the day. Sometimes we need to be shocked into being aware, and this occasion definitely made us all much more in tune with what was going on around us. I noticed that it is really easy to be stuck in our own little bubble much of the time.

2) The guy in the photo with me is named Mandolin Mike. We ran into him on Broadway in downtown Nashville. We were just walking by, but I felt like God wanted me to stop. So I through a dollar into his mandolin case and listened to him as he finished a song. He told me he came down ten years ago in an effort to make it big, but he was currently confined to performing on the street. He's from the Harrisburg or carlilsle area of Pennsylvania. He told us a little bit about the adventures of trying to make it in nashville, and as we finished talking he asked if we had a request. I asked him what his favorite song to play was. He smiled. He then told me he had written a few songs--I asked him to play the one he loved the most. He played one of the most amazing instrumental mandolin songs I had ever heard. When we take time to listen to others and show care, we often become more richly blessed than we would otherwise.

3) As we were leaving downtown Nashville, an older gentleman rode up to us on a bicycle and started talking to us. He was homeless. He was lamenting his condition--but he didn't ask for a handout. We prayed with him, and encouraged him to empty out the bottle he was carrying with him. Our "tour guide" also happened to be a Nashville street evangelist--so she pointed him to a mission nearby. We don't know what happened to Terry Crawford that night, but at least for a few minutes a few people took the time to listen to him, to care for him, and to point him to hope and even a warm clean place to stay.

As the new year begins, I pray that you might be more aware of what is happening around you all of the time. Take time to listen to the little promptings from God that tell you that maybe you should be doing things a little differently at different moments. I pray that you will take time to slow down and talk to people who are around you, and I pray that you will will care enough to intervene among the hurting. Slow down and engage those around you with good news and good medicine for a hurting world.