Monday, March 31, 2008

Becoming a Witness

Becoming a Witness, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last week, I became a witness. Specifically, it happened last wednesday night. My friend Curtis got tickets to see the Cleveland Cavaliers play and offered one to me as an early birthday present. A carload of us drove up from morgantown for the game.

It was my first NBA game, and while it was exciting to see Lebron James, Chris Paul, and others, I definitely don't plan on making it a habit.

But I can now say I am a witness, to Lebron's legend. It was pretty wild. Back in December he broke the career scoring record for Cleveland. He's 23 years old. That's pretty impressive.

The announcer for the Cavs, Joe Tait, called his 3000th game that night as well, so that made for a little extra fanfare. I always like it when stuff like that is happening--makes it a little more exciting/engaging.

As much as I enjoyed the game, and the whole time in Cleveland, I couldn't help but think this thought.

Wouldn't it be something though if we were all witnesses to something greater than Lebron?


tire_pit, originally uploaded by Travis Nelson.
This isn't my tire or bicycle, but it conveys the story well.

This morning, I hopped on my bike for the first time in SEVERAL months, and I encountered a few problems. To start, a couple of the spokes were loose. So I tried to tighten them. Then one of the nuts fell into the rim, and I couldn't tighten that spoke. My buddy said it would probably be fine, and so I hopped on my bike and road down to the morgantown rail trail.

When I got off my bike there, 3 more spokes were loose. I tightened them with my fingers and proceeded to ride. (I'm still committed to a vigorous fitness routine, but I may have tendonitis in my right foot, so I need to chill on walking/running a bit for a few days--but riding a bike is fairly easy on the ol' tendon).

So I make it about 8 miles up the rail trail with my buddy Josh Drake, when I hear air leaving my rear tire at a very fast rate. My tire had a nice hole in it, and while josh and I deliberated on what I should do, I held my finger over the hole (kind of like the dutch boy and the dike). Neither of us had a patch, a pump, or a tube, and we definitely didn't have a replacement tire. It's a rail trail, I mean, what could possibly happen? hahahaha.

Because we were really far from ANYTHING, I rode my bike standing up, and leaning forward over the handlebars all the way back down to morgantown, and it is now in the shop.

I just finished walking back from downtown, and I couldn't help but remark that this was worth telling the story. My bike should be completely renovated by Thursday, so it looks like I'm going to have to find another form of cardio/fitness for the next couple of days.

Any suggestions?

UnChristian: Judgemental

UnChristian-Judgemental, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last night, we returned from spring break, and started a new series at h2o. The name of the series is UnChristian, and is based on a book by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons from the Barna Research Group, a Christian research firm that examines faith and culture in the united states. I highly recommend checking out the sites.

The book exposes the fact that Christianity in the United States has an image problem. Kinnaman and Lyons found in a survey of people between the ages 18 and 29 who were asked about what came to their mind when they thought of Christians and Christianity, the words were not necessarily those that Christians would be proud of. In fact, the words were antithetical to what Christians should be known for. That's why they called their book unchristian.

The number one word used to describe Christians was "judgemental". Now upon reading this statement, one might already be trying to construct a defense, or beginning to write off the statement as not having any weight. One of the things that I like about the barna research group is that they actually DO research. They do follow up stories to find out why people would use a word like "judgemental" to describe Christians--to find out more, I recommend reading the book. After all, wouldn't it be better if words like "loving", "compassionate", "godly", "moral", "kind", "patient" or something like that were used? Of course one could easily write off the fact that people are always going to speak ill of Christians, but what if we were giving folks a reason to speak ill? Wouldn't we want to do something about it?

Well, last night, Trey Dunham kicked off our series called unchristian at h2o. He talked about why people are judgemental in general (it's not just a problem with the church), and how we Christians might have an answer and an opportunity to be a witness.

You see, we become judgemental when we are comparing ourselves to others. We want to look "better" than other people. We look down our noses, and become arrogant. But maybe if we remember the grace and mercy that God shows us, and we remember our own glaring sins it would be a start for us to overcome being judgemental.

I remember a story about a log and a splinter that Jesus told, maybe the beginning of not being a judgemental person is simply the admission of the log in our eye.

When we are humble, and we freely admit our faults, it is perceived as weakness. Nobody likes to be weak. People can and often will hurt you when you are weak. But maybe if people saw Christians being raw and honest with their own imperfections, if people saw Christians confessing their sins to one another, if people saw Christians as something different than a harsh and thorny cactus plant, then maybe we wouldn't so easily fit the label of being judgemental.

If you've got a couple of minutes, give yourself an eye exam today--is there a log there? Tell someone about it. Ask them to help you remove it even. Of course, they may hurt you, but wouldn't it be worthwhile to risk it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Rebound, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

Last week, through the help of some great friends, I made it to watch the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. You might consider it an early birthday present, or an early easter gift. Whatever it could be considered, I consider it GREAT!!!

This photo was taken from my seat for the first round game against Arizona. I tried to get some good shots, but my little digital camera didn't fare so well with the fast pace of college basketball--most of my pics were a little blurry (it doesn't help that I don't have really steady hands!).

So this photo is from the first half of the Arizona game. Look at our guys box out on a free throw. I had a really great seat for each round, and it was lot's of great basketball. I was there for the near upset of Belmont over Duke, and watched our fellas triumph over Arizona.

In the words of Tony Caridi, "It's a great day to be a Mountaineer, whereever you may be!"

I just happened to be four rows from the floor in the Verizon Center for this one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Remembering The Desert

Remembering The Desert, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
The photo above is of me and one of my personal mentors in the faith, a guy by the name of Greg Van Nada. Greg was responsible for the Pastor Tim Haring getting involved with the Great Commission Association. And if Tim hadn’t gotten involved, I probably wouldn’t be working for GCM today. And, I would have never met this invaluable mentor.

Greg, during our times together over the last four years, has taught me much about vulnerability, transparency, and brokenness. He has taught me tons about walking with God and the pursuit of holiness and wholeness. I’m deeply appreciative of the variety of mentors God has placed in my life to better equip me to walk with Him and lead others in their own journey of faith. Beyond this role of mentorship, Greg was one of the small group of people who journeyed with me into the Mojave Desert back in January to connect more richly with God. This photo was taken the day our solitude ended.

It’s been over 40 days since I was in the desert, and I just recently pulled up this photo that the director of the program sent to me. He also sent me an extended quote that I gave him on the day my solitude ended.

Here’s what I had to say about my experience in the desert.

”One of the best and most challenging times of my life - a memorable milestone in my journey of faith. It allowed me the opportunity to briefly set aside all worldly pursuits and answer the question, ‘Is God enough?’ Indeed He is! My life and my ministry will never be the same. During these five days in the desert I realized my identity was in the wrong place. I had been finding my identity in what I do instead of who I am. I pray that I can always be mindful that the most important thing about me is to whom I belong. I highly recommend this program to anyone with the guts to confront their inner demons on a journey to encounter the living Messiah!” Billy Williams, Spiritual Director – West Virginia University

It is so easy to start getting one’s identity in what one does rather than who he/she is. It happens so subtly. First we get involved in what God is doing and have a thrill in joining with Him in His work. Then, before we know it, we are doing doing doing, and in the process we are forgetting that we are His. He is so much more satisfying than anything we could do, and as we find our satisfaction in Him alone, and our identity in being His child, we are able to live a more abundant life and in turn we are able to do more than we could have ever dreamed. And that’s the real beauty of it all.

As we entrust ourselves to the artist, we become part of God’s great masterpiece that He is weaving throughout the world. May you take time today to enjoy the One who thoroughly enjoys you because you are His!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Passion 2008

OK, so it's kind of late. But based on the attendance figures, it's sort of ok. Easily over 8000 people came out to see Chestnut Ridge Church's performance of The Passion this past weekend. In order to encourage folks to go see the drama, we pointed people to go see the passion and take a friend.

Of course, the general story never changes with a drama like this, but I find that the quality of the performance improves each year. Typically I am involved in the play, but this year with my desert experience, it seemed like a bit much to have on my plate.

My friend and comrade in ministry, Cameron King did an excellent job playing the role of Jesus. While he had to give much more time to practice this year than any of the years before, I feel like it did him a great service with regard to taking on such a challenging role.

I could go on and on about the quality of the actors and the musicians involved, the set designers and the people who were working behind the scenes, but EVERYTHING about the performances I saw was polished and quality. It amazes me that the level of quality has just continued to improve over the years.

Beyond the quality of the performances, I feel a degree of pride (in a good sense of the word), that so many people from our college and career ministry, h2o, were involved in the drama. Probably more than seeing the drama itself, I enjoy seeing these folks perform and excel--the folks that make up our community are so incredibly talented. It humbles me that I am a part of such a gifted community of people who love Jesus so passion-ately. (Sorry for the bad pun!)

While it's too late for me to invite you to see The Passion this year, it's never too late to consider ways you can learn about Christ, or maybe get involved in sharing His love with others. So maybe take some time today to do just that!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Abducted Archbishop's Body Found.

Day two of a big win for WVU, and day two of more exposure to what's happening in our world. It's not that I don't typically follow world news, it's just that a couple of stories that might easily sail under the radar came to my attention recently. This is the second story.

The Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq was kidnapped and held for an increasing sum of ransom during late february. Apparently, the sixty-five year old minister died while in captivity. You can read more about it here or read and watch a video here.

It's troubling to see and here about events like these. It makes one appreciate the relative degree of freedom from persecution that is enjoyed in America. Beyond this, it reminds me that every day, there are people around the world who are suffering for the name of Jesus. People who are kidnapped. People who are beaten. People who are imprisoned because of their faith. Women who are raped. Men who are murdered in front of their families.

May we remember and work toward liberating those who suffer. And may we pray for and look forward to the day when all suffering shall cease.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pollution Causes Problems for Beijing

After watching WVU beat the Providence Friars yesterday I left the TV on for a bit, and found out a little bit of what is happening in the world of sports. And one of the things I heard was extremely pertinent to any consideration of the environment. The marathon world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie, withdrew his name from participating in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The reason he cited was his health.

China is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. Gebrselassie suffers from exercise induced asthma, and is concerned for the long term effects that running 26 miles in one of the world's most polluted cities would have on his health. He has gone so far as to suggest a different, less polluted venue in China, but the committee is not moving on their location. This would be a tremendous challenge for a world class athlete, but I admire Gebrselassie for the standards he has set. He values his health more than he values competing in the Olympic games. Participating in the Olympics is a dream never achieved for many, but Gebrselassie is not letting prestige come first.

This may lead to other athletes making a similar stand as well. Think about this. Could you imagine living in a place that is so polluted that it is a health hazard to go for a run? What a wake up call for taking some steps toward environmental care. I think about this problem, and think what will life be like 30 years from now? Will olympic events have to take place indoors? Will kids be able to play outside for extended periods?

When I was little, every once in a while we would go swimming in the Ohio River. But then we started hearing about how dirty and unsafe it was. My dad grew up swimming in the Ohio River, but now you can't even eat fish out of the river more than once per month.

I don't think Gebrselassie is making a stand for the environment, he is simply making a stand for good health. But could you imagine what might happen if more folks like him who are in the spotlight began to make decisions like this? And could you imagine the impact of more every day people like you and I beginning to make changes to our consumption habits? Maybe instead of leading the world in consumption and waste (Americans consume 32 times the amount of the rest of the world), we could lead the world in our green efforts. What steps are you willing to take?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Divine Appointments and Mentors.

Mentoring and Care, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

Every once in a while you get reminders of how you ended up where you are. The lady above this entry has played a key role in some decisive moments of my life. My junior year at WVU, she was sitting outside the mountainlair connecting with folks and letting them know about an event happening on campus and the beginnings of an American Indian Student group on campus. I took a flyer from her, and she became my link to the Indian community in Morgantown. Then, through that link, I came to know Jesus Christ as my savior at an intertribal function near morgantown. If that wasn't enough, it was through the relationships she had with people in my tribe that I was able to re-connect with my Shawnee tribal community. That connection led me to meet and learn from the most amazing human being I have ever known, my old Chief.

Dr. Ellesa High is an associate professor of English at WVU, and she was one of the key people I went to when considering grad school in English. She was also instrumental in helping me get the first minor in Native American Studies at WVU. She also served as the advisor for the Native American Student Group at WVU (ONAI)--I was president for it's first three years as well.

I had the privilege of running into her on monday afternoon and meeting up on Tuesday. Beyond being a good professor at the university, she has become a mentor and great friend. At times, you can lose sight of all that you have done and become in your life, and my time with Dr. High reminded me of the wide array of talents I've been blessed with, and the many opportunities and healthy risks I've taken in my relatively short life. I left our conversation thoroughly encouraged and grateful that once again, God had used one of my professors to both remind me of my accomplishments, and inspire me toward the future.

While I hadn't seen Dr. High since my mom's funeral, it was refreshing to catch up and be encouraged once again by one of my mentors in the journey of life.

Take time to remember the people who have impacted your life, and be sure to thank them. And remember, something as seemingly insignificant as stepping out to invite people to an event may have a significant impact on someone's life.

There are no ordinary moments.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dr. Sleeth's Top Three

Dr. Sleeth's Visit, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

So it's been over a week, and I haven't shared with anyone the top three dr. sleeth shared with us during the week of Another World Is Possible.

He was asked the top three things he thought people could do to be better stewards of God's creation. And here were his three responses.

1) Keep the Sabbath. He wasn't focusing in on a particular day; he was simply stating that as a culture we have forgotten how to rest. We are always going, going, going. In fact, he said it was one of his biggest personal challenges as he traveled from place to place speaking about the environment. He has been consistent to take a sabbath, but sometimes it is difficult to make it the same day each week. The key is to make sure you do it. I've blogged about it recently, you can read that blog entry here.

2) Cut consumption and waste production by 10% and give the money saved to Kingdom work. This could be as simple as turning off lights in your house when you aren't in a room. Or, maybe you could turn your thermostat down 2-3 degrees. It's kind of funny because many people want to run their thermostats at 70+ degrees in the winter, and for most of our human existence, we dwelt in homes that were significantly colder in the winter. Another thing you can do is eat out less, or buy locally grown food, or even share a meal with someone. Most of our restaurant portions are large enough for two people. As far as Kingdom work is concerned, there are a number of great organizations out there, and a few of them were part of our week of events at wvu.

3) Find a group of people to do these things with. Could you imagine what the effect would be if you and your small group, or some folks in your church began to cut back and observe a sabbath. Imagine how it would affect your interactions with one another. Imagine what you could do if 10 people cut their consumption by 10%. Just look at my group on the one billion bulbs website. Only 18 people have signed in as my friends and we have saved over $2000 simply by switching our bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs. You should consider switching and joining.

I think Dr. Sleeth's top three ideas are wonderful for a number of reasons. 1) They are doable. There isn't a single person I know who couldn't observe the sabbath, cut their consumption habits, and even find people to do that with. 2) They are able to be adapted by area. People in FL typically don't need to worry about cutting a gas bill for instance, but folks in WV do. People in FL, could cut down electrical use though. 3) He emphasizes community. We aren't meant to be alone in our endeavors, and it is helpful to be encouraged along the way by entering into a practice with others.

Will you make a commitment to these ecological three? Take the time to leave a comment and share what you are doing to work toward better environmental stewardship--maybe your idea can spark others.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Desperate Sex Lives Q and A

Last night we finished our most recent series at h2o with a question and answer session. People could email, text, write down, or just stand up and ask questions regarding any of the subjects we covered over the last few weeks. This could be a pretty thorny predicament (hence the photo), but in the end it was really a unique and different experience for our community. (It was probably also among the shortest talks ever given at h2o!)

Folks asked some really great questions from "Is there such a thing as being TOO HONEST with regard to intentions for a relationship?" and "Where does one get the courage to MAN-UP and initiating a relationship?" to "Is it ok to call out someone of the opposite sex if they are leading you on and not committing?" and "Is it ok for men and women to sleep in the same bed?"

I really appreciated the honesty of the questions that were generated. I also appreciated the discussions that followed our event. It's had me thinking that perhaps this would be a good exercise in the future as well. While Q and A times can be more than a little unpredictable, they encourage greater participation and engagement from individuals, and help everyone in the room to really think about what is being discussed.

Our next series won't start until March 30th, and will involve three different speakers during the three weeks of the series, We will be discussing how Christians are perceived by those outside the faith, and what we need to do about it.

Ultimately, with any subject discussed our Bible is the ultimate source, and perhaps the Q and A time was encouraging for people to not only hear answers and thoughts on a subject, but also to hear the scripture application behind the answers. When you answer people's questions, do you answer with your best guess, or do you seek to bring in the full counsel of scripture to inform your insights?

As we yield ourselves more and more to the wisdom of a 5000 year old text, we find ourselves finding greater and greater stability in a world in which change seems to be the only constant. Thankfully, the scriptures can guide every aspect of our lives, even our sexuality. When we yield our lives to the story of God, we give people a little sign of the beauty of life found in abiding in Christ.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Invisible Children Returns

Invisible Children Returns, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

I took this photo at one of our events during the week of Another World Is Possible. This was the night we showed Invisible Children at sozo, our coffeehouse on high street in downtown Morgantown.

We showed the film to a packed house, and it was simply a brilliant night of hearts being moved to action.

Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, the road team from Invisible Children returned. This time, they showed a film dealing with a different issue resulting from the civil war in Northern Uganda. The film showed how over 1 million men and women, boys and girls were displaced as a result of the war, and how these people have been living for the last seventeen years.

Heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe the situation. I would love to put this film in the hands of others, or have multiple screenings (even at my house), just so people could witness the stark reality of the problems in our world, and that perhaps we could spend some of our spare time and cash in creatively coming up with a solution to the problem.

I think one of the worst things we could do as individuals and as communities is to get emotionally bothered by some of the modern day tragedies and atrocities in our world, and yet do nothing.

So I want to encourage you to visit the website, and potentially order a copy of the film. It is an extremely well done documentary. There are 100s of 1000s of people just in this one country who are living in conditions (against their desire) as a result of a long term civil war. Perhaps if we can help bring lasting peace to this land (by political intervention and aid) the people of Uganda could return to their homes.

Justice is such a difficult subject to get our minds around. When we get exposed to the needs of the world, most of us want to do something about them, but don't know where to start. Or worse yet, we feel like the problems are already being taken care of, or they will take care of themselves.

The more I get a sense of the injustice that exists in the world, the more I want God to use me to be part of the solution. May you seek justice and take action as you enter into the weekend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Enchanted Life

My Enchanted Life, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

Yesterday things just seemed to go well for me. I went to get a physical yesterday afternoon. While I was in the desert, I realized that I haven't had a check up in about 10 years, so maybe it was about time. Although it took a while to get in (because of a computer system glitch), it was still cool, because I could do some work while I waited. This week is a week chock full of meetings so every "free" moment counts. Plus, I'm planning to see my dad and sister this weekend, so I don't want to be encumbered or distracted by any projects--ya know.

So I had this physical, and I'm in EXCELLENT health. Great resting heart rate and BP of 120/82. I also had bloodwork done, and my results were STELLAR to say the least. My number for sugars was easily below 100, and my number for cholesterol was also well below the critical 200 number. So I am free and clear to start an exercise program--not that I had any worries, but you always hear that blurb about consulting a physician before you start.

So now I am planning an intense exercise program. I'm going to ease into it this week, and then turn up the intensity next week. I am amazed sometimes at my degree of health and well being in light of the busy-ness that often saturates my life. Maybe a lot of it has to do with the way I go about life-trying to savor each and every moment, and making the most of it.

Speaking of savoring the moment, I just received a tremendous gift from my friends (and fellow mountaineer fans!) Jeremiah and Kim. That's Jeremiah in the photo with me. We are grinning from ear to ear because we just watched Pitt get stomped!!! Jeremiah and Kim had an extra ticket for last night's game, and so I was able to be there guest and sit on the second row to watch WVU trounce Pitt. It was glorious! I even made a cameo appearance on ESPN last night! (I will be available for autographs and interviews later today around Morgantown.)

Although life throws all of us some curve balls from time to time, I have been able to live a pretty enchanted life. I mean who gets a ticket to the biggest game of the year the day it happens--and who gets a seat on the second row? I was less than ten feet away from the ESPN crew.

I am thankful for it all--every moment is precious. Let's go mountaineers!!!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Desperate Sex Lives Continued

So I'm giving everyone another day to find out what Dr. Sleeth's top three environmental suggestions from his visit on Monday February 18th. In the meantime, I thought I would continue the monday tradition of sharing a brief synopsis of our h2o message from Sunday night. We've been covering some pretty serious issues that young people are struggling with, and it's been really thought provoking and eye-opening for all who have been attending.

Three weeks ago, we started a two week series at h2o on relationships, dating, and purity called Desperate Sex Lives. We "borrowed" the title from some of my friends in Blacksburg who had a similar series last fall. We have expanded the series by two additional weeks because this subject is of tremendous interest and importance to college students and young professionals, and folks really want guidance in relationships and help in overcoming sin in this area.

Next week we are going to simply have a question and answer time on all of the topics covered/overlooked over the last three weeks, so if you could be praying for wisdom, I would appreciate it!

This past week we talked about lust and sexual impurity. During the message we talked about everything from pornography to maintaining sexual purity in dating relationships. Did you know that according to that 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography, and nearly one in four women wrestle with this same problem? One person has been quoted as saying if Christians would stop using pornography it would put a serious dent in the industry.

We talked about sexual sin, and why sin in this area hurts so much, and why it hurts so many people. We talked about why we are even tempted to give in to this area that the Bible clearly speaks against. it isn't that sex is a bad thing. Face it, if you are reading this blog, it's because a couple of people had sex and brought you into this world. The problem is that sex has a proper context--marriage, and when we ignore that context it hurts us and everyone around us.

Really the essence of the struggle with sin in this area is a question of ourselves and of God. Men wonder if they are really men, if they have what it takes, and women wonder if they are loved--and so men and women go to sex to have these deep questions answered. Only God can answer these questions, but deep down, many experience a lack of trust or deep belief that God is good.

As we talked about this subject and about the need not simply for behavior modification (although for some, changing behaviors is a necessary starting point), we shared that the real need is a change in our heart that only Jesus can do. We need him to change our heart so we can live differently and experience life abundantly. In order for him to do that, we need to be willing to let Him in, and to begin to trust Him.

Beyond that key element to overcoming sin in this area, we shared a few resources that can be helpful. Here they are.

Accountability (tell someone you are struggling so they can pray for you and help you overcome sexual sin)
Prayer (we need to seek God's help to overcome)
Scripture (Psalm 119.9 says "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.)
Computer Software--if you are struggling with pornography, there is FREE software that will monitor your internet habits, and send an email to your personal accountability partner. Even if you aren't struggling with this area, you might want to just put this software on your on your computer. Click here for the software. X3watch.
Avoiding temptation (Proverbs 26.20 "For lack of wood, the fire goes out)

I realize that this isn't a fun topic to talk about. I realize that for some reading this blog there may be shock and disdain for sharing about such a taboo subject. For others, maybe this blog can be a first step for you in overcoming sexual sin. None of us are immune to temptation.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Thankfully, we all have a rescuer in Jesus Christ. May more and more men and women find their identity in being the Beloved of an amazingly gracious and loving God, and as we do this, may that love transform our world and overwhelm others.