Monday, June 30, 2008

Appalachian Morning

Appalachian Morning, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's been a bit. I've been traveling. I'm really tired. And I am now back in Morgantown trying to get adjusted once more to life in this beautiful town.

Just a few days ago, during my travels, I captured this image and thought it was simply beautiful. I was talking to my great friend Dave Nancarrow about the beautiful sunsets and sunrises we see so often in Morgantown.

It's a beautiful way to be welcomed back to the hills of Appalachia. It is a far cry from the beach and the Ozarks, and it is a truly beautiful place.

I am grateful for the handful of days I get to spend here before traveling to a wedding this weekend in the DC area.

No deep thoughts about the sunrise in this entry. Just simple beauty to enjoy and a little update. Thanks for reading, and I hope all is well in your neighborhood on this grand planet. For many of my friends it is not, and for them, I pray that a foretaste of the shalom of God might be known in their lives.

God bless.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Yesterday, I made my way across the nation with the staff of Chestnut Ridge Church. We took two cars on our way to a national conference for Great Commission Churches. We've had a lot of time together lately. Last week, we had an extended planning time for the church, and this week, we are hearing lessons about family that have been learned over the last 35 years that Great Commission has existed as a movement.

Seen in the photo above is the Gateway Arch--a symbol of the westward expansion of the United States. St. Louis is often called the "Gateway to the West." A few years ago, I was able to journey to the top of the arch, and peruse the museum at it's base. There's a tribute to Tecumseh, one of the great Shawnee leaders, in the museum area.

So Yesterday, we crossed the mississippi river, or the M-shi-thii-pi as my ancestors called it. It's name means the great river, and it is flooding it's banks. It is a powerful river, and right now, the M-shi-thii-pi is doing a lot of damage. Twenty-four people have been killed. Many more have been injured. Over 3.4 million acres of cropland have been flooded and inundated with rain. Even in the photo, one can see the flood waters covering much of the riverfront park in St. Louis.

In spite of all the ingenuity of man (we were able to build a 630 ft arch in St. Louis w/o computer aid), there are some things that are more powerful than we are. Among them are the m-shi-thii-pi. When I think of the devastation, and I see the flood waters, I am humbled by the power of the waters. I am saddened by the devastation that is being caused by the river, and in some ways as I drove by the Arch in a mini-van, I feel the helplessness of the communities along the river.

I feel helplessness, but I pray that for these communities it will be temporary as the floodwaters subside. As I drove by yesterday, I felt limited and weak.

I don't fully understand the problems of this world. I am heartbroken by suffering and tragedy, but I am also hopeful. I am hopeful for a day when all of the problems of this world will be put to right. I feel like I've been meditating on this hope a lot lately. When we are confronted with what we see in the news, and often in our own lives, we can always choose hope over despair.

But our hope isn't in vain. It isn't the vain promise of some politician or other leader that things are steadily getting better. It is the hope that one day, ALL that is wrong will be made right, from the floods and the droughts, to the darkness that lies within our own hearts. It will all be dealt with one day, and I look forward expectantly until that day.

Until that day, I pray, and I seek to be a sign and a foretaste of what that day will be like. And as you read, I hope you will join with me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stealing from Dead People

I just drove across Pennsylvania, WV, and Ohio in order to visit my best friend in the whole world, and his family. While we were hanging out, he told me that a couple of weeks ago his uncle died. He had told me about it before, but he told me some details about his uncle's story he hadn't shared before.

His uncle, a man of deep moral convictions was killed while riding his motorcycle to work earlier this month. That in itself is a tragedy, and one that deeply grieved my friend and his whole family. But there is more.

There were some strange charges on this man's credit card, and they were made after he had died. It appears that an employee in the coroner's office ended up with this man's credit card and made a few charges to it. He stole my friend's uncle's credit card, and used it--to visit strip clubs. If you are interested in reading more about it, here is an article that tells more details about the story.

I can't even imagine what it would be like to find out that your recently deceased loved one's memory was being desecrated by an unscrupulous person stealing money from him or her. I can't even imagine that as the family was trying to make funeral arrangements and mourn their loss that someone else would take advantage of the situation to fund a night of decadence in a strip club. I can't believe how much evil is present in the world today.

But at the same time, I am excited that there is also justice in our world. There is something deep inside everyone of us that becomes sick at the thought of injustice, and at the same time we rejoice when justice is served. You see, this man was caught. We are people of amazing potential. We are people who have the potential, to steal, to kill, to lie, and to destroy. We are also people who have the potential to love, to heal, to protect, and to serve. We can either maintain shalom or pollute shalom in the world.

May we be mindful of the God of justice who defends the poor and the broken hearted. May we take solace in the truth that He cares more deeply for our hurts and the pains that seem to saturate this world. And may we be mindful that the people of the cross are to be a people who seek justice where there is injustice, freedom for the oppressed, and hope for the hopeless.

I am often shocked into a stupor by evil that I see, but at the same time, I'm reminded that there will come a day when every tear will be wiped away, and all of the world will be put to rights. Lord, haste the day, when my faith will be sight!

Global Village, Raleigh NC

Global Village, Raleigh NC, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
About a month ago, I had to run a friend of mine to the Raleigh-Durham Airport early in the morning. On the way back from the airport, I stopped in Raleigh to grab a quick bite to eat for breakfast and a cup of coffee. That's when I found the Global Village coffee shop.

This place had a great atmosphere and a ton of concrete furnishings. It also specialized in fair trade, shade grown, organic coffee. (Kind of reminded me of another place I know.)

I love coffee shops. From the corporate simulacra feel of a Starbucks, to the local vibe of places like The Grind in Carolina Beach, there's something special about the slowed down pace and community feel of these spaces.

As I sat in this space, I waxed a bit nostalgic for sozo, our little coffee shop in Morgantown. It's pretty amazing when I think about it. When I started college, I never envisioned myself being part of opening a coffee shop. I never pictured myself working with a Leadership Training program in Carolina Beach. I never pictured myself even becoming a Christian.

When I take time to sit and reflect, I am amazed at the beautiful life God has given me. Sure, there have been rough spots, but whose life doesn't have rough spots. The one thing I've grown more and more confident of through the years is God's goodness. He has always carried me. Even when I didn't know Him, He protected me from harm that could have come my way. Even when I've been in dangerous situations, He has always journeyed with me.

I don't know what you are going through today, it may be worse than anything I can imagine. You may have read this blog and found it a bit trite, given your circumstances. But God is GOOD; it's His nature. And He listens. Just like He listened to David in the Psalms and Jesus on the cross, the Father listens.

Maybe He listened to some people half way around the world who were suffering injustice, and as a result He stirred folks like the folks at Global Village and other places to consider fairly traded coffee. Call out to Him from wherever you are! He is GOOD!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On the Road

On the Road, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo in Morgantown back earlier this spring when I was working on finding ways to walk/bike to most places I would need to visit around town. It's amazing how much you can do without a car. If one is willing to set aside a little bit of extra time for travel, between biking, the bus, and walking, you can get virtually anywhere in this town.

But unfortunately, travel beyond the town is not nearly as simple. And over the next few days I will be doing a lot of that. From Fairmont to Columbus, OH, to Lake of the Ozarks, MO, I will be traveling many miles. For some reason, it feels like my life is becoming more and more lived on the go. Even when I was stationed in Wilmington, NC for three weeks, I still had a short period where I had to drive to Richmond, VA.

All of the travel is great tho. I like the road. I like seeing old friends and family after a long journey. And as much as I hate leaving, I like the thought that there will be more great people to connect with at the next destination.

And beyond that, I love the journey. If I can stay away from my cell phone (not always easy), I have some great extended times for prayer, for reflection, for meditation, and for God to speak into my life. Outside of being in a car, it's kind of hard these days to sit in one place for long. But I don't think it's just me--seems like we are a mobile culture.

It seems like we are always on the go. In the middle of all of our going, it is sometimes difficult just to be. But perhaps, that is one advantage of walking, riding, pedaling, and then driving long distances--we are unable to do a lot of other tasks as we journey. We are able to be reminded of our unique value as God's chiildren, and we have a space into which He may speak, if we are willing to unplug the ipod for a minute to listen.

I don't know what my internet access will be like for the next few days--I've had some spotty access lately. Hopefully I will be a little more regular again starting next week. It's always a bit challenging to do much communicating, even to blog, on the road.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Snow's Cut Park

Snow's Cut Park, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo during my first week in Carolina Beach. Each week, we've spent a part of a day there having extended time with God. This cut off of the Cape Fear River is what separates Pleasure Island from the mainland.

Speaking of mainland, I'm back on the mainland again. I made the long drive to Parkersburg, WV so I could spend Father's Day with my dad, my sister, and my best friend, Willie and his family. Being in NC prevented me from being with my dad and sister on their birthdays, but we were all able to celebrate with a trip to the Texas Roadhouse with the Kerr's yesterday.

Today, I've spent the day getting reacquainted with the weather here, and simply recovering from the long drive. I was also able to visit with a few friends and relatives and share with them a little bit of what God has been doing in my life.

It kind of stinks to have left my friends in Wilmington so soon. Although I was only there for 3 weeks, they were three very rewarding and fulfilling weeks. One of my greatest passions is sharing with people who are passionate about following Jesus and learning how to walk with Him, and I had three weeks of doing just that!!! I am looking forward to being with those folks again real soon--I should be returning in Mid-July to help wrap up the program, and more importantly, to hear where God took these 31 students on their summer long journey to know Him better!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yucca Moth

Yucca Moth, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Yesterday afternoon, Susan, one of the owners of The Grind, a coffeeshop in Carolina Beach with great coffee and free wifi saw this beautiful moth and pointed it out to me.

This photo doesn't quite do justice to the delicate nature emanated from this little creature. I tried to identify it online, and the closest I could come was to say that it was a yucca moth.

It looked like something spiritual and pure in contrast to the landscape of the tourist filled beach community. It appeared clean and light, not damaged or burdened a bit by the cares of this world.

Of course it is a moth and probably is quite destructive to the yucca seeds on which it feeds. But there's something about it that seems other-worldly and out of place when seeing it. It drew me kind of like a moth to the flame (forgive me for that one).

I wonder if that's what we look like when we live for Christ? A familiar form, but something about us is different, intriguing, engaging. Just a little early morning thought as we each strive to reflect the glory of the risen Son in a world looking for something of lasting beauty.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Southport Pier

Southport Pier, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo while sitting in a swing overlooking the mouth of the Cape Fear River near where it enters the Atlantic Ocean. Southport is a sixty mile commute from the Island where I have been living, or a four mile ferry ride. Needless to say, with elevating gas prices and time constraints the ferry makes the most sense. North Carolina has a whole series of ferries that help island communities stay connected with the mainland.

Southport is another quaint little seaside town that has a rich small-town feel, and not so much of a touristy feel. I think the Southport area is also home to a variety of actors and film sites on the East Coast. The locals at Carolina Beach recommended that I make at least one trip across the river to Southport, and I would have to say that it is well worth it. Just for the ferry ride, it’s worth it. In terms of things to do once you get there, well, life is a little more simple. Like I said, it’s not a touristy town so much, so it is geared toward a slower pace of life. Enjoying the water, enjoying a cup of coffee, or a nice bite to eat were the prime ways I spent my time there.

I think that is one of the most difficult challenges for people in our area of the world. We are hungry for an experience, but once you’ve been anywhere for any length of time, the newness of the experience wears off. Then it is a matter of what you are going to do, how you will form your habits, and how you may find enjoyment in the daily routine.

The pier and the river walk along Southport point again to taking time to relax, and enjoying the moments. One of the things I guess I have been learning down here is how to relax and enjoy the moments. Not an easy task for someone like me, but one that I’ve been willing to try. Sure my days are pretty full (all of our days are), but learning to take that time to step aside is so key and so fundamental. Southport reminds me of that need.

Perhaps there is a place you go where you feel content to just be, or to just watch the water, or to just sit on the edge of something. Make sure you find space amid the hurried rush of life to take the time for bench swings, piers, and soaking it all in.

Provision Company

Provision Company, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last Friday, in order to make a space for grieving my mom, I pulled away from my LT responsibilities for most of the day. I rode my bike between 30 and 40 miles, and I took a ferry ride across the Cape Fear River to a small town on the mainland in North Carolina called Southport. On my journey I started a conversation with a lady who was taking her autistic sun on the ferry for a ride. I asked her about places where I could go in Southport that would allow for a decent meal, and a place for reflection. She recommended the Provision Company.

I took her up on her suggestion, and I didn’t regret it. The photo above was taken from my table at the restaurant. I enjoyed a quarter pound of shrimp and a crab cake for lunch (only $7.95—it was the special!), and then I just sat, and wrote, and prayed, and reflected. It was nice to make a space for that. I don’t know about you, sometimes I feel like I am moving through this life super fast with little margin for rest, for reflection, and for simply being. Sitting along the marina in Southport, I was able to do just that. I had an unhurried meal, and an unhurried time of sitting and reflecting. You know, it’s kind of wild. As I sat there, it was as if I was being guided through memories, and it was as if I was being guided as to when the proper time to leave was too.

I sat there, and I thought about my mom’s love for the water. We as a family are water people. We have made our homes near rivers and oceans for generations. There’s something about sitting by the water that calms us, restores us, and refreshes us. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think how much every member of my family would have enjoyed that restaurant. Especially my mom. There wasn’t any particular flair to it—in fact, to look at it you might find it entirely unimpressive like many other great places along the coast and in towns across this country. But it was a beautiful place. It was a perfect mixture of noisy bustling conversations, radio, and the calm still solemn quiet of the sea.

I wasn’t long sitting there when the entirety disappeared. Not literally, but it became as though I was the only one there, or maybe I was the only one not there. Maybe I was carried away to another place to enjoy my God and remember my mom. Moments like that are sacred. They can’t be orchestrated through an environment. They can’t be manipulated through an emotional ploy. They simply are.

Problem is, we are challenged to create a space for them in our world. In our world that is full of busy-ness and meetings and appointments and special events, we are challenged to create margins for thinking, for processing, for remembering.

My hope is that you would find space for sacred moments for God to pour into your heart and that in the middle of the mundane, the everyday, the noisy, and the bustling, you would hear freshly from the Creator of the universe.

Old Buildings in the Old Dominion

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Richmond, VA to meet with a couple of people who serve on the staff of the church I am part of. When I was in undergrad, and during the years I was involved in the leadership of my tribe, I made an annual pilgrimage to Richmond to be part of a conference for Indian people that was hosted by the Virginia government. I’ve always enjoyed those times, but I had never spent much time beyond that in the city.

But last week was different. I drove up Monday night, and met with staff all day Tuesday, and part of the day Wednesday. (Richmond was the midpoint between Morgantown and Wilmington, so we agreed to meet there.)

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting with a few of my friends who are members of a couple of the tribes in the commonwealth of Virginia. Nothing refreshes my spirit like being around other Native people who love Jesus. I guess it’s because it doesn’t happen too often for me. Sorry for the sidenote—that’s not the point of this entry—just a little thought I had about my time in the Old Dominion.

After meeting with staff, I also had the privilege of touching base with some GCM staff in the Richmond area with whom I have been friends for a long time, and hearing a bit about what GCM is doing in Richmond. My friend Chris showed me around the city a bit, and then showed me the office space that he has acquired for ministry in Richmond. It’s an old row house in the heart of the city, and it sits adjacent to VCU.

It’s so cool to see what God is doing in the lives of others and being reminded of how very large and diverse and beautiful the body of Christ really is. It’s also cool to see an old building like the row house getting renovated and seeing fresh uses come of it.

What fresh new things is God doing in your life? How are you experiencing His renewal and refreshment in your life? Just some thoughts from a short stint in the Old Dominion.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Off To Be With Jesus, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Today marks one year since my mom left this earth. It doesn't really seem like a year has gone by. It doesn't really seem real.

But it is real. One year ago, my brother called early in the morning to tell us that mom wasn't being really responsive. He had stayed the night in the room with her during her last night on this earth.

I imagine everyone in my family is experiencing today a little differently. A year ago, we were all together. This year we are spread from coast to coast in our own separate spaces.

So today, I am spending some time reflecting. I imagine everyone in our family will do it some. The last words she said to me were, "I love you," as I left her and my brother on the evening of the 5th. Those are words that will echo with me for years.

On the day before my graduation, I whispered in her ear, "I'll try to make you proud mom." At that point just a few weeks before she went to be with Jesus when she was having tremendous difficulty breathing, she responded, "Every day you make me proud."

My mom loved us. My mom is one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever known. And I not only knew her, but I got to hang out with her. Lots.

I miss her. My family misses her. If you knew her, you probably miss her too! She was that kind of a person. The kind of person people write songs about. The kind of person people cherish.

But she is with Jesus now. I can't even begin to imagine the applause of the saints as she went to be with her savior. I bet it was awesome. I bet it was awesome seeing her healthy and cancer free. I bet it was awesome hearing her creator say, "Well done, you good and faithful servant." I bet it was awesome as she was greeted on her departure from this world.

For us, it was awesome too. We grieve, but we rejoice for her. We share stories about her. We laugh, we cry, and at times we want to talk with her, but for now there is silence in response. She is no longer with us--she is in the presence of the Creator of the universe. She no longer sees through the mirror dimly.

In this culture we ilve in, grieving is difficult. I mean, it's never easy, but it seems like there is no space for such things. At times it feels like our lives carry a blistering pace. Like there is no space to slow down. Today, I plan to take some time to grieve, to remember, to reflect, and to rejoice for my mom, and for the goodness of the Creator in the middle of a sin soaked world.

Thanks for any prayers you offer up on behalf of me and my family. They are appreciated during this time, and at all times.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mr. Birthday

Mr, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So I could write a lot about today, there's much to catch up on from the last week in the Wilmington area, but I'm gonna keep it simple for now and let folks know that today is my dad's birthday. I won't tell you how old he is, but I will tell you that he has been rocking out those sweet sideburns for a good long time.

Last year, I was able to hang out with my dad on his birthday, but this year, I am in North Carolina. We were able to talk a bit this morning but then he was off to church.

If you have my dad's number--give him a call he loves hearing from friends and family, and that might be the best present you could give him on his birthday!

I love my dad a lot, and although I can't be there with him, I know other people are probably enjoying the day with him.

He and my mom did an amazing job raising three kids on very little income, and all of his children are doing very well as adults. Although he is a bit of an introvert, people love being around him, and he is always ready to lend a helping hand and serve others.

If you don't know my dad, you should meet him sometime. You won't regret it!

Younger Evangelicals

Younger Evangelicals, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This morning I read an article in the New York Times that was talking about a trend among younger evangelical Christians with regard to social issues.

For anyone who reads my blog, this trend should be no surprise, but to the New York Times writer, it was a bit of a surprise. Younger evangelical Christians hold to a pretty conservative theology, but their faith seems to involve issues of justice, environmental stewardship, and care for the poor.

Surprised? I'm not. I believe as more and more Christians are challenged to look at the world in which we live we will be challenged to put our faith into tangible practice not only in our own individual personal development with engaging scriptures and prayer and other spiritual disciplines, but also, we will be challenged to work toward finding solutions to the problems that exist in our world, for the glory of God.

The photo above was taken during our opening day of worship and prayer for the Leadership Training program I'm helping to run in Carolina Beach, NC. These students from Ball State, WVU, and Virginia Tech are interested in growing in their relationship with Jesus. They are interested in growing as leaders, and in changing the world for the sake of future generations.

Older evangelicals sometimes get concerned about this interest in shaping culture, but this has always been part and parcel of what it means to be the church.

In the words of Al Reis, "The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation." What it looks like to be salt and light among younger evangelicals, while fundamentally similar to older generations, may look drastically different.. It is easy to critique, but not always easy to listen and become a student of cultural trends.

When I look at these students at LT, or I think about the young people who comprise our church in Morgantown, I'm excited about the future, and the way these people can potentially influence the world and show people a bigger image of Jesus than maybe they have previously known.

I hope that previous generations of the church can give a measure of trust to up-and-coming generations who are attempting to reach out and influence for Christ.