Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Painting and Connecting

On Top of Bickle Knob, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This photo was taken of my dad after he hiked and biked to the summit of Bickle Knob on labor day weekend. He was all smiles after a pretty exhausting climb.

Speaking of labor day, this past weekend me, my dad, and my friends willie, derek, curtis, and josh all put some serious labor into painting his house. And dad was all smiles again!

It was awesome because my dad had been a little concerned about painting the house by himself and possibly falling from the roof or getting hurt. He was also a little worried about having the time and energy to put into the painting work.

Enter our work crew. We drove from Morgantown and Columbus, and in a few short hours, we painted virtually the entire exterior of the house.

We also had a great time connecting with each other on Friday night. After powerwashing the house (and getting a lil haircut for me), we ventured out to Mineral Wells where my friend Derek's parents live. We ate some beans and cornbread, and shared some great conversation and laughter.

Most of the crew packed up for Morgantown around noon Saturday morning, but me, my dad, and Willie stuck around and enjoyed the mountaineers on television. It was great to see us get a decisive win after a rough little stint on the road.

The best part was the time spent with my dad. People love spending time with him. And, I think he enjoys spending time with them too.

Take some time to spend time with friends and family--serve one another--love one another. Good words and good medicine for the soul!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

NLCF Fall Retreat

NLCF Fall Retreat, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This past weekend, a handful of us from chestnut ridge church traveled down to Blacksburg, VA to participate in the fall retreat of our sister church, New Life Campus Fellowship or NLCF.

For me, it was awesome to finally bring to fruition in some small way a goal that we have been striving toward for at least four years. We wanted to have some type of joint fall retreat experience, and every year, something would get in the way with scheduling and timing, but this year, a handful of us could make the trip and join with our sister church.

I have had the pleasure of working with a number of the staff and students at NLCF for many years through programs like GCM's summer Leadership Training Program. These people have become a sort of extended family for me, and as family often does, they went out of their way to make our group feel welcome and a part of things.

Dave and Jeanette, pictured above, have been serving with GCM all over the world for many years. They are great friends, and as always, my time with them was a very encouraging time of sharing ideas and stories.

It was cool to see what another campus does for their fall retreat, and it was cool to experience blacksburg, and the great ministry that is there.

While we were there, we visited the memorial from the shooting that took place on April 16, 2007. It's easy to have things out of sight and mind, and to forget. The students and staff of VT won't forget though, and as we stood at the memorial, they began to share their stories. In our journey of a few hours travel, we had been given the privilege of carving out a space for them to process, and to remember the events of a few months ago.

I think that's part of the beauty of the body of Christ. We carry each other--we carve out space for each other. We end up both blessing and being blessed.

I could go on and on about the weekend, and the time we spent together, but I wont. I could talk about the incredible conversations four of us had as we made the drive to and from Blacksburg, but I wont--at least not now.

I'll leave you with this thought. WIll you make yourself available to people? Will you let them bless you? Will you be a blessing to others? Too much of our lives we spend in quiet isolation. Because of our isolation we miss out on soooo much!!! I'm not saying you have to drive to a faraway town, or travel around the world, but I think it behooves us to live beyond our own little bubbles of comforts--step out and see what happens--you won't be the same!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Nuru?

On monday, four of my friends left for Southwestern Kenya to begin a project that has been years in development.  It all started my freshman year in Arnold Hall when a group of people from all over the region became really great friends.  And then we stayed friends.  And then we dreamed together.  We dreamed of what might be possible one day if we all worked together toward some goal.  We dreamed about the possibility of something that would require great faith, and would tap into ALL of the skills and talents that we developed during our college years, and in the professional world beyond.

Enter Nuru.  It's a Kiswahili word that means light.  In many parts of East Africa it has connotations of hope.  Lasting hope.  Light that is all encompassing.  Pretty amazing stuff.

A couple of my friends, John and Jake started Nuru with a vision of bringing lasting hope and sustainable solutions to poverty.  And then as they started putting the plan together, many more of us joined them in the fight.  It's been like watching a dream come true.  We are all  embarking on a journey that really started at WVU during our freshman year--yet we had no idea.

Because of our faith, we have been stirred in our spirit to DO something about the over one billion people in our world who live on less than one dollar a day.  God has called us to care for the poor--it's irrefutable.  Any doubts, check out Isaiah 58, or Matthew 25.  Nuru's dream is becoming reality in southwestern Kenya.  A community of 8,000 people are being given an opportunity to lift themselves out of extreme poverty in a period of five years.  Five years, and 8,000 peoples lives will be changed.

And YOU can be part of it too!  YOU can be Nuru for this little group of people.  YOU can join in the fight.

I know that we are bombarded with invitations to support various causes.  I also know that in a situation like this small gestures of support can make a significant impact.  A small gift of $10 can go a long way.  I also know about a God who takes our few loaves and fishes, and does amazing things with them.  That's why I want to challenge you to make at least a $10 contribution to Nuru International.  There's two ways you can do it.  1) Join facebook, and read more about the cause on there and find out what your simple gesture can do.  2) Send a check made out to Nuru International to 189 Highland Ave, Morgantown, WV 26505.

So why nuru? Nuru is already doing great things, and I want YOU to be part of it all!  Do YOU want to CHANGE the world?  It starts with small, yet significant gestures.  It starts with a decision to contribute to making the world a better place.  Be the change you want to see.  Be hope.  Be light.  Be Nuru!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bridge Day?

This past weekend, we celebrated "Bridge Day" at Chestnut Ridge Church. Those of you who are West Virginians are probably wondering why we would celebrate Bridge Day so early, and in Morgantown for that matter. Bridge Day is typically associated with parachuting and shutting down the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere which also happens to be located in WV.

Bridge Day at Chestnut Ridge Church was a little different. During the message, Tim Haring shared the story of us and God. He told of how there was once a great relationship between people, and the Creator of the universe, and how sin had separated us from God. He then told of how Jesus came and through His death and resurrection built a bridge between God and humanity. He became human, and entered our world to reconcile us to God.

At the end of each worship gathering (CRC has three of em), people were given an opportunity to walk across "the bridge" if they wanted to. Some folks walked across the bridge as a physical symbol of the commitment they made during the service. Some walked across to remember and worship the God who built a bridge between us and Him. Some folks walked across as a symbol of a renewed dedication to the God of heaven and earth.

I shot this video on my busted camera (for those who haven't seen my camera--it's being held together with tape--but I take a lot of photo's with it).

I shot this video, because it really touched me as I watched hundreds of people walk across the stage. While it is encouraging to experience worship with such a large group, there's something powerful that happens when you see so many people stepping out of their comfort zones and doing something as simple as walking across a bridge. If you could have seen the reverence and experienced the sacredness of the moment you would be able to better understand--I just can't fully articulate it.

But maybe the video will say what I can't. Maybe looking at the long line that formed to walk across the stage will communicate something that I can't put to words. After all, if I could say it with words alone, I probably wouldn't have to include the video.

I pray you would find time to worship the One who built The Eternal Bridge, and make Him the center of your life!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Biking/Walking Day at WVU

Dad at the Summit, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So that photo was taken of my dad after he made it to the summit of Bickle Knob. He and I pedaled our bikes, and walked, and pedaled some more, and walked, and pedaled some more until we reached the summit on the last day of August. From what I can tell on maps, we climbed about 3400 feet in about 4 miles of biking.

My dad is a stud!!! I can't get over the fact that he climbed a 4000 foot hill in WV. My dad constantly impresses me. I don't know if he believes it, but he is in incredible shape for his age. He's actually in better shape than many of my friends. He disciplines himself to be out walking and riding every day, and it makes a world of difference.

As I woke up this morning, I heard that today is bicycling and walking day at wvu. The university is attempting a week long focus in alternative modes of transportation. It's kind of fun to see a few more people walking or out on their bikes today. But, just like in my dad's life, it takes discipline to begin a habit like this.

Morgantown is all hills. It is tiring at times to walk or ride up and down them, but most people I know can do it--they just choose not to do it it.

If you are in Morgantown, I want to challenge you to try alternative modes of transportation this week if you can. If you are working and living in town. Even if you aren't, try to look into a carpool or a vanpool. You might make a friend or two, and you will all be saving money and energy.

If you aren't in Morgantown, this note still applies to you. I have a few friends who live in Amsterdam. They bike everywhere. Old people or young people, it doesn't matter. They get groceries on their bikes. They go to church and work on their bikes. Or, they walk.

Think about it this way. If you walk or ride a bike, you will:

1) Save money
2) Feel better
3) Be a better environmental steward
4) Reduce wear and tear or your vehicle
5) Experience more of the world around you
6) Get some much needed exercise
7) Have a healthier lifestyle
8) Acquire a clearer head for reflection, worship, and relaxation

So get out there today, and ride and walk. Just don't drive if you can keep from it. And leave a comment to let me and others know how the change affects you!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Great Quote I Read This Morning

I saw this quote on my friend noel's blog and thought I would share it with you--I hope you enjoy! May it speak life into your soul!!!

“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.
You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967.

May we live this life deeply and stand up to make a difference in the world during our short lives.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bear Creek

Bear Creek, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This past weekend I found myself in Garrett County, Maryland for a leadership retreat that included about 40 people from my church. Garrett County, and Friendsville in particular have a special place in my heart. Here is where my tribe has land. Here is where I experienced intense and wonderful mentoring in Jesus and the Bible. Here is where I saw many others come to know the beautiful life that comes from following Christ. Here is where I was groomed for years to take a position of leadership in my tribe.

So as the retreat ended, I stopped down in friendsville and grabbed a cup of coffee with cream and brown sugar (it's something I learned from an old friend of mine). The place where I got the coffee (with a few friends from the retreat) used to be called Twila's Old Mill Restaurant. It's now called Jubilee Junction, and the whole place is changed. To be honest, it's a really nice place with reasonably priced food and if you are ever in the area you should check it out--they even have free wifi!!!

There was a couple eating in another booth who brought us in a jar of nectarine jam so we could put it on our food. Only we weren't getting food, so I asked the server if we could buy some toast--she just gave us a plate full of toast. Although the restaurant was different, it was a pleasant new memory to make in a town that is chock full of memories for me.

After our coffee, toast, and jam, I took a few friends down to our old tribal swimming hole in Bear Creek. That's where I took the photo. That's our swimming hole. After hot days of working, and hot days of ceremonies, and just hot days in general, we'd always make a trip down to bear creek and take a dip in the cool mountain water.

As I stood there with this group of leaders I began to share memories of this little place. Just below the bottom right corner of this photo is the place where I was baptized back in 1997. (To this day, I'm the only person I know who was baptized in a breech-cloth). I was baptized in that stream with about seven other people including a former jehovah's witness, a satanist, a witch, and a former drug addict. Lives were being changed among and around the shawnee people!!!

In the upper left of the photo is a big rock. That big rock is really special. That's the place where me and my best friend on the planet prayed one day and Jesus met us in a special way on that rock. It wasn't the day of salvation for us, but Jesus touched both of us in such a special way that we began to see our sin and our complacency in a way that we hadn't been able to before.

But you know what, that's what this little stream has always been for me. It's been a place of transformation. It's been a place where I go that each time I'm confronted with my sin and immersed in the great love of Jesus. I don't think I can spend time at this little swimmin' hole and baptismal and be the same.

Even when we would come down to swim, there's such a difference in temperature that it truly feels like a different world.

I'm tempted to write for a while about this little place and all of the memories that I had with my Shawnee people here, but any of them who read this blog will probably remember even more than me.

For me, just being near that stream was balm for my soul. It brought back many beautiful memories.

I don't know if you have a place like this--an old hang out spot, or place where you shared many good memories with friends. If you do, try to go there sometime soon. Go back and walk through those memories. And if you can't drive there--go there in your mind. Remember the good times, the laughter, the tears, and the tender moments.

May your life be transformed today by beautiful memories!!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Messages from my iPod

iPod Nano (Red), originally uploaded by JamesBurton.
Over the last several weeks, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts on my iPod. A podcast is a recording that anyone can do--YOU could create a podcast, and these podcasts are made available for free on itunes.

Of course the podcasts I've been listening too have been faith based, and they have come from some great communicators. If you've got a chance, give one or more of 'em a listen. This time, I'm just going to focus on one guy--Francis Chan. He's pastor of a church in Simi Valley, CA, and my good friend Josh Vance pointed him out to me.

I don't have time to put the actual links in this blog entry right now, so I'm just gonna list em off. Search for these in the itunes store, and enjoy.

Francis Chan Cornerstone Simi Audio
This guy is phenomenal. Such a heartfelt and compassionate communicator and very convicting and compelling messages. here are a few of my faves. (I'm resisting the urge to give a description of each)
Lukewarm and Loving It
When Sin Looks More Enjoyable Than God (this is better suited for video--you can download it on itunes as well!)
Why People Hate Church
Is It Wrong to Like Oprah?

I hope you enjoy--and even if you don't have an iPod, you can download and listen to these on itunes for free on your computer too!


Tagged, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
So I guess there's a new trend of "tagging" blogs. I was tagged by three of my friends (at least, I'm just discovering this because I had a little time to catch up on a few of their blogs.

So here are the rules.
1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag

Here's my attempt.

1) I had cereal with fresh blueberries and yogurt mixed in it after running at 630AM with my friends Joel and Ricky.

2) I've been packing my lunch and eating smaller portions of food when I do eat out for the last three weeks. I recommend you try the same thing. Portions are too big when we eat out anyway.

3) I use facebook to stay connected to people who I haven't seen for a while (and some I see regularly). I even saw a junior high math teacher on it--you should sign up!

4) I used to sing the national anthem (with a group of three other guys) at WVU basketball and baseball games during my undergrad. I even auditioned for the University Chorus my freshman year and was accepted--I just couldn't fit it into my Engineering class schedule. And now, I neither sing or work in engineering. How bout that for random?

5) I used to test dope for a living. (legally!) I was once an analytical chemist for the world's largest generic drug manufacturer, Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Each day I would test several (sometimes over 100) samples purity, consistency, potency and a few other measures. Mad scientist? That's me I guess.

6) I like eating Act II Butter Lovers microwave popcorn with my dad. It's a little tradition we've had for years. Any time I'm back home, at the end of the evening he'll microwave a bag as a late night snack and we'll split it.

So now I've gotta tag 6 other people. So here they are. Even if they don't do the tag, I'm gonna include a link to their blogs, because I think they are pretty interesting reads.

1. JR Woodward JR is a writer and very active blogger who leads a faith community in Hollywood, CA.
2. Noel HeikkinenNoel has one of the most active blogs of anyone I know. You can always count on interesting images, videos, sounds, etc. to be coming from this blog.
3. Michaelanne Harriman Michaelanne works in North Philadelphia teaching young children art and encouraging them to use their creative talents.
4. Todd Watkins Todd's a friend who I met while serving on a mission trip in Amsterdam--he's a pastor of a church there.
5. Becca Ward She's from Tennesee, but lives in Morgantown and is working on her PhD in cancer biology.
6. Eric Asp Eric is also a pastor in our sister church in Amsterdam--I think he should consider writing a book.

Actually, I think any of these folks could write a quality book, if they did, I would read it, and I'd encourage my friends (like you) to do the same!

Enjoy reading!

Sozo Smiles

Sozo Smiles, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo a couple of weeks ago at sozo. I just thought it really captured what we are all about down here. Actually there were about a half dozen conversations just like this happening all over the shop, and I thought--wow--somebody should document this for posterity's sake. So there I was, camera in hand . . .

What we are shooting for here is a living room environment, a home away from home, a place to come before, after, and between classes to hang out.

Sozo is a place for coffee and cereal for sure, but it's also about connecting. From the free wifi that many use to check and update their emails (and a few use to blog), to the conversational environment that emerges as people come into this comfortable space and begin to relax and enjoy one another's company.

That's what sozo is really about--it's about connecting. It's about smiling and laughing. It's about tears and compassion. It's really about people. Without people there would be no sozo--we would just be an empty storefront in downtown Morgantown.

We all long for community, for a place that's safe, and a place where we can share our ideas and our time with others. I realize not everyone who reads this lives in Morgantown, but every one of us have the same longing. May you find a space for connection, for community--and if it happens to have fair trade, shade grown, organic coffee, then it's all the better!!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Blind Baby Bunny

Blind Baby Bunny, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last week, I spotted this little guy in my yard. I also spotted two of his relatives. They were wandering blindly into my wide open yard. I believe they came out of my garden. Needless to say, seeing something like this reminds us of the fragility of all of life, and our need to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.

This little bunny didn't have his sight yet. And he was in a very large open space with lots of birds and other predators. He couldn't even make a sound. Picking him up, I had to be careful because even his little spine was incredibly fragile. If I wasn't careful, he could jump out of my hand and break his spine.

Life is precious. Unless we come in direct contact with a fragile life, we can become inured to the fragility of living things. Sometimes, we can become so accustomed to being surrounded by life that we fail to respond to the lives that we come in contact with as sacred.

Don't be blind to the fragility of life that has been entrusted to your care. The lives of those who are around you are a part of a sacred trust.

And be on the lookout for blind baby bunnies running through your yard . . .


Corn-u-copia, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last week, I harvested the corn from my garden. I haven't had as many photos of my garden here in Morgantown this year simply because I have been out of town so much.

But I've been in Morgantown for most of the last month now. And I was able to eat a lot of corn, and share it with friends. There was enough corn for a nice roast--everyone who wanted an ear could have one. The remainder, we cooked up and froze--I'm looking forward to some mid winter corn from the ol' garden.

It's amazing how much food can be produced in just a tiny square of your yard. And this food was produced with very little up-keep. We had sugar dots, silver queen, and some kind of red sweet corn. All were yummy.

I can remember celebrating green corn each year with my tribe in the past. We would have a big kettle in which we would cook all of the corn, and there would be plenty for everyone. It's a time when we remember and thank our good God for His provision, and we enjoy a meal together. Even though I wasn't with my tribe this year, I was able to celebrate green corn in an unconventional way with a few of my non-native friends who love Jesus and corn!

Now I'm just sad that green corn time only comes once per year. At least I have friends year round tho!