Friday, March 27, 2009


At different points during my time in Amsterdam, I was struck by the fact that this city was older than America. (It helps when they put the year a building was made along its front).

Americans live in a really young nation, and the only things here that seem to have any age are the lands themselves. I've been thinking about my ancestors and how they would build a home to last for a few seasons before moving on, and how much of Europe seems to have been building for permanence. Part of the argument I suppose for the lasting nature of these buildings is the fact that resources were available to build for permanence.

And yet, in Modern America, we have similar resources, but I just don't feel like there is much that is being built to endure through the centuries. In my lifetime, I've watched whole communities and whole forests bull-dozed and destroyed.

I've watched people uproot themselves on a regular basis by living in a college town.

It just doesn't seem like we think much about endurance. We don't build things to last it seems. Very few of us consider leaving a legacy.

And yet, there's something in us that loves the idea of something very old being left intact. We love the idea of something that is built to last. And we love the idea of a legacy, but very few of us give any consideration to actually leaving one.

My old chief was different in that regard. I've been thinking about him a lot lately. Although it feels like my tribal community is fractured and splintered and largely disconnected, he instilled in us a legacy. Many of us still follow our old traditions, and we pour those traditions into others. Many of us tell stories of our chief, his faith, and his love for people. Many of us strive to follow in his footsteps. And when others see us doing that, they are seeing his legacy.

Our buildings, our homes, and many of our family heirlooms may not endure. But there are things that can and will endure, and they are the things that truly have lasting value, yet many will not recognize them at first sight.

As you walk through your day today, think about what areas of your life you want to endure. What is it that you want seven generations into the future to remember and reflect upon? What is it you want them to see and imitate? What will be your contribution that endures after you leave this life?

Just a little something I've been thinking about from my time across the water.

Me and William Easterly

During the course of my short life, I've had the unique privilege of meeting some very interesting and innovative people, and one of these people is Dr. William Easterly here's a quick bio on him that WVU did as a press release. On Tuesday March 24th, he came to West Virginia University as part of the University's Festival of Ideas. From what I hear, his lecture was the most well received of the festival, and it was filled with people who were thinkers.

Among them was my buddy Jake Harriman. Jake and another friend, John Hancox, started a non-profit called Nuru International. If you haven't heard of it, you probably haven't talked to me much in the last couple of years. I'm a big fan!

Anyway, as part of Dr. Easterly's visit, folks from Nuru's campus chapter, some of the folks from our grassroots movement staff (and Jake and myself) were able to grab lunch with Dr. Easterly too.

It was incredible. Jake and I actually picked him up at the hotel to take him to lunch. One of the foremost economists in the world traveled in the passenger seat of my civic hybrid. (I guess I'm a bit of an amateur economist myself.) So as we drove to the Mountainlair for lunch, we talked about Dr. Easterly's Morgantown roots, his need for a WV hat (he was wearing a yankees hat when we met him), and how much his writings and thinking had influenced Nuru as we entered the fight to help rural communities generate bottom-up sustainable solutions to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

During the lunch, I sat in awe as Jake and Dr. Easterly exchanged ideas and talked about real solutions for real people in this world. I was humbled to sit in the presence of these two great thinkers who originated from our great state. I'm even more humbled that I could potentially call these guys my friends.

Jake lived in my dorm my freshman year of college, but our friendship has really started to blossom as we have begun working together to end extreme poverty, together, one community at a time. And I didn't know Dr. Easterly until Tuesday, but we have a common interest in the history of this land. My family is Shawnee, but his family traces back to Michael Cresap, an early frontiersman. Back then, our families were on opposite sides of the fight, but now, we have joined forces to inspire the citizens of the developed world to confront the crisis of extreme poverty and to begin to encourage the ending of extreme poverty from the bottom-up."

I know this blog is long, but there is so much I want to say. So many aspects of Tuesday March 24th that I want to remember. I want to remember watching Dr. Easterly sign my book, and I want to remember being identified by name from a crowd of three hundred.

I want to remember hearing him say that what the poor do not need are empty promises, paternalism, top-down solutions from planners, and the like. I want to remember him saying that what all people need is to be treated as equals, to be given opportunities, and to be empowered to make changes for themselves.

I want to remember how Nuru is doing that very thing. I want to remember how good ideas can catch on, and how people whose ancestors may have been enemies can unite to fight a common enemy.

I want to remember the day that I saw Nuru's founder meet one of the most influential thinkers in the world on the subject of extreme poverty.

I want to remember eating lunch and listening to ideas being shared from the second floor of the Mountainlair at West Virginia University.

I want to remember, because I believe I just participated in a historic moment. I was there for all of this.

I was also there for the first time William Easterly wore the gold and blue during this auspicious rendez-vous in the mountains. (and we captured that moment with a camera too!)

I'm humbled by the great minds I've met during this short life, and I'm grateful for days like Tuesday.

It's good to take time and reflect. There are beautiful moments every day, and often we are so busy, we miss em.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Journey

Well, it's been nearly a week, and this evening is about the first time I've had any length of time to blog. It's about 11.15PM here, and our time has been really jam-packed. We've been at for about 14 hours/day since we got here. But tonight offered a little bit of down time for us after about 10.30PM. The days have been long, but they have been good. I'm looking forward to sharing some specific stories in some future posts (maybe more tomorrow?), but for now here are a few images of take-off for us.

The photo above was taken as we were leaving Pittsburgh International Airport. It's the first time I've ever looked out at the terminal as we were taking off (probably because I'm usually in an aisle seat).

This picture represents one part of our team. Our entire team was seated in the same row, but half of us were separated by an aisle. This was Kathryn's second trip to the Netherlands and Jamie's first trip out of the country. It's cool to see how they are both stepping out of their comfort zones, and serving people. Kathryn was so moved by the people of Amsterdam when she first traveled on a mission team in 2003, she wanted to return again. Jamie has been hoping to go on a STM to amsterdam since 2006, and that hope finally became realized this Spring.

Above are the two guys who were across the aisle--Curtis and Ricky. This was a series of firsts for Curtis. It was his first flight, his first time out of the country, and his first mission trip. Ricky, similarly to Jamie, has been hoping to make a mission trip to Amsterdam since 2006. Although he has traveled over much of the world, this marks the first time he has taken a trip dedicated to missions.

I'm really excited for this team, and the work God has been doing in their lives so far. They have also had a huge impact on many people here in the Netherlands. It's so cool to see what happens when people step out of their comfort zones for Christ.

So what about you? How are you going to step out of your comfort zone for Christ? Of course you may not need to come to Amsterdam to do that (although there are some HUGE needs here, but maybe God needs you to do SOMETHING to shake up the routine of your life, and open an opportunity for you to be a blessing to others. I pray you will take some time to talk with God about it, and to listen to what He has to say.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Amsterdam Bound

This is gonna be a quick one. Today, five people from my church are leaving the country to serve a sister church in Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is a beautiful city, filled with a rich history and culture, there is a deep spiritual need.

I hope to blog regularly about our mission. In the meantime, it's time to get going. Flight leaves pretty soon.

Blessings to all.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Broken Escalator

Last week I attended the Ecclesia Network National Gathering in Washington DC. The conference was both a reunion with some old friends who have been working in ministry for many years, and an opportunity to learn from some truly brilliant theologians and practitioners from different parts of the world.

During one of the large group lectures, one of the teachers showed the video above. He was using it to illustrate the simple truth that sometimes when we are stuck and frustrated and feeling helpless, the answer is right before us. The video is a commercial for a company called Becel, and personally I think it's hilarious.

I mean, doesn't everybody know that an escalator just becomes stairs when it breaks? Often times, we can be immobilized when things don't work the way we expect during our daily routine, but maybe when things stop working, or aren't producing the desired goal, we should learn to adapt.

During the conference, the example was given of the church and it's goal of helping people grow to be like Christ, but I believe the truth applies to any context. If you have a goal for your life or for your business or your career, and you aren't producing the desired results there are a couple of questions to ask when you hit a roadblock. One is simple--is the goal I'm aiming toward the right goal? (a set-back could be a good way of making sure we are still aiming for the real winning goal.)

The second question is this--How can I adapt my methods to continue working toward the same goal? If the escalator breaks, how do I reach my destination?

Hope you enjoy the laughs, and at the same time, take some time to ask yourself today--when the escalator breaks down are you stuck or are you adapting and using stairs?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Whatever You've Done to the Least of These . . .

After Ash Wednesday, I picked up a free devotional book called "The Little Black Book." I want to share with you the scripture and meditation that were in that book. First, the scripture.

Jesus Said, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." ( for the full quote, Matthew 25.31-46).

And then the devotional shared the following.

This passage isn't a parable. At the beginning of the passage, Jesus uses the image of a shepherd, but the rest is a straightforward statement telling us how we will be judged.

The most astounding truth here is that, whatever we do toward the poor, it's not as if we were doing it to the Lord. We are doing it to Him. Jesus is present in the down-and-out, and what we do to them, we are doing to Him.

Through his Incarnation, Jesus has identified Himself with all human beings. But He has a special concern for the poor, the weak, the lowly, those who get left out . . .

. . .So what do I do--put more money in the poor box? Well there's something that has to come first--something more basic. It's not simply a question of being nice to people who get left out. Rather, it's seeing the Lord in them.

How do I do that? Talk to the Lord about it.

I've been wanting to post that (and a number of other things) for the past few days, but hadn't been able to until this morning.

Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in ourselves, that we end up interacting with others in a way that robs their humanity. It's not just the outcasts, it's everyone. Today, I pray you can begin a habit. I pray that as you run into others today at the store, at work, at school, on the street, and wherever you may be, may you see the people with whom you come into contact as people made in the image of God and people Jesus loves deeply.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Well, Rob Bell has a new book in print. It’s called Jesus Wants to Save Christians and in what has become a standard for Rob Bell, this book is another compelling argument for thinking deeply about the life of faith.

The book does a great job of tying together themes of exodus, justice, liberation, salvation, and mission in a continuous thread from the old testament to the new testament to today.

Bell challenges western Christians with an interesting comparison between the call of Israel in the old testament, and the call of Christians in the new. So often we are encouraged to invest in our own security rather than investing in changing the lives of others.

I know that many times in my life I can easily find myself concerned about my own personal future and I can get consumed by anxiety and worry. Bell warns that we do not live for ourselves—we live for others, and the moment we stop worrying and begin to trust in the abundant provision of God is the moment when we become most free to be used by Him

I had intended to read the book twice because there were so many quotable nuggets on the pages and I wanted to share them with you. But, time has not been my friend in performing a second read. So you will just have to take my word that it’s a very thought provoking book, and one that will probably unsettle and disturb you. By the way there is also awebsite with a more supplements to the book—pretty wild!

May we all find ourselves challenged and stretched to live more aware of the reality of the Kingdom of God and the call of our great King, Jesus.

Here’s to good books and good conversations, and all things that spur us on to love and good deeds.