Friday, July 24, 2009

Nuru Appears on SF Bay Area News!!!

This video is incredible. KMTPTV interviewed Jake Harriman, the CEO of Nuru International, and another good friend of mine, Sangai Mohochi about the work they have been doing for the people of Kuria, Kenya.

This video allows folks to see and hear what motivated these men to work to fight extreme poverty. I personally find it inspiring to hear them tell their stories, and I hope you do too.

And right now is a great opportunity for you to join in the fight and bring Nuru to your campus if you are a college student. Follow this link to find out more and begin filling out your application.

And, if you aren't a college student, consider what ways you might be able to contribute toward ending extreme poverty. Got a cool idea? Share it here. Gonna go do something really cool? Tell the world about it.

I'm blown away by the work Nuru has done and I'm humbled by the incredible work so many of my friends do every day!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yielding Everything?

I guess I've been thinking a lot about the garden. It's really producing a lot of squash and zucchini. I love seeing these beautiful blossoms, and enjoying the fruit being produced (actually I guess they are technically vegetables. It reminds me of this scripture.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.~John 12.24

I planted a seed, in the ground, and as a result beautiful squash blossoms have emerged from the earth. I think there is much to be learned from a squash seed.

Recently I received an email from an old friend who has been going through a lot of difficulty. He was reading a devotional book, and he was challenged by that particular day's message. He said, "I just don't know how to do it - how to "let go of personal desires, wholeheartedly embrace Jesus’ way, and walk closely with Him". I could use some input." What follows are a few thoughts I shared with him, and that I submit to you as well. I hope they are of some encouragement to you today.

As far as letting go of everything to grab hold of Jesus, I personally think it's verbiage that folks talk a lot about, but very few people give any real clear steps to accomplish it. I think Alex Aronis' book, Developing Intimacy With God offers a lot of helpful insights in this area. Beyond that, I can only say from experience that it is small steps of letting go. One exercise I've found helpful is to take stock of everything I "own" and yield it to God. It's really His anyway. Then I realize what He has done is entrust me with gifts. After I yield things to Him, I'm able to enjoy them more fully without letting them become the source of my enjoyment. I'm also able to let them go a little more easily too.

It allows my life to become a little more simple. We live in a world where people pride themselves on the stuff they amass. Whether it's cars, clothing, property, or whatever. The reality is that there are a few things we truly need, and God has more than provided those. And really, when you boil it all down, what we really need is God Himself. He is the greatest treasure in the whole universe, and for the most part, we get caught up in chasing after the wind and very empty things for much of our lives. He sustains us and ultimately, when our hearts are most yielded to Him (which is never easy), we experience the deepest satisfaction of our lives.

I also think walking closely with Jesus means we immerse ourselves in His words. This isn't necessarily reading large volumes of scripture, but rather taking small quantities of the word and soaking ourselves in them. It's especially important to immerse ourselves in the words He shared while He walked the earth. When I slow down in the gospels and immerse myself in the Gospel stories I find myself pulling away all new insights about Jesus so that I can learn to be more like Him.

Unfortunately for me in my impatience, the process is never fast enough. I think it's that way for all of us. The reality is that God rewards those who seek Him day by day with a clearer picture of Himself, His heart, and His desire for us. And as this happens, we are able to yield more and more of our lives to Him.

As you read this, may you take steps toward the practice of making God your ultimate treasure. And in doing so, may we all experience the joy and satisfaction that has been eluding us in our pursuit of lesser things.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Squash Blossom 2009

For the last few years, I've been growing a garden in my yard in Morgantown. This year, I think I've taken fewer photos, but I've been trying to spend more time in the actual maintenance of the garden. Recentyly I've started waking early to run and get started with work for the day, and by the time I make it to the garden, the blossoms on my squash and zucchini plants have closed.

I'm getting plenty of zucchini and yellow squash from these plants though. In fact, me, Joel, Jamie, and Derek have been enjoying quite a few meals featuring rice, squash, zucchini, basil, and onions (all but the rice is coming from the garden).

It's pretty cool to think that during these summer months, I can get a large part of my sustenance (and also feed others) from a small square garden in a little corner of my yard. What's even cooler is the idea that I'm joining in solidarity with the majority of our world who still live through small subsistence farms--I'm not even growing enough for subsistence, but I must say there is something different about eating vegetables that have come from a small piece of land 50 feet from your doorstep.

It's a good reminder that God is the one who causes growth, and that He brings good things from the earth. I planted the garden, and my roommates and I cultivated the soil, but God has brought much food from a small grain of seed that fell to the ground and died. Much of what Jesus said about fields, about grain, and about farming can only be understood superficially or in theory by those who have never grown crops. Next year, regardless of where you live, plant something and watch it grow and produce miraculously.

I think you'll be amazed at it all. God not only produces a lot of food, but He produces beauty while He's at it. He takes the time to make the flower on the squash one of the most beautiful large flowers around. It's a reminder. We in the West are caught in the snares of pragmatism--we work for efficiency. God does something different. He produces, but He always takes time for the aesthetic, for the beautiful.

Take a look at your life. There may be the pain from dying to yourself like a seed. There may be productivity from all of the work of your hands each day. But more than anything, there is a deep and abiding beauty in your life, and in the lives of others as we are faithful to the calling God has entrusted to each of us.

May you catch a glimpse of your own God given beauty as you are faithful to your call today and every day!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Livstrong and the Tour

I saw this Livestrong/Nike video yesterday, and I just had to share it with you. To me, Lance Armstrong is an inspiration. I know he has affected many lives through his Livestrong campaign to fight cancer, and raise funds for research toward a cure.

But there's something more about this video to me. When I watch it, it reminds me not to take the life I have for granted. I'm reminded that every single one of us has critics. There will be people who don't like you simply because of your faith, or your ethnicity, or your hair color, or the place where you come from, or your wealth or lack of it, or for countless other stupid reasons. It doesn't matter.

What we do in this life, we don't do for our critics and nay-sayers. We do it for others. As a Christian, I am challenged by this video to live more passionately for my God and for other people. Lance Armstrong shames most people with the passion and the discipline he shows in his workouts, and in his life. Maybe you are a nay-sayer. Maybe you are a critic of Lance. But maybe there's something you could learn from this guy.

I'll be cheering Lance on in the Tour this year. But I'm not just cheering Lance on. I'm cheering on the cancer survivors and the others who have been knocked around by disease and poor circumstances. Keep on fighting and pushing.

And I'm striving to live life with a similar passion. I know there will be critics--I'll probably be chief among them toward myself. You probably do the same thing to yourself. Stop it. Get out there and ride, and serve, and live, and care, and pour it ALL out for the glory of God, and for the betterment of this world.

May you stand strong in the face of criticism, be resolute in your discipline, and serve and inspire others through your life today, and everyday.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Water For the World

BH2O+ Day of Recap Video from Nuru International on Vimeo.

This video highlights Nuru's first nationwide awareness event; it was called bh2o+ or Be Hope To Her. It was pretty amazing to see students on eleven college campuses take steps to increase awareness, and also experience directly what it is like DAILY for women and girls in the developing world to get water for themselves and their families.

This event did a lot to raise awareness and to inspire folks to confront not only the water crisis, but the crisis of extreme poverty. There is more work to be done though, and there's always opportunities to take new steps to join in this endeavor to end extreme poverty. The task of ending extreme poverty is enormous, but the steps to get there can be small and simple if many join in making them. I just found out about one of those small tasks recently. It involves writing your congressional representatives and signing a petition. Like I said, the steps toward ending extreme poverty can be small and simple.

So here, give this a read, and decide whether you will take a small step. There are over a billion people who hope that you will. I stand with them in their hope.

So here's the action step.

Sign this petition this petition for support of the "Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009."

This act has a goal of helping to provide 100 million people with sustainable access to safe, clean drinking water by 2015.

This petition is something that everyone can sign, but it would be phenomenal if folks took an additional step. Write your congressional representative a letter. Let them know about the great need for work to be done in the area of clean drinking water. Tell them about the work Nuru is doing, and about the opportunity they have to join in Nuru's efforts for holistic sustainable development, by supporting the "Water for the World" bill.

Want to read more about the act itself? Follow this link.

This is a great opportunity to take action and encourage our elected representatives to do the same. Who knows, maybe your letter will be what inspires them to confront the crisis, not only of clean drinking water, but of extreme poverty!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beautiful days in Almost Heaven

Since my best friend Willie gave me an iphone, I've been trying to use it for some photo opportunities on the fly. The other day, I was heading down the road, and the sky and trees just looked too incredibly crisp to not take a photo.

The weather over the last few days has been beautiful here in almost heaven, West Virginia. After my trip to visit my buddy Seth's church, I made a journey toward Parkersburg to see my dad since I hadn't seen him in three weeks.

He was having a rough evening, but I think it meant a lot to him to have a visitor. The next day, we took a walk (he walks almost daily). He walked over two miles with me and my friend Derek, and averaged slightly under 3.5mph during that walk. He went out for a second walk with my sister and brother-in-law later that evening, and walked another three miles.

My best friend Willie was planning on getting in shape while my dad was on the mend. I hope Willie is being disciplined, or else he may be in for a rude awakening the next time he walks with my dad.

It' pretty amazing to see the progress my dad has made since his surgery. He's lost five pounds since he returned home, and I believe that it is as a result of eating a much healthier diet than he did before his surgery.

Tomorrow, he's going to see the surgeon who performed the four way bypass. I can't wait to hear what the surgeon thinks about dad's progress, and what his next steps will be.

Unfortunately I won't be able to join my dad and sister on this trip to see the Doctor, but I look forward to hearing the results (and sharing with you).

In the meantime, I hope you can get out to enjoy some of this unseasonably beautiful weather in WV (and if you don't live here, I hope you can come visit soon!).