Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nuru Launches New Website

Nuru EP 6: Harvest from Nuru International on Vimeo.

I've been wanting to share this video on my blog for a while, but I was waiting for the perfect moment. I believe right now is that moment. This video was released by Nuru International, an organization that was started by my friends John Hancox and Jake Harriman.

I won't write a ton today, but I'm thinking about it. Instead, I will just suggest that you click the link and visitNuru's brand spankin new website.

You might see a few familiar faces if you explore the site too. Thanks for watching, and checking out the site!

Listener Project Video

Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town. from DAN SMITH on Vimeo.

Ok, before you hit play, brace yourself. This video is a little Different. My friend Cameron introduced me to this band about a year and a half ago when he had them come to Sozo, the coffee shop we opened in downtown Morgantown back in 2006. It's hard to believe how far Sozo has come since then, but I'm super grateful for the opportunity to be able to start something quality with my friends.

Ok, so back to the video. The guy who does the "talk music" portion of the video is named Dan Smith, or listener. The other guy, (whose name escapes me right now), goes by the name of fienix. The washing machine in the background goes on tour with the band. They actually beat the washing machine on stage, just like in the video.

The song is called, "Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town," and the concept of the song as I see it is that we tend to look constantly for cure-alls that make life easier. And because we are constantly looking, there are always people who are willing to sell us what we think we want, whether the solution actually works or not.

The style of music is a bit different for most people, but in my experience, each time you hear the Listener Project, the sound grows on you. Listener has a unique sound, and I'm really excited that they now have a video for people to share the sound and images of listener with others.

As you listen, pay attention to the words. Think about the things that you might be putting your stock in that just don't do what they claim to do. Take a moment, and step back from some of the snake oil you may be buying.

And beyond that, enjoy the tune and share it with others.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A million miles in a thousand years

So Donald Miller wrote a new book, and it is a NYT bestseller. So who is Donald Miller? He’s an author and a speaker, a cyclist, and a hiker to the top of Machu Pichu (more details about all of that in his book). Donald Miler wrote a book called “Blue Like Jazz” a few years back, and it’s a pretty fun read. If you haven’t heard of it, I recommend giving it a read. The subtitle is “irreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality.” It’s both engaging and funny—as are all of his books.

And this new book, well it is excellent on many levels. As a personal narrative about Miller’s life, it’s fun and endearing, but it is much more than a personal narrative. It’s a book about story, and what makes a good story. What makes a good story is this, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

Sounds pretty simple and straightforward right? We can think about that statement, and it makes sense. A good movie is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. The problem is that not every movie is a blockbuster. And not every conflict draws us in. Not every character is endearing.

The same could be said for a life. What makes an interesting life? Just like in the movies, it’s the same thing. An endearing character isn’t necessarily perfect, but is liing for a goal bigger than himself/herself. The conflict needs to involve serious risk. And the goal doesn’t have to be attained to have a good story—it just needs to be worth pursuing.

As miller writes the book he leaves his readers in the same predicament that he has discovered for himself. His story that his life was telling just wasn’t really compelling. He wasn’t taking risks for much of anything, and was avoiding conflict at all costs. I think many of us live here. Or if we do take risks, it’s just not for something compelling. Nobody wants to watch a movie to see if the protagonist is able to buy the Volvo or the bigger house. And yet, many of us live stories similar to this as the primary narrative of our life.

But before we wallow in despair, maybe we should consider changing the defining narrative of our life. What if we risked something for other people, or for a cause that was bigger than ourselves, or maybe we laid it all on the line for the sake of helping our neighbors.

I have to admit this is a poor synopsis of the book, so you might want to laugh a bit more by reading the actual book.

And in the meantime, think about the story that you are living out, and how it interacts with other people’s stories. Maybe today is a great day to begin to write a new narrative, to live differently, and to take some healthy risks for the sake of bringing more beauty into this world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Encouragement for the Journey

That's the view from my house. I took the photo last fall. I usually walk down a set of stairs/sidewalk for a few blocks to enter the heart of Morgantown and the heart of WVU's campus and start my day of work. I think it's pretty incredible to live in a town where I can walk to and from my primary workspace, and where there's a pretty reliable public transit bus system to boot. The morning air in Morgantown refreshes me, but when I see a view like this image every day, it's just a great encouragement as I start my day.

Do you know what else is an encouragement to me? The words of others. Late Saturday night, my friend Jim Pace sent me a message across twitter. Jim and I have both been involved in the spiritual development of college students and young professionals for the last few year. We also spent a few summers working together in a summer leadership training program that we (along with a few others) led for college students. He's a great friend, and he's just written a book called Should We Fire God? Jim leads a church of about 1000 students at Virginia Tech, and has walked through some really difficult times there. In fact, he had the challenge of representing the faith community of Virginia Tech on major network television and walking his parishioners and staff through the grieving after the shootings back in 2007. Honestly, he is an inspiration to me.

And that's the irony. Late saturday night, I received this message on twitter. "@chanchanchepon just want to say this... You inspire me man. No joking, you really do." I don't know what prompted the message, but I do know that it meant a lot to hear words from my friend.

A similar thing happened to Jamie Sunday morning before church. She received a text from a mutual friend that said "Thanks for bringing me to Jesus." Can you believe it? What a text! It was from a mutual friend who left the area just a couple of years ago. Needless to say, Jamie was very touched by that text, and honestly, so was I.

You see, I've come to a realization lately that we end up touching people's lives far more than we realize. And yet, we are so slow to share that truth with others. Maybe you've shared your faith with friends or family members and then lost contact with them, and they now have embraced a life of faith. Maybe you took the time to listen to a friend when they were hurting and didn't know where to turn, but you comforted them. Maybe you were the one whose words may have seemed to sever a friendship, but they were actually the words that rescued someone from destroying their life.

Or maybe you are reading this, and realizing, "You know what, when ________ said or did _______, it really helped me, and I never took the time to thank them or let them know."

You know what I think? I think that YOU have had more of an impact on others than you may ever realize in this life. I also think that YOU have a great opportunity to encourage someone today just by sending a note, a text, a tweet, an email, or (deep breath) a letter. Never, never underestimate the power of your words or your presence in the life of another.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking about all of the people who have touched your life (to be honest it's what I'm doing too). You probably feel overwhelmed (because I do). Can I make a suggestion? Take a moment to send a little encouragement to just one person today.

Honestly, your note could make more of an impact in that person's day than you realize, and it will probably make a difference in your own day as you take time to remember the kindness of others.

So get to it. Seriously. It'll just take a second, and it's a really good thing.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

What do you do with all that power?

I took this photo two and a half years ago while attending the Native American Literature Symposium in the heart of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation. The subject I presented on was the articulation of power through the "pen and ink witchcraft" used to describe treaties in general, and a treaty that was signed with my tribe back in 1795.

It's funny because this blog was initially going to be about a far different subject, but now that I've started writing about this treaty, it's gotten my mind going in a completely different direction. It has to do with power. Yesterday, shortly before the WVU/Marshall game, I had this great conversation with one of my friends about power in the educational sphere. My friend is from Bremen Germany, and his name is Heiko. If you ever get a chance to meet him, he's an incredibly brilliant and articulate guy and a great conversationalist. (And he is responsible for most of the words and phrases I know in German!)

I first met Heiko while he was beginning his graduate academic career here at West Virginia University. He came to check out our campus church service in the late summer of 2005. We had cancelled our gathering that morning, so Heiko and I had lunch at a local Morgantown restaurant called Madeleine's and thus began our friendship. Heiko has since then finished his degree, married another friend of mine, Liz (formerly Bailey), and begun his PhD in Education.

His focus for his dissertation is the use of power in the teacher/learner roles in the classroom. He's doing a lot of his writing about the idea of not holding on to power. There are tons of philosophical writings from people like Michel Foucault who talk all about this kind of power use and usually the idea is held that you need to hold on to power and that all of our relationships are actually about domination and enforcing roles of power.

What if instead we were to yield power and authority? What if instead of teacher's holding all of the cards they empowered students to be proactive in the learning realm. This is what Heiko is exploring. I think his research will be very interesting.

Reminds me of the way God works too. Jesus, the most brilliant person who ever lived, said it this way, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves" Think about it, Jesus, with all of the power available in the universe, sets it aside and serves and empowers. As He does so, He turns everyone's thinking on it's head. The King of the universe, washed feet and lived a yielded life where He sought to empower others. AND He still, empowers others to this day.

What about you? What do you do with the influence and power you wield? Are you an authoritarian? Do you seek to dominate others? Or do you live by a model of service and seek to empower others to achieve even greater good than you? How do you interact with others in your household? Your job? Your classroom? Your friendships?

May you find ways to use the power and influence given to you to serve and empower others, and may you trust in the example of the One who set His life as an example of service and humility.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Walking Through The Neighborhood

I took this photo a couple of days ago while walking through my neighborhood with my friend Ryan Huffman. The view was actually pretty stellar, but my photography skills with the iphone are a little lacking.

The last few weeks/months have been lived at an incredible pace, and as a result, I have not been blogging as much--if you have been following this blog for a while, you probably noticed. I had a few moments this afternoon to reflect and write (and I'm looking forward to more time for this soon--lots to say!), so I thought I'd take a moment or two to talk about an experience I had Tuesday night with my good friend Ryan Huffman.

During his sophomore year, Ryan got involved with the college ministry I was leading at the time, h2o. He had grown up knowing about Jesus and putting his faith in Jesus, but during his time at WVU, his faith became more concrete and tangibly lived out. He served as an intern for a semester with GCM and volunteered much of his time to serving within the community. I can remember many great conversations with Ryan through the years as well as some pretty stellar times of creating music in a unique band we started with a couple of other friends. The music was a mix of shawnee vocables, percussion, keyboard, and guitar.

I officiated Ryan's wedding. Not like a referee but more like a reverend--that kind of officiating. Anyway, while we've remained good friends, we kind of lost touch over the last several months. This past tuesday, we were able to catch up a bit. Part of catching up involved a walk through my neighborhood, some good chinese food, and a little bit of caffeination from the local starbucks.

Walking through the neighborhood was simply a cool experience. Sometimes my life gets so busy that I forget I live in a neighborhood. Growing up, my neighborhood was really important to me. My neighbors were some of my family's closest friends and supports during times of trouble. Kids in my neighborhood would play kickball, wiffleball, basketball, or even jump rope in our street.

Is it just me, or have we lost touch with that sense of community? Have we lost touch with the idea of presence, of inhabiting a space? Maybe our spaces have just changed, and we inhabit in much the same way we always have. It just looks and feels a bit different.

My walk with Ryan made me nostalgic though. There's something to be said for a walk through the neighborhood. Maybe, if you haven't done it in a while, you could take a few minutes today to walk through your neighborhood. Visit a friend. Call a relative. I know we are all living incredibly busy lives, and you probably can't call everyone, but maybe you could connect with one person. Maybe you can't walk through the entirety of your neighborhood, but you could walk through a few streets.

May you find a space to connect today. Connect with people. Connect with God. Connect with the space in which you live. Be present, and enjoy the presence of others.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Sukkot is also called the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles. I took this picture yesterday as I drove by the Tree of Life Synagogue in Morgantown. This festival has been celebrated for thousands of years by hebrew people. This year the festival started at sunset on Saturday October 3 and will end on Friday October 9.

It's a bit ironic that I saw this Sukkot booth at this point in the week. Over the last seven days, I've driven over 1000 miles and will be close to 2000 miles by the time the feast of booths ends. The feast of booths is a reminder that once the people of G-D lived in tabernacles, and G-D provided sustenance. For 40 years, the decendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wandered the wilderness, and G-D provided for the people in their journey.

Sukkot is celebrated immediately after Yom Kippur, and recalls our renewed fellowship with the Creator of the Universe as well as his sheltering care and provision for us in the wilderness as well. Sukkot is also a celebration of harvest and is often also called the Feast of Joy.

Whether you are on the road traveling, or enjoying time in your temporary home. Take time to celebrate the joy of the provision of the Creator. We are sojourners. We are pilgrims. If you have a garden, this is the time of final harvest, give thanks for the food that has come from the earth. If you have extra, share it with others. Feast, and invite friends.

If you can build a tabernacle this week, do it. Take a night this week, and sleep under the stars. That's a big part of Sukkot too. Try eating a meal outside.

Take a moment to be joyful and thankful for the provision that's been given to you in this season. In the words of one of the most famous members of my tribe, Tecumseh, "If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with you."

May your heart be filled with wonder as you reflect on the provision that has brought you to this season.