Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Visiting the Capitol

Just about a week ago, I was in Washington DC with my fiancée.  We had just attended a Christmas party, a surprise 30th birthday party, and a wedding during the weekend, and then we stayed with my friends JR and Christy Pittman and stayed the night with them.  On Monday, we rose early and made our way to the Metro and took it into the city.  We had a fun and adventurous day planned in the cold capital city, and among our stops was a tour of the Capitol.  We have a great friend who works there, and he had made plans to give us a tour during his lunch break.

We were able to see and experience the Capitol in ways not often experienced by tourists, as we were ushered past the crowds for a more detailed guided journey.  At the end of our time, the journey became a bit more exciting as we were given two tickets to enter the gallery to sit and watch the Senate in session.  As we turned over all of our electronics and made our way up the stairs and through security, I found myself reflecting on the fact that very few citizens of our country have actually sat in the gallery and experienced the senate in session.  While most of us have access to CSPAN, it’s not quite the same. 

The Senate was in session putting in long hours during the weekend voting on a couple of major pieces of legislation, but not everyone was in attendance.  West Virginia’s own newly elected Senator to replace the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, Joe Manchin, did not vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or the DREAM Act.  Of course, Manchin later made an apologetic statement to the people of the state for missing the votes. 

It was kind of strange sitting in the gallery and watching the senate at work.  During the 40 minutes Jamie and I sat in on the Senate, we only saw a handful of Senators present.  It was pretty amazing to sit and watch our government at work, but it was much different than I had expected.  I had assumed that when legislation was being discussed that every Senator would be present.  That’s simply not the case.  As the discussion took place, Senator Kerry was present along with a handful of other Senators who debated the nuclear disarmament treaty.  He was also using a Blackberry, which according to a recent New York Times article, is a banned object on the congressional floor.  I guess I had always pictured everyone sitting in on the debate and discussion to make the most informed decision before a vote, but very few were doing so while I was there.  I guess it is a bit naïve of me to make the assumption that these elected representatives wouldn’t have other responsibilities to take care of, but like I said, it was a learning experience for me.  I’m sure it’s hard to keep track of every detail and discussion point for every piece of legislation that comes by one’s door.

As I sat in the gallery and became much more informed on the disarmament treaty than I had been before that time, I was grateful for the opportunity to sit in on the process of how our government works.  I reflected on the fact that I was able to sit in the same room as the legislative branch of government for the most powerful country in the world.  How truly amazing that we have a government that gives us access to the process?  How wonderful that we have the right to petition our representatives and speak our minds about issues that are dear to us?  This isn’t the case in many parts of the world.  After leaving the Capitol, it is my hope that I will be able to become a more active and aware citizen.  And I’m hopeful that you will also take advantage of the many opportunities we are given to participate in our nation’s governance.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Serving For The Holidays

It was a little after noon, when I hopped in the car with Jamie and her parents and we made our way to the First United Methodist Church of Clarksburg.  Jamie had invited me into a tradition that had been part of her family since she was in middle school.  Each year, her family drives into town on Christmas day, not to take gifts to another relatives house, but to serve people behind the scenes.

We showed up and were given aprons and our charge—clean dishes until they were all done. “Why were the dishes dirty?” you might ask.  Well, they were dirty because the church had prepared over 1000 meals to be distributed throughout the county, and also enjoyed in the meeting hall of the church.  It was pretty amazing, and reminded me of serving  in a kitchen with my Dutch and American missionary friends one year in Amsterdam, but that is another story.

It was really special being able to give to benefit others as we worked on Christmas day.  It felt really refreshing to serve, and I hope that it is a tradition we can continue in coming years.   It is far to easy to make the holidays about us, about the presents we get, about the quality of the presents we give, or about other things that really have minimal lasting benefit, but there is something really special that happens in us as well as in others when we get out of our comfort zones and serve. 

Every time I spend time with Jamie and her family, I’m simply amazed at the way Christ shines through them in both subtle and profound ways, and I find myself learning and growing in my love for Him as well as for those around me. 

As I scrubbed out pots and pans, I thought about the generosity of the church for opening its doors to provide this service.  I thought about the 1279 people who had meals delivered to their homes by volunteers.  I thought about the volunteers who were driving around town with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and pumpkin pie and a little smile came on my face as I thought about lonely people who were greeted by a smiling face and a meal on Christmas day.  If only we would see more love of our neighbor, then maybe this world would be a much more beautiful and safe place for all.  

Christmas Reflections

Another Christmas has come and gone, and I’m sitting at my dad’s transferring some of his legendary Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass albums to his iPhone (yes, my dad has an iPhone) and reflecting on my time with my ever growing family.

I did something this Christmas that I had never done before.  I left the house and served others.  I love coming together with family, exchanging gifts (and laughs), singing Christmas carols and, on this particular Christmas, watching snow fall, but this Christmas was really touching for me.

On Christmas Eve, we started a new tradition, and exchanged gifts on the night before Christmas.  Interestingly enough, I can remember lobbying for this tradition to begin when I was really little, but to no avail.  I had heard legends on the playground about other families who opened gifts on the night before Christmas, but not my family.  That changed this year, and it seemed more like an exchange of gifts in anticipation of something greater that was coming—the gift of the Incarnation.

As I went to bed that night, I realized that things were changing for me.  I would no longer be “just hanging out” on Christmas day with Dad and Becky, but when I awoke on Christmas day, I would be driving with my fiancée’s birthplace to spend time with even more of our family.  We arrived a little before noon at Lake Floyd, and completed our second gift exchange (also filled with laughter), and I hopped in the car with them to take part in a new tradition.  We served others. As I think about it, I may make this service a blog entry of it’s own.  It was pretty incredible, and something I think that might provide more depth and meaning to us on a holiday that has ever increasingly become about us and less about others.  More to come on that though.

So after a wonderful afternoon, we came back, cleaned up, and headed out to Jamie’s Uncle’s house for a Christmas potluck dinner of sorts.  The food was delicious, and Jamie has nine relativess who are under the age of thirteen, so it was a fun-filled and entertaining time interacting with everybody.  There was an assortment of fun from charades, jokes, story-telling, karaoke, great food, caroling and smiles all around.  As the evening wound down, we gathered together to listen to Jamie’’s cousin Oscar read the story of Christmas from the Bible.

When we parted from Uncle Joe's, we took her 80 year old grandma home, and sang Christmas carols with her and Jamie's parents as we made our way along the snow covered wonderland of Harrison County, West Virginia.

I’m grateful for the ever-expanding family I have been given on this earth, and for time I could spend with such wonderful people on the most wonder-filled holiday. Further, I'm grateful for a greater understanding of the wonderful mystery that is celebrated at Christmas.  So beautiful!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Every Face Tells A Story

Prop Event #001: Every Face Tells A Story from thePROP on Vimeo.

That was the theme for the first major event for “The Prop” a non-profit dedicated to connecting people doing good.  This group of artists and “everyday creatives” calls the greater Chicago Illinois area home, and, they do some pretty amazing stuff.

The prop loves to host events that connect people to great artists and great causes.  And they chose Nuru International as the first cause they would share with their people.  On September 23rd, 2010 several artists and art lovers converged in downtown Chicago to share in the first ever event for the Prop.

The event was an art installation featuring the human face called, “Every Face Tells a Story,” and 50% of proceeds from the sale of art went to fund Nuru’s work in Kuria, Kenya.  Members of Nuru’s communications team visited the event, and Nuru Partnerships Director Nicole Scott shared a brief explanation of what Nuru does and how people can get involved with the work of ending extreme poverty in Kuria, Kenya and beyond.

The thing I love most about this organization is that they are simply doing what they are good at, and what they love, and they are using their gifts and their passion to not only further their own efforts as artists, but to take their art a step further and encourage individuals to become better global citizens.

Over 150 people came to the prop’s event, and all of them left with a not only an incredible connecting experience to the art, to other people, and to the work of Nuru, but they left with a vision of ways they can take their gifts and passions and use them to bring even more good into the world.

We need more people like Victor Saad and his team at the prop.  We need more people who are living for something more than themselves.  We need more people being Nuru and prop-a-gating light and hope in a world that needs it badly.

Will you choose to prop-a-gate good today?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Principle of the Slight Edge

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a principle I found in John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It was called, the Principle of the Process. As I read the chapter in his book, I was reminded of another principle I had the privilege of learning from a man named Olan Hendrix, and it’s called “The Principle of the Slight Edge.”

Olan Hendrix has served on the board of and advised many organizations during his incredible life, but it’s pretty remarkable to consider that he only had a sixth grade education, and enlisted in the military at a young age around the time of WWII.

Olan’s life was radically changed by Jesus Christ, and when the change took place, he started pursuing this principle that has defined his life. In 2001, he shared this principle with a group of staff with GCM who were about to embark on a career in vocational ministry. I was one of those staff.

The principle of the slight edge roughly paraphrased states,

Throughout history, the greatest achievements in any field have been performed by those who exelled above the masses in their area of expertise by only a slight edge.

For example, there are many great basketball players, but the difference between them and a Michael Jordan is ever so slight. But it is a difference.

This principle, when applied is very reminiscent of the law of the process. You see, it’s application reminds me of the incremental effects of diligence in our work. You see, it has to do with pushing ourselves to do a little bit more. For instance, I might not be able to read a whole book a day, but I can read one more chapter, or one more paragraph or one more sentence, and push myself by a slight edge beyond my normal constraints.

I might not be able to spend five hours a day giving myself to some area of discipline whether it be exercise or reading, but I can start with five minutes. You see it is better to push yourself with an incremental goal than it ever is to just not try. I may not be able to play basketball like Michael Jordan, but I can improve my skill level by a slight edge with practice.

I hope that as you read this post, you’ll find yourself desiring to take a little bit of time to push yourself in goals, whether they be geared toward faith, weight-loss, fitness, stewardship or some other arena. Push yourself incrementally, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Holidays From Nuru!

Happy Holidays From Nuru (Full Version) from Nuru International on Vimeo.

This holiday season is different for the people of Kuria, Kenya. Seven thousand people are beginning to experience a life filled with choices and opportunities. It's really hard to believe that just a little over two years ago, Nuru International sent it's first team on the ground to begin working toward a sustainable and scalable solution to ending the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, and now there is hope where once there was despair and desperation. It's hard to believe that things you and I take for granted, like being able to afford to send their young ones to elementary school or having enough food for everyone in one's family to eat, are being experienced by many people in Kuria, Kenya for the first time this holiday season.

Together, we have witnessed change that has quickly moved from a handful of people to literally thousands. It is absolutely amazing to think that Nuru has had such a transforming impact so quickly, but there is still much more work to be done. A spark has caught flame, and candles are being lit. Lives are being changed, person by person, and family by family. People are stepping up and spreading hope, light, and Nuru.

This year, as you begin your Christmas shopping, will you consider making a contribution to Nuru? Three families have stepped forward to match donations that come in during the the month of December. This is a great time to double your impact and contribute to lasting change for people you may never meet, but who could benefit greatly from your generosity. Thanks for considering giving a special gift to Nuru's work this month.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving With Family

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been posting, and it certainly isn’t because there hasn’t been much to say. Last week was a pretty event filled week, and after a bit of travel in the first part of the week, I spent some wonderful time with family.

My aunt Rosemary was in the hospital after a pretty intense back surgery, but thankfully she was able to be released to go home in time for Thanksgiving. She is one of the strongest women I know, and the love that she and my Uncle Bill share makes storybook romance look pathetic. They have been by each other’s side in sickness and in health for over 50 years!

As the week moved forward, I was able to spend some extended time with my fiancée Jamie, along with the children of my best friend in the whole world, Willie. And then, on Wednesday evening, Willie, his wife Sue, and my nephew, Nick all arrived at Papa Williams’ Homestead in Parkersburg.

We were able to spend the morning of Thanksgiving together before Jamie had to leave to spend time with her family, and we made our way across the Little Kanawha River to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner with my sister, and her husband Ray.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving with Family, but we were missing a couple of people in the mix. My brother Chuck, and his wife Susan were isolated in California, but I was thankfully able to see them a week before the holiday. Maybe next year they will come out to join the rest of us for at least a day together.

The photo above is an iphone photo of the LCD image from the back of my dad’s camera. It was the only way I could get a photo on my phone with me also in the image.

Hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving, and didn’t eat too much. If you did, it’s not too early to start a New Year’s Resolution toward a healthier diet and exercise!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day and Jake's Story

The End (Jake's Story) from Nuru International on Vimeo.

Today is Veteran's Day, it's a day when we honor those who have fought in the past, and we look toward a time when war will end. Veteran's day actually started as Armistice day and commemorates the end of fighting in World War I on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., known as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

The video above tells the story of a veteran and long time friend named Jake Harriman. After experiences he had in southern Iraq while he served as a platoon commander in Force Recon, his life has taken a radically different direction. He saw a link between terrorism, insurgency and extreme poverty. Rather than telling his story in written words, I'll merely suggest you watch the link. Suffice it to say that Jake's experiences have led him into a daily battle to work toward the eradication of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, extreme poverty.

Here's an ugly truth. If we don't do something about the issue of extreme poverty that makes a sustainable difference, not only are we choosing to ignore our neighbor instead of love them, but we are setting ourselves up to reap consequences through providing breeding grounds for terrorist organizations. We really need to stand up and do something about this issue. Personally I believe that extreme poverty can be linked to several other issues in our world including trafficking and slavery. People need an opportunity for basic choices in life, and for many, there are no choices, and no hope.

And that's really the good news. We can actually do something about this issue. On this Veteran's day, will you join Nuru's efforts and get in the fight to end extreme poverty? What if we were able to say that our generation was the one that brought an end to extreme poverty?

I'll close this post with a quote from my friend that was featured on the ONE campaign's website last year.

There is hope for those without choices. We can end extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and in so doing, answer the cry of the desperate, give a voice to the voiceless, and provide choices to impoverished men and women who have been struggling for so long.

A revolution has begun…a revolution to wake up and mobilize a generation to end this fight once and for all. There is no room in this fight for egos, partisan politics, or ideological differences. One sixth of humanity cries out to us today – asking you and me to simply put our differences aside and use our talent, skills and resources to empower them with choices. This Veteran’s Day, I ask you to step forward and get in the fight with us. In so doing, you will ensure that thousands of brave veterans and countless global citizens have not sacrificed their lives in this war in vain. Join the revolution. Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Speaking Words of Potential

I was six years old and in the first grade when Steve Swisher came to my school to speak.  He was the only major league baseball player I know of that came out of my home town of Parkersburg, WV until his son Nick Swisher got picked up by the Oakland A’s.  And now, Nick is playing for the Yankees, but I digress.

I don’t remember a lot about Steve Swisher’s visit except that he signed some people’s baseball cards (I didn’t have any), and he shared some motivational words that have stuck with me ever since. 

It’s kind of wild to think about the things that saturate a young person’s mind.  I can’t remember a lot of my gradeschool experiences, but I remember being in the McKinley Elementary School Cafeteria sitting on the speckled tile floor when Steve encouraged all of us to “Strive to be the best!”  I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, but I knew from everything he shared, that it takes effort and hard work to be the best at anything, and that our number one competitor isn’t other people, but rather ourselves. 

You see, when we strive to be the best, we are striving to become the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be.  And it could just be that the best version of ourselves we could possibly be also happens to be the very best at a skill or a virtue anywhere. 

I don’t really know what prompted Steve Swisher’s visit to McKinley, but I know that his words had an impact on me.  I’ve never met him or his son face-to-face, but his simple phrase has been a source of encouragement in all that I do.  And his words are a reminder of the power of our words in the lives of others around us, both young and old.

When you speak, you can speak words of life or words that tear-down others.  What would happen if each of us chose to speak life-giving words to others, and we sought to inspire others to “Strive to be the best!”?  I have had an opportunity to speak in a few schools during my life in spite of my lack of playing major league (or even high school for that matter) baseball.  Many times when I think about these opportunities, my mind goes back to Steve Swisher, and I think of the possibilities in those classrooms.  I’m potentially speaking to the next MLK or Gandhi, and perhaps someone in the classroom will look back on my visit as a catalytic moment.

We all have these opportunities though.  If you have children, or if your life intersects with another person’s ANYWHERE, you and I can speak words of life that may be a source of strength and hope for others when times get difficult. 

As you go about your day today, be mindful of your opportunities to speak life and hope into the people who are around you. 

May your words be instruments of life and hope, and may they help others realize their potential.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Autumn Beauty

It's amazing that autumn seemed to wait for a bit this year. I woke up this morning, and saw what I believe is one of the first frosts of the fall. It's November, and the leaves are in full peak color here in West Virginia.

I've been on the road for a couple of weeks, and to be honest, I had felt that I would miss the emergence of fall color in the state of West Virginia. As I pulled into my driveway last Wednesday, I was greeted by all of the trees in my yard, and they were peaking in yellow and red. The trees along the highways were also looking as if set ablaze with intense yellows and reds glowing amid a sea of brown leaves.

While the sun may not be seen nearly as much in the coming months, I can't help but feel these fall colors are a gift from the Creator of the Universe. What a wonderful treasure! Where there was once bright green, a series of gold and crimson hues have emerged. Soon the forests of Appalachia will be filled with the evergreen and grey that tell us that it is deer season, and winter is fast approaching, but for now, there is color, and I am filled with gratitude that the leaves lingered for a little while longer this year and I could enjoy their beauty.

What's even more beautiful about this gift is that this masterpiece of artistry that is created before our eyes each and every year. It costs us nothing, but the moments that we take in the fullness of this wonderful treasure seem restorative to one's soul.

May you also take a moment of gratitude today for the wonderful and free art exhibit on display in the cathedral of the wilderness, and may it's momentary beauty bring healing and refreshment to your life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Francis Chan at Catalyst 2010

In Summer 2008, my good friend Josh Vance introduced me to a Christian communicator named Francis Chan. He told me in particular that I should listen to a sermon called Lukewarm and Loving It. I have a lot of respect for Josh Vance, so I took his advice and gave the message a listen. I had listened to a few other messages from Chan before this one, but I still remember it well. I had just arrived back in Morgantown, WV after spending part of the summer helping run a summer leadership program for college students near Wilmington, NC.

I was actually working on my daily practice of environmental stewardship by walking to a mid-morning meeting that was taking place with my friends Trey Dunham, Cameron King, and Mark Byrer at Trey’s house. I walked through Morgantown, and listened to about half the message by the time I arrived at Trey’s. After the meeting, I immediately proceeded to continue listening, and about the time I passed by the Mountainlair in the center of campus, I started weeping. I don’t think I stopped until I had arrived at my house 10 minutes later. The message touched my soul deeply.

Well, I had never actually seen or heard Francis Chan communicate in person, and I was told that his talk at Catalyst would be his last message before he left his church and community in Simi Valley to travel to Asia with his family and serve the poor of that part of the world. In three Catalyst events I have attended, I had never gone in to hear one of the messages given. I wanted to make sure I heard this message from Francis and I’m glad I did.

Some people are not fans of Francis for his communication style, his demeanor, or for any number of reasons, but the thing that strikes me most intensely about him is his passion and sincerity. He speaks with an authenticity that leaves people listening intently. As he spoke to this group at Catalyst, he challenged this group of leaders to examine their lives, and the lives of their churches. He asked, “Would what you do on Sunday morning, or during the week make sense if it were placed in this book?” “Would your personal life and daily experience, fit in with the stories that are found in this book?” He went on to say that much of what happens in our practice of Christianity really doesn’t make sense in light of what is seen in scripture. He listed a few examples, and then became laser focused on the issue of poverty.

He told 13,000 leaders that sometimes God doesn’t want to hear our worship. Sometimes our prayers our hindered because we don’t care for our spouses. Sometimes he is disgusted by our fasting and our ceremonies because we ignore the poor. He shared Isaiah 58 (a personal favorite of mine and Bono’s) along with many other references from the old and new testament to build a case for why our care for people who are suffering in extreme poverty matters.

After hearing a message like that, which just served to affirm so much of what I believe, I just found myself incredibly hopeful that the 13,000 in attendance would act on what they heard.

I am not quite sure what it looks like, but I am hopeful that it will involve the church taking a more active role in the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation. As Francis Chan leaves the United States to serve alongside his family, I’m grateful for the encouragement I was given through him to keep pushing onward.

And beyond the encouragement, the talk and the discussion that took place with a few friends after the talk reminded me of some unbelievable spiritual experiences that I had in the desert that solidified my decision to leave my work in vocational ministry to work to serve the poor.

May all who call themselves followers of 'the Way' take up Francis’ challenge and strive to live a life by the grace of God that would make total sense amid the pages of the sacred scriptures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Soul City Church

Recently I've had the opportunity to visit quite a few new places for food, fun, and now fellowship. Sunday, after saying my goodbyes to Jamie, Willie, Sue, Christian, Emily, and my dad, I hopped on an airplane and began my next journey. This time my stop was in the greater Chicago Metro area. Sunday night two of my friends picked me up at the "L" train stop, and we made our way to a new church plant that is getting ready to launch. It's called Soul City Church.

I think it is the third or fourth time that I just happened to be visiting a church as it was preparing to launch. There's something special about those times. People have an intense vision of the possibilities for their community, they are working hard, and they are united to a solid vision. The whole community is pregnant with anticipation of what may happen as the doors open for the community to expand and grow in its ability to love God and neighbor.

If you are in the Chicago area, and the idea of serving and transforming the neighborhood appeals to you, I've I believe this would be a wonderful group of people with whom to do that.

Sunday night, as we celebrated the Sacrament of Communion, Jarrett Stephens, one of the members of the church shared this wonderful idea. When we come to the table, we come with all of our stuff, good and bad, and God meets us there with all who He is, and freely shares it with all who receive it.

What a beautiful thought, and a beautiful community of people.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nationwide Columbus Half-Marathon

Sunday morning, I awoke at 545AM to begin pre-race preparations.  I wasn’t running myself, but my fiancée Jamie was running her first ever half-marathon.   We drove to Columbus and stayed the night at the home of my best friend in the whole world, Willie.  And, on Saturday afternoon about a half-hour after we arrived, Willie had a surprise for us.  My dad came up to visit and support Jamie too.  We had a great team rallying around Jamie as she awoke at 6AM and began her own pre-race preparations which were much more serious than mine. (she actually had to run 13 miles).
We drove to the race site and got stuck on 670 for a bit on our way to the race, and so at 710AM, Jamie hopped out of the car to ‘warm up’ by running to the starting line (and insuring that she would be able to be there in time for the start).  I proceeded to drive the car to the parking garage, and amazingly, I made it to the starting line in time to see her off.  (Turns out that her wave of the race started close to 745 instead of 730AM).  At that point Willie and my dad drove up about two blocks away, picked me up, and we made it to the first of three stops along the route to cheer Jamie on.
It was utterly amazing to see the turn-out for this race.  15,000 people ran in the race, and there was literally a continuous stream of runners along the route.  In fact, Jamie had nearly passed us before we saw her from the first vantage point (mile 4) along the race route.  We tried to track her using the tracker function on the marathon website, but we couldn’t get it to work.   At mile 9 we fared much better, and even got a couple photos.  All along the route, Jamie maintained good form and totally rocked the race.   In fact, Jamie started the race awesomely well, and ran her fastest 10K ever during the first part of the race.
The marathon as a whole was pretty stellar too.  The route took participants all through the city, and there were dozens of bands and live music all along the way.   The city was filled with energy and thousands of spectators gathered along every part of the route.  
Jamie has been training since late this summer with two of her friends, and all three of them completed the race well. She finished the entire race in about 2 hours, and I am soooooo proud of her!  She set a goal, she disciplined herself to run on many occasions when she didn't feel like it, and she totally crushed it!   

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Miners and the Gift of Life

I love happy endings. I love it when a plan comes together. I love the fact that all of the miners who were trapped in a mine in Chile were able to be rescued alive and well. I read a post in the New York Times this morning that shared what a number of the miners were planning to do now that they were rescued.

And the whole experience has gotten me thinking. What would I have been thinking about if I were trapped underground for several weeks, and with the distinct possibility that I might die underground? What would you think about for that matter?

I think I would find myself thinking about the people I love. I would be prayerful for a reunion with them, and for an opportunity to hold them and tell them I love them just one more time. I would be trying to make the most out of a really difficult situation, and caring as best as I could for the folks around me. At least I'd like to think that's what I would be setting my mind and my heart on. And, beyond that I would probably be doing everything that I knew that would maximize my chances, and the chances of my peers, for survival. And, in the back of my mind, I imagine there would be periods where I would wonder about what I would do differently if I had another opportunity on the surface again.

I can't help but imagine that after emerging from an experience like these men faced one would live life with an even greater clarity, intentionality, and purpose than ever before. Life is an incredibly precious gift, and I imagine these men are experiencing every moment in a way that is filled with gratitude as well as a sense of presence in the moment that is saturated with a heightened awareness of the value of each second of the life they have been given. As I read through the New York Times article, it seemed like these men were committed to making some changes after their experience.

Life is an incredibly precious gift. Your own life is a remarkable treasure that God has given the world, and you have a wonderful opportunity with the life you have been given. You can love others. You can be an instrument of healing. You can commit yourself to making a difference in this world.

You may not have been trapped underground with uncertainty about your emergence, but the reality is that your days as well as mine have a limit. May we each and all make the most of the time we have been given on this earth and approach our days with a hopeful and purposeful intensity to savor every moment we have been given on this earth.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Milka: One Woman's Story

Milka: One Woman's Story from Nuru International on Vimeo.

This is one of the most amazing stories of empowerment and change I have ever heard or seen. It's the story of Milka Marwa, one of the many people whose lives have been changed because of Nuru's work together with the people of Kuria, Kenya.

Milka Marwa grew up in extreme poverty in Kuria. Her children and her grandchildren also grew up in extreme poverty. If one didn't know better, they could easily assume extreme poverty was a genetic trait as it seems to pass from generation to generation with ease like some set of dominant genes.

Milka's family, suffered from hunger, unclean and unsafe water, poor access to basic medical care, and lacked opportunities for education and entrepreneurship.

All of that changed when Milka got involved with Nuru. She was the third farmer who was met by the first Nuru team when they were conducting surveys in Kuria, Kenya in September 2008. Milka quickly proved herself to be a hard-working entrepreneur, and was named by her peers to be head of a Nuru group. Milka has continued to be recognized for her work ethic, and she is now leading over 500 farmers in 50 Nuru groups across her community.

Her family is able to get access to healthcare, they have clean water, funds for school fees, and plenty of food to eat. Her life and the lives of her descendants have been changed for good. She is a respected leader in her community, and her story comes as a result of people here and around the globe choosing to be Nuru.

Will you choose to be Nuru today as well? Take a few minutes, watch this video, and share Nuru's story with friends. Make a donation. Post it to your wall on facebook. Blog about it. Tweet it up. Just don't sit there waiting for someone else to take action.

The world needs YOU to step up. This is a great moment to help word spread and get more people involved in working toward the end of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation.

Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.

Milka: One Woman's Story

This is one of the most amazing stories of empowerment and life change I have ever seen or heard.  It is the story of a woman named Milka Marwa whose life was changed as she became involved with Nuru.

Milka grew up living in extreme poverty in Kuria, Kenya. Her children and grandchildren also grew up living in extreme poverty as well. What does that mean?  It means that all her life, she has suffered with chronic hunger, as have her children. It means that she and her family have lacked available clean drinking water.  They have not been able to live with convenient access to health care, or afford school fees and other basic needs. If one did not know better, it would seem that extreme poverty was like some dominant genetic trait, easily passed from one generation to the next. But that is not the case.

Milka has proven that.  Her family now has plenty of food to eat, they can afford school fees, and they now have access to safe, clean water, and have learned

Milka was the third farmer met by Nuru’s first foundation team in September 2008 as they began surveys in the community to assess the needs.  Milka enrolled in a Nuru group, and her peers recognized her hard work ethic, and asked her to lead their group of ten farmers.  Now, Milka leads over 500 farmers in 50 Nuru groups.

Milka is now a leader because people like you have chosen to be Nuru.  We need more people around the world stepping up to be Nuru, will you join us? 

  Share her story.  Tell a friend. Make a donation. Blog about it. Tweet it up. Post this video on facebook.  Whatever you do, please do something.  We need everybody’s help to end the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation.  We CAN do this!

Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Catalyst 2010

Early Tuesday morning, my good buddy Derek Roberts and I hopped into Nuru’s van, and began our journey south.  Our final destination, Catalyst 2010.

What is Catalyst?  It is one of the largest conferences in the country for Christian leaders, and each fall approximately 13,000 leaders converge on the Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta, to participate in the Catalyst experience.  Among the people who have shared at Catalyst are Malcolm Gladwell, Andy Stanley, Scott Harrison, and Seth Godin (PS I randomly shook hands with Seth Godin).  The people who share at Catalyst invite the event’s participants into both their successes and failures.  And as a whole, the conference seeks to launch leaders to be better and better at their work of leading.

Catalyst also hosts a bi-weekly podcast on iTunes which features updates and interviews from some incredibly sharp minds in the world of leadership.  At the beginning of each episode, a recording from Andy Stanley reminds the Catalyst faithful, “Leadership is a stewardship; it is temporary, and you’re accountable.”  Personally, I love that quote, and it is one aspect of what I love about the conference.  The conference exists to both equip and remind leaders of their responsibility to lead.  It reminds me that whatever positions any of us hold in this world, they will not last, and that we must operate with a sense of urgency and excellence in all that we do.

The above photo was taken of a number of volunteers who were enjoying a lunch break.  It served as a reminder to me of just how many people it takes to accomplish something monumental like this conference. 

So Derek and I drove down to  share Nuru’s story with the attendees.  We did this in a space called the “Social Causes Tent” and we shared this space with about a dozen other nonprofits who work in a variety of arenas.  It was wonderful to see hundreds and hundreds of people pass through this space and to hear questions from many about who Nuru is and what Nuru does.  One of the best moments happened when two young women came up to our display and picked up information, and Derek said, “Have you heard much about Nuru?”  The woman looked at him and said, “This organization is the reason why I’m changing my major—I love Nuru!”

As I think back on the Catalyst experience, the opportunity to share Nuru, and the great friendships made and developed during the time, I’m filled with gratitude.  To think that Derek and I had an opportunity to share Nuru’s message with so many, and to think that these people are current and future leaders, it’s utterly amazing.  There are so many people out there who are dedicating their time, their talents, and their resources to serving others, and we were able to share a brief moment with a few of them. 

While it was great being at the event, I can’t wait to see how the event catalyzes even greater acts of service and disciplined leadership around this world.
Whether you were able to attend the conference or not, will you consider ways you might be able to pour your life into others, and make service a way of life for the good of the whole world?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Law of the Process

Ten years ago, one of my close friends gave me a copy of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. And, as is common with me, I had great aspirations of reading it, but these were thwarted by tyranny of the urgent, and a fairly generous queue of books that I was waiting to read.

Last weekend, I picked up the book again, partially inspired by the fact that it is being used as a curriculum for leadership development among the servant leaders that are being mentored in Nuru International’s pilot project in Kuria, Kenya.

I’m trying to take this book a little more slowly than I typically allow myself, and I’m only a few chapters in. Each chapter has great stories, and I so far, I feel like I can give this book really high recommendations (and from the looks of the blurbs in the front of the book from many other leaders, I’m not alone).

One chapter that stuck out to me was the Law of the Process--Leaders develop daily, and not in a day. I think the reason was because it is so antithetical to what we are led to believe from casual observation of the world around us. Casual observation leads us to believe that successes happen over night, and that it only takes a few seconds to make a sandwich, brew coffee, or any of the multitude of actions from which we receive virtually instant gratification.

I think that there’s something in us that wants to skip steps and take short-cuts, but there are no short-cuts. We can work smarter at whatever we do, but we must always work hard. Success comes incrementally, and often times it takes multiple failures before one success. For example, did you know that Colonel Sanders was rejected over one thousand times before he found someone interested in his recipe?

It’s understandable to want to arrive at our destination more quickly. We can travel the country in a matter of hours. Journeys that once took days or months now take only a few hours. People from several countries can look at this blog post at the exact same time. Some things in our world move quickly, but realistically, most do not. It is our challenge, to be disciplined to the process, and incrementally over time, we will see the fruit of our labor.

Earlier this summer, I started doing push-ups and sit-ups five days a week.in an effort to get in shape, lose weight, and feel better. I started by doing five sets of 10 push ups with a set of 50 ab exercises between each round of push ups. Now I am doing 25 push ups per set and and 100 ab exercises. There is no way I could have started in that spot. I would have gotten discouraged and given up early had I tried. But, over time, we are able to make incremental improvements, and each of us can make those incremental improvements, if we only start, and try to do something.

In Maxwell’s book, he tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt, and if you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. Teddy Roosevelt is a great example of the Law of the Process. Here’s a Roosevelt quote that is an inspiration to engage in the process.

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marreed by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

May we each dedicate ourselves to the Law of the Process, to incremental successes and set-backs as we push forward toward our goals and become better leaders and better servants all around.

Have you ever experienced successes in the Law of the Process? How has this rule applied to your life?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Fall West Virginia Festivals

I try to make it a regular habit to visit various fall festivals that happen in this part of the state of West Virginia.  Last weekend was the Buckwheat Festival, and this coming weekend is the Forest Festival.  Although, I had hoped to attend the Buckwheat Festival, instead, Jamie and I visited a couple of old friends in Preston County along with some other friends.

Although we didn't attend the festival, in many ways we participated in what makes these festivals so special.  We were able to connect and catch up with friends we haven't seen in a long time.  The couple we visited opened their home to us after they had spent the entire day parking cars for the Buckwheat Festival.

Beyond connecting with old friends, there are some other aspects of events like this that make them a priority for me.  Of course, there's always the really unhealthy food that is readily available in this carnival atmosphere, but that's not exactly it.  (I do enjoy some fresh pork rinds from local farmers at the Buckwheat festival though)  It's the coming together of people from all over the region to celebrate some of the ties that keep us connected together.

Even though you would never guess it in the supermarkets or the suburbs, our roots in the United States are those of an agrarian nature.  The Buckwheat Festival, celebrates the end of the harvest, serves as a fundraiser for local organizations, and allows people from all walks of life to sit down and enjoy a meal together.  The meal?  All you can eat buckwheat cakes with two sausage patties and a cup of milk.  (My personal record is 13).  The cakes are hearty as is the atmosphere at the Kingwood Fire Hall. A person can see people from all over the region and from every walk of life enjoying a meal together, and there's really something beautiful about that.

If you are from this region, I hope you are able to observe and enjoy the foretaste of shalom that I am talking about at the Buckwheat or Forest Festivals.  If you are not, I strongly suggest you find out what your community does to celebrate the end of the harvest and our agrarian roots.  Go there, and tell folks about it.  Also, if you make it a point to attend one of these festivals, why do you go, and what is your favorite part of the festival?

And wherever you might find yourself, I hope you will take the time to enjoy the reunion, homecoming, and reconnection with friends and family that events like these offer.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Stephen Colbert's Testimony

Approximately one week ago, the Comedy Central host of the Colbert Report, Steven Colbert, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week to share his "testimony" about migrant farm labor.  Known for his satire, Colbert maintained a position consistent with his character on television as he spoke to the committee.  Colbert's testimony, while attempting to bring levity to a very tragic situation, met with mixed reviews among politicians.

There are jokes all through the testimony, and many have called his statement an embarrassment.  But I have to wonder, if his "star power" didn't actually help give this issue greater attention in the media.  Maybe, just maybe, amid all of the jokes about the situation, the desire that many have for reform will gain momentum because of Colbert's statements in the committee meeting.

At one point during his statement, Colbert noted that maybe if we protect others from being exploited, we will be less likely to be exploited.  All of the joking aside, that seems like pretty sound logic.  It sounds very familiar too.  It sounds like loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I don't know if you've ever given much thought to where our food comes from if you don't grow it yourself.  I don't know if you find Colbert's statements before a government committee laudable or lamentable.  What I do know is that his testimony caused me to give greater attention to the issue, and is  yet another opportunity for me to consider how I might better love my neighbor.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Home Office and Library

This weekend, after our race, Jamie and I made a quick trip to Lowes to look into some paint for painting a room in the house that will serve as a home office for me.  This was our third trip to Lowe’s and I felt only slightly closer than in the past to finding a a color that I thought would work.  I was landing on a blue or gray tint because I had read that these tints help enhance productivity and and creativity.

As Jamie and I waited in line to purchase a couple of tints I decided upon, I had an idea.  What about mis-tints?  Part of this was because I hated the thought of spending $30-35 for a gallon of paint I wasn’t sure about, and part of it was the thought that I could find a potential bargain that would be even better than any of the colors I was considering.  Jamie had quickly glanced at the bin and saw a variety of purples and greens, but when I walked back, I found a blue that was PERFECT!

So we stepped out of line, drove to the house, and began taping off the ceiling and trim.  Because the room was a little smaller, and because we weren’t sure if we would have enough paint, we painted the room with brushes instead of a roller.  It looks phenomenal.

As a result of the painting efforts, I felt confident about moving three large bookcases into the space and transforming the space into a home library/office space.  It’s not quite finished in its entirety as I would like to replace the overhead light fixture as well as hang a few things on the walls, but wow, it’s pretty incredible to have a space like this.  (As an aside, if you are interested, I may be downsizing my library and selling a few titles.  I have a number of texts from an MA in English as well as many texts on faith, culture, and philosophy.)  

In my life, I’ve never had a room entirely dedicated to thinking, reading, work and the like.  In fact, until my roommates moved my desk into this room, my desk/workspace has always been about 2-3 feet from my bed.  Now that I don’t have working/reading stuff in my bedroom, I’m not sure what to do with that space. I'm excited about this new arrangement of space and the opportunity to dive in to having my own library. 

I'm looking forward to this being a place where many great ideas are birthed and developed to maturity.   Hope that you are able to cultivate creativity and innovation in your world!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Charlie Hall Band Album Released

After listening to the free web-streaming of the album about five times last week, I bought the new Charlie Hall Band album, “The Rising.” It was just released on iTunes and in music stores today, so this album is fresh off the mp3/CD burner.

So what do I think about the album? Over the years, I’ve grown more and more impressed with CHB and their music. These guys are passionate about their faith in Christ, and their music reflects an authenticity and soulfulness the likes of which I’ve rarely heard.

As I was listening through my download for the first time last night, I found myself thinking about the members of this band. They have all been friends for years. They’ve experienced deep losses as well as amazing spiritual highs during their many years together, and that’s the really touching part. These guys have stuck together. Their music is not the central aspect of their lives. Their fellowship, their community, and their faith in Christ is the heart of who these guys are.

And what I believe happens when these guys get together to worship God is something truly beautiful, and one of their concerts or listening to an album is an invitation into an intimate encounter they are having with the Creator of the universe.

While I listened I noticed the way the various instruments and the singing worked together with one another to create a compelling group effort filled with mutual encouragement, mutual respect, and mutual desire to worship God wholeheartedly. I believe these guys have each grown as musicians, but even more they have grown in their ability to worship God together. I found myself thinking about this simple truth while I was listening to them. If I went to see them in concert (which I have had an opportunity to do a few times in the past), I don’t think it would matter hugely if there were five or five thousand people joining these guys. Their music is less about a performance for the crowd and more about an opportunity to worship together the risen Savor they love. It is truly a gift that they invite you and I to join in their wholehearted and raw praise of the God who is there.

If you are a Christian, then I think you will appreciate both the heartfelt expression of this new album’s new lyrics, and if you are not a Christian, I think that while you may disagree with the content of the lyrics, you will be impressed with the talent of the musicians who are playing so tightly together on this album.

And, if you can see these guys in concert, by all means GO!!!

Kenyan Café

Over the last month, Jamie and I have been making a habit of eating about once per week at an incredible local restaurant in Morgantown. It’s called the Kenyan Café, and it is owned and operated by a Kenyan man named Denis Gekara who is a friend of Jamie’s from her days as a lifeguard in the WVU Student Recreation Center.

Actually, it’s a pretty interesting story. Denis came to WVU as a student, and when Jamie first met him, he had just lost his father and was dealing with losing a loved one and being very far from home. He was in the pool at the SRC trying to teach himself how to swim when Jamie befriended him and gave him some guidance to help him learn. She’s attempted to help me as well, but I have a long way to go. ☺

So Denis has opened a restaurant in Morgantown, WV and the food is mostly organic and absolutely delicious. If you ever have a desire to try authentic Kenyan food, you need to check this little restaurant out. It’s located in Chelsea Square near Mylan and Ruby Memorial Hospital. Interestingly enough, the Kenyan Café website was designed by a very talented graphic designer friend of mine named Kelly Barkhurst; check out her work when you get a chance.

The portions are incredibly generous, and the meals are cooked with great care. Jamie and I have a tradition of ordering a single portion of chicken stew with ugali, and splitting it. Ugali is a cooked coarse ground corn meal (kind of like a really thick corn meal mush), and it is a main staple food of Eastern and Southern Africa. Denis’ stew recipe is absolutely incredible, and you can taste an Indian (Hindustani) influence in the stew. This meal is absolutely perfect for the two of us. In addition to the meal, we also order two large Masala Chai and we sip them as we wait for our food to be prepared.

If you happen to find yourself in Morgantown, WV and you are looking for a healthy meal that will support a local business that’s a little different than the norm, then look no further. The pace of the space is unhurried and the restaurant is a great place to relax with friends, enjoy some great authentic Kenyan recipes as well as learn a little Kiswahili for those so inclined. Just don't go on Tuesdays because it is the one day during the week Denis closes his doors. In the meantime, check out his website and facebook fan page.

And, if you have already eaten there (or eat there in the near future), I’d love to hear your thoughts on the food and the space as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September Stride

Running, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.

This weekend, I attempted to make a foray back into the world of running. Joined by my fiancée Jamie Reaser and long time friend Kevin Kuhn, we registered Friday night for a local Morgantown, WV race called the September Stride. It’s a 5K race that supports the Richard Rosenbaum Foundation. I think it’s pretty cool to think that I can run a race, get a solid meal and a free t-shirt, and support a great cause at the same time.

Friday night, we registered at the pre-race pasta dinner. There were two types of pasta, salad, green beans, drinks, and bread lined up for eating. The meal was absolutely incredible, and if that wasn’t enough, the keynote speaker for the evening was Canadian Olympian and former WVU athlete, Megan Metcalfe. She shared anecdotes from her big push toward the Olympic games, and answered questions from the dinner guests as well.

And there were door prizes. Jamie won a new pair of Adidas running shoes, and Kevin won $10 gift card for Ruby Tuesday and two movie passes. I received an energy bar for asking Ms. Metcalfe a question during a Q & A portion of her talk. By the way, the race was Kevin’s first attempt at running—EVER! He totally rocked it too. His goal was to finish, and he did it, and did it well.

As fun as all of the prizes were, Saturday morning offered a rude awakening as I stumbled back into the world of running races. Kevin, Jamie, and I met at my house and walked from my house to the starting line (it was a low-key warm up). Then Jamie led us through a series of dynamic stretches during the last portion of our walk and then it was race time.

It was a bit of a mini-reunion for me at the race. I saw friends from church and from my old job at Mylan pharmaceuticals. I had forgotten what a tight-knit community the world of local runners is. It was great to see so many friendly faces, and introduce my Jamie to fellow runners who have touched my life thru the years.

I had also forgotten what a challenge it is to run a 5K. In September 1999, I ran the September Stride on a whim, and was incredibly frustrated with my 26:13 race time, six months later I ran the same course in 20:11. After the race, Kevin had Jamie and I out to his place, and we were able to enjoy an incredible lunch as well as a relaxing post race recuperation time in a hot-tub. Eleven years later and my time was 27:25—I think I half expected to be able to run like I did ten years ago, but that expectation was not steeped in the hot-tub of reality.

All in all it was an incredible day! I got exercise early in the day, had a relaxing soak in a hot tub, and I was able to spend time with some great people. And now, I have a time to beat for my next race.

If you are thinking about running a race, just do it. Get out there and give it a try. As much as there are several runners out there, you are really only competing against yourself. Running a race affords you an opportunity to gear up for a goal, and is a fun way to connect with friends.

Here’s hoping Jamie, Kevin, and I can stick with it and continue to improve, and that you can do the same.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just One

A couple years ago, while I was serving as the director of social justice at a local Morgantown, WV coffee shop, Sozo, we hosted a series of events called Another World Is Possible. The purpose of the events was to inform people of injustices in this world as well as tangible steps individuals could take to combat these injustices.

It was during this series of events that I met a man who has become a good friend. His name is Charles Lee, and he has a gift for making ideas become reality. In the image above, my brother captured Charles and I greeting each other at a Conference called Catalyst West this past April. One of the ideas he produced was developed with a friend named Greg Russinger. It's called Just One.

The concept of Just One is really simple. These guys have come up with creative initiatives that allow regular folks like us to make a tangible difference in their local community as well as globally with a handful of initiatives that involve simple things like trash cans and laundry. When Charles came to Morgantown, he shared information about the issue of human trafficking and slavery with a packed room of people who were eager to learn more about how they could begin to combat some of the injustice that they knew existed in the world.

Since that initial meeting, I've seen even more of Just One's projects, including one called Laundry Love. Below is a short video explaining how this particular project works and how you might implement it in your own community.

I'm writing about Just One because I really believe in the work they are doing. They are creating some very simple, tangible initiatives that people can do anywhere to help make their community a better place, and to care for friends and neighbors.

Take some time to visit their website, and get creative about how you can begin to impact your community and your world. And if you decide to try one of these projects, tell me about it, and DEFINITELY tell the folks at Just One about it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Morgantown Endodontics and My Root Canal

Sunday night I had some ice cream and fresh strawberries for dessert with some friends and it triggered some pretty intense pain for me. So much so, that I was calling everyone I knew to see what I could do to alleviate the pain. I had about an hour’s worth of excruciating pain which slowly began to subside after I took some Ibuprofen. I had an appointment scheduled for today at 8AM, but if there was any way to move my appointment forward, I wanted to do it.

I called the folks at Morgantown Endodontics Monday just as they were opening, and told them about my predicament. They were amazing! They worked me in for a root canal just a few hours later. They took before and after x-ray’s of my teeth, and so I asked Dr. McBride, my endodontist if I could those images emailed so I could share them on my blog. He had them emailed to me just a couple hours after our surgery was finished.

To me, the whole process was utterly amazing. Any time I mentioned to others that I had scheduled a root canal, they cringed and said good luck. I am thoroughly happy with my experience. Dr. McBride and his assistant explained every step of his work, and I made sure to ask plenty of questions before a rubber dam was placed around the tooth in question. I just wanted to understand the process thoroughly. Until my surgery, I really had no idea what a root canal was or what it’s effect would be.

Why did I need a root canal? Earlier this summer I had a tooth that got cracked while playing soccer with some friends. One day later, the broken piece of tooth came out of my mouth. When I went to a dentist, they were trying to salvage the tooth and clean it up before putting a filling in, but decay had gotten too close to the pulp. The preparation process had caused a bit of nerve trauma in the tooth, and had increased its sensitivity to hot and cold exponentially in the days that passed sense the dental work.

Above is a photo from before the surgery, and below is a photo from after. The really bright spot in the image is the temporary filling put in to my tooth. You can see two dark spots going down the center of my tooth. Those are the nerve fibers. They make our teeth sensitive to hot and cold, and when a tooth has decay near to the pulp, this nerve fiber becomes VERY sensitive to hot and cold, and is why we experience toothaches.

I imagine that in the past root canals were very painful. Essentially, the endodontist drills a hole through the tooth into the pulp and continues to clean out any nerve fibers that may be in the long thin canals that run down the middle of the roots of tooth. Before the advent of anesthetics, and without some of the amazing technologies available today, the drilling and cleaning process would probably generate a lot of heat and since the whole process deals with nerve endings, it was probably VERY painful. Even in my situation, one of the canals crossed through the jawbone, and so Dr. McBride needed to apply anesthetic directly through the pulp of the tooth. (I only felt a momentary pinch).

After he cleared the canals thoroughly, he inserted a biocompatible rubber filler to replace the nerve fibers. You can see in the second image that the canals of my tooth’s roots are filled as well as the pulp chamber. You will also notice a dark spot in the middle of the tooth. Dr. McBride explained that this was placed in the tooth under a temporary filling to mark that the work had been done so when I go visit the dentist in mid-October, they can see the work that has been done.

If you ever need a root canal, I highly recommend Dr. McBride and the staff at Morgantown Endodontics. They are thoughtful, professional, friendly and they keep you informed every step of the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thinking of Far Away Friends

The photo above was taken on my tribes land in front of our Msi Kah Miqui (Tribal Council House). In the photo are my best friend in the whole world's wife and daughter along with me. It was probably taken before one of our ceremonies just a few years ago. I've got a lot of really great memories from our land and the celebrations of our ancient traditions each year in the spring, summer, and fall.

Willie just contacted me to tell me that his wife, Sue, is having surgery tomorrow on her thyroid. Willie and Sue are family, and it's challenging to be so far from family during times like this. One can feel helpless.

But the reality is that although there are many things that cannot be done, there are a few things that can. While we can not always visit, we can make phone calls, send texts, and even let others know who might be able to help out more. We can also send cards, make meals, and express our care from afar. Sometimes we can even blog. ;)

Sue is an incredible mother and wife, and does a great job caring for her family and friends. On the many many occasions where I have found myself in their town for sundry reasons, she has always been amazing in her provision of accommodations and food. She has been my airport shuttle on multiple occasions (and has done the same for other family members too!), and she regularly gives of her time to care for others.

Here's to hoping for a safe and successful surgery and a quick recovery for my far away friend Sue!

And here's to hoping that you might find time to contact a far away friend who just might need to hear from you in the middle of a difficult situation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Choosing To Be Nuru

I had hoped to get this post up sooner, but as with so many things, life seems to move really fast, and before you know it, days have gone by. The image above was taken by my former roommate, and coworker at Nuru, Derek Roberts. He's an incredible photographer, and a pretty amazing friend too.

But this post isn't about him, but it is about something that he and many others around the country are doing. It's about choosing to be Nuru.

The word Nuru is a Kiswahili word that means light and has a connotation of hope for the people who speak the Kiswahili. Recently, I’ve been amazed to see a number of people around the globe who are standing up and joining with the efforts of Nuru International (the social venture for which I work) to end extreme poverty for the people of Kuria, Kenya.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Jake Harriman who is the CEO of Nuru International and a former WVU student flew into the area to host a series of fundraiser events in and around the Morgantown area. The goal of the weekend was to have a few members of the Nuru family host a fundraiser event in their homes and invite their friends to find out more about Nuru’s story and how they could join us in our efforts to end extreme poverty, together, one community at a time.

Over 60 people attended the events and celebrated the success of Nuru during our very short history. Along with the celebration, we were able to raise enough funds in recurring giving to empower 130 families out of extreme poverty in the second poorest district in all of Kenya.

Personally, I’m really excited that so many people in and around Morgantown are so supportive of Nuru. Nuru has some strong roots here in West Virginia and at WVU, and I love the fact that people from our state are joining together to have a global impact.

It’s hard to fathom that one out of six people on our planet live on less than the buying power of $456USD/year. It’s easy to get discouraged by the magnitude of a billion people living in extreme poverty. It feels like too big of a problem to do anything about, and the problem even feels so far away from anything we can conceive.

But the world is closer now than it has ever been before. Thanks to many recent advances in technology, we are literally more connected across the globe than we have ever been in history. And, you and I have an incredible opportunity to make a tangible difference in ending what I believe is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation. In Nuru’s model, it takes only $29/month to empower an entire family out of extreme poverty. That’s less than $1/day for someone here to make a tangible difference for a family they may never meet.

In the future, we are hoping to have similar events in different towns around the country. In a few weeks we will be in Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL. I'm also looking at visiting Parkersburg and a few other locations for the same purpose in the future. Our hope is that more people would join us in being light and hope for others, and would help support our efforts as we work to end extreme poverty, together, one community at a time. Wanna help? Send me a message or comment on this blog, or even go the old fashioned route and call me on the phone. :)

I’m honored to be a part of what Nuru is doing, and I would love for you to consider joining our efforts!

Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Forgotten God DVD Review

In late march I was contacted by a person from David C. Cook Publishers who had read my blog post about the Francis Chan book, Forgotten God. They had recently created a DVD resource that is meant to act as a video supplement to the content of the book, and they wanted me to review it.

Of course I was thoroughly excited about the opportunity, and I immediately shared the opportunity with two small groups in which I was participating at the time. Shortly after sharing the possibility of reviewing this DVD together, I had a pretty long season of travel (I was only home three days during April). By the time I had returned, both groups were wrapping up for the summer, and I no longer had a group with which to experience the DVD.

While in my conundrum, I had almost arrived at a paralysis because I really valued the group’s input to the review. But sometimes we don’t get to do things in the way we want. So I sat down, and watched the video alone in my room. I had watched the first session with a group, so I can speak share the impact of the first session on our discussion, but for the rest of the DVD my remarks will be restricted to a more personal review.

Here’s the deal. This video, much like the book, will challenge and inspire the viewer. As I watched the first session with a group, I had to compose myself when the first 10 minute segment had finished. I was in tears. I was in tears because of the power of the truth that was being shared on a screen in front of me. The question being asked was dealing with our desire to hear from God and to do what He wants us to do. It doesn’t take much observation to see brokenness and hurting in our world. What takes effort is for us to walk headlong into the hurts to care and to serve. That’s the kind of place where God wants us to be, and deep down, we know that this is the place where we will find our greatest joy because our life will be poured out for the good of others and the beauty of our world. And yet, we wrestle with this divine call of God, and cling to things that aren’t satisfying, that aren’t enabling us to allow the power of God to be made manifest in me most robustly.

One of the great questions for our generation, and one of the great questions of the video is this. Are we willing to risk everything to be obedient to God? Nobody will ever fault us for doing good things that aren’t risky, but it takes real guts sometimes to listen to what God is speaking to you and DO it, regardless of the cost.

I hope that many will watch this video together with friends, and that God will use this resource to challenge and inspire groups of people to challenge and inspire one another to live lives of radical obedience to Christ, and to run boldly, listening to the Spirit of the living God as He directs and goes before us.

Even if you never watch this DVD or read this book, please take time to think about living a different kind of life. God loves us deeply, and he is our strong support, our encouragement, and our rock. What would your friends, coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and family think if they saw you living differently? What do you think is stopping you from letting go of the American Dream to grab hold of God’s great dream for you?

The subtitle of Chan’s book is “Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.” God wants to do work in you for the good of others, and ultimately for His glory. Maybe a starting point for each of us is to ask Him to supernaturally empower us to be able to love Him and love others.