Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thirty-Six Years

As of this morning, I’ve been living outside the womb for thirty six years. That’s half a lifetime for some, and more than a lifetime for others. I’ve officially outlived Jesus’ time walking the earth by about three years, and I thought it might be a good exercise to step back and reflect a bit.

I can remember being plagued my senior year of high school with a nagging fear that I wouldn’t live to be eighteen, and now I've lived to twice that age. Looking back, it probably came from listening too much to the Doors and to Jim Morrison’s “An American Prayer” album. I never shared this with anyone other than my folks (and now you). But hey, I lived through that (and lots of other music as well).

I remember in high school one of my teachers shared that my generation was predicted to change careers at least six times in our lifetime. Since college, I’ve experienced three career changes, and during high school/college I had three other jobs, so it looks like I’ve met my quota a few years early. For comparison purposes, many in my parents generation have stayed in the first job they ever accepted and worked at it until the day of retirement.

A few years ago, I left a job working as an analytical chemist to pursue a career in ministry (which I left last fall to become a full time fighter of extreme poverty!). When I left my job at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, one of my bosses/friends bought me a book called “There’s Always Time For Greatness” (As a side note, it’s kind of cool/rare to be able to say that in every job I’ve held I have felt like my bosses were also my friends—I still connect with old bosses from previous jobs--just to talk about life).
So this book/gift I received lists off accomplishments that people have made at different ages, and I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the accomplishments made by different folks at age 36.

William Shakespeare writes Hamlet
Albert Einstein announces his general theory of relativity, revolutionizing physics and astronomy.
Francis Crick (along with 25 year old James Watson) discovers the structure of DNA.
Johnny Carson debuts as host of The Tonight Show.
Edgar Allan Poe publishes his most famous poem, The Raven.
William Penn, English Quaker leader, founds Pennsylvania.
Estée Lauder sells her first cosmetics at Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC.

As I look back over the last 36 years, the one word I would use to describe my life is blessed. Now that term can often feel a bit trite and overused in religious circles these days, but it describes at it’s core the feeling I have as I take a few minutes away from my work to write this note. I have a deep and growing relationship with the Creator of the universe. I have a strong sense of who I am, what I was made to do, and why it is significant. I have been given an incredible array of friends who live and work in various places around the world and who feel more like family to me than just “friends” whatever that term means. And my family, well they are nothing short of incredible. I live daily with an unshakable desire that my life and my time on this earth will make a difference in this world. I’m filled with gratitude, and again, I feel incredibly blessed.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on this 13,149th day of my life. I want to thank you for the way your time, your care, your friendship, and your support have helped me to become more whole, more purposeful, hopefully more of a servant to others.

I also hope that today that you will take the time to reflect on the good that you have seen in your life as well. It’s amazing opportunity we have together—we can be a part of bringing a little more beauty into this world. I hope that I have many days left to live and bring beauty to this earth, and I hope that we can work together toward that end.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read, and may your life be enriched with gratitude, satisfaction, and blessing as well!

Friday, March 26, 2010

West Virginia Community

In a night during which number one seeded Syracuse fell to the Butler Bulldogs, the mighty Mountaineers of West Virginia University persevered and prevailed over the Washington Huskies and is now the last remaining Big East Conference team in the NCAA tournament as they move toward the elite eight.
Across the mountain state (and across the entire Mountaineer Nation), family and friends gathered around televisions to watch the Mountaineers play one more game on the road to a national championship. I sat with about a dozen others in the home of my first college roommate, Jimmy Shreeves, and really enjoyed the night and the victory.
For people outside this state, it’s hard to understand what it means to be advancing in the tournament like this. West Virginia doesn’t have a professional sports team, and for many people in our state, we rally behind the Mountaineers with the tenacity and passion of fans of pro teams.
Our state is victim to a number of stereotypes, & maybe sometimes it feels like we get a lot of negative press and sand kicked in our face. But when something good happens in this state, we all share in a sense of pride. In a manner of speaking, we can stick out our chests and say, “That’s our team!” People here care about the team like they care about their own family. There’s a special sense of community we have that permeates this state. Together, we celebrate the fact that we are Mountaineers. Together we celebrate the successes and the positives that emerge from the Mountain State.
It may be hard to understand for people outside this state, but there is a sense of solidarity here that is hard to imagine. People who routinely could give a rip about basketball are celebrating the success of our team--not because of a newfound love of basketball, but because of a deep sense of pride in our wonderful home in the hills of Appalachia.
And for our growing mass of mountaineer fans abroad. Come visit this state. Visit Morgantown. Come see why we believe this place is special. And keep rooting on the Mountaineers!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nuru Update from CEO Jake Harriman

Nuru Farmers' Huge Maize Havest from Nuru International on Vimeo.

I just watched this video, and had to share it with you. This video was released to everyone who has signed up for the "I Am Nuru" recurring giving program Nuru initiated late last fall. Jake is sharing some incredible results, and it's incredible to think that the granary in which he is standing didn't exist six months ago. Local Kenyan's contributed to the building of it, and they grew 200 tons of surplus maize this year as a result of Nuru's work in the community.

I want to share it with you because this is incredibly exciting to see--lives are being changed because of Nuru's work in Kuria, Kenya, and I want you to be part of it.

I'm personally incredibly humbled and thrilled to be part of what's happening. If you haven't gotten involved with Nuru (I've been mentioning it from time to time for about three years now), I want to invite you to be part of this great organization. Check out Nuru's fan page and cause page on facebook. Visit Nuru's website and find out even more about this great organization, and maybe consider making a donation too.

Together, we are working to make a tangible difference in the world. Thanks for letting me share this incredible news with you today!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day Fun

It's been a few days since my last blog post, and today is Saint Patrick's Day. I thought I'd share a couple of fun videos with you to celebrate the day. But, if you are interested in a more serious look at the holiday, here's an older blog post that explores a bit of who Saint Patrick was.

The first video is a news story from Mobile, Alabama. It appears that the residents may have discovered a leprechaun living in a tree in their suburb. Enjoy.

And for those of you who missed the wonderful dance moves of WVU basketball player John Flowers, here's a little video to get you ready for the NCAA Tournament. Oh, and in case you've been living under a rock, or in a cave. WVU won it's first ever Big East Tournament this year.

Personally, I'm really proud of our team, and I'm looking forward to watching them play and win six more games before their season is over. Let's go Mountaineers!!!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Where Am I Wearing?

Recently I had the privilege of reading a book by an author named Kelsey Timmerman. Kelsey’s not the typical writer, and his book is far from ordinary. As far as genres are concerned, you could consider it a mix of travel writing, exposé, biography, and socially conscious advocacy.

The book’s roots come from curiosity. The author was simply reflecting on the fact that his clothes come from many faraway places, and he had no idea what life was like for the people who made his clothes (and I imagine the same is true for us). We hear a lot about sweatshops, child labor, and the horrible conditions in which those who make our clothes often work, but the truth of the matter is that very few of us ever really delve into what’s happening in the places where our clothes come from.
What I like best about Kelsey’s book is that it’s not an angry rant of a protester, nor is it the apathy of the person who is simply resigned to “that’s just the way it is, and their’s nothing we can do about it.” Instead, he advocates a third path.

That path? The path of the informed consumer. In fact, he encourages his readers, to take trips similar to his own. In an Appendix, he warns folks about possible pitfalls and roadblocks to completing the mission, and encourages us to go for it anyways.

At times as I read the book I would find myself laughing out loud because I could relate to Kelsey’s wit and life experiences (and you probably can as well). At other times, I would find myself in tears uncertain if these tears were as a result of morning the difficult life of those who make our clothes, or mourning the loss of community and family that garment workers cherish, but that is quickly eroding in areas in the west.

Another aspect I enjoyed as I read was that there was a transformation taking place within Kelsey as he traveled. He was realizing that the more he learned (and he admits that he’s still not an expert), the more he realized that the issues surrounding the clothes we wear are highly complex, and it behooves us to be better informed.

Among other things, he points out that it’s often not as simple as protesting or boycotting a clothing company. Even where work conditions are extremely challenging, at least there are jobs and opportunities for the people. Rather we can advocate for improving those conditions by writing congress as well as the companies we buy from. We can also choose to support companies that are regularly auditing and seeking to improve conditions.

If you can get a copy of this book, I would recommend taking the time to read it. Kelsey’s journey around the world is not necessarily something we can all do, but we can all be better informed about the people and the places that make the clothes we are wearing. It is a reminder of a truth that we can often forget in a global marketplace There are people who make the things we wear and the things we use. These days they don’t live down the street and we are growing more and more disconnected. Perhaps, we could use a little more connectedness to our brothers and sisters around the globe.

If you are interested in reading the book or finding out more about Kelsey, read his blog here. There's a link to order the book from amazon too.

If you’ve already read Kelsey’s book, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Another World Is Possible 2010

I’m a little bummed that I’m writing this post after the fact, but I’m really excited to be able to share this with you. Last week, for the third year in a row, a group of ministries, churches, and individuals on the campus of West Virginia University hosted a week of events called Another World Is Possible. You can read previous blog entries to find out more about the event if you like, but the essence of the event is this.
Each night features an issue that deals with brokenness, injustice, and the great needs of this world. We all agree that we live in a broken world, but this series of events seeks to mobilize people to make a difference and contribute to being part of the solution in some small way.
In the past organizations such as Invisible Children, Nuru International, One Voice To End Slavery, Eleho, and others have been part of the event. What’s really cool is that each event gives people not only exposure to issues in our world, but also opportunities to do something about it.
The blurry photo above (I think I just have a dirty lens) was taken at a screening of International Justice Mission’s new documentary film At The End of Slavery. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend watching this film. International Justice Mission works to rescue slaves, free trafficked individuals, and work toward justice on behalf of people being oppressed.
It’s cool to see so many people coming out to learn more about these issues. At the end of the event, people were given an opportunity to write a letter to their congressional representative to support a piece of legislation working toward the end of child slavery. Here’s a link to the letter.
I love the title of the series of events, and I love the thought of people being mobilized toward action. Another world IS Possible. And we have an opportunity to be a sign of that world to come. I believe there will come a day when every injustice in the world will be put to rights by the Creator of the universe, and I look forward to that day. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work toward being a sign of the time to come.
Wherever you are, I hope you will take time today to consider how to be part of the solution and maybe you will check out some of the organizations I listed above. Whatever you do, get involved. Life is too short to just be a spectator, and maybe there’s some unique contribution that only you can bring—so bring it!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Something Special

I don’t know if you had the opportunity to hear WVU Basketball Coach Bob Huggins postgame interview after the team’s loss to UConn, but if you have twelve minutes, you might want to give it a listen, here. Also, I’d recommend reading his comments on MSNsportsNET.com.

Huggins made some comments to his players about the special place they have in the hearts and minds of the people of the state of West Virginia. He said that the state really rallies around Mountaineer sports. He said, “You have very few times in your life when you are special—very, very few. A lot of people never have a chance to be special.”

I’m a huge WVU Basketball fan. I think this is probably the best team we’ve had since the team that lost the national championship. And I like what Coach Huggins shared with these guys. They have the potential to be really special.

He told the team, “You guys have no idea. When you get older and you say ‘I wish I would have listened. I wish I would have . . .’ We all do. But this might not happen again.”

And isn’t that the way life goes. We’ve got one opportunity. As much as we would like it to be different, we have very few times in our lives where we can be special. We have each been given skills, talents, and resources. And the truth of the matter is that many of us squander them. We bury our talents, we let the opportunities that could be just waste away.

As you read today, I’m asking you to consider your life. Think about the talents and resources you have been given. Don’t let opportunity to pass you by when you could be special. You could do something really great that will help others, will encourage others, that will make the world a better place. Or you could do nothing. You could waste what you’ve been granted.

Don’t let this life you’ve been given be wasted. Make a difference wherever you are. Don’t surrender to mediocrity when you have the potential to make a huge difference in this world.

You won’t get another shot at today. Make it count.