Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ecological Impact

What if we knew all of the hands and chemicals and processes that took place to make the products that we use and consume on a daily basis? In a recent Wall Street Journal article, there's talk of people being able to do just that.

I included the image of a really great book on environmental conservation from a faith perspective that was written by Dr. Matthew Sleeth, an ER doctor who left his vocation to become an advocate for the faith community in particular, and for all people to take the role of environmental stewardship more seriously. I highly recommend you give his book a read--it is full of great information on why we should be better stewards as well as practical tips on how to take steps to decrease one's ecological footprint.

So what's the latest on Wall Street? The idea is that major garment manufacturers are talking of providing a greater degree of transparency in their manufacturing processes and so consumers can have a greater degree of understanding of the environmental stewardship practices of different companies.

As I was reading the article, I started thinking about the past. I don't remember a time like this, but I bet it wasn't too long ago when people knew where their products came from. I think we have this blind trust in corporations that they are always ethical in their business practices, and they try to care for people every step of the way. We make assumptions that the products we buy and consume are done really inexpensively both in labor and in ecological impact. I wonder how a tag on clothing or other products might change our spending and consumption habits.

Have you ever given much thought to where your stuff comes from? If you've got some extra time, check out this older post from 2008 and watch The Story of Stuff. I know that each time I make a purchase, I tend to think more about the long term impact of the purchase. I also try to buy products from companies who are working to improve their environmental care, or who have a long track record of ecological stewardship.

Do you think labels that share the environmental impact of the making of a pair of shoes or pants will cause us to think more about our purchases? What are some ways that you practice care for the world write now?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church

This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to the small community known as Herring to attend a church service in a building that has been around for over 100 years. In some parts of the world, that isn't so old, but in the United States, there isn't a whole lot that stands the test of time.

So Sunday morning, Jamie and I traveled over hill and dale until we reached this little church. Currently it is being led by some old friends, Mike and Jan Harriman, and on this particular Sunday, their son (and my former roommate) Luke Harriman was in town and he gave the message. Luke is an excellent teacher, and did a great job using an example to which the community could relate (building a bathroom for the church) to draw a comparison to a spiritual truth. During the message, Luke used the terminology of construction and laying a foundation to ask the question of each one of us--"On what foundation are we building our lives?" He then proceeded to explain to us why Jesus Christ is the best foundation on which to build a life. During the entire time, he referred us back to the Bible and what it has to say about foundations and building, and what makes for a solid foundation.

As I sat there listening to the message, I began to reminisce about other times when I would hear Luke share thoughts during the time we were roommates. I found myself reflecting on how we have each grown, and how we are using our time, talents, and resources to make a contribution to this world, to our communities, to our families, and to the one's we love most dearly. Luke stood before the congregation as a teacher, a husband, and a father, and from what I could see he's doing a great job with all three.

But as much as I could remark on Luke, I have to really focus this little post on the people of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. As one of the parishioners remarked after the time of worship, "There's no longer a grove. Only two tree's remain from the many that once stood on this hill." I couldn't help but think that maybe the grove itself mirrored the slow trimming of the size of the congregation, that only a few members still remained, and yet there was still time to plant and sow and let God cause the growth of a new grove as well as a growing congregation. This work takes time and effort though. It seems like in a world of fast-food and text messaging, it is easy to lose sight of the very real time it takes to build something to last.

The thing that impressed me most about this congregation was their passion to persevere and their passion for growth as a community. Right now they have a couple of outhouses for bathrooms, but that is changing. It takes effort to change, to build a bathroom, and to build on a solid foundation with our lives, but these folks are committed. And stories of their faith and perseverance are being told by folks in Kenya and California and parts in between.

Luke read this passage from Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica before his message. "We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly; and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions you are enduring."

I'd like for you to remember the people in the little country church in Herring, WV, and I'd like for you to remember that whatever it is that you may be pursuing with your life, build on a solid foundation, take your time, and do the work well. We can get in such a rush for results that we fail to build a solid foundation--to my chagrin, I can think of many occasions that this has been true in my life.

May you build a solid foundation and may the good work you are investing in reap much fruit in your own life and beyond.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Flood Part 2

Last week was a massive work of catching up on life and work after a week-long trek across much of Appalachia in the Nuru van, and then a week with my dad and best friend in the whole world, Willie traveling Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia.

As you may have heard or read, I came back to some massive moisture problems in my basement.In fact, I believed that I had quite effectively combined my mind with the collective knowledge of google when I back flushed a clogged drain line from my air conditioner, but my situation was not nearly as simple as I had hoped.

No, when I powered the AC back up on Monday night, it definitely worked, but it appears the problem was a bit more complex. By Tuesday evening, the AC had iced over completely, and so I found myself getting a good thaw going.

At the same time, I came to find that my front loading washer had a hole in the bellow (the big rubber seal on the front), and so when I washed the towels I used to soak up all of the moisture from my flooded basement, the washer dumped more water on the floor.

It was time to call in experts. I called an old friend, Mike White, who was in the business of duct-work, but is also pretty sharp when it comes to mechanical issues. I was at a loss, and wondered if I might have to replace/clean the AC unit (which was a common course of action sugested by online help). He told me that I might just need a new filter. I use a re-useable filter, and I've done so for years, but perhaps it's time was finally up. So thursday evening, I traveled to Lowes, bought a new filter, and bought some fresh duct seal (it's like high-quality play-doh for sealing ductwork), and plugged in a de-umidifier my buddy Chris Baker let me borrow.

The humidity was high this week, but between the AC (which is now running perfectly) and the de-humidifier, I think the moisture problems are virtually solved.It took the better part of a week, but it is now completed, and running more efficiently than it has in years. My basement is dry, but it might be a good move to use a carpet cleaner just to freshen up the space a bit. I had a couple of friends offer help with those. I also had my neighbor, Elijah Byer loan me a shop vac to do any clean-up if I needed it.

One of my biggest lessons learned was that although google allows us to find information very handily,it's not always as good as talking to friends and neighbors and getting their help. Plus, when we give folks a call or write them, it's a bonus that we get the privilege of catching up a bit. I'm thankful for the friends I have, and hope that I can be a source of sage wisdom, refreshment through conversation, and just general support and help when bumps pop up on the road.

Now to take care of this washing machine . . .

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flooded Basement Welcome Home?

So it's been a while since I last blogged, and I thought I'd be starting off by sharing one of several really cool stories from my last two weeks of traveling. Instead, I will share an unpleasant surprise that greeted me upon my arrival.

Around 630PM Sunday night, I pulled up to my house with Jamie to pick up a couple of gift cards that we were going to take to sozo a local coffee house some friends and I started in Morgantown back in 2007 through the support of Chestnut Ridge Church. You see, there was this really cool group at sozo last night called Gift Card Giver. What they do is take unused or partially/mostly used gift cards and give them out to people who are in need. (For example, they recently shared donated phone cards with recently rescued victims of human trafficking. These children were able to contact their family for the first time in years because of donated phone cards!)

Instead of running down with my Panera and Applebee's gift cards as planned, I was halted by the appearance of a rug that I had seen in my laundry room sitting outside in my driveway. It was damp, but drying out. I began to wonder if the washer had overflowed, but I found out quickly that my home had fallen victim to a far worse fate--the AC drain line had clogged. If you've never experienced this phenomenon before, let me tell you, several gallons of water condense and fall into a drain pan and then run down a drain line each day during the summer. That's how it works, unless the line becomes clogged. Then, the pan overflows, and several gallons of water pour all over one's floor. I think I went through every towel in the house trying to sop up water from my carpeted basement floor.

It took me a while to figure out that it was the AC, but it was actually a relief when I solved the mystery. You see, a clogged drainage line is pretty easy to fix. Here's how I did it. I brought a garden hose into the house, and stuck the nozzle into the drainage line. First I made sure the clog wasn't away from the AC unit (it's much easier to push blockage downstream into a larger line.) It was clearly a problem near the unit itself, so I used the hose to apply back pressure and blow the blockage out of the drainage pipe. It probably would have been a really messy ordeal, had there not been a very significantly messy situation in my basement before this.

Two hours later, and I had missed the event at sozo, but I had solved the mysterious appearance of water in my basement. Now my next challenge is getting my basement floor dried out before there's a massive growth of mold, and removing the musty smell of wet carpet from the space in an expeditious manner.

Anybody got a handy tip? Hopefully this blog post will help anybody who experiences a clogged AC drainage line in their home. From what I've read, they are inevitable. I also found this website handy in my troubleshooting. It was quite the welcome home, but I'm glad that at least it was an easily solvable problem.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Nuru International and Chase Community Giving

If you are on facebook and have followed much in the nonprofit world, you might have heard of the Chase Community Giving contest. Chase is giving away $5million dollars to 200 nonprofits. I would personally love to see Nuru be among that group. With your help, I believe we can work together to qualify Nuru for a $20,000 gift from Chase.

So how do you do it? Go to the Facebook page for Chase, "like" it, and vote for Nuru. After you vote, you can update your facebook, twitter, myspace, and linked in statuses with your vote so you can get your friends involved. It literally takes seconds to vote and spread the word.

If you don't have facebook, send a link to my blog via email to your friends and contacts, and tell them that you want them to help Nuru Internaional receive $20,000.

The important thing is that you VOTE NOW because voting closes in just a little over three days. Will you take a minute out of your day and help Nuru? We need folks to take action RIGHT NOW.

Thanks so much! Your vote can literally be the difference in Nuru being able to receive $20,000.


Be Hope. Be Light. Be Nuru.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Blurred, Filled With Challenges, But . . .

Rolling across I70 from Morgantown to Columbus, I took this photo near dusk. I was a little frustrated with the way it turned out, but then I considered it a good reflection on much of the day. This post is a mixed bag of frustration from daily challenges, applause for great service, and some perspective that has been flooding my mind.

This morning I woke up slightly before 6AM (which has been pretty typical as of late). My good friend Derek and I had a pretty busy day so I felt it was imperative to get started early. Looking back on our lofty goals for the day, we were trying to do too much (probably the anthem of my life), and it took its toll a bit. Looking back, the day feels like a blur, but after a few hours on the road, I feel like I'm seeing a little more clearly. (Sometimes life is like that).

I won't bore you with the details of all of the challenges, I'm sure your day was filled with challenges too. One of the biggest for me happened around 11:45. I was cutting paper with one of those big paper cutters, and I let my left thumb hang absently over the guard. I swung down, and cut half-way thru my thumb and nail. I'm so thankful that I reacted quickly enough that I didn't finish the swing of the cutter or I might be severely disadvantaged if I ever needed to hitchhike. I'm not sure anybody fully realized what happened when I said I cut my thumb. As I saw the size of the cut, I thought, NOW my day has challenges. I had deadlines to meet and a long drive ahead, and my thumb was cut. Great!

Another friend sprayed the cut with Saline, I threw some tissues on it, and hopped in the car and drove to the local urgent care center. The receptionist was understanding, and filled out my patient information sheet for me. My biggest challenge was signing paperwork because I'm left handed, and it was my left thumb I had cut. Amazingly, I was able to stay focused throughout the time. It was as though I had been given a supernatural acumen for sharing the details of my injury and the concerns aroused when I saw what I had done to myself.

When the physician came in, he very quickly assessed the fastest and most pain-free approach to sealing the cut. Because it was cut into the nail bed and not completely through it, he was able to use steri-strips instead of stitches (which would have been very painful) to hold my thumb together. WHat was most amazing is that I was out of the place in less than forty-five minutes. The physican was Dr. David Anderson, and he and the staff of Cheat Lake Urgent Care did an incredible job getting me taken care of and back out quickly. I thought I would be spending my afternoon being treated, but instead I was able to be back at it quickly thanks to their quality work.

ANd that brings me to perspective. Today at times I felt overwhelmed, stretched too thin, and up against the wall with accomplishing a litany of tasks. It was strange how the feelings of self-doubt, frustration at cutting my thumb, and a number of other small set-backs that felt significant seemed to eat at me.

And yet, as I consider my lot and my challenges, they really pale in comparison to so many in our world. They pale in comparison to the people more numerous than I can count who spent today suffering in desperate hunger. They pale in comparison to the millions of women and children who have no idea what the word freedom means because they are slaves who are bought and sold for less than the cost of a tank of gas. They pale in comparison to the multitudes who are fighting a battle against an uncontrolled growth of mutated cells in their body, and who are ingesting poison in hopes of killing those cells.

When I think about how good I have it, it makes me wonder how I could ever get so frustrated. But I think that comes about when our lives become blurry. When we allow our life to become blurry, we lose perspective, molehills become mountains, and minor inconveniences become grave injustices.

I don't know what your day was like, but I hope these words may provide some salve to soothe, heal, and refresh you in your journey.

Life is much better than we might realize in our blurred and challenging moments, and even when it seems filled with challenges, there is joy to be found.