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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Remembering Uncle Bob

Although, I know he won’t read this, I feel like I needed to write something to honor my uncle and remember him. He went to be with Jesus last Monday, and I attended his funeral on Friday with my dad and sister as well as several other uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. The photo above was taken just a few days before he went to be with Jesus. In the photo from left to right are Bob, Kenny, Dad, and Russell. All of them except Dad have dealt with some form of cancer personally.

I only met my uncle Bob a handful of times while he was alive and honestly didn’t know him that well. I know he loved his family very much, and that he would call to check up on his brothers periodically from his home in Oklahoma and from Michigan where my cousin Regina lives.

I learned something that I didn’t know while attending my uncle’s funeral. My aunt Ginny, his wife, came up to me and acted to comfort me, knowing that it wasn’t too long ago I was standing in the same building while friends neighbors and relatives paid their last respects to my mom. She leaned in and told me that my uncle Bob read my blog all of the time. In fact, she said it was the last thing he did before he died.

I can’t fully describe the way I felt when she told me that. I was honored and humbled all at the same time. There have been moments that I’ve contemplated pulling the plug on this blog, but I don’t foresee that happening now. My blog was my uncle’s window to what was happening with family, an encouragement to his faith, and at times a source of laughter for him and his family.

I told my dad what my aunt had said, and he said that every time he talked to Uncle Bob, he would mention things he had read in my blog, and he would compliment my writing ability and the notes I would post. My cousin Regina told me that toward the end, his vision had blurred, and he had asked her to read my blog posts to him.

I never had much opportunity to talk with my uncle on this side of the veil, but I do look forward to one day having many conversations with him as we worship Jesus together. He has left a legacy in his wife, his hard-working daughter, and his grand-children. He was a source of strength and wisdom for all of them, and now they have the challenge of sharing the lessons of the years under his tutelage with the rest of the world to bring healing and care to others.

From stories I’ve heard, uncle Bob worked tirelessly and couldn’t sit still until his cancer forced him to stop. He actually sounds a lot like his brothers. But now, he is resting at the presence of Jesus and the pains of cancer no longer ravage his body. His heart’s greatest longing has been fulfilled, and he is enjoying eternal joy, hope, and peace.

On Saturday afternoon, Uncle Bob’s wife, daughter, and grand-daughter hopped back into their car and began the drive back to Michigan. My cousin mentioned the possibility of everyone coming back to West Virginia to be with the rest of the family during the holidays. I certainly hope they do.

May you take time today to remember your family and friends who have passed through the veil, and savor the moments you have with those who haven’t.

The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

So I went to see a movie about Jesco White and his family as my final movie viewing at the Warner Theater. I usually have hearty positive recommendations for most movies, but this particular movie is not one that I would recommend. It was actually pretty heart-breaking.

In the past I’ve watched the movie “The Dancing Outlaw” which put Jesco and his family on the celebrity map. That movie is a mixture of tragedy and comedy as Jesco, at that time, was a pretty charismatic storyteller. The movie was originally made to tell the story of his father, Donald Ray White, but unfortunately he was shot by a neighbor before the documentary about the greatest mountain tap dancer could be made.

The new movie, tells a different story. It tells the story of Jesco being harassed by fans with regularity as they want to say they have met the legend. It tells a story of drug use and abuse and dealing by many members of the White family. It tells a story of criminal activity and a destructive lifestyle happening for several members of the family as well.

In the midst of the tragedy, there’s a wonderful sub-plot about Jesco’s mother, Bertie Mae. It appears that she was a woman of deep faith, who worked hard to care for own as well as many other children in their community. It was clear throughout the film that most of her descendants at least had heard the message of the Gospel, and from what was demonstrated in the film, they saw the messaged lived out in Bertie Mae’s life.

During the course of the movie, the viewer watched as multiple family members and friends chronicled the life and times of the family. One is serving in prison after attempting to shoot another relative’s boyfriend along with a police shootout. Another enrolled in rehab after giving birth to a child and having CPS take that child away because of her drug addiction and the child being born with a similar addiction. The viewer watched as members of the family stuck together in picking up other members from prison and traveling to hospitals and to bars together. The Whites have achieved a celebrity status among the people of Boone County West Virginia, and now through the film, the notoriety has made it’s way to the big screen.

I think the most heart-breaking part of the movie is knowing that this isn’t just a Hollywood drama—these are real people, and they all live just a few hours away. Beyond the fact that this isn’t fiction, it hurts watching this film because I feel like I have known people in my life who have lived similar lives. The other families I have known, didn’t have their stories on the big screen, but they lived lives that were just as tragic.

While I can not recommend this movie to anyone, I do sincerely hope that something happens to help this whole family heal from the losses they have experienced, and to live a different kind of life, a life filled with hope, and with joy. That would make a much better story, and it’s possible. Not only for them, but for us as well!

Friday, September 10, 2010

So Long Warner Theater

Last Friday night, Jamie, Brittany Murdock, Curtis Delong and myself traveled downtown to the Warner Theater one last time and saw “The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.”  I don’t really recommend the movie, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

For seventy nine years, the Warner has been THE theater in downtown Morgantown.  I imagine my brother even saw a movie or two at the Warner when he was in college.  For the last few years it has been the Sunday gathering place for Stonebridge Baptist Church as well as being a great movie theater.

Any time I wanted to see a movie that wasn’t going to make it in the “mainstream” theaters, I could almost always count on the Warner to screen it.  Even movies that had gone through their season in those newer fancier theaters would often times make their way to the Warner.

I think one of the first times I was able to hang out with my good friend Trey Dunham, a group of us went to see a cheap movie at the Warner on a Friday night after a Cru meeting.  On another occasion, another friend encouraged me to go see the movie Pan’s Labyrinth because it was so pregnant with meaning but didn’t make it into the larger theaters.  I even remember watching the movie “Into The Wild” with a group of friends, and being completely caught off guard by some of the more raw scenes depicting the life and times of Christopher McCandless.  I had read the book, and it is one of my favorites, and the movie did an incredible job capturing the journal entries of Christopher and re-telling them on the big screen.  I also remember crying my eyes out as I watched Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris tell the story of Radio.  Great movies all, and many more movies that probably wouldn’t make their way into Morgantown otherwise had a season at the Warner.

I also remember a film festival in which my friends Cameron, Colleen, Karen, Jess, Kyle, Deanna, Meghan, and others produced and entered a film, and Colleen WON!  Such cool community stuff seemed to take place in the Warner.

It’s a shame that the Warner Theater is now closed.  Sunday night was it’s last showing.  Friday night, I bought the last large Cherry Coke that would ever be sold (it was the last large cup they had!).  It offered the people of Morgantown a theater that was part of the downtown life of the city.  If one lived in town, he could walk with a group of friends down to the warner and see a movie for a reasonable price.  The Warner didn’t have the latest sound system or stadium seating, but it had character.  In a nation that is just beyond 200 years in age, it’s not often that we have an opportunity to enjoy something that has age and character.  For the people of Morgantown, until Sunday night, a young person could walk into a theater that maybe their great grandparents visited on a date. 

So long Warner Theater.  Although I’ve lived in Morgantown for a small portion of your existence, I’m grateful for the many memories acquired while watching movies with friends in your historic space.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Shana Tova!

Tonight at sunset, Rosh Hashanah begins. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, it is on this night that Jewish people celebrate the creation of the world from Adam's perspective. According to the Jewish calendar, this is year number 5771.

I woke up this morning fearing I missed Rosh Hashanah, but tonight marks the commemoration of the evening and morning that were the first day, when the Creator of the universe breathed into dust and formed man.

And now, in the year 5771, the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mark a time of repentance, and is also called the "Days of Awe." During this time, one celebrates the creation of the universe, but also is mindful of the need for self-examination. One also blows the shofar or rams horn as a reminder that God is the King of the universe.

It's a customary greeting on Rosh Hashanah to say "Shana Tova!" or "A Good Year!" Or even, L'shana tovah tikatevu vetechatemu which means may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!

I don't know if you have ever considered this ancient tradition, but as the time approaches tonight, I plan to take time to reflect on the good world that has been created, and the pollution of shalom that has taken place since that time, and even my part in that pollution. And then, I want to pray that God would allow me with his help and empowerment to be an instrument in bringing healing and beauty where there is now brokenness and suffering. I hope you will join me in this endeavor.

And, L'shana tova tikatevu vetechatemu le'altar lechayim tovim ul'shalom! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year immediately, for a good life and for peace!"

Kicking Off Mountaineer Football

This weekend was jam packed with excitement, and it actually started a couple of days early. On Wednesday evening, Jamie and I visited the Morgantown Event Center to watch a little bit of the West Virginia Statewide Sportsline and the season debut of the Coach Bill Stewart Statewide show. It was the first time Jamie or myself had visited the event center, and I have a feeling that it will become a great site for special events in the region.

But that’s not all that happened last week. Saturday, my friends John & Melissa and Matt & Carrie invited Jamie and I to attend the season opener against Coastal Carolina University. Now, I wasn’t planning to attend Saturday’s game, but when good friends offer an opportunity to spend time together and enjoy the season opener, how can I refuse? I would have probably listened to Tony Caridi do the play calling while I sat at home had the tickets not become available.

It was perfect weather for starting the football season, and the Mountaineers, while not utterly dominating their opponent, did leave the opposition scoreless in their season debut.

This coming weekend, I am privileged to be able to attend my first Mountaineer game at Marshall University. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the “rivalry,” but it should be interesting to see the Mountaineers play in front of friends and fans in the southern part of the state. Marshall had a tough season opener against Ohio State, but I’m sure they are getting geared up for Friday night’s game.

While there were times that the Mountaineers looked a bit rough during Saturday’s game, they held their competition to under 200 yards total offense, and managed to run and pass for 400 yards during the game.

I honestly wasn’t sure how many games I would make it to this year, but it is looking like I’ll be able to watch at least these first couple of games. This weekend’s game is called The Friends of Coal Bowl, and was organized by a coal industry trade group. So far WVU is 4-0 in this seven year series, and if WVU wins this Friday night the University will be 10-0 all time against the Thundering Herd of Marshall.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to another fun season of Mountaineer football and time celebrating a great fall tradition of connecting with friends in and around Mountaineer field on game days.

Let’s gooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!