Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflections

Last Friday while looking out the window at Lake Floyd I enjoyed a brief period of reflection from one of the many places Jamie and I are thankful to call home. We've been incredibly blessed with loving families, with a wonderful community, and with each other.

More than this, we have been able to give our time and energy to meaningful work, to loving our neighbors, and toward a way of living that attempts to scratch the surface of the beautiful way of Jesus of Nazareth.

Today I slept in, and stayed away from the special sales, the shortages, the lines, and the hustle and bustle. As G. K. Chesterton once said, "There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less. There are many "things" that we can acquire, and, living in this period of amazing innovations, those 'things' can be pretty cool, but they pale in comparison to the people with whom we get to spend our lives.

Each year at Thanksgiving, whether I write about it or not, I try to carve out some time to look at just a few of the blessings I have received in this relatively short life. I actually try to do this more often than thanksgiving just because I think there is a value in seeing how
much we truly have.

We get marketed many times daily and told about so many things that will "make our life better", but my limited experience (I'm still a young learner on the journey of life) tells me that the 'things' that make our life better are not what people lined up at stores for on Friday morning.

Rather, what makes our life better is a dedication to things like work we find meaningful, to people we love, a sense of purpose in our lives, and an opportunity to serve others rather than be served. This is an amazing world in which we live. I believe that it is filled with treasures that we tend to ignore while looking for something more. As the author Annie Dillard once quipped, "It is a poor person indeed who can't stop to pick up a penny." It's not an easy task, especially with so many entities selling us on other ideas of joy and happiness that aren't nearly as satisfying. My temptation is to write explicitly about what some of these treasures are, but I feel like I may never end this post as I start. Besides, I think there is way more excitement and adventure for each of us if we go out into our world with eyes wide open looking to discover what treasures we may be stumbling over just outside our doors or in our everyday routines.

As we are all amid the throes of the holiday season, I hope you are surrounded by people you love, and that you don't take for granted the little treasures that surround you. Stop, pick them up like pennies, and savor the moments of discovery, of laughter, of healing, and of togetherness.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven: Veteran's Day 2011

Or maybe I should have entitled this post "One One One One One One."

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had ample creative space for writing, but my life has not lacked content for consideration. I’m hoping to write more in the near future, and possibly even re-vamp this blog again for the new year. For the last few years I’ve taken advantage of a feature in Facebook that allows my blogs to insert as ‘notes’, but it appears this function will be discontinued in a few days. For anyone who reads my notes on facebook, I apologize for this change. But enough about all of that logistical stuff…

What an interesting Veteran’s Day! Having a number of friends (and a few family members) who have served in the armed forces, In light of the date as well as the holiday (and a day off), I thought this was the perfect storm for creating a blog post.

First a little bit of history. Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice day, and it was a day celebrating the end of World War I. It was intended to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And here we are today marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month during the eleventh year of the century. 

Armistice Day was changed to Veteran’s Day in the 1950s as a way to honor the lives of all of those who served in our nation’s armed forces, and not just those who served during World War I.

And today, as I think about my friends and family who have served in various branches of the military, of course I feel compelled to share the story of my friend Jake.

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you are probably familiar with Jake’s story, but if not, let me tell you a bit. Jake and I lived in the dorms together at WVU, and after his sophomore year, he left WVU to attend the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with top honors, was captain of the rugby team, and went on to serve in the Marine Corps as well as a special operations unit called Force Recon. During his time as a platoon commander, he saw a connection between terrorism, insurgency, and extreme poverty and this led him to Stanford University, where he pursued the creation of a non-profit with a new approach to fighting extreme poverty called Nuru International.

Of course those who know me know I’ve been passionate about this work from the moment I first heard about Jake’s research at Stanford. I’m honored to call him my friend, and I’m thankful for the life of service that he has embodied. I featured a video that I’ve shared in the past of him sharing his story. It is a story of his first hand experiences in combat as well as a vision for a world in which our global neighbors living in extreme poverty have the choice to determine their future. 

As I sit in a Starbucks with my wife enjoying a pot of French pressed coffee and write this post on this intriguing date, I am a bit overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed at the work we have before us to help forge a better world. I'm overwhelmed at the potential we have with the tools, knowledge, and resources we have at our fingertips. And I'm overwhelmed at all of those one's in today's date. 

When we start counting, we start with the number one. If I look at this date as a series of ones instead of a series of elevens, I can't help but think about new starts, like the new start my buddy Jake had when he ventured into grad-school focused on ending extreme poverty. Or the new start that so many people journey into when they start the new year.

And when we think about the term the "eleventh hour" it reminds us of the urgency with which an undertaking needs to be commenced. Today, on Veteran's Day 2011, I feel like there is something beyond the federal holiday to consider, and that something is a new beginning that is taken on with great urgency. 

May we all take a moment to pause, reflect on our lives, and consider this an opportunity for a new start to be commenced with great urgency, and may we all be part of leaving a legacy and building a better world for generations to come as we seek to do justice in this world.