Friday, March 30, 2012

On My 38th Birthday

As I awoke this morning, I rose with a singular focus. Tired and groggy, but resolute. I began my pre-dawn ritual of reading and exercise with renewed determination.  My wife greeted me at the end of my  solitude and exercise with a wonderful breakfast, made with love, and my heart welled up with gratitude. Even as I write this, I am moved to tears for the gift I have been given to have this truly blessed life, and the opportunity I have to give back to others, and to serve as an ambassador of hope.

One year ago today, when I woke, I was greeted by the African sun, and faced, in an unavoidable way, with the reality that there are people on our planet who live on less than the buying power of one US dollar per day. These are hard working people, who lack in opportunities and choices that most of us take for granted.

One out of six people on our planet live in that condition. They don’t have access to clean drinking water, so quite often they are sick from drinking polluted water. For many living with these challenges, they are malnourished and unable to produce enough food to feed their families. Beyond this, illnesses like malaria and diarrhea threaten their lives in ways that most of us cannot begin to fathom.  And I dream of a day in which injustices like this are not part of our world.

Today I am 38 years old, and I have spent 13879 days learning and growing on this earth.  Each year, and each day for that matter, I find myself learning and growing in my understanding of how to truly live in this world. And the more I learn and grow, I find that the knowledge doesn’t make the living that much easier. Although, the lesson is simple. One’s life in one’s best moments is an opportunity to provide a window to others or a taste of what life looks like when God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as in heaven.  It is those moments when we live out our purpose best, and we love others as we love ourselves. And part of this life is a journey toward cultivating a life that reflects those moments often.

I am reminded today of an Annie Dillard quote—unfortunately I can’t remember the source. It goes something like this. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I have 38 years of days, some good and some bad, but all of them are past now. I have seen people living in desperation financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and I’ve seen glimmers of hope piercing past the pain.

I’m not sure how long I will be walking this earth; I guess none of us really are certain, but I want to spend my days, and my life well. Sometimes I think we have grand dreams for what we would like to accomplish and the impact that we will have on the world, and I think that these are great aspirations and hopes we should all run toward.  But at the same time, I know that the best thing I can do (and you as well) is to strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. None of us really do that in some grand plan. We do it in our daily interactions, our greetings on the street, our responses to challenges, and our willingness to love others, and be ambassadors of hope.

As I move forward into my 38th year of life on this planet, I long to make each day count. I long to make a difference in this world, and to be an instrument of ushering in beauty and justice in places where there are despair and injustice.  I’m grateful to be part of work that is helping to create a world in which people living in extreme poverty have choices and opportunities for a better future. And I’m thankful that as part of my role at Nuru, I am able to invite others to join in this amazing work. We all have a contribution to make while we have life and breath on this earth.

May today be a day during which we are able to contemplate what our unique contributions will be, and may we each be diligent in our efforts to make those contemplations reality. May we each strive to love others well, and to make our limited time on this earth count for the good of all. 

Will You Help Make My Birthday Extra Special This Year?

This time last year, I was able to meet face-to-face for the first time with the Chairman of Nuru Kenya, Mr. Philip Mohochi. To learn more about his story, click here

This time last year, I was on the ground in Kuria, Kenya witnessing first-hand the impact Nuru has had on the ground since 2008. I said goodbye to my dad, and my then fiancĂ©e Jamie at the Pittsburgh airport, and then flew to Detroit, Amsterdam, and finally landed in Nairobi late Saturday night. It was there that I first met one of Nuru Kenya’s staff and now a great friend, Julius Nyamohanga. Julius and I sat in Jomo Kenyatta airport sharing stories and waiting for a few others to arrive before leaving for a quick night of sleep in a small simple apartment in Nairobi before awaking at 400AM to prepare for a long bus ride to Isibania.

It would take a lot to capture all that I experienced during that week, but I tried to capture some of it in my blog last year while I was there. Here’s a few links to posts that I wrote during my stay. Among other things, for the first time, I celebrated my birthday in another country. It was absolutely amazing. Let me tell you about what happened on my birthday last year.  I witnessed 165 people make commitments to join savings clubs with Nuru’s CED program (similar meetings were held in other communities, and over 465 people joined savings clubs in one day).

One of the things that struck me about the meeting—which was a 45 minute drive from the nearest town of any size, was that 165 people were gathered and ready for the meeting 10 minutes before it started. They had walked 45 minutes to an hour to gather for this meeting which told me that they believed it was worth the time commitment it took them to be there. It is absolutely mind-blowing when I step back to think about the step I watched people take that day.

And since that time, Nuru has continued to grow. There are now roughly 15,000 people who are benefitting from Nuru’s programs in Kuria, Kenya. And all of that has been made possible because of passionate people like you and me who are willing to support these programs.

That’s why this year on my birthday, I’m proud to be the among the first to use a brand new tool Nuru is introducing. The tool allows people to raise funds and awareness for Nuru’s work by creating their own fundraising campaign online. For my birthday this year, I want to ask you to check out the page, give me your feedback about what you like/dislike about the tool, and consider making a donation. On the occasion of my birthday, I’m trying to raise $1000 to support Nuru’s work, and thanks to the generosity of others, I’m already halfway there. Will you check out my page and make a donation?

Thanks for taking time to give your feedback, and if you like the tool, consider using it as create your own unique way to spread the word about all the good Nuru is doing. Thanks for reading, and thanks for being Nuru!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

E4 Fantastic Theological Content In A Portable Format

In 2003-2004 I had the privilege of participating in a series of intensive lectures featuring some of the great theologians of our generation. The intensives were part of a project called ‘e4’ and they varied in length from one to five days. Each class featured both lecture and impromptu Q & A sessions and was professionally recorded. And just recently, this content was made available in an affordable iPhone app format.

This app features a series of in-app purchases that enable the user to be able to learn from some of the most influential and thoughtful theologians and religious scholars of the modern era. Each module is reasonably priced as they contain several hours of video content of teachers like Dallas Willard, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, Alister McGrath, Graham Tomlin, Gordon Pennington, and many others.

As an example, for $4.99, a user can purchase 19 hours of lectures from Dallas Willard sharing thoughts about spiritual formation, the nature of truth and a number of other subjects.

The app allows users to switch from watching video to reading while listening to a transcription of the lecture, and even has a feature which allows quotes to be tweeted directly from the app with the hashtag #e4app.

The lectures are divided into individual sessions of approximately one hour each so one does not need to download the entirety of the content at once, but can enjoy the lectures within a course section by section.

The app was created by a friend of mine named Pavi Thomas and features all of the content created during the series of e4 lectures in 2003-2004. He had a pretty incredible team of people working on the initial project with him, and as a participant in the classes and a user of the app, I am extremely thankful for the efforts of his team to bring together such a high quality tool, and to make it readily accessible to many for a low cost.

Overall, I highly recommend this app for its quality of content and its extremely affordable and portable platform. If you have an interest in theology, spiritual formation, media, science & faith, stewardship and/or apologetics these classes are an incredible tool  for learning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Progress On 2012 Goals

I thought it might be helpful to go back and review my goals from earlier this year just to see how I am doing. So here’s a breakdown of how it’s been going so far.

Practice Sabbath, Solitude, Silence, and Fasting—This was once a strength for me, but I’ve allowed this discipline to slip in recent years.  I started off the year well, but have lapsed into looking at my phone late at night and early in the morning over the last three weeks. Time to start leaving it in another room again. :)

Blog More Consistently—This year, I would like to have at least 105 posts (2 per week). I’ve got some catching up to do here. :(

Exercise—I worked on lifting weights 1-3 times per week, walking at least 30 minutes each day 3-5 times per week, and I recently added cycling 30-40 minutes 5 times per week.

Lose Weight—I would like to lose at least 18 pounds during 2012. On February 6, I weighed 197 and currently I weigh 190. 11 more pounds to go!

Parkersburg Half-Marathon—I hurt myself playing basketball in February and haven’t been able to start running yet, but I am getting 30-40 minutes of cardio each day on my bike.

Steward Resources More Wisely—We are doing well, but we constantly look for ways we can be more efficient.

Get Outdoors—I’ve been outside for at least 30 minutes each day, almost every day this year. It has been FANTASTIC!!! I love being outside, breathing the air, and I’ve been able to hike in the woods a few times too.

Connect—We have been able to visit a few friends, but not as many as we would like, not as often as we would like, and not for as long as we would like. Hoping to see more friends in the coming months though!

Plant a Garden—Jamie has already started on some greens inside. I figure in the next few weeks we will work on turning over the soil for the first time.

Leave Margins—So far this year, I’ve been on the go a good bit, but we have also been able to experience some down times in the evenings. We start our days early, but we have been carving out space to be able to just do spontaneous fun stuff in the evenings.

What about you? How are you progressing toward your 2012 goals?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stewarding Resources More Wisely In 2012

I realize it has been a little over a month since I last blogged, so I thought I'd share a shorter version of my goals for 2012 in terms of stewarding the limited resources with which I've been entrusted. It's a different way of thinking about things, but maybe there will be something about the way I've broken it down that will encourage you toward better stewardship of your resources as well.

My Body—Improving diet and exercise habits. Walking 30 min per day 3-5 times per week. Push-ups, jumping rope, and stretching 3-5times per week. Cutting intake of sugars, corn syrup, and red meat. Eating more nutrient dense foods.

My Time—Practice Sabbath. Go to bed earlier. Identify and minimize time suck activities (Email, Facebook, TV, Twitter). Take time to separate from technology (computer, phone, TV). Spend time in solitude, silence, and fasting from the hustle and bustle of life.

My Finances—Cut spending on unnecessaries—new clothing, meals out, un-needed ‘treats’.

My Energy Usage—Dry clothes using a drying rack. Turn thermostat down to 55 when leaving the house. Turn off/unplug appliances when not in use. Turn off  power supply to electronics when not in use (anything on standby is draining power).  Raise AC temperature to around 80 degrees in the summer. Turn off lights when not in use.