Monday, November 26, 2012


Two December's ago, I visited my friends Steve and Liz Powell in Minnesota.  While I was visiting them, Liz's Grandpa let me borrow a book about the Holocaust he had recently read.  It tells the story of a Jewish stereotypist (printer) from Norway who survived the Holocaust through participating in a huge counterfeiting operation in the concentration camps.

He and others, were charged with designing millions of British pounds in an effort to disintegrate the British economy and cripple the nation for Nazi takeover.

As I've been reading the book, I've just been reminded of the reality of suffering in our world.  Nachstern's biography tells stories of concentration camps, of starvation and abuse, that still go on in various parts of this world.  His story, and the stories of others provide us with vivid images of some of the atrocities that human beings commit against each other.

Right now, around the world there are people who are fighting for basic rights and freedoms, and who are trapped in unjust systems.  May we be ever vigilant to prevent these evils from spreading, and may we always be ready to speak out on behalf of our fellow human beings.

This book hasn't been a pleasant read, but I didn't expect it to be.  It serves as a reminder of the darkness that dwells in human hearts along with the incredible perseverance of individuals as they work to survive horrible conditions.  May we not forget the evils of the past, nor sit silently when evil is being perpetrated now.  If you get the opportunity, give this book a read, and let it remind you of your sacred duty to love your neighbor as yourself.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Creating A Missional Culture

JR Woodward’s CreatingA Missional Culture is a book that I have anticipated reading for a long time.  JR has been discussing and testing the content of this book for the last ten years as he has worked together with multiple teams to lead a missional faith community called Kairos in southern California, and has also deployed his skills in an effort to build a missional network of churches called Ecclesia as well.

The book is a mix of personal narrative, theory, practice, and a proposed alternative and unconventional structure for churches. The proposed alternative was precipitated by an array of experiences and data reflecting high levels of burn-out among modern vocational ministers, and what Woodword points to as a need for plurality to insure that the local expression of the church can be all that it is meant to be.

For me, this book could serve as a handbook for much of what I attempted to cultivate in faith communities of college students in Morgantown, WV. As I read chapter after chapter, I felt affirmed and encouraged to read that our local way of “being” church was in-step with concepts generated by JR and others who are part of the Ecclesia Network.

The book is broken into sections to help a church begin thinking through how it can become more missional in its focus.  It also has a series of chapters dedicated to five key types of leaders Woodward believes help a local community be all that it can be in Christ. These practitioners/leaders are people who work together to help the larger faith community discover their calling, seek justice, experience healing, contextualize the Gospel, and grow in their understanding of scripture.  He uses new terms to talk about equippers mentioned in Ephesians 4 apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, because depending on denominational background and perspective, these terms can mean something very different. In his book, he also charts a path forward for communities seeking to move toward a polycentric leadership structure.

JR’s book falls in a similar category to South African born writer Alan Hirsch’s writings about the five equipping gifts and a need for plurality in leadership, and I believe the two are friends. That being said, JR offers a quality handbook that moves quickly beyond theory to practical steps a faith community can take to move toward a more polycentric leadership structure.  He even includes a reference form that can be used to assess potential leaders/equippers for their strengths and qualifications for leading as an equipper.

I would recommend this book for church planters as well as people in vocational ministry who are looking for a more team oriented approach to leading their faith communities.  It is an informative book, and was written by a person who walks the talk and has been doing so for several years. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Born To Run by Christopher McDougall

That's my sister in the photo above. She's become quite the runner. I'll have to write more about her in another post. In this post I want to talk about a book I recently read though. :)

A couple of years ago, my friend Rich at Jay’s Daily Grind recommended a book to me. It is called Born To Run by ChristopherMcDougall.  It’s  a book about, well, running. The book starts off by talking about how runners today seem to be prone to a lot of injuries. I can attest to the injuries. In 2000, I had developed an injury in my tibialis major muscle that sidelined me for months. I was on and off with running after that. In 2007, I had shin splints, and in 2009 and 2010 I suffered from plantar fascia and Achilles problems. Right now, my sister and brother in law are both in recuperation from running injuries. And the author of the book had also developed his own share of injuries from running.

But the book isn’t just about running injuries. It’s really the story of a tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara. They run with no support, but just simple thin sandals on their feet. They run for dozens of miles daily and do so without injury. They do so without the latest cushioning and running shoe technology. McDougall had heard stories about this tribe, and traveled to Mexico to attempt to discover them.

The journey led him into ultra marathons, minimalist running, and also into meeting some amazing individuals who were fueled by their love of running including Caballo Blanco and Barefoot Ted. They were minimalist and barefoot runners who ran out of a love for running.

The subtitle of the book was “A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.” The Tarahmara are a bit reclusive, and the author was extremely fortunate to be able to connect with their people. The story he tells crescendos to a race in the Copper Canyons of Mexico where a handful of ultramarathoners join a handful of Tarahumara for a race through the jungle. You’ll have to read the book to see how it goes.

What I really enjoyed about the book was that it reiterated something I had wondered about for years. McDougall mentioned that maybe all of our fancy supports in our shoes actually have served to weaken the muscles in our feet that stabilize and can prevent injury. I am not a medical professional, but I often wonder if a lot of injuries people sustain could be prevented if we were doing exercises to strengthen some of these weaker stabilizer muscles. McDougall talks a bit about the history of running, and even shares some stories of how humans are built to be able to run incredibly long distances without fatigue, something pretty unique to people.

There was one section that I took some inspiration from as well. In the book, McDougall talks about the athletic development of individuals and how most people surge to their peak performance by age 27, and that the most significant spike happens between the ages 18 and 27. And after 27, things go downhill slowly. At age 54, I believe among the Tarahumara, runners have regressed to their performance levels at age 18. I am no longer 27, but I have many years before I reach 54, and if the slope of decline is that gradual, I could probably be 75-80 and running at the level I ran in junior high, which wasn’t too bad (It just wasn’t as fast as Bobby Black, Jimmy Tunison, James Jones, or Roger Logston—those guys could fly!!!).

If you pick up the book, I hope it will inspire you on a path toward greater fitness and health, and spur you on to start walking, jogging, running, or simply getting more exercise. Even if it doesn’t inspire you to get out and exercise, it is a pretty exhilarating read, and you might find yourself with a hankering for chia seeds. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Intelligentsia Coffee

Each time I visit Chicago, I try to make a stop at Intelligentsia Coffee. I first discovered Intelligentsia through my friends Doug and Randy who just started a media production company in Chicago called Advocate Creative. Doug introduced me to the coffee, but then, another friend introduced me to an actual Intelligentsia coffee shop.

What’s so special about Intelligentsia? Well, there is a degree of showmanship, and science that appealed to the analytical chemist in me. As I started my career, I worked as an analytical chemist at MylanPharmaceuticals, and so my world was filled with extractions, beakers, flasks, and balances.  Believe it or not, Intelligentsia is similar.

When they are brewing a cup of coffee, they use a pour over method for brewing to optimize extraction of flavor. The average pour over takes approximately 3.5 minutes to complete, and uses a specific weight of water and coffee (they literally pour the water over coffee grounds on a scale. They heat water to 210 degrees, and begin the pour over knowing that after filtration the brewed coffee will be at about 185-190 degrees.

Their shop is filled with coffee mugs, filters, beakers, and flasks, and no matter how you slice it, they brew a pretty incredible and flavorful cup of coffee.  If you like coffee and find yourself in downtown Chicago, I suggest giving them a try. And if you go on Tuesday, you can buy a bag of their coffee for $2 off and get a free cup brewed as well. I typically like my coffee with half and half or heavy whipping cream, but Intelligentsia is so rich and flavorful, that I enjoying drinking it without any additions.

Hope you get a chance to enjoy a cup!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sharing Nuru’s Story At The Bridgeport, West Virginia Junior Women’s Club

Recently, thanks to the dedication, support, and bias toward action of my friend Sarah Dodson, I was able to visit the Benedum Civic Center in Bridgeport, WV and share Nuru’s story with a group of incredibly hard-working and globally minded women who are part of a local chapter of the Junior Women’s Club.

Although I wasn’t incredibly familiar with Junior Women’s Club, I became familiar fairly quickly as I was able to sit through one of their meetings after briefly communicating Nuru’s story with these ladies. These ladies are incredibly engaged and active in both their local community as well as in global service.

They had about 20 different events and projects that had either been recently completed or were in the works that were working to help improve the lives of others.  As I shared Nuru with these women, I could tell that I was talking to a group of people who were willing to take action. As I finished sharing, I invited these ladies to sign up for our eNews, and to begin sharing our story with others.

Immediately after I shared, these ladies commenced with their treasurers report, and then one of their members made a motion that the group should donate $100 to Nuru immediately. It was seconded and met with a unanimous vote.  That’s what I call taking action quickly!

Every time I share with folks like this, I get inspired. I get inspired because I see people take tangible action to fight extreme poverty. I get inspired because I see our movement of passionate, globally-minded individuals growing. I get inspired because I see that together, we are growing into a movement that is dedicated to ending extreme poverty, together, one community at a time.

May we never grow weary of doing good, and may we dedicate our time, effort, and energy to having a lasting impact toward serving others. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Nuru Featured On

This fall, Nuru had a couple of great opportunities for exposure through Google., a website specifically highlighting how non-profits are embracing technology. As they revamped and re-launched their website,  they chose to use an image from Nuru of three women who are working as farmers together with Nuru, and have been able to bring lasting change to their families.

Separate from the wonderful piece of exposure presented by the image on the home page, Nuru was recently featured in an article demonstrating how Nuru has benefitted greatly from our use of Google technology. Rather than read my description of the article, I recommend just visiting the site and reading the article here.