Monthly Archives: January 2014

Searching for a Good Book

Most of my favorite childhood memories are centered around libraries. I love the smell of paper and ink, my fingers running along the shelves looking for that one particular book to snag my imagination and accompany me home. Scrolling through the never ending lists of freebies on the Kindle site is like browsing through library shelves.

The free books on Kindle are this generation’s public library. Free books equalizes the haves and have-nots of the world, bringing unimaginable wealth to even the lowliest of readers. As someone who scraped together babysitting money for every single book I purchased (so I only purchased those I would read and re-read), libraries were a treasure trove. So what if the book I selected fell a little short? I got to enjoy a story I would have never been able to afford. I shared a link with authors I would never meet, or might have never known about. I delved into worlds of imagination that were as far removed from a small rural town in Oklahoma as Pluto is from the sun.

Scanning the lists of freebies reminds me of looking through the card catalogue–something today’s generation misses. It’s not the same as looking up a title on a computer. To do so, you first have to know the author or the title. With a card catalogue you can browse all around a title, author, or subject finding unexpected gems you never would have encountered otherwise. I might be looking for a sci fi book and stumble across an archaeological tale that sounds fascinating. I might equally be researching a subject for a class assignment and uncover a science fiction tale I never knew existed. Oh, the possibilities!

The possibilities are why I love the freebie list: new authors, new tales just waiting to be found. And every once in a while I discover a new author with a slew of books that I put on my to-buy list. Something to think about: authors who are more interested in making money won’t show up on the freebie list, but authors with a story to tell will. Thanks, guys for sharing. You may never be “successful,” but your story will not be forgotten.


An Ordinary Life

Yesterday I re-read the biography of Bill Wallace, a missionary to China during a turbulent and violent time in Chinese history. It’s one of my favourites, along with the story of Eric Liddell, and Jim Elliot. However, the sheer poignancy, power, and heroics of the these stories set me thinking about the Christian life in general.

I wonder how many Christians feel their own life story is ineffectual and bland compared to the life stories of these “men of faith?” How many of us have felt like what we do isn’t as important or earth-shaking simply because we’re ordinary?

What we’ve failed to realize is that the aforementioned men also considered themselves “ordinary.” They never saw anything heroic or extraordinary in the work they did or the lives they lived. They were just “doing their job.”

Growing up during the 70s, most churches glamorized “rebels,” people who lived hard lives before turning to Christ and godliness. “What great testimonies!” resounded through the congregations, while ordinary young people were unintentionally made to feel their testimonies didn’t count because it wasn’t glamorous enough.

Remember the Karate Kid movie? The famous “wax on, wax off” scene? Daniel’s frustration with doing the ordinary things when all he really wanted to do was learn karate? Our lives as Christians are like that. It is through the ordinary, daily, boring, simple, unnoticed acts and attitudes that we do the extraordinary.

While the saying the “stars shine brightest in the darkest night,” is true, what we tend to forget is the stars are always shining, even in the daylight. They never stop shining. They don’t wait for darkness to shine. They go about the business of shining 24/7 and the circumstances don’t hinder, dictate or influence their ability to shine.

I think what the world needs more of is consistent, ordinary Christians who shine 24/7, who aren’t worried whether someone notices them shining or whether the brilliance of the sun blots out their light. They keep right on shining. After all, when it’s daylight here, it’s night somewhere else.

Why Recycling Doesn’t Work

When I was in school back in the Dark Ages, our English literature books were filled with exotic and fascinating stories from authors around the world. We had the opportunity to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations that were as alien to our way of thinking as anything Captain Kirk and crew ever discovered.

Unfortunately, the tides of war, politics and education change with the winds. Imagine my surprise when most of the selections in one school literature book under the section “What is Worth Fighting For?” is all about conservation, recycling, and saving water.

REALLY? With all the hurt, chaos, and problems the world faces, we’re going to brainwash the next generation into thinking saving a few gallons of water each day is worth fighting for?

I firmly believe we have a responsibility to care for our environment, but the pendulum has swung too far afield and for the wrong reasons. That is why recycling won’t work. It’s not really about taking care of the environment or making sure those who don’t have get some. It’s about control and making people feel badly for what they’ve been given, provided, or earned.

Take water, as a case in point. The author suggests punishing the extravagant Americans for their water usage by installing regulators to shut the water off at 13 gallons a day. As if that would help someone in another county without water. While great care and effort is taken in the article to explain how expensive it is to clean and purify water and how much we waste (water hogs – America has 1% of the 3% of freshwater world wide), nothing is mentioned about the other factors involved in the water issue.

Location, politics, lack of funding, lack of education, lack of natural resources, priorities, religion–all these play an important role in maintaining clean and adequate water. And overseas none of that is influenced by whether or not Americans run the water while brushing their teeth.

If you are really concerned about providing clean water for everyone, why not be a part of organizations like Holden which builds wells to provide fresh water for people living in Uganda? Do something that actually benefits someone else.

Instead, we jump on the conservation/recycle bandwagon simply because it makes us “feel better.” We don’t have to look at the true situation, we aren’t called on to anything that would really affect or change something else. Americans are notorious for “emotional” outbursts designed to puff out our chests and say “see what I’m doing?”, “look at me, I care.”

The truth of the matter is the Earth is very well provided for and capable of self regenerating without any help from humanity. Sure, there are things we can do to make it better and protect what we have. The reforestation projects are one example. Desalination plants would benefit dry areas of the world more effectively than complaining about the technology here that gives us fresh clean water the rest of the world would like to have. Instead of pouring billions of dollars into a propaganda campaign, why not pour the money into building those desal plants which would actually help someone?

Why not educate students about organizations providing fresh water, building wells, contributing to the health and welfare of other people? Why not encourage a new generation of people to think about others instead of themselves?

But that’s what the recycling programs are all about, one argues. No, they’re not. They are about making people feel guilty and guilty people don’t help others, they rationalize their actions.

Recycling isn’t simply moving garbage from one location to another, which is what 90% of recycling efforts in America are. Recycling isn’t good if you must use up or waste one resource in order to “save” another. Recycling is re-purposing what one has, giving something a second life. Want examples? Study the Depression Era in the United States. Flour sacks were turned into underwear and dresses, tablecloths and napkins. Torn clothing was sewn into warm and sturdy quilts. Empty cans were used as candle holders and storage bins. Lard buckets became lunch boxes.

While America runs around screaming recycle, the rest of the world struggles to survive. I don’t think anyone is impressed with our rhetoric.

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