Unbroken and the Mystery of Enemies Who Become Friends

I drive a Japanese car, a Honda Fit. Unlike some Japanese cars that are built by Japanese companies on American soil, my Fit was actually made in Japan and shipped over. One of my favorite foods is sushi. Another is anything prepared hibachi-style. My family plays video games on a Wii U, a Japanese system, with audio run through a receiver made by Sony, another Japanese company. I love the spare, haunting simplicity of Japanese music and art and the minimalist beauty of its architecture and furniture design. One of my favorite spas is a Japanese gem outside Santa Fe called Ten Thousand Waves. In my lifetime, Japan has always been a country full of innovation, great culture, and solid values that offer an interesting alternative to our Western individualism.

Obviously, had I been born half a century earlier, my perspective on Japan would have been radically different.

A Tale Worth Reading

This realization hit home for me while reading Laura Hillenbrand’s outstanding World War II biography called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific theater. After his plane crashed, he crawled into a life raft with two men from his crew and began drifting west toward Japanese-occupied territory. His story was one of the most extraordinary journeys I have ever encountered. The book taught me much about the Pacific side of World War II, a subject I sadly haven’t studied in depth even though both my grandfathers served in the Navy during the war. It also gave me a portrait of a will to live that is strong enough to endure unfathomable suffering, despite circumstances that would have made me want to give up many times over. Hillenbrand, also the author of Seabiscuit, spent seven years interviewing POWs, historians, and Zamperini himself, poring over scrapbooks and photographs and military records, and weaving together this mountain of information into one of the most compelling nonfiction books I have ever read.

Japan as a Hostile Nation

The disconnect between the 2013 Japan I know and the 1940s Japan in the book jarred me a bit. Without spoiling the book for you, I will say that Zamperini does eventually encounter some Japanese soldiers, and the results will make you squirm.

How can two countries go from being mortal enemies in the 1940s to being begrudging allies against the Communists the next decade, to say nothing of our strong relationship today and our affinity for Japanese culture and products? Political necessity certainly played a role initially, as the United States wanted all the allies it could get against the Soviet Union and China. Economic considerations also helped, as helping Japan to rebuild presented a large trade opportunity. The passage of time faded painful and fearful memories, and the millions of babies born in the post-war Baby Boom were already separated by time from the horrors of the war. For me, a child of two of those Baby Boomers, the idea of Japan as a hostile nation feels strange and out of place. And finally, as many of the World War II veterans learned after returning home, hatred and bitterness make a terrible burden to carry for the rest of one’s life.

Closing Your Eyes Is Easier, but Opening Them Is Worth It

Studying the horrors of World War II filled me with a variety of emotions: sorrow at the suffering and death of so many people on both sides of the conflict, anger at the people who started it, confusion at how so many people on the Axis side could believe in ideas like racial superiority, wonder at the amazing resilience and bravery of the soldiers and the civilians, and a wave of many types of gratitude.

I am thankful this brutal war ended as soon as it did. I am grateful that my grandfathers and so many others returned safely despite the enormous risks they faced. I am grateful that people, and nations, can change over time, that former enemies can shake hands and sometimes even form friendships, and that forgiveness is possible even in some of the worst situations imaginable.

Blog Soup 12/15/2012

Happy December! Here is today’s Blog Soup (r).

  • Yesterday’s elementary school shooting hit much closer to home than other recent mass shootings in colleges, high schools, malls, and movie theaters. My oldest son will start kindergarten next fall. Yes, the odds that a similar tragedy will occur at my sons’ schools are tiny, but yesterday served as a harsh reminder that no place can be completely safe, not even a kindergarten classroom. I ache for the families and friends of the fallen. In case you’re wondering, we’re not telling the boys what happened. They won’t hear about it from the news (we don’t watch it) and probably won’t hear anything from their friends, so we didn’t think it would help in any way to tell them. We don’t think they are old enough to process something like that well.
  • Speaking of my oldest son, Brenden is a ninja. The house can be quiet and still, perhaps late at night once we’ve put the boys to bed or early in the morning as I’m coming home from work. When he wants to see us, he can often creep from his room, descend the stairs, and suddenly appear in the living room or dining room virtually undetected. It can scare you at first. Then you smile and admire his ninja skills.
  • Speaking of being terrified by surprise appearances, have you seen the elevator prank video? Sweet Holy Moly. I’d like to think the rational side of my brain would prevail and I’d quickly figure out that I was being punked, but in reality I might just lose my business instead.
  • I just finished a fascinating book by Bart Ehrman called Misquoting Jesus that discusses the process of copying and distributing the early New Testament manuscripts. We have no original manuscripts left, only copies of copies of copies. In the copying process, the text of the manuscripts changed a bit in numerous places. Some changes were simple and harmless, such as an accidental misspelling. Others were intentional, perhaps to clarify a point of confusion, correct a perceived error by a previous scribe, or even to advance the scribe’s theological agenda. Textual criticism scholars study the various manuscripts like detectives and try to determine what the original text probably said, what changes were made in the manuscripts over time, and why.
  • Spielberg’s Lincoln deserves to take home a mountain of awards on Oscar night – acting, directing, set design, music, screenwriting, you name it. The story – Lincoln’s fight to pass the 13th Amendment to ban slavery – made a fascinating framework that focused on the man and his relationships rather than being a typical war movie. Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones particularly stood out as Lincoln and sharp-tongued liberal Republican (yep, they used to exist!) Thaddeus Stevens, respectively. Watching the political battle to get the votes reminded me a bit of the modern-day question of gay rights. We’ve made some progress, and I expect a similarly heated battle within the next decade or two to finally grant gay Americans all the rights that straight ones already enjoy.
  • I am mostly glad to see Josh Hamilton go. Too much drama off the field, too many injuries, too much money. It’s amazing to me that in a sport where it’s considered great to get a hit one third of the time, we still think some players are worth $20 million a year or even more.
  • The financial realities of college are setting in. Four-year public schools are significantly more expensive than community colleges. Tuition at UTA in 2012 isn’t too much less than tuition at Baylor during my freshman year (1997). We still think the switch to UTA is worth the extra cost thanks to better job prospects after Jenny finishes her degree, though. But it was eye-opening when she started registering for classes.
  • Some woman stole our credit card number, used it to buy $1000 worth of high-end car headlight bulbs and other auto parts, and accidentally listed the billing address (ours) as the shipping address (also ours). So the stolen goods arrived at our house this week. Oops. Chase waived the charges, and we are returning the parts to the shipper. The woman’s phone number was listed on the shipping label, so I gave her a call. She identified herself as Jenny Box. I told her my wife had the exact same name. She hung up immediately and refused to answer when I called back. So I left a message telling her we had received the parts she ordered. Heh heh.
  • I am tired of the Christmas wars. Some Christians don’t seem to realize that some people celebrate other holidays in December, or that Jesus probably wasn’t actually born on December 25. It’s okay – no, good – to respect other people’s beliefs and not to demand that everyone celebrate the same holidays you do. You can wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, or whatever floats your boat. I will wish you the same in return.

Thoughts on Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood officially launches on Tuesday. Because she is awesome, I preordered it and finished it over the weekend. The book details her year-long experiment with trying to follow the “biblical” ideal of how a woman should be. To explore as many different elements as possible, she focuses on different qualities each month, finding specific ways to apply each quality and frequently calling in outside perspectives or help. The results range from cringe-worthy to insightful to inspiring to laugh-out-loud funny.

Before reading it, my feelings and expectations were muddy. As most of you know already, I’m not a fan of strict gender roles, particularly the tendency of many people to use the Bible as justification for them. Plus the topic drew up uncomfortable reminders of the conservative end of Christianity, such as the John Pipers and Mark Driscolls of the world, that often views women as subordinate to men and best suited for a supporting role not just in the church, but in life.

The book pleasantly surprised me.

Although Evans has battled publicly and fiercely on her blog with some conservative leaders on the topic of women, she adopts a humble, curious tone in A Year of Biblical Womanhood and focuses more on her journey and its implications rather than trying to prescribe roles or pick fights. Each section reads quickly with a mix of humorous personal anecdotes (struggling to convince her egalitarian husband that she needs to submit to him and call him “Master”, camping in her front yard during her “monthly uncleanness”, enthusiastically buying kosher wine for the Passover meal only to realize that it’s disgusting), eye-opening looks at how women are actually described and treated in the Bible, and fascinating insights from other women who are trying to live “biblically” in their own way, whether it’s as an Orthodox Jewish wife in Israel, a single Mennonite woman who left her roots but still loves God, or two Christian women who willingly share the same husband. I found myself disappointed at the end of many of the chapters because I wanted Evans to dig deeper, but she had to stop somewhere to keep the book a reasonable length. So while it held my interest throughout, I can’t say it rocked my world in any way or changed the way I view the Bible or women in general. If nothing else, it gave me a deeper appreciation of some of the pressures that Christian women face.

Some dismiss the book’s structure and the experiment itself as a gimmick, and I can see their point. But it’s an effective gimmick that keeps the book moving, drums up interest and publicity, and provides a way to manage a very, very broad and ambitious topic. Others have criticized the book as mocking Christianity, but I strongly disagree. As one reviewer noted, this book is largely about how we read and apply the Bible, so it seems perfectly legitimate to explore some of the different ways, even the contradictory or unusual ones, that women try and have tried to follow God.

Does Evans present a clear, carefully researched and supported vision of what a “biblical” woman? No, and that’s precisely her point – Christian rhetoric to the contrary, there is no one standard for biblical womanhood. The reason is simple. As Evans has argued on her blog and in her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town, using the Bible is impossible without wrestling with it and interpreting it. Different people come from different perspectives and interpret and apply the Bible in different ways, and that’s OK. As she notes in the final chapter:

The Bible isn’t an answer book. It isn’t a self-help manual. It isn’t a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulations that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives…When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word (like manhood, womanhood, politics, economics, marriage, and even equality), we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t fit our tastes…More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.

Some women tie an albatross around their necks trying to pursue an impossible standard of womanhood and then feeling guilty for falling short. Evans’ experiment demonstrates many aspects of this struggle with grace, vulnerability, humor, and clarity. She isn’t presenting a radical new vision of womanhood or even breaking much new ground. Instead, she is illustrating the breadth of womanhood in the Bible and current practice and, perhaps more importantly, giving today’s women permission not to be so hard on themselves.

I Volunteer as Tribute

I finally saw The Hunger Games, the spring 2012 blockbuster about a government-mandated contest that pits 24 randomly selected teenagers against each other in a fight to the death on live TV. Think Survivor with no tribes, more clothing, and knife fights instead of Tribal Councils. Those who know both say the book was better. I’ll probably agree once I read it, but I did greatly enjoy the movie and was actually a bit disappointed when it ended.

One thing that intrigued me about The Hunger Games was the notion of sacrifice. The movie opens with a timid, frail little girl getting chosen as a Tribute to compete in the Games against her will. Only one of the 24 Tributes will survive. Knowing her little sister wouldn’t last five minutes, Katniss (played by the excellent Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. Katniss is a skilled archer and has honed her survival skills in brutal, poverty-stricken District 12, becoming her family’s chief provider and emotional core after the death of her father turned her mother into an empty shell. The odds are against her, yet she goes anyway with no hesitation.

I’ve thought over the years about the notion of dying to protect someone. Millions of people risk their lives to protect others in various ways – police officers, firefighters, Secret Service members, and soldiers, to name a few – but risking my life isn’t part of the job description for a flight dispatcher. So probably the only way I’ll ever need to do that is a freak occurrence such as a mass shooting, a car accident, or a burning house. In the unlikely event that I ever find myself in that position, I’ll need to quickly make a profound decision:

Am I willing to die for this person?

As a younger man, say in my teens or early twenties, if I were honest with you and myself, I think I would hesitate for pretty much anybody. Perhaps I would convince myself to take the bullet or jump on the ticking bomb to save a close family member, but perhaps I would chicken out, especially if we weren’t close. I might rationalize it by saying the person would’ve wanted me to save myself instead because I was still young and had my whole life ahead of me, or by saying they wouldn’t die for me, or by saying it was clearly God’s will for them to die and for me to live. But there’s a really good chance I would save myself. I’m not proud of that, but at least I’m honest.

Things are different now.

I’ve been married for nearly ten years to my best friend and partner for life. We have two wonderful little boys. One of my primary missions in life is to ensure that those three people stay safe and have everything they need. An interesting protective instinct has grown within me, an instinct that I believe can override my own instinct for self-preservation if I ever find them in danger. If some guy pulls out a gun in our church or a movie theater, I’ve already programmed myself with Job 1: protect Jenny and the boys at any cost. Don’t think. Don’t rationalize. Don’t hesitate. Just get between them and whatever is threatening them.

I’m no hero. I don’t have spectacular survival skills or great marksmanship or unusual bravery. What I do have is a mission: ensuring the survival of those three people. It’s actually quite liberating to make other people your primary mission, to love them enough that you know you would die for them without hesitation. It took a while to get here, but I think this is one of the most important parts of growing up.

Capitol Punishment

For at least eighty years, the most consistent urge in Washington has been to accumulate power and sanctimoniously proclaim you are doing so for the good of the nation. Sometimes it’s true. More often it’s not. But regardless of whether one is using power for good or ill, the potential for corruption is always present, as I painfully learned. – Jack Abramoff

After a wildly successful career as one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, Jack Abramoff spent 3 ½ years in federal prison on charges of fraud and corruption. In 2010 he emerged from prison deeply humbled and penitent, was reunited with his family, and wrote a book about his experience called Capitol Punishment.

Prior to reading Abramoff’s book, I knew little about lobbyists beyond their generally negative connotation. In one of my favorite movies, The American President, a widowed Democratic President (Michael Douglas) hooks up with a liberal lobbyist (Annette Bening) during an election year, which gives his conservative opponent all the mud he could hope to throw during the campaign. Somehow I got the idea that lobbyists were generally liberal, so I was surprised to discover that plenty of lobbyists are conservative as well. One of them was Jack Abramoff, former national president of the College Republicans and fan of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and the Tea Party.

Strange as it might sound for a convicted felon, Abramoff is an observant Jew and holds to a strict set of values. In prison, he was offended by many inmates’ porn collections. At one private White House dinner, he quietly refused to eat because the meal wasn’t kosher. He made millions of dollars and donated a huge portion of his income to various charities and individuals in need. However, over the course of his career, he gradually allowed himself to get sucked into the corruption around him, rationalizing questionable or illegal activities as being necessary to win and justified because they helped him donate more money to his charitable causes. It brought to mind the old cliché about boiling frogs. To boil a frog, you don’t throw him into boiling water. You put him in cold water and gradually turn up the heat.

For me, the most fascinating part of the book was its window into the lobbying business. Although the potential for corruption is overwhelming, the concept is simple and logical. Organizations hire lobbyists to influence legislators. As Abramoff lays out in Capitol Punishment, let’s say your organization (company, union, church, club) is threatened by a bill that’s floating around in Congress. If passed, this bill would destroy your organization. As the leader of the group, here are your choices:

  1. Cross your fingers, pray, and hope for the best.
  2. Resign yourself to defeat and shut down.
  3. Set up your own grassroots and/or online campaign against the bill via petitions, Facebook/Twitter, blogging, email, and other means.
  4. Move to Washington and “rush about Capitol Hill full time telling anyone who will listen that this bill is a bad idea”.
  5. Hire a lobbyist who knows how Congress works and has the connections you need to stop the bill.

Corruption potential aside, hiring a lobbyist is not that different from hiring a realtor to help you sell your house, a lawyer to represent you in a lawsuit, or an accountant to represent you in an IRS audit. You’re hiring an expert in a field to do something you can’t do yourself. If you need something done in Washington and have deep pockets, lobbying might be the most effective way to achieve your goal.

Unfortunately, despite all the laws that Congress passes to “fight” corruption and limit the influence of lobbyists, legislation is still a dirty, dirty business. Favors get traded for favors, free meals/trips/tickets get traded for votes, Congressional staffers get jobs with lobbying firms and vice versa, and weird riders get attached to unrelated bills because the right person was on the right committee at the right time and played golf with the right lobbyist who knew just the right thing to say to get Senator Mucketymuck onboard. Just like with term limits or campaign finance reform, how can we expect the members of Congress to pass bills that limit their own power, income, benefits, and influence? And with so many paying clients, why should the lobbyists turn down millions in fees simply because their business has a bad reputation? And why should the clients stop doing what it takes to legally fight for their own interests?

Abramoff did a pretty good job with the book itself. He tells a clear, compelling story full of insight, irony, and detail. He does admit several times that many of his actions were wrong, and I believe he’s sincere. As a husband and father, I did feel for the guy as he described spending his last few months with his wife and five children before he left for prison, knowing he would miss most of the next few years of their lives. As some reviewers have noted, the book does have a self-congratulatory tone in some places and a condescending one in others, particularly when he describes his time in prison with other prisoners who clearly “had different work ethics”. But overall I greatly enjoyed the book and learned something from it.

If you’re looking for a book to restore your faith in the integrity of the government, this isn’t the one. But if you want to learn more about how legislation and lobbying really work in Washington and some interesting ideas for reform, or a cautionary tale for how money and power and ambition can corrupt a moral person, Capitol Punishment is worth your time.

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Sacrifice

What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they thought she had gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language? – From the inside cover of Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.

As I discussed on Tuesday in First World Problems, I’ve been reading one of those books that I had to blog about. Kisses from Katie struck me on multiple levels. It’s a blend of essay, journal entry, and biography about a teenaged girl who gave up nearly everything she had – family, boyfriend, money, comfort, friends, college, and more – to care for desperately poor and sick children in Uganda. What started as a short-term mission trip turned into a one-year visit and then a long-term commitment complete with fourteen adopted daughters. No, that’s not a typo. Katie, a single mom in a foreign culture, adopted fourteen girls on top of the hundreds of children and some adults whom she helps to feed, educate, clothe, heal, and most importantly love.

Her staggering, heartbreaking love for the people of Uganda and Jesus drips from every page. It gives her the will to say goodbye the comfortable life that she’s always known and could expect to enjoy for the rest of her life. It gives her the strength to face unimaginable poverty and suffering without collapsing under its weight. It gives her a seemingly inexhaustable well of compassion and generosity with which to care for children whom no one else can care for.

I could not live her life. I could not do what she does. Although I’m not a terribly mushy person, I’m pretty sure it would tear my heart in two and then run it through the shredder.

“If You Take the Red Pill…”

Katie’s story hit me hard for two main reasons. First, when I was about her age, I faced a somewhat similar situation. As a high school senior, I decided to go on a summer mission trip to California with my girlfriend at the time. During the July after graduation, we would be performing a Christian musical at various churches and homeless shelters with a group based out there. My parents did not approve of the idea, but I felt so strongly led to go that I had to choose whom to follow, God or my parents. I chose God, leading to some uncomfortable moments at home for a while until they reluctantly changed their minds. Once I got there, the trip rocked my world. I worked my tail off, poured out everything I had, and ministered to hundreds of people in various ways. I prayed and talked with complete strangers. I helped bring people closer to Jesus and gave them hope. Rarely have I ever felt so alive as I did on that trip.

Just before I came home, the directors told me about an internship position for the following spring, which was supposed to be my second semester at Baylor. Now I had a problem. My passion for Christian theater and ministry burned brightly, and the internship sounded like a fantastic way to use it. But all my life I’d been preparing, and been prepared by my family, to attend college and get my bachelor’s straight out of high school. Then the plan was to get a job, get married, have kids, etc. – you know, a “normal” life. I’d been blessed with a significant scholarship package from Baylor. Taking the internship would mean leaving Baylor after one semester, with an uncertain plan to return, and potentially giving up my remaining scholarship money. Did I trust God enough to follow Him back to California in the face of uncertainty, to provide for me what I needed if I stepped out in faith? Or had God already provided a clear path and the means to get there down in Waco?

Katie decided the call of Uganda was too strong, and she put her previous plans on hold to follow God across the Atlantic. In contrast to her, after much soul-searching and more awkward family moments, I ultimately decided to stay at Baylor. I never took the drama internship and never toured with the group again.

During the fall of my sophomore year at Baylor, I found myself in a similar situation. My then-fiancée and I both were feeling called to get married right away and become missionaries in France – again, ditching the college thing temporarily if not permanently, along with much of the nice, logical plan I’d used for my life. And once again, after much soul-searching and more awkward family moments, I decided to stay at Baylor.

In the end, I graduated from Baylor in four years with no debt, got a job, and got married (to a different girl) just like I was supposed to.

Books like Kisses from Katie remind me of those days and make me wonder whether I made the right choices. My decisions to stay in school instead of doing mission work were perfectly logical and pleased nearly everyone around me. My life today is wonderful and includes so much that I could have missed – Jenny, the boys, Southwest, dispatching, IBC, my friends, and much more. But at the time, it felt like I was chickening out because I didn’t trust God enough.

As a semi-responsible, married, 30-something father, I choose to believe that both Katie and I ended up where we were supposed to be. Uganda was right for Katie. Baylor and Euless and Jenny and the boys were right for me – God’s calling for me, I suppose. I’ve given up trying to figure out how God’s will intertwines with mine. But I have profound respect for Katie’s faith, passion, and willingness to sacrifice her cushy life to do what she felt called to do.

”Why Do My Eyes Hurt?” “You’ve Never Used Them Before”

The other reason Katie’s story rocked me was its punch-in-the-gut perspective on the vast differences between my world and hers. She performs quite a feat in the book by vividly painting the horrible realities of Ugandan poverty and contrasting it with Western comfort and complacency without preaching or pointing fingers. The book is a call to action that motivates with passion rather than guilt trips. Even the most disturbing passages of the book made me feel like I was there and willingly helping out beside her.

I covered many aspects of this contrast in Tuesday’s post by describing the typical problems that I deal with in middle-class Texas versus Katie’s problems in rural Uganda. Fresh perspectives are always helpful, even if sometimes uncomfortable or difficult to wrestle with. As Americans, except perhaps for the poorest among us, we truly are wealthy. Our water doesn’t make us sick. We sleep in a bed at night instead of on a dirt or concrete floor. Most of us have some access to healthcare. We can enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, and bread when we like. We can drive to work or school or a loved one’s home without having to worry about getting shot by rebels or getting stuck in the mud or a massive pothole.

Yet we don’t feel wealthy very often, do we? We aren’t worried about meeting our basic needs, and neither are the people we interact with, so it seems perfectly normal to have whatever we need and most of what we want. Some might have a bit more or nicer stuff or a bit less or lower-quality stuff than we do, but overall we’re doing just fine. We have enough. How blessed we are simply to have enough.

Jenny and I aren’t rich (by American standards), but we have enough for Jenny to stay home and for us to have a bit of spending money. We give to the church and other organizations. We invest in our 401(k) and our kids’ college funds. When we get sick, we go to the doctor and don’t stress about how to pay for it. We pay for one gym membership for Jenny and the occasional sporting event or concert but not cable or a fancy car. When I look at our budget, I don’t see much obvious fat to cut.

My regular readers know that I struggle repeatedly with the question of what to do with our money. I want to live simpler, to live on less, so we can give more. It still amazes and humbles me to think that for the price of a combo meal at Wendy’s, I could feed a 10-pound three-year-old in Uganda for a few days. Or that for the price of one football ticket, I could send a child to school for months who wouldn’t get to go otherwise. Yet at the same time, I believe God wants us to enjoy the gifts He gives us. I don’t recall David or Solomon feeling guilty about their vast riches. But surely there must be a limit, right? Do we need million-dollar homes and private jets? OK, perhaps that’s too easy. What about $200 purses and big-screen HDTVs? What about the roof and built-in grill that I want to add to my porch once I get my retro check at work? What about organic food, Netflix, and preschool for my kids? Heck, what about dining out, shopping anywhere but Goodwill, and using the air conditioner and heater?

I have no answer. I don’t know where the line is. Maybe there is no right answer. We’re just trying to strike the right balance between caring for our children, planning for the future, giving to others, and having a little fun. But I do keep thinking about the kids that Katie helps on the other side of the world. Later on, once we’re better able financially, I do hope to share more with kids like them. In the meantime, these questions will continue to boil in my soul.

Katie has a similar struggle. No matter how much she gives of her time, limited personal and ministry resources, and love, there’s always another child or adult who needs help. The needs around her are much, much greater than her resources. That’s why she kept adopting little girls until she had fourteen daughters. That’s why she went over to teach kindergarten to a few dozen kids but wound up feeding several hundred children every week and arranging for school fees and healthcare for a few hundred.

Finally, even Superwoman had to draw the line in some cases. Her standard is just a lot more generous than mine. She is a beautiful human being, full of love and faith like I’ve rarely seen anywhere. Read her book. Support her ministry. Change someone’s life, maybe even your own.

You can also follow her blog at http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com.