Who's Gonna' Jump Your Car?

It's been a little while since I did an entry in the Building Tangible Margin series. Before I continue in that thread, I want to take a moment to address preparedness thinking. Many people have unfortunate notions about preparedness that cause them to avoid taking needed action. Let me just clarify where I'm coming from and where I'm not coming from.

I have yet to find a perspective on preparedness that strikes the right balance. This has become a subject of great interest to me, but I have had to cobble together many sources to address the issue to my satisfaction. Allowing my faith to inform my preparedness makes it all the more difficult, though ultimately more purposeful.

There are two extremes when it comes to thinking about preparedness—blind optimism and paranoid pessimism.

On the blind optimism end you have folks who don’t believe anything bad will ever happen to them or if it does they will be taken care of. Don’t bother asking them to jump your car; they won’t have jumper cables.

The paranoid pessimists, on the other hand, give preparedness a bad name. Their survival-of-the-fittest, world-be-damned perspective may be well-equipped and thoroughly thought out, but they’re not going to jump your car either. They’re running from the black helicopters, headed for the hills.

My approach to preparedness is an attempt to heed the call of Scripture to be both prudent and charitable. My preparations are acts of love toward family, friends and, potentially, strangers. Preparedness also happens to make for an interesting hobby to the perpetually curious and imaginative. It is a middle ground between the extremes. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst...within reason.


Surreal x 2

You may have seen these before in a PowerPoint presentation, but I think they're fun enough to share on their own. If you're feeling witty, try captioning one or more in the Comments section. Artistic criticism welcome, too.


Letters to Prison

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you’ve probably read letters from prison. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon were all letters written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison for preaching the Good News of Christ.

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of receiving some of my own letters from prison and sending a number to prison. The correspondence has been through Prison Fellowship’s Pen Pal Program.

Prison Fellowship is a ministry founded by the once-incarcerated Chuck Colson, a former aide to President Nixon. He came to Christ prior to his time in prison and has been committed to prison reform and ministry to the incarcerated and their families ever since PF’s founding in 1976. If you've participated in the Angel Tree project that sends Christmas gifts to children of inmates, you've had some contact with Prison Fellowship.

In Hebrews 13:3 we read, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” The Pen Pal Program provides (say that three times fast) an opportunity for Christians to minister to those in prison.

My pen pal, Jimmy, and I corresponded frequently at first then fell out of touch for a time but are back in touch again. I don’t know what he did and haven’t pried. I do know he’s about halfway through his sentence and seems to enjoy corresponding with me and taking correspondence Bible courses. His letters often contain the certificates he’s received. I try to send him interesting photos he can put up in his cell and generally try to encourage and challenge him as I can. As is the case with much ministry, I feel that I get more out of this correspondence than he does.

If you’d like to learn more about the Pen Pal program, you can contact me or see the Pen Pal FAQs at Prison Fellowship’s site.


Products I Endorse

I am not a paid spokesmodel. Hard to believe, I know. And this is not a particularly weighty post. But do you ever run across a product that's so clever/tasty/well done/etc. that you think, "Hey, I'd do an ad for this stuff/thing/etc.!"? Here are a few of mine, off the top of my head. Please feel free to add your own.

Rain-X: This stuff is just magic. With a coat of Rain-X you can literally drive down the Interstate in a downpour with your wipers OFF. The harder it rains, the better it seems to work. Just clean your windshield, wipe on a thin coat of this stuff and wipe off (in?). It causes the rain to bead up on glass and the wind from your high rate of speed just blows it right off. Amazing! The only downsides are that it has to be re-applied every so often, doesn't work very well at city speeds (how often do you get over 30mph around town?) and can cause a little glare if you leave too much residue. Great stuff, though. Get a bottle or pack of the wipes for your next road trip.

PlumSweets: The first bit of genius in this SunSweet product is their clever use of "dried plums" instead of "prunes." This simple marketing switch has no doubt made them millions. This new product, however, is a great way to indulge in sweets with no guilt. A whole list of justifications are built right in. They are dried plum pieces covered in dark chocolate. Beautiful, eh? So, you get your fiber, your flavonoids, your antioxidants...all kinds of good stuff. How do they taste? Do you like Raisinets? They're even better. And, you can tell your kids they're prunes, they'll turn up their noses, and you can keep them all to yourself! (You're welcome.)

Photon Lights: I've recommended these elsewhere on this blog, but these little keychain flashlights are super handy. They use a single, bright LED bulb which is practically unbreakable and lasts a long, long time on a single set of little coin batteries. I haven't replaced my batteries yet and have had one for 2-3 years. No bigger than a short stack of quarters, you can attach this to your keys, your bag or a zipper pull and have it always with you. I have a couple Micro-Light IIs and a III. Look around for deals; they're frequently discounted on eBay.

San Pellegrino Sparkling Mineral Water: If you think that seltzer or sparkling waters taste like Alka Seltzer (hello, sweet wife!), read no further. If, however, you're a fan of the refreshing, subtle taste of tiny-bubbled water (hi, sweet daughter!), S. Pellegrino Sparkling Mineral Water is tops. How they do it, I don't know. All I know is that the bubbles are plentiful but feel smaller than seltzer waters and sodas, and the blend of minerals they use is delicious. Perrier is good, but this is even better. Available at your finer restaurants and your local grocer's. (S. Pellegrino, if you're reading this, send me a case!)

The Grand Canyon, North Rim: This is not a product, per se, but a creation. I'm recommending it anyway. They say that 90% of people who visit the Grand Canyon go to the South Rim. It's only a 4 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas and gets lots and lots of tourists. If, like me, you prefer a more natural, less crowded experience, take the time to go to the North Rim. A few years back, my wife and I took a 4,100 mile road trip and the North Rim was the furthest most point of our giant loop. Fantastic! I won't paint the full picture here, but I think everyone should make it to the Grand Canyon once in their lifetime and the North Rim is the purest way to do it. Try the fall or springtime, if possible, and don't forget to catch both sunrise and sunset as many days as you can. To paraphrase, you will be still and know that He is God.


A Better Choice than Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has done a very good job of polishing its image over the years. I’ve even run into Believers who think that this is a worthwhile organization with humanitarian aims. But please consider the following:

From Planned Parenthood’s 2003 Annual Report:

-244,628 abortions provided [roughly a fifth of US abortions]
-1,774 adoption referrals [ratio of adoptions to abortions, fewer than 1:100]
-774,482 emergency contraception kits distributed [which may well have led to additional abortions]
-Average price of 1st trimester abortion is around $400 and goes up steadily for 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions [though Planned Parenthood is a non-profit, these figures suggest a minimum of $97.9 million earned annually from abortions]

If you’d like to support an organization that truly has the best interests of women and their children at heart, take a look at the Chicago-area Caris Pregnancy Centers. They have an annual Hike for Life in the spring and a Benefit Banquet on Monday, November 13th. Ravi Zacharias was excellent as last year’s featured speaker. James McDonald will be this year's speaker. My wife and I support their work and hope you'll consider doing so as well.


Chivalry Not Dead

Check out the Chicago Tribune article, "Good Samaritan rescues 2 from car blaze." Could you have done what this man did? This checklist may be helpful:

  • Situational awareness
  • Boatload of courage
  • Selflessness
  • Pocketknife
  • Fire extinguisher


A Different Take on the Amish Schoolhouse Murders

There is much speculation on how and why the Amish schoolhouse murders came about and how they could've been prevented. Check out my post on another blog of mine for a different take on this tragedy--"The Power of Confession."