Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Environment: Household Cleaners

As Christians we should be good stewards of the resources that God has given us. That includes our environment. We benefit from taking care of the earth and now, with all the "green" products, it's even easier. I've been looking for an environmentally friendly household cleaner and here are some that I have tried:

Mrs. Myers Cleaners

These cleaners come in some great scents. They are marketed as aromatherapy cleaners and they smell really good. (Unless you keep them for 3 years and then they will make your counter tops smell like moldy feet.) When they are fresh they seemed to work great and I like them. They can get a little pricey, but they are sold in a concentrated formula so long-term they aren't too bad. I would purchase again.

Clorox GreenWorks

Hands down the WORST cleaner I have ever used. It left a film on every surfaces and it took a million wipes to get the cleaners up. Would not purchase this cleaner or any other product in their line ever again.

Seventh Generation

I'll admit that I haven't used their surface cleaner but I have used their dish soap and think it's great. They claim that their whole manufacturing process is sustainable and eco-friendly. Seems to be a good option.

Water & Vinegar
This has to be my top choice for household cleaner. It's safe, anti-bacterial and very cheap. I bought a spray bottle and mixed equal parts vinegar and water. I don't have to worry about it getting on my toothbrush or my hands. The only downside is that it's doesn't smell that great, but I can fix that by lighting a candle. Most times the most eco-friendly solution is the most simple one.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review: The Great Omission

"All the churches in North America cannot eradicate homelessness in Mexico, let alone the rest of the world. There just aren't enough Christians or enough money to allocate to it. We could probably blitz the border towns and make a pretty good showing. But as soon as the millions of poor people living further south heard about free housing on the border, a homeless migration would start." In his book The Great Omission, Steve Saint explores how the Great Commission could actually be accomplished in our world, arguing that worldwide evangelization isn't about the number of workers, but about multiplying the number of workers and the viral nature of their message's communication.

How long should a missionary stay on his field? Under what conditions should he consider his job “complete”? I believe many well-intentioned missionaries overstay their job in planting churches. After the church is planted, they want to stay and weed around it, water it, help it grow new leaves and deal with old ones. Eventually, this missionary, now a “gardener,” must leave indefinitely for medical reasons, at which point the plant loses more and more leaves, shrivels, and dies. Without its caretaker gardener, the plant doesn’t have its own structure, doesn’t believe that it is indeed a “plant.”

In fact, if the gardener had tended the plant until it reached basic maturity, and then left it alone, the plant would have had more chance of surviving long-term. This reminds me of peanut-butter sandwiches. My six-year-old nephew didn’t know how to make one because someone always made it for him. He was dependent on the sandwich-maker for his sustenance. However, when he learned how to make his very own sandwich – sloppy as it was – he knew he “owned” the sandwich, that he was responsible for it. And many more sandwiches were in his future!

Imagine a missionary and a national believer. Maybe the national is uneducated, informal, and poor. Many Western missionaries assume these qualities result in a dumb person, unable to understand the Bible or share his faith effectively. What about Christ’s students? He chose them, however lowly (fishermen) and despised (IRS agent Matthew) they were. These qualities, along with being poor and uneducated, should have disqualified them from Kingdom work. How did our Master think about them? He certainly would not trust them with building His church, would He?

When we see a believer, whether affluent from the suburbs, poor from the city, or uneducated from Appalachia, do we see them as equal workers in God’s kingdom? Who does Christ choose to build and maintain His church?

From the book’s cover: Steve Saint – Born and raised in South America by North American parents, Steve Saint has gone on to be a businessman, missionary, pilot, builder, designed, certified financial planner, speaker, and writer. Some of missionary martyr Nate Saint, Steve has become “family” to the tribe who killed his father. His unique life has given him a perspective on the Great Commission that is vital to the Body of Christ.


This guest post was written by Chris H who lives with his wife, Cassie, and son, Chaim, in the sunbelt. Chris & Cassie are currently preparing to go overseas as missionaries. When they aren't in training, working, or caring for Chaim, they raise ferrets and think up other names that start with "C".

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Slaves Today?

I was shocked to hear that more people are held in slavery today than during the entire African slave trade. These people are living in our cities and are taken from our towns. They are forced to work as sex workers, sweatshop workers and as manual labor.

This isn't just a problem for coastal cities either. A local 4-star hotel here in Kentucky was busted a couple of years ago for forcing immigrants to work at illegal wages. Linda Smith with Shared Hope International estimates that there are no less than 500 girls enslaved in the sex trade in every city in the U.S.. World Magazine reported in their Feb 28, 2009 issue that it is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 U.S. children are enslaved in sex trafficking each year. World-wide 2,700 children are trafficked in to slavery every day. That's ridiculous.

I am just now learning about human trafficking and the modern-day slave trade. This will be topic that will come up again here at Our Old Shoes. In the mean-time here are some resources you can use to learn more about what's going on and how to help stop it:

Remember Nhu
A non-profit in Cambodia that "exists to eliminate children in the sex trade industry all over the world."

"A web resource for combating human trafficking"

International Justice Mission
"IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law."

Shared Hope International
A non-profit based in Toledo, Ohio that is "leading a world-wide effort to eradicate sexual slavery one life at a time."

FBI Human Trafficking Division
This provides information on who to call if know of someone enslaved here in the U.S.

Monday, February 9, 2009

To Stand

Recently, more often than I would like, I have been in the midst of people who make incredibly racist statements. I was sharing one of these instances with a coworker and I was explaining how I hadn’t known what to do or say. The comments caught me off guard in such a way that I did nothing, partially because I was shocked and partially because it was easier to say nothing. My friend gently pointed out that while these people were not mocking my family, they were mocking someone’s family. She reminded me that as my husband and I are open to adoption, one day these comments could be directed at my children. She explained that the longer I say and do nothing, the easier it will become.

She’s right. I should have said something. I should have made it clear that I don’t feel the same way. I should have done something to point out that these people have worth and they deserve respect. I am ashamed that I just let things slide because it was convenient.

This whole situation got me thinking about the role Christian’s should play in standing up for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. I believe that scripture is quite clear that God calls us to care for those who need help. We are to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves and stand beside those who are fighting injustices in this world. (A quick search brought up these verses in Proverbs: 22:22-23 22:13 17:5 14:31)

I love the idea of standing for what is right, and I admire those who take a stand for what they believe in, and yet it’s not easy to practice. Sometimes standing for what’s right has a huge price tag. Sometimes the employee who stands for unfair labor practices loses their job or misses a raise. Sometimes the citizen who takes a stand against civil or human rights violations can end up in jail. Sometimes when we remind a friend that a racist comment is unacceptable we can lose a friend.

Taking a stand can be very, very costly. So why risk it? Why stand for things or people that don’t directly impact me? I can think of two reasons:

1. Scripture says to. The second greatest commandment is to love my neighbor (even if they are on the other side of the world) as myself. My husband and I work hard to make sure we have a safe place to live, food to eat, we are treated with respect and our government treats us fairly. If I am to love others as I love myself – then I should work to ensure this for them as well.

2. The risk to a Christian is minimal. If we truly have an eternal mindset and believe that our treasure is in heaven, then the loss of earthly goods is only temporary. We hold them lightly knowing that another person is worth so much more. When we take a stand for another person, the only things that are taken from us were never ours to begin with. They were only tools to help us walk through our time on earth and instruments to praise and point to our savior.

None of these are easy lessons. I am far from where I need and want to be - but I want to start moving in the right direction. When I hear about injustices done to other people I get angry, but I need to get moving. I need to act and stand for what God stands for… even when it makes me very uncomfortable.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Responsible Charity: Book Review

I hadn't heard the term "responsible charity" until I got out of college. I had always assumed that you were a responsible citizen when you gave to charities. One very influential book challenged my thoughts on this. At the time the book was published under the name and you call yourself a Christian - Toward responsible charity by Dr. Robert Lupton. It is now published under the title of Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life - Rethinking Ministry to the Poor.

In this book Lupton points out an often overlooked consequence of charity: charity can actually take more from those we seek to help than it gives. When we are in the business of charity, it is in the best interest of that business to always have clients, "the poor". When the poor are no longer poor, there are no jobs in the charity business. Lupton explores the attitudes we must have in order to come along side the poor, to be their neighbor, to stay out of the business of charity and to embrace a life-style of love. Lupton points out that, "Doing for others what they can do for themselves is charity at its worst. We know from 40 years of failed social policy that welfare depletes self-esteem while honorable work produces dignity. We know that reciprocity builds mutual respect while one-way giving brews contempt. Yet we continue to run clothes closets and free food pantries and give-away benevolence accounts and wonder why the joy is missing"

Lupton challenges those with a heart for the poor to not just have compassion on the "least of these" but to use their minds to creatively affirm the value, contribution and responsibility that everyone has. I was reminded that "when [I] do for others what they can do for themselves, [I] cripple them." I must invest in people in a way that doesn't enable them to be poor, but to help them learn how to improve their situations themselves. Yet, Lupton is also realistic in how he views this responsibility that everyone has, "We are equal in neither our capacity nor potential. We are equal only in responsibility." It is an unrealistic to think that everyone has the capability to break the cycle of poverty, yet it is realistic that everyone has a responsibility to work towards that end.

Lupton's final challenge is to live among the poor, to make their problems our problems and to work TOGETHER to break the cycle of poverty while always keeping in mind that we can't ever change people - only God can. We are to follow Christ's example of living among those we want to help and love and in the end point them to Christ.

It's a good book. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do you have enough?

A friend of ours has a shirt that on the front reads, “The answer to poverty is not wealth.” And on the back it states, “The answer to poverty is enough.”

This shirt prompted a discussion based on the question, “How much is enough?” Some stated that it was simple to determine when you have enough – it’s when all your needs are met.
I don’t think that it’s that simple. How do you know when your needs are met? What is the line? Is it the same for everyone? Do you need a college education? Do you need a soft bed? Do you need two cars? Do you need a couch? Do you need to own a home? Do you need a computer? Do you need more than two changes of clothes? Western society says that all of those things are not just needs, but rights that every person has. We have a right to higher education. We have a right to furniture. We have a right to home ownership. We have a right to several changes of clothes, yet many people never have the opportunity for any of these things and they still survive. So is it truly a need?

I understand that this isn’t an easy question to answer. I need work clothes to keep my job. I need a car to get to my job and I need my job to be able to eat. So maybe I do need more than two changes of clothes, but how many changes of clothes is enough? When do I pass from having enough clothes to having an excessive amount of clothes? How new do my clothes have to be? How much should I pay for them?

This is a constant struggle for me. I hate shopping because I stand in the store debating if I need this item or not. The closest thing I have to an answer is to live simply. To own only what I use and make do with what I have. It’s not easy and I really WANT a new digital camera… but I am not sure I need one.

I would like to hear from you. Have you come across something that you found you could live without? Have you cut back on anything because you had to wanted to and found that it really worked out? Have you cut something that you realized was a mistake (like heat or car insurance)? Please leave a comment and let us know what works or doesn’t work for you.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Child Hunger

923 million people across the world are hungry.

Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes - one child every five seconds. (Bread for the World.)

I was going to look up more statistics, but I don't think that I have to - one child every five seconds.

Here are several ways that you can help.

Sponsor a Child.
There are several organizations that let you sponsor a specific child in a specific country. I am most familiar with World Vision. For $30 a month you can sponsor a child living in poverty. For $35 a month you can sponsor a child living in poverty in a community severely affected by HIV/AIDS. When you sponsor a child through World Vision you are providing clean water, heath care, educational opportunities, nutritious food, and spiritual training. World Vision has an excellent track record of financial responsibility. 86% of the funds go directly to the children and families. The other 14% goes to fund raising and administrative costs. They received a 4 star (out of 4 stars) rating from Charity Navigator.

You can also sponsor a child through Compassion International. For $32 a month you will provide a child clean water, heath care, educational opportunities, nutritious food, life-skill training and spiritual training. Compassion International also has an excellent financial track record. 83% of the funds go directly to the children and they also received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator.

International Child Care. This organization only got a 2 star rating and from what I can tell it's because they don't have the financial tools to sustain long-term growth. This could change with the right gifts. I have heard good things about this organization from people who work with them. For $21 a month you will provide a child with food, education and medical care.

Give to Relief Organizations.

Bread for the World. 4 star rating.
They look for ways to stop the causes of hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

CAMA Services. 4 star rating.
"CAMA provides a variety of relief and development ministries that flesh out the good news of God’s love for people—body and soul."

Samaritan's Purse. 4 star rating.
They provide emergency relief, community development and seek to "reach hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ."

Please consider sponsoring a child. Many times these children's lives depend on being sponsored. Please remember that sponsoring a child is a long-term commitment for the life of that child. While you can stop - it will have negative consequences on the child. Most of us can spare $35-70 a month to sponsor one or two children. Please consider it.

600 children died of hunger-related causes in the amount of time it took me to research and write this post.