by Candice Smith on March 4th, 2014
The beginning of Lent is near, and those who participate in this ritual of going without are preparing to give up something that is meaningful in some way. I know many people are inspired by this event; Christians and those holding other beliefs use this time to remind themselves of those who have less, to inspire deeper thought about possessions and luxuries and what things are important, and to offer up penitence in some way. I grew up in a Catholic home, and participated in Lent for many years…I believe I usually gave up chocolate or allowance, some very tangible thing that made a small impact in my life.
While the things that people choose to give up vary widely, I suspect that for a number of people it will be caffeine and/or coffee. It may seem trivial, but going without this chemical can have many effects; many are so used to having it in regular quantities every day, and to suddenly stop can bring on withdrawal symptoms, general crankiness, and maybe even a feeling of sadness at not having that ‘cup of comfort.’ It may or may not go deeper than that in terms of what going without might teach you, but I’m not here to judge. I’m here to offer a dispensation, of sorts…
Coffee With Jesus is a nice little compilation of the online comic of the same name. A little humor, a little iconic art, and more than a little thought go into each strip. It avoids heavy lessons in favor of quick but lingering suggestions…hey, think about this a bit. Reflect. And yes, Jesus is a main character here, but he is quite modern in view while at the same time being the old-school, accepting of everyone kind of guy. There’s no offense meant here, whatever your belief (or non-belief, in fact) is. And this little book just might help you find a different jolt of energy and comfort for the time being.
by Candice Smith on February 12th, 2014
No, I’m not talking about the Sochi Olympics. I’m talking about Donnie Eichar’s book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, which I recently finished. In fact, I finished it about 24 hours after checking it out…it was a very interesting, well-paced book that I didn’t want to put down until I knew what had happened.
This is a nonfiction book that investigates a decades-old mystery, one that I had never heard of and that is so remote and foreign to me (both in terms of locale and subject matter) that it actually imparted a sense of foreboding and discomfort. In late January of 1959, nine university students set out on a 160 mile hike in the Ural mountains, during their winter break. They were already highly accomplished hikers, and this hike was intended to give them the highest ranking in outdoorsmanship that would allow them to instruct others; their plans were meticulous, their route reviewed and approved by foresters, their bags and provisions adequately thought out.
They never returned. After missing the beginning of the semester, officials began to search for them. Their tent was found intact on a slope, with all their shoes, clothes and belongings neatly arranged inside, and food set out waiting to be eaten. Eventually their bodies were found within a mile of the tent but in different places, mostly barely clothed, with injuries ranging from a broken nose and scrapes to blunt force trauma to the head and chest. Several died from hypothermia. After autopsies and looking at the evidence, the case was closed with the determination that an “unknown compelling force” led to their deaths.
Donnie Eichar came across mention of the hikers in a random fashion, while researching something else, and their story simply would not let him go. The mystery of what might have happened to these healthy, incredibly bright and vivacious young people in the remote, snowy wilderness prompted Eichar to visit Russia twice; he not only interviews people who knew the hikers as well as those who investigated the incident, he also makes the long journey to where their lives ended. I will admit, what he finds there and afterwards is not an entirely tidy answer, and if he is right, it is an ironic and cruel one.
I highly recommend you read his book, and see for yourself.