I love to read! This love was instilled within me during my youth and still lives in me today. My mom had a lot to do with my love of reading — she loves to read as well.

I remember the boxes of old books mom had in the basement. One of my big adventures was to get out the old books and look through them. In fact, I credit one of those books with my desire to go to Africa. I wish we still had that book. I don't remember much about it except that that it was about the life of Dr. Livingston, one of the early missionaries to Africa. It was full of lithographic pictures of life in Africa. These images planted a seed in my heart that matured into a desire to go to Africa — which my wife and I eventually did get to do.

My mom's love for reading hasn't dimmed over the years. She still passes on books to me on a regular basis — cartoon books, serious books, mysteries, fiction; we read them all. I need to say, however, that we are "frugal" readers. In other words, mom and I rarely buy new books. We like the adventure of searching out treasures in garage sales, used bookstores, and the Goodwill store.

Our books are seldom in pristine condition when we purchase them. However, that doesn't change the value of the words we find inside. Recently, my mom gave me a book she had purchased at a 50% off sale at the Goodwill store. It was a biography of a real mountain man and the settlement of the early American West. The book was damaged on the outside and had a large brown stain on the cover. What first caught my attention as I opened the book was that it had been stamped a couple of times inside of the cover. One stamp had the name of a local prison library; the other said, "Discarded." Imagine being a book discarded by a prison library!

The outside of this book may have been damaged, causing most to discard it as a result of the outside damage, but it was still good on the inside! As I thought about that, I thought how much those words could describe so very many people in our world today. We live in a world that puts great value on having things that appear to be 'perfect.' We want perfect bodies, perfect homes, perfect cars, perfect kids, and perfect mates. When things aren't perfect, we try first to change them, but if they can't be changed into our idea of perfection, we discard them. We certainly live in "a throw-a-way" society.

Maybe it's just that I was raised differently, but if you want to get me excited about shopping, show me the mark-down table or point me down the dented and scratched aisle. That's where the true treasures can be found.

Let me encourage you to take a close look at the value system in your life. Ask yourself how you value others who are less than perfect; who have problems, flaws and defects and those who have been damaged and discarded by the world.

I chose to pass that value along.
Remember that old "battered and discarded" book that I mentioned earlier? This week I gave it new life; I signed it, stuck a ribbon on it, and gave it to a good friend for Christmas. I don't know if he will appreciate it in the same way that I did, but I think he will because he's that kind of guy. The point is that I could have discarded it again myself, but I chose to find value in that book and pass that value along.

What about you? Who can you reclaim? What "less than perfect" person will you find value in? Isn't that what God did for us! The apostle Paul tells us, "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NRSV) Damaged and discarded by the world as we were, Christ died for us anyway. Our cover may have been stamped "Discarded!" yet God loved us, claimed us, and made us his gift.

May you truly realize the value that God places on you no matter how little the world thinks of you!