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The Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector

Story of the Day for Saturday October 6, 2012

The Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector

 

                . . . Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to children.”  

                                                         Matthew 11:25

 

Have you heard of the “Dr. Fox Hypothesis”? Dr. John Ware and his colleagues from the University of Southern California introduced Dr. Myron R. Fox to a distinguished group of educators: psychologists, sociologists, physicians, and social workers.

Dr. Fox’s topic was “Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physical Education.” But the audience did not know that Dr. Fox was really an actor.  His speech was a meaningless jumble of non sequiturs, invented words, irrelevant details, and entertaining jokes.  But he said absolutely nothing at all.

The audience loved his speech, and no one realized the speech was nonsensical. Anonymous evaluations afterward said the lecture was clear and stimulating.

Further research by others has demonstrated this is not a fluke. You can write totally unintelligible articles, and as long as it comes from a legitimate source in the reader’s area of expertise, the article will usually win high marks.

 

If you are in business and are ever called upon to make a report, I recommend to you Philip Broughton’s “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector.”  He produced three columns of ten words. You simply pick one word from each column and incorporate them in a sentence.

For example, the first column has words like: “integrated,” “systematized,” and “functional.”  The second column: “organizational,” “reciprocal,” and “incremental.” And the third column includes: “flexibility,” “time-phase,” and “projection.”

Broughton claims, “No one will have the remotest idea what you are talking about, but the important thing is that they’re not about to admit it.”  One man, who resorted to Broughton’s “Buzz Phrase Projector,” received a standing ovation and a top man in the organization said it was the best presentation he had ever heard.

 

The theologians of Jesus’ day should have been the first to recognize the Messiah. But, because of their pride, they became blind. God reveals truth to children. And you don’t have to be young to be a child. Jesus calls a “child” anyone who is humble.

It used to bother me that Jesus praised the Father for making the wise and intelligent blind to the truth. But what he meant, I think, is that truth is not found because we’re intelligent, but because we’re humble. If you are proud of your biblical knowledge, you are in a dangerous place.

 

Frederick Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, said, “Pilate asks What is truth? And for years there have been politicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and so on to tell him. The sound they make is like the sound of empty pails falling down the cellar stairs.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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Where They Found Bread

Story of the Day for Friday October 5, 2012

 

Where They Found Bread

 

                                    Jesus said, . . . “Everything they do is done to impress others.” 

                                                                                                       Matthew 23:5

 

 

When I was in seventh grade, our Science and English teachers were both single, and I think they were flirting.

After Science, we tumbled into Miss Polk’s English class. She noticed someone’s assignment given by Mr. Brinkman, our Science teacher.  Snatching the assignment, she copied it on the blackboard (white boards were black in those days) and we spent the class period parsing it for grammatical flaws. We were all sobered to discover that it was a gravely flawed exhibition of the English language.

Miss Polk encouraged us to hand our revised copy of his assignment to him the next day – which we cheerfully did.

People who know a lot about sub-phyla and nematodes are not easily intimidated, and Mr. Brinkman took our chastisement in good humor. You could tell, however, that he was plotting revenge. He asked us to participate in a science experiment for English class next hour, and we all eagerly complied – because we all coveted a well-rounded education.

 

Mr. Brinkman asked us to engage in an act of civil obedience. He told us to walk into Miss Polk’s class without saying a word. He wanted us to be a model of perfect behavior.

The next hour, we quietly walked into class and took our seats. No talking, no laughing, no gum chewing. We all put our hands on our desks and stared attentively at Miss Polk.

At first, Miss Polk look surprised, but we noticed she was becoming unnerved by our attentiveness. As she started her lesson, and stared at a classroom where every face was focused on her every word, she became increasingly agitated. After five minutes, she waved toward the door and said, “Class dismissed.”

 

A classroom of perfect children is so eerie and unnatural that it soon becomes unbearable. Yet, sometimes, Christians get the impression that the world would be impressed if we acted perfect – as if we were unaffected by grief or temptation.

A plastered pious smile, when inwardly our heart is broken, looks phony — because it is phony. And when we try to hide our imperfections we look like a bald man whose toupee is sitting on his head sideways.

 

The world isn’t looking for us to be perfect; they’re looking for us to be honest. They’re not impressed with someone who claims that they’re never hungry, but they are intrigued by anyone who simply tells them where they found bread.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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What Happened on the Drawbridge?

Story of the Day for Thursday October 4, 2012 

                                One of our FAVORITE stories being reposted for your reading today! 

What Happened on the Drawbridge?

 

 

              God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

                                                          John 3:16

 

John Griffith worked as the controller of a railroad drawbridge across the Mississippi River.  One day, in the summer of 1937, John took his eight-year-old son, Greg, along with him to work.

At noon, John put the bridge up so ships could pass, and then sat on the observation deck with his son to eat lunch.

John was startled by the sound of a train whistle from the east.  He knew it was the Memphis Express, a 400-passenger train heading over the Mississippi from East St. Louis.

He raced from the observation deck to the control tower.  Just before he threw the lever to lower the bridge, he glanced down to see if any ships were passing below, and noticed that his son had slipped from the observation tower and fallen into the gear mechanism.  His left leg was caught in the cogs of the two main gears.

John Griffith froze for a moment in fear.  The Memphis Express was nearing the  river. If he did not lower the bridge, the train would have no time to stop.  But if he lowered the bridge, it would crush his son to death.

John knew what he had to do.  He grabbed the master lever . . . and lowered the bridge.  The train was just starting across the river when the bridge was completely lowered.

As the train passed his control booth, he saw the faces of the passengers.  No one looked at him.  No one looked down at his dead son in the gear assembly.

In his anguish John shouted, “I sacrificed my son for you!”

 

This story, made popular by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, has been retold countless times as a parable of the Good News.

But how could such a tragedy become a picture of good news?  Well, it’s about love, really.  God the Father spoke form heaven at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love! With him I am well pleased.”  When Jesus stood on a mountain top with three of his disciples, the Father repeated his words, “This is my Son, whom I love!”

We cannot comprehend the moment, but we know that the Father willingly took his beloved Son, and put him to death.

 

Why?  To spare the lives of all of us as we were speeding to our deaths.  God’s Son stood in our place and died, that we, the guilty ones, might live.

God loved his Son.  No surprise there.  But the beauty of it all, and what makes this message so good, is that God loves us as well.

And many years ago, he stood with his hand on the switch, and made his choice.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Joy of a Two-Stroke Penalty

Story of the Day for Wed. October 3, 2012 

The Joy of a Two-Stroke Penalty

 

                . . . We are certain we have a clear conscience.  We want to behave honorably in all we do.

                                                                            Hebrews 13:18

 

Professional golfers play by strict, unbending rules. The rules state the situations where you must play the ball where it lies, and when you are allowed to move it. They even have rules for playing the ball if you hit it into an alligator’s mouth (I’m not making this up!)

 

In 1994, Davis Love III was playing in the Western Open near Chicago. He chipped a shot close to the hole and put a marker where his ball lay, but then moved his marker so it would be out of the putting line of the next golfer.

Later, as they continued play, Love couldn’t remember if he moved his marker back to the original spot. Whether he did or not, it made no difference to his “gimme” putt.  He probably moved his marker according to the rules, but he just couldn’t remember.

The rule book states that, if you think it’s possible you committed an infraction, and no one else was present to judge the case, then you have committed an infraction.

So, Love penalized himself with a two-stroke penalty.

That penalty he called on himself knocked him out of the tournament. Without that penalty, he would have automatically qualified for the Masters.

In the end, it all worked out well for Love. He did qualify for the Masters by winning a PGA tournament in 1995. And he came in second in the Masters – winning over a quarter million dollars.  But he did not know this at the time he gave himself the penalty that disqualified him from the tournament.

 

In his book, Every Shot I Take, Love does not consider what he did that day to be worthy of praise, and quotes Bobby Jones, “Don’t praise me for calling a penalty on myself. You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”  Yet, most ignore Love’s self-effacing comments and praise him anyway.

 

But, some think he is a fool. Why penalize yourself two strokes when you’re not even sure you committed a penalty? Why penalize yourself when, even if you did make a mental error, it was not intentional? And it did not affect your score?  And, after asking everyone present, no one saw you commit a penalty?

 

Love’s defends the inflexible rules of his golf: “This may sound harsh to the non-golfer, but it’s not. Adhered to strictly, it eliminates the possibility of a golfer playing with a guilty conscience.”

Did you get that?  Love believes the money and fame is not worth it, if he does not have a clear conscience.

Yes, absolutely yes – Jesus can and will cleanse us when we have a guilty conscience. But we also need the wisdom to see that living an honorable life is more satisfying than all the money and fame this world can offer.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The One Who Sang a Perfect Song

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 2, 2012 

The One Who Sang a Perfect Song

 

                   Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord – but not like his father David. Instead, he followed the example of his father Joash.

                                                                                                    2 Kings 14:3

 

A woman from Asheville, Alabama, bought a mynah bird, but as soon as she brought it home she discovered it was sick. The bird started wheezing and coughing and hacking as if it trying to clear its throat. The vet said the bird looked healthy, but maybe it had a rare aviary virus, so he gave antibiotics to clear up its respiration.

After treatment with antibiotics, however, the bird continued to cough and wheeze. But, finally, the bird’s problem was solved.

Can you guess the problem? Like parrots, mynah birds mimic sound. When they tracked down the previous owner, they discovered it was recently owned by a woman who had emphysema.

 

All of us influence each other. The good news is that we can become a positive influence in the lives of others. The bad news is that our faults are a bad influence on others. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick which of our traits will affect the lives of others.

A man owned a lovely Chinese plaque with raised figures on it. He hung it on his wall, but one day it fell and broke it half. He wanted the valuable handmade plaque replaced, so he glued the plate together as best he could and mailed it to China so that they could make a copy of it.

A half a year later, his new plaque was finished and mailed to him. The copy was exquisitely made – just like the original . . . including a crack across the center.

 

As the king of Judah, Amaziah got off to a good start. But, while he could’ve been a great king if he sought to model his rule after king David, he instead followed the example of king Joash, and needlessly bungled things up.

 

The village of Andreasberg, Germany, became famous for raising canaries. The birds, although not native to the Harz Mountain region, nevertheless, were known worldwide for the quality of their beautiful songs.

The secret to the superior song of these canaries was no great mystery. The Germans of Andreasberg understood that a bird learns to sing from others around it. So, they wouldn’t sell their best songbirds – they kept them so that the other canaries would be influenced by their song.

 

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for those times you’ve been a bad influence on others. That’s why forgiveness is so refreshing.

But, if we want to grow in becoming a helpful influence on those around us, the best place to begin is by placing our lives under the influence of the One who sang a perfect song.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Take the Whole Mess to Jesus

Story of the Day for Monday October 1, 2012

Take the Whole Mess to Jesus

 

                Wash me thoroughly from all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always staring me in the face.   

                                                                                                           Psalms 51:2-3

 

 In 1987, Ron Harper Mills told a story to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. The story wasn’t true (although the internet gossip machine claimed it was). Mills said he made it up to entertain the audience and “to illustrate how, if you alter a few small facts, you greatly alter the legal consequences.”

 

The story goes like this: Ronald Opus left a suicide note and then jumped from a ten-story building. As he fell, a shotgun blast tore through a window and killed him. But, Mr. Opus’s suicide attempt would have failed because construction workers had set up a safety net and he would have fallen harmlessly into it.

When a person attempts suicide and succeeds, even if the mechanism of death is not the one intended, it is still considered a suicide. Yet, because the suicide would have failed, and he was killed by the shotgun blast, homicide now had to be considered.

The shotgun blast came from the apartment of an elderly couple. They had been arguing and the husband had threatened her with the gun. The man pulled the trigger, missed his wife, and the blast pierced the window. When you intend to kill subject A, and instead kill subject B, you’re guilty of the murder of subject B.

When confronted with the murder charge, both the husband and wife insisted that the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said he often threatened his wife with the unloaded gun, but had no intention of killing her.

The killing of Mr. Opus, therefore, would appear to be an accident.

As the investigation proceeded, a witness claimed he saw the elderly couple’s son secretly load the shotgun. He was angry because his mother had cut off his financial support, and the son, knowing his father’s habit of threatening his wife with the shotgun, loaded the gun in the hope that his father would shoot and kill his mother.

The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son. But here is the exquisite twist: Mr. Ronald Opus, who jumped from the building in a suicide attempt, it turns out, was the son of the arguing elderly couple. He loaded the shotgun and had, therefore, murdered himself.

 

We tend to judge the depth of our sin by the seriousness of the consequences. That can only send us, as Ron Harper aptly points out, into endless speculation of “what ifs” and “yes, buts.”  The emotional torment of doing this will never end. Even if you try to convince yourself you weren’t really at fault, your heart will give you no peace.

There’s a better way. Take the whole mess to Jesus, lay it at his feet, and ask him if he would cleanse you.  Ask him to wash you clean, and make you feel like you just stepped out of a bubble bath.

If you ask him to do this, I know what Jesus will do. I’m not going to tell you, though, because I want it to be a surprise.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Could You Do It Again?

Story of the Day for Saturday September 29, 2012 

Could You Do It Again?

 

                The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.”

                                                                                             Luke 9:23

 

 Bob Teague, the live correspondent for WNBC-TV was assigned to report on an archery demonstration in Central Park. In his book, Live and Off-Color: News Biz, Teague describes what happened that day.

TV reporters from various networks gathered to watch the archer Darrell Pace. He put on quite a show – shooting steel-tipped hunting arrows with flawless accuracy.

Then Pace asked for a volunteer. “All you have to do,” he explained, “is hold this apple in your hand, waist-high.” Josh Howell, the ABC correspondent stepped forward.

Pace walked 90 feet away, and turned to face Howell. Everyone held their breath as Pace took aim, and . . . THWACK! – a perfect hit exploded the apple in his hand.

As the crowd applauded, Howell, greatly relieved, was all smiles. Then his cameraman came up to him and said, “I’m sorry, Josh, I didn’t get it. Had a problem with my viewfinder. Could you do it again?”

 

You don’t need a lot of faith to hold an apple and let an archer blast it out of your hand. What you need is a very good archer.

 

When Darrell Pace was old enough to get his driver’s license, he was already competing on the U.S. Archery team in the world championships. By the age of 18, he became the world champion archer and held 16 of the 20 archery records.

From 60 feet away, Pace can group fifteen consecutive arrows into a bulls-eye no bigger than a quarter. He has won six national archery championships – along with two world titles and two Olympic gold medals.

 

Our relationship with Jesus should not be centered around the size of our faith. Instead, it should be focused on the size of our God.

Look at it this way: I own a bow. At 90 feet I can often hit the target, and occasionally hit the bulls-eye. But I am erratic.

So, tell me, who is more likely to have his hand shattered by an arrow: a volunteer with an enormous faith in me, or a volunteer with a tentative faith in Darrell Pace?

The life of discipleship is not primarily about inventing gimmicks to boost our faith; it is about looking to the faithfulness of the One we place our faith in.

 

I admire Josh Howell’s courage to hold that apple. But, I’ll tell you this: if Howell was not already acutely aware of Pace’s awesome ability, he’s not a model of faith; he’s an idiot.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Learning to Dream Big

Story of the Day for Friday September 28, 2012

Learning to Dream Big

 

                               The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.  

                                                                                                Psalm 34:18

 

 

If you’ve never heard speakers urge their audience to dream big, to shoot for the stars or sail beyond the horizon, then you don’t listen to many high school commencement speeches.

I vibrate to Commencement Day speeches because I know that, among those bored seniors with sore butts, there is an attentive student who will invent the perpetual motion machine or a grad who will someday win first prize with their strawberry jam at the county fair.

Nevertheless, despite these inspiring themes, I still have the urge to interrupt commencement speeches by making rude noises during their presentations.

Graduation speeches don’t tell us the full truth. They lack the courage to talk about failure and shipwrecked dreams. They don’t even mention the percentage of graduating seniors who will someday wind up with hemorrhoids.

 

Lately, I’ve been reading about high school graduates who have been told to shoot for the stars.

More than a half million males play high school basketball in the United States. Many of them dream of entering the NBA. Yet, only one in thirty five of them will ever play for a college team, and less than one percent of high school players will ever play basketball in competitive Division One colleges.

But even NCAA Division One basketball is a long way from the pros.  One out of every seventy-five NCAA college players will advance to the pros.

The NCAA, whom I commend for their frankness, says that for every ten thousand high school basketball players, only three of them will ever be drafted by an NBA team.

 

That only a few high school players will play in the NBA is not surprising news. But here’s what breaks my heart: Forty-three percent of black high school basketball players believe they will make it into the NBA. Out of every 10,000 black basketball players, 4300 of them think they’ll hit the big time, and 4297 of them will find that their dreams have been crushed.

It gets even sadder: nearly half of those black players believed it’s easier to become a professional basketball player than to become a doctor or lawyer.

 

When you follow your dreams and sail for the horizon – only to find your ship marooned on a hidden reef, don’t expect your high school commencement speaker to paddle out to you to hold your hand.

But I do know someone who will be there for you. The Lord stays close to the brokenhearted.  Admiration attaches itself to achievement, but love is attracted to need.

You will have learned to dream big, when your dreams include the One who will catch you when you fall.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Secret Weapon

Story of the Day for Thursday September 27, 2012

The Secret Weapon

 

          When the Israelites saw the man, everyone ran away in great fear.

                                                                               1 Samuel 17:24

 

 We consider some people brave by the very nature of their occupations: smoke jumpers, police officers, firefighters, babysitters.

And, standing atop this list are soldiers.

So, for an entire army to spot a single combatant, and scatter in a panic seems a little peculiar. But that is exactly what the army of Israel did when Goliath strutted out and challenged them to a duel – winner take all.

 

A shepherd boy with five smooth stones and a slingshot stepped forward to challenge the giant. And we all know the story from the standpoint of what David did to Goliath. But do you remember what David did to the army of Israel that day?

 

The soldiers of Israel watched as David marched up to this fearsome warrior, and opposed him “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

When David stood triumphant over Goliath, the soldiers of Israel sprang to life.  They let out a roar and surged after the frightened Philistine army. The army of Israel chased the Philistines and kicked their can all along the Shaaraim road from Judah to Gath.

 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating our naval fleet in the Pacific, they had a twofold objective. They not only wanted to cripple our naval power but also to crush the American resolve to wage war.

The Japanese high command, however, was completely unaware that we had a secret weapon.

The “secret weapon” was an artist from a small town in Vermont. Norman Rockwell painted pictures of patriotism and bravery. He painted pictures of “Four Freedoms” – those liberties that are the hallmark of our nation. He painted the American spirit.

Fueled by the vision Rockwell portrayed for us, Americans responded. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was not a discouraging reminder of a humiliating defeat. Instead, it became an echo of an earlier cry, “Remember the Alamo!” when a few brave Americans stood bravely against overwhelming odds.

The power of an artist to inspire a nation was the one weapon for which the Japanese military had no defense.

 

Your brothers and sisters in Christ may be impressed by your talents, but they are not inspired by them. They are inspired by your courage.

Make no mistake about this: when you face your Goliaths in the name and power of the Lord, the greatest victory will not be yours; it will be the victories of all those who have found courage from your example.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

Story of the Day for Wed. September 26, 2012

Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

A woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood weeping behind Jesus’ feet. Her tears wet Jesus’ feet, and she wiped them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and put the perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-38

We used to have two puppies, Garibaldi and Ivan the Terrible. After they were housebroken, one of them started to backslide and returned to a life of sin.

One day, we found the evidence of wrongdoing in my son’s bedroom. The situation needed to be addressed, but unless you catch them in the act, how do you know which puppy to admonish?

I stood outside Randy’s bedroom and called the dogs. Garibaldi bounded toward me in a wiggling mass of puppy joy. Ivan the Terrible hung his head, and, taking the coward’s way out, started slinking off to a remote corner of the house.

I caught Ivan by the scruff and escorted him to the scene of the crime. We gazed at the evidence before us, and then Ivan and I had a private moment together.

It’s possible, and maybe sometimes desirable, to use fear to correct the behavior of dogs. And people. But fear and the threat of punishment has little value if your primary desire is a relationship. You can’t frighten a puppy into wagging its tail and licking your face.

Have you noticed how those with sinful reputations flocked to Jesus? You would expect that, in the presence of a holy man, they would avoid him and slink into the dark shadows.

Instead, they’re drawn to him like a magnet. A woman with a sinful past comes up behind Jesus as he reclines at a meal. Women in Jesus’ day always wore their hair up in public (except on their wedding day). If a woman let her hair down in public, it meant she was a whore. This woman wets Jesus’ feet with her hot tears, and, with her hair let down, wipes his feet.

We get it.

This woman cried and kissed his feet and poured out her expensive perfume – not because she was hoping, pleading, for mercy – but because she had found mercy.

Jesus attracted people with broken lives, because they knew he loved them a lot. They knew he would forgive them, and give them a new start.

If the world isn’t breaking down church doors to get in, it’s not because they’ve lost interest in being loved by God. It’s because they fear we’re going to sniff out their sin, grab them by the scruff, and rub their noses in it. Trust me on this: they’ve been burned already.

Thirteen years later, I carried Ivan the Terrible up on a hillside and buried him. He was an awesome dog – always glad to see me. He knew where belly rubs came from.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Three Dollars

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 25, 2012 

Three Dollars

 

                Whoever brings blessing to others will be blessed; the one who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

                                                                                                         Proverbs 11:25

 

A proud grandpa took his little granddaughter, Hannah, out trick-or-treating. The little girl had her bag of candy, but she had trouble mastering the concept. Instead, of holding out her bag at the door, she would reach into her bag and offer candy to the people at the door.

Hannah’s grandpa tried to train her. “No, sweetheart, you’re not supposed to offer people your candy; you’re supposed to take theirs.”

Grandpa taught her the right way to do it. He thinks. But he’s not so sure that little Hannah didn’t have it right.

 

Our view of giving has changed in recent times. The philosophers have weighed in with their expert opinions. If showing kindness to other people brings you happiness, some scholars maintain, then your act was really motivated by self-interest. Your generosity was not altruistic because of the personal benefit your derived from it.

Deferring to the experts, many have accepted this enlightened understanding of our behavior. But, after years of calm reflection, I have come to the conclusion that these philosophers are full of baloney.

Let’s think about this. If a person’s giving is truly motivated by self-interest, one of two things will happen: either they won’t be generous, because they, selfishly, want to keep what they have for themselves, or they may grudgingly give, but it will bring them no pleasure to do so.

God desires that our giving to others should bring us deep joy.  He says he loves a cheerful giver. The happiness that comes from helping others is not selfishness. God himself, the Bible reminds us, delights in showing compassion.

 

Years ago, my wife and I had a hectic day. We asked a lot from our five-year-old son, Randy, but he was a trouper. As a reward, my wife gave him three dollars to buy some candy.

My wife took Randy to the church one evening. People could write prayer requests on a board, and then you would go into the church to pray for them. Randy was struck by a prayer request for Jason, a nine-year-old boy suffering from cancer. He asked mom if he could make a card. With some help with the spelling he wrote, “Dear Jason, I hope you are feeling better. Love, Randy.” He drew a picture and colored it with a green marker. And then he told his mom that he wanted to give his three dollars to Jason.

 

If you think my son’s joy in helping Jason was nothing more than a self-interested act because it brought him pleasure, you’re free to do so.  But I believe the Lord is serious when he says that those who bring blessing to others will themselves be blessed.

(copyright climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

Story of the Day for Monday September 24, 2012 

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

 

                And while he was going. . . a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years . . .came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.

                                                   Luke 8:42-44

 

When I was growing up I didn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, because it hadn’t been invented yet. In high school I was called “The Gaper” because my mouth, apparently, would hang open while I daydreamed in class. In my freshman year of college I won the “Neil Armstrong Spacey Award” because I was so . . . spacey.

When they finally got around to inventing ADD, I took a test from a licensed psychologist, and it turned out I had come down with a bad case of it.

 

Learning to focus your thoughts and goals is challenging for anyone.  But it is especially difficult when your mind wants to wander down any side street it sees.

I have spent my adult life learning how to focus.  But lately I have come to realize it is equally important to learn how not to be too focused, because when you get too focused you can’t see gorillas.

 

Psychologists from Harvard conducted an experiment in which they played a video of basketball players. Participants were told to count the number of times the ball was passed by the team wearing a certain color uniform. In the middle of the video, however, strange things happened. A woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla costume would walk through the center of the court and would be clearly visible for about five seconds.

A control group, who were not asked to count the number of times the basketball was passed, all saw the woman and the gorilla. But, for those asked to focus on the task of counting passes, only a third saw the woman. And, amazingly, the majority (56 percent), failed to notice the gorilla.

 

Jesus was a master at being focused and unfocused at the same time. When he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem to die, nothing could deter him. Yet, at the same time, he was open to notice the needs of people around him.

Jairus, a synagogue ruler, pleads with Jesus to come with him because his only daughter is dying.  Jesus has a clear focus – he wants to help. In doing that, he ignores the crowds pressing in on him.

But, at the same time, he is open to one person who touches his tassel. “Who touched me?” he asks. Peter is dumbfounded by Jesus’ question, and helpfully points out that many people are touching him. They are, in fact, mobbing him. Yet, Jesus is aware that one person in the crowd was different.

That day, Jesus did two miracles. One, because he focused on a goal; the other, because he was sensitive to the unexpected.

How do you do both at the same time?  I don’t know. But I know it’s worth learning.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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He Teaches At Your Pace

Story of the Day for Saturday September 21, 2012 

He Teaches At Your Pace

 

                    Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus says, “How about you? Who do you say I am?” 

                                                                                          Matthew 16:13-15

 

 

Michael Hodgin says that when his daughter was four-years old, she lined up all her dolls on the couch in the living room.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m playing school,” she replied. “I’m the teacher and these are my prisoners.”

 

I understand this girl. For me, the end of a school day didn’t feel like a termination in the advancement of knowledge; the end of a school day felt like a jail break.

 

When Jesus called students to follow him, they didn’t feel forced. They wanted to learn from this rabbi.

Jesus’ teaching methods, however, were nothing short of shocking. He didn’t immediately blurt out all the most important facts they should learn. He didn’t say, “Hey guys, want to follow me?  I’m the Son of God!”

From what we can gather from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is on the tail end of his ministry, and has never explicitly taught his disciples that he is the Son of the living God. Instead, he tells stories and acts like God’s Son, and lets them chew on it.

 

One of the most respected business consultants, Tom Peters, cited a study in which new workers at major companies were placed in separate groups. In the first group, the company execs explained to the new recruits their company’s basic philosophy. They cited all the reasons why this philosophy should be adopted. In the second group, they didn’t explain the company’s philosophy or give reasons why it should be adopted. Instead, they told stories. McDonald’s told stories about their founder, Ray Kroc, closing down a franchise because he found a dead fly in the kitchen. FedEx told the story about a broken communications cable on a mountain, and how he rented a helicopter (without first getting permission) and flew to the mountain, climbed through the snow, and reconnected the broken cable.

The researchers conducting this study found that new employees who were told stories were far more likely to adopt the philosophy of the company than those who were simply told the attitude and priorities they were expected to hold.

 

When I want someone to learn something important, I’m tempted to ram my points home. I’m still amazed that Jesus didn’t just blurt out all the facts he wanted his disciples to learn. But as I read of Jesus’ patience in letting the truth unfold in its proper time, I’m comforted that he is still patient with me as I learn the lessons of the faith.

And walking away from a lesson Jesus teaches never feels like a jail break.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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The Next Step

Story of the Day for Friday September 21, 2012

The Next Step

 

                Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. 

                                                            Psalm 119:105

 

 

When Lewis and Clark led the expedition with the Voyage of Discovery, they knew they would travel through much uncharted territory.  What many don’t realize is that they knew the exact location of their destination on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Robert Gray, on the ship Columbia, sailed into the estuary of a large river that he named after his ship. Gray precisely established the latitude and longitude.

Before the voyage, William Clark was trained in the use of the sextant and other navigational tools, and was able to establish the expedition’s location as they traveled. And so, they knew precisely where their journey would end, but had little notion where their path would take them until they reached the mouth of the Columbia River.

 

The journey of the Voyage of Discovery sounds a lot like our lives.  We know the destination. God is leading us home to heaven.  But we have no idea where the path will take us before we make it home.

All of God’s people are occasionally baffled – and even frustrated – with the path the Lord is leading us on.  God leads Abraham up the hills of Moriah to sacrifice his only son. God has Joseph taken captive as a slave and later thrown into prison in a foreign land. God devastates Job’s prosperity and health.  And none of them know what God is up to.

 

We want to know The Plan. We want to see the Big Picture.  But God refuses to tip his hand. In the midst of bankruptcy, or divorce, or the cancer tests that come back positive, we want God to explain himself and show us how these things will work out. We cry out to God with these kinds of questions. But he does not answer.

 

When Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark for their journey, he possessed the most extensive library in the world on what lay before them. His books told him of giant, prehistoric creatures on the upper Missouri River. He learned that all the great rivers of the west: the Missouri, Colorado, Rio Grande, and the Columbia – all began on a single mountain. His books told him the Blue Ridge Mountains of his home were probably the highest mountains on the American continent.

 

God does not guide us by showing us the Big Picture. Instead, he shows us the next step.

When the psalmist says that God’s word is a lamp for his feet, you should understand that the light does not illumine the whole path.  The feeble light of an ancient lamp is only bright enough to show you the next step.

Lewis and Clark did not know what lay around the next bend. You don’t need to know either. All you need to know is where to put your foot for the next step. And where your journey will end. The Lord’s word will  give you the light to do that.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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The Seedling Mile

Story of the Day for Thursday September 20, 2012

The Seedling Mile

 

                Taste and see that the Lord is good.

                                                               Psalm 34:8

 

Can you envision life in America without the invention of the automobile? When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine asking a girl out to a drive-in movie, and then having to watch the entire show sitting on a horse.

 

The automobile has revolutionized our lives. But, it was Carl Graham Fisher who, in 1912, proclaimed the obvious, but brilliant insight that, “The automobile won’t get anywhere until it has good roads to run on.”

Back in 1912, there were no paved roads in America. Major transportation was done by railways. Most roads were dirt “market roads.” Many rejected the notion of expanding roadways to enhance interstate travel, contemptuously labeling them “peacock alleys” – roads intended only for the pleasure of the wealthy.

 

Fisher proposed building a paved, two-lane highway from New York City to San Francisco. But, without government funding, how would you pay for it? Americans had grown up without paved roads and most saw no need for them.

Carl Graham Fisher realized that the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration, and so he hatched the plan called the “Seedling Mile.”  Across the planned route, he would pave a mile of highway. He required that the seedling mile be at least six miles from any town, and on a section of rutty road where travel was difficult.  Building a smooth, paved road in the middle of nowhere is an odd notion, but Fisher knew that if motorists struggled along a rough road, and then experienced the sheer pleasure of a mile of smooth travel, they would insist on having the entire road paved. Fisher’s madcap idea was furthered by such things as the Iowa-Minnesota football game. A heavy rainstorm after the game bogged down nearly 500 motorists traveling between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The road to Davenport was blocked by stuck cars. Over 1500 football fans had to spend the night in their vehicles or trudge to nearby farmhouses for refuge.

Enough was enough. The people of Iowa saw the difference between muddy roads and the seedling mile. The next spring, Iowa voters approved measures for paving projects across the state.

 

King David wrote a song with the line, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Although Carl Graham Fisher was brilliant, we must credit David with the invention of the “Seedling Mile.”  God knows the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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Who Is Taking the Risk?

Story of the Day for Wed. September 19, 2012

Who Is Taking the Risk?

 

                 The kingdom of heaven is like . . . a man leaving on a trip. He called his servants and gave them his possessions.                                                              Matthew 25:14

 

 

When the Confederate Navy built the first steel-plated warship, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, nearly went hysterical. What could the North do to counter it? The destiny of the Union Navy rested in the brainchild of a zany inventor, John Ericsson. It’s hardly a surprise that, when Ericsson presented his ironclad ship design, no one was listening. The Monitor looked like “a cheese box on a raft.” The naval board didn’t believe the ship, if built, would even float. Other than the turret, it was mostly underwater.  The odd-looking vessel was only a third the length of a schooner. It had no sails, but ran on steam. And, as to firepower?  Two guns.

Could the Naval Department afford to take such a risk?

 

There’s no question that stepping out in faith is risky. Tim McMahon put it well when he said, “Yes risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing taking.”

Have you ever burned with a dream? You want to use your talents or possessions in a venture for God’s kingdom.

But you never did it. You were afraid you might fail.

 

Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who handed over his money to his servants.   The servants were to do the best they could with the amount entrusted to them. But whose money was at risk? If the servants tried, and lost the money, they weren’t out a penny.

 

Would it help you to know you really can’t fail?

In our finer moments, we acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God. Not only our salvation, but everything – our time, talents, and money, is His. But, do we realize what we’re saying when we claim this? When we step out in faith, whose possessions are at risk?

 

Many historical accounts portray the Naval Department as taking an enormous risk in commissioning the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor.  Actually, they took no risk at all. They commissioned Ericsson to build his weird-looking boat – but on the condition that, if it didn’t perform as the inventor claimed, Ericsson would have to personally pay for all construction costs.

Ericsson took the risk.

 

Don’t be afraid to try something for God’s kingdom. God is willing to take the risk.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 
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Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 18, 2012 

Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

                  And he entered with them into the temple walking and jumping and praising God. And all the people who saw him walking and praising God recognized him: “This is the man who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate.” 

                                                                                                   Acts 3:8-10

 

Have you ever noticed that when your favorite basketball team is blowing out their opponent by thirty points, you’re glad, but you’re also bored? You stop high-fiving your friends when your team scores on a slam dunk. You stop shouting frantically at the head coach that he needs to double-team Salinsky in the low post.

Instead, you say, “I went to Speedo Lube last Tuesday and they charged me extra to refill the windshield washer fluid. Hey, ever try these new corn chips? They’re chipotle.”

 

But what happens when your favorite team is behind, and victory seems out of reach . . . but then the rally starts? And, in the final seconds, when the point guard steals the ball and throws up the buzzer-beater from three-point land to win the game, you go wild and knock the popcorn bowl off the coffee table.

In both instances, your team won. Why do you react so differently?

 

Joy comes when you find victory after a time of uncertainty or loss of hope.

 

At the time of the evening sacrifice, no one was anxious about whether they could successfully walk through the gate to worship God in the temple.

No one – except one beggar who was lame from birth. This poor man couldn’t get into the temple – not because he was lame, but because he was banned. Jewish laws of ritual purity barred the blind and the lame from entrance into the temple. This lame beggar could only sit by the gate, but was allowed no further.

 

When Peter, by Jesus’ power, miraculously heals this man, look where the beggar’s feet take him. He doesn’t run home to tell his friends and neighbors; he rushes through the gate. Here he is in the temple for the first time in his life!

You’ll have to excuse his lack of circumspection in the sanctuary, but this man is bursting with joy, and doesn’t care that he’s creating a ruckus.

 

Have you ever noticed that those who are new to the faith are more exuberant than a happy puppy? They have known the uncertainty or loss of hope in their relationship with God. And, when they discover the downpour of God’s mercy on them, they can’t contain their joy.

But, once we get used to the victory Jesus won for us, we start talking about chipotle corn chips.

 

I don’t think we should ever get used to the grace of God.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Most Contagious Disease

Story of the Day for Monday September 17, 2012 

The Most Contagious Disease

                Then the people from the area discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from continuing to build. . 

                                                                                            Ezra 4:4

One of the most contagious diseases known to man is discouragement.

All great achievements have come about because people persevered in the face of seemingly impossible odds. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton gathered a group of adventurous men and set out to be the first ones to traverse the entire continent of Antarctica. But they never reached the mainland before ice flows trapped their ship, and crushed it.

Alone on an ice flow, with no one to call for help, they embarked on a desperate attempt for survival. The odds were grim.

If you were their leader, what would you determine was the greatest need for your men?  Food? Warmth? Shelter? All these are vital for survival.  But great leaders realize that, in times of crises, morale is vital. One man’s skepticism could demoralize the entire crew. Optimism would not guarantee their survival, but without it, failure was certain.

So, what did Shackleton do? Alfred Lansing, in his book, Endurance, describes how Shackleton made sure Frank Hurley attended the high-level meetings. Hurley was not an officer, nor did he have any previous Antarctic experience. Shackleton included him because he knew that Hurley needed to feel important and did not want him spreading discontent to the others. When Shackleton made tent assignments, he put Hudson, James, and Hurley in his tent. Why? Because these were the men most likely to discourage the rest of the crew.

After surviving the Antarctic winter the crew climbed into lifeboats and made their way through the ice flows to Elephant Island. With his crew very weak, but on dry land, Shackleton needed to leave immediately in a row boat and travel almost a thousand miles to find help. He chose Worsley because he was the best navigator, and McCarthy, because he was built like a bull. But the others, Crean, McNeish, and Vincent were chosen to accompany him because they were the ones who were the most pessimistic at the time. After a year and a half of struggle, Shackleton and all his crew were rescued.

When God’s people began rebuilding the temple, their enemies didn’t force them to quit. Instead, they tried to discourage them so that the people would decide to quit.

Pessimists like to point out what great achievers already know: that the odds their venture will fail is high. And, once any group is convinced it will fail, its downfall is ensured.

Those who refuse to give in to discouragement – who persevere through innumerable obstacles, are the ones who are most likely to attain success.

Has the Lord called you to a high goal?  Don’t give in to discouragement.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Two Swords Among Them

Story of the Day for Saturday Sept. 15, 2012 

                Two Swords Among Them

 

                 So on the day of battle none of the people, except Saul and Jonathan, had a sword or spear in his hand. 

                                                                                              1 Samuel 13:22

 

Adolf Hitler was furious.

As the Third Reich trampled over the nations of Europe, Hitler offered Great Britain terms of peace, in exchange for surrender. When they refused to capitulate, Hitler ordered his military commanders to prepare for the invasion of England. In a top-secret letter, Hitler wrote, “Since England, despite its militarily hopeless situation, still has not shown any signs of being prepared to negotiate, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England.”

Hitler was almost right about England’s “hopeless situation.” How, exactly, did the British intend to defend their homeland against the juggernaut of the German army? In those early days, when the Nazis prepared to pound the Brits into submission, English citizens stood on the eastern coast, armed only with hunting rifles, pitchforks, and, in some cases, golf clubs.

 

The Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel, had developed a super-weapon: iron. The Philistines guarded their new technology so tightly that the Bible says there wasn’t a single blacksmith in all of Israel. “Otherwise,” the Philistines reasoned, “the Hebrews will make swords or spears.”

When the Philistines prepared to march into Israel, they were armed – not only with swords and spears, but with 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen, and foot soldiers “like the sand on the seashore.”  The Israelites managed to cobble together a militia of 600 men – with two swords among them.

 

So, what do you do when your days seem so dark and your situation hopeless?  Many simply cave in to depression and despair. They give up.

But the Lord reminds us that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”  When times seem bleak, we place our lives in God’s hands, suck up our courage, and refuse to give in to fear.

 

During the war, Winston Churchill spoke to the students at Harrow School. He recalled the Battle of Britain, and how “we were quite alone, desperately alone . . .” And then he reminded them that “We were poorly armed.”

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go,” Churchill told them. “But for everyone, surely . . . this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in . . .”

 

German bombers pulverized the city of London, but the British refused to surrender, and, in the end, the plucky Englishmen hung their pitchforks back in their sheds and slammed their nine irons back into their golf bags.

 

The Philistine army was routed, and that small band of unsophisticated Hebrews stood victorious on the field of battle.

Do you believe that, in seemingly hopeless situations, the Lord is still at work? Then never give up. Never, never, never, never.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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Are You Primed For This?

Story of the Day for Friday September 14, 2012

Are You Primed For This?

 

                  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is virtuous or praiseworthy – dwell on such things.

                                                                                                                             Philippians 4:8

 

 

When I finish watching a movie with British actors, I fell like talking in a British accent. I don’t think it’s an especially good idea, but I naturally do it until the effect of the movie wears off or my family tells me I’m driving them crazy.

 

We’ve always known it, but recently researchers have demonstrated that much of our behavior is influenced – not by what we choose, but by what we’re exposed to.

Yale professor, Dr. John A. Bargh, has devised a scrambled-sentence test. The task is to take the following five-word lists and make an intelligible four-word sentence from each line.  Why don’t you give it a try?

 

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

 

The subjects who take this test assume the goal is to unscramble a sentence as quickly as possible, but it’s not. Dr. Bargh is actually timing the participants to see how fast they walk. Those who take this test walk out of the building slower than when they came in.

Do you know why? Scattered in the sentences are a few words that suggest old age: “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “forgetful,” “bingo,” and “wrinkles.” Believe it or not, these innocuous suggestions of old age cause the subjects to walk slower afterward.

This priming (as it’s called) has been used to influence a person’s patience or rudeness, and – get this – they never realize their attitudes have been influenced.

 

We like to think our actions are influenced solely by our values and beliefs, but they’re not; our behavior is also influenced by what we’re exposed to.

That is why the apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on noble things. And keep in mind that Paul is writing this from prison. You don’t have to be in a good place to center your thoughts on what is good.

If you’re still dubious about all this, you can research Dr. Bargh’s work for yourself. But maybe it would just be easier to watch a movie with British actors.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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My Wife the Ninny

Story of Day for the 2nd Anniversary of the posting of the first story on climbinghigher.org–Wednesday Sept. 13, 2012 

 Today’s story is being reposted in honor of its being the first story to appear on climbinghigher.org two years ago.  We hope you enjoy it and many more also!!

My Wife the Ninny

 

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.   

Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail.  They are new every morning. 

                                                                                                   Lamentations 3:19-23

 

 

When our children were little my wife always insisted I should take them to the clinic for immunization shots.  I tried to convince her that children need a mother at such a traumatic moment.  And then I would appeal to her higher nature by telling her not to be such a ninny.

Yet, despite my patient reasoning and crystalline logic, she remains adamant that I take them for their shots.

The ninny.

So, off I drive to the clinic with a little child bundled in the car seat. When the nurse walks into the room with the syringe, she sighs and apologizes – as if this is all her fault. Nurses hate this part of their duties.

I hold my little toddler on my lap — this cute little lump of sweetness and joy.  How swiftly the fortunes of life are about to change.

What happens next is always the same.  One moment they sit on my lap, secure and content.  Then the needle. And then the piercing scream that echoes into the next county.  The cry that pierces a daddy’s heart.

Want to know what my children do next?  They hug me.  They cling to me for comfort as they sob in pain.

I cannot explain to them why I did not defend them – why I did not fight off the strange woman with the needle who attacked them without provocation.  I cannot explain that this present wound will pass, but the benefits will carry on.  I cannot explain that I deliberately took them here because I love them dearly.  My children are too young to understand.   All I can do is hold them tight and tell them it’s okay.

Do you think God would do the same thing to you?

Do you think he wants you to cling tighter to him?  That he wants to hold you tight and let you know it is going to be okay?

 

So what do you do when the tears come and life hurts so badly?  Cling to your heavenly Father. Blow your nose.  And let his love dry your tears.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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A Wild Enjoyment in Possessions

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 12, 2012 

 

A  Wild Enjoyment in Possessions

 

                    Hope in . . . God, who provides us riches for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and extravagant in sharing.  

                                                 1 Timothy 6:17-18

 

 

Randy Pausch captured the hearts of many Americans when he realized he was dying of pancreatic cancer, but refused to let his terminal illness break his spirit.  He helped remind us of the priorities that are so much greater than material things.

 

In his book, The Last Lecture, Randy recalled the time when he was still a bachelor and bought a new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible.  He went to his sister’s house and picked up  his seven-year-old nephew, Chris, and Laura, his nine-year-old niece.

Their mother warned them to be careful in their uncle’s new car. “Wipe your feet before you get in it. Don’t mess anything up. Don’t get it dirty.”

As Randy listened to his sister’s stern warnings he realized the kids were being set up for failure. Of course they’d eventually get the car dirty – it’s just what kids do.

Randy opened a can of soda, and while her sister impressed on her kids the need to be careful, Randy slowly and deliberately poured out the can of soda on the back seat of his brand new convertible. He wanted to convey to them the message that people are more important than things.

He was glad he spilled the soda in front of his nephew and niece because later on Chris threw up in the backseat. The poor boy would’ve felt horrible and guilty, but he had already learned from his crazy uncle that the backseat had already been christened.

 

If you bought a brand new convertible, could you pour a soda on the backseat like Randy did? I don’t know if I could. But don’t you wish you could?  I’ve never met anyone who says they value possessions more than people. But, it’s one thing to say it; it’s another thing to live it.

As much as we want to guard our precious possessions, we should ask ourselves this question: who do you believe finds a wilder enjoyment in possessions – those who live like Randy Pausch, or those who would blow a gasket if a kid gets the backseat of their new car a little dirty?

Oddly, the more we covet and cling to material things, the less we enjoy them.

 

God invites us to be extravagant in our generosity. I hope it’s not irreverent to say that God is obsessive, but, if God is obsessive about anything, it is about giving. He would give you the moon. He would give you his only Son. Invariably, when you read in the Bible about God’s love, you will find him giving you something.

 

If you’re like me, and not quite to the point of wanting to pour pop on the back seat of a new car, maybe we can start by taking the next step: keeping a can of soda stashed under our car seat . . . just in case we get in the mood.

And store some towels too so your passengers don’t ride around with wet butts.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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“It’s Not Fair!”

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 11, 2012

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

 

                                 Mercy triumphs over judgment.  

                                                                              James 2:13

 

 

Many complain that mercy is unfair, and, of course, they’re absolutely right: it is unfair. Is it ever right to bend the rules for a higher cause than fairness?

 

In 2002, Jake Porter attended Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio – even though he couldn’t read. Jake had Fragile X Syndrome – the most common form of genetic mental retardation.

Yet, Jake was unfailingly cheerful and loved by his classmates. The Homecoming Queen, at the big dance, chose Jake as her escort. Doug Montavon, the school’s all-time rushing leader, doted on Jake and helped him along during football practice.

 

The last football game of the season saw Northwest take a thumping from Waverly High. With five seconds left, Waverly was leading 42-0 when Northwest coach, Dave Frantz called a time out and met with Waverly’s coach, Derek Dewitt.

Coach Frantz told Dewitt that he wanted to send in Jake Porter, who would be handed the ball and would simply take a knee. But Dewitt was having none of it. He returned to the sidelines and told his defense that when the ball was handed to number 54, they were not to touch him, but make sure he scored.

When the quarterback handed Jake the ball, he ran to the line, stopped, and, confused, started running the wrong way. But the referee and players from both teams pointed him toward the goal line.

Jake sliced through the line and galloped for daylight. When he crossed the goal line everyone went wild. Players from both teams were hugging each other. Players from both teams hoisted Jake on their shoulders. Jake’s mom, Liz, said there were no longer two teams out there. “Everybody was on the same team.”

 

Jake’s touchdown run was, of course, unfair – and, with the ref’s assistance, illegal. The sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette whined that if mentally challenged kids want to compete, let them do it in the Special Olympics. “Leave high school football alone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put the fix in.” Other voices joined him.

No one argues that Jake’s touchdown was fair. It was clearly compassionate. But afterward, people became friendlier. Coach Dewitt, the first black coach in the history of the conference, found racial slurs replaced by people approaching him in grocery stores to shake his hand. He was no longer a black man; he was a man. Dewitt said he caught the school bully patiently teaching a couple of special-needs students how to shoot a basketball. Coach Frantz even got a phone call from Steve Mariucci, the head coach of the 49ers, because his NFL players were so touched by Jake’s touchdown.

 

It’s not fair that any of us should be reunited with God. But I hope you won’t mind if Jesus bends the rules of fairness so that, in the end, mercy will triumph.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Holler Warnings and Encouragement

Story of the Day for Monday September 10, 2012 

Holler Warnings and Encouragement

 

 

                   If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall in a pit.

                                                                                       Matthew 15:14

 

 

Leaders are the nucleus of any organization. “Nucleus” is the Latin word for “nut.”  So, if you want to be a leader, it means you have to be . . .

You know something? This isn’t exactly the direction I had hoped this conversation would take. But, since we’re here, we might as well stir things up a little.

 

The Leadership Movement has been a major theme in recent years – both in the corporate world and in the church. We have learned that leaders must “have a vision” and must confidently guide the masses through “paradigm shifts” into the future.

I’m all for this. Yet, it misses the central core of true leadership.

 

Stuart Briscoe tells of the time a military veteran died. Some of his fellow vets wanted to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they asked the pastor to lead them down the aisle to the casket for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door at the front.

The service went well until the pastor led them away from the casket. Instead of leading them out the side door, he marched them all into a broom closet – in full view of all the mourners.

 

What is a leader? Someone who inspires others? Someone who communicates clear goals and motivates others to follow him? Is a great leader someone who can rally the masses around a central vision?

If this is what makes a magnetic leader, then one of the greatest leaders in history is Adolf Hitler. He galvanized a nation, yet, tragically, led them into the darkest days of their history.

 

The primary requirement of a leader has nothing to do with charisma or “casting vision.” The foremost quality of a leader is that he knows where he’s going.

Jesus warns us that, whenever we follow someone who doesn’t know where they’re going, we’ll all wind up in the broom closet.

We shouldn’t follow leaders who are blind, because, sooner or later, we’ll all stumble into a pit. But the responsibility of avoiding pits and broom closets doesn’t rest with the leader; it rests with us. Jesus doesn’t want leaders to be blind, but he doesn’t want followers to be blind either. It’s up to us to see where the Lord wants us to go, and then find the leader who is willing walk at the front of the line and holler warnings of potential hazards and encouragement until we reach the next watering hole.

 

To follow a leader who isn’t doing this for us is . . . nuts.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday September 8, 2012 

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

 

                On the tree, Jesus himself bore our sins in his body . . . by his wounds you’ve been healed. .

                                                                                   1 Peter 2:24

 

 

Albert Schweitzer’s two volume masterpiece on the life of J.S. Bach has pride of place on my living room bookshelf. But I do not admire him most as an author.

Schweitzer was a performing musician – packing concert halls throughout the world with his organ recitals. But I don’t admire him primarily as a musician.

At the height of his fame, Schweitzer left the cathedrals and concert halls to study theology. Even though he became world-renowned as a brilliant theologian, I don’t admire him most as a theologian.

When the academic world stood in awe of his theological insights, he resigned his professorship at the university to study medicine.

 

He went to med school, and, as soon as he was certified as a medical doctor, he got lost in the jungles of equatorial Africa and built a makeshift hospital to serve the poorest of the poor.

Albert Schweitzer’s interpretation of Bach helped me understand the majesty of God. His theology, unfortunately, didn’t help me understand much – other than to expose the tired dogmatisms of some of his contemporaries. But, I admire Schweitzer most for helping me to see that God would sacrifice himself to make me well again.

 

Schweitzer treated many diseases among the African natives, but he had no medicine to treat yellow fever. Then he heard that Professor Ernest Bueding had come from the U.S. to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Along with fellow researchers, Bueding was experimenting with a vaccine for yellow fever.

One day, the Institute got a telephone call, inquiring about the vaccine. They informed him that the vaccine appeared to be successful, but that it had not yet been tested for side effects.

The phone caller appeared the next day and requested the vaccine. When told they couldn’t give him the vaccine until tests proved it was safe, the man replied that he intended to administer the vaccine only to himself – to personally verify its safety.

Dr. Bueding correctly suspected the anonymous caller was Dr. Schweitzer, and told the good doctor it would be foolish to try the vaccine in its experimental stage. But Schweitzer countered that he would not give his African patients anything he would not take himself.

Bueding finally caved in and injected Schweitzer with the experimental drug. After two days of observation at the Pasteur Hospital, Schweitzer was declared fit to travel back to his hospital in Africa – with a desperately-needed antidote for yellow fever.

 

At the organ bench and podium, Schweitzer dazzles us with his genius and virtuosity. But it’s his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sick in a remote African village that captures our highest admiration, for he reminds us of the truest of all stories.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and Marty Kaarre)
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Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

Story of the Day for Thursday September 6, 2012 

 

 Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

 

                After a severe whipping, they threw them into prison – commanding the jailer to guard them carefully. Having received his orders, he threw them into an inner cell and secured their feet in the stocks.   Around midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and began to sing hymns to God. 

                                            Acts 16:23-25

 

 

When Paul and Silas were arrested, unjustly, and severely beaten, we can understand why they might shout curses and ask God why he would reward their faithfulness with such agony.

But, instead, around midnight the prison echoes with the sound of singing.

 

Ben Robertson, an American journalist, describes in his book, I Saw England, the time he was sent to England to cover the bombing of London during World War II. He flew into London on Saturday night and was met with one of the worst air raids of the war.

The bombing continued through the night, and fires erupted throughout the city. As he looked around him, Robertson observed a huge circle of fire for ten miles all around London.

The all-clear alarm sounded at one in the morning. Robertson went to his hotel room, nervous and exhausted. He threw himself on his bed and cried, “Oh, God, I don’t want to live another day. I can’t go through another night of hell and horror like this.”

 

Ben fell asleep with the window open. He was awakened on Sunday morning by music. Curious, he got up and went outside looking for the source of the music.

Across the street, he saw a Christian church that had been reduced to rubble by the bombing raid. The roof was gone and only portions of the walls remained.

But there, standing amidst the ruins, was the choir, the rector, and the little congregation – gathered for worship on Sunday morning.

The congregation was not only singing – they were singing triumphantly.

 

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord

She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word

From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride

With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

 

Robertson was overwhelmed by these valiant believers. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw in the world something that was unshatterable . . . something that was indestructible – the spirit and power of Jesus Christ within his church.”

Falling on his knees, Ben Robertson prayed, “Oh, God, now I gather strength and courage to live another day. I will go on . . .”

 

Prisons walls and misfortunes were never meant to muzzle the sound of a good tenor.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Greater Accomplishment

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 5, 2012

The Greater Accomplishment

 

                    How you have fallen from the sky, O morning star, the son of the dawn!  You, who once brought down other nations, have been thrown down to the earth. 

                                                                                                        Isaiah 14:12

 

Ellis played fiddle for barn dances and found his horse stolen afterward. He did such a brilliant job of discovering the thief that he was asked to find other people’s stolen horses. Ellis Parker’s skill was so uncanny that, in 1892, he became the Chief of Detectives for Burlington County, New Jersey – despite being only twenty-one and lacking a high school education.

Without access to modern forensic technology, Parker relied on his wits. And he could notice incongruities and odd details like no one else. Soon, he became known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

In his forty year career, Parker took on 236 murder cases, and solved all but ten of them. Ellis boasted that he never used an ounce of force on any suspect, yet, in over half of his cases, he talked the guilty party into signing a confession of guilt before the trial.

 

During World War I, federal agents had been unable to find a wireless station that would interfere with public broadcasts. The Department of Justice hired Parker, who not only deduced that the wireless was operated from a car running up and down the coast, but actually located the car itself.

 

Yet, none of his fame went to his head. He turned down many high-profile cases and better paying positions to stay in his sleepy town of Mt. Holly – where everyone called him by his first name. Instead of cashing in on his fame, he allowed writers free access to his files.

 

But, late in his career, something changed in him. Charles Lindbergh’s toddler was kidnapped, and it immediately became known as The Crime of the Century. The detective who solved this case would be world famous and covered in glory. Yet, even though the kidnapping took place only miles from Parker’s hometown, no one invited him to help solve the crime.

Something seemed to snap. Ellis Parker became obsessed with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and, even though he had no access to police records, tried to find the killer based on details reported in the newspaper.

Convinced the police had arrested the wrong suspect, Parker became a criminal himself. He had another suspect kidnapped in order to extort a confession.

Ellis Parker Sr., who will always be known as America’s greatest detective, was tried and convicted for kidnapping. He died in federal prison.

 

The admiration of others is fine . . . until we crave it. We so easily dream of great achievement and fame, but the greater accomplishment is maintaining a humble heart.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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“Pass the Bread, Fred”

Story of the Day for Labor Day 2012….September 3rd 

 

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

 

                  Get rid of all . . . hypocrisy . . .

                                                      1 Peter 2:1

 

 

Dr. Foerster’s patient was fully conscious as the German neurosurgeon performed brain surgery to remove a tumor. As Dr. Foerster touched one region of the brain, however, his patient erupted in compulsive pun making. The patient was unable to control his wild word associations.

Arthur Koestler, who mentioned this incident in his book, The Act of Creation, calls Foerster’s Syndrome the inability to refrain from making puns.

I mention this because my college roommate was a jovial guy, but it was obvious that he got dropped on his head when he was a child, because he had Foerster’s Syndrome in a big way. He didn’t learn and retell the puns of others; he was the sole originator and distributor of endless groaners.

Once, one of the college administrators told him bluntly that punning was the lowest form of humor, but this indirect plea for mercy didn’t dampen my roommate’s enthusiasm for punning in the slightest.

 

Paul, from Elkhart, Indiana, once wrote in to Reader’s Digest about a family dinner. His parents, Fred and Adah, invited Paul and his three siblings for a Sunday meal.

Everyone, except for Adah, was in a silly mood and began rhyming their requests.

“Please pass the meat, Pete.”

“May I have a potatah, Adah?”

“I’d give the moon for a spoon.”

After a while, Adah had heard enough. “Stop this nonsense right now!” she shouted. “It’s Sunday, and I would like to enjoy my dinner with some good conversation, not all this silly chatter.”

Then, in a huff, she snapped, “Pass the bread, Fred.”

 

The most annoying aspect of criticizing others is when I find myself dropping into the same kind of behavior. When I criticize people for being late for appointments, I will soon find that I’m late for an appointment.  Lately, I confided to my wife that I thought someone was a gossip. I took a minute before I realized that I was gossiping about someone else who gossips.

 

Now that I’ve recognized my unfortunate habit of acting like a hypocrite, it has, somewhat, tempered my judgmentalism toward others.

The next step Jesus wants me to learn is to be calmer about others – even if I’m never guilty of doing what they do. After all, others have some vices I don’t. For example, I relish the fact that I’ve mustard the strength to resist the impulse to ketchup to my old roommate in the punning department. I just don’t have the hot dog personality he has.

(I can hear my old roommate now, saying, “Marty, let me be frank with you – you’re not very punny!”)

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

Story of the Day for Saturday September 1, 2012 

Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

 

                 The end of a matter is better than its beginning. 

                                                                        Ecclesiastes 7:8

 

 

If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.

 

Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming:

 

WELCOME TO HARDIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY

BIRTHPLACE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Autographs 5 cents

 

On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.

 

When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun.

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”

 

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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Got Any Steeples?

Story of the Day for Friday August 31, 2012

Got Any Steeples?

 

                 If I don’t understand what someone is saying, I’m a foreigner to the speaker, and he’s a foreigner to me.

                                                                     1 Corinthians 14:11

 

“Got any steeples?”

“Um,” I said, “got any what?”

“Got any steeples?”

Even though I was confident I didn’t have any steeples, I hedged by saying, “I don’t think so.”

Robert, who was fixing my fence, looked puzzled. “I left some here last fall.”

When you don’t understand something, and others think you should, there’s no point in blurting out your ignorance. Those who learn from me resort, instead, to sly subterfuge.

“So,” I asked, “what do you want steeples for?”

Robert looked at me as if I was a duck that had been whacked over the head with a shovel.

“To nile the bob whar.”

To . . . nail the barbed wire! “You want some staples!”

Robert didn’t answer, but gave me a strange look – as if uncertain whether it was worth his time to engage in conversation with a dazed duck.

 

Robert, to put it mildly, was not awed by my intellectual prowess. But, in my defense, you should know that Robert grew up in Oklahoma – which can stunt anyone’s linguistic clarity.

 

Once, this guy was walking down the street when he noticed a man struggling by himself with a washing machine at the doorway of his house.

“Can I help?”

The man smiled, and between heaving breaths, replied, “Yeah, thanks!”

With one man on each end they lifted and grunted, and pushed, but nothing happened.

“Sorry,” the Good Samaritan told the man, “I don’t think the two of us can get this washing machine inside by ourselves.”

“Inside? I’m trying to get it out of my house.”

 

Ask a non-Christian what we believe, and most will say our faith is about trying to be good enough to get to heaven, and condemning everyone else who isn’t as holy as we are. Have you ever wondered whether all of them reject the mercy of Jesus, or whether, sometimes, they simply don’t know what we’re trying to say?

 

This evening, I asked my wife if she was awed by my intellectual prowess.

From the blank look she gave me you’d think I came from Oklahoma, or something.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truth Poses No Threat

Story of the Day for Thursday August 30, 2012 

Truth Poses No Threat

 

                 . . .that we might no longer be infants, tossed by the waves, and blown around by every wind of teaching and by the craftiness and cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.  

                                                                             Ephesians 4:14

 

 Do you know what conqueror created the largest contiguous Empire in history? I’ll give you a clue: his empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Adriatic Sea, and included China, Baghdad, and Moscow.

His name was Genghis Khan, and in the 13th century, his Mongol army was unstoppable.

 

He didn’t rely simply on brute force and superior numbers. His army was well-trained, but Genghis Khan was a master of deception.

In 1241, the Hungarians seemed to be strong and willing to fight to the death. Since Ghengis Khan didn’t have the strength to stage a frontal assault, he surrounded the enemy. The Hungarians, however, noticed that they failed to completely surround them. There was a gap in the lines through which they could escape. As soldiers broke ranks to escape from their attackers, they had no idea they were running into the trap. The Mongols created an “escape hatch” so that, once in the open, they could be funneled into a trap where they would be overwhelmed.

In 1258, the Mongols invaded Szechuan with 40,000 but spread rumors that they had 100,000 soldiers. Genghis Khan set up camp and ordered every soldier to light five campfires to create the illusion that they he had an overwhelming opposing army. On the horizon, the Mongols would tie branches to the tails of their horses to stir up dust in order to make it appear to their adversary that a large army of enemy reinforcements was arriving.

When near the Dneiper River, the Mongols were far outnumbered by 80,000 warriors led by Prince Mstitslav of Kiev. The Mongols sent a token force on horseback to attack, but then they turned and retreated. The prince’s cavalry realized the Mongols were few in numbers, and left their defensive position to pursue them. The Mongols retreated to the Kalka River, with their enemy strung out in pursuit. Then, the bulk of the Mongol army waited to ambush the attackers from both sides. The retreating Mongols suddenly spun around and attacked from the front – destroying their adversary.

 

Truth poses no threat to the believer. The Christian community has always welcomed debate with atheists, evolutionists, pro-abortionists – you name it.

But, the Bible urges us to grow up in our faith. Spiritual maturity doesn’t make us more loved by God, but it does make us wiser to the many deceptions and false claims that intimidate those young in the faith.

Genghis Khan could never have accomplished what he did without the cunning to deceive his enemies.

The only way deception can hurt you is to believe it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, Join the Crowd

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012 

Well, Join the Crowd

 

                    Strive to enter through the narrow doorway. 

                                                               Luke 13:24

George Evans served as the press agent for a young singer whose career had not yet ignited. But, after spending sixty dollars, Evans catapulted Frank Sinatra into stardom in one night.

In 1942, Sinatra was booked to sing at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In order to generate enthusiasm for Sinatra, Evans hired a dozen teenage girls and paid them five bucks a piece to follow his instructions.

The girls were paid to sit in the front row at the concert and swoon. They rehearsed in the basement of the Paramount. Some of them practiced fainting in the aisles when Sinatra sang his slow songs, and others rehearsed jumping up and screaming, “Oh, Daddy!” when Frank sang Embraceable You. Evans then made sure the concert hall was packed by passing out free tickets.

That night, a dozen girls earned their five dollars. About twenty girls, who weren’t paid to faint, also passed out. The crowd went hysterical. The next time Sinatra performed at the Paramount, a promoter recalled, “They went nuts. Absolutely nuts!”

Frank Sinatra became an overnight sensation, and soon was the most popular singer of his day.

 

George Evan’s stunt may be ethically dubious, but I admire his genius in understanding how easily people are swayed by the behavior of the crowd. None of us likes to admit that we tend to conform our behavior to those around us, but we do.

 

The Asch Paradigm, developed in the 1950s, was pivotal in our understanding of conformity.  Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College developed a simple experiment. He gave students a “vision test.” Participants were shown a vertical line, and then a group of three lines of various lengths. They simply had to identify which of the three lines matched the length of the first line. When subjects were given the test privately, only one of out 35 ever gave an incorrect answer.

But things got interesting when Asch gave the same test to a group. The first several participants were confederates. They were told, in advance, the answer Asch wanted them to give. The last student asked didn’t know this.

At first, the confederates would give the correct answer. Then, they were cued to deliberately give the wrong answer – to say a vertical line matched the first line, when it, obviously, did not. What would the unwitting student say when the rest of the group gave the wrong answer?  Seventy-five percent would conform their answer to that of the group.

 

Jesus wants us to be thoughtful about life and not be swayed by the opinions of others. Have you ever felt as if you were being manipulated to conform to the decisions of a group? Well, join the crowd. No, wait – that’s not what I meant . . .

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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It’s Time to Cut Anchor

Story of the Day for Monday August 27, 2012 

It’s Time to Cut Anchor

 

 

                I have been in danger from rivers…danger from robbers… In danger…danger…danger… 

                                                            2 Corinthians 11:26

 

No one ever accused me of being prudent, which is slightly disappointing, because it is, after all, a virtue. Prudence is just a starchy term for common sense.

Prudence used to mean, for example, that, if you go for a hike in the wilderness, you should take a sharp knife, dry matches, and a good crossword puzzle (in case you get lost for a few days.) Today, we view prudence as never daring to lace up our hiking boots.  Might get lost.  Might sprain an ankle.  Might become grizzly bear poop. Better to be prudent, make a frig run, and plop in front of the TV.

 

There is a huge difference between common sense: avoiding senseless danger, and timidity: fearing all possibility of danger. Have you noticed how we, as a culture, have developed a heightened concern for safety? Nothing wrong with that, in itself, I guess.  But something is wrong.  We are becoming so fearful of danger that we are afraid to live.

Where is a ship the safest? In port. But, John A. Shedd put it well, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” God never advises us to be foolhardy, but he doesn’t want us to spend our lives docked to the pier.  We are meant to sail into open waters, and both enjoy the gentle breezes . . . and brave the raging storms.

The apostle Paul was prudent.  In Damascus, he knew when it was time to get out of Dodge and slip over the city wall at night. But, Paul also had the careless habit of preaching about Jesus and starting riots. He knew the danger, but took risks anyway.

 

A young shepherd boy, armed only with a slingshot, once marched up to the fearsome warrior, Goliath. Suddenly, the young boy’s mother rushed frantically onto the battlefield, screaming, “David!  David! What are you doing! How many times have I told you not to fight giants without your safety helmet!”

Look, I’m not opposed to safety helmets. But haven’t you noticed that past ages possessed a valiant spirit that is lacking in our present day?

The patriarchs left the security of home – without itinerary, GPS, or even life insurance. Moses, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah. Can you name anyone who did great things in God’s name, but chose personal security over danger?

 

Jesus told a story about a man who gave out various amounts of money, then left town. Apparently, those who put the money to work took some risks, because the one who did not later admitted to his master, “I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground.  See, here it is.”  And there it was, safe and sound. But the point Jesus makes is that God does not entrust us life or talents so that we can “play it safe.”   I don’t think Jesus wants us simply to exist. To just survive.

Don’t be afraid of dying — you have to die to go to heaven.  Be afraid, instead, of not living. God calls us to live with the wind in our face – to cut anchor and sail for the horizon.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Rhino Tracks

Story of the Day for Saturday August 25, 2012 

 

Rhino Tracks

 

                  For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

                                                                                                            Matthew 24:24

 

 

Hugh Troy was an illustrator for children’s books, but his work as an artist failed to exhaust his creativity.  This excess of imagination led him to the slightly deviant habit of inventing practical jokes.

Once, Troy and an accomplice, dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying ladders, strode into the elegant lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Calmly and efficiently, they removed every light bulb and then left. No one questioned them or tried to stop them.

Serving as a captain in Army Intelligence during World War II, he became bored with the endless paperwork so he began submitting a Daily Flypaper Report to the Pentagon. Using official report forms, Troy filed detailed reports on the number of flies stuck to the flypaper in the mess hall each day. Troy carefully analyzed the wind direction, proximity of the kitchen, and the nearness of the flypaper to windows, and slipped his report in with his other required paperwork. Other officers began asking him how to fill out a form on flies because the Pentagon was hounding them for not submitting their Flypaper Report.

 

Although some question its accuracy, Hugh Troy’s most legendary prank took place when he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Troy found a hideous wastebasket with an actual rhinoceros foot as its base. He tied thirty feet of clothesline to both sides and filled the wastebasket with weights. Late one winter night, he and a friend suspended the wastebasket between them and carried it across the snow – dropping it every few feet to make a rhinoceros footprint, but keeping their own footprints away from the rhino track.

The next morning, someone excitedly summoned learned professors, and pointed out the rhinoceros tracks. The trail led them onto ice-covered Beebe Lake, where the tracks ended by a large hole in the ice.

The school’s drinking water came from the lake, and afterward, some stopped drinking the tap water. A handful of imaginative paranoids even claimed the water tasted like rhinoceros.

 

The Devil doesn’t mind at all if you believe in Jesus – just so long as the Jesus you believe in doesn’t exist. The Devil hopes you are entranced with reports of miracles – just so long as you believe the false signs and wonders he is able to concoct. The Devil wants you to be open to the spiritual world – just so long as you are open to the messages of false prophets.

If the truth of God is  . . . true, then it can stand up to questioning and investigation. Jesus doesn’t scold us for lacking faith when we work to discern the truth from a hoax. He’s the one who told us to do it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
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Bean Counters and Dreamers

Story of the Day for Friday August 24, 2012

Bean Counters and Dreamers

                      In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

                                                                                           Romans 12:5    

Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.

I’m not good at math.

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum.

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us visionaries as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life.

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way.

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
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Audacity and High Praise

Story of the Day for Thursday August 23, 2012 

 

Audacity and High Praise

 

                  Jesus said to her, “O woman, how great is you faith! Your request is granted.” 

                                                               Matthew 15:28

 

 

John Wayne rose to become one of Hollywood’s greatest stars because he kicked his director in the mud.

In 1927, Wayne was a student at USC and worked as an assistant prop boy and occasional extra at Fox Studios. When director, John Ford, decided to make a movie about the football rivalry between Army and Navy, he asked John Wayne to help him recruit football players.

Sol Wurtzel, the producer, offered to pay the football players seventy-five dollars a week, but Wayne, seeking to be modest, suggested they be paid fifty dollars.

But Wurtzel was not impressed. “Congratulations!” the producer responded with derision, “You just screwed yourself out of twenty-five bucks a week.”

 

John Wayne, apparently, reflected on how he should respond to his superiors. During the filming of the movie, the famous director, John Ford, objected to the way John Wayne lined up in his three-point stance. Ford told Wayne to get in his stance and then kicked Wayne’s arm out and sent him sprawling on the ground.

John Wayne then asked the director to demonstrate the correct football position. As Ford got down into a three-point stance, John Wayne kicked him into the mud.

The director found Wayne’s chutzpah hilarious and immediately took a liking to the brash young man.

 

After the movie was completed, John Wayne began to find more acting roles in Grade B Westerns, but his career was going nowhere.

In 1938, John Ford took Wayne for a cruise on his yacht, Araner. Ford asked Wayne to read the script for Stagecoach and suggest someone to play the lead role of the Ringo Kid. Ford’s financial backers were pressuring the director to hire Gary Cooper for the lead role.  But, after Ford concluded his cutting jibes about Wayne’s stagnant career, he said, “Duke, I want you to play the Ringo Kid.”

Stagecoach was a hit and catapulted John Wayne from obscurity to Hollywood stardom – and all because John Wayne had the nerve to “dish it back” to a famous director.

 

A pagan woman once pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus didn’t even respond to her.  She started following Jesus and his disciples, shouting out for help. When Jesus finally speaks to her, it is to explain that he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

The woman is not about to take no as an answer. She catches up to him and kneels at his feet and pleads for help.

“It’s not good to take the children’s bread,” Jesus says, “and give it to the dogs.”

“True, Lord,” she counters, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.”

 

I don’t think you’re supposed to argue with the Lord, and I have a hard time thinking of faith as spunky. But I do know that Jesus rewarded the pagan woman’s audacity with both high praise . . . and the granting of her request.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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How Dare You Judge Us!

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 22, 2012 

How Dare You Judge Us!

 

                    He was despised and forsaken by the people. A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. 

                                             Isaiah 53:3

 

On the great Judgment Day, when all stand before God, some in the teeming crowd began to raise their voices. They weren’t weeping with cries of shame or remorse. They were angry.

One of them shouted to those around him, “How can God judge us?”

“Yeah,” shouted a woman, “what does God know about the kind of life and suffering we had to go through?” The woman lifted her arm to reveal the brand of a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp.

“Our persecution was unimaginable. We endured beatings, torture, and death!”

A black man stepped forward. “What about this?” He lowered his collar to show an ugly rope burn around his neck.

“Lynched!  For the crime of having dark skin.” He spoke bitterly of the injustice he and his people had suffered: betrayed by Head Hunters, forced into slave ships, separated from family, and forced to live without recourse to justice.

 

Soon everyone had their story to tell. They spoke of the shame of being born an illegitimate child. Lepers painfully recounted what it was like to be an “untouchable” and to live isolated and lonely.  A businessman told his story of financial success – only to be betrayed and defrauded by his friend and business partner, and to die broke.

A movie star edged closer to the center of the complaints. The crowd sneered at her as one who didn’t know what it was like to suffer misfortune at the hands of God.

But the movie star won them over. Through tears, she recounted her life of celebrity. Everybody wanted to know her, but she could trust no one. Wherever she went, she was hounded by crowds pleading for autographs, paparazzi chasing her every move and selling every unflattering photo to the scandal magazines, who created false or misleading headlines of her personal life.

“How would you like it,” she asked, “if, whenever you try to sneak away for a short vacation, you are swarmed by those who could care less about invading your privacy?”

The crowd murmured their approval, and included her in the group.

 

The indignant crowd chose leaders to approach God’s throne and present their grievances. They chose a Jew, a leper, a black, and an untouchable from India. On behalf of the others they presented their case before God.

“How dare you judge us! You sit here removed from the temptations and sufferings we endured on earth, and now you have the gall to judge us for our anger and failure and retaliation against those who hurt us?” Another added, “You don’t know what it’s like to endure what we have on earth.”

There was silence while the leaders awaited God’s response. Then someone stood up before the throne. He stretched before them his nail-pierced hands.

And, in that moment, they realized that God had already served his sentence.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Dfeniton of Lvoe

Story of the Day for Tuesday Augus 21, 2012 

 

The Dfeniton of Lvoe

 

 

                             Love is the fulfillment of God’s law.

                                                            Romans 13:10

 

After my wife, Darla, graduated with her teaching degree, she went on to get a masters degree in the teaching of reading.

When we were first married, I would listen to people moan about children’s inability to read well. “The problem today,” they told me, “is that we don’t teach enough phonics.”

I was hooked on their argument, and felt it in the best interests of my wife’s career to inform her of this. “The problem today, honey,” I told her, “is that we don’t teach enough phonics.”

You will be shocked to learn that Darla thought I was talking outside my area of expertise. She believes that, while teaching phonics is important, the key to reading better is rooted in the concept called “Whole Language.”

“When we read,” she explains, “we see more than individual phonetic sounds. To read well, we must learn to see the whole: the entire word, the context.”

I don’t argue with her anymore. When our first child, Nikki, took a standardized reading exam in second grade, she was already reading at the college level.

You decide if Darla is right. Can you read the following paragraph?

 

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch stduy at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what oredr the ltteers  in a wrod are. The olny  iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

 

The problem with some people who try to be religious is that they see the details but not the context.

God told his people to rest on the Sabbath Day. What a cool deal. God not only thinks it’s important to work, but also important to relax.

The Jewish theologians, unfortunately, saw the commandment, but failed to see the reason for it. As a result, they created dozens and dozens of nitpicky rules. You couldn’t check your clothes for fleas, light a lamp to read, or put a false tooth back in your mouth. You couldn’t chew your fingernails. You could tie a knot – as long as it wasn’t a camel driver’s knot or a sailor’s knot. A midwife may not help deliver a baby on the Sabbath.

By the time the Bible experts finished their rules for the Sabbath, it was no longer a time of rest and relaxation – it was a hardship.

 

Have you ever thought of God’s commandments as a burden? As something that keeps you from enjoying life?  Sometimes our problem is that we focus so closely on the rule that we fail to see the reason for it.

Wehn you setp bcak and veiw the wohle cnotxet, yul’ol dscvoer taht ervey cmmonad of God is smilpy the dfeniiton of lvoe.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Gift You’re Given

Story of the Day for Monday August 20, 2012

 

The Gift You’re Given

                     The eye isn’t able to say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” 

                                                           1 Corinthians12:21

 

 

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged the largest-ever amphibious assault and established a foothold on European soil.

Nazi commanders, however, knew the invasion was coming. Once a beachhead was established, their strategy was to advance their formidable tank divisions and destroy the Allied forces – who were backed up by the sea and had no means of escape.

 

Germany’s fearsome  2nd SS Panzer Division was ordered to advance. The division’s new Tigers were the best tanks yet produced. Yet, because of its formidable size (sixty-three tons), the Tiger was a gas-guzzler – getting only a half mile to the gallon. In addition, the steel tracks wore out quickly on highway travel. The Germans had to move the tank division into position by railroad.

 

To prevent air attacks, the rail cars were carefully camoflauged at village railway sidings in the area of Montabuban.  These transport cars were unguarded.

In his book, D-Day, Stephen Ambrose narrates the actions of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tetty. Joined by her boyfriend and fourteen-year-old sister, Tetty would slip out in the dark on bicycle and siphon off the axle oil from the railroad cars and replace it with an abrasive powder.

 

When the Allied invasion hit the shores of Normandy, the Germans loaded their Tigers onto the railroad cars and prepared their counterattack. But every railroad car soon seized up and the damage to the axles was so extensive they couldn’t be repaired. The German division was stuck in southern France and couldn’t find replacement railroad cars for a week.

By the time they were able to move, the French Resistance was in place to harass any movement by rail.

 

Instead of arriving while the Allies were pinned down on the  beaches, the German division didn’t reach the front until seventeen days later—when the Allied forces had already been able to organize, advance, and disperse.

 

So, did a French teenager prevent the annihilation of the Allies’ precarious foothold on the continent?  Did her brave action tip the balance, which enabled us to eventually win the war?

I don’t know. But I do know that she did what she could.

 

Whatever your calling in life, don’t bemoan the things you’re unable to do. The Lord asks of you only one thing: to do what you’re able with the gift you’re given.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Foot In the Door

Story of the Day for Friday August 17, 2012

Foot In the Door

 

                 Don’t let the devil get his foot in the door. 

                                                        Ephesians 4:27

 

 Dale Hays once wrote in Leadership magazine about a trip he made to Haiti.  While there, he heard a Haitian pastor tell the people a parable, which went like this:

A man put his house up for sale.  He found a potential buyer, but the man was so poor he could not afford the full asking price.  After a lot of haggling, the owner agreed to sell the house for half price, with one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one nail sticking out above the front door.

After a few years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell.  So, the original owner found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned.  Soon the stench made the house unlivable, and the man was forced to sell his house to the former owner.

The Haitian pastor was trying to teach his people, that, if we leave the Devil with one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it.

 

We all tend to judge things by size.  Big things are important; little things much less significant.  That is why the devil’s “foot-in-the-door” strategy is especially dangerous.  “It’s just a foot, after all,” we reason, “how harmful could that be?”

But, deep inside, we know better.  The small, daily choices we make are far more significant than the few “major decisions” in the arc of our lives.

When I’m on a diet, I never decide to pig out on an entire bag of potato chips.  I just tell myself, “How bad could one measly handful of chips be?”  After the first handful I say, “Okay, but that was a small handful.  Just one more . . .” When the feeding frenzy is over, there’s nothing left but an empty bag.

 

We cannot completely avoid the presence of temptation.  But we can control the “foot in the door.”  In other words, no matter how holy you are, you are still going to bump into lots of bags of potato chips.  The crucial moment of temptation comes earlier than we usually suppose.  The best time to resist temptation is not after eating “just one handful”; the best time to exercise self-control is before we shove our hand into the bag.

 

Starlings are a major nuisance in many parts of our country.  Unlike many other birds, they roost together.  They can completely carpet an area with their whitewash, and emit a stink that could kill a cow at a hundred paces.

Did you know these pests are not native to North America?  Starlings first came to America when Eugene Schieffelin fashioned the noble dream of introducing to America every bird found in Shakespeare’s works.  If you’re working with our theme at all, you already know my point: someone should have murdered Shakespeare before he started writing about birds! (I’m kidding, okay? I love Shakespeare.)

I am certain, however, that if Eugene the Goofball had foreseen the consequences, he never would have opened the door.

                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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A Continual Feast

Story of the Day for Thursday August 16, 2012 

A Continual Feast

 

                 All the days of the afflicted are miserable, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. 

                                                    Proverbs 15:15

 

 

At the Olympics, two athletes reach the podium. Who will be happier: The athlete who won the bronze medal or the athlete who took silver?

Not too difficult to answer, is it? The athlete who won the silver medal did better than the athlete who won the bronze, so obviously he or she is happier.

But Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Herfordshire, UK, suggests otherwise. He believes that those who win a bronze medal are happier about their achievement. Why? The silver medalists looks to the top of the podium, and tends to think, “If only I had done a little better, I could have won the gold. But I fell short.”

Bronze medal winners tends to look in the other direction. They see that, if they hadn’t outperformed the other competitors, they wouldn’t have made it to the podium at all. The difference in attitude between silver and bronze medalists is not accomplishment, but perspective.

 

We are not victims of happiness or misery. Our disposition is not determined by outside forces beyond our control, but by our attitude. A Hollywood celebrity can become furious because the chateaubriand was served medium rather than medium rare, while a starving man may burst with joy at finding a moldy piece of bread.

 

Prof. Wiseman, has written a book called The Luck Factor, where he seeks to discover the differences between people who are considered lucky and unlucky. (Wiseman rejects the notion of luck as a magical, superstitious power. When he talks about “luck” he simply means “fortunate.”) He asked the participants in his study to imagine they were waiting in line at a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters the bank, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Wiseman asks them, “Would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?”

Those who defined themselves as unlucky people said this shooting would be very unlucky.  Just their luck to be in the bank when a robbery takes place.  But those in the study who considered themselves lucky were far more likely to consider themselves fortunate. “You could have been shot in the head,” they would say.  Some thought about how you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.

Wiseman concluded that much of the good and bad fortune we encounter in life is a result of our thoughts and behavior. In other words, it’s about our attitude.

An old saying goes: “The same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay.”  Identical circumstances in life may make some people bitter, and other people better.

 

God teaches us in this proverb that cheerfulness is an attitude. It comes from the heart. But let’s never forget that the Lord provides the ultimate basis for cheerfulness over misery. All our most vital battles will end in victory because of Jesus.

And thinking about that is a continual feast

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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How to Make Hubert Humphrey Invisible

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 15, 2012 

 

 How to Make Hubert Humphrey Invisible

 

 

                The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they don’t see the light of the glorious good news of Christ . . . 

                                         2 Corinthians 4:4   (mck)

 

 

Hubert Humphrey is the patron saint of politicians to Minnesotans.  As an influential senator, and former vice-president, he was wildly popular in his home state.

Once, while travelling with a friend, Humphrey stopped at a gas station to use the rest room.  Humphrey’s friend gazed at a tour bus as it pulled into the gas station.  Immediately, he hatched a brilliant and devious plan.

He walked onto the tour bus and asked where they were from.  After a little chit-chat, he said, “Can I ask a small favor of you?  I have a friend who has a weekend pass from the mental institute.  His problem is that he thinks he’s Hubert Humphrey!  Matter of fact, he does look a bit like Humphrey.  But, he’s harmless, and I was wondering if I could bring him on the bus, and you could pretend he really is Hubert Humphrey.”

The people on the tour bus agreed to the plan.

When Humphrey returned to the car, his friend said, “Hey, Hube!  As you were going inside, this tour bus pulled up, and they recognized you.  They’re asking me if they can meet you.  Would you mind going on the tour bus and greeting them?”

No problem.  Humphrey hopped into the tour bus and went down the aisle, shaking hands and introducing himself.

When he got back in the car, his friend asked him how it went.  Humphrey had a puzzled look on his face.  “It was the oddest thing,” he said, “every time I shook their hand and told them my name, they giggled.”

 

The people on the tour bus shook hands with one of the most famous citizens of their state.  They saw him, but they didn’t see him.

 

Jesus encountered the same thing.  Who was this man?  To the religious leaders, who saw him as a threat to their authority, he was demon possessed. Herod Antipas was haunted by a guilty conscience after he executed a holy man, John the Baptist.  When he heard of Jesus, he said, “John the Baptist, whose head I cut off, has come back from the dead.”  Others thought they were seeing a lunatic, a prophet, an imposter.

Everyone could see Jesus, but not everyone  could see him.

 

“Yeah, but how do we know we’re not the ones who are deceived?”

Good question.

When skeptics objected to Jesus’ true identity, he pointed them to the truth.  When the religious authorities confronted him about his identity, he pointed them to the Scriptures.  When his compassion was questioned by an untouchable leper, he touched him (and healed him).  Jesus does not shrink from honest questions; he invites them.

We are bombarded by lies and deception.  Jesus cuts through the fog, and sets before us the light of truth.  Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence to see where it leads.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 14, 2012 

 

Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

 

                          Job replied, “. . . Shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”

                                                                                Job 2:10

 

 

On June 13, 1883, the little town of Mystic, Connecticut, was flooded with reporters from the biggest newspapers in New England: the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New London Daily, Providence Journal, New York Herald, and many others.

The estimates of the crowd ranged from 5,000 to 12,000. They had come to Mystic to witness the unveiling of a statue honoring those who had fought in the Civil War.

 

The festivities got off to a slow start because the train from New London – which carried the governor and other dignitaries, was late.

Then the grandstands, which had been erected to accommodate the crowds for the occasion, collapsed.

When the granite statue was to be unveiled, cannons stood ready to deliver a 38-gun salute (in tribute to the 39 states in the Union).  But when those manning the cannon battery noticed the state governor approaching, they abruptly changed plans and decided to deliver their 38-gun salute to him instead.

The cannons were loaded with blanks, but the timing could hardly have been more unfortunate. Civil War veterans were marching down the street to the monument. As the cannons roared their approval of the governor, the first three ranks of soldiers were mowed down. Burning powder lacerated their faces and scorched their uniforms. One officer was severely injured and another soldier’s leg badly bruised.

 

The former Civil War general, Joseph R. Hawley delivered a stirring speech which rattled on for forty minutes, and then the famished crowds were treated to a lavish meal served up by the ladies of Mystic. But a sudden downpour scattered the crowds, and the joyous day came to a fitting conclusion.

 

Have you ever had a day like this?

I knew a man who claimed that, if you really trust God, you won’t experience bad things. He boasted that, since he began a certain spiritual discipline, he had never had a flat tire. I had been practicing the same discipline for years, and I had flat tires.

 

Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. But, then again, maybe he was wrong.

When we live the way God invites us to, we, obviously, avoid many unnecessary troubles.  But, once we get it into our heads that God’s mission is to keep the ants away at our picnics, we are priming ourselves for disappointment.

This darkened planet is not a luxury resort but a battleground. The Lord is looking for faith, but faith in something far bigger than whether or not our tires go flat.

I hope that guy with good tires enjoys his share of flats. Keep in mind that I say this – not out of meanness, but in the interests of theology.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 
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Let Prisoners Run Wild

Story of the Day for Monday August 13, 2012 

 

Let Prisoners Run Wild

 

                    They will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore what had once been devastated.

                                                              Isaiah 61:4

 

 

In 1852, on Vancouver Island, British settlers founded the village of Victoria. The town was built by with beauty and Old World charm. Flowers were imported from England: hollyhocks, wallflower, and mignonette.  Every home boasted a lovely garden in the front yard.

The peaceful village of Victoria was truly idyllic.

 

But all this changed in a day. On April 25, 1848, most of the 450 residents were returning home from worship when an American boat, the Commodore, pulled into harbor with 450 passengers. Instantly, the size of the town had doubled.

Gold had been discovered. James Douglas, the governor of the area, had 636 pounds of gold dust. The colony had collected so much gold that he decided to send 800 ounces to the gold mint in San Francisco.

Once the secret was out, Americans poured into Victoria, the only port in the area, to get in on the action. Soon, the Sierra Nevada unloaded another 1900 miners. This was quickly followed by other passenger ships: the Orizaba and the Cortez.

The new residents stripped the surrounding hills of timber and quickly erected a rowdy shantytown. The cost of property exploded. A fifty dollar city lot now sold for three thousand dollars.

Within four months the beautiful village of Victoria exploded from 450 residents to 30,000.

 

The city of Victoria, once so charming, was overrun by those greedy for fortune, but who cared nothing for beauty.

But the city fought back, and their main weapon was the flower.  The city chose to reclaim their original British heritage. Their government buildings and hotels were constructed with an Old World design. Residents played cricket. But, more than anything else, they planted flowers.

Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a city of more abundant and beautiful flowers. The Butchart Gardens alone overflows with 55 acres of flowers – not to mention Finnerty Gardens, Abkhazi Gardens, and countless others.

Today, the various municipalities of the city hold annual contests to determine who has the most flowers. It is a friendly competition to be named the “Bloomingest Community.”

A Canadian survey wanted to know how much residents loved the city in which they lived. The residents of Victoria ranked number one. Conde Nast Traveller magazine ranked Victoria one of the best cities in the world, and number one in ambience.

 

Jesus’ first recorded sermon was in his hometown of Nazareth, and based on the words of Isaiah 61. He said he was the one God had sent to bring restoration. He came to restore broken hearts and let prisoners run wild. He was coming to give the mourning a crown of beauty, and to rebuild what was torn down.

As we survey the wreckage of our lives, don’t lose sight of the One whose goal is to rebuild.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Impossible Beginnings

Story of the Day for Saturday August 11, 2012 

Impossible Beginnings

 

 

      And in those days, Peter got up in the midst of the brothers – a group numbering about a hundred and twenty. 

                                             Acts 1:15

 

 

Have you ever seen a tree that is six feet in diameter? I’ve seen only a handful of trees that large in my lifetime.

That is why I was impressed when I read, that in January 2006, in California, a branch fell off a tree that measured more than six feet in diameter! A branch.

Whoa.

The branch came from a Great Sequoia, named “General Sherman.” This tree towers 275 feet high and measures over 100 feet around at the base.  Its bark is about three feet thick. And – get this – the tree was already 3,327 years old when Columbus reached the new world.

Want to know something else about this tree? The General Sherman once started as a seed. A really, really tiny seed, in fact.  3000 sequoia seeds weigh only one ounce!

 

After Jesus ascended to heaven, he entrusted the work of God’s kingdom on this earth to a small handful of followers. After their first head count, they only number one hundred and twenty believers.

Jesus’ followers faced immediate opposition from the Jewish leaders.  But, beyond that, the mighty Roman Empire loomed over this meager bunch of disciples, and its emperors would soon dedicate themselves to eradicating all followers of Jesus from the earth.

Things didn’t look promising, to put it mildly. But, look around today at what God has accomplished from this small beginning.

 

So, what’s the point?  I’m not entirely sure I should tell you. (Have you ever noticed how often Jesus told parables and made puzzling comments, and then let us wrestle with his words?)

But, surely you’ve heard the old slogan, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Well, yeah, that’s true. But, sometimes the first step seems so insignificant, that I’m tempted to cancel the trip and watch a football game instead.

 

If you’re ever discouraged by beginnings, maybe this will help. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had an exhibit. A checkerboard had one grain of wheat on the first square. Two grains on the second square. Four on the next square.

By doubling a single grain of wheat each square, how many grains will you have by the final 64th square? Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India fifty feet deep!

All big things start as small things.  When the Lord sets a dream before you, don’t be afraid to start. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a seed . . . “

                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Thy Will Be Done

Story of the Day for Friday August 10. 2012

 

Thy Will Be Done

                   I want you to know, brothers, that those things that happened against me have advanced the good news. .

                                                                        Philippians 1:12

 

In his book, The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose tells the story of a bombing raid during World War II. George McGovern was flying the Dakota Queen over Amstetten, Austria. McGovern’s bombardier, Cooper, tried to drop the bombs, but they got stuck. Cooper worked to free the bombs, but by the time they fell, they had flown over the river and missed their target. When the men returned to base, they were told at the debriefing that their bombs had dropped on an allied prisoner of war camp.

McGovern and Cooper were devastated.

 

Life doesn’t work out the way we want it to. The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most difficult prayers to pray because we plead with our heavenly Father that His will would be done – when what we really want is for life to turn out the way we want it to.

Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen to us? Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen through us?

Good question.

 

Steve Brown was invited to speak at a missions conference for young people. Just before he spoke, the leader told him there were a lot of kids who weren’t Christians, and asked if he could present the gospel to them.

Without time to prepare, Steve presented God’s plan of salvation. No response. In his book, If Jesus Has Come, Steve says he left the auditorium that night in shame.

Steve tried to reassure himself that these things happen. No big deal. But it was a big deal. Every time he heard the name of the town where he had botched his presentation, he winced.

Five years later, a young man approached him. “Mr. Brown, you don’t know me, but a few years ago I was at a missions conference where you spoke.” Steve groaned inwardly. “The night you spoke I received Christ, and now I’m a student in seminary and I’m going to be a pastor, and I just wanted to thank you.” He told Steve he had a recording of his presentation and shares it with others. “I can’t tell you how God has used your words.”

 

Paul was thrown into prison, but wrote that God was even using his incarceration to advance the gospel. Even when things don’t work the way we’d like them to, God is still at work.

And, before I forget, after Cooper had botched the bombing run, he was haunted by the memory of it. After the war he enrolled at Texas A&M and met an Army Air Forces officer. It turned out the man was a POW at the camp that Cooper accidentally bombed. The former prisoner explained that one of the bombs hit the fence, and in the confusion, several of the Americans managed to escape to freedom.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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A Time to Agree

Story of the Day for Thursday August 9, 2012 

A Time to Agree

 

                    I beg of you . . . that all of you agree with each other so that there might be no more divisions among you. 

                                                                 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

How many hours is it before the next sunrise? That, obviously, depends on where you live because the sunrise will vary by 24 hours – depending on your longitude.

In the 1800s, communities in England had the instruments to accurately calculate high noon. Keeping accurate time in your hometown created no big problem until the railway system increased its speed. On an east to west railroad, every town will reach high noon at a different time. Even the city of London’s time differed by two minutes from one end of the city to the other.

In the United States, the situation was no better. Each railroad company decided to set a standard time – no matter where it went. But the railroad companies couldn’t agree on what time should be used. So, each railroad operated by a different time. The train station in Pittsburg had six clocks – each one set to a different time – depending on which train you wanted to ride on. In 1883, W. F. Allen found that there were about fifty different “official” times in use throughout the country.

During World War I, the U.S. established Daylight Savings Time in order to conserve fuel. When the war was over, some localities continued using Daylight Savings Time and others refused. In one 35-mile stretch of highway from West Virginia to Ohio, the local time would change no less than seven times.

When communities acted in their own self-interest to determine the time, no one really knew what time it was. Everyone was frustrated and confused.

 

We often assume it’s in our own self-interest to act in our own self-interest, but this isn’t always the case. John Allen Paulos, in his book, Innumeracy, cites an experiment demonstrating how self-interest works against us.

He asks us to imagine twenty casual acquaintances brought together by an eccentric philanthropist. No one is allowed to communicate with each other. The philanthropist then explains to the group that, if everyone refrains from pressing a button in front of them, they will each receive $10,000. If, however, some in the group do press the button, they will receive $3,000, and those who refrained from touching the button will receive nothing.

It is in everyone’s self-interest to avoid touching the button and receiving $10,000 a piece. But, without the ability to talk and cooperate with other, how likely is it that everyone in the group would act to bring the greatest benefit to themselves (and everyone else)?

Not likely.

 

The saddest thing about insisting on what we want is that we won’t get what we want. God has created us so that we gain the greatest good by sacrificing our own best interests for the sake of the needs of others.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

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A Robe Dipped in Blood

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 8, 2012 

 

A Robe Dipped in Blood

 

 

                Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant attitude before a fall.

                                                  Proverbs 16:18

 

 

England did her best when they sent General Edward Braddock to the Colonies during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

He arrived in his shiny brass buttons as commander-in-chief of North America, and led two brigades through the Pennsylvania wilderness to recapture Fort Duquesne (where Pittsburgh sits today).

Benjamin Franklin met with Braddock beforehand and warned him against Indian ambushes, but the general sniffed at the suggestion that savages could intimidate his highly trained British soldiers. Franklin observed later that Braddock “had too much self-confidence” and too low an opinion of the Indians.

A Virginia militia volunteered to fight with the British, and their young, 23-year-old leader, suggested that his rangers lead the expedition, since they understood Indian tactics and were familiar with the terrain. The 60-year-old Braddock was offended: “What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!”

The Virginians were sent to the rear.

 

The British march was a display of pomp and military precision. One observer said, “General Braddock marched through this wilderness as if he had been in a review in St. James Park.” The general sacrificed speed for ceremony, and, as a result, the Indians easily monitored his every move.

 

As they neared Fort Duquesne, the Indian ambush caught the British off balance. The young Virginian leader urged Braddock to disperse his troops and hide behind trees — as the Indians fought. Instead, Braddock stubbornly concentrated his men in tight platoons which were decimated as quickly as they were formed.

As Braddock tried vainly to rally his disorganized troops he was shot in the chest. Later, realizing he was mortally wounded, he gave his ceremonial sash to the Virginian officer whose advice he had ignored.

That young Virginian, George Washington, reportedly wore Braddock’s blood-stained sash for the rest of his career as commander of the Colonial Army. After becoming the first president of the United States, Washington continued to wear the sash.  He would never forget that the greatest enemy to victory is pride.

 

Just as pride blinded General Braddock to the strength of his adversary, so pride blinds us to the power of sin. This is not a battle we can win on our own.  It is not even a battle we must fight.

Jesus has conquered the Enemy. He rides a white horse with a robe dipped in blood. And only the notion that you don’t need his help can keep him from bringing you the victory you long for.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Seeing What You’re Looking For

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 7, 2012

Seeing What You’re Looking For

                      Jesus spoke to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the desert to see?” 

                                                    Matthew 11:7

The people flocked to John the Baptist when he preached at the Jordan River. Jesus asked them what they went out there to see. It’s a good question because we almost always see the thing we’re looking for.

Focus, for example, on the color blue, and you will see it everywhere.

Jacques Plante is, perhaps, the greatest goalie who ever played hockey. He led the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

Plante was an innovative genius. He was the first goaltender to play the puck outside the crease, the first to skate behind the net to stop the puck for defensemen, the first to raise his arms to signal an icing call to his teammates, the first to regularly wear a face mask – which enabled him to throw his body to stop a shot.

Yet, Plante realized that the fans noticed his occasional mistakes far more than his brilliant play in goal. He once asked, “How would you like a job where, if you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and eighteen thousand people boo?”

We tend to look for mistakes.

Sometimes, when teaching a class, I would take my black marker and make one small dot in the middle of the whiteboard.

“What do you see?” I’d ask.

“A black dot.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

Then I’d explain that what they were seeing was a large expanse of white, yet we become so focused on the little black dot that the whiteness of the board “disappears.”

When we focus on other people’s faults, we will see them.  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to help people with their shortcomings, but a critical spirit is harmful because it distorts reality. We no longer see the good characteristics of others when what we want to see are other people’s faults.

When Philip Yancey moved to Colorado, he learned about noxious weeds which were threatening the survival of native plants. In his book, Prayer, he writes about buying a weed-puller and walking up the hill behind his house to look for noxious weeds. He would spot oxeye daisy, Russian thistle, and toadflax.

One day, Yancey’s wife accompanied him and pointed out more than twenty species of wildflowers. Philip said, “I had been so intent on finding the weeds that my eyes had skipped right past the wildflowers adorning the hills – the very flowers my weed-pulling endeavored to protect!”

Consider carefully what you’re looking for in life, because you will invariably see it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
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Encouraging Each Other

Story of the Day for Monday August 6, 2012 

Encouraging Each Other

 

                 Let us consider how we can spur each other on in love and good works – not neglecting to meet together, as some are in the habit, but encouraging each other. . .  

                                                                                       Hebrews 10:24-25

 

 One of the greatest moments in a grade school teacher’s career happened by mistake.

In his first year of teaching, Jaime Escalante had two students who shared the same first name, Johnny.  But they were so different.   One was an excellent student – happy and well-behaved.  The other was a goof-off and did not take his studies seriously.

At the first PTA meeting of the year, a parent asked how her son was doing. The teacher raved about her son Johnny and what a delight he was to have in the classroom.   But he was mistaken.  He was actually talking to “bad” Johnny’s mom.

The next day, the problem child approached the teacher.  “My mom told me what you said about me last night.  I haven’t ever had a teacher who wanted me in his class.”

From that day on “Problem Johnny” completed his assignments and became a model student.

 

Even though the teacher’s praise was unintentional, it demonstrates how powerful our encouragement of others can be.   People are capable of doing so much if we can make them believe they can.

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their best-selling book, In Search of Excellence, describe a psychological experiment where every adult is given the same ten puzzles to solve.   Half of the exam takers were told they did well, getting seven out of ten correct.   The other half was informed they did poorly, getting seven out of ten problems wrong.

But, in fact, the psychologists made the test scores up.   And when they gave each group another round of puzzles, they discovered that those who were told they did well the first round did better on the second, while those who were told they did poorly did worse on the second test.

Encouragement is urging others to believe – to believe

in what the Lord has done for them, to believe in what God has made them capable of, to believe they are loved.

But here is the important point: encouragement is what we do for another person.  We need each other.   That is why the Bible urges us to get together – not only for the purpose of corporate worship – but to encourage each other in love and good deeds.

 

Encouraging others is not always our first impulse.   We are avid fans of employing criticism to improve behavior.  And don’t get me wrong – criticism has its place.   There are times when we must point out someone else’s faults.   Yet, if we are not sensitive in our criticism, we can decrease rather than improve another person’s behavior.   The test takers who were told they did poorly are proof of that.

There is more power in encouragement than we often imagine. Every since Cheryl Pruitt was four or five she would hang around her dad’s country stores.  Every day the milkman would arrive to stock the store.  And every day he would greet little Cheryl and say, “So, how’s my little Miss America?”

In 1980, guess who became the new Miss America?

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Why Some Good Manners Are Bad

Story of the Day for Thursday August 2, 2012 

Why Some Good Manners Are Bad

 

                    But God has composed the Body as to give greater honor to those lacking it.  

                                                                              1 Corinthians 12:24     

 

Finns are considered one of the most informal cultures in the world. Some have said their national costume is the tracksuit. They seldom wear suits and ties and normally call teachers by their first names.

The Finns don’t make a big fuss about a person’s status in society.  But they are kind, and understand their informality could easily offend those from other cultures. Thus, guidebooks on social etiquette have been frequent best-sellers in Finland.

 

Manners should be motivated by respect for other people. But, sometimes, manners originate to show our dis-respect for them.

 

In medieval times, feudal societies marked their social status by their “manners.” Our English word, “courtesy,” originally referred to the behavior of those in royal “courts” – as opposed to the feudal peasants. Those who received a formal education adopted distinct manners to indicate their superiority to the uneducated masses. Before 1611, dining forks were unknown in England. After Thomas Coryate introduced them from Italy, they soon became markers of social status and sophistication.

Don’t get me wrong: I highly encourage showing respect to those in offices of authority. While performing their duties, we’re doing a good thing when we call a judge “Your Honor,” or a policeman, “Officer.” But we must remember that drinking tea with our pinkie in the air can become a thinly disguised means of displaying our snobbishness.

 

The Bible says we should show respect for those in authority. But God destroys snobbishness by flip-flopping the rules. He has composed the body of Christ so that those who lack status are to be shown special honor.

 

A century ago, Cecil Rhodes was, to put it mildly, an influential man. He founded the Rhodes Scholarship, the largest diamond company in the world (DeBeers), and even founded a country (Rhodesia).

As a British statesman, Rhodes was a stickler for proper dress. Once, Rhodes invited a young man to dinner. The man arrived by train and was directly escorted to Rhode’s mansion in his travel-stained clothes. The young man was aghast to see that all the other guests wearing full evening dress.

When Rhodes spotted his young guest, he immediately disappeared. When he returned to his guests, he was no longer wearing evening dress, but instead, an old suit similar to that of the young man who just arrived off the train.

 

Manners can be used to flaunt social status. But manners can also be used to show that, in God’s eyes, we’re all loved equally. And to remind each other of that fact.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

 

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“How to Fall Off a Cliff”

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 31, 2012 

“How to Fall Off a Cliff”

                    Throw all your worries on God, because he cares about you. 

                                                                            1 Peter 5:7

It was a dark and stormy night.  The man’s candle lantern blew out, and now he made his way in the inky blackness along the dirt road to the nearest farmhouse.

In the darkness he wandered off the road and stumbled over a cliff.  As he fell he grabbed hold of a branch jutting out from the side of the cliff. He shouted for help, but his cries were not answered.  Steadily, his arms began to weaken. When he could no longer hold on, he let out a groan, and fell . . . six inches to the bottom of the ditch.

That man was terrified as he hung from the branch. But his fear was due to lack of knowledge. Had he had known he was only six inches from the ditch he would have no trouble letting go.

That raises an intriguing question: how much of our anxiety is based on a lack of knowledge? If you think about it, just about all our anxiety is based on our lack of knowledge.

“That’s great, Uncle Marty. Unfortunately, I already know my anxiety is based on my lack of knowledge, but I can’t do anything to change it!  I don’t know how the stock market is going to do next week, or how effective the chemo treatments are going to work, or whether Thelma will still like me after I accidentally ran over her cat.”

Maybe this will help. Steve Brown, in a teaching called, Walking Free, talked about those dreaded threats we all remember. His grade school teacher warned the class that, if they didn’t behave, they would be sent to the principal’s office.

The dreaded day arrived when Steve Brown could no longer be good. As he made his way to the principal’s office, he reflected on his life’s end.

When he sat before the principal, he said, “You’re having trouble, aren’t you Stephen?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t like that teacher very much, do you?”

“Uh . . . no sir, not much.”

And then the principal said, “I don’t either.” They laughed together. And then Stephen realized that all the rumors about the principal were untrue. He wasn’t the stern authority figure that other people said he was.

The principal told Steve, “I want you to come down and meet me in my office, and I’ll get you out before the bus leaves so you can get home on time.”  They became friends.

You don’t have to know God’s plan for your future in order to get rid of anxiety.  All you really need to know is that your Father cares about you.  And that he’s your friend.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Mystery Critic

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 31, 3012

The Mystery Critic

                   Love. . . doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast, it isn’t proud.

                                                        1 Corinthians 13:4

Sir Walter Scott, who was born in 1771, pulled off a feat that no one author had ever accomplished. He became the first English writer to enjoy an international reputation while he was still alive – with avid fans in Great Britain, Europe, North America, and Australia.

Scott is best known for his novels. In fact, he invented the genre of the historical narrative. But historical novels weren’t his only innovation: in order to maintain his image as Great Britain’s leading poet, he wrote his first novels anonymously. After his first novel, Waverly, he published his later novels as “Author of Waverly.”

As if being the best writer in the English world wasn’t enough, Sir Walter Scott was granted permission by the future King George IV to search for the long lost crown of Charles II. Armed with military assistants, Scott found the Crown Jewels of Scotland in the bowels of a castle in Edinburgh, and a grateful royalty granted Scott the title of baronet.

Sir Walter Scott could hardly rise higher in popularity.

At the height of Scott’s popularity, however, a usurper arose. Lord Byron, a young, charismatic poet began to publish his works.

A London paper printed the reviews of an anonymous contributor. The reviewer gushed over the works of Bryron – praising his poetic genius. Sir Walter Scott, the anonymous critic maintained, could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. Later, it was discovered that the mystery critic was Sir Walter Scott himself.

Scott considered literary envy “a base sensation” and lauded Byron as “the man whose splendour dimmed the fame of his competitors.”

Not only did Scott work to bolster the popularity of Lord Byron, but he also defended authors that were scoffed at by the critics. Jane Austen, who today is recognized as a literary giant, was, in the 19th century dismissed as a “woman’s novelist.” Sir Walter Scott was one of the few males who came to her defense and commended Austen’s genius.

Scott desperately needed readers to buy his books. When businesses, in which he was heavily invested, crashed, he was financially ruined. Rather than declare bankruptcy, however, he determined to write himself out of debt.  But he never considered the option of bettering his popularity by trying to diminish the fame of his fellow authors.

Love is an odd thing. It doesn’t resent the success of others but rejoices for them, rejoices with them. When the Bible urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we begin to learn that we are not at our greatest when we stand boastfully above our rivals, but when we devote our attention to making others better.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

Story of the Day for Monday July 30, 2012

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

 

                    Above all, be of one mind. Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  

                                                                   1 Peter 3:8

 

Herman and Donna Ostry bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska. Because the barn was near a creek, the floor was always muddy and wet.

One year, when the creek flooded – leaving 29 inches of water in his barn, Herman decided something had to be done. He contacted a building moving company, but the bid was unaffordable.

At supper, Herman joked to his family, “I’ll bet if we had enough people we could pick up that barn and carry it to higher ground.”

Herman’s son, Mike, however, took the idea seriously. He counted the boards and timber and estimated the barn’s weight at 16,640 pounds. Then he began welding a grid of steel tubing – bringing the total weight to almost ten tons. Mike’s system provided a handhold for 344 people, which meant that each person would be lifting about 55 pounds.

 

The little town of Bruno was planning its centennial that summer and the planning committee decided to make the moving of Ostry’s barn a part of the official celebration.

On July 30, 1988, local TV cameramen were on hand, along with 4000 spectators.

The 344 volunteers lifted in unison. The crowd then applauded as they moved the barn 115 feet to higher ground in three minutes.

 

So, what is wrong with you people out there in Nebraska? Don’t you know how groups, such as business organizations and congregations, are supposed to operate? When you announce you want to move a barn, you need a majority to rise up and claim it can’t be done. When you estimate the weight of the barn, isn’t anyone questioning your figures and asking if you have fully accounted for the weight of the nails? A steel pipe grid? Where is the splinter group arguing loudly for an alternate plan of using tractors with frontend loaders? And 344 volunteers – I can’t believe it! If just one of them ends up with a sore back they’ll sue you from one end of the county to the other. And even if you can manage to lift the barn, how can you expect everybody to move in the same direction?  If a third of them insist on moving north, a third south, and the rest away from the creek, that barn is not going very far.

 

Herman Ostry’s barn got moved because I heard about it too late to warn him that it wouldn’t work.

It’s just as well. I once lived about a half hour from Bruno and I know Nebraskans.  If one person is in need, everyone else will show up in a heartbeat to help out. They don’t argue, they don’t complain. They cheerfully get the job done and then they have a beer and gather at someone’s house to play a few rounds of sheepshead.

Sometimes, Nebraskan farmers look more like the church than the church does.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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In the Field

As climbinghigher.org is the teaching/education arm of Athelas Outdoor Ministry, Inc. and summers are our very very busy time of retreat ministry; we are presently in the field.  The Story of the Day postings will resume as soon as possible…we will be visiting Glacier National Park with our group tomorrow and white water rafting on Tuesday.  Please pray for the groups safety and that the spiritual principles to be learned from these outdoor adventures will refresh and renew our guests from Illinois.  See you soon!

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Reality is a Stubborn Thing

Story of the Day for Friday July 20, 2012 

Reality is a Stubborn Thing

                     Truth has stumbled in the street.

                                                    Isaiah 59:14

 

 

On January 28, 1986, NASA officials tried to defy reality . . . and failed.

The Challenger space shuttle was scheduled for launch on January 22nd, but the launch had to be postponed until the 23rd, then the 24th, then the 25th, and then the 27th.

Officials at NASA were growing increasingly frustrated with each scratched launch date. They wanted to establish a reputation as a reliable market for scientific and commercial markets, and the frequent postponements weren’t helping their reputation. They had an ambitious launch schedule, and by postponing the Challenger, they would be forced to scuttle launch dates all down the line. President Reagan was preparing his State of the Union address and wanted to feature the Challenger mission – which would be awkward if the shuttle was still sitting on the launch pad. Further, classrooms across the country were tuned into TV to watch Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher, give the first school lesson from space.

 

The controversy before the scheduled launch on January 28th focused on the o-rings in the solid rocket boosters. The rocket is built like cans stacked on top of each other. The explosive gases, reaching temperatures of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, are sealed between the different rocket stages by o-rings.

Engineers at Morton Thiokol were adamant that the launch must be postponed. The temperatures had dipped to 18 degrees in the night, and, at launch time were still around freezing. Morton Thiokol’s contract with NASA specified that the temperature tolerance of the o-rings extended from 40-90 degrees.

At first the managers at Morton Thiokol sided with their engineers. But NASA was not happy. Under pressure to please their customer the managers finally caved in and gave NASA the green light to launch.

The engineers watched helplessly as the countdown began. They knew the o-rings would not seal. Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, as the Challenger went into its first roll, the o-rings failed, and the space shuttle exploded – killing all seven astronauts.

 

The well-known physicist, Richard Feynman, served on the Rogers Commission investigating the accident. “Reality,” he concluded, “must take precedence over public relations,” adding that “nature cannot be fooled.”

 

It is not only Nature which cannot be fooled, but all truth. Some think that morality can be supplanted by a “new morality” as often as youth update their wardrobe.

Jesus claimed to be the Truth, and his teachings have stood solid against the test of time.  We do well to be receptive to what he says because reality is a stubborn thing.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre 
 
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Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs

Story of the Day for Thursday July 19, 2012

 

Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs

 

                . . . Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to children.”  

                                             Matthew 11:25

 

Have you heard of the “Dr. Fox Hypothesis”? Dr. John Ware and his colleagues from the University of Southern California introduced Dr. Myron R. Fox to a distinguished group of educators: psychologists, sociologist, physicians, and social workers.

Dr. Fox’s topic was “Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physical Education.” But the audience did not know that Dr. Fox was really an actor.  His speech was a meaningless jumble of non sequiturs, invented words, irrelevant details, and entertaining jokes.  But he said absolutely nothing at all.

The audience loved his speech, and no one realized the speech was nonsensical. Anonymous evaluations afterward said the lecture was clear and stimulating.

Further research by others has demonstrated this is not a fluke. You can write totally unintelligible articles, and as long as it comes from a legitimate source in the reader’s area of expertise, the article will usually win high marks.

 

If you are in business and are ever called upon to make a report, I recommend to you Philip Broughton’s “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector.”  He produced three columns of ten words. You simply pick one word from each column and incorporate them in a sentence.

For example, the first column has words like: “integrated,” “systematized,” and “functional.”  The second column: “organizational,” “reciprocal,” and “incremental.” And the third column includes: “flexibility,” “time-phase,” and “projection.”

Broughton claims, “No one will have the remotest idea what you are talking about, but the important thing is that they’re not about to admit it.”  One man, who resorted to Broughton’s “Buzz Phrase Projector,” received a standing ovation and a top man in the organization said it was the best presentation he had ever heard.

 

The theologians of Jesus’ day should have been the first to recognize the Messiah. But, because of their pride, they became blind. God reveals truth to children. And you don’t have to be young to be a child. Jesus calls a “child” anyone who is humble.

It used to bother me that Jesus praised the Father for making the wise and intelligent blind to the truth. But what he meant, I think, is that truth is not found because we’re intelligent, but because we’re humble. If you are proud of your biblical knowledge, you are in a dangerous place.

 

Frederick Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, said, “Pilate asks What is truth? And for years there have been politicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and so on to tell him. The sound they make is like the sound of empty pails falling down the cellar stairs.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Too Busy To Listen

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 18, 2012

Too Busy To Listen

                 Shouting in a loud voice and covering their ears, they rushed together at him and dragging him out of the city they stoned him. 

                                           Acts 7:57-58

 We were up on Still Peak above our house when my brother-in-law hushed us and said, “Do you hear that?”

We are stopped jabbering and listened.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly,” said Sean, “you can’t hear a single thing.”

He was right. No cars or machinery. No dogs. No wind.

Silence is odd to us because we seldom experience it. We live in a noisy world. All the same, we rarely make much of an effort to get away from the racket.

Do you find it a struggle to take time for quiet reflection? Why is that? Yeah, you’re  really busy. But do you think there might be a deeper reason?

I ask because I’ve discovered you can drown out the voice of God by noise.  Sometimes, the Holy Spirit speaks in a still, small voice. And our conscience is an avid talker, but only speaks in a whisper. TVs and radios can easily overpower that voice we need to hear.

When Stephen was arraigned before the Jewish high court on charges of blasphemy, he gave a lengthy recitation of God’s coming to their forefathers, and their rejection of the Lord’s graciousness to them.

Things got tense when Stephen came to his point: “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears!”  He told them, in other words, that they were not listening to God, but were resisting the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, in fact, was speaking to the high council at that very moment – through the words of Stephen.  And how did they respond?  They drowned out his voice by shouting him down and covering their ears.

My friend, Ruth, was riding with a woman who chauffeured a van load of kids.  Ruth noticed the transmission was making a funny noise.  She asked, “You think you ought to get that fixed?”

The woman grinned at Ruth and said, “This is how I fix it,” and immediately turned on the radio until you could no longer hear the noise from the transmission.

Are you taking time for quiet?  When we are silent before the Lord, we may realize that some things need to be fixed.  But that’s a good thing.  Whether we need to make changes, or find forgiveness, or comfort, or inspiration, God will speak a good word to us when we are quiet enough to listen.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Yankee Doodle

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 17, 2012 

Yankee Doodle

 

                 If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but give praise to God that you bear that name.  

                                     1 Peter 4:16

 

In 1755, Richard Schuckberg, a British army doctor, wrote a song mocking Americans. “Yankee” was a derisive term for Americans, and “doodle,” a derogatory word, meaning a “dolt” or “simpleton.”

The fashionable wig in the 1770s was called a “macaroni,” and the term became synonymous for high fashion.

The sheet music to the song noted, “The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.” So, Shuckberg’s song began:

 

Yankee Doodle went to town, 

Riding on a pony; 

He stuck a feather in his hat, 

And called it macaroni.

 

The first skirmish of the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. At Lexington, British General Hugh Percy’s fifers played “Yankee Doodle” to express their contempt for the backwards American militia.

 

Have you ever been treated with contempt because you’re a Christian? It doesn’t feel good, does it? Sometimes it hurts so much that you may conclude it’s just easier not to let others know of your loyalty to Christ.

But, do we really want to spend our days shrinking from mockery by slinking around with our tail between our legs? The Bible is encouraging us to take the opposite approach: to embrace our identity and praise God for the honor of bearing the name of Christ. The apostle Peter is not pontificating from an ivory tower – he has been flogged for the name of Jesus. He’s been imprisoned, and, ultimately, he was martyred for the Name.  But he reacted to his sufferings with joy.

 

The British were surrounded at Yorktown in 1781 and forced to surrender. In order to lay down their firearms in a meadow, the British soldiers marched down the Williamsburg Road, with Americans standing on one side, and their allies, the French, lining the other.

And then the song began. The French fife and drums began playing “Yankee Doodle” – to the utter delight of the American troops.

Yankee Doodle had been transformed from a mocking song of contempt to a joyful expression of national pride. It became our nation’s birthsong. And no American hangs his head to sing it.

 

Never hang your head for the name that you bear.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Asking is Good Policy

Story of the Day for Monday July 16, 2012 

Asking is Good Policy

 

                    Ask, and it will be given to you. seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.

                                                             Matthew 7:7

 

Our family was bone weary from driving across the plains. We found a cheesy hotel and asked if they had a nonsmoking room. They assured us they did.

When we entered our room it reeked of cigarette smoke. But, to make things far worse, it smelled like someone had just emptied an aerosol can of heavily-perfumed air freshener in the room.

We soon discovered that it was, indeed, a nonsmoking room because all the ash trays had been turned upside down.

But I’m the meek sort and didn’t go back to the hotel clerk to sort the matter out.

 

I found an article by Tim Gard, in the book, Humor Me, especially intriguing. Tim is on the road a lot and stays in hotels 200 days a year. He always makes reservations for a non-smoking room.

Yet, often, as he straggles into a hotel late at night, they have given away his non-smoking room.  When this happens, Tim asks for a free upgrade to a nonsmoking suite.

Normally, the hotel clerk tells him, “Our policy doesn’t allow upgrades based on smoking preference.”

To counter this, Tim wrote his own policy book. When he meets with objections, he pulls out his official-looking policy manual, finds the specific policy he needs, and then reads it to the hotel clerk: “If Tim Gard requests and reserves a nonsmoking room at any hotel and that hotel gives his nonsmoking room away prior to his arrival, then that hotel is required, by law, to provide Tim Gard with an upgrade to a nonsmoker suite at no additional cost.”

“It’s my policy,” he tells the clerk,

“Well, that’s not our policy. You need to talk to the manager.”

“Unfortunately,” Tim responds, “my number one policy is: I don’t repeat my policies. Once I’ve said the policy, I’m forbidden to talk about it any more. I’d like to help you, but . . . it’s a policy.”

“Sir, it’s not our policy.”

Tim then demands to be shown the hotel’s policy manual. When they, invariably, fail to produce a manual, he tells them flatly that they’re going to have to go with his.

Tim usually gets upgraded to a suite at no extra charge. Even when he doesn’t, he claims he has a fun time.

 

Just as I’m afraid to ask for nonsmoking room upgrades, I’m reluctant to ask God for many of the things I desire. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to be bolder. Jesus tells me to ask, to search, to pound on doors.

Franklyn Broude said, “You don’t always get what you ask for, but you never get what you don’t ask for . . . unless it’s contagious!”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Time To Take a Risk

Story of the Day for Saturday July 14, 2012

Time To Take a Risk

 

                    Jesus entered the temple and threw out the buyers and sellers. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling doves.

                                         Mark 11:15

 

Do you know who, for many years, has been the most recognizable figure in Canada?  He is a commentator who does a four-minute segment with co-host Ron MacLean between the first and second periods of Hockey Night in Canada.

Don Cherry, who hosts the broadcast, Coach’s Corner, is recognized by more Canadians than any pop star, athlete, or politician – including the Prime Minister.

In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took a national poll of the greatest Canadians in history.  Don Cherry came in seventh – beating out Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky.

 

How could a commentator – whose show is only broadcast during hockey season, and only for four minutes – become so famous? His flamboyant taste in suit coats doesn’t hurt, but his fame is focused in his outspoken style. Don Cherry is neither impartial nor subtle. He hurls opinions like grenades. When Coach’s Corner is over, you will have no difficulty knowing exactly where Cherry stands on any issue he addresses.

 

We live in a culture of timid opinions. We don’t want to offend. Even governmental leaders, whom we would expect to be guided by a solid political philosophy, are known for their haste in reversing their convictions in deference to public opinion.

President Harry Truman, however, asked how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt. What would Jesus have preached if he first taken a poll in the land of Israel?  “What would have happened to the Reformation,” he wondered, “if Martin Luther had taken a poll?”

 

The temple in Jerusalem had a large, outer courtyard. In Isaiah 56, the Lord promised the foreigners that he would designate a place in the temple for them to pray.

The Gentiles, however, were pushed out of their courtyard when the chief priests brought in livestock and doves to sell for the sacrificial offerings. Previously, shops to buy sacrifices and exchange money flourished on the Mount of Olives. But now the chief priests set up their own monopoly in the temple — gouging the people through exorbitant prices, and excluding the foreigners from their place of prayer.

Jesus stormed into the temple – smashing tables and starting a stampede. In the large crowds, his presence was evident by the fluttering of freed doves flying about him – with the poor clambering behind him as they chased down scattered coins. At the risk to his own life, his bold action restored the temple as a house of prayer.

 

Diplomacy and tact are virtues – unless they’re used to cloak our cowardice. But there comes a time to take a risk. There comes a time to take our stand.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

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Is It Legal to Call a Pig “Mrs. Johnson”?

Story of the Day for Friday July 13, 2012

Is It Legal to Call a Pig “Mrs. Johnson”?

 

                “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it means nothing. But whoever swears by the gold in the temple must keep his oath.’” 

                                                        Matthew 23:16

 

When a man yelled at Mrs. Johnson and called her a pig, she sued him for defamation of character. The judge found the man guilty and fined him.

After the trial, the man asked the judge. “Does this mean, then, that I can’t call Mrs. Johnson a pig anymore?”

“That is correct,” said the judge.

“Am I allowed to call a pig Mrs. Johnson?”

The judge looked surprised, but said, “Yes, it’s legal to call a pig Mrs. Johnson.”

The man immediately glared at Mrs. Johnson and said, “Hello, Mrs. Johnson!”

 

Ever since we were young, we’ve been honing our skill at “Getting Around the Law.”  Do you remember, as a kid, how you could renege on your promise if you explained that you had your fingers crossed when you made it?

As adults, did we outgrow this impulse, or simply become more sophisticated in doing it?

Most Americans still remember the infamous attempt to dodge the letter of the law in the response, “It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.”

 

Not much has changed since Jesus’ day. The religious leaders of his day had their own version of “crossing your fingers.”  They took the obligation to fulfill your vows very seriously. And well they should. But they created clever ways to get out of their oaths by differentiating the object by which they swore. If you swore by the gold in the temple, it counted. But, if you merely swore by the temple itself, you didn’t have to keep your promise.

 

Look – God is not fooled by our excuses to get around His law. He wants us to face squarely the obligations of righteous living. And, when you fail, honestly admit it.

He forgives.

 

Years ago, the French king would pardon one man from prison. As he went from cell to cell, each prisoner made emphatic appeals to being innocent and wrongfully imprisoned. All except for one man. He hung his head and said, “Your Majesty, I am a criminal. I deserve to be here because I committed the crimes for which I was sentenced.” The king shouted, “Warden! Release this man at once . . . before he corrupts all these other innocent men.”

Face the will of God head on, and the Lord will pick you up when you stumble.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Story of the Day for Thursday July 12, 2012

 

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

 

                   I’ve come down to rescue them . . . and to take them out of that land to a good and spacious land – a land that flows with milk and honey. 

                                                               Exodus 3:8

When James Marshall discovered a small gold nugget at John Sutter’s mill near San Francisco, the word leaked out. Soon, about 400,000 men stampeded to California to search for their fortune.

The amount of gold and the ease in collecting it became more exaggerated by the day. One miner, on his way to California, was doubtful of the wild reports and said, “If I don’t pick up more than a hatful of gold a day, I shall be perfectly satisfied.”

 

There was so much money rumored to be made “in the diggings” that it was difficult to hire anyone to work in a store or shop in California. When a ship arrived at San Francisco, the crew would often abandon their duties to search for gold. Five hundred sailing ships were abandoned at San Francisco and left to rot in the harbor. Boat captains were so desperate for crewmen that they had to pay a lowly cook twice the amount of the captain’s salary.

The military was on hand to keep order among the hundreds of thousands of miners who deluged the area. But over half of the military men deserted their posts to join the miners in their search for riches.

The miners discovered that the journey itself to the gold fields was long and hazardous. Once they arrived, they were forced to provide their own shelter. Prices on all food and goods were astronomical. Disease was widespread. And prospecting was hard, hard work.

Although a few made a fortune, most of the miners didn’t find enough gold to survive, and straggled home with nothing to show for their efforts.

 

I think we all know where this is going, don’t we? I launch into a reproachful warning on the evils of materialism, and we all frown and wonder how some people can be so greedy.

Not so fast.

When God promised to take his people to a land of milk and honey, he, apparently didn’t think it was wrong to offer it, nor a sin for his people to desire it.  And God heightened their interest by appealing to the land’s wealth: “a place where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper from the hills.”

 

True, the gold rush brought out the worst in many greedy miners. But it also brought out the best in those for whom the gold was not the real purpose. It was the dream, the adventure. Though most of the miners returned home with little or nothing, yet the majority glowed about their experience. They viewed it as a challenge, an adventure. They would wax nostalgic in recalling one of the most gratifying times in their lives.

All that is gold does not glitter.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Portrait of an Aide-de-Camp

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 11, 2012 

 

Portrait of an Aide-de-Camp

 

 

                                            Some present were indignant and grumbled among each other. “Why this waste of costly perfume? It could’ve been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her harshly.

                                                                                                                     Mark 14:4-5

 

 

No one could prove anything, but Hercules Mulligan’s loyalties looked questionable. When the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain, many colonists remained loyal to the Crown. Some Loyalists joined the British army while others operated as spies.

The highest concentration of Loyalists lived in New York, and there, on Queen Street in lower Manhatten, Mulligan worked as a tailor. His customers included a high number of wealthy British businessmen and British military officers. In addition to this, Mulligan was the son-in-law of a British naval officer. Not only that, but he billeted Redcoat soldiers in his own home during the war.

And if Mulligan was a Patriot why didn’t he publicly support the revolution?

 

When the Colonists won the War of Independence in 1783, about twenty percent of the Loyalists fled the country to escape reprisals. Those who remained often had their houses burned and possessions confiscated. Others were whipped or tarred and feathered.

The accusations and public outcry against Hercules Mulligan was growing. And then his fate was sealed when a distinguished gentlemen knocked on his door.

The man publicly revealed Mulligan as a spy.

 

One day, Jesus was in Bethany reclining at dinner when a woman took a very expensive jar of perfume and poured it on his head. Jesus’ disciples gaped in astonishment. The perfume was worth a full year’s wages! They berated the woman for her lavish squandering of wealth.

Jesus intervened, because he saw what none of his disciples understood at the time. “She poured perfume on me,” Jesus told them, “to prepare my body for burial.”

What others scorned, Jesus considered an act of sacrificial worship and faithfulness. She understood what even Jesus’ disciples failed to comprehend: that Jesus was about to sacrifice his life.

Faithfulness to the Lord is much easier when we hear applause in the background; passionate allegiance is much harder when you’re bitterly criticized for it.

 

The man who named Hercules a spy explained that Mr. Mulligan was a Patriot spy. Twice his reports of British plans saved the life of the commander-in-chief, George Washington. At night, he and fellow Patriots toppled the statue of King George that stood in a New York park and gave the lead to the Continental army to make bullets.

Not only that, but years earlier he housed a young Tory college student. Mulligan’s passionate arguments for independence converted the young man to the Patriot cause, and he went on to become General Washington’s trusted aide-de-camp.

Today, a portrait of that aide-de-camp is printed on every ten dollar bill. And a portrait of the man who knocked on Mulligan’s door to thank him for his service to his country can be found on a one dollar bill.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Step Out on Our Own

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 10, 2012 

 

Step Out on Our Own

 

                              Each one should examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to someone else. 

                                                                         Galatians 6:4

 

 Roger McGuinn was bowled over the first time he heard the Beatles. McGuinn, trained on folk guitar and banjo, was a songwriter for Bobby Darin. His job was to listen to the latest hit recordings, learn them, and try to mimic the sound. When the first Beatles hits topped the charts, McGuinn noticed they used folk-style passing chords with a rock & roll backbeat.

He loved the unique combination and employed it in his performances in Greenwich Village — so much so that one owner billed his gigs as “Beatle Imitations.”

McGuinn moved to California and helped form the Byrds. But the new band so adored the Beatles that their earliest recordings sounded eerily similar to the sound of their idols. When they watched the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” McGuinn noticed George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 12-string, and immediately bought the same guitar.

The Byrd’s manager, Jim Dickson, however, was troubled by the band’s desire to be like the Beatles, and pushed them to create their own style. So, McGuinn began experimenting with a brighter tone and longer sustain on his Rickenbacker, and developed a simultaneous flatpicking and banjo-style fingerpicking technique to create his famous “jingle-jangle” sound.

 

The Byrds’ first English tour, hyped as “America’s Answer to the Beatles,” was a disaster. The critics dashed off scathing reviews.

But one night, two musicians attended a Byrds concert. Afterward, they went backstage and introduced themselves as John Lennon and George Harrison. They were fascinated with the Byrds unique sound and creative harmonies. They invited the Byrds to their homes and shared musical ideas.

The harsh reviews of the Byrds were tempered when the Beatles publicly announced that the Byrds were their favorite band.

Soon after their visit, George Harrison sent press officer, Derek Taylor, to California to hand deliver to McGuinn a recording of his latest song, “If I Needed Someone.” Harrison, in tribute to McGuinn, had imitated Roger’s guitar work from “Bells of Rhymney.”

The Beatles, whom the Byrds originally sought to emulate, turned out to be the ones who encouraged the Byrds to continue exploiting their own unique style.

 

We learn by imitation. The great comic writer, S. J. Perlman said, “You must learn by imitation,” and adds he “could have been arrested for imitating Lardner” in his early writing style.  Just as all great artists begin by copying the styles of others, one of the best ways to grow in our Christian faith is through role models.

While we may learn by imitating others, however, eventually we must step out on our own. The Byrds began by trying to emulate someone else, but found their greatest strength was to discover their own creative potential.

Roger McGuinn acknowledges his debt to the influence and encouragement of the Beatles. On his solo CD, “Limited Edition,” his opening song is George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” But McGuinn has also learned to step out on his own, not only by finding his own musical style, but also, in 1977, by finding Christ.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 
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Distilling the Truth

Story of the Day for Saturday July 7, 2012

Distilling the Truth

                    . . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

                                                            2 Corinthians 1:18, 20

 

At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.  “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?”  But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!

 

Let’s talk about bumper stickers.  Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.”  In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.

 

Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.

 

Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the  whole thing.  Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker?  I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker.  Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith.  When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going.  On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.”  When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.”  When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

 

Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God.  In my bumbling way, I want to do the same.  But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.

Maybe.

But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator.  Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word.  Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 
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The Sins You Never Committed

Story of the Day for Friday July 6, 2012 

The Sins You Never Committed

Then the Lord said to Moses . . . “Choose some towns to be your cities of refuge.” 

                                       Numbers 35:11

Chuck Swindoll tells the story about a Texas law firm. Every Thanksgiving the boss would set turkeys on the walnut table in the board room. Every attorney in the law firm stood around the table, and in turn, would pick up a turkey, say how grateful they were to work at the law firm, and how grateful they were for the turkey this Thanksgiving season.

But Swindoll explains how one young attorney has no use for a turkey. Besides having no idea how to cook one, he was single and didn’t need a whole turkey.

His co-workers understood this, so one year they replaced his turkey with one made out of paper mâché and weighted to make it feel like a real turkey.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the young attorney picked up his bird, announced how grateful he was to work at the firm, how thankful he was for his turkey, and went home.

He caught a bus and, with the large turkey on his lap, wondered what he was going to do with it. Just then a discouraged-looking man boarded the bus and sat next to him. The attorney learned the man had a large family but was out of work. He had spent the day job-hunting with no success.

The attorney saw his opportunity to do a good deed; he would give the man his turkey. But he didn’t want the man to feel like a beggar, so he asked him, “How much money do you have?”

He had less than three dollars.

The attorney said, “I’d like to sell you this turkey.”

The man was moved — thrilled that he could bring home a turkey for Thanksgiving. When the man got off the bus he waved to the attorney. “God bless you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget you.”

Can you picture the man bursting through the front door? “Kids, you’ll never believe what a nice man I met today! Come here, look what I have.”

On Monday morning, the young attorney’s co-workers were dying to find out about his turkey.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? And it feels awful.

When we do something wrong, it’s often easier to find forgiveness than when we hurt someone unintentionally and have no way to apologize. How do you find forgiveness for something you don’t really believe was wrong?

In the days of Moses, God told him to set up refuge cities for accidental sins. If you killed someone unintentionally, you could flee to a refuge city and be ensured safety until justice was done.

Those refuge cities are a small picture of who God is for us. “O Lord,” Isaiah says, “. . . you have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress.”

When we’re feeling bad, God’s refuge is a safe place to be. He can provide healing — even for the sins you never committed.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
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A Spinoff on the Definition of Love

Story of the Day for Thursday July 5, 2012

A  Spinoff on the Definition of Love

                  . . . and whatever other commandment God may give is summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

                                               Romans 13:9

 

In Joliet, Illinois, it’s illegal to mispronounce the name of the city. You can be fined five dollars for saying “jolly-ETTE.”

Some people grumble that lawmakers and bureaucrats pass regulations with the sole purpose of being obnoxious and aggravating the general public. I disagree. More often than not, people draft regulations because they want to improve conditions, ensure our safety, and assist the handicapped.

Rules, however, even when well-intentioned, don’t always achieve their purpose.

The Amish, as part of their religious practice, reject much of modern society. They don’t use electricity or drive cars.

In 2003, the state of New York mandated new building codes requiring all new houses to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Further, all new buildings must meet new codes and be certified by an architect or engineer. The old code for window size was four foot square. The new code mandated bedroom windows be 7.7 foot square.

Bedroom window size isn’t a big deal — unless your Amish. The Old Order Amish of Chautauqua, New York, believe that keeping the ways of the 19th century is vital to their religion — including the design of their houses. The bedroom windows of their houses falls an inch-and-a-half shy of the new code. The state argued it was necessary in order to escape if the house caught on fire.

The Amish think the new code is senseless; they can climb through their old windows just fine. And the local fire department claims they would have no trouble climbing into their windows. But the Amish don’t believe in telephones. Their houses almost always burn down before the fire department can be notified.

The local town board sympathized with the Amish and approved their new homes. But the New York Department of State charged the community of Chautauqua with being in violation of state law.

I don’t know how the issue was resolved. I do know that when bureaucrats have power to make regulations, they often make people’s lives worse rather than better.

I’d hate to live in Joliet and have a lisp.

Have you ever thought of God as a bureaucrat — making laws designed to burden you and make you unhappy? Well, he’s not like that at all. Every command that God gives is a spinoff on the definition of love. God only forbids behavior that doesn’t promote love.

If you want to help others, God won’t force you to rehang your windows first. When you want to love your neighbor, you don’t even have to ask for permission.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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A Ragtag Militia

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 4, 2012

A Ragtag Militia  

 

                    David’s troops fled from the Philistines at the barley field. But they took their stand in the middle of the filed and defended it . . . and the Lord rescued them with a great victory. 

                                                   1 Chronicles 11:13-14    

 

 

Imagine that terrorists attacked Washington D.C. and destroyed the White House, the capitol, the Library of Congress – all of our most important government buildings.  

Did you know that it once happened?  

In 1812, Great Britain was the most powerful army in the world. They had just defeated Napoleon and were well-trained and battle-tested. The United States had virtually no army at all.  

When the British invaded our shores, they marched on Washington and burned all the government buildings (except the post office). After the devastation, President Madison showed no signs of panic. He convened his cabinet in the post office and Congress met in a hotel.  

These were dark days for our country.  

Many voices called for surrender. How could we withstand such a might force? The President, however, refused to back down. He installed new officers in the military who were willing to stand up to the British.  

 

The British army’s next target was Baltimore. Major George Armistead was chosen to defend the small fort at the mouth of the harbor. Before British ships could destroy Baltimore that had to get past Fort McHenry.  

Armistead convinced the local merchants to line up their ships across the mouth of the harbor . . . and sink them – thus forming a blockade. He installed sixty cannons in the fort and said, “We are ready, except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the fort. And it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”  

Working day and night, Mary Pinkersguild oversaw the making of an American flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet.  

 

The British navy arrived on September 11th, 1814. They unloaded 50 ships full of infantry to attack the city of Baltimore, while the warships unleashed a furious barrage on Fort McHenry. 190 pound cannonballs hit with such force they rattled houses in Baltimore over three miles away.  

All night long the sky was lit up as the British bombarded the fort. The navy launched 700 rockets and over 1500 cannonballs.  

At dawn, the Americans would raise their flag or a white flag of surrender. An American lawyer, captured by the British, watched the bombardment and saw, by the dawn’s early light, those broad stripes and bright stars . . . 

The British infantry retreated and the navy sailed away. Who could have predicted that a ragtag militia could stand up to the power of the British forces? But they did.  

 

When the time comes for you to stand your ground, don’t calculate the power of the forces arrayed against you; think only of that for which you would give your all.  

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

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Faith Trumps Daydreams

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 3, 2012

 

Faith Trumps Daydreams

                   We remember the words of our Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

                                                    Acts 20:35

 

 What would it take for you to be happy and fulfilled?

If I were a betting man, I would guess it has something to do with money. (And the very fact I refer to betting suggests my focus is on gaining money.)

 

In 1913, Marion was born into a dream. She was raised in a Hungarian castle — attended by maids, butlers, governesses, and chauffeurs. When her family traveled, they brought their own linen, because using the bed sheets of the common people was below their dignity.

In Vienna, Marion met the movie director Otto Preminger, and soon they were married. They moved to southern California where Preminger’s career took off, and the couple basked in fame. Marion ascended the social ranks as a prominent Hollywood glamour queen with the wealth to feed her obsession for high living and the latest fashions.

When I imagine happiness, it harmonizes with Marion Preminger’s life: butlers serving hors d’oeuvres in my castle, or movie stars bidding for my attention.

 

But Marion wasn’t happy. She began to drown under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and the numerous affairs between her and her husband shattered their marriage. Depressed and desperate, Marion became suicidal.

Preminger fled from her broken life and returned to Europe — hoping to rise as a Parisian socialite.

 

As a little girl, she had heard stories of Albert Schweitzer, a world-renowned theologian and organist who retreated to Africa to serve the poor.  One day, she learned that Schweitzer was making a return visit to Europe and would be in Gunsbach in northeastern France. Preminger sought out Dr. Schweitzer and found him playing the organ in the village church.

After dinner at his house, Schweitzer invited Marion to come to Lambarene and join in the work at the African hospital.

The girl who had been raised in a castle, who had been pampered and spoiled, now found herself bathing babies, changing bedpans, and feeding lepers. In her autobiography, All I Want Is Everything, Marion says of Schweitzer: “I thank God he allowed me to become a helper, and in helping, I found everything.”

 

My daydreams and my faith don’t always get along. I blissfully dream of how happy I’d be with a bigger house and season tickets to Packers games. I never fantasize about finding fulfillment by changing bedpans.

But faith trumps daydreams. Life isn’t about how much we get but how much we give. Jesus had it right: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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How It Should End

Story of the Day for Monday July 2, 2012 

How It Should End

 

                   Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now want to reach your goal through human effort? 

                                                                   Galatians 3:3

Why is it that, whenever we try to be more religious than other people, we end up becoming worse?

The Puritans felt the Reformation didn’t go far enough. Seeking greater purity, some separatist groups removed themselves from other Christians.

Alice Morse Earle, who liked rummaging through old documents, discovered some juicy news from these groups. John Lewis and Sarah Chapman, she found, were accused and tried for sitting together under an apple tree on the Lord’s Day. A soldier from Dunstable was fined forty shillings for wetting a piece of an old hat and stuffing it in his shoe on the Sabbath. In 1656, Captain Kemble from Boston was put in the public stocks for his “lewd and unseemly behavior” of kissing his wife at the doorstep of his house. (This was the first time Kemble had seen his wife since a three year voyage).

 

Why have so many people done things in the name of Jesus that Jesus himself would deplore? Could it be that, whenever we seek to become superior to others, we’re moving in the wrong direction? The prime virtue of a Christian should be humility. When we discover we’re covered in muck — just like everyone else — we can honestly report the grim news to God, and know he’ll forgive us. Humility is what faith is about.

Seeking to be better than others, however, neglects humility in favor of pride, judgmentalism, false piety, self-righteousness, minimizing personal faults, fear of those on the “outside” (which breeds slander) and group conformity for fear of expulsion.

 

“Well, Bartholomew, I thank God we aren’t like the heathen.” (pride)

“Me, too.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“The heathen probably lurk in dark alleys and torture cats.” (fear of those outside the group, which leads to slander)

“Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“But, praise God, on the Judgment Day, the Most High will reward us for the fruit of our labors.” (self-righteousness)

“Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“Hey, are you eating that without praying first?” (judgmentalism)

“It’s, ah . . . it’s just a stalk of celery.” (minimizing personal faults)

“So? I thank the Almighty for every morsel that touches my lips.” (false piety)

“I thanked the Lord, but I said it in my head.” (lying to cover own sins)

“You should’ve at least bowed your head in reverence.” (false piety)

“I’m going to do that from now on.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

 

We begin the new life by relying on the grace of Jesus, and that’s how it should end.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Reclassify him as a Dim Bulb

Story of the Day for Saturday June 30, 2012

Reclassify him as a Dim Bulb

 

                             For in the way you judge others, you will be judged.

                                                                  Matthew 7:2

 

My friend Lee Ressler once told me a humorous story:

Last fall, Lee had ordered some fishing flies for himself and his friend, whom we’ll call Jim. When the order came in, Lee invited Jim over to pick them up.  Jim knocked on the door, but Lee was outside around the side of the house. He shouted to Jim to go in, while Lee went inside from a side door.

Jim stood in the entryway — accompanied by a large, shaggy dog. Lee offered Jim a chair, while he plopped down on his sofa. While he got out the flies, the dog laid on the floor at Jim’s feet.

Lee was a little peeved. Not only was the dog stinky, but he felt guests should at least ask permission before bringing their dogs inside someone else’s house.

As the men continued to talk about fishing flies, the dog jumped up on the sofa next to Lee and he could no longer control his annoyance. He commanded the dog to get off.

His friend never apologized nor reprimanded his dog for jumping on the furniture.

Lee was inwardly fuming and offered his friend some lemonade so he could stalk into the kitchen to regain his composure. The nerve!  But as he got up, the dog trotted into the kitchen with him. As soon as Lee opened the door, the dog poked his nose into the fridge.

That did it!

“This dog is hungry!” Lee hotly told his friend. “If you want to keep a pet, you’ve got to take care of ‘em.”

Jim was puzzled. “My dog? I’ve never seen this dog before. I thought he belonged to you!”

 

After hearing the story of Lee and Jim’s silent criticism of each other, I knew this would be a perfect story about judging others falsely, and asked Lee if he could scribble down some notes on the incident for me.

A few days later he handed me his notes. I thanked him for his trouble, and as we sat down, I scanned his notes.

“This is great,” I told Lee, “but, in order to make the story more vivid, I could use a few details. What kind of dog was it?”

“I don’t know.”

Oh well. Probably a mutt.

“What color’s the sofa?”

“Don’t know.”

“How could anyone not know the color of his own sofa?” I thought to myself.

“Well, what’s your friend’s name?”

“I don’t know, but I think I could find out.”

Lee always seemed like such an intelligent guy, but I was just beginning to reclassify him as a dim bulb, when he clarified, “This incident didn’t happen to me; it happened to this guy I know who lives west of town.”

 

Now I know why Jesus came to earth to cover us in grace; we’re hopeless without it. But, before I tell you stories about not judging others, maybe I’ll work on it a little more myself.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

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Truth Should Never Go For Walks Alone

Story of the Day for Friday June 29, 2012

Truth Should Never Go For Walks Alone

                    . . . You desire truth in the inner being; deep in the heart you teach me wisdom.

                                 Psalm 51:6

Just because something’s true doesn’t mean it’s good.  For example, you can’t argue with the truthfulness of this statement: “Build a man a fire and you’ll keep him warm for a day; set a man on fire and you’ll keep him warm the rest of his life.”

When I was in college, the poster over my dorm room desk showed a photo of a bloated, warty toad. Below the photo was the maxim:

EAT A LIVE TOAD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING

AND NOTHING WORSE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU FOR THE REST OF THE DAY

The poster amused me because, while it may be true, it’s not advice I intended to follow. Truth should never go for walks alone; it should always be accompanied by wisdom, fairness, common sense, or love.

The University of Houston was in a tight basketball game against UAB when the Houston coach, Tom Penders, suffered a heart attack. He fell to his knees, then collapsed face down on the court.

League rules state that coaches and players on the sideline may not step across the foul line while the ball is in play. However, because part of Penders body slumped across the foul line, officials called him for a technical foul.

Penders suffered from cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition, and the medical staff put him on oxygen and carried him off the court on a stretcher. The official originally assumed that Penders was reacting to his call. But when it became obvious that Penders was seriously ill, the three-man officiating crew refused to reverse the call.

The referees were simply following the rules. The rule book never said it was acceptable to cross the foul line if you collapsed with a heart attack. Yet, while the referee adhered to “The Truth,” the conference commissioners, coordinator of officials, and the general public, felt differently. Truth should’ve teamed up with common sense, and the technical foul should’ve been reversed.

The incredible love of Jesus brings us a truth that we can twist to our own harm. Is it true that someone could become a drug lord or engage in insider trader on the stock market and still find forgiveness? Yes! It’s true. We can find forgiveness from any sin.

Since it’s true that all sins can be forgiven, does that mean it’s okay to sin? Utilizing truth in this way is about as brilliant as eating a live toad first thing in the morning.

When King David prayed his famous prayer of confession in Psalm 51, he didn’t just speak of learning what is true; he longed for the deepest kind of truth: the truth that knows God’s heart.

                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Kissing a Clenched Fist

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 27, 2012 

 Kissing a Clenched Fist

                  They got into such a heated argument that they parted company.

                                              Acts 15:39

 Before Paul became a believer, he despised the church. He breathed out murderous threats against the church and tried to arrest anyone who listened to Christian radio stations. Jesus finally turned Paul’s life around, but the church leaders were too afraid of him to let him into the fellowship. Barnabas, bless his heart, took Paul to meet the leaders of the church and convinced them his conversion was genuine.

Paul befriended Barnabas and the two stood by each other’s side in a great theological debate about how to handle pagans who came to the faith. On a missionary trip, the two shared their adventures together.

Yet, despite their close friendship and shared adventures, Paul and Barnabas got into a squabble about whether to take Mark along on their next trip. The argument grew so heated that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.

We’re all a bit daffy about arguments. If we estimated how often the rest of the world is in the right when they argue, we’d say, “Oh, about half the time.” But, if we ask ourselves how often we’re in the right when we get in an argument, we would respond, “All the time!” All of us think this way, but if you do the math, it doesn’t add up.

Arguments often flare up over trivial differences. If Paul and Barnabas would have decided to take a nap first or share a candy bar, I doubt they would have even gotten into the scuffle they did. They could’ve worked it out.

James Kay, in his book, Seasons of Grace, described an incident in Damascus, Syria, where a bicyclist rode down a market street, balancing a crate of oranges on his handlebars. A man, bent over with a heavy load, walked in his way and the two collided. Oranges went rolling down the street and the two got into a quarrel over who was at fault. A crowd gathered as the cursing and clenched fists indicated a fight was about to erupt.

Then a little man walked into the fray, took the clenched fist of the bicyclist in his hands and kissed it. The two men relaxed and the crowd murmured their approval. Instead of assigning blame everyone gathered the oranges and put them back in the crate, as the little man slipped into the crowd.

Like the rest of us, even the apostle Paul could slip up. But all was not lost because he knew where he wanted to go. He knew that we should avoid quarreling, but when we do, we must learn to reconcile.

As an old man, he advised Timothy, “Avoid foolish and stupid disputes because you know they cause quarrels. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel.”

And, he also asked Timothy to bring Mark along on his next visit, because “he is a good help in my ministry.”

(copyright by climbinghhigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
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We Stand on Cars and Freeze

Story of the Day for Tuesday June 26, 2012

We Stand on Cars and Freeze

                                      I heard it, but I did not understand. 

                                                                               Daniel 12:8

 

When my wife was a teenager she worked at the Spotted Bear Guest Ranch. One day, as they prepared potatoes, Connie, the other cook asked her: “What did you call these?”

“Hog rotten potatoes.”

For years, Darla heard others talk about hog rotten potatoes, but never connected them with the written words: au gratin potatoes.

 

When we listen to music our minds struggle to make sense of lyrics that we can’t quite understand. One woman heard the Rolling Stones’ lyrics: “I’ll never be your beast of burden” as “I’ll never leave your pizza burnin’.”  When the Beatles recorded Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, John Lennon sang: “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” Some, however, heard it as, “The girl with colitis goes by.”

Because of their perennial popularity, Christmas songs are inevitably prone to misinterpretation. One kid was caught singing, “Dashing through the snow, with one horse, soap, and sleigh,” and ended the verse with, “What fun it is to write and sing, a slaying song with knives.”

 

As a child, Sylvia Wright’s mother read poetry to her. She remembered a 17th-century ballad, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray.” She heard the end of the first stanza as:

They have slain the Earl O’Moray

And Lady Mondegreen.

Years later, she read the ballad and was surprised to learn the last line actually read: “And laid him on the green.”

Wright wrote about her mishearing of the words in a magazine article in 1954, and now “mondegreen” has been accepted in English dictionaries to define an error resulting from a mishearing of something said or sung.

 

The people in Jesus’ day loved to discuss Scripture. The give and take of civil, but spirited debate with those of opposing viewpoints was a healthy way to correct mondegreens and sand off the rough edges.

Access to various beliefs and ideas has exploded in our generation. Yet, the trend today is not to engage in discussion with those of opposing beliefs. Instead, we find religious and political groups huddling together and discussing their beliefs only with those who agree with them. The result has been an increase in misinformation and the growth of whacky ideas.

 

Unless you feel very insecure about your understanding of the Bible, discuss it with others — especially those who disagree with you.

It was only when the four-year-old Canadian, Ryan, began singing that his parents had the opportunity to correct his version of the national anthem. The last line says, “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee” rather than ” . . . we stand on cars and freeze.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Lessening Our Height

Story of the Day for Monday June 24, 2012

Lessening Our Height

                 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by the quality of his behavior – in actions that demonstrate wisdom’s humility. 

                                                                  James 3:13

A police officer arrested a man in Plentywood, Montana, for drunk driving. The man refused to take the breathalyzer and insisted he had to go to the bathroom first. The officer granted his request and waited outside the rest room until he came out.

When the motorist emerged his lips and tongue were blue. He had been told that toilet bowl freshener would disguise alcohol on the breath and foil a breath analyzer.

He was wrong.

Ignorance of what is true can leave us sitting behind bars with an unpleasant taste in our mouth. John Newton, who authored the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” said: “Zeal without knowledge is like speed to a man in the dark.”.

Knowledge is vitally important because it can keep our mouth from turning blue. Yet, knowledge, in itself, can also be harmful. Philip Gulley makes a telling observation in his novel, Home Town Tales, when he writes: “Teenagers sit at the picnic table and carve dirty words into the wood. It is a testimony to our town’s academic excellence that all the words are spelled correctly.”

Education that has been torn free from morality cannot make you wise; it can only increase the effectiveness of evil. Adlai Stevenson liked to tell the story about the prisoner who said to his cellmate: “I’m going to study and improve myself – and when you’re still a common thief, I’ll be an embezzler.”

Wisdom can’t be measured by an I.Q. test or a tendency to win at Trivial Pursuit™.  As odd as it may sound, the Bible tells us the foundation for wisdom is humility. Wisdom, in other words, is not rooted in information, but in character.

Look at it this way: the best thing we could ever do is allow God to pour his love over us. But God’s gifts can only be given to the humble. Whoever accepts God’s gracious offer and responds by living filled with the fruits of love, is wiser than anyone holding a diploma from M.I.T.

When I was in grade school I remember reading a book of brain teasers at my cousin’s house. One posed this problem: A truck tried to go under a bridge and got stuck. People brought in tow trucks and tried to pull it out, but it was wedged tight. Then a young boy suggested they let the air out of the truck tires. It worked.

Everyone else was focused on power to dislodge the truck; no one but the young boy saw the problem from a different perspective: decreasing the height of the truck. But that’s what true wisdom is like; lessening our height that we might know what it’s like to be free.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Living Between Steps

Story of the Day for Friday June 22, 2012

Live Between Steps

 

                  You have swept them away in the sleep of death; they are like new grass that springs up in the morning – though in the morning it springs up fresh, by evening it’s dry and withered.

                                                                             Psalm 90:5-6

 

A study revealed that most people don’t see themselves as “living” so much as waiting to live. They’re waiting until graduation, waiting until they get married. They’re waiting until they get the big promotion, waiting until they can retire. And then, they imagine, they can really start living. . . until they must wait in a nursing home to die.

 

This psalm helps us see the brevity of our life in this world. It speaks of our lives as grass – which springs up in the morning, and is dry and withered by evening.

Is this a depressing thought? Well, it shouldn’t be. Instead, it should remind us that we don’t have a moment to waste living without the compassion of God. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

When we have learned to number our days, we will have learned to fill each day with meaning because it is filled with the unfailing love of God.

 

One December, a university professor was invited to speak at a military base. A soldier met the professor at the airport.

As they walked down the concourse to the baggage claim, the soldier kept meandering off: once to help an elderly woman with her suitcase, then to lift two toddlers up so they could see Santa Claus, and once again to help a person with directions.

“Where did you learn that?” the professor asked.

“What?”

“Where did you learn to live like that?”

“Oh,” the soldier said, “during the war, I guess.” He told the professor that his duty in Vietnam was to clear minefields. It was a dangerous job, and he watched as, one after another, his buddies were blown up by exploding mines.

He never knew whether his next step would be his last. “I learned,” he said, “to live between steps.”

 

Bob Franke wrote a song, “Thanksgiving Eve,” which echoes the meaning of Psalm 90. The chorus is:

 

What can you do with your days but work and hope 

Let your dreams bind your work to your play 

What can you do with each moment of your life 

But love til you’ve loved it away 

Love til you’ve loved it away. 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Knowing Which Way to Run

Story of the Day for Thursday June 21, 2012

Knowing Which Way to Run

                   Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, with hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience. 

                                                                                   Hebrews 10:22

“Oh, look at that horse! I want it.”

We were driving in the Black Hills a few miles from Mount Rushmore and my daughter, Elly, spotted a ranch that hosted trail rides.

“Which one?” I asked.

“The pinto. Can we buy it?”

“No, we can’t afford to buy another horse. We’re going to have to steal it.”

“How?”

“Easy,” I told her. “We slip into the stable around midnight when no one’s around.”

“But how will we get her home?”

“We’ll tie her halter to the back of our van and she can trot behind us back to Montana.”

When we reached Mount Rushmore I walked into the visitor center to ask if there were any open campgrounds in the area. The man behind the counter said, “Yes, just a few miles west of here is a campground I think you’ll like. It’s called Horsethief Lake.”

Later on our trip, we spent a night in Medora in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I started reading an account Roosevelt wrote in 1886 about chasing thieves who stole his boat. The men they chased, Roosevelt wrote, were also suspected of the “worst of frontier crimes, horse-stealing.”

Even though we were only joking about stealing a horse, reminders of our imaginary crime began popping up everywhere. If this happens in an innocuous situation, how much more ominous is it when we have a guilty conscience?

Guilt is a good emotion — just as pain is a good sensation. Neither are pleasant, of course. But if you accidentally lay your hand on a hot stove, pain screams “Hey! That’s not such a good idea!” Pain watches over you to protect you from serious damage.

In the same way, guilt sets off alarms to warn us when our soul is in danger.

My natural impulse when I have a guilty conscience, however, is to run in the wrong direction. When I do wrong, I know God disapproves. So, instead of moving away from the guilt, I move away from God.

But when we’ve messed up, the Bible urges us to draw closer to God. We can’t erase our guilt, but our heavenly Father can. If we see him carrying a bucket, it’s not because he intends to slap us on the side of the head with it. The bucket’s full of water because he intends to wash us clean. He wants to forgive our sin and remove the guilt.

The secret to being a would-be horse thief is knowing which way to run.

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 
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How Our Story Ends

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 20, 2012

How Our Story Ends

 

                                                                                       But what will you do in the end?

                                                                                                                       Jeremiah 5:31

 

George Hopkins wanted to prove he could do the impossible and, unfortunately, succeeded. On October 1, 1941, Hopkins jumped from a plane and parachuted to the top of Devils Tower in Wyoming.

While we can admire George’s daring feat, many feel he should’ve spent more time meditating on how he planned to get down. In Hopkins’ defense, he had instructed his pilot to drop an axle from an old Ford onto the summit of the Tower. He planned to wedge the axle into a crevice, tie a rope to it, and shinny down to safety.

When the axle hit, however, it bounced over the edge. It’s just as well — the plan wouldn’t have worked anyway. His rope was too short.

Now what?

We have a daredevil sitting on top of an enormous monolith rising over 1200 feet from the surrounding countryside — without food, shelter, or warm clothes.

 

Achieving bold, daring goals is a waste of time . . . if you haven’t planned what comes next. Many professional athletes are obsessed with the dream of standing on the winner’s podium. But once they achieve their goal, they don’t know how to climb down. Whether the goal is winning at sports, raising a family, or reaching retirement, many suffer from depression after they have reached their goal.

Those who are most focused on achieving goals are most apt to flounder afterwards because they never planned for what comes next.

 

Hall of Fame baseball manager, Earl Weaver, approached the game differently from most. If a runner on first steals second base, he’s better positioned to score. But Weaver didn’t like to call for a steal unless he only needed one run to win the game. Holding the first baseman to the bag increased the possibility of several runs scored rather than one. Weaver had the uncanny ability to focus on the final score rather than the next score.

 

When we pray, we usually ask the Lord for blue skies at our picnic. But God will often disappoint us when we are focused on our present happiness because he is more concerned with how our story ends.

Jesus doesn’t care how rocky a road is; he cares where the road ends up.

 

George Hopkins’ hairbrained stunt left him stranded on top of Devils Tower for six days. He was eventually rescued by a handful of experienced mountain climbers.

Afterward, when Hopkins was asked why he did it, he said it was “to let people know just what a person can do with a parachute.”

 

He showed us far more than he imagined.

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Let’s Make the Church Together

Story of the Day for Tuesday June 19, 2012

Let’s Make the Church Together

  “I have given them the glory you gave me, in order that they may be one just as we are one.”

John 17:22

The tiny town of Donald in British Columbia had only one employer in 1897: the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the CPR decided to move its divisional headquarters west to Revelstoke, the citizens of Donald knew their village was doomed.

The railroad company offered to move any building in Donald to Revelstoke – free of charge. When the citizens of Revelstoke asked to have St. Peter’s Anglican Church, the railroad company began to dismantle it to move it to its new home.

Many of the residents chose not to move to Revelstoke with the railroad, but instead stayed in their mountain valley, moving south to Windermere.

Rufus Kimpton, a leading citizen in Donald, was one of those who moved to Windermere. Rufus’ wife, Celina, dearly missed her beloved church in Donald.

So Rufus stole it.

He had the disassembled church shipped by wagon and barge to Windermere and rebuilt. To this day it is named “St. Peter’s Anglican Church – The Stolen Church.”

While the church was being stolen, however, someone stole the church bell and installed it in their church in the town of Golden – causing their church to be renamed: “St. Paul’s of the Stolen Bell.” The citizens of Golden were so delighted with their heist that they held a parade in honor of their achievement.

The citizens in Revelstoke were upset and demanded the return of their stolen church and stolen bell. The citizens of Windermere were furious and demanded the return of the stolen bell – based on the dubious claim that they had stolen it first.

For over sixty years, resentment smoldered between Windermere and Golden over the rightful owner of the stolen bell. Then, in 1960, a group from Windermere stole back the 600 pound stolen bell from the church in Golden.

Officials in Windermere, however, decided it wasn’t right to steal a stolen bell and, since they already owned a stolen church, they returned the bell to the church in Golden.

Jesus prayed that his followers would learn to live in unity, but sometimes it looks more like his church has divided up into competing teams.

During a Vacation Bible School, a new student was brought into a teacher’s preschool class. The boy had only one arm and the teacher had no time to prepare his class from making inappropriate remarks to the little boy.

The teacher had the kids do their usual closing. Interlocking their fingers they said: “This is the church, and this is the steeple. Open the doors . . .” The teacher, to her horror, realized she had done the very thing she feared her kids would do.

As she stood there, embarrassed, a little girl sitting next to the boy put her left hand up to the boy’s right hand and said, “Davey, let’s make the church together.”

Why not?

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Combining Creativity and Innocence

Story of the Day for Friday June 15, 2012

Combining Creativity and Innocence

                           Be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.

                                                                          Matthew 10:16

When Peter Mayle and his wife moved from England to southern France, they bought a quaint old house. The house needed major repairs, so they hired various local construction workers.

The Mayles soon became acquainted with the relaxed, Mediterranean view of time.  Workers would disappear from the job for weeks – even months.

This didn’t overly concern the Mayles during the hot summer months. But as November started pushing toward December, the construction was still unfinished.

Then, Peter’s wife had an idea. She invited all the construction workers to attend their Christmas party – to celebrate the completion of their home remodeling. But – and this was genius – she invited the construction workers wives as well.

Peter Mayle, in his book, A Year in Provence, explained that “no wife would want her husband to be the one not to have finished his part of the work. This would cause loss of face among the other wives and public embarrassment, followed by some ugly recriminations in the car on the way home.”

Within two days, Mayle says, the cement mixer was back in action, and the carpenters were back on the job. All of the projects were completed before the Christmas party.

I’m not sure if, as a Christian, I’m supposed to like this story. Maybe we shouldn’t appeal to people’s baser motives. All the same, I find Mrs. Mayle’s solution to their dilemma absolutely delightful.

We don’t have to look for trouble in this world. Trouble will find us. And when we are called to suffer persecution, Jesus tells us to be as harmless as doves.

Yet, all the same, he wants us to be shrewd.

I can’t think of a disciple in the Bible who endured more torments than the apostle Paul. He never flinched from suffering.

Yet, when Paul stood on trial before the Jewish high council, he made a shrewd move. He knew the council was composed of Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection of the dead), and Sadducees (who didn’t believe in heaven or hell). So, when he stood up to defend himself, he mentioned that he was raised a Pharisee and was standing trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead.

The Pharisees immediately sprang to his defense, and soon the judges were in a heated uproar. Paul had cleverly divided the council.

Somewhere between slapping people with lawsuits and suffering needlessly, with our tail between our legs, there is a middle ground. And, in that place, we are called to combine all the creativity and innocence that the Spirit provides.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Two Bridges

Story of the Day for Thursday June 14, 2012

Two Bridges

                      The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 

                And the Lord responded, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea’ and it would obey you.”

                                                 Luke 17:5-6

 

I’m going to ask you a question in just a moment. It’s not a trick question, but most Christians answer it wrong, while those who aren’t particularly religious tend to give the right answer.

 

You and a friend go for a walk and come to a raging river. Since it’s impossible to swim across it, you look along the bank, and spot two bridges.

The first bridge is buttressed on both ends with thick concrete. Massive steel girders span the river, which have been overlaid with thick oak planks. It looks like you could drive a tank over it.

The other bridge is an oddity. It’s constructed out of cardboard and fastened together with duct tape. The light rain the night before has left the cardboard sagging somewhat, but it is, nevertheless, a bridge.

Your friend asks, “What bridge you gonna to take?”

“What! You’re joking, right? I’m taking the steel bridge.”

You soon discover your friend isn’t joking. “I’m taking the cardboard bridge,” he says.

As your friend starts out across the sagging cardboard bridge, he doesn’t have the slightest concern about its strength. He’s humming a song as he boldly strides across.

You, on the other hand, are unnerved. Your palms begin to sweat and you notice there’s a tremor in your hands. Thinking it will help to better disperse your weight, you begin to crawl across the steel bridge.

 

So, here’s the question. Who will make it safely to the other side: the person with the strong faith or the person with the weak faith?

I’ve asked this question dozens of times, and, invariably, Christians tend to blurt out, “The person with the strong faith.”

Wrong answer. The person who will make it safely across the river is you, with the weak faith. Your friend may have a strong faith, but it is faith in a weak bridge incapable of holding a person’s weight. You, on the other hand, may have a weak faith, but as long as it is in a strong bridge, you will make it safely to the other side.

 

Jesus’ followers asked him to increase their faith – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But Jesus knew they were looking at things from the wrong perspective. Ultimately, it’s not how much faith you have that matters; it’s what you have your faith in that counts.

Even a weak faith, a faith as tiny as a mustard seed, can do great things if it’s placed in the true source of power and strength.

      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

 

 

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Stand Your Ground

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 13, 2012

Stand Your Ground

 

                             David’s troops fled from the Philistines at the barley field. But they took their stand in the middle of the filed and defended it . . . and the Lord rescued them with a great victory. 

1 Chronicles 11:13-14

 

Imagine that terrorists attacked Washington D.C. and destroyed the White House, the capitol, the Library of Congress – all of our most important government buildings.

Did you know that it once happened?

In 1812, Great Britain was the most powerful army in the world. They had just defeated Napoleon and were well-trained and battle-tested. The United States had virtually no army at all.

When the British invaded our shores, they marched on Washington and burned all the government buildings (except the post office). After the devastation, President Madison showed no signs of panic. He convened his cabinet in the post office and Congress met in a hotel.

These were dark days for our country.

Many voices called for surrender. How could we withstand such a mighty force? The President, however, refused to back down. He installed new officers in the military who were willing to stand up to the British.

 

The British army’s next target was Baltimore. Major George Armistead was chosen to defend the small fort at the mouth of the harbor. Before British ships could destroy Baltimore that had to get past Fort McHenry.

Armistead convinced the local merchants to line up their ships across the mouth of the harbor . . . and sink them – thus forming a blockade. He installed sixty cannons in the fort and said, “We are ready, except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the fort. And it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

Working day and night, Mary Pinkersguild oversaw the making of an American flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet.

 

The British navy arrived on September 11th, 1814. They unloaded 50 ships full of infantry to attack the city of Baltimore, while the warships unleashed a furious barrage on Fort McHenry. 190 pound cannonballs hit with such force they rattled houses in Baltimore over three miles away.

All night long the sky was lit up as the British bombarded the fort. The navy launched 700 rockets and over 1500 cannonballs.

At dawn, the Americans would raise their flag or a white flag of surrender. An American lawyer, captured by the British, watched the bombardment and saw, by the dawn’s early light, those broad stripes and bright stars . . .

The British infantry retreated and the navy sailed away. Who could have predicted that a ragtag militia could stand up to the power of the British forces? But they did.

 

When the time comes for you to stand your ground, don’t calculate the power of the forces arrayed against you; think only of that for which you would give your all.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Dashed Dreams and a Higher Plan

Story of the Day for Monday June 11, 2012

Dashed Dreams and a Higher Plan 

                    . . . Moses named his son Gershom, explaining, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.” 

                               Exodus 2:22       

Moses’ life is curious in that his personal tragedies set him on the road to a higher purpose. Persecution forces his mother to float her baby away in a reed basket. But then he’s discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses is raised in the shadow of the pharaoh, yet is later is forced to flee into the desert. In Midian, he marries and raises a family and learns the peaceful, nomadic life. But then God makes him go back to Egypt as a vocal, public figure. All of the major disappointments in Moses’ life are the prelude to a higher plan.  

 

David Thompson, born in 1770, was raised in poverty. Yet, due to this, he found a steady job in Canada with the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was only fourteen. His work as a fur trader, unfortunately, was disrupted when a serious leg injury forced him to convalesce for two winters.  

This setback, however, enabled Thompson to spend time with surveyor, Philip Turnor, who refined young David’s skills in math, astronomy, and surveying. When Thompson recovered, his company promoted him to the position of surveyor.  

 

In 1797, David Thompson left Hudson’s Bay to work for the North West Company. After surveying 4000 miles – which included Lake Superior and the headwaters of the Mississippi River – Thompson was sent west. The North West Company had heard that their American rival, John Jacob Astor, had sent a ship around Cape Horn to claim the Columbia River for his fur trading empire.  

Thompson was sent to discover, and map, the route of the Columbia River before Astor’s ships arrived. Ironically, Thompson found the Columbia River twice, but didn’t know it. At its source, the Columbia flows for two hundred miles in a northerly direction – the opposite direction it was “supposed” to flow. Thompson and his men took an arduous 600 mile detour through my present stomping grounds in Montana before they discovered the Columbia as it flowed southwest.  

The confusion cost Thompson two months. When he finally reached the mouth of the Columbia, he learned that Astor’s ship had beaten them . . . by two months.  

 

David Thompson didn’t know at the time that rights to fur trading were trivial compared to what he accomplished. His seemingly futile wanderings caused him to map 2,340,000 square miles – more than any geographer who ever lived. He visited Edmonton, Calgary, and Portland before these cities had even been invented. Though he failed in his attempt to ensure beaver pelts for his company, he accomplished something far greater: he mapped and defined a nation.  

Dashed dreams which initiate a higher plan – do you think that was only true for Moses and David Thompson? Or do you believe God is doing the same thing in your life? 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

 

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“It’s What You Know After You Know it All That Counts”

Story of the Day for Friday June 1, 2012

“It’s What You Know after You Know It All That Counts.”

                Instruct a wise person, and he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous person, and he will increase his learning.  

                                                                Proverbs 9:9

 

Hoagy Carmichael rarely let the facts bully him around when he had a good story to tell. So, according to one version, his first day golfing went like this:

His golf instructor patiently showed him how to hold the club, how to stand, how to follow through. After a half hour of instruction, Hoagy teed up on the first hole and smacked the ball down the fairway. It rolled onto the green and dropped in for a hole in one. Hoagy flipped the club to a caddy, and said to the dumbstruck instructor, “Okay, I think I’ve got the idea now.”

 

We can only hope that Hoagy Carmichael’s instruction didn’t end there. But it is true that accomplishment can be one of the greatest hindrances to growth.

Contrast Carmichael’s attitude with professional golfers. The top golfers in the PGA depend on their coaches to help them improve every day. I listened to an interview where one of the world’s top golfers spoke about his preparation. He didn’t say, “I’m getting ready for the Masters . . .” but “We’re getting ready for the Masters, and one day we just took a day off – which we normally do, but . . .” He viewed his career in terms of himself and his coach.

Best-selling author, Steven Pressfield, says, “The student of the game knows that the levels of revelation that can unfold in golf, as in any art, are inexhaustible.”

 

If “the levels of revelation” in golf are inexhaustible, how much more is the knowledge of the living God? Yet, sadly, our growth in biblical knowledge can become the very thing that hinders further understanding of the ways of the Lord. Once we’ve learned more than we used to know, we begin to feel like we know it all. And that is where growth stops.

The wise person is one who is humble enough to admit there is always more to learn.

 

John Wooden is rightly considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time. He took a faltering program at UCLA and transformed it into a powerhouse – winning ten national championships.

Wooden listened to others. When Wooden’s players were shorter-than-average, his assistant coach, Jerry Norman, persuaded him that a zone press defense would work. It won them a national championship.

But then Wooden got a tall, talented player. After winning a national championship with one style of play, he decided to scrap it and learn a completely new system that exploited the talents of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The result: three more national championships with Alcindor.

John Wooden’s  favorite motto reflected the Proverbs: “It’s what you know after you know it all that counts.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Which Foot Church?

Story of the Day for Thursday May 31, 2012

Which Foot Church?

 

                I call on you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, that there may be no divisions among you. 

                                                                                 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

When Jesus told us to wash each other’s feet, I think he meant that we are to show love by humbly serving each other. Other Christian groups, however, interpret his words literally: we should get a basin of water and a towel and wash other people’s feet.

Even if I don’t agree on how they interpret Jesus’ words, at least it is comforting to know that these groups are practicing a powerful act of love and service to others.

William P. Barker tells how a church in Tennessee practiced foot washing.  But then someone wanted to know which foot you should wash first.  The Bible isn’t real clear on this, and so an argument arose in the church about it.

The disagreement of which foot to wash first could not be settled, so the congregation divided.  Now there is a church sign which reads: LEFT FOOT BAPTIST CHURCH.

Isn’t it nice to know that this congregation can imitate the incredible humility of Jesus by washing people’s feet – in the secure knowledge that they are washing the right foot first? (By “right foot,” of course, I mean the “left foot,” and refer to the left foot of the “washee” rather than the left side of the one washing.  I think.)

 

Did you know that, for ten centuries, the Christian church was not divided?  The church had her squabbles, but, despite all the disagreements, believers lived in unity. The “Great Schism” occurred in the 11th century, and if focused on one word.  The West wanted to add the Latin word, filioque, to a creed, and the East objected.

I’m not going to explain the controversy, or the other issues swirling around it. I’m not even going to tell you which side I agree with.  My point is that it is sad that it had to come to this: that the day came when believers in Christ could no longer live in fellowship with each other.

 

Unity in the church is so easy to attain.  If every Christian on this earth would simply agree with all of my opinions and views, all divisions would evaporate.

Unfortunately, there are some of you obstinate souls out there who think you’re  right instead of me!  What are we going to do?

For starters, we must never compromise what we believe in order to create an appearance of unity.  But I have been amazed lately by how much we can erase misunderstandings and soften each other’s rough edges when we humbly listen to each other.

There’s no question about it: there is disunity among Christ’s followers based on doctrine.  But I believe the far greater cause of disunity is not those who hold to a faulty understanding of the Bible. Unity’s chief enemy is pride.

What would happen if we met those from another denomination – not first to argue,  not first to protect our egos, but to wash their feet?

If only we can remember which foot to wash first.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Love and Truth Have Kissed

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 30, 2010

Love and Truth Have Kissed

                The Lord will be the stable foundation for your times, a wealthy storehouse of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. 

                                                                                                               Isaiah 33:6

Tim Stafford wrote an article in Christianity Today about a pastor he knew, Dr. Stephen Bilynskyj. He fills a jar with beans and asks his class to guess how many beans are in the jar. On a big pad of paper he writes down their estimates. Then, next to their estimates he asks them to name their favorite song.

After the two lists are completed, he tells them how many beans are in the jar, and the class checks the list to see whose estimate was the closest. Then Pastor Bilynskyj looks at the list of favorite songs and asks them which song is closest to being right.

The students protest that there isn’t a right answer.

Bilynskj asks them, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?”

The answer is disturbing – invariably they say that their religious faith is like choosing a favorite song.  They see their faith, in other words, not as something that is actually true, but as their personal preference.

If God truly exists, we should expect to find his fingerprints. As we examine the fundamental components of life, we should see evidence of an Intelligent Designer – systems that can’t be constructed by a mindless combination of chemicals. And we do.

When we read the story of God’s working among his people, we would expect to find archeological evidence for the places and buildings spoken about. And we do.

If God doesn’t really exist, then life is meaningless, and we must have the courage to admit it.  But, isn’t it odd that those who claim there is no God, and no purpose in life,  have a dickens of a time practicing their belief?

AsRavi Zacharias was being driven to a lecture he was giving at Ohio State University, his host drove him past the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts, hailed as the first postmodern building. The outer scaffolding gives a sense of incompleteness. Inside, stairways go nowhere and pillars hang from the ceiling without purpose.

The host told Zacharias that the building was designed to reflect life itself – senseless and incoherent – and the “capriciousness of the rules that organize the built world.”

Ravi asked, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

His host said, “That is correct.”

“Did he do the same thing with the foundation?”

God is not an illusion – something you believe in just to make you feel good. He is the foundation of reality. He makes the things we long for: love and a restored life, real.

In the God who is really there, Love and Truth have kissed.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Missing Posts for Story of the Day!

Dear Readers,

Since climbinghigher.org is the educational arm of Athelas Outdoor Ministry, Inc. and since the author and the techy person are adventure leaders and planners for the adventure retreats we will often be in the field during our busiest season of summer.  Last week was our season opener retreat with a group of 6th graders on their annual outdoor education retreat titled “Rock On’.  Thus the reason for no posts for four days.  We hope you will not give up on us but be patient when being in the outdoors away from high tech stuff does not allow us to post.  Thanks for your faithfulness and encouragement in reading and responding to the posts.  We will be here as often as possible.  Enjoy! Image

Group picture on last day of Rock On retreat…’Rock On’ t-shirts made by one of the fathers as a surprise!

 

 

 

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Peek From Under Your Blindfold

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 29, 2012

Peek From Under Your Blindfold

 

                          Warn those who are lazy, cheer up those who are discouraged, assist the weak . . . 

                                                  1 Thessalonians 5:14

 ”That’s not fair!” is the common chorus of kids everywhere. I used to think kids had a heightened sense of justice, but I don’t any longer. In a classic case of overreaction, I now maintain kids don’t know beans about fairness.

Kids only grouse about unfairness when the situation isn’t working to their advantage. Tell them the old folks get to go first in line at a potluck and they’ll moan, “That’s not fair!” Announce, instead, that kids get to go first, and their laments about injustice evaporate.

Lately, however, I’ve begun to question my own understanding of justice.

I’ve always thought of justice as equality: equal treatment for all. The statue of Lady Justice outside the U.S. Supreme Court wears a blindfold. Blind equality under the law is such a noble sentiment, it will be all the more challenging to explain why I no longer believe in it.

Justice, I believe, is not about equal treatment; it’s about fair treatment.

Imagine two guys, each in a hot rod. They gun their engines at a stop light, burn rubber when the light turns green, and race down the street. Now, imagine a little girl who accidentally ate peanuts, to which she is highly allergic, and is unable to breath. Her frantic father rushes her to the hospital. Both the hot rodders and the desperate father are clocked at twenty miles over the speed limit. Should they receive equal treatment under the law?

I hope the judge peeks from under his blindfold.

 

I once knew two pastors who served in the same congregation. We’ll call them Fred and Josh. The two would argue over who got to make the monthly visit to Mrs. Sexton’s apartment. Although too old and frail to attend worship, Mrs. Sexton always welcomed her pastors’ visits with a broad smile and a plate of homemade cream buns.

After making the latest call on Mrs. Sexton, Fred consoled his partner by telling Josh he saved a cream bun for him. But when Josh started devouring the bun he discovered that Fred had taken out the cream and had replaced it with shaving cream.

A few weeks later, Fred and Josh shared a hotel room at a pastor’s conference. Josh was looking out the hotel room window with his binoculars when he shouted, “Fred! Look at this eagle in the pine tree!”

Fred snatched the binoculars but couldn’t find the bird. Josh told him it had flown away. He didn’t tell Fred, however, that he put graphite on the eyepieces. With two black circles around his eyes, Fred attended that evening’s banquet, and only discovered when he returned to his room why the other pastor’s kept giving him quizzical looks.

If Fred or Josh had pulled those stunts on an enemy, the reaction would be fury. But because of their close friendship, they’re still laughing over the pranks they used to play on each other.

The Bible says that all people are created in God’s image. We’re all equal in worth. But Jesus doesn’t demand we treat all people equally; he calls us to treat all people appropriately — and that means we should warn one, cheer up another, and put shaving cream in another’s cream bun.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

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Scared Spitless But Willing to Trust

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 23, 2012

Scared Spitless But Willing to Trust

 

                Whenever I’m afraid, I will trust in you.

                                     Psalm 56:3

 

If you ever find a job opening for the position of aerialist manager, you might want to learn about Harry Colcord before you call for an interview.

But let’s leave Harry Colcord in his manager’s office for a moment while we focus on the wacky antics of Jean Francois Gravelot, a French aerialist who, because of his fair hair, called himself The Great Blondin. While touring with P.T. Barnum in 1858, he saw Niagara Falls for the first time and knew he had to cross it . . . on a tightrope.

The next year he stretched a 1300-foot rope 160 feet above the roaring falls, while 10,000 anxious spectators watched as he walked across. For two summers, Blondin repeated his stunt – each time making his crossing more breathtaking. He crossed on a bicycle. Next, with his feet chained together. He did it blindfolded; he did it on stilts.

 

Before Blondin left Niagara Falls for other things, he needed a Grand Finale – a climactic stunt that would top his previous heart-stopping acts. He knew what would thrill the crowds: he would cross the falls with another person sitting on his shoulders.

But no one would volunteer to make the crossing.

And now, at last, we can drag Harry Colcord out of his manager’s office. You’ll have to excuse him for looking so pale, but he doesn’t feel very well at the moment. No one could be found to cross Niagara Falls on Blondin’s shoulders . . . and, as they say, the show must go on.

With 10,000 spectators watching, Blondin held his 35-foot balancing pole, and his manager on his back, and started across Niagara Falls.

 

It’s so easy to trust others when you’re just a spectator. Unfortunately, the Lord never lets you sit comfortably in the back row of the auditorium. He’s always calling you onstage. Faith is lived when we’re scared spitless, but still willing to trust in the calm assurances of the Lord.

 

Blondin walked twenty feet to the first guy rope, but it snapped, jerking them violently sideways. Blondin quickly ran to the next guy rope and told Harry to get off his shoulders quick. Colcord had to feel with his feet for the vibrating rope and hold on for dear life to his slippery tights, while Blondin rested and regained his composure.

And then a gust of wind caused the two of them to sway – terrifying the crowd. Other guy ropes failed (reporters later learned that the guy lines were deliberately sabotaged). Blondin, realizing the danger, sprinted the last twenty yards, and plunged into the crowd with his human passenger.

 

After this stunt, I think we can reasonably assume that Harry Colcord had great job security. When you dare to live the life of faith, the competition thins.

 

But you will live.

                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Brick by Brick

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 22, 2012

Brick by Brick

 

                By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; with knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

                                                                                Proverbs 24:3-4

 

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in economics at Carnegie-Mellon, performed an experiment with fellow psychology professor, William C. Chase.

The experiment utilized chess players: one group consisted of novices, the second, of intermediate chess players, and the final group was composed of chess masters with international rankings.

Simon and Chase set up a partially played chess game, and each participant was given five seconds to look at the board. Then they were asked to re-position the pieces on a blank chessboard from what they recalled of their five second observation.

Who do you think did the best? You got it. With twenty pieces left on the board, the chess masters correctly recalled the piece and position of 81 percent of them. The novices only placed about a third of the chess pieces correctly.

 

So far, this experiment isn’t interesting, since anyone could predict the outcome. Their second experiment, however, was surprising. But, before we get to it, can I ask you something? Why do you think the chess masters did better than the novices?

The most obvious answer is that chess masters are brilliant people; no one can compete at the international level unless they have brains as big as cantaloupes. Another explanation is that chess masters have developed mental techniques for recalling the pieces.

These are good guesses – which is why the next experiment was so surprising. Chase and Simon set up the chess board again, and gave each participant five seconds to view it. This time, however, the pieces were randomly positioned by a computer. When each group tried to re-create the board from memory, the chess masters did slightly worse than the novices!  So much for big brains or memory techniques.

 

What enabled the chess masters to do so well in re-creating an actual chess game from memory was not brilliance, but experience.  By years of practice, they can “see” the game with exquisite insight. In five seconds, they can “see” it, “Ha! The King’s Gambit versus the Nimzovich Defense.”

 

The Lord makes no connection between wisdom and brilliance. Spiritual wisdom is not based on intelligence, but humility. Through humility we accept God’s grace and love. And, through humility, we let God teach us the best way to live.

 

A chess master learns to “see” one game at a time. We build the house of wisdom brick by brick. But, over time, we will find the rooms filling up with rare and beautiful treasures.

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He Did It Anyway

He Did It Anyway

 

                   Jesus said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” And when he held it out, his hand was healed. Immediately, the Pharisees, along with the Herodians, went out and discussed plans on how they could put Jesus to death.  

                                                                                         Mark 3:5

 

Back in the 1950s, when we lived in Kalkaska, Michigan, my dad would travel to work in a nearby town. Mrs. McCurdy, who worked in the same building, would park her big Buick in a No Parking zone.

No one seemed to mind Mrs. McCurdy’s bad habit. But, one day, my dad decided to play a joke on her. He went to a police officer he knew and asked if he would give a ticket to Mrs. McCurdy. The officer thought this was a delightful idea, and gave dad a blank parking ticket.

Dad filled it out and put it on Mrs. McCurdy’s windshield. The police officer then turned the joke on dad by saying, “And now I’m arresting you for impersonating a police officer!”

The judge was duly informed of the joke on Mrs. McCurdy. When she found the ticket she immediately reported to the judge. The judge, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “I find you guilty. Your sentence is to kiss the judge every morning before you go to work.” Mrs. McCurdy said, “I’d rather go to jail!”

 

How times have changed. There was a day when people were free to laugh and pull harmless pranks, and the stories are still being told.

Today, the police officer and my dad would be smacked with million dollar lawsuits. The judge would be arrested and charged with sexual harassment, and the police department would be under investigation for refusing to ticket a woman who daily parked in a prohibited zone.

Don’t get me wrong: rogue cops and sexual harassment are real offenses that must be firmly dealt with. But we know that no one would dare play a harmless joke like this in our day.  Even though this joke brought great mirth to my dad, the police officer, the judge, and Mrs. McCurdy, we would never dream of doing the same thing today because we’re terrified we would be punished by lawsuits.

 

Jesus lived in a legalistic society. Penalties were often severe for minor infractions of the law.  What could be more compassionate than to find a man in church with a deformed hand and to heal him? But, because Jesus’ miracle was considered “work”, and because work was forbidden on the Sabbath, the gospel of Mark says the religious leaders joined forces with the politicians to find a way to put Jesus to death.

Jesus’ healing was not simply an act of compassion; it was an act of courage.

 

Just as Jesus lived in a legalistic society, so do we. We know that the more we become involved in helping others, the more we risk being severely punished in the form of lawsuits. A generation ago, all you needed to help others was a caring heart. Today, you also need courage.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do. The threat of lawsuits is real. But we do need to understand that, sometimes, Christ-like love is compassion combined with courage.

Jesus knew the danger of healing a man on the Sabbath day.

But he did it anyway.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Working at Happiness

Story of the Day for Saturday May 19, 2012

Working at Happiness

                  It is God’s gift that everyone would see good in all his labor. 

                                                                                 Ecclesiastes 3:13

A Chinese proverb says, “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk. If you want to be happy for three days, get married. If you want to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you want to be happy forever, learn to fish.

Now, — don’t even think it – I’m not advocating getting drunk, and my wife and I have shared 28 years together, and we’re still on our honeymoon. Last month, we butchered our pigs, and I’ve been happy about that for several weeks.

We want to commend, however, the wisdom of the Chinese in seeing the vital connection between work and happiness.  Researchers at Gothenburg University in Sweden published their findings that people are made happy by working toward a goal (not the attainment, but the striving).

And this is where things get bollixed up. We tend to focus on the money (i.e., the “attainment”) as the source of happiness, when it is really the striving (i.e., the work) that brings fulfillment.

We are made in the image of God. As God creates, so he has made us to create – to be creative.  Work really is meant to be satisfying.

One of the most respected studies on job satisfaction was done a few years ago at the University of Chicago.  The school’s National Opinion Research Center found little correlation between job satisfaction and money. Nor is there a link between job satisfaction and time for leisure (two or the top three happiest professions work over 50 hours a week).

What makes a job satisfying? Helping other people, being creative, and using special talents and expertise.

Want to know the profession that produces the greatest job satisfaction? (Are you ready for this?) Pastors.  They are followed by physical therapists, firefighters, school principals, artists, teachers, authors, psychologists, and special education teachers.

Beside the school principals and psychologists, the pay is average.  But when we  are active in helping and using our God-given creativity, we are the happiest in our work.

The point of all this, however, is not that you need the right job to find fulfillment. What you need is the right attitude.  Figure out how your work serves others. Be creative. And recognize the uniqueness of the talents God gave you.

Final note: Although the University of Chicago doesn’t consider this an “occupation,” I believe the most satisfying job involves long hours and no pay. The occupation is called: “being a mom.”

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Second Nature

Story of the Day for Friday May 18, 2012

Second Nature

 

                   Train yourself to be godly. 

                                                              1 Timothy 4:7

How quickly can you say your ABCs? If you’ve got a nimble tongue you can recite the entire alphabet in about four seconds. Try it; I’m in no hurry.

Okay, very good. Now, try reciting the alphabet again — and make sure you time yourself –but this time start with Z and go backwards to A.

Hmmm . . . not quite as impressive.

 

Let’s try something else. Few things are easier than buttoning a shirt. You’ve done it hundreds of thousands of times. So, with your hands folded on your lap, imagine exactly how you button your shirt.

It’s harder than you think. Do you use your middle fingers? What do your thumbs do? What does your left hand do? What are the last fingers to touch the button?

 

Malcom Gladwell stared at Vic Braden in disbelief. “What do you mean? That’s crazy!” Gladwell could hardly believe what Braden, a famous tennis coach, had just told him. Braden interviewed some of the best tennis players in the world, such as Andre Aggasi, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, and Jimmy Conners, and would hold long conversations with them about their game.

For over thirty years Braden talked to the best tennis players in the world, “I can honestly say that there is nothing to be learned about tennis,” Braden confided to Gladwell, “from talking to top tennis players about tennis.”

Braden, for example, would ask the tennis greats, “How do you hit a topspin forehand?” Every one of them told him that, at the moment of impact, they would roll their wrists. Braden then filmed these tennis players in top tournaments and discovered that not one of them roll their wrists at the moment of impact. They only roll their wrists after the ball is gone as part of their follow-through.

When the best tennis players in the world hit a topspin forehand, it’s as natural and unconscious as saying your ABCs or buttoning a shirt.

 

I’m quite conscious about my spirituality. I know when I’m generous or when I’m (trying to be) patient. You know why? I’m still on my learner’s permit and following Jesus has yet to become second nature. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t think of herself as generous or patient. That’s because she is. It’s second nature to her.

 

The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, and told him that learning the life of godliness was like an athlete going into training.

The odd thing about godliness is that the more we train, the less we have to consciously think about what we’re doing.

It becomes second nature.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Pay Attention to the Signs

Story of the Day for Thursday May 17, 2012

Pay Attention to the Signs

                 I will listen to what God, the Lord, will say. For he will speak peace to his people.

                                                          Psalm 85:8

In 1874, Homer Wheeler was an Army officer stationed at Fort Keogh near Miles City, Montana. In his memoirs he describes the tracking abilities of Poor Elk, a Cheyenne scout.

A column of troops was sent out to find some Indians who were reported to have crossed the Yellowstone River not far from their outpost.

The surrounding area had been trampled by buffalo and the grass cropped short by their grazing, so finding their trail would be extremely difficult. Half the column had already ridden past the Indian’s path before Poor Elk noticed their trail.

After following it for a mile, he found where they had camped. He brushed away the ashes from the fires and felt the ground underneath for warmth. After locating the fires he found the pin holes from the tepees. By knowing the size of each tepee he could estimate the number of Indians in the party.

Poor Elk found a moccasin and a piece of cloth that had been thrown away. The moccasin was sewn with thread instead of sinew. This told him they were probably following Sioux, instead of Cheyenne, as they originally supposed. A piece of calico was not the pattern available at the Cheyenne reservation, and a hair braid was the kind the Sioux used to fasten to the scalp lock.

He found where a sweat-lodge had been built – which meant they had stayed in camp for at least an entire day. But the horse droppings showed they had not stayed for more than one day. Further, seeds in horse droppings indicate where the party had come from, and the position of the urine in relation to the hoof prints showed the sex of the horse (the presence of mares indicated it was not a war party, since only women rode mares).

The position of the wickiups and tepees in relation to where the horses were tied – in addition to the care taken in leaving camp was evidence they were not moving in any special hurry.

These Indians, Poor Elk told them, were not Cheyenne, as they suspected, but Sioux, who had recently left an agency. They didn’t cross the Yellowstone at the time reported to them, but two days earlier. Their direction indicated they were probably heading north to join with other Indians north of the Canadian border.

Poor Elk could see what the others could not because he had learned to pay attention to the signs. In the same way, God wants us to pay attention to what he’s doing for us.

The Lord doesn’t bonk us on the head with spiritual truth and wisdom. But he teaches us the way of wholeness, of peace, when we focus our attention on him.

You don’t see much in life unless you learn to look for it.

                                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Don’t Treat Them to Ham Sandwiches

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 16, 2012

Don’t Treat Them to Ham Sandwiches

                    Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. 

                                                                                 Mark 8:23

 ”Welcome to McDonalds,” the young man said, “may I take your order?”

“You bet,” my sister’s husband, Sean, said.

The voice on the drive-through intercom replied: “Fire when ready; shoot to kill.”

They laughed at the unexpected reply, and were still chuckling when they pulled up to the take-out window. The restaurant manager, however, stood scowling with his arms folded across his chest. He loomed over a scrawny teen who meekly apologized, “I’m sorry I said ‘Fire when ready; shoot to kill.’”

“Please, don’t apologize,” my sister Mary protested, “we thought it was hilarious!”

But the manager was having none of it. The success of a franchise lies in consistency. You can’t afford to let free spirits slip the leash.

 

Scripted responses (“Would you like fries with that?”) may be necessary for a franchise restaurant to succeed, but we dislike being treated impersonally. Ever call a large company with a question or a complaint? The call service employee types up a decision-tree script on a computer and rattles off the appropriate scripted response.

Management prefers this cost-saving approach. But customers feel like they’re talking to a lawn ornament. It’s even more de-humanizing for the workers. The annual turnover rate at call centers is almost 100 percent.

One company, however, came up with the wacky idea of treating customers personably. After two weeks of introductory training, they offer new recruits $3000 to walk away from their job. They only want workers who want to be there. Employees are encouraged to decorate their work space any way they want. They’re trained to be adventurous, creative, fun, and a little weird. They ask how their customers are doing, about their plans for the upcoming holiday. If the customer isn’t doing well, the call service employee sends flowers. No scripts. Just treat the customer like a person.

 

Jesus’ approach to people was never scripted. No canned speeches; no cookie-cutter approach. When he encountered a Roman captain who viewed verbal orders as a sign of power, Jesus healed the captain’s servant by issuing verbal orders. When he met a blind man, he took him by the hand and led him out of the village. Jesus was always keenly aware of each person’s situation. When he miraculously fed over 5000 Jews, he didn’t treat them to ham sandwiches.

When Jesus sees you . . .

We visited a church in Missoula this last Sunday. The woman greeter welcomed us and patted me on the back. Later, I noticed that when she sang, she moved her hands — as if she was molding the words. “Now I get it,” I thought, “a kinesthetic learner.”

Normally, I miss these opportunities and mumble for the rest of the day about what I should’ve done. I’m not the touchy-feely type, but on the way out of church, I saw her, thanked her for being a good greeter . . . and patted her on the back.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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“War Bombs”

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 15, 2012

“War Bombs”

                “You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good so as to bring about this present result: the saving of many lives.” 

                    Genesis 50:20

 The distance from Eureka, Montana to just about anywhere else on earth is endless. When we go to the Midwest, we drive over five hundred weary miles . . . and we’re still in Montana.

Near the end of a long day of driving, I was beginning to flag in zeal. One of my kids noticed my drowsiness and offered me a candy called a War Bomb, or something like that.

WHOA! That thing was sour enough to peel the hair back from your scalp. If those candies were actually approved by the FDA, it only further erodes that fragile bond of trust that exists between government agencies and those they claim to protect.

When your mouth is puckered by candy that sour, your moans take on a muffled, pitiful tone. My kids were having a delightful time.

But that sour bomb worked. I was no longer drowsy.

After the funeral for their father, Joseph’s brothers feared that Joseph would avenge them for selling him into slavery. Instead, he forgave and comforted his brothers. Joseph was able to look back and see that God had used all the cruddy things that happened to him to keep the Egyptians – and his family – from starving.

Adolf Hitler unleashed a storm of suffering and death. World War II saw the tragic loss of millions of lives.

Yet, before 1941, doctors had no access to antibiotics to revere the course of infections. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, but the medical community treated it more as a curiosity than the “miracle drug” it would later be called.

The war prompted intense research. English scientists brought the penicillin culture to America were they learned to mass produce it in an agricultural lab in Peoria, Illinois.

By 1943, only 28 pounds f penicillin had been produced, at a manufacturing cost of $200,000 a pound. Within two years, researchers produced 14,000 pounds and a cost of two dollars per 100,000 units.

The desperate need for antibiotics caused pharmaceutical companies to step up their efforts. Selman Waksman from Rutgers discovered streptomycin, which treated tuberculosis. Soon, many more antibiotics were discovered and manufactured.

A medical historian, Dr. Russell Maulitz, observes that “War is the perverse handmaiden of medical progress.”

Millions died in a tragic war. But, because of it, many more millions of lives were saved through the intense antibiotic research it provoked.

Sucking on sour candy while I drive is far from pleasant. But it makes me perky as I consider my children and plot my revenge.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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The Path Worn Down

Story of the Day for Monday May 14, 2012

The Path Worn Down

                   Thus says the Lord, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. And you will find rest for your souls.” 

                                                                  Jeremiah 6:16

There probably never has been, nor ever will be, a more magnificent city on this earth than ancient Rome. Their sculptures, artwork, arches, and buildings were stunning.

Then the barbarian hordes swept down from the north and looted and destroyed the city. At least, that is how I remember it.

Archeologist, Rodolfo Lanciani, however, tells us that Alaric destroyed the palace of Sallust and Geneseric and took down the bronze roof of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Yet, other than minor damage, they didn’t destroy the priceless structures in Rome. Do you know who was primarily responsible for tearing down the city? The Romans themselves.

 

The basilica in Rome, 1200 years old, was the oldest and largest cathedral in Christendom. They tore it down to build a modern building.

Michelangelo carved the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol, but he swiped one of the columns of the ancient temple of Castor and Pollux to do so. Material for the columns in the Sistine Chapel was robbed from Hadrian’s mausoleum. Marvelous ancient marble statues were pulled down and pulverized to provide lime so that Renaissance artists could have a convenient source of plaster.  Painters would plaster over old masterpieces so that they could create contemporary works of art.

 

I’m not opposed to change or modern things or newness. I’m not writing this story by dipping a turkey quill into a bottle of ink.  We buy milk from the Sturdevants, which comes straight from their cows. Given the choice between a fresh glass of local milk or discovering a milk jug in the back of the frig that is four months old . . .

 

Technology is improving electronic gizmos at a breathtaking pace. Yet, because of the technological explosion in our society, we face a greater struggle to understand a truth that other generations more easily understood.

Some things, like technology keep improving. But, other things do not. Trusting in God, kindness, honesty, and love never become outdated.

In our fast-paced technological society, “old” means “out-dated.”  As a result, we are far more likely to dismiss God and morality as relics of the past, and to plaster over them.

 

At a crossroad, you have options. You can choose which path to take. God told his prophet Jeremiah to tell the people to examine their options, and to choose the ancient path. The Lord said the path worn down by past ages of believers was the good way.

He wasn’t talking about electronics. He was talking about a way of living that refreshed the soul.

 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Called God’s Friend

Story of the Day for Friday May 11, 2012

Called God’s Friend

                     And he calls his own sheep by name.

                                                        John 10:3

 

I sometimes dream of an idyllic world where I take my car to an auto mechanic and he says, “Excuse me, but have we met before?” Unfortunately, my car guys call me by my first name, and if things get any worse we’ll be exchanging Christmas cards.

 

This morning my wife took our van into town to have the tires changed (in Montana studded tires are legal — but only until the end of May). I loaded the summer tires into the back of the van and sent her on her way. A couple of hours later, I got a phone call. The car guys told me I had the wrong size tires.

I found the right ones, drove the pickup down Pinkham Mountain, and brought them to my friendly car guy.

“Oh, hi Marty. It’s about time you brought the right tires.”

“So,” I asked Joey, “how long you think it’ll take to switch ‘em?”

“Oh, give me a break!” he said. “First, I’m sittin’ around here waiting on you, and now you want to know how soon I’ll be done!”

I told him to quit his whining and made a veiled insinuation that the service industry was going to the dogs.

It was a gratifying moment. He felt comfortable enough to give me a hard time and I felt free enough to dish it back, and we both had a good laugh.

Can you imagine what would happen if Joey talked like that to a perfect stranger? The offended customer would’ve complained to the owner and Joey would now be selling herbal cures for hair loss on the internet.

When we know someone, we treat them differently than we do strangers.

 

If you want to get lost in a nameless crowd, you can’t do better than becoming a sheep. Gaze at a flock of sheep they all look like identical bags of wool.

But not to a shepherd. Shepherds in Palestine can distinguish every sheep in their flock and give names to each one. When a shepherd leads his flock to new pastures he can call them all by name.

When we trust in Jesus, our relationship changes. We’re no longer strangers. We belong to him, not because of  how fast we can walk, but simply because when he calls our name we trust him enough to follow.

 

Once Abraham got into a “disagreement” with God. When God told Abraham he intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, Abraham kept bargaining with God not to do it. I always felt Abraham was a little cheeky doing that.

But over the years I’m beginning to realize that Abraham could talk the way he did — not because he was disrespectful — but because he knew God so well. He was bold because of his faith.

No wonder the Bible says of Abraham: “and he was called God’s friend.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


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“Get Back on that Pony and Ride”

Story of the Day for Thursday May 10, 2012

“Get Back on that Pony and Ride”

                  Consider it a sheer joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter different kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

                                                           James 1:2-3

 In the spring of 1987, while turkey-hunting near Sacramento, California, Pat accidentally shot his brother-in-law Greg. The blast from the 12 gauge shotgun sent 60 pellets into Greg’s body. His right lung collapsed, and he lost 65 percent of his blood by the time he reached the hospital.

Greg survived, but, to this day, 40 shotgun pellets remain in his body – five in his liver, five in his heart.

Just nine months earlier, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France. Now, his career was over.

 

Or was it? Determined to ride again, Greg got back on his cycle and started riding. To resume his career, he needed a cycling team that would take him. No American team was interested, so Greg’s father flew to Europe to negotiate with the cycling team’s there.

A European team, cautiously, agreed to take Greg on.  And, then, of all things, LeMond was crippled in pain and needed intestinal surgery to repair damage from the shooting accident. Before the surgery, Greg instructed the surgeon to remove his appendix. Afterward, he assured the cycling team that the surgery was an appendectomy. “I didn’t tell them a lie,” LeMond later said in an interview “but I didn’t tell them the absolute truth.”

 

The final leg of the Tour de France is a fifteen mile time trial. In 1989, Laurent Fignon of France has a commanding 50-second lead going into the final sprint to the finish, and he is the fastest time trial racer in the world.

His nearest competitor won’t even look at Fignon’s split times. He tells his own coaches he doesn’t want to know his own splits. He simply digs deep and delivers a dazzling performance – the fastest speed in the history of the Tour de France.

Fignon lost the Tour de France. A young American with 40 shotgun pellets in his body, ended up with the yellow jersey.

 

After the shooting accident, would anyone blame Greg LeMond if he gave up competitive racing? Who believed that LeMond could ever race again – let alone regain the title as the world’s greatest cyclist?

Has adversity knocked the wind out of you? Know what you need? You need the patient, healing care of the Surgeon. But, once you stagger to your feet, you need to know that God never intended obstacles to stop you; they’re there to strengthen your resolve. Trials are meant to fuel our fire; to ignite the passion to give our all for God.

Yes, it hurts to get bucked off your horse. But shake it off. Dust off your jeans and, as Chris LeDeux sings, “get back on that pony and ride.”

 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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How is Woody Doing?

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 9, 2012

How is Woody Doing?

                     I’m content with weaknesses, insults, trouble, persecution, and difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

                                                        2 Corinthians 12:10

Dan Miller was a sports nut. As a high school athlete in central Washington he starred on championship teams in basketball, football, and baseball. Several colleges offered him a sports scholarship. Dan dreamed of playing college sports and graduating as a P.E. instructor.

Five weeks after high school graduation, however, he contracted polio. He was completely paralyzed. After many months of therapy the permanent damage became evident. He lost 80 percent of the muscular control of his legs. His right arm hung limp by his side. He would have to relearn to write with his left hand. But even his left arm had limited mobility and only half its former strength.

 

Now what?

When Dan was able to hobble around with an elbow-high Canadian crutch, he applied and was accepted in 1956 at Eastern Washington College. His registration packet was labeled “P.E. Exempt” as he sat in front of his academic advisor, Dr. Richard Hagelin.

Dan told him, “I want to major in physical education and become a P.E. teacher.”

 

Dan got his B.A., and later his masters, in Physical Education.

But he when began teaching grade school children, he found the students would imitate him — trying to catch a ball, for instance, with one hand rather than two.

So, he bought a wooden 18-inch mannequin and named it “Woody.” Using the mannequin he would demonstrate proper technique. Dan’s wife, Judy, began making a wardrobe for Woody and the kids couldn’t wait to see his next costume.

Woody became larger than life. Parents wanted to see this Woody their kids kept talking about. Woody began writing Christmas letters to his students and to all incoming kindergartners. If there was any problem behavior, they didn’t get a lecture from Mr. Miller, they got a letter from Woody. By speeding up songs on a tape recorder, Woody had a chipmunk-like voice and started singing duets with Dan.

Woody became such a sensational education tool that educators from around the state visited his school to learn more of Dan’s innovative teaching technique.

Many years later, Dan’s daughter attended a ten-year high school reunion. All her classmates still wanted to know how Woody was doing.

In his later years, Dan would speak to churches and tell them, “Please don’t pray for me to be healed. It will ruin my . . . career!”

 

In his book, Living, Laughing and Loving Life (with Jeanne Zornes) he says, “I don’t always think of my handicap as a ‘gift,’ but now I see how it has changed my life for the better.”

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Leave Room for God to Surprise You

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 8, 2012

Leave Room for God to Surprise You

                    As Jesus walked along the lake of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting nets in the lake — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said, “Come, follow me . . .” 

                                                                     Mark 1:16-17

 Steven Spielberg has been called the greatest film director of all time. He has twice won the Academy Award for Best Director. You can hardly read through the list of his blockbuster movies without having to take a bathroom break.

 

When Spielberg was about six or seven, his dad told him, “I’m going to take you to see the greatest show on earth.”

The circus! Little Steven couldn’t wait.

They drove from New Jersey to Philadelphia and waited in a long line. As they went through the entrance Steven expected to find a tent with bleacher seats. Instead, he found himself in a dimly lit room with comfy seats. A large, red curtain opened, the lights went down, and a flickering, grainy image appeared on a screen.

Steven Spielberg was watching the first movie of his life: Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

The young boy felt betrayed, but his indignation quickly evaporated. “I was no longer in a theater; I was no longer in a seat — I wasn’t aware of the surroundings . . . I became part of an experience.”

The movie featured a spectacular train wreck. A speeding train smashed into a vehicle on the tracks. The actual filming of the scene was done with a model train, but to Spielberg “it was as real as I’ve seen anything in my life.”

 

From that moment on, Spielberg knew what he wanted . . . a Lionel electric train. The year after he got his first train set he asked his dad for another one. He was obsessed with trains.

Once he had two train engines he set about recreating the wreck in the Cecil B. DeMille movie. He crashed the trains into each other and broke them. His dad had them repaired and the next week he crashed and broke them again.

“Look!” Steven’s dad threatened, “I’m going to take the train set away from you if you crash this train set into each other one more time.”

Steven wanted to watch train wrecks but didn’t want to lose his train set. So, he grabbed his dad’s 8mm Kodak camera and filmed one of his trains barreling down the tracks toward the camera. He turned off the camera, switched camera angles and filmed the other train coming from the other direction. Then he filmed a crash sequence.

“That’s how,” Spielberg recalled, “I made my first movie.”

The threat of losing his Lionel train set turned Spielberg into a movie maker.

 

If you want to make God laugh, the old axiom goes, tell him your plans. Our lives never follow the scripts we write for our future. We might as well leave room for God to surprise us because he’s going to do it anyway.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Taking the Time to Knock

Story of the Day for Monday May 7, 2012

Taking the Time to Knock

                    . . . he went down the road. When he saw the beaten man, he stepped around him and continued on his way. 

                                                                     Luke 10:31

Psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson conducted an experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary to discover who would be most likely to act as a Good Samaritan.

One at a time, seminary students were asked to record a sermon in a nearby building. Half were asked to preach on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

On their walk to record their sermon, however, the researchers planted a “victim” slumped in a doorway. With his head down he would cough twice and groan.

Would those seminarians who had just rehearsed a sermon on the Good Samaritan be more likely to stop and help the man in need? No.

Darley and Batson did, however, find one factor most likely to determine whether a student stopped to help the man in need. Some of the students were told they were late and needed to hurry, others were told they were right on time, and the rest told they had plenty of time.

Only 10 percent of those who were rushed stopped to help the man slumped in the doorway, while 63 percent of those unrushed stopped to see if the man needed help.

 

The prolific author, Kent Nerburn, recalled a night when he drove taxi in Minneapolis. He was on the “dog shift” when he got a call at 2:30 a.m. He pulled up to the address of the house. Normally, a taxi driver honks one or two times, waits a minute, and then drives away. But for some reason Kent he should get out, so he walked to the door and knocked.

He heard a frail voice say, “Just a minute.” When the elderly woman finally opened the door, Nerburn took her suitcase and helped her to the taxi. She gave him the address and asked if they could drive through downtown.

“It’s not the shortest way.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said, “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

Kent reached over and shut off the meter. For two hours he drove her through town. She showed him where she used to work, where she and her husband first lived as newlyweds, the ballroom where she went dancing as a girl.

When they reached their destination, she asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“You have to make a living,” she protested.

“There are other passengers.”

Nerburn bent down and gave her a hug. She held on tightly and said, “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy. Thank you.”  Kent felt as if he had never done anything more important in his life. “We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware — beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

Kent Nerburn is so thankful he took the time to knock on the door.

                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


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Being the “Rightest”

Story of the Day for Saturday May 5, 2012

Being the “Rightest”

                                   You rescue the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.  

                                                                        2 Samuel 22:28

 After God has delivered his opinion on haughtiness, it is amazing how many of his followers vie with each other to be the haughtiest.

Christians have split up into countless denominations and every one of them believes the same thing: we’re righter than anyone else about doctrine, and we feel pretty smug about it. When was the last time you heard a denomination admit: “We want to follow Jesus, but, frankly, we’re not sure our doctrine is perfect”?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to be right about stuff. But it’s even more important to be humble. None of us knows God so well that we have eliminated all the fuzziness in our understanding of him.

Yet, how often do we admit that we’ve bumped up against Bible passages that don’t want to agree with our present understanding? We Christians – and especially we Bible teachers – are not eager to talk about the many passages in Scripture that still have us puzzled.

 

In September of 1864, London’s Soho district was ravaged by a cholera epidemic. 143 residents in the Broad Street area died within a single day.

Dr. John Snow believed the cholera outbreak was caused by contaminated water from the public Broad Street pump. But everyone else – including the Medical Committee and a local curate, Rev. Henry Whitehead, believed Snow was wrong.

Dr. Snow wrote up his observations, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, but Whitehead and the Medical Committee overseeing the epidemic disagreed with his conclusions. In opposition to Dr. Snow, Whitehead wrote an opposing account, The Cholera in Berwick Street.

In an effort to prove Snow wrong, Rev. Whitehead began a personal investigation. He went door to door – asking residents about sanitation and their use of the Broad Street water pump.

When he finished his investigation he realized his data supported Dr. Snow’s position. Whitehead did what few have the humility to do: he publicly renounced his former position and urged the Medical Committee to listen to Snow.

 

We now know that Snow’s view about cholera has been validated. But for a decade after Snow presented his evidence, the medical community continued to call his position unsound. Whitehead, alone, was humble enough to admit that his original opposition to Snow had been wrong.

If you want to feel superior to others, don’t gloat that you’re the “rightest”; strive to be the humblest. Then you can take pride in being . . . hey, wait a minute – I think I just goofed up somewhere.

                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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A Pickle for the Knowing Ones

Story of the Day for Friday May 4, 2012

A Pickle for the Knowing Ones

                          Joseph said, “You meant to do evil against me, but God meant it for good.” 

                                                                     Genesis 50:20

Timothy Dexter was deprived of a formal education. Born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1747, he worked the farm since he was eight. When he turned twenty, he gathered his life savings of eight dollars and moved to Newburyport.  A few years later, he met a wealthy widow in her early thirties, and married her.

 

Timothy would soon learn that his contemporaries resented his newly acquired social status, and worked to ruin him. They encouraged him to invest in stocks and led him to buy large amounts of worthless Continental currency.

Once they realized his naivety, they offered outrageous “business tips.” One merchant told Dexter that the West Indies was desperately in need of warming pans and mittens. Poor Timothy, not realizing that the West Indies was a hot, tropical climate, bought 40,000 New England warming pans and 40,000 pairs of mittens, and shipped them to the West Indies.

Newcastle, England was the center of Great Britain’s coal mining industry. Businessmen urged Dexter to “carry coal to Newcastle.”  Timothy hired scores of ships to sail across the Atlantic with inferior Virginia coal to sell to the coal mining district of England.

Dexter was not only a dim bulb, he was a bit of a goof. He took to calling himself “Lord Dexter,” and celebrated his brilliance by writing a book about himself, entitled: A Pickle for the Knowing Ones. He proclaimed, among other things, “Ime the first Lord in the younited States of A mercary Now of Newburyport it is the voise of the peopel and I can’t Help it and so Let it goue Now as I must be Lord there will foller many more Lords pretty Soune . . .” Lord Dexter neglected to include any punctuation in his book.

 

Joseph knew what it was like to have others envy and hate him and plot his harm. He was sent as a slave to a foreign land, was falsely charged with a crime and imprisoned.

It’s when we sit in our prisons, with rats gnawing at our toes, that we compose our most eloquent tirades about God’s unfairness.

But Joseph’s story wasn’t over. And neither is ours. God is able to collect all the nastiness of an evil world and use it for good in the end.

 

Timothy Dexter, who was tricked into buying worthless stock, found that the Hamilton funding system reinvigorated its value and made him a fortune. He sent warming pans to the West Indies – where they discovered they were ideal molasses scoops for making sugar. A fleet of Russian ships arrived in the West Indies at the same time his mittens did, and he sold them all at a healthy profit.

It turned out there was a miner’s strike at Newcastle when Lord Dexter’s coal shipments arrived, and he sold it all – making him one of the wealthiest nitwits on earth.

Oh, yeah – and his book. It’s so painfully awful, it’s now a valuable collector’s item.

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Aaron the Bus Driver

Story of the Day for Thursday May 3, 2012

Aaron the Bus Driver

                 When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son. 

                                                        Romans 5:10

 

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a man he calls Aaron.

Aaron lived in the Chicago area and prayed that the Lord might give him a significant ministry. He wanted to serve in a Christian organization or on a church staff, but nothing turned up.

After weeks of praying and searching, he found nothing, so he resigned himself to finding any job he could, and began driving bus in southside Chicago.

Aaron’s route took him through a dangerous section of the city. Gangs would board the bus and refuse to pay. They would taunt him as well as the other passengers.

This went on for several days. Finally, Aaron spotted a police officer standing at a bus stop. He reported the gang members and the policeman made them all pay their fare.

But then the policeman got off the bus, and the gang members stayed on.  After the bus was out of sight of the policeman, they assaulted Aaron.

 

When Aaron regained consciousness, there was blood all over his shirt. Two teeth were missing, his eyes were swollen, his money was gone, and the bus was empty.

As Aaron recuperated at home from his injuries, his resentment against God began to build. He was willing to serve God in ministry. He prayed for an opportunity to serve, and this is how God thanks him for his willingness and dedication?

 

On Monday, Aaron pressed charges, and with assistance from the police and eyewitnesses, the gang members were rounded up and arrested.

At the hearing, Aaron walked into the courtroom with his attorney, and the thugs glared at him.

When the gang members pleaded guilty to the charges, however, Aaron stood up and asked for permission to speak. “Your honor, I would like you to total up all the days of punishment against these men . . .” Then he continued, “And I request that you allow me to go to jail in their place.”

The judge was stunned. Both attorneys were stunned. But, most of all, the gang members looked at him with wide-eyed amazement.

The judge ruled him out of order and told Aaron that this sort of thing had never been done before.

“Oh, yes, it has, your honor . . . yes, it has. It happened over nineteen centuries ago when a man from Galilee paid the penalty that all mankind deserved. “

Aaron went on to speak how Jesus died for our sins to bring his love and forgiveness to everyone.

 

The judge denied Aaron’s request. But Aaron visited his attackers in jail. Most of them became Christians. And, so he began the significant ministry he had prayed for, in the tough neighborhoods of southside Chicago.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


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Jesus’ View of Status

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 2, 2012

Jesus’ View on Status

                   Jesus told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. For the least one among you is the greatest.”
Matthew 25:40

The murmurs of anticipation began to increase in this year’s NFL draft as the Baltimore Colts were on the clock to make their pick. They surprised everyone by picking a quarterback.

I’m not talking about the Colt’s number one pick of quarterback Andrew Luck; the place was buzzing over the last pick in the draft: Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois. By being selected dead last in the draft, Chandler captured the dubious honor of being named “Mr. Irrelevant.”

For the last twenty years, the final pick in the draft has been announced by Paul Salata, a white-haired man in his mid-eighties. He invented the Mr. Irrelevant award thirty-seven years ago — not to honor the first, but the last player picked in the NFL draft.

Chandler Harnish will hold news conferences and be showered with gifts. One bank will give him one day’s interest on a million dollars so he can feel like a millionaire for a day. He’ll get a jersey from every team in the NFL just in case he, um, gets traded to another team.

Harnish will be flown to Newport Beach, California, where they’ll throw beach parties, parades, and regattas in his honor. Then Disneyland. He will drag the infield during an Anaheim Angel’s baseball game (they won’t let him throw out the first pitch because that would make him relevant). After a banquet held in his honor he will receive his award. Instead of the Heisman, he’ll get the Lowsman trophy — a statue of a football player with a clueless stare as he’s fumbling the football.

Some think the hoopla surrounding the Mr. Irrelevant award is stupid. Even more consider it insensitive. But I think Paul Salata’s brainchild is genius. He reminds us of a teaching of Jesus that we easily forget.

In society, we honor and award the highest achievers, and why not?

But love can’t be won by achievement. Ask a mother if she loves her newborn baby less because it hasn’t yet won a spelling bee or hit the winning home run in little league. God doesn’t love us because we’re better than others; God loves us because we’re there.

Jesus gravitated toward society’s losers. He takes all our rankings according to status and tips them upside down. When it comes to learning acceptance and love, it may take us a while to wallow through the confusion and realize the least are the greatest.

Paul Salata knows what it’s like to be overshadowed by greatness. He played for the 49ers and the Colts, but didn’t amount to much. Salata went on to become an actor. He appeared in movies such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Ten Commandments,” but his roles were so unimportant he’s not even listed in the credits.

The public may see Mr. Irrelevant Week as a lot of overblown silliness. Yet, Salata has used donations for the event to quietly give over a million dollars to those who are “irrelevant”: Goodwill, Marines at Camp Pendleton, and disabled athletes needing artificial limbs.

Whenever anyone reminds me about Jesus’ view on status, I find it intensely relevant.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Best Bad Call

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 1, 2012

The Best Bad Call

                                If your adversary is hungry, give him something to eat.
Romans 12:20

The decision of the umpires was later found to be in error, but I’m so happy that they got it wrong.

Central Washington University was hosting Western Oregon University in 2008 in the last game of the season. The winner would earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament in Division II woman’s softball.

Western Oregon sent Sara Tucholsky to the plate. With two runners on base she hit a home run – the first one of her career. She was so jubilant that she forgot to step on first base. Realizing her mistake, she spun around so quickly that she tore her ACL in her knee.  As she lay writhing in pain, her teammates were helpless. If they touched her, that would constitute assisting a base runner and she would be called out.

After conferring on the rules, an umpire told Western Oregon’s head coach, Pam Knox, that a pinch runner could come in for her, but it would be credited as a single, and her home run would be taken away.

It broke the coach’s heart to erase the only home run of Sara’s career, but she was clearly unable to tag the bases on her own.

At that moment, however, Mallory Holtman, the star player for the opposing team ran up to an umpire and asked, “Would it be okay if we carried her around and she touched each bag?” The ump shrugged and said there was no rule against it.

So, Holtman, and her teammate, Liz Wallace, gingerly picked her up and started walking her around the bases. When they came to a base, they would gently lower her good leg and tap the base with Sara’s foot.

As the three girls rounded the bases, the crowd gave them all a standing ovation.

This caring act for their opponent ended up costing Mallory and Liz’s team the game – ending their hopes of getting into the tournament. But no one seemed to care.

Mallory Holtman viewed Sara Tucholsky as her opponent . . . until she was overcome by compassion for her need.

We are so easily angered by the behavior of our enemies. But what if we focused more on their hurts. Their needs. What if, when we noticed how hungry they were, we gave them some of our food?

The NCAA later said the umpire’s ruling was in error. A substitute could have run the bases and Sara would’ve been awarded a home run.

I’m so glad, however, that the umpire got it wrong. Far more important than a correct ruling was what happened to our hearts when two brave women helped their opponent when she was hurting.
                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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No More Spit in Soup

Story of the Day for Monday April 30, 2012

No More Spit in Soup

Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he’s thirsty, give him something to drink.”
Romans 12:17, 20

Ray Stedman recalled a story that took place during the Korean War. Some officers rented a house and hired a Korean boy to cook and do housework for them. He was a cheerful, good-natured young man, and the soldiers soon had a lot of fun playing practical jokes on him.

They would nail his shoes to the floor or balance a pail of water on the door so that when he opened it, the water would come splashing down on him.

But no matter how many tricks they played on him, he always took it with good humor.

The soldiers eventually started feeling bad about the mean tricks they were playing and sat down one day with the Korean boy.

“We’ve been doing all these mean things to you and you’ve taken it so nicely. We just want to apologize to you and tell you that we are never going to do those things again.”

“You mean no more nail shoes to floor?”

“No more,” they assured him.

“You mean no more water on door?”

“No more.”

“Okay, then,” he said, “no more spit in soup.”

Isn’t retaliation wonderful? It gets us through the tough times in life by giving us the satisfaction of knowing we have evened the score.

We enjoy “pay back time.”  If we didn’t, Hollywood would go belly up, because “getting even” is a major theme of movies.

The logic of retaliation is to “fight fire with fire.” But, if you fight fire with fire, what do you have more of? You have more fire.

If you fight evil with evil, what do you have more of?

Jesus came up with a wild, radical notion. He thinks you should fight fire with water.  You fight evil with love.

Dr. J. Stuart Holden conducted worship services for the British Highland Regiment. While in Egypt, a sergeant told him how he became a believer.

“A private became a Christian while we were in Malta,” the sergeant told Holden. One night, the private came in exhausted, but took the time to kneel outside his tent to pray.

Annoyed by this, the sergeant said he took off his muddy boots and slapped the soldier on the side of the head. But he just went on praying.

The next morning the sergeants awoke to find his boots by his tent, cleaned and polished.

“That,” the sergeant said, “was his reply to me . . . I was saved that day.”

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Once You’ve Heard Their Story

Story of the Day for Saturday April 28, 2012

Once You’ve Heard Their Story

He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with justice he will give his verdict on the needy, and will make fair decisions for the meek of the earth.
Isaiah 11:3-4

In 1873, Karl Asmis, a young German forester was deputized by the local postmaster to deliver an important letter. The envelope contained a large sum of money.

The letter was never delivered. Karl reported that, while walking through the woods to deliver the letter, he shot a rabbit. He figured the easiest way to carry both would be to tie the envelope around the rabbit’s neck and sling the rabbit over his shoulder.

But, Karl claimed, the rabbit wasn’t dead; only stunned. It squirmed out of his grasp and hopped into the forest with the envelope around its neck.

An imaginative story, but no one was buying it. Karl was shunned by everyone in town.

Sometimes people say things that betray their lack of believability or dimwittedness.

Joe Theismann was a two time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He led his team to a Super Bowl victory, and then his career was abruptly ended when Giants linebacker, Lawrence Taylor’s tackle shattered Theismann’s lower leg.

Theismann became a sportscaster and his most well-known utterance did nothing to disabuse us of the “dumb jock” stereotype. When another reporter asked Theismann whether he considered his former coach, Joe Gibbs, to be a genius, Theismann said he didn’t think the word “genius” was appropriate. “A genius,” Theismann said, “is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

I scorn liars and snicker at others who say dumb things. And I’m pretty good at finding fault with other people.

But I’ve noticed that, once I get to know someone personally, my attitude changes. Andrew Stanton tells the story about the former television host, Mr. Rogers. Stanton says Mr. Rogers always carried a quote in his wallet that said: “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love, once you’ve heard their story.”

Isaiah 11 is a prophecy that, when the Messiah comes, he won’t be predisposed to judge us. He will come to hear our story and bring reconciliation rather than condemnation.

Back to Joe Theismann. When Joe went to South River High School in New Jersey, he would occasionally play basketball and touch football with a kid down the block. This high school classmate was brilliant. He was the class valedictorian and is now a physician.

His name was Norman Einstein.

As for Theismann, he was an All-American quarterback in college. But he was also an academic All-American. Joe Theismann isn’t a dumb jock; he’s a bright guy.

And before we leave Karl Asmis eternally covered in shame, Doug Storer, in his book  Amazing But True Facts, says that a few years after the money disappeared, some boys reported finding a hawk’s nest. In it were remnants of a rabbit’s skeleton. And the inside of the nest was lined with money.
                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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As Far As the Headlights

Story of the Day for Friday April 27, 2012

As Far As Your Headlights

When God called Abraham, by faith he obeyed and went . . . even though he didn’t know where he was going. . . Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations — where God was the architect and builder.
Hebrews 11:8,10

In Egypt, Israel groaned under the lash of slavery. They longed for freedom, but God promised them far more than an escape from slavery; he promised to lead them to a land “dripping with milk and honey.”

The path to the Promised Land, however, led through a trackless wilderness. God told them the destination, but only He knew the route. As the days wore on they lost sight of the goal. They no longer strode toward their dream; they trudged.

Once they forgot their destination, they became demoralized and demanded that Moses lead them back to Egypt — even if that meant a return to slavery.

When we forget where we’re going, turning back to where we used to be is far more comfortable.

When I came down with strep throat, my doctor would gave me antibiotics. He cautioned me to continue taking the pills until they were all gone. But after a few days I would start feeling perky again, and would quit taking them.

Recently, I’ve been cheered to learn I have comrades. The most common problem in fighting resistant bacteria is patients who quit taking the full course of antibiotics once they start feeling better.

The medical community sought help with this problem from, of all people, Rory Sutherland — a marketing guru from an advertising agency. His solution was simple: “Don’t give them twenty-four white pills,” he advised. “Give them twenty white pills and four blue ones, and tell them to take the blue pills after they’ve finished the white ones.”

Even though the blue pills were no different — other than color — it worked. Instead of taking pills until they felt better, patients focused on the pills at the end of the process — those four blue pills.

When God called Abraham to leave his home and travel to a new land, the Bible says Abraham didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know where he’d pitch his tent the next day. He didn’t need to. Abraham saw that the journey’s end would lead him home to God. Abraham saw the destination and trusted in the mercy of God to get him there. And that’s why he never turned back.

When you see the goal, you can walk without seeing what’s around the bend. Life is a lot like novelist E. L. Doctorow’s description of completing a book. “Writing a novel,” he says, “is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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What Are You Hiding Under the Woodpile?

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Hey, Who Has the Talking Stick?

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 25, 2012

Hey, Who Has the Talking Stick?

                     If you don’t consult others, plans fail. But with many advisors they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22

In 1906, the livestock fair at Plymouth, in Devon, England accepted wagers on the weight of a butchered ox. About 800 fairgoers placed a bet.

Sir Francis Galton was a brilliant statistician, but was an elitist. He believed most people were incompetent to have a say in political affairs. Because most of those who wagered on the weight of the ox were neither farmers not butchers, he believed the uninformed crowd would guess wildly off the mark — and he was almost right.

Many who made wagers were nowhere near the actual weight of the ox. When the wagering was over, the ox was put on the scale and weighed in at 1198 pounds. Galton took all 800 wagers and averaged their guesses. He was stunned to discover, however, that the statistical mean of all the guesses came to . . . 1197 pounds.

When Native American tribes faced important decisions, their leaders would gather for a council. They began by smoking the calumet. They relaxed, passed the pipe, and established a common bond. When various tribes gathered together, a chief from one tribe would speak. When he finished, the council was over for the day. The next chief would not speak until the others had a day to mull over the words of the first chief.

When some tribes held their own councils, they fashioned a talking stick. Often, an eagle feather was attached to the stick to symbolize the courage to speak truthfully, along with rabbit fur to remind them to speak from the heart. No one was ever allowed to interrupt the one holding the talking stick. By passing the talking stick to every member of the council, everyone viewpoint was heard, and everyone learned to listen carefully to each person’s viewpoint.

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you may be itching for me to hand you the talking stick. And you probably have some excellent points to make.

“Marty, pointing out that the statistical regression to the mean helps a crowd to accurately guess a cow’s weight is not . . .”

“I think it was an ox, actually.”

“Hey, who has the talking stick?”

“Sorry.”

“A group’s ability to accurately estimate the weight of an ox is far different from a group’s ability to discover theological truths by consensus. You can’t discover whether God loves you by taking a vote.”

“Excellent point. When others share their opinion they may well be wrong. But, all the same, we’re never harmed by listening thoughtfully to what they have to say.”

“I still haven’t given you back the talking stick.”

“Oops.”

                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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If Honey Bees Can Do It

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 24, 2012

If Honey Bees Can Do It

                   After a lot of debating . . .
Acts 15:7

When the church was young and began spreading the good news beyond the borders of Israel, a dispute arose. Some believers insisted the gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved, while other believers vigorously opposed this — claiming that we are saved only because of God’s mercy to us in Christ.

How does a group resolve an issue when its members are butting heads? Well, if we can glean any wisdom from honey bees, butting heads is part of the process.

Thomas Seeley, a biology professor at Cornell, found that the ideal bee hive is at least ten gallons in volume, fifteen feet off the ground, and has a narrow entrance.

Seeley found an island off the coast of Maine with no honey bees — nor trees to make a hive. Along with his co-workers, Seeley built several mediocre bee houses but made one honey bee dream home. Then he brought a hive of 6000 bees to the island.

Scouts would fly out from the hive in all directions — looking for a place to relocate. When a scout discovered a possible new home, she would return to the hive and report her findings (all scouts are female) by doing a dance.

Other scouts would then fly out to investigate each report. But with scouts returning from several locations, how does the hive know which new home to choose?

First, the hive looks for enthusiasm. The better the new potential home site the scout has discovered, the wilder its dance when it returns to the hive.

The other vital aspect to a scout’s report is modesty. They don’t behave as if their discovery is the best one. They listen to each other; no one is stubborn.

Once all the scouts have reported in on potential home sites, the head-butting begins. A dancing scout for one location will head-butt a dancing scout reporting on another site, and both stop dancing. When about fifteen bees are all dancing for the same location, scouts start head-butting bees from their own “team.” A quorum has been reached.

The hive has now decided on the best new location. In Dr. Seeley’s experiments, he found the honey bees choose the best option about 90 percent of the time.

The first major dispute in the church was beautifully resolved. Everyone offered an opinion. They butted heads in spirited debate. They recited facts and quoted Scripture.

In the end, the council concluded all people are saved by the grace of Jesus.

To argue a position with both passion and modesty is a difficult balance to achieve. To dance with enthusiasm for your position but then later head-butt your supporters to respectfully consider another viewpoint, is the perfect combination of fervor and humility.

But if honey bees can do it . . .
           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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No Matter How Small

Story of the Day for Monday April 23, 2012

No Matter How Small

                 Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? . . . It’s like a mustard seed which, when you plant it, is the smallest of all the seeds in the ground.”
Mark 4:30-31

In ancient times, Mesopotamia was considered the most advanced civilization on earth. What better place to be if you wanted to have a significant impact on the ancient world.

But when God called Abram, he told him to leave this advanced civilization and retreat to a lonely, desolate land where he could carve out a living as a wandering nomad. So much for significant world impact, right?

The Lord wanted to create a family that could be called “God’s children” – a family greater than the stars you can count in the night sky. And how does God bring about this staggering multitude? He tells Abram and Sarai to go and make a baby.

When your objective is to create staggering multitudes, it just seems that Abram’s contribution didn’t get things off to a rousing start. But that is how God’s kingdom works. You start with the little things – things as tiny as mustard seeds.

Common sense tells us that, if you want to be fabulously wealthy, you should sell products that yield enormous profits – like skyscrapers, or Boeing 747s, or tickets to a Packer game.

But Ray Kroc chose to make a profit of only a few pennies on his products. He started selling hamburgers in 1955 for fifteen cents. He called his restaurant: McDonald’s. Apparently, pennies do add up because Ray’s widow gave a gift from the profits of those hamburgers to the Salvation Army – a gift of 1½ BILLION dollars.

A woman once said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

The “small tasks” this woman sought to accomplish were smaller than you might think. She was both blind and deaf. At the age of seven, she first learned what a “word” was. When the rest of us have reached the age when we can speak fluently, she was learning how to speak audibly. Her small task was to learn to pronounce a word that she would never be able to hear.

But, through her small tasks, Helen Keller became one of the most popular authors of her age. She was invited to the White House by every president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliffe College (graduating cum laude). And she was awarded the country’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Keller summarized her life by saying, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

No matter how small.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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What Are You Letting In?

Story of the Day for Saturday April 21, 2012

What Are You Letting In?

Their vine is the grapevine from Sodom. It comes from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters are bitter.
Deuteronomy 32:32

Chris McCandless craved adventure.  Rejecting the materialism of American culture, he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness – both to prove he could live off the land with only the provisions he could carry, and to seek a deeper wisdom to life.

Before plunging into the wilderness, Chris bought a book on edible plants. He wanted to forage for food like the native Dean’ina Indians. He ate berries and dug wild potato root. He also hunted game – mostly birds, porcupines, and squirrels.

But something was wrong. He kept losing weight.

Jon Kraukauer, pieced together this episode of Chris McCandless’s life in his book, Into the Wild.  Through extensive research, Krakauer discovered that Chris noted in his diary that he began eating the seed pods of the wild potato. What McCandless did not know was that, in the summertime, wild potato seed pods become toxic with a chemical called swainsonine.  It blocks the body’s ability to convert other foods into energy.  No matter how much food you eat, you will starve.

When McCandless finally realized his mistake, he was too weak to get up and gather more food. Local hunters found his body later that year.

I like healthy foods.

But –  hold your applause – while I like healthy food, I also scarf down junk food in generous portions.

For example, I love huckleberries. These wild, mountain berries have no greater joy in life than to rush antioxidants through our bodies, and to increase our vigor and zest. But I also love bratwurst – those delicious gut bombs larded with enough cholesterol to plug a drainpipe.

It’s not enough to eat healthy food. All the nutritious food in the world won’t help you if you’re also sucking down poison.

Is our spiritual diet really any different?

Before you think I’m just being a scold, let me emphasize that the issue is not what we are exposed to, but what we embrace.  For example, in Proverbs it says we should avoid associating with people who are easily angered, because we’ll become like them. But it’s impossible to avoid contact with hot-tempered people.

What we’re exposed to doesn’t poison our minds; it’s what we embrace that matters.

God wants us to embrace all that is good. But, when it comes to spiritual health, what you keep out of your heart is just as important as what you let in.
                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Kind Words and A Kiss

Story of the Day for Friday April 20, 2012

Kind Words and A Kiss

What a joy to give an apt reply, and how delightful is a timely word!
Proverbs 15:23

Benjamin West was one of the greatest painters of his day. Do you recall his masterpiece The Death of General Wolfe? Okay, well never mind — he was a good painter. He painted Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. In 1763, he moved to England where King George III had him paint the portraits of the royal family. Later, he became president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

William Barclay describes a time when West was little. One day his mother left him in charge of his little sister Sally. Benjamin discovered some bottles of ink and began to paint Sally’s portrait

He made quite a mess of things, with ink blots all over.

When his mother came home, she saw the mess but said nothing. She noticed the painting, picked it up and said, “Why, it’s Sally!” Then she stooped down and kissed Benjamin.
Benjamin West used to say, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”

Kind words and a kiss. What a joyous moment that must have been.

I’m not, however, referring to the delight of little Benjamin West, but of his mother. Proverbs 15:23 isn’t talking about the joy of receiving an apt reply; it’s talking about the joy of giving one.

Many times, of course, we must criticize others, and others must criticize us. But have you ever noticed that those who are habitually critical of others look like they just found a toenail clipping in their soup?

Yeah, sometimes we have to criticize, but it pains us — or, at least it should pain us. Speaking kind words, on the other hand, does more than bring encouragement to the hearer; an encouraging word delights the giver.

This last winter I completed my twentieth Birkebeiner. The “Birkie” is a cross-country ski marathon stretching over thirty miles from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.
Thousands of spectators line the course. To reach the finish line you must ski down Main Street in Hayward. You can hear the thunderous roar of the crowd well before you hit the street. Through a P.A. system that can be heard above the din of the crowd, the announcer shouts out your name and hometown as you ski to the finish.

The Birkie is a moving experience. Everyone claps for you and cheers you on. Not once has a spectator shouted “Ski faster! I can’t believe how slow you are!”
Fatigue always catches up with you and when you feel you can ski no further, the spectators provide the lift that sees you through to the finish.

When it comes to spiritual things, I’m a late bloomer, but in recent years I’ve made a discovery. When a fellow skier is injured or has hit the wall, I like to stop now and help. I’m slow enough as it is, and stopping to help others does nothing for my race time.
Over all these years the spectators never shared their secret with me . . . but I’ve learned it’s even more thrilling to give encouragement than it is to receive it.

The Bible says Jesus, “for the joy set before him” endured the cross in our place. Slowly I’m learning how true his words are when he taught us, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Great Fires and Small Flames

Story of the Day for Thursday April 19, 2012

Great Fires and Small Flames

                    Look how great a forest is set on fire by a small flame.

                                                                  James 3:5         

      Boston has named its major league baseball team after a certain color of stocking, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th century, Boston’s baseball team used to have a silly name. They were called the Boston Beaneaters.

     The Beaneaters had, arguably, the best stadium in baseball. The South End Grounds included the Grand Pavilion, a two-story grandstand, which featured ornate spires and turrets.

     On May 15, 1894, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Beaneaters in the South End Grounds in Boston. In the third inning, a man lit a cigarette in the right field stands and the match fell below the bleachers, starting a small fire.

     But, at that very moment, a fierce fight broke out between Boston’s Tommy Tucker and Baltimore’s John McGraw. Soon both teams emptied their dugouts and ran onto the field. The fans were riveted on the brawl. Spectators began throwing food and beer bottles onto the field. Fights erupted in the stands.

     All this while, the fire grew and spread. Soon the bleachers were engulfed in flames. The fire not only destroyed the ballpark, but spread through the city. Before the fire was brought under control, 170 buildings were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.

     When a brawl erupts during a baseball game, a little flame doesn’t captivate our attention. But, after it becomes a devastating fire, and hundreds have lost their homes and all their belongings, a fight at a ballgame doesn’t seem all that important.

     The apostle James warns us about the dangers of little things. Great fires are started by small flames. And bitter feuds – even wars – can be started by minor slights or insults. Yet, we’re often unconcerned about the minor rifts we create because, like a small flame, it’s so minor.

     But little things, when ignored, become big things. The longest peacetime border in the world lays between the United States and Canada, but that peace was threatened by the death of a pig.

     On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler shot a neighbor’s pig that got into his garden. His now pigless neighbor threatened to defend his case in British Columbia, but Cutler refused, claiming the island on which they resided was American territory.

     Tensions grew as sixty U.S. soldiers, led by Captain George Pickett (who would later lead the ill-fated charge at Gettysburg) claimed the island as U.S. territory. The Canadians brought an equal number of soldiers – claiming the island for Canada. 

    “The Pig War of 1859,” as it is called, involved a military standoff that lasted twelve years. It was finally settled without loss of life . . . except for one pig.  

Extinguishing a flame early is a lot less costly than trying to put out a raging forest fire.

                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Willing to Bow

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 18, 2012

 Willing to Bow

 

                  I am free, but I make myself a servant of everyone, in order that I might win more.

                                                                   1 Corinthians 9:19    

When he died in October of 2001, his funeral brought together politicians from both sides of the aisle. Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton sat next to Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Ted Kennedy attended along with Jesse Helms. He was loved by both Democrats and Republicans alike because, though he served as Senate Majority Leader longer than anyone in history, though he was one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, he always treated everyone with kindness. He was a servant.

In April 1981, Mansfield was serving as Ambassador to Japan, under Ronald Reagan.  A U.S. nuclear submarine, the USS George Washington accidentally rammed a Japanese freighter, the Nissho Maru. To make matters worse, the American vessel did not stay on the scene to attend to the dead and wounded, but disappeared.

 

The submarine was under orders not to disclose its location, but this act created outrage among the Japanese.

 

Mansfield was in the center of the controversy. He demanded a full report from the U.S. .Navy, and delivered it, in person, to Japan’s Foreign Minister, Sunao Sonoda.

 

As Charles Ferris recounted the incident, he said that Mansfield requested the cameras remain on him after their greeting. This was an odd request because Mansfield never enjoyed being in the limelight. But he knew what he was doing.

 

As the cameras were allowed to remain on, Mansfield bowed deeply from the waist before giving the report to the Foreign Minister. He knew Japanese culture well. A deep bow expresses the depth and sincerity of an apology.

 

Mansfield’s biographer, Don Oberdorfer writes, “That five seconds was played and replayed on Japan’s TV stations many times over . . .” The political issue was defused by a public act of regret and humility.

 

 

The apostle Paul was a free man. Yet, he used his freedom to become a servant to everyone. He didn’t have to position himself below others, but he chose to because he wanted others to know the life of Christ. 

What do you think?Do non-Christians today feel as if the Christians they know all stoop down to serve them? Or do they feel as if they’re being hammered by churchgoers who loom over them and swing the Truth like a weapon?

 

 

 

The Japanese still speak fondly of Mansfield. Before he died he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun – the highest honor Japan can bestow on a civilian.

They never forgot the man who was willing to bow.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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No Yardstick for Love

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 17, 2012

No Yardstick for Love

                 All day long my mouth will tell of your righteousness and salvation, though I don’t know its measure.

                                                                      Psalm 71:15   

 

Women are puzzling when they learn a baby has been born. They always want to know measurements, and excitedly pass on this information. “Did you hear Emily just had a baby girl? Six pounds, eight-and-a-half ounces, seventeen inches long!”

 

Guys are different. After they learn it’s a boy or a girl, they really don’t know what to say. “Um . . .Does it have a belly button?”

 

Women get excited about a newborn’s measurements, but the odd thing is that the actual measurements don’t matter. It’s not like a bass fishing derby — where the bigger the largemouth the better. Babies don’t win awards for their length or weight. It’s not a competition.

I believe a woman needs to measure a newborn because this is how she express her joy.

 

Love always wants to measure what can’t be measured. Lovers write poems claiming their love is deeper than the deepest ocean. So, what are they trying to say? That their love is more than 10.91 kilometers at the point where Mariana Trench lies due north of Papua, New Guinea? Not exactly.

 

Laying a newborn baby on a scale or imagining the depth of the ocean are imprecise means of calculating love, but how else do you measure the immeasurable?

 

A lot of important things, however, can be measured accurately. That’s why we monitor our blood pressure and periodically lift the car hood to check the dipstick. But we get into trouble when precise measurements are the only standards we accept as important.

 

Before his death from pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch, in his book The Final Lecture, talks about his consulting work with Disney World. He asked Disney executives a pointed question: If a child walked into one of their stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker, would their policies allow their workers to replace it free of charge?

 

Not likely. You can easily calculate the cost of a salt and pepper shaker. Giving one away is a financial loss. Do that for a billion customers and it could put you out of business.

 

But Randy would tell the executives of the time, as a youngster, he went into a store at Disney World and bought a salt and pepper shaker for ten dollars. Afterward, he dropped his purchase and broke one of the shakers. He was heartbroken.

 

An adult noticed Randy’s tears and urged him to go back to the store and ask to have it replaced. The store worker cheerfully gave him a new one.

 

Did Disney World lose money doing that? By one way of measurement, yes. But Randy’s dad was so impressed when he heard of this act of kindness he started driving his students to Disney World in a twenty-one passenger bus from Maryland. Pausch says his dad spent over $100,000 at Disney World over the years.

Love can’t be calculated and recorded on a spreadsheet — and this is especially true of Jesus’ love for you. We will always struggle to describe it because there is no yardstick for a love beyond measure.

                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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A Little More Vibrato

Story of the Day for Monday April 16, 2012

A  Little More Vibrato

                     Tell them not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which only end in speculation instead of God’s work, which is done by faith.
1 Timothy 1:3-4

Every year our family hosts an open house. My wife cooks mountains of food, but holds the family under the inflexible rule that we can’t scarf down all the food before the party. This, obviously, places us under an undue hardship. And so, as my daughter, Elly, and I savor the aroma of baked cookies fresh from the oven, we decide the time has come to undo the injustices we have suffered.

We hatch a plan, which revolves around the standard magician’s trick of misdirection. While I occupy my wife’s attention in the living room, Elly will sneak into the kitchen, make the heist, and then we will retire to a private corner of the house to enjoy our bounty.

In the living room, I hold my wife spellbound by singing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. The key to making this song memorable (as my sister taught me) is to sing it like Elmer Fudd, and then to pinch the skin over your Adam’s apple — jiggling it to create a vibrato.

“Cwaa-zy, I’m cwazy fo’ feewin’ so wone-wee . . .”

My wife rolls her eyes and heaves a big sigh. This song always gets to her.

“Cwaa-zy, cwazy fo’ feewin’ so bwue . . .”

When the Nazis overran France in World War II, French resistance fighters continued to oppose Hitler, but they were forced to live in hiding.

In 1943, they decided to come out of hiding and celebrate Armistice Day in the town of Oyonnax. The French holiday, which observes the Allied victory over Germany in World War I, was banned by the Nazis — who were not amused to find posters plastered throughout the town of Nantua, announcing a demonstration on Armistice Day.

On the morning of November 11th, the police from Oyonnax flocked to the neighboring town of Nantua to help authorities arrest the demonstrators.

Once the police left Oyannax, French freedom fighters swept down from their hillside hideouts and easily captured the police station. After shutting down the telephone system and blocking all traffic coming in or out of town, the cheering and weeping citizens welcomed the freedom fighters as they presented a floral cross of Lorraine to “the victors of yesterday from those of tomorrow.” After leading the citizens in a rousing rendition of the “Marseillaise,” the freedom fighters disappeared again into the hills.

The Bible says we can get misdirected from doing what God would have us do. We get embroiled in debates that just aren’t that important and neglect to focus on what we should be doing. The goal is our life in Jesus; a life of faith and love.

I do wish, however, my wife could be more easily diverted from preserving her baked goods for parties. We got nabbed before we could enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Next time, I think a little more vibrato will do the trick.
                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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But Truth Won’t Break

Story of the Day for Saturday April 14, 2012

But Truth Won’t Break

                  Because of rebellion . . . truth was flung to the ground.
Daniel 8:12

When Stephen Covey speaks to audiences, he will sometimes ask everyone to close their eyes and point north. Telling them not to move their arms, he asks everyone to open their eyes. The audience discovers it is pointing every which way.

Are they all correct? Is north whatever direction you think it is? Or, is there one direction that points to true north?

Before you answer that, let’s ratchet things up a notch. Suppose you’re driving in an unfamiliar city when your child in the back seat suddenly becomes ill. You shout out your car window at a passing pedestrian, “Where is the nearest hospital?”

“Three blocks north of here.”

If you are unsure of your directions would you ask which way is north? Or, would you conclude it didn’t matter – north is whatever direction you believe it to be?

Now, if it was up to me, I would never discuss mathematics because I’m so bad at it. But, our present circumstances compel me to bring up the topic of pi.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. And, while most of us can live happy lives without ever learning this fact, I’m told that correctly calculating pi is critical in some areas of life.

The number for pi is often identified as 3.14, but that isn’t true. Pi is an irrational number that keeps going until it disappears over the horizon. (In November, 2005, Chao Lu recited the first 67,890 decimal places of pi from memory.)

All this was not going down well with Edward J. Goodwin. As an amateur mathematician, he offered to the world three ways of calculating pi. The first formula calculated pi as 3.2, while other formulas yielded the numbers 3.23 and 4.

T.I. Record knew a good thing when he saw one. In 1897, as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, he introduced Bill #246, which changed the number of pi to Goodwin’s suggestions. The bill was sent to the House, where everyone was delighted to make pi a simpler number. Bill #246 was unanimously approved, 67 to 0.

The bill was passed on the Senate. But then a mathematics professor from Purdue, C.A. Waldo, convinced them they were a bunch of loons, and the bill died in committee.

We can fling the truth to the ground, but truth won’t break. If we ignore it, it will break us.

God doesn’t exist because we believe in him. He’s True North, and our opinions about him won’t alter who he is. What matters is that we find, and hold on to, what is true about God, and life in general, rather than trying to invent it.

In Indiana, preserving the true number of pi saved all the architects in the state from banging their heads against walls and mumbling incoherently.
                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Their Stronghold

Story of the Day for Thursday April 12, 2012

Their Stronghold

                   Return to the stronghold, O prisoners of hope.
Zechariah 9:12

August Cyparis was a troublemaker. In his mid-twenties, Cyparis lived in St. Pierre on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He was arrested for brawling and forced to do hard labor. But, near the end of his sentence, he escaped from his laboring job to spend the night dancing. Even though he turned himself in to authorities the next morning, they were not amused and threw him in solitary confinement — a windowless dungeon that used to be a bomb-proof ammunition storage room.

St. Pierre, a beautiful city of 28,000, was called “The Paris of the West.” It was nestled on the ocean at the base of a dormant volcano, Mt. Pelée.

But in January of 1902, Pelée started grumbling. Fumerole activity began to increase, and by April, earth tremors could be felt. The sulfurous gas and ash drove snakes and insects off the volcano and around fifty people died of snakebites while livestock was tormented by biting red ants.

Governor Mouttet, however, convinced the editor of the daily newspaper to downplay the danger. He sent a handful of civic leaders to the summit of the volcano to inspect the situation. Though the only scientist among them was a high school teacher, they reported, “The safety of St. Pierre is completely assured.”

Not all the residents believed the reports. Yet, those who fled for safety were rounded up by troops and returned to St. Pierre — on the Governor’s order.

Governor Mouttet didn’t want a mass exodus from the city because he was up for re-election in one week, and wanted no instability among the voters.

The election never took place. On May 8, Mt. Pelée erupted. The city was leveled by searing hot gas (around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) that blew an estimated 400 miles an hour. A three ton statue was blown sixteen feet off its mount. Three foot masonry walls were demolished.

Within three minutes, all 28,000 residents were killed.

All except for two people. And one of those two survivors was a prisoner sitting in solitary confinement. There in the massive walls of the dungeon, August Cyparis was protected.

Cyparis survived, but not because he was a good man. He survived because of the massive stronghold that protected him.

On the day of Judgment, it is not the good, the strong, who will survive. Those saved will be all those who look to the God of mercy to be their stronghold.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  

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“If People Could Just Be…”

Story of the Day for Thursday April 12, 2012

“If People Could Just Be……”

                    In whatever way you judge someone else, you are condemning yourself, for you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 2:1

When I was a young pastor, the wife of a man I’ll call Mike Poganski phoned to say her husband was being transferred to a larger hospital in another town. Mike had already been in the local hospital with a serious condition, so this was not good news.

I jumped in the car and drove to the larger hospital. After getting Mike’s room number at the receptionist’s desk, I rushed off in search of his room.

I peeked into his room and noticed no one in the first bed. I knocked on the door and the man in the second bed behind the curtain invited me in.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said. “It’s the Sunshine Committee coming to check up on you.”

When I saw Mike I did a double-take.  Mike is a big man with a beard. This man was tall and wore a beard, but he was much younger.

Suddenly it dawned on me. When Mrs. Poganski called to say Mike was in the hospital, she didn’t mean her husband, but her son, Mike Jr. I wish people would be more precise about these things because it would eliminate needless confusion.

Luckily, I am quick at piecing things together and know how to roll with the punches. I had never met Mike Jr., but if his mom wanted me to visit him that was fine with me.

“Just talked to your dad yesterday. Have you heard how he’s doing today?”

“No,” he said, “I haven’t talked to him for over a week.”

That grated me. Your dad’s in the hospital and you don’t visit or even give him a phone call? That’s just not right. But I tried not to show my annoyance.

“Well,” I said, “I hope he starts getting better soon.”

“Yeah.”

Mike Jr.’s unenthusiastic response immediately told me he either had a falling out with his dad or he was lacking in his social skills. But I try not to judge people, so I let it go.

“Sure hope your dad gets better soon. We need him for the dartball tournament. He’s one of the best throwers on our team.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Two weeks ago, he got two doubles and a home run.”

“Oh.”

It’s not my place to criticize, but Mike Jr. was just not a very good conversationalist. I couldn’t get him to open up about anything. So, after asking him about his condition and how he was doing, I asked him if he would like me to have a prayer for him.

“Um . . . sure.”

I prayed, and as I was saying goodbye I noticed his plastic hospital bracelet didn’t say Mike Poganski Jr., but had someone else’s name printed on it.

I’m not the kind of guy who gets easily upset about trifles, but I think I need to write a cordial, but firm, letter to the hospital. When someone’s name ends in Jr., the receptionists should be trained to mention this. And nurses should always double-check the names on the bracelets so they don’t misidentify their patients. If people could just be a little more careful about these things it would eliminate costly or embarrassing mistakes.
                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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He Did Know

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 11, 2012

He Did Know

                                   O God, search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

A small town prosecuting attorney called an elderly woman as his first witness. He approached her on the witness stand and said, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

“Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams,” she said. “I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’re a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat, you manipulate people. You think you’re such a hotshot, but you’re never going to amount to anything but a two-bit ambulance chaser. Yes, I know you!”

The lawyer was stunned. As he tried to collect himself he pointed across the courtroom to the other attorney and stammered, “Do you know him?”

“Why, yes, I certainly do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster too. I used to babysit him when he was little. And he’s a big disappointment to me as well. He’s lazy, bigoted, and drinks too much. The man can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the shoddiest affairs I’ve ever seen. Yes, I know him well!”

At that moment the judge rapped his gavel and called both attorneys to approach the bench. In a low voice the judge warned them, “If either of you asks this woman if she knows me . . . I’m going to jail you for contempt!”

As a young boy, Ted Koppel quickly learned that showing weakness invited bullying. So, he developed an air of confident self-control.

Later in life, as a former anchor for ABC’s Nightline, Koppel has won every major broadcasting award you can name — including 37 Emmys. He is known for his air of confidence in reporting the news.

He candidly admits, however, “No one is that confident in reality, but ours is a business of appearances, and it’s terribly important to be self-confident. The moment you give evidence of doubt, people are going to eat you alive.”

Yet, no matter how confident we appear, no matter what persona we present to others, there is still the nagging fear that someone is going to find us out. They’ll see our doubts and fears, our weakness and wobbly faith.

In one sense, we have good reason to hide behind a mask. If we blurted out all our insecurities to the world, some would use our faults as a weapon to harm us.

King David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is shocking because he invites God to scrounge around in the dark corners of his heart and to discover all his anxieties. David could only ask God to search his heart if he knew God could see him for who he really was — and still accept him.

When Jesus met a woman at a well, he offered her “living water.” He didn’t love her because he mistakenly assumed she was a good woman. He loved her because he did know her sin, and wanted her to find forgiveness.  When the woman ran back to her village, she shouted, “Come! See a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”
                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 10, 2012

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It

                  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.
1 Corinthians 10:11

There’s a lot of wisdom in the down-home saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Yet, I read about a castle in Spain that was built on the edge of a 300 foot cliff. To reach the castle, visitors would be strapped into a large wicker basket and pulled up by a rope with a pulley system.

One visitor reached the top and noticed that the rope that pulled him up was badly frayed.

“How often do you install a new rope?”

The attendant nonchalantly replied, “When the old rope breaks.”

Sometimes we need to talk about fixing things that ain’t broke . . . yet.

It’s a sin to walk up to a member of the Hell’s Angels and tell him he’s a snotty-nosed pile of buffalo dung and that his mother dresses him funny. Not many people, however, commit this sin because they receive immediate feedback that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.

We commit sin because it is a good idea. Or, at least, it seems like it at the time. When I pig out on potato chips or brownies, my life is filled with pleasure and happiness.  There’s no down side . . . until sometime later when I have to suck in my gut to get my pants on. If I blimped out the minute I finished a bag of chips, I would be far more hesitant to do it.  But when the consequences aren’t immediate, somehow, I think my overindulgences are worth the effort.

When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God, the people got tired of waiting for him to come back down, so they made a golden idol and started dancing and whooping it up – proving that idolatry is lots of fun. At first. Later, when Israel arrived east of the Jordan, the men of Israel indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women, who invited them to sacrifice to their pagan god.  And a good time was had by all . . . for the moment. Let’s face it – when we sin, we do so because the pleasure seems, at the moment, to outweigh any negative consequences. And, hey, if it ain’t broke . . .

But Paul uses these incidents of idolatry from Israel’s past to warn us that, even when sin seems like a bargain, it eventually catches up with us.  These tragic examples of Israel’s downfalls are meant as warnings to us that, if it ain’t broke yet, you better fix it anyway, because it is going to break sooner or later.

Jesus didn’t come to pat the “unbroken” on the head and tell them what a good job they did. It’s just as well – he wouldn’t find anyone like that.

He came to heal the brokenhearted, and fit the pieces back together again.
                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Crucial Word is “IF”

Story of the Day for Saturday April 7, 2012

The Crucial Word is “IF”

                     If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is hollow and your faith is useless. 

                                                                                 1 Corinthians 15:14

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of the most popular and well-known politicians in the country. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and was now running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Tim Russert, in his book, Big Russ & Me, says that, during his senate campaign, Moynihan toured a new mental hospital in Utica, New York. He was so exhausted, however, that he decided to take a nap in one of the rooms.

He woke up to discover there were no door handles on the inside. There was a phone, however, so he called the front desk, “Could you please get me out of here?” And then, to give his request a little heft, he added, “This is Ambassador Moynihan.”

“Sure,” the desk clerk chirped, “and Winston Churchill was here yesterday.”

The distraught ambassador repeated his claim, “This is Ambassador Moynihan!”

“Yes, I’m sure it is, but you can’t leave, no matter who you are.”

 

Just as the desk clerk at the mental hospital didn’t believe the man locked in the room was the ambassador to the United Nations, so the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t believe that the corpse lying in the tomb was the Son of God.

Both followers and enemies knew Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead on the third day. Yet, ironically, only his skeptics seemed concerned with the possibility that his prophecy might come true. His followers had already given up hope.

In order to enhance the odds that the tomb would house a corpse on the third day, Jesus’ enemies sought permission from the Roman governor for a military guard to secure the perimeter.

 

So, now, the most important prediction in the history of the universe comes down to a waiting game. If Jesus doesn’t walk out of there by Sunday, faith is worse than useless.

The crucial word is “if.”

Our English word, “laconic,” means to give a short, terse response – to say no more than what is necessary. The term originates from the region of ancient Greece called Laconia.

Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, ruled as king of Macedonia in northern Greece. He wanted to conquer all of Greece, and was on the verge of doing so. Only Laconia remained unconquered.

Philip of Macedon tried to intimidate the Spartans living in Laconia to surrender. He sent them a message saying, “If I enter Laconia with my army, I shall raze Sparta to the ground.”

The Spartans responded to Philip’s threat with a one-word message.

“If.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Real Goal: To Reach the Bottom

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 4, 2012

The Real Goal:  To Reach the Bottom

                                                                    “On the next day, as they came down from the mountain . . .

Luke 9:37

We’re used to watching athletes celebrate when they win a football game or golf tournament. But what is the only sport where athletes do most of their celebrating at the halfway-point of their event?

The answer is mountain climbing. Climbers are triumphant when they reach the peak. They celebrate and take photos and plant flags on the summit.

But, the most difficult part of the climb is still facing them. Mountain climbers tend to see their goal as reaching the top of the mountain. Their real goal, however, must be to reach the bottom.

Most of us are gritty and passionate about climbing the mountains in our life, but we often take some nasty tumbles on the way back down.

Parents often focus their dreams on raising children. When parents have fulfilled their calling and the last kid moves out of the house, a common response for “empty nesters” is depression.

Employees spend their lives working their way up the company ladder. But, once they hand in their keys to the office, the life change becomes more than they’re able to negotiate. They once felt the thrill of making important decisions. Now they are haunted by feelings of uselessness.

Those who make it into professional football have achieved a childhood dream. They have conquered the mountain. But what about climbing down? After the first two years of retirement from the NFL, seventy-eight percent of former players are unemployed, bankrupt, or divorced. The suicide rate for retired NFL players is six times higher than the national average.

Have you achieved an important goal in your life? Great! Pump your fists, plant your flag, and take a photo. But do you know how to turn your back on the summit and climb safely down?

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, whom he dearly loved, and sacrifice him on a mountain top at Moriah. That mountainside was surely the hardest climb Abraham ever made. He reached that summit – not to celebrate his accomplishment, but to faithfully obey the word of the Lord. But once the Lord saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, He substituted a ram on the altar meant for Isaac.

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

Abraham’s joy on coming down that mountain was linked to his reason for climbing it. He didn’t climb Moriah for self-glory; he ascended the peak as an act of faith – willing to lay his life – his son’s life – in the hands of God.

How well you do descending your mountain depends entirely on why you wanted to reach the peak in the first place.
                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Raise Every Ship

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 3, 2012

Raise Every Ship

                      Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

On September 21, 1989, in Southhampton, England, Steve Mc Carthy was knocking the stuffing out of Tony Wilson in a light-heavyweight boxing match.

In the third round, Wilson collapsed and barely managed to stagger to his feet by the count of eight. McCarthy then pinned Wilson against the ropes and the referee stepped in intending to stop the fight and award McCarthy a TKO.

But then Tony Wilson’s mother climbed into the ring and, with one of her stiletto high heels, smacked McCarthy a couple of good ones on the back of the head.

The fight was stopped while officials escorted Tony’s mother out of the ring. When the ref signaled for the fight to resume, McCarthy was unable to continue. Dazed, and with a nasty gash on the back of his head, he was led away to the hospital.

According to the rules, the referee, Adrian Morgan, had no choice but to hold Tony Wilson’s arm high in the air and declare him the winner.

No one questions the intense love Mrs. Wilson harbors for her son. But, is it possible to love someone too much?

Absolutely.

The problem isn’t the intensity of our love for someone, but clinging to a love disproportionate to a higher devotion. When the Lord becomes our highest love, oddly enough, our love for parents, spouse, or children is not lessoned, but enhanced.

Love itself isn’t the problem. We can love anything — our country, our family, our race. But when we hold to any of these loves with a misplaced fervor it produces jingoism, the Hatfields and the McCoys, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Ask Steve McCarthy, as he stumbled out of the hospital with stitches in his scalp and the loser’s paycheck, how much he appreciated Mrs. Wilson’s undying love for her son. When love becomes disproportionate to devotion to God, injustice always results; every benefit we bestow on a loved one causes someone else to suffer.

But at least Tony benefitted from his mother’s love, right?

Not exactly. After Tony was declared the winner, the fans were furious and Tony received death threats.

And it got worse. Tony could never live down the taunts. “Hey, Tony, is your mummy going to step in and help you win this fight for you, too?”

Tony will always know his mother loves him. But as he looks back at his dream to win the light-heavyweight championship, he may have wished she hadn’t have loved him quite so much.

When we learn the life of Jesus, love becomes a rising tide that raises every ship.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Palm Sunday When…Things Happened

Story of the Day for Monday April 2, 2012

This story actually happened a year ago on Palm Sunday…but since it is so fitting for this Holy Week, and because the techy person believes it is so good, climbinghigher.org is reposting for your enjoyment.

The Palm Sunday When….Things Happened

                 The people were absolutely amazed at Jesus. “He has done everything well.”

Mark 7:37

Last Sunday was the most joyous Palm Sunday celebration I have known, and most everything went wrong.

We drove to church early because there was so much to get ready. After unloading the van I discovered it wouldn’t start. Wayne and I surveyed the situation and tried to think of something insightful, but neither of us were great mechanics. Soon, the reinforcements arrived and I excused myself to go inside and prepare for the service.

My wife was handing out large palm branches to all the kids. At the beginning of the worship service, they would walk in from the back of the church – waving palm branches and singing a song that Mary Ann composed for the occasion.

As soon as the palm branches were handed out, my ten-year-old daughter and her friend, Kyoti, sensing the importance of setting a good example for the little beaners, immediately started thrashing each other with their palms.

The Palm Branch Incident of 2011 was brought to a premature conclusion, and when order was restored, my wife used the moment to clarify palm branch protocol.

“Now,” my wife asked the kids, “what are your palm branches to be used for? Do we use them to whack each other and bother the person sitting in front of you?”

The littlest ones shouted in unison, “YES!!!”

Palm Sunday was turning out to be far more exciting than they had imagined.

Outside, Robert brought a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey, for the kids.

I went down to the basement, late, for Bible study. So late, in fact, that we decided to rehearse the hymns instead. But, so many adults were poking their heads out the window to watch the kids with the donkeys, that we no longer had a quorum of attentive hearts.

We called it a day for the Bible study (in which we never opened a Bible) and I rushed upstairs to go over the service and my sermon one last time. But soon, the kids thundered in and the little ones spotted me in the office. They knew you weren’t supposed to hit people with palm branches, but recalling no rule against holding branches over someone’s head, they did just that. The office was crammed with giggly little girls trying to hide me under a palm branch canopy, and if I wasn’t having so much fun, I would’ve added this to the list of things you shouldn’t do with your palm branch.

One of the musicians left her music at home so the special music was postponed until later while her husband drove home to retrieve it. I wrote the opening hymn in the wrong key and had to do a little mental calculating.

I used to think a Sunday would come along in which everything went right. I’m no longer that naïve. But I really don’t care. The thing that matters most is not that we get things perfect, but that we learn to focus on the One who does all things well.
                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Looking For Ping Pong Balls

Story of the Day for Saturday March 31, 2012

Looking For Ping Pong Balls

                                 And Paul replied, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was the high priest.” 

                                           Acts 23:5

 

An elderly man, living just south of town, had an apple tree in his front yard which stood temptingly close to the road. The apple tree provided the man with far more fruit than he could use, so he generously allowed others to pick what they wanted.

One evening, a carload of youth pulled up in front of his house and raced over to the apple tree looking down in the grass. The old man instantly realized they were looking to see if any apples had fallen into the highway ditch — since any fruit falling on the right-of-way of the road was fair game.

The old man wanted the kids to know that they were more than welcome to come into his yard and pick all the apples they wanted, so he hollered from his porch, “Looking for some apples?”

One of the kids shouted back, “No, we’re looking for ping-pong balls!”

The old man looked at them with a hurt expression. Why did they have to respond to his generosity with such a sarcastic comment?

 

That same evening, I was busy orchestrating the annual scavenger hunt for our church’s youth group. I would hide objects all over town and hand each team a sheet of clues on how to find them. The kids would pile into cars and each team would try to find the most objects. Everyone had to be back in the church parking lot in an hour or they were disqualified. The group that found the most objects was declared the winner.

Just south of town was a large billboard and I hid one of the objects at its base and wrote clues about how to find it. The billboard stood by the side of the road — right next to an apple tree. And the objects I was hiding this year for the scavenger hunt were . . . ping-pong balls.

 

We can hurt others because we’re trying to hurt others. But how often have hurt feelings been the result of a misunderstanding?

 

When the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem his enemies recognized him and had him arrested. As he stood on trial before the court, he announced he had been dutiful to God, and for that comment the high priest ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth.

This infuriated Paul and he shouted some insulting things at the one who gave the order.

Those present were horrified. “How dare you revile God’s high priest!”

Immediately, Paul apologized. He didn’t know it was the high priest. True, he felt he had been wronged, but he knew the Bible taught you should never insult the your leaders.

 

Misunderstandings are, sad to say, unavoidable. Even looking for a ping-pong ball has the potential to cause hurt feelings. But they can be minimized when we learn to either apologize or forgive all hurts we cause or receive.

Even the disrespectful insults from snotty-nosed kids who try to steal our apples.

                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Bad News As a Precious Gift

Story of the Day for Friday March 30, 2012

Bad News As a Precious Gift

“Do not rebuke an arrogant man or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will become wiser still.”
Proverbs 9:8-9

If you were the head of a large organization, would you be most receptive to subordinates bringing you good news or bad news?

We would all prefer to hear good news, right? But great leaders realize that an organization’s health depends on the leader’s openness to receiving bad news.

Colin Powell, in his book, My American Journey, says, “The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”  Problems cannot be dealt with unless leaders are aware of them.  And leaders will not be aware of them unless subordinates feel free to share their gripes with their leaders.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, shares the same sentiment as Colin Powell.  He says, in Business @ the Speed of Thought, “Sometimes I think my most important job as CEO is to listen to bad news.” He goes on to explain that if you are not receptive to people bringing you bad news, and if you don’t act on it, they will eventually stop bringing you bad news. When that happens, it’s the beginning of the end.

I tend to get frustrated when people complain about me and how I do things.  But that puts me in a dangerous place.  If people anticipate a cold reception when they bring their complaints or suggestions to me, they will stop bringing their concerns altogether.  To no longer have people complaining and criticizing me would feel so good that I would be tempted to encourage them to keep their mouths shut.

But once we are unreceptive to hearing bad news about ourselves, we lose invaluable opportunities to grow in wisdom and character.

A wise man wants to be informed when others see him acting in a way that is unadvisable. He views criticism as a way to grow in wisdom, and encourages others to be honest in pointing out faults in his behavior and decisions.

It’s not fun to be criticized. (Did I say it was fun?  It’s not.)  But we do need to make clear to others that we welcome their rebukes.   We may not agree with all of them, but even if we don’t, we have at least gained the knowledge of how someone else feels about our behavior.

So, how do we let others know that we are open to being corrected?  For starters, if someone corrects you, DO NOT immediately retaliate by correcting them. Secondly, thank them and let them know that you appreciate their honesty and the courage to tell you bad news.  And, finally, take the attitude of great leaders like Colin Powell and Bill Gates and view the delivery of bad news as a precious gift – as a way to be aware of problems and make things better.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Because Things Don’t Last Forever

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 28, 2012

Because Things Don’t Last Forever

My feet almost slipped, and I almost lost my footing, because I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  
Psalm 73:3

When our family moved to Montana, we needed another vehicle to pull a trailer. I bought an old, beat-up van for $500. It was a piece of work, let me tell you, but it did have a big motor and an AM radio.

One day a teenager was riding with me when we stopped at an intersection, and he saw a very expensive sports car.  He marveled at the car, and named the make and model. “Man, I wish I had a car like that.”

“Want to know something?”I said, “I think I get more enjoyment out of this old junker of mine than he does from his sports car.”

He looked at me as if I was joking.

But I was serious. I asked him who was more anxious about getting a scratch on his vehicle: him or me? Who was more concerned about his vehicle getting stolen? Who had the bigger payments? Who was more worried about someone backing into his car while he’s in the grocery store? I pointed out that he would enjoy the luxury and handling of his car, but that his ultimate pleasure would be enjoying the envy of others. Yet, next year, a newer model would come out. How would he feel when he sees people on the road with newer, better, more expensive cars than his?

At this point my teenage friend suggested I was compensating for feelings of inadequacy at having to drive an old, beat up clunker.

But he was wrong. That old van finally reached the point where it could no longer be  fixed with duct tape and piano wire, and we  had to junk it. (My daughter had just been  planning to paint the whole thing and make it look like a hippie van.) Our kids still light up and laugh when we reminisce about the old, mean green machine and the fun times we had.

Yes.

Do rich kids reminisce and tell fond stories about the luxury cars they used to own? I hope so, but I suspect they don’t

But I do know this: wealth is a gift from God. If you have it, I hope the Lord also gives you the gift to enjoy it.

But Benjamin Franklin once posed an interesting question: What kind of furniture would you buy if everyone in the world but you were blind?  If we use our wealth to create envy, we will find our pleasure is pretty hollow.

And if we envy those who have what we do not, we will always live in a state of discontent.

Be content with what you have.

All that said, I still hope that, some day, you, too, can own a $500 beater van.  Paint it like a hippie van as soon as you get it . . . because things don’t last forever.

         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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It’s Okay to Change Your Answer

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 28, 2012

It’s Okay to Change Your Answer

  Just as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

The secret to becoming more Christ-like is, oddly enough, to behave in a way that Christ never did.

Even though Jesus was often criticized for his behavior, he never admitted he was wrong. That’s because he was never wrong.

In our case, however, not much is going to happen in our lives until we learn to listen to the criticisms of others and admit when we’re wrong.

If you’re thinking, “Okay, but I’m seldom wrong when others criticize me,” then you’ve come to the right place, because I intend to show you that you’re . . .wrong. Let’s start with this: suppose you’re taking a test and then go back and change your answer. Is your changed answer more likely to improve your score?  Three quarters of college students say no – your changed answer is more likely to be incorrect.  Professors feel the same way, only more so.  Only 16% of professors believe that changing your initial answer on a test will improve your score.

Guess what? They’re wrong. Researchers have been studying this subject for over 70 years now. One researcher examined 33 different studies on this question and every study agreed: students who change an answer on a test are more likely to improve their score.

So, why do the majority of people still favor their initial answer as the correct one?  Could it point to a deeper issue?  Could it be that we have an aversion to admitting that we were wrong in something we did?  Could it be that we are so enamored with our views and opinions that we are reluctant to admit we’re wrong?  That’s what it seems like.

If we want to grow into the image of Christ, we must stop being so impressed with ourselves.  Our focus must not be in defending how right we are, but in admitting how wrong we are.  Only a humble heart can admit faults.  Only one who admits his faults can know how good it feels to have Jesus forgive him.

Do you know what I do when others point out flaws in my character?  My first instinct is to defend myself.   But I cannot grow from the correction of others until I begin by considering the possibility they are probably right.

Darn it.

Others can see faults in us to which we are blind.  We need to listen, evaluate, repent . . . and know that it is okay to “change our answer.”

Yeah, yeah, I realize there are many times when those who criticize us are wrong.   But they aren’t wrong as often as we think.

We aren’t going to make much progress in our spiritual life until we learn that others can see things in ourselves that we cannot.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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But, Then Again, on the Other Hand…

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 27, 2012

But, Then Again, on the Other Hand…

At dawn the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up! Take your wife and two daughters, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” But Lot hesitated.

Genesis 19:15-16

One of the greatest singers of all time, Luciano Pavarotti, knew what he wanted to be from a young age. He wanted to be a soccer goalie.

Luciano’s mother urged him to become a teacher instead, so he sought a degree in education. But his father, Fernando, introduced him to the joy of singing. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor, took on Luciano as a student — teaching him without pay.

Pavarotti was torn. Should he pursue a teaching career or seek to become a

professional singer? Finally, his father put it to him bluntly, “Luciano, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

When Abram and Lot started running out of elbow room, they decided to part ways on friendly terms. Abram gave his nephew Lot first choice, and he chose the fertile lands to the east. Lot settled with his family in the town of Sodom.

One day, two angels warned Lot to take his family and flee from the city because God was about to destroy it. This wasn’t a great time to hesitate, but that’s exactly what Lot did.

Major decisions in life have the tendency to paralyze us. No matter what we decide we can always say, “Yes, but on the other hand . . .”  When we seek to serve the Lord with our gifts and abilities, our problem is seldom that we choose the wrong direction; it’s that we can’t decide, so we choose no direction at all.

Up on Pinkham Creek, the animal version of  Russian Roulette is to attempt to run in front of a vehicle without becoming roadkill.

The gophers gather in the ditch and one of them says, “Okay Harvey, it’s your turn.” Another gopher shouts, “Hey, I hear something coming!” The gophers keep Harvey poised until the vehicle is closing in on them and then they shout, “Go, Harv, hit it!” And Harvey barrels across the road as fast as he can scamper . . . which isn’t all that fast.

Yet, while gophers aren’t all that fast, they seldom get hit because they always race for the other ditch without hesitation.

The pine squirrels play the same game but are far faster. Yet, in the middle of the road they stop, turn around and start to run back. Hesitate. Turn around. Run the other way. Stop. Hesitate . . . Squirrels are lighting quick but often lose at Russian Roulette.

There’s a lesson here.

But, then again, do I really need to spell it out for you?

On the other hand, without an application my meaning could be misunderstood.

Nevertheless, shouldn’t I trust that you’re smart enough to figure it out for yourself?

Okay, maybe I should explain the meaning of the gopher story, but I always limit my articles to one page, so it’ll have to be brief.

Oh, for crying out loud, I just ran out of space.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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All the Active Verbs Belong to God

Story of the Day for Monday March 26, 2012

All The Active Verbs Belong to God

                     Because God is wealthy in mercy, he loved us with an overwhelming love.  And, when we were dead in our sins, he made us alive in Christ.  
Ephesians 2:4-5

You would think that, having heard it all my life, I would be used to it by now.  Yet, it is still a continual source of amazement.  At funerals, friends reminisce about the loved one in the coffin.  They say things like, “Well, I’ll tell ya, if anyone’s going to heaven, it’ll be him. What a great guy.”

Have you noticed the language?  It’s all in the active voice.  They paint the image of a corpse deciding to crawl out of the coffin and confidently striding to the gates of heaven with a long list of earthly accomplishments in hand.  Then the angels usher him in – grateful to grant a halo to such a wonderful human being.

Of course, I’m not so boorish as to say what I’m thinking, “He’s dead.  It doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere on his own power.”

Our righteousness has no power. If it did, then at the funeral, we should invite the corpse to rise up out of the casket, and join us for a game of pinochle.

I can be as good as a boy scout with two dozen merit badges, but when I die, my goodness cannot buy me another breath.  Once we’re dead, we’re all completely helpless.  If we go to heaven, it will not be because of our goodness, but God’s.

The Canadian actor, Charles Coghlan, lived in a small village on Prince Edward Island.  Born there, raised there, he planned to be buried in that same town on the sea.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  In 1899, while touring in the States, he died in Galveston, Texas.  He was placed in a lead-lined coffin and buried in a granite vault.

In September of 1900, a fierce hurricane hit Galveston, flooding the cemetery.   The storm broke Coghlan’s vault and the coffin floated free into the Gulf of Mexico.  Eventually, it bobbed its way around Florida and was caught in the Gulf Stream.

Eight years later, in October, 1908, fishermen spied his coffin bobbing off the coast and brought it to shore.  There they recognized the man’s name engraved on a metal plate.  Charles Coghlan’s casket had floated back to Prince Edward Island – just a short distance from his native town.  His body was re-buried in the village where he was born.

What did Charles Coghlan do to free himself from his Galveston cemetery and return to his beloved Prince Edward Island?  Absolutely nothing.  He was helpless.  He may have been a good man, but his goodness did not budge him an inch.

God wants us to understand that the active power in raising us to life belongs to him.  And he doesn’t raise people who think they’re good; he brings those to life who trust in him for mercy.

All the active verbs belong to God.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Backward Path to Freedom

Story of the Day for Saturday March 24, 2012

Backward Path to Freedom

                                       When you were slaves to sin, you were free from having to be righteous. What benefit did you enjoy from doing those things you’re now ashamed of?
Those things only result in death.
Romans 6:20-21

In his book, Memories from the Mountains, C.B. Rich recalls the time in 1938 when he was grazing cattle on a five thousand acre spread in south-central Montana. At the farthest corner there was a spring that didn’t freeze up, so he led the cattle there. A Chinook wind raised the temperature, and Rich relaxed in the warmth while the cattle grazed.

C.B. instinctively kept his eye on the southwest because, when the weather changed, it usually came from that direction.

Not today.

As he glanced over his shoulder, he was alarmed to see a dark storm approaching from the northeast. He quickly caught his horse, Star, put the bridle back on, and rode for the ranch house – hoping to outrace the storm.

A blast of wind hit his left side, and then a blinding snowstorm engulfed him. Though he could barely see, he kept the wind on his left to keep his bearings. But, after a while, he noticed shod tracks in the snow. He had ridden in a circle.

The temperature was plummeting fast. Pointing his horse toward what he thought was home, he kept Star to a swinging gallop. Again, he came upon his own tracks, and realized the wind must be swirling.

It would soon be dark.

C.B. made a daring decision. He ignored the wind and raced in the opposite direction of where he supposed the ranch to be.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be free from the constraints the Lord puts on my life. It’s not always easy to give generously when the budget’s tight or worship on Sunday morning when friends say the fish are biting.

In one sense, following Jesus is confining – but only in the sense that highways are confining. Yet, in another sense, staying on the road is the only path to freedom.

When we live in greed and selfishness we are not restricted. But neither are we free.

In the swirling blizzard C.B’s only hope was to head in the opposite direction of the ranch. He was looking for a fence line. Once he found it, he knew it would lead him safely home. Following the fence was two to three times longer, but C.B. gladly gave up the freedom to ride in the blizzard unrestricted.

C.B. finally caught sight of the ranch and then passed out from hypothermia.  By then the temperature had plummeted to thirty below zero.

With his right arm in the lariat, his horse would carry him the rest of the way home.

Following the fence restricted his movements, but it was his only path to freedom.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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What Music Can You Play on a Broken Stradivarius

Story of the Day for Thursday March 22, 2012

What Music Can You Play on a Broken Stradivarius?

And the God of all grace . . . will restore, establish, strengthen, and set you on a firm foundation.

                                                             1 Peter 5:10

Peter Cropper, from Sheffield, England, is a distinguished violinist. He is so good, he was asked to perform at the prestigious Kuhmo Music Festival in Finland.

The Royal Academy of Music in London honored him by loaning him the use of a priceless Stradivarius violin. The violin, made by Antonio Stradivari was 258 years old and was made in his “Golden period.” It was considered one of the most valuable violins in the world.

On the night of the festival, Mr. Cropper hurried on stage and tripped on an extension cord. He fell on the Stradivarius and broke the neck completely off.

Peter was inconsolable.

Charles Beare offered to repair the violin. The Royal Academy thanked Beare for his gracious offer, but assured him a broken Strad could never be repaired. But Cropper urged the Academy to see what Beare could do, and they finally relented and handed the violin over to Beare.

Beare spent endless hours trying to repair the broken neck and a cracked bass bar with animal glue. After a month he presented the violin to the Academy. With Cropper in attendance they looked in astonishment – they could not find the slightest sign that the violin had ever been damaged.

Not only did the restored violin look impeccable, but Cropper said, “. . . the violin is now in better shape than ever, producing a much more resonant tone.” That next week he performed with the Lindsay Quartet in Carnegie Hall, playing the restored Stradivarius.

We all fail in life.

So, what does God think about us when we botch things up? We know that He cares deeply about behaving the right way, so it stands to reason He is furious when we do wrong.

Yes, God does care deeply about living rightly, because living wrongly creates so much pain to ourselves and others. But He’s the God of grace.

Jesus never walked the streets with a clipboard – sifting out the rejects and patting the righteous on the head. If Jesus only approved of those who never failed in life, there would be no heads to pat.

Never write the chapter of your failures as the last chapter of your story. The Lord, as a master craftsman, always offers to take the broken pieces of your heart, and restore you.

And make you stronger than before.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Snob

Story of the Day for Thursday March 22, 2012

The Snob

                 And to those who tried to assure themselves they were righteous and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this story . . .

                                       Luke 18:9

When I was in third grade we learned a song called “Little Robin Redbreast.” It’s a chirpy number that recounts the epic conflict of wills between a robin and a pussycat.

After we learned the song our teacher gave everyone a sheet a paper with a robin on it and we got our crayons out to color it in.

This was my favorite time of the day. I loved art. Whenever my mind wandered during other classes, which was just about all the time, I would draw dinosaurs or football players or soldiers blowing things up.

But, as we colored in our robins, events took a disturbing turn.

Kids are busybodies and like to check up on each other’s progress, and as I looked at my classmates, I was horrified. Oblivious to reality, they were actually coloring the robin’s breast red! A robin’s breast isn’t red – it’s burnt-orange. Granted, we didn’t have burnt-orange in our arsenal of crayons back then, but at the very least, orange would be the better choice. And, if you take a brown crayon, you can lightly feather it over top of the orange for a pleasing effect.

I knew, however, exactly why they were coloring their robin’s breast red. They had been manipulated by a stupid song. And why? Because some two-bit poet lacked the literary skill to compose a song called, “Little Robin Burnt-Orange Breast.”

Nevertheless, the song, didn’t account for why Ronnie chose to color the rest of his robin’s body black. It didn’t even look like a robin; it looked like a raven hugging the top of a traffic light.

My classmates had no idea they were under covert investigation by the Color Police. They just colored away and were happy to be alive while I glumly brooded over their lack of aesthetic rigor.

As I look back on those days, I realize I was an art snob before I even knew what an art snob was. Snobbery has nothing to do with striving for excellence, nor even with thinking you can do something better than others. Snobbery is a dark smugness that enjoys feeling superior to others.

Spiritual snobbery is especially distasteful and dangerous. The Pharisees validated their lives by feeling holier than the common rabble. By seeking to be superior, they were silently acknowledging their secret insecurity in their relationship with God.

Once we know the mercy of Jesus, we enter into a secure relationship with God. He frees us from the desperate need to be holier or “righter” than others . . . or better able to draw robins.

But RED, for Pete’s sake! I still can’t believe it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 21, 2012

Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

               The head priests and the Bible scholars saw the wonders Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple, saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” And they were indignant.  

                                                              Matthew 21:15

Alina, one of my wife’s former students is now grown up, married, and has two little girls. Last week, her daughter said a bedtime prayer for her Mommy and Daddy, sister, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. And then she added, “And God, please be with all the potatoes because I know you and me just LOVE potato chips!”

I’d like to casually toss out the fact that I’m a Bible scholar. If you’re confused about the soteriological implications of proleptic eschatology, I’m your man. And, excuse me while I politely cough, but I also (ahem) . . . read the New Testament in the Greek!  Yes.

We Bible scholars tend to wince at the prayers and praises of children. They don’t know what they’re talking about. When we scholars compose a prayer, it’s carefully sculpted to reflect a theologically precise view of God. The grammar is impeccable and nuanced. You will never – and I repeat myself for emphasis – you will never find us composing prayers which go romping on about our delight with potato chips.

Yet, ironically, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day, for all their knowledge of Scripture, couldn’t recognize God if he was standing right in front of them. They knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know him.

The kids, on the other hand, shattered the solemnity with their boisterous praise to the Son of David. When the theologians objected to this, Jesus defended the kids and pointed to the Psalm which said, “From the mouths of children and nursing infants I have prepared praise.” Jesus liked their worship.

The beauty of a child’s understanding of God is that it is a relationship.

Yes, it’s important to have correct theology, but not at the expense of knowing God personally. I can easily find myself viewing the Trinity, say, more as a complex mathematical formula than the God who protects me, and loves me, and gives me strength.

Once, when our daughter, Erika, was little she asked for something and we told her we couldn’t buy it because we couldn’t afford it. Later that evening, she came into my office and gave me a dollar to bail us out of our fiscal crisis.

I wasn’t offended at my little daughter’s unsophisticated view of finances nor did I hand the dollar back to her in disgust at her ignorance. Instead, I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity.

I have a little box on my dresser. And, every now and then, I open it and look at the dollar she gave me.

In the end, it’s all about relationship . . . like sharing a mutual love for potato chips.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Let His Love Dry Your Tears

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 20, 2012

Let His Love Dry Your Tears

                       The memory of my affliction and homelessness is bitterness and gall.  As I recall it over and over, my soul is downcast within me.   

                     Yet, I call this to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, because his mercies never fail.  They are new every morning.

                                      Lamentations 3:19-23

When our children were little my wife always insisted I should take them to the clinic for immunization shots. I tried to convince her that children need a mother at such traumatic moments. Then I would appeal to her higher nature by telling her not to be such a ninny.

Yet, despite my patient reasoning and crystalline logic, she remained adamant that I take them for their shots.

The ninny.

So off I would drive to the clinic with a little child bundled in the car seat. When the nurse walked into the room with the syringe, she would sigh and apologize – as if this is all her fault. (Nurses hate this part of their duties.)

I would hold my little toddler on my lap — this cute little lump of sweetness and joy. How swiftly the fortunes of life were about to change.

What happened next is always the same. One moment they sit on my lap, secure and content. Then the needle. And then the piercing scream that echoes into the next county.  The cry that pierces a daddy’s heart.

Want to know what my children do next? They hug me. As they sob in pain they cling to me for comfort.

I cannot explain to them why I didn’t defend them – why I didn’t fight off the strange woman with the needle who attacked without provocation. I cannot explain that this present wound will pass, but the benefits will carry on. I cannot explain that I deliberately took them here because I love them dearly. My children are too young to understand. All I can do is hold them tight and tell them it will be okay.

Do you think there ever comes a time when God is willing to put you through  painful experiences because he loves you? Do you think there are times when he hurts you but can’t explain his reasons?

Do you think he wants you to cling tighter to him? That he wants to hold you tight and let you know it is going to be okay?

So what do you do when the tears come and life hurts so badly? Cling to your heavenly Father. Blow your nose. And let his love dry your tears.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Taking the Blame for a Wild Pitch

Story of the Day for Monday March 19, 2012

Taking the Blame for a Wild Pitch

                   “Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” “The woman you gave me, gave it to me to eat, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you’ve done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 

                                                 Genesis 3:11-13

Contrary to public opinion, blame was not first discovered by political talk show hosts. Blaming others goes back to the Garden. God asks Adam if he ate from the tree.  Instead of admitting it, he blames both God and Eve: “the woman YOU gave me . . .” When God directs his question to Eve, she passes the blame to the Serpent.

 

TV station managers love bad weather because it’s news. Meteorologists, on the other hand, hate storms. They have learned that people are furious and rain down obscenities on them when bad weather hits the area.  One forecaster in Louisville said she hates to go to the grocery store during storms because everyone blames her for the bad weather.

 

And blaming others is contagious. Nathanael J. Fast from USC and Larissa Tiedens from Stanford published a study on “Blame Contagion.”  In one experiment, half the participants read a newspaper article that said Gov. Schwarzenegger blamed special interest groups for a costly special election that failed.  The other half read an article in which the California governor took full responsibility for the failure.

Afterward, participants were asked to write about a personal failure and add who was responsible.  Those who read the article where the governor blamed special interest groups were more likely to blame others for their failure; those who read the second article tended to accept responsibility for their actions.

 

Every troubled organization knows about the “circular firing squad.”  Pointing fingers and assigning blame, Fast and Tiedens discovered, is especially prevalent among people who feel insecure.

 

This is why God’s grace is so beautiful.  We can have the courage to take responsibility for our failures, because when we do, God will forgive us.  Our sense of security is not based on our goodness, but on the knowledge that we are safe in God.

When we know we’re forgiven, there’s no longer a need to shift the blame.

 

The Baltimore Orioles needed a win to tie for first place in the AL East. But, a Toronto Blue Jay runner scored from third on a wild pitch, and the Orioles lost the game.

Afterward, the Orioles catcher Jamie Quirk shouldered the responsibility.  “A major-league catcher has to block that ball . . . I should have blocked it . . . I’m a professional catcher.”

And guess what?  By taking the blame for a wild pitch, Jamie Quirk didn’t receive scorn from Orioles fans.  He bravely protected his pitcher.  And won the admiration of all.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Word He’ll Speak

Story of the Day for Saturday March 17, 2012

The Word He’ll Speak

                     Job answered the Lord . . . “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I have declared things I didn’t understand.”  

                                                          Job 42:3

Aristotle was the most revered of all the world’s philosophers. He believed that scientific experiment was beneath the dignity of a true philosopher. If something is true, you should be able to figure it out by simply thinking hard about it.

That is why, for almost 2000 years, no one contested Aristotle’s pronouncement that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones at a proportional rate. A ten pound cannonball, he maintained, will fall ten times faster than a one pound musket ball.

 

Galileo wasn’t the first person to disprove Aristotle’s notion. Simon Stevin had already refuted Aristotle by his experiment of dropping various lead balls from the church tower in Delft. They all hit the ground simultaneously.

What made Galileo’s demonstration from the Leaning Tower of Pisa so notable was that philosophy professors loyal to Aristotle witnessed the experiment. According to Aristotle, when a ten pound ball is dropped from 100 feet, it should hit the ground before a one pound ball, dropped at the same time, has fallen ten feet.

Here is the most remarkable thing about the experiment at the Leaning Tower. After Galileo’s experiment disproved Aristotle’s assumption, the philosophy scholars STILL refused to believe their eyes and admit that Galileo was right!

 

After Job lost his health, wealth, and family, his friends stopped by to offer condolences — as well as their theological opinions concerning why God let these things happen to Job. In the end, God silences their debate by demonstrating that all of them are simply spouting their ignorance.

 

The theological experts in Jesus’ day thought they had God pretty well figured out. If good things happened to you, it meant that God loved you and approved of your behavior. If, however, you got sick, or suffered from some misfortune, that meant you were sinful and God was angry with you.

The opinions of the rabbis were reasonable. But they were dead wrong.

 

We still do that today. Ask someone to complete this sentence: “If God loved me, then . . .” You may be surprised at how many people would say, “If God loved me, the cancer would turn out to be benign.” “If God loved me, I wouldn’t have lost my job.” “If God loved me, he wouldn’t have let my sister die in the car accident.”

 

We can spout opinions about God all day long. It hardly seems right that admitting our ignorance is the best way to know God. But it is the only way to know God. The only way we can learn about God is to shut up long enough for him to speak.

And, if we listen, the Word he’ll  speak will be Jesus.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Adjusting The Message

Story of the Day for Friday March 16, 2012

Adjusting the Message

 

                   When the crowds saw what Paul did, they cried out in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us as humans!” 

                                                          Acts 14:11     

 When Paul and Barnabas visited Lystra on a missionary trip, they met a man lame from birth. Paul healed him, and the crowd went wild. The Lycaonian’s, unfortunately, didn’t see this miracle from the viewpoint of the God Paul worshipped. They interpreted the miracle from the perspective of their own gods. They called Barnabas Zeus, and named Paul Hermes.

The priest from the nearby temple of Zeus prepared to sacrifice bulls to worship them. Paul emphatically denied they were pagan gods, but they still had a whale of a time convincing the Lycaonians of that.

 

Now, don’t start thinking, “How could these people be so dense?” because I’m about to apply their way of thinking to you (I’ve already applied it to myself.) Wouldn’t it be easier to understand how others form faulty perceptions when we see why we do the same thing?

Dr. Steven J. Sherman is a professor of psychology at Indiana University. He poses this scenario: Let’s imagine that a Professor Yang teaches at a large American university. He is Asian, very literate, likes to take nature walks, and writes poetry in his spare time? Is it more likely that Professor Yang teaches math or Korean literature?

Based on this information, most of us choose Korean literature. But, that’s because we’ve failed to consider the “base rate” – which, in this case, is the number of math teachers at an American university compared to Korean lit instructors. How many math classes are there compared to every class in Korean literature? A hundred? A thousand? Mathematics is a popular subject while Korean lit is rare.

Despite Professor Yang’s ethnic background or personal interests, it is far more probable that he is a math instructor.

 

But, talking about our misjudgments is not the point of this article. The real purpose is that we understand that those who listen to our message of the Good News of Jesus will do so from their own, biased perspective.

My brother made a missionary trip to India. Through an interpreter, he presented the Gospel to people and was surprised (and pleased) to witness so many conversions.

Then, it dawned on him that these people, steeped in Hinduism, had thousands of gods. Accepting one more was no big deal to them.

My brother alertly notified the missionary society that was sponsoring him of this situation. They refused to listen. Stay with the canned presentation, they warned him, and chalk up the “conversions.”

 

When we understand our own ability to misinterpret the facts, we can become more sensitive to how others may misinterpret our words. And adjust the message for them.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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How All Stories End

Story of the Day for Thursday March 15, 2012

How All Stories End

                      Do not call conspiracy everything these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear.

                                                                    Isaiah 8:12

I’m reading a book about the Revolutionary War, and it is not looking good for the Americans.  Congress has declared independence from Great Britain, but now, a little over a month later, the British have arrived in force: 73 warships, and 400 transport ships.  The British are bearing down with the most powerful, well-trained army in the world.  The ragtag Americans are no match for the 32,000 British troops who have just hammered the Colonial troops at the Battle of Brooklyn.

General George Washington is trying to sneak his army off the island at night, but messages get confused.  The wrong regiments are moving at the wrong time and everything is in confusion. At dawn, with much of the army still trying to cross over to New York, they are sitting ducks for British warships and advancing troops.

 

Do you want to know what I think?  I haven’t read to the end of the book, but I don’t think we’re going to win this war.  The Americans don’t have a chance.  The British are going to notice the retreat at first light and destroy our army.  We’re going to be crushed by British military might and end up a British colony forever!   Then they’re going to slap a tax on all imports of Earl Grey tea and we’re going to have to sing “God Save the King” at the beginning of all our football games.

People often comment on my keen foresight about things.  I don’t know, I just seem to be able to look at these kinds of situations and know what’s going to happen.

 

After reading on, I learn that at the last moment – just before dawn – a thick fog settled in over the American troops.  New York is clear, but the fog surrounding our retreat is so thick the British complained they couldn’t see six feet.  Washington ended up evacuating his entire army of 9000 men without the loss of a single life.

Okay, but that was just luck we weren’t destroyed .

Wasn’t it?

 

I have continued reading and my prediction is being vindicated – we are getting clobbered by the British. Sure, Washington escaped to the mainland, but now the British warships have trounced us at Kips Bay. We retreat. They pursue. They have taken Fort Washington and 2000 patriots have been captured.  They attacked Fort Lee and we gave it up without a fight.  A third of the army is sick, and there are only 3500 American soldiers left.  I just know we’re going to lose this war for independence.

 

Jesus teaches us we should not worry about the future.  He is the King of Kings.  All things are under his control.  And even people of keen foresight (like me), need to trust that the Lord alone knows how all stories end.
                                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Always Open to Learning More

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 14, 2012

Always Open to Learning More

                                “You are so silly and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”

                                                 Luke 24:25

Ever notice that when the Catholics interpret the Bible they find evidence of Purgatory? Or, that when Lutherans interpret the Bible, they discover that the pope is the Antichrist? Or, that when Presbyterians interpret the Bible they discover that choir members should wear blue robes with those white triangles for collars?

Okay, that was a little over the top, but you know what I mean, don’t you? And, because I know the storm this topic creates, let me phrase this carefully: Why is it that every denomination – EXCEPT THE ONE YOU BELONG TO – is so pigheaded that they can’t see that their assumptions about Scripture are sometimes askew?

Now let’s be clear: we can’t understand the meaning of God’s Word without forming assumptions. All that said, however, assumptions are also dangerous because sometimes they keep us from seeing what Scripture is actually trying to say.

 

Ironically, the more anxious we are to have the Bible confirm our assumptions, the less open we become to understanding what the Bible is saying.

Prof. Richard Wiseman had volunteers watch a moving dot in the center of a computer screen. Without warning, larger dots would flash at the corners of the screen. Almost everyone noticed these larger dots.

Wiseman then repeated the experiment with a second group – but this time he offered a large sum of money to those who could accurately watch the central dot.  This time, over a third of the participants failed to even see the larger dots on the edge of the screen.

In other words, the more anxious we become about getting it “right,” the less able we are to see things that are there.

 

So, this guy, Clopas, and his friend are walking home, and meet a stranger. When the stranger asks what they’re talking about, they’re amazed. “Are you the only one around her who hasn’t heard the news?”  Then they tell him the latest – about the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, who just got killed. They share with him their wild hopes and crushed dreams. Then they explain the bizarre part. Some women they know claim they found the prophet’s grave empty and angels told them that this Jesus was alive! Very odd.

Clopas and his friend had no idea the stranger they were talking to was Jesus himself.  Jesus never told them their assumptions were wrong.  Instead, he explained to them what Moses and the prophets had written about this moment in history.

 

I’m in no position to criticize these disciples for having misguided assumptions.  I’m slower of heart to believe than they are. But their experience is a helpful reminder that I should be open to question my assumptions, and let God tell me what he wants to say.

To question your own assumptions does not mean you reject them, or even that you doubt them. It simply means you are always open to learning more from God.

                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Rumba and the Bird Brain

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 13, 2012

Rumba and the Bird Brain

                 You will be driven away from people and will live with the beasts of the field, and will eat grass like cattle. 

                                                                 Daniel 4:32

Our friend, Val, is an animal lover, and is always taking in abused pets. Beside her ponies, donkey, and a blind horse, she has a herd of happy dogs, two parrots, and a cockatoo, named Rumba.

Rumba is a mischievous bird. If she hears me walking in the hallway, she calls out, “Hey you! . . . What’s your name?”  Before I know it, I’m standing in front of her cage and having a conversation with a birdbrain. (Or is it the other way ‘round?)

Cockatoos have an uncanny sense of rhythm, and, while I’m quite self-conscious about dancing, pretty soon she’s bobbing her head, and then I’m bobbing my head, and one thing leads to another . . .

Soon, we’re both swaying and jiving, and I’m yelling, “Oh yeah!” and “Whoo, baby!” As long as no one’s watching, dancing with a cockatoo is a hoot.

But, if you’re self-conscious about dancing, you should always shut the door first. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that my wife told me that she and Val heard the commotion and watched me strutting my stuff.

Oh great — so much for maintaining the reserved dignity with which I like to carry myself.

 

Dignity is a good thing and I commend it for your consideration. But it also carries its hazards. When we assume a dignified pose, it is very difficult to avoid the notion that we are, in some way, superior to others. Honor is a breeding swamp for pride.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king, and there’s no shame in that, because someone’s got to do it. But his exalted status led him to become enamored with his own importance, so God turned him into a cow.  No one laughs at cows for grazing in a field because cows have no sense of self-importance. But when a king gets down on his hands and knees and eats like a cow, it can go a long way in correcting an overinflated ego.

 

Vince Lombardi was at his football office when his wife called to tell him she had invited two Catholic priests to dinner.

In order to have an undisturbed conversation after dinner, the Lombardis put their four-year-old daughter, Susan, to bed.

As the four chatted after dinner with coffee and brandy, little Susan marched into the room – her nightgown sopping wet from her armpits down. She walked up to the two Reverend Fathers, pointed her finger under one nose and then under the nose of the other Father and said, “Either you or you left the seat up, and I fell in!”

 

The loftier our pose, the more humbling it will be in the cattle field.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Straining Knats and Swallowing Camels

Story of the Day for Monday March 12, 2012

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

                 “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.” 

                                               Matthew 23:24

My friend, Mike, from Upper Michigan once told me his experience as a new father.   One day his wife needed to go to church and asked if he could take care of the baby and then bring her to church when he came later.   Hey, no problem.  He has his list of things to bring: bottle, blanket, diapers, baby formula, tiny little baby spoon.

Then he drove to the church and met his wife.  He had remembered everything on his list.  But the first question his wife asked was, “Where’s the baby?”

“The baby!!!”

(You will want to know he raced back home to find his little daughter safe and sound, sleeping in her crib.)

 

Among other reasons, I like Mike, because now I don’t feel so alone for doing similar kinds of things.   Sometimes we can get so absorbed by details that we get diverted from the Big Picture.  As someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”

You would think the importance of the “main thing” would determine our attention to it, but that isn’t true.  A good example of that is Eastern Airlines Flight 401.  The pilot,  on his final approach to Miami International Airport, put the landing gear down, but the indicator light in the cockpit didn’t come on.

Puzzled, he circled around and leveled the plane off at 2000 feet.  The fist officer took a look and he couldn’t figure it out.  A mechanic from Boeing happened to be sitting in the jump seat that flight so he got up to take a look.   All three were so absorbed with the malfunctioning light bulb that they didn’t realize the plane was losing altitude.  No one was flying the plane.

Captain Robert Loft’s last words, before the jet crashed into the Everglades, was, “Hey!  What’s happening here?”

Nothing could be a higher priority for the pilot than to land the aircraft safely.  All the same, his focus was diverted from that by a $12 light bulb.

 

We can say a lot of awful things about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but no one can fault their attention to the smallest details of keeping the commandments.  They not only tithed their money, but they counted out their garden seeds, and carefully picked out every tenth seed to give to God.

But, in their attention to the tiniest detail, we lost sight of the Big Picture.  Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy of tithing seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Jesus’ assessment of them: “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

 

You’re really busy these days, aren’t you?  So many things to do.  What is the main thing that your Lord wants you to be about?

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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That’s What Love Does

Story of the Day for Friday March 9, 2012

That’s What Love Does

                 The chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus while he was teaching and asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” 

                                                                   Matthew 21:23

Derek Redman posted the fastest time in the first round of the 440 meter sprints at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.

In the semi-final run, Redman is racing at the front of the pack when suddenly he  goes down on the track – grabbing his hamstring. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “I’m going to finish this race.”

Slowly, Redman stands up and begins to hobble down the track.

Derek’s face is twisted in pain, when, suddenly, his father jumps over the railing and runs onto the track to help. When Derek recognizes his dad holding onto him he collapses in tears in his father’s arms.

Jim Redman tells his son, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes. I do.”

“Then,” his father said, “We’ll finish together.”

And so, arm in arm, father and son slowly make their way to the finish line.

 

The 65,000 spectators in the stadium have risen to their feet with a thunderous roar. The television announcer for the race says, “He’s getting THE cheer of the Games!”

The poignant finish of Derek Redman and his father is considered one of the most moving events in all of Olympic history.

 

But not everyone saw it that way. When Jim ran to help his son, security guards chased after him to remove him. He was, after all, not allowed on the racetrack.  Even after Jim reaches his son, an official runs up to them, and you can see Derek’s dad trying to swat him away.

The rules clearly state that a runner is not allowed to receive assistance in a race. And even though Derek was lying on his back in agony while the other racers finished, he still was officially racing, was he not?

Weren’t the officials who tried to force Jim Redman off the track simply doing their duty? Following the rules?

Perhaps. But that’s the problem with legalism: it sees rules, but not people. Legalism follows the letter of the law, but is blind to circumstances.

Legalism could never make sense of Jesus.

 

Some see the Bible as nothing more than a list of rules to be obeyed. But, at its heart, the Bible invites us into a relationship. Jesus came to break down the barriers that keep us from fellowship with him. He came to restore the relationship between God and man.

 

Yes, Derek Redman and his dad broke the rules. From time to time, that’s what love does.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Swimming in the Fog

Story of the Day for Thursday March 8, 2012

Swimming in the Fog

                               My soul is very troubled. How long, O Lord, how long?

                                                                 Psalm 6:3

On July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to become the first woman to swim the twenty-one miles from Catalina Island to the California coast.

The fog was so thick, however, she could barely see the support boats accompanying her. After fifteen hours and fifty-five minutes, she begged to be taken out of the water. Soon after she got in the boat, Chadwick discovered she was only half a mile from shore.

At a news conference the next day, she said, “All I could see was the fog . . . I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

 

Marathon runners who know how much further it is to the finish line are better able to summon the strength to reach their goal. But, with most things in life, we’re like Florence Chadwick: we know the goal we want to accomplish, but we have no idea how close we are to reaching it. We live in a fog.

Louis L’Amour has more than 300 million copies of his books in print, but, in the early days, he says, “There was a steady flow of rejection slips.” He was not exaggerating. Publishers rejected his submissions 200 times before the first one was accepted.

If you knew your 200th story would usher you into a life of fame and fortune, you wouldn’t mind your 199th rejection slip. In fact, it would be kind of exciting. But, if you didn’t know whether your writing would ever be accepted by a publisher, your 199th rejection slip would be pretty discouraging, wouldn’t it?

 

The psalmists often ask God a question for which they never get an answer: “How long, O Lord?”

We’re encouraged to ask the Lord the same question – even though we’ll get the same answer they did. All the same, even groaning to God is an act of faith.

We don’t know how many more job applications we’ll have to fill out before we land a job. We don’t know how many prayers we’ll have to make on behalf of a loved one who is breaking our heart. How many more strokes did Florence Chadwick need to make before she reached her goal? How many more manuscripts did Louis L’Amour need to mail before he earned his first dollar?

The key is to take a deep breath, trust the Lord, and keep at it.

 

If we never know when the answers will come, is there ever a time to give up? I guess so. James Reeve’s little poem speaks about just such a time:

The King sent for his wise men all

To find a rhyme for W.

When they had thought a good long time,

But could not think of a single rhyme,

     “I’m sorry,” said he, “to trouble you.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Bear Any Sacrifice

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 7, 2012

Bear Any Sacrifice

                          Jesus said, “Why do you nullify the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” 

                                                     Matthew 15:3

 While many in the American colonies considered the Indians to be savage sub-humans, William Penn always treated them with kindness and respect. He learned their language so he could talk to them without an interpreter.

Even though he bought land from King Charles II of England, and named it “Penn’s forest,” or “Pennsylvania,” he realized the land was inhabited by the Delaware tribes, and bought the land a second time from the Indians. Penn purchased land west and north of Philadelphia “as far as a man can go in a day and a half.” Both Penn and the Delaware tribe were satisfied with this purchase.

After Penn’s death, however, the provincial secretary James Logan, used the wording of the treaty to establish the infamous Walking Treaty of 1737. He had a path cleared in the forest in a straight line. Then he hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run as far as they could in a day and a half.

On September 19, 1737, Edward Marshall outdistanced his companions and ran a full 70 miles — creating an area of 1,200,000 acres (which is roughly equivalent to the size of Rhode Island).

Not surprisingly, the Delaware tribes were outraged. Nevertheless, the Delaware chiefs consented to the agreement, and were forced to move west of their tribal homelands.

Did James Logan honor the treaty that Penn made with the Delaware tribes? In a strict sense he could claim that he obeyed the law. But in his heart he knew this was robbery.

 

In 1147, Pope Eugene III traveled to Paris. He arrived on Friday, which was inconvenient because Friday was a day of fasting. So, in order to allow the citizens of Paris the opportunity to celebrate his coming, he decreed that Friday was Thursday.

 

We learn how to wiggle out of agreements from a young age. When I was a kid, you could break a promise if you crossed your fingers behind your back when you made it.

 

The religious leaders from Jerusalem knew that God commanded children to take care of their parents in their old age. But they wiggled out of the law by claiming that, if someone dedicated their possessions to God, they didn’t have to support their parents.

Jesus wasn’t buying it.

 

The Bible repeatedly tells us to fulfill our promises. It makes sense: God doesn’t want us to cheat other people.

But I think there’s even more to it. As we learn that keeping a promise takes a sacrifice, we better understand that Jesus made a promise to rescue us . . . and he would bear any sacrifice to fulfill it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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The Right Direction

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 6, 2012

The Right Direction

                                  It’s fine to be zealous, as long as the purpose is good.

                                                               Galatians 4:18

Is “ambition” a virtue?  How about “zeal”?  I’ve never heard anyone claim that ambition can be a vice.  But, if ambition is a positive quality, then we must also realize it can be used in destructive ways.

If you want to go to Toledo, Ohio, you will be concerned about two things: speed and direction.  You’ll probably choose to drive a car over riding a donkey. But speed is a completely useless quality if we take the wrong highway and are headed to Omaha.

Ambition is speed.

 

Jesus acknowledged that the Scribes and Pharisees were ambitious.  He said to them, “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert.”  But Jesus continues by saying their ambition is destructive: “. . . and when you win a convert, he becomes twice the son of hell you are!”

When Paul writes to the church in Galatia, he warns them about Jewish legalists trying to infiltrate their congregation. These infiltrators want to persuade the church to abandon the freedom of the Gospel in order to submit to the regulations of the Old Covenant.  Paul admits these legalists are go-getters. But speed must be coupled with direction. “It’s fine to be zealous (speed),” Paul says, “as long as the purpose is good (direction).”

 

During World War II, the Germans had a ball bearing factory in the city of Schweinfurt.  The Americans reasoned that, if they could destroy the plant and stop the production of ball bearings, the production of war machinery would come to a halt and the Germans would have no choice but to surrender.

In two bombing raids to destroy the ball bearing plant, Americans lost 98 bombers and badly damaged another 138.  Yet, despite the enormous losses, the Army Air Force leader, General “Hap” Arnold was ecstatic, “Now we have got Schweinfurt!”

After the war, the Army Air Force wanted to know which of their bombing targets were most effective.  The Germans acknowledged the great damage done by bombing oil refineries, railroad yards, and bridges.  But the Nazi chief of productions, Albert Speer, said the bombing of the ball bearing factory at Schweinfurt did not harm the German cause.  They already had ample stockpiles of ball bearings.  Beside, they were able to import all they wanted from Sweden and Switzerland. Not only that, the bombings destroyed the buildings, but not the machines that made the ball bearings.  Focusing all that attention on the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt did virtually no harm.  We were zealous in destroying the target.  But we chose the wrong one.

 

It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going until you’re headed in the right direction.

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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They Can See Right Through Us

Story of the Day for Monday March 5, 2012

They Can See Right Through Us

                  When you fast, don’t be like the gloomy-looking hypocrites. They contort their faces so it becomes obvious to everyone that they’re fasting.

                                         Matthew 6:16

 Have you ever noticed that people who are trying to look cool don’t really look cool; they look like they’re trying to look cool?

 

When I order sub sandwiches they have a tip jar at the end of the counter. I like to tip workers, but sometimes they’re attention is turned elsewhere and they don’t see me giving my generous tip. So, I like to wait until they see me – but here’s the trick: I try to make it look like I’m furtively sneaking a tip in their jar yet hoping they’ll notice. That way, they’ll see me as both humble and generous at the same time.

 

Jesus thinks I’m a poser when I do that, and, of course, he’s right. Posing is a big deal to him because our vanity destroys the most critical attitude of a believer: humility. Only humble hearts receive undeserved gifts. And that’s what Jesus came to give us.

Becoming proud of our humility is an oxymoron. It doesn’t impress God, and, if you must know the dismal truth, it doesn’t impress other people.

 

Daniel M. Oppenheimer is a cognitive psychologist at Princeton. He published a study about the benefit of using simple language, and entitled it: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity.”  (I found his title a little ironic until I realized this was meant to be humorous; his subtitle says: “Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”)

Oppenheimer wanted to know if people think we’re more intelligent when we use complicated language rather than using simple words. He found that 86 percent of university students admitted that they deliberately use complicated words in their essays to make their papers sound more valid or intelligent.

 

His study revealed that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, people do not think you’re more intelligent when you write obscurely – they think you’re less intelligent. In other words, whenever we try to impress others with our intelligence, our attempts backfire.  They can see right through us.

 

Jesus watched the “religious” people as they prayed and gave alms to the poor, and fasted. All of those things are good. But he observed that these people wanted other people to notice and admire their spirituality. Yet, craving attention is not spiritual, so he called it for what it was and warned us not to imitate that kind of hypocrisy.

 

But, if you still insist on trying to impress people with your spirituality, let me give you a tip: the key is subtlety. And, if you need any help, come with me some day and watch me pay for a sub sandwich.

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


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Sounds Kind of Gross

Story of the Day for Saturday March 3, 2012

Sounds Kind of Gross

                            As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

                               Proverbs 26:11

 On October 26, 1991, the passengers in the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jetliner stumbled in the inky darkness to the emergency exits. But their real troubles didn’t begin until they exited the plane. As they jumped down the emergency slides, 28 people were injured.

The jetliner didn’t crash but was sitting quietly in a darkened airport hangar in Long Beach, California. The FAA requires all new aircraft to satisfy government safety requirements — including the requirement that they must be able to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds. McDonnell Douglas failed the test — taking 132 seconds.

As the sound of the ambulances rushing victims to the hospital died away, the airline engineers and FAA officials had time to assess the debacle.

Back to the drawing board, right? Experts would need time to determine what went wrong and find a way to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Instead, hours later, they conducted the identical test a second time. Not surprisingly, they failed the evacuation time requirement again, but far more tragically, scores of people were again injured as they tried to bail out of the jet. One woman was permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

None of the participants in the second test were allegedly told that 28 people were injured during the first test. At the end of the day, around 50 people were injured.

 

Ever since we are toddlers we are warned against doing harmful things. We’re taught to look both ways before crossing the street and not to touch a hot burner.

God does the same thing. He tells us not to cross certain lines — not because he hates to see people having a good time — but because he knows that certain behaviors are harmful and can cripple joy.

One way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to listen to what God says. A second way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to ignore what God says, and learn from bitter experience that sin really isn’t worth the effort.

But the greatest tragedy is when we fail to learn from either God’s wisdom or bitter experience.

I’m just guessing here, but it seems that guilt leads us to repeat sinful behavior — even though we recognize the misery it causes. Guilt makes us feel we deserve to hurt.

But God has a better way. He doesn’t want us to live in guilt. Instead, he forgives and cleanses. And even more, the Bible says that God’s kindness empowers us to change our ways.

 

In Proverbs it says that deliberately returning to the sin that was so repugnant is like a dog that eats something really rotten, throws up, and then later goes back to eat its vomit.

Sounds kind of gross, but I think that’s the point.

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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What’s Going to Happen Next?

Story of the Day for Friday March 2, 2012

What’s Going to Happen Next?

                   If serving the Lord isn’t desirable to you, then choose right now whom you will serve . . . 

                                                      Joshua 24:15

Researchers Daniel Goldstein and Eric J. Johnson noticed that several European countries had nearly 100 percent of its citizens voluntarily participating in an organ donor program. Other countries had very few signed up to donate their organs.

Why would some countries have such a high percentage of organ donors while other countries had so few? What do you think?

Most people would conclude that the disparity between the percentage of organ donors is due to culture. If most citizens of a country felt that organ donation was unnatural or banned by one’s religion, that would explain the difference.

But that’s not the reason. Countries sharing similar cultures show a marked contrast. For example, in Sweden 86% signed up for the organ donor program; in Denmark next door, only 4% have done the same. Germany has only 12%, while Austria has almost 100% participation. The Netherlands (after writing to every household in the nation pleading with them to join the organ donor program) has 28%. Belgium, which borders the Netherlands, has 98% of its citizens signed up in an organ donor program.

The stark contrast by nation in organ donor participation can be explained by the Department of Motor Vehicles. When  citizens from Denmark, Germany, or the Netherlands renew their drivers licenses, they are asked to check a box if they want to become an organ donor. In Sweden, Austria, and Belgium, drivers are asked to check a box if they DON’T want to become an organ donor.

Both groups tend not to check the box.

The more important an issue becomes, the more we become reluctant to make a decision.

 

We don’t make decisions to believe. We either believe in the Easter Bunny or we don’t.  We either believe or don’t believe that grass grows or that God exists.

But once we believe anything, we must daily make decisions based on what we believe to be true — whether it’s hiding our own Easter eggs, mowing the lawn, or praying.

When God’s people were returning to the Promised Land, Joshua gathered the people at Shechem, and he told them the story of what God had done for them. Joshua reminded them of how the Lord led their forefathers, how God worked with power to liberate them from their slavery in Egypt.

After Joshua convinced the people of the steadfast care of the God of Israel, he called for them to decide: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

 

Faith comes first; then decision. You must first believe that diet contributes to good health before you decide to cut down on the lardburgers and fries.

Once you believe in the beauty of the life that Jesus lays before you, you must decide what’s going to happen next.

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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“Schmedsel, Pretzel…What?”

Story of the Day for Thursday March 1, 2012

“Schmedsel, Pretzel….What?”

                Without consultation, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

                                            Proverbs 15:22

In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company had high hopes for the new model car they developed.

They hired the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore to suggest a name for the car. She created a dazzling list that included: “The Intelligent Whale,” “The Mongoose Civique,” the “Andante con Moto,” “The Pastelogram,” and “The Utopian Turtletop.” In the end, however, Ernest Breech, chairing a meeting in the absence of the company president, Henry Ford II, decided to name the car after his boss’s father.

Unfortunately, Henry Ford II’s dad was Edsel, which sounded funny to the public. Later, when Ford’s David Wallace sent market analysts to ask people on the street what “immediate associations” they made with “Edsel,” they responded with: “Schmedsel,” “Pretzel,” “Weasel,” – and most disturbing of all, 40% responded with: “What?”

Ford insiders, who knew and admired Edsel Ford, thought the name was perfect. PR director, C. Gayle Warnock, however, disagreed. When he learned of the name of the new car he left a one-sentence memo on his boss’s desk: “We have just lost 200,000 sales.”

The ad campaign, costing $250 million (in the 1950s), raised consumer expectations to a high pitch with their “car of the decade.” In October, 1957, CBS replaced The Ed Sullivan Show with a live broadcast of The Edsel Show. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope were among the guest stars. During rehearsal, when Rosemary Clooney practiced walking up to her purple Edsel and opening the door, the door handle fell off.

When the car was unveiled to the public, they hated it. “Edsel” sounded like a silly name for a car. Ford’s marketing campaign called their new car unusually graceful, but the public though it was ugly. One man described the garish “horse collar” grill as looking “like a Mercury sucking on a lemon.”

The U.S. was in a recession and the public wanted smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The Edsel was more expensive than comparable cars and, among gas guzzlers, was exceptionally thirsty.

 

High confidence and success are almost always attended by a disinterest in listening to the opinions of others. To be attentive to the spiritual counsel of others doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with their advice. It simply means we consider the viewpoints of everyone seriously, because everyone has something to teach us.

In the end, it’s more important for us to grow wise from the counsel of others, than to think we’re brilliant in our own eyes.

 

If you ever find yourself struggling with this concept, ask the makers of the Edsel for their reflections.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Do You Know Who You Are?

Story of the Day for Wednesday February 29, 2012

Do You Know Who You Are?

                Be subject to God, but resist the devil, and he will run away from you. 

                                      James 4:7

Back in 1914, when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn, rookie Ed Appleton was pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals. The score was tied, 4-4, in the seventh inning, with a man on third base.

The Cardinals manager, Miller Huggins, was coaching at third base. “Hey!” he shouted to Appleton, “let me see that ball.”

Appleton was, apparently, raised to be polite and respectful. He turned to the Cardinals manager and tossed him the ball. But Huggins sidestepped the ball and watched it roll into foul territory.

The ball was in play!

The runner scored and the Cardinals went on to win the game.

 

Do you ever read your horoscope? Yeah, sometimes – but just out of idle curiosity, right? But when we allow superstition or bogus astrological forecasts to taint our behavior, we’re bowing to a false authority. The devil has pulled a “Miller Huggins” on us.

The same goes for doing what we know is flat-out wrong. Sometimes we feel powerless before temptation. We’re victims – powerless before the authority of evil. Prison convicts commonly describe, say, a stabbing as if the knife was the active agent and they just had the misfortune to be holding onto it.

 

The devil is sly. But here’s the point: he has no power or authority over you. When you resist him, the Bible says, he will flee. Don’t toss him the ball.

It’s vital to know that when we cave in to the false authority of the deceiver, we can always find forgiveness in the Lord. But it’s also essential to know who we are. The devil has no authority over us; we have authority over him.

 

A former governor of Massachusetts, Christian Herter, arrived late for a barbeque. As the story goes, he’d had no breakfast or lunch, and was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate and was given one piece of chicken.

The governor asked the serving lady, “Excuse me, do you mind if I have another piece? I’m very hungry.”

“Sorry. I’m only supposed to give one piece to each person.”

Governor Herter again explained that he was starving.

“Only one to a customer.”

The governor was a modest man, but was so hungry he decided to put the weight of his office behind his plea. “Ma’am, do you know who I am? I’m the state governor.”

The woman shot back, “And do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Now move along!”

Don’t you love a person who knows who they are?

                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Understanding Paradox with Rufus the June Beetle

Story of the Day for Tuesday February 28, 2012

Understanding Paradox with Rufus the June Beetle

                God determined . . . the exact times and boundaries where people should live, so they would seek him and, consequently, in their searching would find him . . . For in him we live and move and have our being.  

                                                          Acts 17:26-28

Today, I want to pick a fight, and argue that we should stop fighting and arguing so much in the church.

When the stakes are high – and they don’t get any higher than when we’re defending the truths about God – we easily confuse unwavering loyalty to God with stubbornness. Listening thoughtfully and openly to another’s point of view sounds far too much like compromising the truth. And so, we entrench, and prepare for battle.

One of the greatest points of doctrinal contention is whether God is totally sovereign, or whether we have free will. As Christians, we have gotten into more food fights over this issue than any other I can name.

But what if both sides are right?

 

The apostle Paul was comfortable with paradox. When he was speaking to the tweedy philosopher types in Athens, he affirmed both sides of the argument. He talked about God wanting everyone to seek him, and, in their searching, to find him. Sounds like free will. But he also emphasized God’s complete sovereignty. God determines what happens when, and we can’t live or move or exist apart from his decision.

Paul assumes both sides of the matter are true.

 

Now, many claim that, when I went to seminary to drink from the fountains of knowledge, I only gargled. And I’m certainly not helping my cause by telling you my position on sovereignty and free will has been influenced by Rufus the June beetle.

 

Once upon a time, a June beetle named Rufus woke to a sunny morning and decided to fly around, and do buggy things. He flew through the open window of a Chevy pickup. No particular reason. He was a bug.

Soon, a human got in, rolled up the windows, and drove down the road.

Is Rufus still free? Obviously not. His movements are totally dictated by the will of the driver. Rufus is going wherever the driver chooses to go.

Is Rufus now under the total control of the driver? Well, no, actually. He’s still free to do beetle stuff, like landing in people’s hair or getting stuck on his back.

Now look at the mess we’ve made. Rufus has free will but doesn’t have free will. The driver is totally controlling Rufus’ movements, but doesn’t totally control Rufus’ movements. We’ve got ourselves a paradox: two truths are true at the same time.

 

Thinking any deeper than this makes my brain hurt. But I do know that seeing life from both angles allows me to bow before the God who is Lord of all, and still rejoice in the glorious freedom he has given the children of men.

                                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Laughter Giving Way to a Growing Tummy

Story of the Day for Friday February 24, 2012

Laughter Giving Way to a Growing Tummy

                 Sarah was listening at the tent entrance . . .and Sarah laughed . . .

                          Genesis 18:10, 12

In August 1975, three men attempted to rob the Royal Bank of Scotland at Rothesay, but, trying to push the revolving doors the wrong way, got stuck. The bank staff kindly extricated them, and, after mumbling their thanks, the robbers sheepishly left.

They returned shortly afterward to announce they were robbing the bank, and demanded five thousand pounds. The staff, still tickled by the revolving door incident, thought the robbers were pulling another practical joke, so they started laughing.

Disheartened by their laughter, the gang leader reduced his demand to five hundred pounds – and this brought a fresh roar of laughter. Nervous and confused, he reduced the demand to fifty pounds, and by this time the cashier was laughing hysterically.

Apparently to demonstrate the seriousness of their demand, one of them jumped over the counter, but fell and hurt his ankle. The other two panicked and ran . . . and got stuck in the revolving doors again.

It took a moment for the bank tellers to realize that the robbery was real.

 

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British occupied Boston. On January 8, 1776, officers and their ladies packed Faneuil Hall to watch a musical farce entitled The Blockade.  The comedy mocked the ragtag American army. An actor, impersonating George Washington, stumbled onto the stage with an oversized wig and rusty sword.

As the comedy got off to a rollicking start, Major Thomas Knowlton and his Connecticut soldiers launched a surprise attack. Everyone in the theater, however, thought the roar of the cannon barrage outside was part of the play.

A farmer ran on stage to announce that the rebels were attacking, and the audience roared and clapped their approval. The moment became confused as it slowly dawned on everyone that the announcement of the surprise attack was genuine and not part of the farce.

 

Whenever God shatters our assumptions, our reactions follow a predictable process. We laugh at the incongruity of it all. Then everything grows fuzzy and confused. And finally we begin to realize God is up to something.

 

When God’s messengers told Abraham that Sarah was going to have a baby, she laughed. At the age of ninety, this news was way too funny. But skepticism gave way to confusion, which gave way to a growing tummy with something kicking in there.

They named the child Isaac, which means “Laughter.”

 

When skeptics laugh at you and mock your faith, take it as a reassuring compliment. They are acknowledging you believe something so wild, so unthinkable, that only God could pull it off.

 

 

 

 

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Even a Bug Can Teach

Story of the Day for Wednesday February 22, 2012

Even A Bug Can Teach

                  When pride comes, disgrace with follow. With humility comes wisdom. 

                                                      Proverbs 11:2

The 19th century was the golden age of British conquest. The sun never set on the British Empire, and the cultured English bathed in their glory.

Having conquered and colonized vast uncivilized cultures of the world, in the spring of 1845, they set out to conquer Nature.

Sir John Franklin led the best-funded expedition in history to find the fabled Northwest Passage to the Orient. Two 350-ton vessels were equipped with steel reinforced hulls, a 1000 book library, and heated cabins.

Confident of their invincibility, they defied the arctic seas . . . and lost.  The massive ice flows slammed into their ships and wedged them fast.  For two years they waited for the ice to release its grip, but the ice refused to budge, and all of Franklin’s men perished.

 

Oddly enough, Franklin’s men met the native Inuit of the area. A decade later, Francis Hall spent time with the Inuit, who told him of their encounters with Franklin’s crew. The Inuit gave seal to the starving men, but the British sailors never asked for help in survival. Though the Inuit could travel long distances on their dog sleds, they never asked for help in sending out a rescue party.

The Victorians of this age were intent upon asserting their superiority over all other cultures. They saw the arctic natives as ignorant savages, and refused to swallow their dignity by begging them for assistance.

 

Years later, twenty-eight-year old Roald Amundsen, slipped out of the harbor at Oslo with six others in a small, second-hand fishing boat. They sailed until the arctic winter set in and found themselves in the same vicinity as Franklin’s stranded expedition.

But Amundsen sought out the Inuit. He befriended them and learned their secrets of survival in the arctic. They taught him how to hunt seals and build igloos. He was amazed to find their reindeer clothing far better than his own. He lived on their diet.

When he borrowed their sled dogs for an exploratory trip, he bogged down and had to dump half his supplies to make it back to the Inuit village. They were amused, but showed him how to reduce the friction of the sled runners.

 

When the spring ice thawed and allowed the Norwegians to continue their journey, Amundsen dismayed the crew by refusing to sail. He claimed they still hadn’t learned enough from the Inuit in how to survive in the Arctic.

Amundsen would not only sail on to discover the Northwest Passage, but would later outrace the British to plant the first flag on the South Pole.

 

God tells us in the Bible to observe the behavior of ants and learn from them. Even a bug can teach us spiritual truth, but only the humble have the ears to listen.

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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What Comes From the Heart

Story of the Day for Tuesday February 21, 2012

What Comes From the Heart

              With their mouths these people honor me. But their hearts are far from me. 

                                       Isaiah 29:13

 If you resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can eat the same food every day and yet be grateful for it,

If you can bear your aches and pains without boring others with your troubles,

If you patiently wait when others are too busy to give you their time,

If you can take criticism without blaming others,

If you can honestly claim no prejudice against another’s creed, color, or religion,

If you can conquer stress without relying on alcohol, drugs, or nicotine,

If you can ignore another’s rudeness without lashing back,

If you can defend those close to you without first having to justify their actions,

then, my friend, you are almost as well-adjusted as my dog.

 

When I assess my behavior, sometimes I’m quite satisfied with myself, but only because my standards are too low. For example, being faithful in worship attendance is a good thing, yet, it can easily degenerate into the notion that we’ve done something spiritual just by showing up.

But even my dog used to be faithful in worship attendance. When I was young I served a rural church out in the country. In the summertime they would open the windows and entrance doors to create a cooling breeze in the sanctuary.

I was embarrassed one day when I looked at the back of the church to discover that my golden retriever, Fred, had sauntered in and joined us for worship.

Afterward, one of the members who always sat in the back pew, sheepishly approached me.  He said that this wasn’t the first visit by my dog; he had been attending all summer. When Fred would walk in to join the faithful they would quietly invite him into the back pew where he would lie down and enjoy the service.

My dog had been attending church all summer and yet I noticed no growth in his spiritual life.

 

Jesus told the religious people of his day that they worshipped God with their lips — they attended synagogue and said all the right things — but their hearts were far away.  Yet, the life that God is looking for is something deeper than outward actions.

 

Suppose a child runs into the house and leaves the door open. If his dad tells him to shut the door and his son refuses, that’s not good.

But suppose the child stomped back to the door, slammed it shut as hard as he could, and huffed off to his room. Would that action now please the father? Not really.

 

Outward actions may be commendable, but, in themselves, may be no more praiseworthy than the behavior of my pet dog. God is looking for more than the outward action; he’s looking for what comes from the heart.

                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

Story of the Day for Monday February 20, 2012

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

                     “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God.”

                                                                 Matthew 5:9

Are you dismayed by the hostile political climate in our day? Don’t you wish we could return to the spirit of our Founding Fathers and cooperate in mutual trust?

We picture the Founding Fathers gathered in the convention hall in Philadelphia – patiently waiting their turn to stand in the midst of the assembly and stretch out their arm in a noble pose and say something famous, like, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Then everyone would repair to the nearest tavern for a tankard of ale and a plate of apple pan dowdy, and spend an agreeable afternoon deciding who got to speak the next famous saying on the morrow.

 

Unfortunately, it was never like that. The Founding Fathers were certainly courageous; they knew their decisions placed their lives in jeopardy. And they were unbelievably intelligent, because back then, they elected you to office on the basis of ability, not your good looks.

But, despite their common vision of a nation governed by the consent of the people, as men of great passion, they squabbled and fought like alley cats. Two of them, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, grew so incensed with each other that they fought a duel to the death.

But the bitterest feud was between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Though the two had been friends for many years, their differing political viewpoints boiled over in mutual accusations. After exchanging pungent letters, they refused to communicate with each other for years.

 

Benjamin Rush was a mutual friend of Adams and Jefferson, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a devout Christian.

Rush sought to reconcile the two. He wrote to Adams about a dream he had. He dreamed that Adams had written a kind letter to Jefferson, and that Jefferson returned an equally gracious letter. In his dream, the two men reconciled their differences and renewed their friendship. Then both of them “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years . . .”

 

Adams did write a conciliatory letter to Jefferson. Benjamin Rush immediately wrote to Adams, “I rejoice in the correspondence which has taken place between you and your old friend, Mr. Jefferson.” Jefferson wrote a gracious letter back. Rush wrote to Jefferson to rejoice in “this reunion of two souls destined to be dear to each other . . .”

Through a peacemaker, these two giants of our nation’s founding were reconciled.

In the 50th year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, full of years, died. Hours later on the same day, John Adams passed away . . . on the 4th of July.

Sometimes dreams do come true.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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The Best Encourager in the World

Story of the Day for Saturday February 18, 2012

The Best Encourager in the World

                                                     We never flattered you. 

                                                               1 Thessalonians 2:5

When I browse through a sporting goods store and find a new gizmo that I simply can’t live without, I quickly track down my wife, sweep her in my arms and whisper, “Honey, have I ever told you that your eyes sparkle like shimmering pools of moonlight on a warm summer’s night?”

She sighs, rolls her shimmering pools of moonlight, and asks, “So, what do you want to buy this time?”

My wife, to my great misfortune, can shrewdly distinguish between praise and flattery. Even though both sentiments glow with admiration, she knows that praise and flattery differ greatly in their sincerity.

We flatter when we have an ulterior motive. The goal of flattery is not to give to others but to get something out of the one on whom we lavish insincere praise.

 

When the apostle Paul writes to the newly formed congregation at Thessalonika, he assures them he never seeks to flatter. He had no hidden agenda.

Yet, before disavowing flattery, he has been showering them with praise. He tells them they are a shining model for the other believers in the area. He writes of their joy in the face of severe suffering, their responsiveness in imitating Paul’s example, their faith, their love, their endurance. Paul could hardly be more effusive in his praise.

 

Unlike flattery, praise is sincere. Yet, even though the intention of praise is to encourage others, sometimes praise can inadvertently harm them.

Carol Dweck, a Ph.D from Stanford University, oversaw an experiment with hundreds of fifth graders. A student was given blocks with different colors on each side and asked to form the blocks into the pattern shown on a card.

The first card showed an easy pattern. When a student completed the puzzle, half were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must be really smart.” When the other group finished the easy puzzle they were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must’ve worked really hard.”

Dr. Dweck then had all the students tackle a far more challenging puzzle — one which forced every student to struggle.

When each student finished the two puzzles, they were asked: “Which problems do you want to work on some more: the easier ones or those harder ones?” Those kids who were praised for their intelligence usually wanted to do the easier ones. But the students who were praised for working hard preferred the challenging puzzles.

Dr. Dweck maintains that praising inherent talent motivates kids to not want to grow. New challenges are welcomed by kids praised as hard workers, but are a threat to those who must maintain their reputation for being intelligent.

True praise should always seek to encourage and make others better. And if you learn to praise others wisely, I’m sure you can become the best encourager in the world!

Or is that flattery?

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


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It’s Not Too Late, You Know