October 7-9 Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday October 9, 2010

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.

 

 

Story of the Day for Friday October 8, 2010
 

 

Clarence Jordan’s Failure

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you don’t listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t come to the rescue?

Habakkuk 1:2

When they blow up your buildings and strafe your house with machine guns, you begin to get the feeling that some people really don’t like you.

Clarence Jordan became a Baptist minister with a Ph.D in New Testament Greek. In 1942, Clarence, and his wife, Florence, went to Sumter County, Georgia, because they wanted to live out the teachings of Jesus.

They started a farm, called Koinonia (the Greek word for “Community”). Their goal was to bring both blacks and whites together, to share their goods with each other, and to help those poorer than themselves.

In those days of racial segregation, many objected to Koinonia Farm. The Baptists kicked Jordan out of their church. Vandals cut their fences, stole crops from the field, dumped garbage on their property, put sugar in their gas tanks to ruin their truck engines, chopped down nearly 300 pecan trees.

The community boycotted the farm. They refused to sell seed, fertilizer, or fuel to them. They refused to buy their goods – forcing them to wastefully slaughter thousands of chickens that couldn’t be sold.

It got more serious than that. The farm’s roadside store was burned down. Gasoline pumps were punctured. Crosses were burned at night on the lawns of the black residents. Fires were set on the property. The smokehouse was dynamited. Residents were beaten, and even the children were sprayed with gunfire while out playing.

After that incident, Clarence wrote: “. . . neither property nor lives were ours but God’s. They never had really been ours in any sense of the word. We hadn’t even ‘given them back to Him’ – they were His all along. And if this was the way He wanted to spend His property and His people in order to accomplish His purpose, why should we pitch a tantrum?”

On October 21, 1968, the year before Clarence died, he wrote: “. . . Koinonia stands at the end of an era or perhaps its existence.” Only two families were left.

Clarence and Florence Jordan’s dreams never materialized. Or did they? That last year of his life, a young couple, Millard and Linda Fuller visited the farm and ended up staying. Jordan and Fuller conceived a dream of providing housing for the needy.

You may have heard of their dream. They called it Habitat for Humanity. Its headquarters is not far from the farm at Koinonia . . . in the Clarence Jordan Center.

Jordan put it well when he observed that the Lord doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful. He just let the Lord do what He wanted with His own property.

Story of the Day for Thursday October 7, 2010

The Candle Problem

They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath – in order that they might condemn him. . . And Jesus asked them, “Is it legal to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”

Mark 3:2-3

Here’s a problem for you to solve. You are led into the front of a church, and stand behind a table. A little kid walks up and sets three objects on the table before you: a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal. Your assignment, in ten seconds, is to pick up the object which represents the most religious activity you could do at that moment.

What would you pick up?

How ‘bout if I give you a clue to (what I believe) is the correct answer.

In 1945, Karl Duncker first conducted The Candle Problem. On a table, he set a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. The assignment was to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax wouldn’t drip on the table.

Most people will begin by trying to tack the candle to the wall, but the candle is too large in diameter to do that.  The second most popular solution is to light a match, melt some candle wax, and attempt to “glue” the candle to the wall. The candle, unfortunately, is too heavy, and this doesn’t work either.

It usually takes several minutes before the participant solves the puzzle. The answer is to take the box of tacks and thumbtack it to the wall. Then you can melt wax in the bottom of it and set the candle in the box.

Most people see the box only as the means to hold the tacks; not as the solution itself.

One Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue surrounded by religious people — and a man with a withered hand. They knew Jesus could heal miraculously, so they watched closely to see if he would heal the man. The Sabbath was a day of rest, and healing was . . . you know, like, work. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it proved he was not a religious man, and that he defied the law of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, thought the most important religious act he could at that moment was to help a handicapped man on the holy day of rest.

So, back to your puzzle. The little kid sets a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal on the table in front of you. What should you pick up as the most religious act you could do at that moment?  Okay, here we go. Ten seconds.

Tick-tock.

Times up. The answer is to . . . pick up the little kid. Thank him for bringing you books that are very special to you. Give him a great big hug. Then get down on one knee – so you’re at his eye level — and ask why he has that bandage on his finger.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief from today’s story. And, I would love to debate this issue with you, but right now I’m busy. Reading my Bible.

(But only after the little kid has left to go out and play.)