Story Posts for April 20-26, 2011

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 26, 2011

Love is More Than a Belly Rub

                     The one who responds to discipline is on the path of life.

Proverbs 11:17

Foreign languages come easily to me. Do you know what El Dorado means? It’s Spanish for “The Dorado.” When your hot water heater is on the fritz, that’s a German expression, meaning it’s “on the Fred.” Pizza? That’s an Italian word meaning . . . “pizza.”

Because I pick up languages so naturally, it’s no surprise that I also understand the language of Dog. When you own and operate a dog, you gradually begin to understand their native tongue.

We have a yellow lab puppy named Koira, who has little enthusiasm for staying out of mischief. Despite the certain knowledge that she will be rebuked and tied to a tree for chasing our neighbor’s cows, she can’t resist an occasional spree.

It requires surprisingly little discipline, however, to lead her to penitence. As soon as she is tied up, sorrow overwhelms her, and, within minutes, she has vowed to lead a new life.

Koira looks at me with wagging tail and baleful eyes and I can translate her message with ease: “Please, Mr. Marty. Please let me loose. I promise to be good. I’ll be good for the rest of my life.”

Dogs are sincere creatures, and the comical thing about them is that they really think that, once given the chance, they will lead good and upright lives. But, what’s even more comical is that I usually believe them.

Yet, no sooner do I show her mercy than she is off chasing the cat or stealing one of my gloves.

I like to take Koira for walks and scratch her belly. But love means more than allowing her to chew up my shoes. Love is more than license, and she must learn she can’t chase cows or pee in the house. Koira needs both belly rubs and training.

We tend to associate God’s love with pleasure. If God loves us, we think, he wouldn’t let us experience pain. But love is more than a belly rub. Love also disciplines. Love cares about the ultimate well-being of another.

Koira is a good dog; she just can’t stay that way for extended periods of time. Nevertheless, she’s learning. She’s learning to find joy in pleasing me.

Although I’m obviously fluent in many languages, I’m still struggling to learn that discipline is also one of the languages of God’s love.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Climbing Higher apologizes for the delay in today’s posting…our internet had an issue.  Thanks for your patience!

Story of the Day for Monday April 25, 2011

A Hard Time Seeing

                The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

          And she said to them, “They’ve taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

John 20:13

Tom Mullen, in his book, Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences, tells a story – the gist of it going like this:

Three men were hunting deep in the Canadian wilderness when they came upon an old trapper’s cabin. Hoping to find shelter for the night, they knocked, and when no one answered, they went in.

The cabin was simple and plain – but the one thing that caught their attention was the stove. The pot-bellied stove didn’t sit on the floor but hung suspended from the ceiling and was supported by wire.

One of the party, a psychologist, said, “Interesting! Obviously, this trapper, in his loneliness and isolation has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the security of his mother’s womb.”

“Nonsense!” said his friend, who was an engineer. “He’s simply implementing the laws of thermal transfer. By elevating the stove, radiant heat is increased – thus heating the cabin with greater efficiency.”

The third member of the hunting party, a sociologist, scoffed at both of them. “Don’t you guys get it? Fire is an archetypical cultural symbol for passionate desire. He is simply engaging in ritual behavior to symbolize his deep desire for successful trapping. It’s like a lucky rabbit’s foot – only more so.”

Later that night, the trapper returned. He welcomed them to stay for the night.

As the evening wore on, one of them finally got up the courage to ask, “Say, we were all wondering why you’ve hung your stove from the ceiling like that?”

The trapper shrugged and replied, “Had a lot of wire but not much stove pipe.”

We often have a hard time seeing what we’re seeing. We interpret life from our own experience. As someone once said, if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

When your only experience in life is that dead people stay where you last laid them, who could blame Mary of Magdala for concluding that someone must have taken away the corpse from the tomb?

Even when Mary saw the risen Jesus she didn’t see him – since he’s not supposed to be there. She looked at Jesus and saw the cemetery gardener.

When God does a new thing, everything looks fuzzy at first. But, as we come to understand his purpose, things begin to come into focus.

Since the Fall of mankind, God has pointed all of history to this moment, when he would undo the curse of sin and recreate life from death.

Once we see it, it becomes as obvious as why a trapper would hang his stove from the ceiling.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 23, 2011

Say No More Than What is Necessary

                    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.


(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 22, 2011

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 and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday April 21, 2011

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 and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 20, 2011

Mice Who Lived in a Piano

                 What can be known about God is plain to them. For God has made it plain to them.

Romans 1:19

Once, a family of mice was born inside a piano.  The inside of the piano was the universe to them because it was the only world they knew.

But they believed there was a world outside the piano, because, from as far back as they could remember, their lives were filled with the beautiful music that rang inside their dark home.

As they listened to the music they concluded there must be a Master Musician. Such beauty and complexity couldn’t just come about by accident. And so, the mice responded with gratitude and awe to the Master Musician, who stirred their souls with beautiful music.

One day, a mouse decided to rummage around inside the piano. When he returned to the others, he had a grave face. “There is no Master Musician who creates the music.”

The other mice were shocked. “What do you mean? Only someone outside the piano could make the music. Someone intelligent, creative, and great.”

“I’m sorry to destroy your faith in the Master Musician,” the adventurous mouse replied, “but in my explorations I came across rows of strings. As I pondered this, I discovered that, whenever certain notes sound, specific strings vibrate.”

Some of the mice quit believing in a Master Musician after they learned that. After all, you could explain the music simply as strings vibrating. But other mice asked, “Even if strings make the sound, what makes them vibrate in perfect rhythms and enchanting harmonies?”

The mice who no longer believed in a Master Musician thought this was an ignorant question, and soon, further exploration supported their position.

Before long, another mouse returned from his exploration of the piano and announced triumphantly, “I have found it!”

“Found what?”

“The scientific explanation for the reason piano strings vibrate,” he said. “The strings vibrate because they are being struck by felt hammers. I went up higher and discovered the whole thing!”

Now, even fewer mice believed any longer in a Master Musician who existed outside their piano. After all, the question of why strings vibrate had been conclusively answered.

Still, a few mice continued to believe that the music came from outside the piano. One of them asked the explorer mouse, “But, if the strings vibrate because they’re struck by hammers, what makes the hammers strike the strings in perfect rhythms and enchanting harmonies?”

The other mice didn’t know what to say, so they just mocked the stupid mouse who would ask such an ignorant question.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)