Swimming in the Fog

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 17, 2011

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 Reeves’ 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)

Stories for May 11-16, 2011

Story of the Day for Monday May 16, 2011

We Must Deal With It

                  Know, therefore, with certainty . . . that God made him Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36

When my daughter, Krista, was two, she brought her toy doll into the living room and asked her older sister, Erika, is she would like to hold her baby.

Erika played along. She gently cradled the doll in her arms and cooed “baby talk” to it.  After a few moments of this, Erika – ever the diplomat – exclaimed, “Oh no!  She’s crying!  I think she needs her mommy. You better take her back.”

Uncertain that Erika comprehended the situation, little Krista leaned in close, and, with a low voice, so the baby wouldn’t hear, whispered, “She’s fake,”

As children mature, their world keeps getting fuzzy.  Is a doll real or fake?  The same goes for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

My friends, Paul and Karen, raised their kids out west. When they drove back to Paul’s hometown, he kept telling them, “Kids, when we get close to Grandmas, you’re going to see a sign on the highway in front of town.”  The billboard said:

WELCOME TO MITCHELL, SOUTH DAKOTA

BIRTHPLACE OF THE FAMOUS PAUL MAURER

His kids didn’t believe him.

As they drew close to Mitchell, however, Paul’s kids focused on every sign and asked their dad where his billboard was. “Oh, it’s coming up soon,” he would say.

Paul kept glancing into the rear-view mirror until they finally lost interest in looking at billboards and dropped their heads.  Just before they passed a sign he yelled, “Look!  There it is! There’s my sign!”

The kids’ heads shot up and they shouted, “Where?”

“Right there! We just passed it!”

“Can we go back and see it?”

“Nah,” Paul said, “We’ll catch it on the way back home.”

Paul’s kids were caught in that in that grey world of doubt. They were, rightly, skeptical. But they wanted to believe their dad’s tall tale was true.

As adults, we wander into that same fuzzy world of doubt. Is all this Bible stuff about Jesus really true . . . or do I just want it to be true?

Here is where the Bible breathes an air of authenticity. On the day of Pentecost, Peter points out to the skeptics the miracles which Jesus did, “in your midst, as you yourselves know.” He continues with a couple of prophecies from the Psalms which predicted Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as Christ. Peter testified he has seen Jesus raised from the dead, “Of which we are all witnesses.”

No. The Bible does not treat Jesus as a fairy tale. God has broken into the world he created, and we must deal with it.

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday May 14, 2011

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.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday May 13, 2011

“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)

Story of the Day for Thursday May 12, 2011

When Gifts of Love Collide

                  The gift is acceptable because of what one gives; not by what they don’t have to give.

2 Corinthians 8:12

Last night, Elly cried herself to sleep.

Our fifth-grader didn’t take the bus home after school on Tuesdays. She stayed in town to take a pottery class, and then her big sister, Nikki, would take her to her house to spend the night.

Yesterday, my wife had to go to town, so she picked Elly up and drove her home. All the way home Elly babbled about her secret plottings. In pottery class she made a coffee cup. The cup is the color of sand, but has concentric circles with intricate designs on each side of the handle. The first four inner circles are blue, which then yield to green. It’s round but not obsessively so. And, if you turn the handle toward you, it lists slightly to starboard. You can tell it was made with loving hands.

It’s more beautiful than anything you could ever buy in a store.

On the drive up Pinkham Creek, Elly revealed her carefully hidden secret: she made a coffee cup in pottery class because she knew how much her daddy loved his morning coffee. It was a Father’s Day present, but that was too far away. She decided she would give it to me as soon as she got home. Joy can’t be kept a secret for long.

They stopped at the mailbox, descended the long driveway, crossed the cattle guard, and drove into the yard.

Last Christmas, I gave the most joyous gift I’ve ever set under the Christmas tree. Ivan the Terrible was a part of our household before Elly was born. He died last summer, and we promised Elly we would get her another dog. But we never got around to it.

Then, last December, Krista saw an ad in the Fortine Mercantile for puppies. I got Elly a little (mostly) yellow lab. We put it in a box with a bow and Elly opened it on Christmas Eve.

It was one of the happiest days of my life.

But, last night, our gifts of love collided. When Elly climbed out of the van, forty pounds of happy puppy pounced on her. She dropped the coffee cup and the handle broke off.

She was heartbroken, and, in tears, handed me a handle-less Father’s Day present. I told her it was okay, but she cried herself to sleep anyway.

I’m drinking coffee right now from my broken Father’s Day present. There’s a crack by the handle, so the desk is a little wet, but I don’t care.

You’ve always thought the gifts of love you give to your heavenly Father are so imperfect and inadequate, haven’t you? Well, maybe you’re just plain wrong about that.


          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Wednesday May 11, 2011

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)