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:



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)

Recent Story Posts…May 5-10,2011

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 10, 2011

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)

Story of the Day for Monday May 9, 2011

Turn Your Radio On

                              “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Matthew 13:9

Scientists were excited when the Navy discovered an enormous iceberg near Point Barrow, Alaska. The iceberg was 3 ½ miles long and enabled transport planes to land with supplies to build ARLIS II (Arctic Research Laboratory Ice Station).

In 1961, scientists erected fourteen buildings and began their research. They were, periodically, resupplied with food and fuel by airdrops. But this was not a simple operation. The iceberg was drifting.

In September of 1963, the situation was growing tense. The research station had drifted near the North Pole, a thousand miles from Point Barrow, and, while food supplies were fine, the researchers were down to their last barrel of diesel fuel. Diesel was used to run the generators which provided electricity to operate the station. Most importantly, it operated the radio navigation beacon that guided supply planes to their iceberg.

One day, an ionospheric storm turned the radio to static. In frustration, the radio operator, Gary Sides, turned the navigational beacon off. He had no idea that a resupply plane was blindly flying in the area and pleading, “Turn on your beacon.”

The plane couldn’t locate the research station and decided to turn back. But just then, for some inexplicable reason, Gary Sides flipped the radio on and heard the pilot say “ . . . beacon on.” Realizing a plane was flying nearby trying to locate them, he turned the navigational beacon back on, and the resupply plane landed within the hour.

If the radioman had not decided to turn the radio on, the scientists on ARLIS II would’ve perished.

Jesus told a story once about a man who sowed seed in his field. Some fell in fertile soil, some fell on a hardened footpath. The seed was the same, but some soils allowed the seed to germinate and others didn’t.

Once, Carl, a friend of mine, was talking to his co-worker who didn’t believe in God. “If God is there,” he challenged Carl, “how come you know he’s there and I don’t?”

Carl told his co-worker his problem was he didn’t have his radio on.

“What do you mean?”

“Look,” Carl asked him, “can you see radio waves?”


“But you believe in them, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” his co-worker answered – wondering where this was going.

“Radio waves are all around us right now. They’re passing through our bodies.” Then Carl asked, “How come we can’t hear them?”

“Because we haven’t turned the radio on.”

“Exactly,” Carl said.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday May 7, 2011

Happy With a Bad Potato

                 “Blessed are you when others mock you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you. Rejoice and be glad . . .”

Matthew 5:11-12

For her work in the field of therapeutic humor, Patty Wooten has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. One of her favorite stories is about a grumpy patient who continually pressed his buzzer for help.

Despite a hectic day, his nurse clung to her good cheer and asked, “What’s wrong?”

The patient complained about his dinner. “This is a bad potato.”

The nurse, determined to keep things upbeat, picked up the potato with one hand and spanked it with the other.  She scolded the potato, “Bad potato! Bad! Bad! Bad!” Satisfied that the potato had learned its lesson, the nurse set it back down on the plate.

The patient was so taken off guard that he burst into laughter. A crabby, irritable patient had been instantly transformed.

What changed his whiny attitude? His circumstances hadn’t changed: he was still lying in a hospital bed with an unappealing dinner before him. But the thought of the naughty potato lying on his plate completely altered how he viewed his situation.

When we’re in a sour mood we feel we’ve earned the right to nurse a bad attitude. That’s because we believe our attitudes are dependent on our circumstances.

They’re not. When we’re crabby, it’s never because of the situation we’re in, but how we are interpreting our situation.

Jesus tells us that when we’re horribly mistreated for following him, instead of moaning, it’s a good time to dance on the table.  The proper attitude to persecution is joy.

No circumstance in life demands a crabby attitude.

One hot summer day, Robert Fulghum was sitting at an oceanfront café on the Greek island of Crete. The temperature was over a hundred degrees and the tempers of both tourists and waiters were rising.

At the table next to Fulghum’s, an attractive young couple, fashionable dressed, were kissing and laughing. Suddenly, they picked up their small table, and stepped off the quay into the shallow water of the harbor. The man waded back for their chairs and gallantly seated his lady before sitting down. The onlookers roared with laughter and applauded.

The surly waiter appeared, raised his eyebrows, and picking up a tablecloth, napkins, and silverware, waded into the water to set their table. Minutes later, the waiter returned with a bucket of iced champagne and two glasses. The couple toasted each other, the waiter, and the crowd – which prompted cheers as the other customers threw flowers to them from their table decorations.

The circumstances didn’t change. It was still hot. But everyone’s disposition was transformed because one young couple taught the rest to see in a new way.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday May 6, 2011

Soggy With Grace

                    An angry man stirs up disputes, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.

Proverbs 29:22

When you lose our temper and let someone “have it,” what are you hoping to accomplish?  Teach them a lesson and improve their behavior? Sounds noble, but no one’s buying it. Let’s not fool ourselves: anger seldom motivates other people to be better people. It increases hostility in those who feel our heat.

In our honest moments, we know better. When we lose our temper, we want to hurt somebody. We don’t call it a “tongue lashing” for nothing.

A hot temper stirs up anger in others. We’re starting a forest fire. But do you realize what your anger does to you in the process of hurting others?

In 1940, Douglas Thompson, a Tennessee paper boy, was delivering papers when a neighborhood dog attacked and bit him. Thompson had the dog impounded, and it was later released in a few days.

But the dog’s owner, Gertrude Jamieson, was outraged that her dog was impounded.  She began harassing Douglas with obscene phone calls several times a day.  She continued her hateful phone calls for forty three years! The harassing calls ended in 1983 when Gertrude was 85 – not because see finally let go of her anger, but because she suffered a debilitating stroke. Oh yes, she made Douglas Thompson pay for his “crime.”  But she destroyed herself by nursing her smoldering anger.

When a bee plants its stinger into your flesh it introduces you to a lot of pain. But, once a bee loses its stinger, it dies. We cannot unleash malice on someone without destroying ourselves in the process.

Margaret Tiffle, a 62-year old woman from suburban Paris, would get upset when others would part in the “No Parking” zone in front of her house.  So, when she found this fancy Citron parked in her front yard, she lost it. Furious, she got a stiff wire brush and mercilessly scratched up the paint job on the new car.

Margaret’s husband came home and was inconsolable. For their 40th wedding anniversary he had bought her a new car. . . but someone had already vandalized it!

Anger flares because there is fuel. And you cannot escape the fuel. You will always have others who tailgate you, and scratch your CDs, and lock the keys in the house.

I live in the Rockies where huge tracts of dry timber ignite into forest fires.  You can’t eliminate all the fuel of dead timber, but last year, there were virtually no fires.  Know why? Rain. Lots and lots of rain.

The fuel for anger will always be there. But the Lord wants to drench your life with his love. Fuel doesn’t burn when it’s soggy with grace.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday May 5, 2011

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)

Posts for April 27-May 4, 2011

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 4, 2011

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)

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 3, 2011

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)

Story of the Day for Monday May 2, 2011

Begin by Slowing Down

                     Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither.

Psalm 1:2-3

Never has any generation lived at the frantic pace which we do today.  If the car at the traffic light in front of me doesn’t respond to the green light within three seconds I get agitated.  “C’mon, what’s your problem?  Let’s move!”

Thomas Huxley was a zealous promoter of Darwin’s views on evolution.  “Darwin’s Bulldog” they called him.  Chuck Swindoll wrote about the time when Huxley lectured in Dublin and gave a series of public assaults against Christian beliefs.

The next morning he was in a hurry to catch a train.  He took one of Dublin’s horse-drawn taxis, and assumed the driver had been instructed where he wanted to go.  “Hurry!” Huxley shouted, “I’m almost late.  Drive fast!”

The driver whipped his horses and off they went.  After a while, Huxley looked out the window of the taxicab and noticed they were headed west instead of east. “Do you know where you’re going?” Huxley asked. The driver shouted back, “No, your honor.  But I am driving very fast!”

We don’t always know where we’re going, but we’re getting there fast.

I have taught guitar lessons to quite a few people.  Invariably, they want to learn to play a song at the proper tempo first. Later, as they improve, they assume they will learn to play it without making mistakes.

But they won’t.   One of my sisters is a music professor.  She says you must first learn to play correctly, and then work to increase the tempo.  If you begin by playing fast, making lots of mistakes in the process, you are actually training your brain to play the mistakes.  So, even though you need both correct fingering and proper tempo, the order is crucial.

The same thing is true for your inner life.  We have to begin by slowing down.  The Bible says we need to take time to meditate on God’s law. Then, when we start racing around, at least we’ll be reading in the right direction.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 30, 2011

On Grammar, Eloquence, and Thematic Cohesion

                 We don’t know what we ought to be praying about, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . . And he who searches hearts knows the thoughts of the Spirit.

Romans 8:26-27

The Reverend William Archibald Spooner was both a kindly Anglican priest and a brilliant professor at New College, Oxford. But, he achieved fame through his slips of the tongue.

Once, he delivered a sermon to the students and sat down. Apparently someone whispered something to him because he walked back up to the pulpit and announced, “In the sermon I just preached, whenever I said Aristotle, I meant St. Paul.”

Dr. Spooner’s superb scholarship, sadly, has been overshadowed by his tendency to scramble words. Through his unintentional efforts, the term “Spoonerism” has worked its way into our present dictionaries. For example, he called the “rate of wages” the “weight of rages,” and “conquering kings,” “kinkering congs.”

Soon, this tendency was noticed by the students, and they waited eagerly for his next slip of the tongue. At the height of his notoriety, Spooner lamented, “You don’t want to hear a speech; you just want me to say one of those . . . things.” Don Hauptman, in his book, Cruel and Unusual Puns, says “the craze spread like filed wire – er, wildfire.”

The enthusiasm to record the latest Spoonerism soon made it difficult to separate his original sayings from those attributed to him.

The professor, it is said, proposed a toast to Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria: “Three cheers for our queer old dean.” At a naval review he is said to have praised “this vast display of cattle ships and bruisers.” Officiating at a wedding, he concluded by informing the groom, “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride.”

Once the kindly reverend showed us the way, everyone wanted to get in on the act. Radio announcer, Harry Von Zell, gave tribute to the president of the United States by addressing him as “Hoobert Heever.” This only inspired Lowell Thomas to introduce the British minister, Sir Stafford Cripps as “Sir Stifford Crapps.” The British then solidified the eminence of their native son, the Rev. Spooner, when an announcer proclaimed the military would give their honored royal guest a “twenty-one son galoo.”

With all this glorious imperfection surrounding us, it still baffles me that some are reluctant to pray publicly because they don’t think they’ll say the right words – as if God is going to grade them on grammar, eloquence, and thematic cohesion.

But, our situation is far worse than not knowing the right words; most of the time we don’t even know the right topic. Let’s face it: we’re not all that great at informing the Creator of All Things about the best way to run the universe.

Nevertheless, the Lord tells us he wants us to pray and he is ready to listen. And, even when, in our pain and confusion, we can only look to heaven and moan, God assures us the Spirit can interpret our hearts, and send our prayers on their way . . . despite our garbled thoughts and tips of the slung.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 29, 2011

Total Abandonment to Your Calling

                        Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else.”

Exodus 4:13

Have you ever wanted to do something, but were afraid to try?

There’s a lot to be said for not trying.  Think about it: if you try to do something new, you’ll inevitably begin wobbly and will always be able to point to those who can do it better than you.  When we try, and fail, it produces embarrassment, frustration, discouragement, and criticism from others.

If, however, you simply refuse to try, you will be spared these humiliations of failure. Moses put up an admirable protest when the Lord called him to be the spokesman for his people. He stuttered. He was not a good speaker.

The Lord didn’t ask Moses to be good; he just told him to do it.

Bill Staines is one of the most popular folksingers of our day. Both his resonant singing and accomplished guitar playing are easy to listen to.

Yet, Staines didn’t start his musical career because he was talented. He was inspired, as a child, by a framed embroidery that his mother hung above the piano. It said:




Florence Foster Jenkins loved to sing. Much to the dismay of her parents and husband, she decided to perform publicly. Her voice sounded like she was killing a cat, and the notes soared in a futile search for the correct pitch. Undaunted by any sense of rhythm, she never let the music’s tempo boss her around. Her accompanist, Mr. Cosmé McMoon, would constantly adjust the pace of the music to her unique sense of timing.

In The Book of Heroic Failures, Stephen Pile summed it up by saying, “No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.”

Jenkins’ popularity began to soar. It wasn’t simply that she was so spectacularly awful; many people know how to sing poorly. Instead, it was her total abandonment to her calling. She loved to sing. Robert Bagar in the New York World-Telegram captured her appeal: “She was exceedingly happy in her work. It is a pity so few artists are. And the happiness was communicated as if by magic to her hearers.”

Florence Foster Jenkins culminated her career on October 25, 1944, when she screeched and warbled before a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

Although Florence was fully aware of her critics, she simply didn’t care. “People may say I can’t sing,” she observed, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

Michael Jordan nailed it: “If I try something and I don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean I failed. It means I tried.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday April 28, 2011

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 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)

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 27, 2011

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)

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 climbinghigher.org 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 climbinghigher.org 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 climbinghigher.org 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 climbinghigher.org 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 climbinghigher.org 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 climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)