Drops of Water on the Summit

Story of the Day for Saturday June 18, 2011

Drops of Water on the Summit

                       . . . Jesus firmly decided to go to Jerusalem. 

                                                             Luke 9:51

  Keri Russell said, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decision that can change your life forever.”

Triple Divide Peak, in Glacier National Park, is the only mountain in the world that feeds into three oceans. Rainwater falling on the western slope drains into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, and eventually flows into the Columbia River — which drains into the Pacific Ocean. The northeastern slope flows across Canada into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. And rain from the southeastern slope feeds into Marias River, which flows to the Missouri, and then joins the Mississippi River to empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

Three raindrops could fall within an inch of each other on Triple Divide Peak, and each one would end up in a different ocean.

The religious authorities in Jerusalem wanted to arrest and execute Jesus, but they didn’t know how to get their hands on him. As long as Jesus stayed put up north in Galilee, he had a huge following of people who would protect him.

The most momentous stride in history was the first step Jesus took when he decided he would walk south to Jerusalem in order to die.

Making a decision and acting on it can change the entire destination of our lives. The problem is that – unless you decide to run for the presidency or to have yourself shot out of a cannon – no one really notices what you’ve done. Or cares.  No one finds the first inches a raindrop travels on Triple Divide Peak to be of any significance. Who noticed Jesus’ first footstep after he firmly resolved to walk the dusty road to his own execution?

We can talk a lot about God’s will. We can think a lot about The Dream that the Lord has put in our hearts, but everything depends on the direction of our first footstep . . . and taking it.

My friend, Carl, once asked me: “Three frogs are sitting on a log and one frog decides to jump into the pond. How many frogs are now sitting on the log?”

“Two,” I said.

“No, three. Because, until that frog acts on his decision to jump, he’s nothing but a frog sitting on a log.”

For several years now, I’ve wanted to climb Triple Divide Peak and pour a few drops of water on the summit – and think of the water levels rising in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans.

I’ve never stood on the top of Triple Divide Peak, however, because I’ve never made the decision to do it. One of these days, though . . .

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Two Pairs of Pants

Story of the Day for Friday June 17, 2011

Two Pairs of Pants

 

                 Be careful that you don’t practice your righteousness before people to be seen by them.  For if you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  

                                                                                  Matthew 6:1

 

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has just finished saying we should let our light shine so that people “will SEE our good deeds” and praise the Father in heaven.  Now he says we must not practice our righteousness before people to be SEEN by them.

When you read both these verses side-by-side they seem to contradict each other, don’t they?   Well, not to take away the suspense or anything, but Jesus is not contradicting himself.

 

When Jesus says we should not do our righteous acts before others to be seen by them, he is talking about showing off.  Don’t be a religious show-off.

The Pharisees loved to be admired for their righteousness.  But it’s no fun being superior to other people if nobody notices.  So, they took pains to call attention to their incredible holiness.  When they gave to the needy, they announced their generosity withy trumpets.  When they prayed they just happened to be reciting their daily prayers on busy street corners.  When they fasted, they would screw up their faces funny so people could see they were fasting.  Not only that, but the early Christians talk about the Pharisees fasting twice a week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  In ancient Palestine, “market day” was – do you want to guess? – Tuesday and Thursday.

Hypocrites are not religious to serve God.  They are really serving themselves.  That is why Jesus is telling us that do the right things for the wrong reason doesn’t count.

But when Jesus tells us to let our light shine so that people will see our good deeds, the focus is not on us, but letting people see the amazing things God does in people.

 

Once I had to attend a religious meeting, a suit coat and tie kind of meeting.  I drove down to the area the night before.  Since my old car needed frequent care under the hood, I drove in grubby, oily jeans.

It wasn’t until the next morning as I put on my suit and tie that I realized my suit pants did not accompany me on the trip.  So, I raced through town looking for a clothing store.  I grabbed some nice slacks off the rack, paid for them, ran to my car, and put them on in the front seat. I strolled (out of breath) into the meeting looking cool and casual, a fine specimen of formal attire.

Not until after lunch did a brave soul approach me and asked if I realized there were price tags and stickers hanging from my butt.

Those two pairs of pants have become a metaphor of the extremes I need to avoid in life.  I don’t want to be grubby with sin and leave oil stains everywhere I sit.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be proud of how new and clean my pants are, and strut around with the tags on.

When you let your light shine, make sure people are looking to the source.

                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Small Flame…A Great Forest

Story of the Day for Thursday June 16, 2011

A Small Flame…A Great Forest

 

                    Look how great a forest is set on fire by a small flame.

James 3:5

 

            Boston has named its major league baseball team after a certain color of stocking, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th century, Boston’s baseball team used to have a silly name. They were called the Boston Beaneaters.

          The Beaneaters had, arguably, the best stadium in baseball. The South End Grounds included the Grand Pavilion, a two-story grandstand, which featured ornate spires and turrets.

          On May 15, 1894, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Beaneaters in the South End Grounds in Boston. In the third inning, a man lit a cigarette in the right field stands and the match fell below the bleachers, started a small fire.

          But, at that very moment, a fierce fight broke out between Boston’s Tommy Tucker and Baltimore’s John McGraw. Soon both teams emptied their dugouts and ran onto the field. The fans were riveted on the brawl. Spectators began throwing food and beer bottles onto the field. Fights erupted in the stands.

          All this while, the fire grew and spread. Soon the bleachers were engulfed in flames. The fire not only destroyed the ballpark, but spread through the city. Before the fire was brought under control, 170 buildings were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.

          When a brawl erupts during a baseball game, a little flame doesn’t captivate our attention. But, after it becomes a devastating fire, and hundreds have lost their homes and all their belongings, a fight at a ballgame doesn’t seem all that important.

          The apostle James warns us about the dangers of little things. Great fires are started by small flames. And bitter feuds – even wars – can be started by minor slights or insults. Yet, we’re often unconcerned about the minor rifts we create because, like a small flame, it’s so minor.

          But little things, when ignored, become big things. The longest peacetime border in the world lays between the United States and Canada, but that peace was threatened by the death of a pig.

          On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler shot a neighbor’s pig that got into his garden. His now pigless neighbor threatened to defend his case in British Columbia, but Cutler refused, claiming the island on which they resided was American territory.

          Tensions grew as sixty U.S. soldiers, led by Captain George Pickett (who would later lead the ill-fated charge at Gettysburg) claimed the island as U.S. territory. The Canadians brought an equal number of soldiers – claiming the island for Canada.

          “The Pig War of 1859,” as it is called, involved a military standoff that lasted twelve years. It was finally settled without loss of life . . . except for one pig.

          Extinguishing a flame early is a lot less costly than trying to put out a raging forest fire.

(copyright by Marty Kaarre and climbinghigher.org)

Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 15, 2011

Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

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

                                                                                Acts 16: 23-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord

She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word

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

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

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

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

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

                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Discovering Height

Story of the Day for Tuesday June 14, 2011

Discovering Height

                         For there are two sides to sound wisdom.

                                                                   Job 11:6

 On an exam, a physics professor at Washington University asked: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.”

One student answered: “Take the barometer to the top of the building. Attach a long rope and lower the barometer to the ground. Then bring it up and measure it. The length of rope is the height of the building.”

The professor’s colleague, Dr. Alexander Calandra, was asked to arbitrate the issue. The student answered correctly according to the format for the exam, yet how could he be given credit for an answer that did not show a proficiency in physics?

Dr. Calandra called the student in and gave him six minutes to have another try at the exam question.  The student’s answer was to take the barometer to the top of the building and drop it over the edge – timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then calculate the height of the building using the formula: S = ½ a t (squared).

This still was not the “proper” answer, but the professor decided to give him almost full credit. As the student was leaving, Professor Calandra asked him if he had any other answers to the exam.

“Oh, yes,” he answered. The student then explained how you could take the barometer and measure the height of the barometer and the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building and by the use of a simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

The student offered another option: take the barometer and mark the height of the barometer as you climb the stairs. You can determine the height of the building in barometer units.

Another solution was to tie the barometer to the end of a string and swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of ‘g’ at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference of the two values, you can calculate the building’s height.

The student’s favorite answer was to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door.  Show him the barometer and offer to give it to him if he will tell you the height of the building.

What has Jesus done for us?  We tend to get locked into one mode of answering that question. The Baptists are fond of saying they’re “born again,” while Lutherans claim they’re “justified by faith.”

The Lord doesn’t limit himself to one metaphor. As we page through the Bible we discover God’s abundant creativity: he said he saved us when we were drowning, that he redeemed us by buying us out of slavery, that, as a kind banker, he has forgiven our enormous debt.

The building had one, definite height. But the ways to discover its height are abundant.                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Dead Things Don’t Grow

Story of the Day for Monday June 12, 2011

Dead Things Don’t Grow

 

                                           . . . Just as you learned from us how to live in a manner pleasing to God, in the same way you are living, do so more and more. 

                                                                                          1 Thessalonians 4:1

 

My daughter, Erika, used to walk to work.  She had no choice.  Her summer job was at Schaeffer Meadows, a remote ranger station near Glacier National Park in Montana.  The closest road to the ranger station, at Morrison Creek, was 14 miles, but her usual route from Spotted Bear headquarters wound18 miles over a mountain pass.

Having completed a semester at NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, hiking 18 miles to work was no big deal.

 

Our family thought we’d just drop in for a visit one summer, so we hoisted our backpacks, hit the trail, and managed 300 yards before we stopped, exhausted, and had second thoughts about whether we were capable of completing an 18 mile hike.

The first day, we managed to trudge up to a high mountain lake near Whitcomb Peak. And the second day we straggled into the ranger station.

When we hiked out, we followed Morrison Creek and completed the 14 miles in one day.

 

My son, Randy, joined the Marines a couple months later. Basic training was no picnic. After their first ten mile hike, the exhausted recruits complained at how strenuous the hike had been.

Randy just smiled and said he had been hiking further than this in Montana.  At far higher elevation.  With a sixty pound pack.  And then the clincher . . .and accompanied by his five year old sister.

 

Faith is like that.  When we do more than we ever thought we could have done, we find there is still more that we can do that we never thought we could have done.

Paul is commending the congregation at the Greek town of Thesslonica.  They have been learning to apply their faith in Jesus and live in a way that pleases God.

And what does Paul say? “Good going, you guys!  Now, keep growing more and more.”

 

The life which Jesus calls us to is not static. We grow.  Look at how the Bible describes the church: we’re always growing.  Moving.  Building.

Growing doesn’t earn us eternal life.  It’s the other way around: you have to first be alive. Dead things don’t grow.

                                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Crooning Moon River

Story of the Day for Saturday June 11, 2011

Crooning Moon River

 

                            The Lord your God is in your midst . . . He will quiet you with his love.

                                                                    Zephaniah 3:17

  Someone discovered that cows give more milk when they’re listening to music. So, scientists in Great Britain gathered in barns to play music to a thousand cows. They played fast songs, slow songs, classical and rock – and kept careful records of milk production. When the researchers finished serenading the cows, they reported that the cows’ favorite song was Moon River.

What in the world were they thinking! (The cows, not the scientists). We’re talking Henry Mancini “elevator music,” for Pete’s sake.

 

Yet, despite their backward taste in music, cows have much to teach us about our life with God. My friend, Ruth, recently told me about a farmer in Nebraska who tried to force a hesitant cow into her milking stanchion. The cow panicked and kicked him so hard his leg swelled up to the size of a gigantic, swollen leg.

You can’t force cows to give milk.

 

Don’t get me wrong: fear is a wonderful motivator. It can greatly improve our performance when we’re being chased across the pasture by an angry bull. It can even motivate us to schedule a colonoscopy.

Not only that, but, if you want to get a cow out of your garden (and I speak with some authority on this subject), instilling fear will aid your cause, and, possibly, preserve your row of peas.

But fear has its limitations. You can’t slap a cow on the fanny and force it to give more milk. Instead, you have to calm her. You have to relax her. You have to play slow, schmaltzy “elevator music” to her.

 

If we should decide to hold a picnic on the railroad tracks, God may thunder and bellow – not because he hates us, but because he doesn’t want us to destroy ourselves. But even the almighty, all-powerful God can’t threaten us into loving him.

That’s why Jesus didn’t try to terrify us, but to lay his life down for us.

That is also why (and I hope you’re not easily offended) the Lord is willing to treat us like dairy cows. He wants to calm us down, and quiet us with his love.

 

Last week, I made a disturbing discovery. Three legends of rock music: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Elton John have all . . . give me a moment to say this, for it pains me greatly . . . have all recently performed Moon River in concert.

Playing Henry Mancini to increase milk production is one thing, but crooning Moon River to add cows to your fan base is simply pandering.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Singing and Dancing of Angels

Story of the Day for Friday June 10, 2011

The Singing and Dancing of Angels

                  And coming to his senses he said, “. . .I will go to my father and tell him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven
and before you. . .’”

Luke 15:18-19

Our heavenly Father is not always the best listener. At least, not as Jesus tells it in his parable.

The younger son demanded his share of the inheritance. This was an audacious insult – tantamount to saying he
wished his father was dead. He did not want a relationship with his father; he only wanted things from his father. Once he had what he wanted, he left home.

He partied hard. But in the end, he was hungry, homeless, and lonely. Sitting in a pig sty gives you time to think. The broken
son realized that even his dad’s servants enjoyed the security of a roof over their heads and bread from his father’s table.

With nothing more to lose, the son decided to head for home. He carefully rehearsed his speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

The son was still a long way off, when the father saw him walking home. What happened next was so shocking that those in the Middle East could not even bear to translate it in their Bibles for 1800 years. Not until 1860 did the first Bible from a
Middle Eastern culture translate Jesus’ words that the father “ran.”

Men of wealth or prominence in this culture never, ever run. It is disgraceful because honor is shown by the slowness of your pace. The rabbis taught that dignified men must always keep one foot on the ground.

But the father is so overwhelmed at the sight of his lost son that he utterly humiliates himself – he races to meet his son.

The rules of etiquette would have the son initiating the greeting by kissing his father’s hand – or, if he had wronged him, by kneeling to kiss his feet.

The son did neither. He never got the chance. His father wrapped him in a bear hug and kissed him on the neck.

With his father’s hot tears on his shoulder, the son began his prepared speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be. . .”

But, as Jesus tells it, the father was not a good listener. He doesn’t wait for his son to finish before he calls out to his servants, “Bring him the long robe! And the family signet ring! And sandals!” The party is on!

Don’t ever forget this. When you turn toward home, you may not receive respectful silence for the recitation of
your confession. The singing and dancing of the angels may very well drown out your nice speech.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Best Bad Call

Story of the Day for Thursday June 9, 2011

The Best Bad Call

 

                      If your adversary is hungry, give him something to eat. 

                                                                           Romans 12:20

 

The decision of the umpires was later found to be in error, but I’m so happy that they got it wrong.

 

Central Washington University was hosting Western Oregon University in 2008 in the last game of the season. The winner would earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament in Division II woman’s softball.

Western Oregon sent Sara Tucholsky to the plate. With two runners on base she hit a home run – the first one of her career. She was so jubilant that she forgot to step on first base. Realizing her mistake, she spun around so quickly that she tore her ACL in her knee.  As she lay writhing in pain, her teammates were helpless. If they touched her, that would constitute assisting a base runner and she would be called out.

After conferring on the rules, an umpire told Western Oregon’s head coach, Pam Knox, that a pinch runner could come in for her, but it would be credited as a single, and her home run would be taken away.

 

It broke the coach’s heart to erase the only home run of Sara’s career, but she was clearly unable to tag the bases on her own.

At that moment, however, Mallory Holtman, the star player for the opposing team ran up to an umpire and asked, “Would it be okay if we carried her around and she touched each bag?” The ump shrugged and said there was no rule against it.

So, Holtman, and her teammate, Liz Wallace, gingerly picked her up and started walking her around the bases. When they came to a base, they would gently lower her good leg and tap the base with Sara’s foot.

As the three girls rounded the bases, the crowd gave them all a standing ovation.

This caring act for their opponent ended up costing Mallory and Liz’s team the game – ending their hopes of getting into the tournament. But no one seemed to care.

 

Mallory Holtman viewed Sara Tucholsky as her opponent . . . until she was overcome by compassion for her need.

We are so easily angered by the behavior of our enemies. But what if we focused more on their hurts. Their needs. What if, when we noticed how hungry they were, we gave them some of our food?

 

The NCAA later said the umpire’s ruling was in error. A substitute could have run the bases and Sara would’ve been awarded a home run.

I’m so glad, however, that the umpire got it wrong. Far more important than a correct ruling was what happened to our hearts when two brave women helped their opponent when she was hurting.

                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Dashed Dreams and a Higher Plan

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 8, 2011

Dashed Dreams and a Higher Plan

 

                    “. . . Moses named his son Gershom, explaining, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”  

                                                                            Exodus 2:22

 Moses’ life is curious in that his personal tragedies set him on the road to a higher purpose. Persecution forces his mother to float her baby away in a reed basket. But then he’s discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses is raised in the shadow of the pharaoh, yet is later is forced to flee into the desert. In Midian, he marries and raises a family and learns the peaceful, nomadic life. But then God makes him go back to Egypt as a vocal, public figure. All of the major disappointments in Moses’ life are the prelude to a higher plan.

 

David Thompson, born in 1770, was raised in poverty. Yet, due to this, he found a steady job in Canada with the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was only fourteen. His work as a fur trader, unfortunately, was disrupted when a serious leg injury forced him to convalesce for two winters.

This setback, however, enabled Thompson to spend time with surveyor, Philip Turnor, who refined young David’s skills in math, astronomy, and surveying. When Thompson recovered, his company promoted him to the position of surveyor.

 

In 1797, David Thompson left Hudson’s Bay to work for the North West Company. After surveying 4000 miles – which included Lake Superior and the headwaters of the Mississippi River – Thompson was sent west. The North West Company had heard that their American rival, John Jacob Astor, had sent a ship around Cape Horn to claim the Columbia River for his fur trading empire.

Thompson was sent to discover, and map, the route of the Columbia River before Astor’s ships arrived. Ironically, Thompson found the Columbia River twice, but didn’t know it. At its source, the Columbia flows for two hundred miles in a northerly direction – the opposite direction it was “supposed” to flow. Thompson and his men took an arduous 600 mile detour through my present stomping grounds in Montana before they discovered the Columbia as it flowed southwest.

The confusion cost Thompson two months. When he finally reached the mouth of the Columbia, he learned that Astor’s ship had beaten them . . . by two months.

 

David Thompson didn’t know at the time that rights to fur trading were trivial compared to what he accomplished. His seemingly futile wanderings caused him to map 2,340,000 square miles – more than any geographer who ever lived. He visited Edmonton, Calgary, and Portland before these cities had even been invented. Though he failed in his attempt to ensure beaver pelts for his company, he accomplished something far greater: he mapped and defined a nation.

Dashed dreams which initiate a higher plan – do you think that was only true for Moses and David Thompson? Or do you believe God is doing the same thing in your life?

                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)