Throw Your Heart Instead

Story of the Day for Saturday July 30, 2011

Throw Your Heart Instead

                                      ”They gave as much as they were able to give. “

                                                                                2 Corinthians 8:3

 Tony Melendez is a talented singer and guitar player. He lives and often performs in Branson, Missouri. He sang the National Anthem for the fifth game of the 1989 World Series. And he has played a solo performance before the Pope.

 

We have more to say about Tony in just a moment, but if I may be so rude as to interrupt myself, I want to ask you a question.

If a quarterback is right-handed, he throws the bomb with his right hand. If a tennis player is left-handed she makes a serve by holding the racket in her left hand. But, in what sport are athletes forced to rely on their weaker hand as an essential part of their athletic performance?

Baseball, right? All the players on the field must put their gloves on their weaker hand to field the ball.

There’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. But if that won’t work, any foot will have to do.

 

A mother in Nicaragua was prescribed medicine to calm morning sickness during her pregnancy.  At that time, they didn’t know that thalidomide could cause birth defects. Her son, Tony Melendez, was born without arms.

When he was older, they moved to Los Angeles where he was fitted with prosthetic arms, but the fake limbs only got in his way so he refused to wear them.

 

If you don’t have arms, there are things you can’t do.  Tony Melendez, however, didn’t focus on what he couldn’t do; he focused on what he could do.

He learned to play the guitar with his toes. When he sang and played for Pope Paul II, Tony was shocked as the Pope jumped down from the stage on which he was sitting and went over to Tony to give him a hug. “My wish for you,” the Pope said,” is that you continue to give hope to others.”

He does.

 

Want to know something? Right now, I don’t feel so much like bellyaching about all my ailments and the things I can’t do. Instead, I feel like thanking the Lord for what I have, and asking him to teach me how to use them well.

 

Toward the end of his life, Ernest Hemingway was diagnosed with a disease by which his body could no longer metabolize iron, and leads to mental deterioration.

His writing was declining.  Nevertheless, the great mystery writer, Raymond Chandler, voiced his admiration. He likened Hemingway to a champion pitcher in his declining years. “When he can no longer throw the high hard one, he throws his heart instead. He throws something. He doesn’t just walk off the mound and weep.”

                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Don’t Wait to Feel Inspired

Story of the Day for Friday July 29, 2011

Don’t Wait to Feel Inspired

                     All hard work is profitable, but mere talk leads to poverty. 

                                                                  Proverbs 14:23

 Johann Sabastian Bach is considered one of the most talented musical geniuses of all time. Maybe so. But Dr. K.Anders Ericsson, one of the world’s foremost experts on genius and natural talent has discovered something surprising.

 

But, first, let’s go back to Bach. Young Johann was surrounded by musical relatives. An orphan at the age of ten, he moved in with his oldest brother, who was an organist and composer. At fourteen, he studied music for two years near Hamburg.

At seventeen, he walked 250 miles (one way) to study for four months under the greatest organist of the day, Dietrich Buxtehude. He overstayed his visit by three months.

Bach’s passion to learn music was so intense he would stay up late to copy the works of great composers by candlelight – to better internalize the works of the masters.

Once hired as a musician in Leipzig, he composed a new cantata for every Sunday and feast day of the year.  Bach’s compositions total 1127 – and this doesn’t account for his many works that have been lost.

 

Is there such a thing as innate talent?

Well, what kind of a stupid question is that? Of course there is.

Yeah, well, have you heard of the work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a professor at Florida State University?  Ericsson joined two colleagues at Berlin’s Academy of Music, and, had them divide the school’s violinists into three groups: expert, good, and acceptable. All the musicians were asked the same question: over the entire course of you career, how much have you practiced?

Those in the highest category practiced about 10,000 hours, those in the middle group around 5000, and those in the least accomplished class practiced only 2000 hours.

Ericsson looked to find “naturals” – musicians so talented they excelled without great effort, and “grinds” – musicians who practiced harder but never excelled.

He couldn’t find either.

Those accepted at the music academy obviously had musical talent. But the only factor that determined achievement from that point was not genius, talent, or inspiration, but how hard each student worked.

 

Don’t wait to feel inspired to pray or read Scripture. Don’t wait to feel inspired to do anything. Just do it. Hard work isn’t the enemy of God’s blessing, but one of the conduits to receiving it.

 

“I have worked hard,” Bach said to sum up his achievements, “anyone who works just as hard will go just as far.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Eat the Fat Ones First

Story of the Day for Thursday July 28, 2011

 

Eat the Fat Ones First

                        Accept each other just as Christ accepted you.  

                                                                          Romans 15:7

 A fitness club in San Francisco ran a billboard ad. An alien’s bug-eyed face loomed in the foreground – with another alien silhouetted behind it. The ad said,

 

WHEN THEY COME THEY’LL EAT THE FAT ONES FIRST.

 

A member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance found the ad hilarious – until the more sober members of the association informed her she should be offended.

 

We live in a culture that has lost the ability to enjoy our differences. The State University of New York at Albany decided to hold a picnic to honor the first black major league baseball player, Jackie Robinson. But some students objected – insisting the word, “picnic,” was racist. A “picnic,” they claimed, originated when black men were lynched for entertainment.

An English professor proved that the word “picnic” originated in the late 1600s from the French word, piquenique. The term designated a social gathering in which everyone contributed to the meal. Over time, it meant any outdoor meal.

Yet, despite the convincing explanation, some were still offended.

So, in deference to those who considered a picnic insulting, the gathering was promoted as simply an “outing.”

Oh boy. Now others protested that the university could not have an “outing” to honor Jackie Robinson, because that would be insensitive term to the gay community.

In the end, the university capitulated to those offended, and advertised the event, but refused to use any noun to describe the outdoor lunch they planned to honor Jackie Robinson.

 

Is it possible to celebrate and enjoy our distinctive differences as people without hurting and offending others by pointing out those differences?

I don’t know.

But I do know that status-conscious societies, like ours, have latched onto people’s differences to cruelly mock and stereotype people. Whenever we treat any race or class of people as lazy, deceptive – or any undesirable trait – humor becomes ridicule.

 

The traits we admire or sneer at change with the years. A generation ago, plumpness was admired (because only wealthy people could afford to indulge in rich foods) and a deep tan was disdained (because only poor laborers had to work outside). Women used to want to dye their hair blond, because it suggested both youth and beauty. Now, with the advent of “blond jokes,” it increasingly brands you as a ditz.

 

Mocking those who are different from us is a cheap way to attempt to bolster our own sense of worth. God wants us to learn to accept each other – just as Christ has accepted us.

The sooner we learn to accept others for who they are, the sooner we will be able to laugh and enjoy our differences. And I hope we learn to do this quickly, so I don’t have to save my best jokes for the nursing home.

                                                                       (Copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

In the Long Run

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 27, 2011

In the Long Run

                     The servants asked their master, “Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?”  

                     “No,” he said. 

                                                                  Matthew 13:28-29

Sometimes, the best way to make something better is to begin by making it worse.

All airports have a problem with birds, but the bird problem is especially acute at the

John F. Kennedy International Airport, which sits beside the 10,000 acre Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

When you’re flying at 150 miles per hour and hit a twelve pound bird, it’s the equivalent force of a thousand pound weight falling from ten feet. Since 1988, over 200 air passengers have been killed when their plane was struck by birds. Bird strikes cause over $600 million in damages to U.S. airlines annually.

Some airports use loud noises, but the birds eventually become habituated to the sounds, and ignore them.

Kennedy Airport, however, deals with the problem in an interesting way. They purchase birds and release them at the airport.

It doesn’t make much sense to decrease the bird population by adding to it – or, at least it makes no sense until you realize the birds they are introducing to the airport are falcons.

Birds can become habituated to the loud noises some airports use to scare off birds, but birds never become habituated to peregrine falcons. They are the fastest animal in the world and can dive at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.

When trained falconers release their birds, all birds, from geese to gulls, clear the area.

 

When a farmer discovered an enemy had sown weeds in his wheat field, his loyal workers immediately offered to weed them out. But, in doing so, they would’ve uprooted much of the wheat in the process.

The best solution was to, temporarily, let the problem become worse by letting the weeds grow. Only later could the weeds and wheat be easily identified and safely separated.

Some parents have the heartbreaking decision of demanding their rebellious child move out of the house. At the moment, such a decision only seems to deepen the rift in the relationship. But sometimes the situation must become worse in order to get better.

The best way to ease the pain from a dislocated shoulder is to, momentarily, increase the pain by resetting it.

The Lord doesn’t want us to gauge our decisions by their immediate impact, but at the effect they will have in the long run.

                                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Pressing On When Your Knees Shake

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 26, 2011

Pressing On When Your Knees Shake

                       I came to you in weakness and in fear and in a lot of trembling. 

                                                                     1 Corinthians 2:3

We tend to think of courage as the absence of fear.   Those who face danger without fear are not courageous, but stupid.

An old man once took some young men fishing on one of the Great Lakes.  The old man kept looking off to the west and frowning.  After a while he told them that he was going to head the boat back because a storm was heading their way.

One young man said, “We don’t need to go back now.  We’re not afraid.”

The old man shot back, “You’re too ignorant to be afraid.”

 

The apostle Paul was a man of great courage.  Despite much opposition and persecution, he was undaunted in his mission.  He had the dubious habit of speaking about Jesus and starting riots, and getting into a lot of trouble.

Paul was bold, but not fearless.  Although he was called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in many places, he appears to be a good debater, but not an exceptional speaker.  He mentions his lack of eloquence, and admits he came to the people in the city of Corinth with “fear and a lot of trembling.”

 

We don’t think of people who are shaking in fear as courageous, do we?  One of Napoleon’s commanders, Marshall Ney, would tremble so violently before battle that he had trouble mounting a horse. Yet, Napoleon repeatedly referred to Ney as the bravest man he ever knew.  Ney was scared, but he never let that stop him.  Once, before battle, he shouted, “Shake away, knees!  You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you.”

 

Maria Schell was a German actress who began her career with stage fright. When she was seventeen, “I came to the theater on the eve of the opening,” she recalled, “and I saw my name being posted in big letters.”

Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with a sinking feeling, as she realized she was expected to be, in her words, “very, very good.” Maria felt paralyzed.

On opening night she told her mother she had a fever and wanted to stay home in bed. Her mother would have nothing of it. Maria said she never forgot her mother’s counsel: “If you cannot be good, then you must have the courage to be bad.”

 

The Lord did not call Paul to be an eloquent speaker; he called him to be faithful – to boldly speak about Jesus – even he if wasn’t good.  Sometimes, we have to do the right thing, even if we’re not very good at it.

Courage is not about eliminating your fears.  It’s about pressing on when your knees shake.  Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War II flying ace said it well, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre

Where They Found Bread

Story of the Day for Monday July 25, 2011

 

Where They Found Bread

 

                                     Jesus said, . . . “Everything they do is done to impress others.”

 

                                                                                               Matthew 23:5      

When I was in seventh grade, our Science and English teachers were both single, and I think they were flirting.

 

After Science, we tumbled into Miss Polk’s English class. She noticed someone’s assignment given by Mr. Brinkman, our Science teacher.  Snatching the assignment, she copied it on the blackboard (white boards were black in those days) and we spent the class period parsing it for grammatical flaws. We were all sobered to discover that it was a gravely flawed exhibition of the English language.

 

Miss Polk encouraged us to hand our revised copy of his assignment to him the next day – which we cheerfully did.

 

People who know a lot about sub-phyla and nematodes are not easily intimidated, and Mr. Brinkman took our chastisement in good humor. You could tell, however, that he was plotting revenge. He asked us to participate in a science experiment for English class next hour, and we all eagerly complied – because we all coveted a well-rounded education.

 

 Mr. Brinkman asked us to engage in an act of civil obedience. He told us to walk into Miss Polk’s class without saying a word. He wanted us to be a model of perfect behavior.

 

The next hour, we quietly walked into class and took our seats. No talking, no laughing, no gum chewing. We all put our hands on our desks and stared attentively at Miss Polk.

 

At first, Miss Polk look surprised, but we noticed she was becoming unnerved by our attentiveness. As she started her lesson, and stared at a classroom where every face was focused on her every word, she became increasingly agitated. After five minutes, she waved toward the door and said, “Class dismissed.”

 

A classroom of perfect children is so eerie and unnatural that it soon becomes unbearable. Yet, sometimes, Christians get the impression that the world would be impressed if we acted perfect – as if we were unaffected by grief or temptation.

 

A plastered pious smile, when inwardly our heart is broken, looks phony — because it is phony. And when we try to hide our imperfections we look like a bald man whose toupee is sitting on his head sideways.

 

The world isn’t looking for us to be perfect; they’re looking for us to be honest. They’re not impressed with someone who claims that they’re never hungry, but they are intrigued by anyone who simply tells them where they found bread. 

 

                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre

 

 

Dividing Cymbals

Story of the Day for Friday July 22, 2011

Dividing Cymbals

                     Its not that others should benefit while you suffer, but that there should be equality.

                                                                                1 Corinthians 8:13

 Many years ago, two churches, who jointly supported a Christian grade school, got in a spat and decided to close the school.

Martin Bangert wrote about the dissolution. All the textbooks were divided up evenly: ten geography books for you; ten geography books for us.

The process went smoothly until they came to the band instruments. There was only one pair of cymbals. So, what did they do? Rather than display a charitable attitude by offering the pair of cymbals to the other church, each maintained their rigid standard of equality: one cymbal for you; one cymbal for us.

A pair of cymbals is meant to be struck together to make a crashing exclamation point to a musical performance. But what do you do when you only have one half of the pair of cymbals? If two people both claim ownership to a pair of shoes, equality is the worst solution. Now you have two people: one with a left shoe, the other with a right shoe.

When equality becomes selfish, it is no longer fair; it is harmful.

 

When Paul talks about equality, he’s not talking about dividing up cymbals – he means something entirely different. Today, we could scream that his notion of equality was “unfair.” Paul urged that all believers should open their hearts to others in greater need. He wanted one church to generously give to help a poorer church.

How is that equality? Simple. As long as everyone maintains a kind and charitable heart, it will all work for everyone’s benefit in the end. When the first church, which gave so generously, is in need, then others will gladly return the favor to help them out.

 

When religious people asked why Jesus devoted so much attention to sinful people his response was that they needed more help. “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor,” he told them, “but the sick.”

 

KSHN-FM serves the cities of Dayton and Liberty, Texas. A conflict arose over whose Friday night football game they should broadcast. Should the station broadcast the game that was more important? Or should they just alternate weeks – despite the importance of the game?  Equality has half of the listeners unable to hear their favorite ballgame on Friday night.

But Bill Buchanan, the station president and GM developed an ingenious compromise called “Split Channel Sports.” Every Friday night the station broadcasts both football games simultaneously. If you want to listen to the Liberty Panthers you turn the balance control to the left speaker; if you want to hear the Dayton Broncos game, you use the right speaker.

Once both communities expressed their willingness to sacrifice stereo reception on Friday nights, everyone became a beneficiary. The sense of equality that doesn’t originate from selfishness is so much better than dividing cymbals.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre

Lit Up in Fairy Lamps

Story of the Day for Thursday July 21, 2011

 

Lit Up in Fairy Lamps

 

                    In those days, as the number of disciples increased, the Greeks complained to the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 

                                                                Acts 6:1

 Great Britain, as part of her coronation celebration for King George VI, staged a review of the royal fleet. On May 20, 1937, the Spithead Review was immortalized by a BBC radio announcer, retired Lieutenant Commander, Thomas Woodrooffe.

But, the radio pre-transmission test sounded troublesome, and the broadcast director was alerted that all might not go well with the broadcast. The Commander’s celebration before the broadcast was, to put it mildly, enthusiastic. Woodrooffe did not disappoint those at the radio station who feared a coming disaster.

 

“At the present moment,” the Commander began, “the whole fleet is lit up. When I say ‘lit up’ I mean lit up by fairy lamps. . . The whole thing is lit up by fairy lamps. It’s fantastic! It isn’t a fleet at all – it’s just fairy land. The whole thing is in fairy land!”

Woodrooffe was beginning to warm to his theme.

“And when I say a fleet is ‘lit up in lamps’ I mean she’s outlined. The whole ship’s outlined. . .In little lamps.”

The Commander would pause, sometimes for over ten seconds – which, on the radio, is an eternity. After a prolonged silence he proudly announced, “I’m sorry, I was telling people to shut up talking.”

Woodrooffe knew he had grasped the nub of the issue and was not about to let it go.

“What I mean is this: the whole fleet is lit up. In fairy lamps. And each ship is outlined. . . the ships are all lit up. They’re outlined – the whole lot. . . But at this moment there’s a whole huge fleet here. . . this colossal fleet. Lit up. By lights. And the whole scene’s in fairy land. . .”

 

“The Woodrooffe Incident,” as it came to be called, alerted the BBC that they had no procedures in place to interrupt a live broadcast. (A studio engineer finally cut the Commander off the air, even though he had no authority to do so.) But the BBC learned from its mistake and installed an announcer on duty to intervene should another live broadcast dissolve into calamity.

 

The early church made mistakes. As Christians multiplied in Jerusalem, the church didn’t fairly distribute food to the poor.  The Greek-speaking widows, who didn’t speak the native language, were neglected.

But when they realized their mistake, the church corrected the problem. Seven men were chosen to see that food was distributed fairly to everyone. And, in a touching gesture, all seven of those responsible for feeding the poor had Greek names.

 

Don’t worry about making mistakes – you’re not going to avoid them. The only thing you need to worry about is failing to learn, and grow, from them.

                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 20, 2011

 

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

 

                    Above all, be of one mind. Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  

                                                                                 1 Peter 3:8

 Herman and Donna Ostry bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska. Because the barn was near a creek, the floor was always muddy and wet.

One year, when the creek flooded – leaving 29 inches of water in his barn, Herman decided something had to be done. He contacted a building moving company, but the bid was unaffordable.

At supper, Herman joked to his family, “I’ll bet if we had enough people we could pick up that barn and carry it to higher ground.”

Herman’s son, Mike, however, took the idea seriously. He counted the boards and timber and estimated the barn’s weight at 16,640 pounds. Then he began welding a grid of steel tubing – bringing the total weight to almost ten tons. Mike’s system provided a handhold for 344 people, which meant that each person would be lifting about 55 pounds.

 

The little town of Bruno was planning its centennial that summer and the planning committee decided to make the moving of Ostry’s barn a part of the official celebration.

On July 30, 1988, local TV cameramen were on hand, along with 4000 spectators.

The 344 volunteers lifted in unison. The crowd then applauded as they moved the barn 115 feet to higher ground in three minutes.

 

So, what is wrong with you people out there in Nebraska? Don’t you know how groups, such as business organizations and congregations, are supposed to operate? When you announce you want to move a barn, you need a majority to rise up and claim it can’t be done. When you estimate the weight of the barn, isn’t anyone questioning your figures and asking if you have fully accounted for the weight of the nails? A steel pipe grid? Where is the splinter group arguing loudly for an alternate plan of using tractors with frontend loaders? And 344 volunteers – I can’t believe it! If just one of them ends up with a sore back they’ll sue you from one end of the county to the other. And even if you can manage to lift the barn, how can you expect everybody to move in the same direction?  If a third of them insist on moving north, a third south, and the rest away from the creek, that barn is not going very far.

 

Herman Ostry’s barn got moved because I heard about it too late to warn him that it wouldn’t work.

It’s just as well. I once lived about a half hour from Bruno and I know Nebraskans.  If one person is in need, everyone else will show up in a heartbeat to help out. They don’t argue, they don’t complain. They cheerfully get the job done and then they have a beer and gather at someone’s house to play a few rounds of sheepshead.

Sometimes, Nebraskan farmers look more like the church than the church does.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Kissing a Clenched Fist

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 19, 2011

 

Kissing a Clenched Fist

                   They got into such a heated argument that they parted company. 

                                                                    Acts 15:39

 Before Paul became a believer, he despised the church. He breathed out murderous threats against the church and tried to arrest anyone who listened to Christian radio stations. Jesus finally turned Paul’s life around, but the church leaders were too afraid of him to let him into the fellowship. Barnabas, bless his heart, took Paul to meet the leaders of the church and convinced them his conversion was genuine.

Paul befriended Barnabas and the two stood by each other’s side in a great theological debate about how to handle pagans who came to the faith. On a missionary trip, the two shared their adventures together.

Yet, despite their close friendship and shared adventures, Paul and Barnabas got into a squabble about whether to take Mark along on their next trip. The argument grew so heated that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.

 

We’re all a bit daffy about arguments. If we estimated how often the rest of the world is in the right when they argue, we’d say, “Oh, about half the time.” But, if we ask ourselves how often we’re in the right when we get in an argument, we would respond, “All the time!” All of us think this way, but if you do the math, it doesn’t add up.

 

Arguments often flare up over trivial differences. If Paul and Barnabas would have decided to take a nap first or share a candy bar, I doubt they would have even gotten into the scuffle they did. They could’ve worked it out.

 

James Kay, in his book, Seasons of Grace, described an incident in Damascus, Syria, where a bicyclist rode down a market street, balancing a crate of oranges on his handlebars. A man, bent over with a heavy load, walked in his way and the two collided. Oranges went rolling down the street and the two got into a quarrel over who was at fault. A crowd gathered as the cursing and clenched fists indicated a fight was about to erupt.

Then a little man walked into the fray, took the clenched fist of the bicyclist in his hands and kissed it. The two men relaxed and the crowd murmured their approval. Instead of assigning blame everyone gathered the oranges and put them back in the crate, as the little man slipped into the crowd.

 

Like the rest of us, even the apostle Paul could slip up. But all was not lost because he knew where he wanted to go. He knew that we should avoid quarreling, but when we do, we must learn to reconcile.

As an old man, he advised Timothy, “Avoid foolish and stupid disputes because you know they cause quarrels. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel.”

And, he also asked Timothy to bring Mark along on his next visit, because “he is a good help in my ministry.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)