“Houston, We Have a Problem”

Story of the Day for Monday July 18, 2011

“Houston, We Have a Problem”

                 That night the king couldn’t sleep.

                                                             Esther 6:1

In 1970, Ken Mattingly was chosen by NASA to go to the moon. How cool is that?

But three days from launch, he was exposed to the German measles by fellow astronaut, Charlie Duke. NASA’s flight surgeon calculated that Mattingly would be spiking a fever at the critical moment of the moon landing. Mattingly was scrubbed and learned that his backup, Dave Swiggert, would be the Command Module Pilot.

Mattingly’s dream of going to the moon had been crushed. But he wasn’t disappointed for long. 200,000 miles from a tow truck, Swiggert, was told to stir the oxygen tanks. When he did so, the oxygen tank exploded and damaged the spacecraft’s electrical system. As the astronauts watched something spewing out the spacecraft, they relayed the well-known message: “Houston, we have a problem.”

It was a good thing that Swiggert had replaced Mattingly. Of all the astronauts in the space program, he had the best knowledge of command module malfunction procedures. Mission Control had to improvise an emergency plan to get the astronauts back to earth. They needed someone who could precisely relay calculations and readings to Houston, and no one was better than Swiggert.

Not only that, but the astronauts would now be forced to endure extreme cold with virtually no sleep. As a former football player for the University of Colorado, Swiggert had a hardier physique to endure the physical pressure the astronauts faced.

Moreover, at Houston, Mattingly proved indispensible to the rescue effort. NASA didn’t know how to power the spacecraft for re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. Mattingly’s intimate knowledge of the spacecraft enabled him to find a way to power the astronauts back to earth.

Without the exchange of Swiggert for Mattingly, many believe the Apollo 13 astronauts would’ve perished.

Have you ever had trouble sleeping at night? Annoying isn’t it?

One night, King Xerxes couldn’t get to sleep.

Who knew that insomnia would lead the king to request that the annals of his reign be read to him, which led him to discover that Mordecai had never been rewarded for saving his life, which led to the execution of Haman – who was plotting mischief against Mordecai and the Jewish people.

We naturally become discouraged at the setbacks in life. But once we get to know the God that uses the disappointments in life as a catalyst for good, it can change how we react to shattered dreams. Trust replaces anguish.

Ken Mattingly, by the way, never did come down with the measles.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Two Bridges

Story of the Day for Saturday July 16, 2011

Two Bridges

 

                     The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”   And the Lord responded, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea’ and it would obey you.” 

                                                      Luke 17:5-6

 I’m going to ask you a question in just a moment. It’s not a trick question, but most Christians answer it wrong, while those who aren’t particularly religious tend to give the right answer.

 

You and a friend go for a walk and come to a raging river. Since it’s impossible to swim across it, you look along the bank, and spot two bridges.

The first bridge is buttressed on both ends with thick concrete. Massive steel girders span the river, which have been overlaid with thick oak planks. It looks like you could drive a tank over it.

The other bridge is an oddity. It’s constructed out of cardboard and fastened together with duct tape. The light rain the night before has left the cardboard sagging somewhat, but it is, nevertheless, a bridge.

Your friend asks, “What bridge you gonna to take?”

“What! You’re joking, right? I’m taking the steel bridge.”

You soon discover your friend isn’t joking. “I’m taking the cardboard bridge,” he says.

As your friend starts out across the sagging cardboard bridge, he doesn’t have the slightest concern about its strength. He’s humming a song as he boldly strides across.

You, on the other hand, are unnerved. Your palms begin to sweat and you notice there’s a tremor in your hands. Thinking it will help to better disperse your weight, you begin to crawl across the steel bridge.

 

So, here’s the question. Who will make it safely to the other side: the person with the strong faith or the person with the weak faith?

I’ve asked this question dozens of times, and, invariably, Christians tend to blurt out, “The person with the strong faith.”

Wrong answer. The person who will make it safely across the river is you, with the weak faith. Your friend may have a strong faith, but it is faith in a weak bridge incapable of holding a person’s weight. You, on the other hand, may have a weak faith, but as long as it is in a strong bridge, you will make it safely to the other side.

 

Jesus’ followers asked him to increase their faith – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But Jesus knew they were looking at things from the wrong perspective. Ultimately, it’s not how much faith you have that matters; it’s what you have your faith in that counts.

   Even a weak faith, a faith as tiny as a mustard seed, can do great things if it’s placed in the true source of power and strength.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Why Faith Doesn’t Create Open Pickup Windows

Story of the Day for Friday July 15, 2011

 

Why Faith Doesn’t Create Open Pickup Windows

 

                They called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice; no one answered.  

                                                              1 Kings 18:26

Different roads can lead us to the same town and many believe that all religions lead to the same God. Our generation has made a breathtaking transition in thinking. In the past, people thought you could be right about what you believed, or you could be wrong. But something wasn’t true because you believed it.

All that has now changed. Today, vast multitudes think that, if you believe something, and believe it sincerely, then it’s true. Why? Because you believe it.

 

Brian Tracy, a leader of the Positive Thinking movement teaches that, if you are on a crowded street looking for an empty parking space, and you believe strongly enough, you will always find that a vacant parking space has been created for you.

In this same vein, we don’t bother so much with asking whether our beliefs in God are true; the only thing that matters is that we have a sincere faith.

 

Last week, I used a cup of cold coffee to disprove this notion.

Early, on a chilly morning in the mountains, I grabbed a cup of coffee and drove down the road to the old Pinkham schoolhouse. The day turned into a scorcher and, by late afternoon, everyone had opened the windows to their vehicles to cool them down.

When it was time to go home, I climbed in my pickup and noticed I hadn’t finished my coffee so I picked up the cup and threw the cold coffee out the window.

THWACK!

I thought the window was open, but it wasn’t. The cup banged against the window and sent a shower of cold coffee my way.

If you ever want to feel really stupid . . .

 

Now, I sincerely believed that the window on my pickup was rolled down. I sincerely believed that I could fling the cold coffee outside and life would be better for my having done so.

Sadly, my faith could not create truth. If faith made things true, I wouldn’t have had sore knuckles and coffee dripping from my face.

 

On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest. Whoever could pray to their God to miraculously light the sacrifice on the altar would be acknowledged as serving the true God. Back then, everyone agreed that faith was useless unless it was placed in the truth.

In the old days, they wouldn’t scratch their heads and wonder why my faith didn’t create an open window on my pickup; they would be looking at my soppy face and laughing until their stomachs hurt.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rhino Tracks

Story of the Day for Thursday July 14, 2011

Rhino Tracks

 

                  For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.   

                                                             Matthew 24:24

 Hugh Troy was an illustrator for children’s books, but his work as an artist failed to exhaust his creativity.  This excess of imagination led him to the slightly deviant habit of inventing practical jokes.

Once, Troy and an accomplice, dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying ladders, strode into the elegant lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Calmly and efficiently, they removed every light bulb and then left. No one questioned them or tried to stop them.

Serving as a captain in Army Intelligence during World War II, he became bored with the endless paperwork so he began submitting a Daily Flypaper Report to the Pentagon. Using official report forms, Troy filed detailed reports on the number of flies stuck to the flypaper in the mess hall each day. Troy carefully analyzed the wind direction, proximity of the kitchen, and the nearness of the flypaper to windows, and slipped his report in with his other required paperwork. Other officers began asking him how to fill out a form on flies because the Pentagon was hounding them for not submitting their Flypaper Report.

 

Although some question its accuracy, Hugh Troy’s most legendary prank took place when he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Troy found a hideous wastebasket with an actual rhinoceros foot as its base. He tied thirty feet of clothesline to both sides and filled the wastebasket with weights. Late one winter night, he and a friend suspended the wastebasket between them and carried it across the snow – dropping it every few feet to make a rhinoceros footprint, but keeping their own footprints away from the rhino track.

The next morning, someone excitedly summoned learned professors, and pointed out the rhinoceros tracks. The trail led them onto ice-covered Beebe Lake, where the tracks ended by a large hole in the ice.

The school’s drinking water came from the lake, and afterward, some stopped drinking the tap water. A handful of imaginative paranoids even claimed the water tasted like rhinoceros.

 

The Devil doesn’t mind at all if you believe in Jesus – just so long as the Jesus you believe in doesn’t exist. The Devil hopes you are entranced with reports of miracles – just so long as you believe the false signs and wonders he is able to concoct. The Devil wants you to be open to the spiritual world – just so long as you are open to the messages of false prophets.

If the truth of God is  . . . true, then it can stand up to questioning and investigation. Jesus doesn’t scold us for lacking faith when we work to discern the truth from a hoax. He’s the one who told us to do it.

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Not Just “Pie in the Sky”

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 13, 2011

Not Just “Pie in the Sky”

                  Hope that is seen is not hope, because if he sees it, why does he still hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently.

                                            Romans 8:24

 One of the marks of our secular age is the loss of hope. If we believe that the future will not fulfill our longings, then the result is despair. Hopelessness means not only that the future will be bleak, but the very realization means that our present lives will be marked by gloom.

John Maxwell talks of a small town in Maine that stood in the way of a proposed hydroelectric dam. All the residents were told that their town would be submerged by the dam and they would have to relocate.

As construction began on the dam, the town changed. No one painted their house. Roads and sidewalks were not repaired. Long before the dam was finished, the town looked shabby and abandoned. One resident noted, “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”

When modern man abandons God, he abandons hope. Sigmund Freud was honest enough to admit, “My courage fails me, therefore, at the thought of rising up as a prophet before my fellowmen. I bow to their reproach that I have no consolation to offer them.”

Many ridicule our Christian hope. They see it as a illusory dream which lulls us into inactivity in the present world. “Pie in the sky by and by.” But that is not how hope works. It does not weaken our daily actions but invigorates them.

To break the back of the South and end the Civil War, General William T. Sherman marched through the heart of the South. As Sherman’s army pushed toward Atlanta, his adversary, General Hood circled north and began attacking his supply line. Hood’s men tore up nine miles of the railroad that supplied Sherman’s huge army. Then the Confederates moved toward the Union’s main supply post at Altoona, which held over a million and a half rations for Sherman’s army.

The Union army had less than 2000 men under Brigadier General John M. Corse to defend Altoona Pass from an advancing Confederate division of over 3000. After furious fighting, Corse had lost a third of his men and was forced to retreat to another position further up the pass. How much longer could Corse hold out?

But then, General Sherman, on the top of Kenesaw Mountain twelve miles away sent a signal-flag message to Corse to “hold fast; we are coming.” Corse’s men let out a cheer. Although the fighting was fierce, Corse’s outnumbered men stubbornly refused to surrender or retreat. They fought valiantly because they knew that help was on the way. It was that hope that enabled them to hold the pass and save the Union supply depot.

The Bible says, “We rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.” But this hope is not just “pie in the sky.” Hope gives us power to persist through all adversity. And that is why Scripture continues, “Not only that, but we also rejoice in our trials, because we know that trials produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us. . . “

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Stand Your Ground

Story of the Day for  Monday and Tuesday July 11-12, 2011

Stand Your Ground

 

                             David’s troops fled from the Philistines at the barley field. But they took their stand in the middle of the filed and defended it . . . and the Lord rescued them with a great victory. 

                                                           1 Chronicles 11:13-14

 Imagine that terrorists attacked Washington D.C. and destroyed the White House, the capitol, the Library of Congress – all of our most important government buildings.

Did you know that it once happened?

In 1812, Great Britain was the most powerful army in the world. They had just defeated Napoleon and were well-trained and battle-tested. The United States had virtually no army at all.

When the British invaded our shores, they marched on Washington and burned all the government buildings (except the post office). After the devastation, President Madison showed no signs of panic. He convened his cabinet in the post office and Congress met in a hotel.

These were dark days for our country.

Many voices called for surrender. How could we withstand such a mighty force? The President, however, refused to back down. He installed new officers in the military who were willing to stand up to the British.

 

The British army’s next target was Baltimore. Major George Armistead was chosen to defend the small fort at the mouth of the harbor. Before British ships could destroy Baltimore that had to get past Fort McHenry.

Armistead convinced the local merchants to line up their ships across the mouth of the harbor . . . and sink them – thus forming a blockade. He installed sixty cannons in the fort and said, “We are ready, except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the fort. And it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

Working day and night, Mary Pinkersguild oversaw the making of an American flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet.

 

The British navy arrived on September 11th, 1814. They unloaded 50 ships full of infantry to attack the city of Baltimore, while the warships unleashed a furious barrage on Fort McHenry. 190 pound cannonballs hit with such force they rattled houses in Baltimore over three miles away.

All night long the sky was lit up as the British bombarded the fort. The navy launched 700 rockets and over 1500 cannonballs.

At dawn, the Americans would raise their flag or a white flag of surrender. An American lawyer, captured by the British, watched the bombardment and saw, by the dawn’s early light, those broad stripes and bright stars . . .

The British infantry retreated and the navy sailed away. Who could have predicted that a ragtag militia could stand up to the power of the British forces? But they did.

 

When the time comes for you to stand your ground, don’t calculate the power of the forces arrayed against you; think only of that for which you would give your all.

                                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Step Up to the Plate….and Hit a Single

Story of the Day for Saturday July 9, 2011

Step Up to the Plate and. . .Hit a Single

 

                     When Paul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him.  They didn’t believe he really was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. 

                                                          Acts 9:26-27

 I don’t know if you’re supposed to have “favorite” Bible characters, so don’t tell anyone I said this, but one of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas.

Barnabas is not what his parents named him. His real name was Joseph, but he was so good at lifting the spirits of people that they called him “Barnabas,” which means, “son of encouragement.”

Without Barnabas there would be no Paul.  Saul (who would later be named “Paul”) used to persecute the church and all the disciples were afraid of him.  Barnabas, however, convinced them to have Paul accepted as a fellow believer.

As you read the book of Acts, you’ll find at least 20 times where Luke says “Paul and Barnabas” did this or that on their missionary trips.  But, do you want to know something?  When I think about the book of Acts, it is about the missionary trips of Paul.  Paul is in the limelight and Barnabas almost seems to drop out of the picture.

 

Are you a Barnabas?  Do you see that it is just as important to help and encourage others as it is to be the one getting all the applause?

I guess it is OK to have favorite baseball players, so let me tell you one of mine: Willie Mays.  Willie Mays was a great hitter.  He hit a lot of doubles.  But, all of a sudden, his doubles declined rapidly.

Do you know why?  When Mays would hit a double, the next batter up was Willie McCovey, who was the best power hitter on the team.  Rather than let him bat, with first base open, they would simply walk him intentionally.

Once Mays realized that his doubles took the bat out of the hands of McCovey, he would deliberately hold up at first base, so that McCovey would have an opportunity to knock one out of the park.  Willie Mays worked to make his teammate look better.

You have to be a person of great humility to help someone else become greater by getting less attention yourself. But, without people who encourage others, the church would have no effective ministry.

Willie Mays would have won more glory if he smacked a lot of doubles rather than singles.  But it is so much more satisfying when we are working for something greater than ourselves – something greater than our own glory.  Mays played on a team.

 

Why is it that I imagine Barnabas as one of the happiest and most content of the early disciples?  (The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.) Deep down, we find it impossible to imagine this first band of disciples changing a man’s name to “son of encouragement” – and then picturing the guy as morose.  Or obsessed with his own ego.

When we stop to think about it we know that those who delight in encouraging others are those who live with a twinkle in their eyes.

 

Have you heard of Haley’s comet?  If so, you are mistaken.  It isn’t Haley (as in “hale-ee”), but Halley (as in “hall-ee”).  Let me tell you about Edmund Halley.

But not right now.  First, let’s talk about Sir Isaac Newton.  You know him: the apple falls on his head, supposedly, and he comes up with a mathematical formula for gravity.  After Newton published his findings, he went on to become one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Yet, without Edmund Halley, we probably would never know about Newton.  Halley challenged Newton to think through his theories.  When Newton made mathematical mistakes in his calculations, Halley corrected them.  When Newton wrote up his discoveries, Halley edited his work.  When Newton refused to publish his findings, Halley published them, and paid the printing costs out of his own pocket.  Historians who know this story call it one of the most selfless acts in science history.

And those of us who do know about the comet he discovered rarely pronounce his name right.  Halley was a Barnabas.  He is virtually unknown, but because of his encouragement, he gave Sir Isaac Newton to the world.

Maybe it’s time for us to step up to the plate and. . . hit a single – so that someone else can knock it out of the park.

 

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


And Jesus Said, “What?”

Story of the Day for Friday July 8, 2011

And Jesus Said, “What?”

 

                Along the way, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?”  

                                                            Mark 8:27

 T. S. Eliot captured the Nobel Prize for literature, and you should keep that fact in mind when I tell you I don’t have much use for him. In an effort to cultivate my image as a man of sensibility and refined tastes, I pulled Eliot’s Four Quartets off the shelf. I’m not going to give away the ending to his poem for the simple reason that I never made it that far. Truth be told, I never made past the first page.  Here are the first eight lines:

 

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

 

Eliot is a man of renown, but I don’t understand a thing he’s saying. You may be thinking that the fog will lift if I keep reading to the second page, but I’m doubting it.

 

Over sixty-five years ago, Madeline Utter taught a class of rambunctious kids in a one-room schoolhouse on Pinkham Creek. She, along with her husband, Lee, still live up here on Pinkham Mountain.

Madeline writes simple poems, but her writing never fails to charm me:

 

A lonely little Pinkham privy

Sits alone out in the woods

It is a one holer just waiting

For someone to drop the goods.

 

I have waded through theology books so thick they could crack your toe – should one fall on your foot. Although I have learned much, I’ve always had to resist the impulse of viewing God as the answer to a question on a trigonometry exam.

Over the years, I have found a perverse encouragement in a scrap of graffiti scratched on the wall of a college dorm:

Jesus said unto them, “Who do you say that I am?”

And they replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the keryma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our existential Sitz im Leben.”

And Jesus said, “What?”

                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Move the Kettle Off the Burner

Story of the Day for Thursday July 7, 2011

Move the Kettle Off the Burner

 

                                   A fool gives full vent to his anger but a wise man holds it back. 

                                                                                        Proverbs 29:11

 Anger is meant to make the world a better place, yet sadly, our anger usually leaves a trail of destruction. We lash out in anger but our intent is not to help, but to hurt others.  Our anger is retaliation to those we think have wronged us. And we want it to sting.

 

Yet, just as we are about to make the crucial first step of admitting the harm our anger is causing, the “experts” wave the latest research in our face.  Suppressing anger, we are told, is psychologically damaging.  We must learn to “vent.”

When psychologists say ventilation is beneficial, we must ask, beneficial for whom?  Is venting beneficial to the poor soul whose car stalled at the traffic light as he listens to the angry honking cars behind him?  Is ventilation beneficial to you when you make a mistake and someone explodes with rage? Look, if “ventilation” is good because I feel better after cursing you, it is still an act of selfishness; others must suffer deep wounds for the sake of my “relief.”

Once someone tried to rationalize their hot temper by saying, “I blow up, and then it’s all over.” Their friend pondered this, then replied, “A shotgun does the same thing. But look at the damage it leaves behind.”

The fact is, ventilation is not good. Not for others, and not for yourself. Recent psychological research on anger has reversed its former advocacy for ventilation. Beside the obvious fact that “venting” corrodes relationships, psychologist are now finding that venting anger does not decrease but increases your inner rage and bitterness.  To put it simply: The more you vent, the angrier you become.

We’re finally catching up with God. The Bible has taught from ancient times, “A fool gives vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it back.”

Psychologist, Gary Emery, has found that only one out of three hundred happily married couples reported that they yell at each other. Healthy relationships are not fostered because couples have learned to “vent.”

 

When you set a tea kettle on a hot burner, how do you keep the kettle from exploding? One way is to allow the steam to escape. If you choose to do this, you will have a continuous plume of scalding steam. But, there is another way: move the kettle off the burner!

Did you know that God is not angry with you because of your sin? He wants you to bask in the inner peace that comes from knowing this.

It’s a new day when you realize that God has come to you to take you off the stove.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Treat Him as You Wish

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 6, 2011

Treat Him as You Wish

 

                    He who was from the beginning, we have heard. We have seen him with our eyes. We have looked at him and touched him. 

                                                                       1 John 1:1

He’s one of the most well-known guys you’ve never heard of. His title (who could make this up?) is: The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Baron Stanley of Preston, in the County of Lancaster, in the Peerage of Great Britain, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.  But hockey fans know him well; in all of sports, Lord Stanley’s Cup is the most coveted of all trophies.

When a team wins a championship, players hoist the trophy above their shoulders and their fans go wild. And then what? Then they put the trophy in a glass case where you can see it, but can’t touch it. The Stanley Cup is different. When a hockey team wins the Stanley Cup, each player is allowed to take it home with them for a day or two, and his name is engraved on it.

Many players take the Stanley Cup to a gymnasium where adoring crowds stand in line to have their photo taken of them touching the Cup. Others travel with the Cup. It has made the journey to Europe and to igloos among the Eskimos. The Stanley Cup has been kissed and adored. But it has also been neglected and abused.

In 1903, Ottawa won the Cup and had their team photograph taken in the studio of Jimmy Rice. It wasn’t until the next season that someone realized the Cup was missing. Since the player’s last remembered seeing it at the Rice studio, they asked Jimmy Rice about it. Rice hadn’t seen it either. But he asked the cleaning lady if she had.

“Oh, is that what it is.” She then explained that she took it home, filled it with potting soil, and was using it to grow geraniums.

Another year, Ottawa won the Stanley Cup again. Some team members were drunk enough that trying to punt the Cup across the frozen Rideau Canal seemed like a good idea. Someone found it the next day lying in the middle of the ice.

Montreal players threw the Stanley Cup in the trunk of a car and drove to a party. When they had a flat tire, they pulled the Cup out of the trunk, and set it by the side of the road. Only after they got to the party did they realize they had left the Stanley Cup lying by the side of the road.

The Stanley Cup isn’t a trophy that collects dust in a glass case. It is revered, but it has also been lost, stolen, dented, and abused.

 

To many, God is remote and unapproachable – like a trophy removed from the people by a glass case. But the story of the Bible is about the God who chose to come to earth. When he was a boy, his parents lost him for a few days. The crowds sometimes mobbed him in breathless excitement, but also grabbed him to throw him off a cliff. Some spit in his face and rained blows to his head; another knelt to wash his dusty feet with her tears and kisses.

You can curse Jesus, ignore him or bow before him in worship. The only thing you can’t do is claim that God is remote. He let the world treat him as they wished.

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)