Asking is Good Policy

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 31, 2011

Asking is Good Policy

                     Ask, and it will be given to you. seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 

                                               Matthew 7:7

 Our family was bone weary from driving across the plains. We found a cheesy hotel and asked if they had a nonsmoking room. They assured us they did.

When we entered our room it reeked of cigarette smoke. But, to make things far worse, it smelled like someone had just emptied an aerosol can of heavily-perfumed air freshener in the room.

We soon discovered that it was, indeed, a nonsmoking room because all the ash trays had been turned upside down.

But I’m the meek sort and didn’t go back to the hotel clerk to sort the matter out.

 

I found an article by Tim Gard, in the book, Humor Me, especially intriguing. Tim is on the road a lot and stays in hotels 200 days a year. He always makes reservations for a non-smoking room.

Yet, often, as he straggles into a hotel late at night, they have given away his non-smoking room.  When this happens, Tim asks for a free upgrade to a nonsmoking suite.

Normally, the hotel clerk tells him, “Our policy doesn’t allow upgrades based on smoking preference.”

To counter this, Tim wrote his own policy book. When he meets with objections, he pulls out his official-looking policy manual, finds the specific policy he needs, and then reads it to the hotel clerk: “If Tim Gard requests and reserves a nonsmoking room at any hotel and that hotel gives his nonsmoking room away prior to his arrival, then that hotel is required, by law, to provide Tim Gard with an upgrade to a nonsmoker suite at no additional cost.”

“It’s my policy,” he tells the clerk,

“Well, that’s not our policy. You need to talk to the manager.”

“Unfortunately,” Tim responds, “my number one policy is: I don’t repeat my policies. Once I’ve said the policy, I’m forbidden to talk about it any more. I’d like to help you, but . . . it’s a policy.”

“Sir, it’s not our policy.”

Tim then demands to be shown the hotel’s policy manual. When they, invariably, fail to produce a manual, he tells them flatly that they’re going to have to go with his.

Tim usually gets upgraded to a suite at no extra charge. Even when he doesn’t, he claims he has a fun time.

 

Just as I’m afraid to ask for nonsmoking room upgrades, I’m reluctant to ask God for many of the things I desire. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to be bolder. Jesus tells me to ask, to search, to pound on doors.

Franklyn Broude said, “You don’t always get what you ask for, but you never get what you don’t ask for . . . unless it’s contagious!”

                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Are You Primed For This?

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 30, 2011

Are You Primed For This?

 

                  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is virtuous or praiseworthy – dwell on such things.  

                                                  Philippians 4:8

 When I finish watching a movie with British actors, I fell like talking in a British accent. I don’t think it’s an especially good idea, but I naturally do it until the effect of the movie wears off or my family tells me I’m driving them crazy.

 

We’ve always known it, but recently researchers have demonstrated that much of our behavior is influenced – not by what we choose, but by what we’re exposed to.

Yale professor, Dr. John A. Bargh, has devised a scrambled-sentence test. The task is to take the following five-word lists and make an intelligible four-word sentence from each line.  Why don’t you give it a try?

 

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

 

The subjects who take this test assume the goal is to unscramble a sentence as quickly as possible, but it’s not. Dr. Bargh is actually timing the participants to see how fast they walk. Those who take this test walk out of the building slower than when they came in.

Do you know why? Scattered in the sentences are a few words that suggest old age: “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “forgetful,” “bingo,” and “wrinkles.” Believe it or not, these innocuous suggestions of old age cause the subjects to walk slower afterward.

This priming (as it’s called) has been used to influence a person’s patience or rudeness, and – get this – they never realize their attitudes have been influenced.

 

We like to think our actions are influenced solely by our values and beliefs, but they’re not; our behavior is also influenced by what we’re exposed to.

That is why the apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on noble things. And keep in mind that Paul is writing this from prison. You don’t have to be in a good place to center your thoughts on what is good.

If you’re still dubious about all this, you can research Dr. Bargh’s work for yourself. But maybe it would just be easier to watch a movie with British actors.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“How To Fall Off A Cliff”

Story of the Day for Monday August 29, 2011

“How to Fall Off a Cliff” 

                     Throw all your worries on God, because he cares about you. 

                                                             1 Peter 5:7

 It was a dark and stormy night.  The man’s candle lantern blew out, and now he made his way in the inky blackness along the dirt road to the nearest farmhouse.

In the darkness he wandered off the road and stumbled over a cliff.  As he fell he grabbed hold of a branch jutting out from the side of the cliff. He shouted for help, but his cries were not answered.  Steadily, his arms began to weaken. When he could no longer hold on, he let out a groan, and fell . . . six inches to the bottom of the ditch.

 

That man was terrified as he hung from the branch. But his fear was due to lack of knowledge. Had he had known he was only six inches from the ditch he would have no trouble letting go.

That raises an intriguing question: how much of our anxiety is based on a lack of knowledge? If you think about it, just about all our anxiety is based on our lack of knowledge.

 

“That’s great, Uncle Marty. Unfortunately, I already know my anxiety is based on my lack of knowledge, but I can’t do anything to change it!  I don’t know how the stock market is going to do next week, or how effective the chemo treatments are going to work, or whether Thelma will still like me after I accidentally ran over her cat.”

 

Maybe this will help. Steve Brown, in a teaching called, Walking Free, talked about those dreaded threats we all remember. His grade school teacher warned the class that, if they didn’t behave, they would be sent to the principal’s office.

The dreaded day arrived when Steve Brown could no longer be good. As he made his way to the principal’s office, he reflected on his life’s end.

When he sat before the principal, he said, “You’re having trouble, aren’t you Stephen?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t like that teacher very much, do you?”

“Uh . . . no sir, not much.”

And then the principal said, “I don’t either.” They laughed together. And then Stephen realized that all the rumors about the principal were untrue. He wasn’t the stern authority figure that other people said he was.

The principal told Steve, “I want you to come down and meet me in my office, and I’ll get you out before the bus leaves so you can get home on time.”  They became friends.

 

You don’t have to know God’s plan for your future in order to get rid of anxiety.  All you really need to know is that your Father cares about you.  And that he’s your friend.

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 24, 2011

Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

                           Job replied, “. . . Shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”

                                                                                  Job 2:10

 On June 13, 1883, the little town of Mystic, Connecticut, was flooded with reporters from the biggest newspapers in New England: the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New London Daily, Providence Journal, New York Herald, and many others.

The estimates of the crowd ranged from 5,000 to 12,000. They had come to Mystic to witness the unveiling of a statue honoring those who had fought in the Civil War.

The festivities got off to a slow start because the train from New London – which carried the governor and other dignitaries, was late.

Then the grandstands, which had been erected to accommodate the crowds for the occasion, collapsed.

When the granite statue was to be unveiled, cannons stood ready to deliver a 38-gun salute (in tribute to the 39 states in the Union).  But when those manning the cannon battery noticed the state governor approaching, they abruptly changed plans and decided to deliver their 38-gun salute to him instead.

The cannons were loaded with blanks, but the timing could hardly have been more unfortunate. Civil War veterans were marching down the street to the monument. As the cannons roared their approval of the governor, the first three ranks of soldiers were mowed down. Burning powder lacerated their faces and scorched their uniforms. One officer was severely injured and another soldier’s leg badly bruised.

The former Civil War general, Joseph R. Hawley delivered a stirring speech which rattled on for forty minutes, and then the famished crowds were treated to a lavish meal served up by the ladies of Mystic. But a sudden downpour scattered the crowds, and the joyous day came to a fitting conclusion.

Have you ever had a day like this?

I knew a man who claimed that, if you really trust God, you won’t experience bad things. He boasted that, since he began a certain spiritual discipline, he had never had a flat tire. I had been practicing the same discipline for years, and I had flat tires.

Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. But, then again, maybe he was wrong.

When we live the way God invites us to, we, obviously, avoid many unnecessary troubles.  But, once we get it into our heads that God’s mission is to keep the ants away at our picnics, we are priming ourselves for disappointment.

This darkened planet is not a luxury resort but a battleground. The Lord is looking for faith, but faith in something far bigger than whether or not our tires go flat.

I hope that guy with good tires enjoys his share of flats. Keep in mind that I say this – not out of meanness, but in the interests of theology.

                                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Pick Up the Bowling Ball

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 23, 2011

Pick Up the Bowling Ball

                     They will still bear fruit in their old age. 

                                                            Psalm 92:14

 Dale Davis grew up with a passion for bowling. As a youngster, he got a job setting up pins in a bowling alley. When he left the Navy after World War II, he won $2500 in a bowling tournament in California.

But, around the age of sixty-eight, he began losing his eyesight to macular degeneration. He is now legally blind, and has only slight peripheral vision out of his right eye. Dale’s blindness forced him to give up bowling.

He moved from California to his hometown of Alta, Iowa, where he lives with his sister. She assists him with his blindness, but doesn’t coddle him. She encouraged him to begin bowling again.

Dale can’t see the pins. He can’t see the bowling lane, and sometimes can’t even find his bowling ball. But if he bends over and cocks his head sideways he can make out the small dots on the floor that show him where to stand.

Although he is frail-looking, he still uses the heaviest ball, and brags that he weighs 130 pounds – as long as he’s holding his bowling ball.

 

When we’re young, we’re always growing and getting better at things. We can throw a ball farther, learn to play chess or earn a driver’s license. It’s exciting.

But, when we get old, it’s not quite as exciting to slowly decline. As the body slows and the memory fades, many older people feel a sense of frustration because they can’t do what they used to do.  When we’re young we often envy other people, but when we get older, we tend to envy ourselves – we envy the person we used to be.

 

As we age or become handicapped by disease or injury, we can’t accomplish the things we used to, but the comforting thing is that we don’t need to. Our worth, in God’s eyes, is not based on achievement.  Once we’re freed from a sense of attainment by God’s grace, we can then focus on the lordship of Jesus – which means that our life is not about accomplishing what we want, but what he wants.

And what Jesus wants is that we will accept what he gives us each day, and use it as best we can for his glory.

 

Dale Davis was no longer as strong and agile as he used to be when he won bowling tournaments as a young man. At the age of 78, he was slow and bent over. But, even with his age and blindness, he did what he could.

And that’s the point.

On the final day of the bowling league season in Alta, Iowa, Dale Davis became the first person in the history of Century Lanes to bowl a perfect game.

 

In the end, however, it’s not about perfect games; it’s about the courage to pick up the bowling ball.

                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

The Big Reunion

 Story of the Day for Monday August 22, 2011

The Big Reunion

                         “Now you may leave. Go in peace.”

                                                                       Acts 16:36

 Have you noticed that, when parting ways with a friend, how often we speak to each other a blessing or a promise?

“Good-by” is the abbreviated form of the blessing, “God be with you.”  The French say adieu – which means, “Go with God.”  In Spanish, adios means the same thing.

Even in our secularized culture we still offer the common benediction: “Have a nice day!”

When we’re not wishing them well, then we tend to leave others with a promise of reunion, such as “See ya later.”  Whenever I left the home of an old German couple, they would wave and say, Auf wiedersehen, and I would return the sentiment by saying, “All feet are the same!” My sister says “See ya later, crocodile,” and my mom (whose native language was Finnish) used to say, “Näkemiin, Jellybean” – which is roughly translated, “See you later, you oblong, gelatin-based sugar candy.”

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans have trumped everyone by combining both a blessing and the wish for reunion with “Happy trails to you (blessing) until we meet again (reunion).”

There are, of course, times when people offer neither blessing nor promise. The British like to say tootle-oo or cheerio.  But then the Brits will be Brits, and there’s not much we can do about that.

 

What causes this common desire that those we leave would be blessed and that we would meet again?  You could say, I suppose, that these blessings and promises of reunion are simply ways to ease the awkwardness of leaving someone, but I’m not buying it.

C.S. Lewis says that a man’s hunger doesn’t prove he will get bread, but it does indicate that there is such a thing as food which is necessary to nourish his body. Peter Kreeft jumps on this point by claiming “No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.”

“If I find in myself a desire,” Lewis goes on to say, “which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

 

When we part from friends and loved ones, we share a longing that God would go with them; that they would fare well. And we long to be reunited again.

I believe the blessings and hopes of reunion that we offer each other when we part speak to a deeper reality. They express the spiritual longing that God would bless us and reunite us in heaven.

A man’s hunger doesn’t prove that food exists, but it does indicate it’s available to us. God is inviting us all to the Big Reunion.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Gerber Boy

Story of the Day for Saturday August 20, 2011

The Gerber Boy

                      Filled with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. 

                                                                   Mark 1:41

 The Raymond Dunn, Jr. Memorial Field is a baseball field that is, not surprisingly, named after Raymond Dunn, Jr. What is curious, however, is that Raymond never played baseball nor had the slightest interest in the game.

 

Raymond died in January of 1995, and many feel it might have been better if he had never been born. Oxygen deprivation caused severe retardation. He was born blind with an undersized brain. His complications grew with his age. He never learned to walk or talk. He was racked with twenty seizures a day and had asthma. Even after he reached ten years of age, he barely weighed over thirty pounds.

 

Raymond’s serious troubles began when his parents discovered he had severe allergies to all foods – except for one special food manufactured by Gerber baby foods.

Because of the high production costs and lack of demand, Gerber announced they were discontinuing production of MBF, an expensive meat-based formula.

When Raymond’s mom heard the news, she frantically bought up every jar of the food she could find.  She told Gerber of her plight and they – with approval from the FDA – gave her their remaining outdated stock.

 

Eventually, the discontinued brand of Gerber food that was keeping Raymond alive was almost depleted. Gerber agreed to reveal their formula to any company willing to make it. No takers.

When Raymond’s plight was announced to the members of Research and Development at the Fremont, Michigan plant, they volunteered to help. Without pay and on their own time, they set up production to produce the discontinued Gerber food for one person.  Raymond Dunn, Jr. became known as “The Gerber Boy.”

 

The volunteers at Gerber kept Raymond alive for another ten years before he died of his complications. I suppose many consider it a waste of time and resources to dedicate so much for the help of a kid who was so severely retarded. But that is a matter you’ll have to take up with the employees at Gerber. I suspect that they would say that helping Raymond was one of the most moving and inspiring things they had ever done.

 

The compassionate volunteers at Gerber remind us that God’s love is not limited to healthy over-achievers. We are not saved because we are strong and good, but because we trust in the One who cares for the helpless.

 

And Raymond’s life was not a waste. The compassion he evoked led to the construction of a recreational site and a house to provide care to medically fragile adults.

Compassion always baffles our cold, cynical analysis of what is valuable in life.

 

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Learning to Dream Big

Story of the Day for Friday August 19, 2011

Learning to Dream Big

                                The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.

                                         Psalm 34:18

 If you’ve never heard speakers urge their audience to dream big, to shoot for the stars or sail beyond the horizon, then you don’t listen to many high school commencement speeches.

I vibrate to Commencement Day speeches because I know that, among those bored seniors with sore butts, there is an attentive student who will invent the perpetual motion machine or a grad who will someday win first prize with their strawberry jam at the county fair.

Nevertheless, despite these inspiring themes, I still have the urge to interrupt commencement speeches by making rude noises during their presentations.

Graduation speeches don’t tell us the full truth. They lack the courage to talk about failure and shipwrecked dreams. They don’t even mention the percentage of graduating seniors who will someday wind up with hemorrhoids.

 

Lately, I’ve been reading about high school graduates who have been told to shoot for the stars.

More than a half million males play high school basketball in the United States. Many of them dream of entering the NBA. Yet, only one in thirty five of them will ever play for a college team, and less than one percent of high school players will ever play basketball in competitive Division One colleges.

But even NCAA Division One basketball is a long way from the pros.  One out of every seventy-five NCAA college players will advance to the pros.

The NCAA, whom I commend for their frankness, says that for every ten thousand high school basketball players, only three of them will ever be drafted by an NBA team.

 

That only a few high school players will play in the NBA is not surprising news. But here’s what breaks my heart: Forty-three percent of black high school basketball players believe they will make it into the NBA. Out of every 10,000 black basketball players, 4300 of them think they’ll hit the big time, and 4297 of them will find that their dreams have been crushed.

It gets even sadder: nearly half of those black players believed it’s easier to become a professional basketball player than to become a doctor or lawyer.

 

When you follow your dreams and sail for the horizon – only to find your ship marooned on a hidden reef, don’t expect your high school commencement speaker to paddle out to you to hold your hand.

But I do know someone who will be there for you. The Lord stays close to the brokenhearted.  Admiration attaches itself to achievement, but love is attracted to need.

You will have learned to dream big, when your dreams include the One who will catch you when you fall.

 

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Seeing What You’re Looking For

Story of the Day for Thursday August 18, 2011

Seeing What You’re Looking For

                       Jesus spoke to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the desert to see?” 

                                                                                  Matthew 11:7

 The people flocked to John the Baptist when he preached at the Jordan River. Jesus asked them what they went out there to see. It’s a good question because we almost always see the thing we’re looking for.

Focus, for example, on the color blue, and you will see it everywhere.

 

Jacques Plante is, perhaps, the greatest goalie who ever played hockey. He led the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

Plante was an innovative genius. He was the first goaltender to play the puck outside the crease, the first to skate behind the net to stop the puck for defensemen, the first to raise his arms to signal an icing call to his teammates, the first to regularly wear a face mask – which enabled him to throw his body to stop a shot.

Yet, Plante realized that the fans noticed his occasional mistakes far more than his brilliant play in goal. He once asked, “How would you like a job where, if you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and eighteen thousand people boo?”

We tend to look for mistakes.

 

Sometimes, when teaching a class, I would take my black marker and make one small dot in the middle of the whiteboard.

“What do you see?” I’d ask.

“A black dot.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

Then I’d explain that what they were seeing was a large expanse of white, yet we become so focused on the little black dot that the whiteness of the board “disappears.”

When we focus on other people’s faults, we will see them.  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to help people with their shortcomings, but a critical spirit is harmful because it distorts reality. We no longer see the good characteristics of others when what we want to see are other people’s faults.

 

When Philip Yancey moved to Colorado, he learned about noxious weeds which were threatening the survival of native plants. In his book, Prayer, he writes about buying a weed-puller and walking up the hill behind his house to look for noxious weeds. He would spot oxeye daisy, Russian thistle, and toadflax.

One day, Yancey’s wife accompanied him and pointed out more than twenty species of wildflowers. Philip said, “I had been so intent on finding the weeds that my eyes had skipped right past the wildflowers adorning the hills – the very flowers my weed-pulling endeavored to protect!”

 

Consider carefully what you’re looking for in life, because you will invariably see it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

An Overlooked Big, Fat Ripe Berry

We’re Back!

The brief hiatus is over…our backpacking trip into the wilderness was blessed in many many ways.  Now we are back to computers and the ‘real’ world.  The stories continue! Enjoy!

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 17, 2011

An Overlooked Big, Fat Ripe Berry

 

                               The stream of God is filled with water. 

                                                                  Psalm 65:9

 My wife and I picked raspberries yesterday, and were joined by our son-in-law, Jeremy, and daughter, Nikki. The bushes were loaded with berries, but soon I noticed I could return to the area I had just picked and find still more berries I missed.

When I commented on this, Jeremy made the interesting comparison of berry-picking and reading the Bible.

Have you ever done this? You reread a part of the Bible you’ve read before, and all of a sudden you discover something you never noticed before?

It’s not that God’s truth is in constant flux – with the Lord frantically readjusting his opinions to match those of contemporary culture. Instead, God has more truth to show us than we can discover on our first picking.

 

This last week, five of us disappeared into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for a week. On the last day of hiking, I set out early to reach the van and drive it a few miles closer to the trailhead.

As I hiked along the trail I noticed footprints. Another hiker we met had hiked out the day before, so the fresh prints were made after that. Deer tend to move at night or early dawn, and there were mule deer tracks on top of the footprints, so the hiker probably came through late yesterday.

The foot tracks on the trail were slightly bigger than my own, so I concluded it was a male. He wasn’t camping, however, because the tracks came in and retraced their steps.

The more I focused on the tracks, the more I saw. The tracks were not the deep tread of hiking boots, but came from a running shoe. I’m fairly tall and have a long stride length, but his were considerably longer. He had to be jogging. From the point he turned around to the trailhead was four miles, so he was on an eight mile run. He must be in decent shape.

You could see where he stood still once. He didn’t stop to rest or he would have shuffled his feet.  He probably stopped to get a quick drink – which meant he was carrying his own water – but wasn’t using a camelback.

The longer I hiked, the more I saw.

 

Some people think of God’s Word as being like a cookie. Once you gobble it down, there’s nothing more to be enjoyed. When I was in college, I worked as a janitor with a delightful, older man. He whistled cheerfully, he whistled constantly, he whistled well. But he only knew one tune.

The more we ponder God’s Word, the more we will hear the many themes and harmonies.

It’s exciting when  you find a big, fat, ripe berry you had previously overlooked.

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)