Reality is a Stubborn Thing

Story of the Day for Friday August 5, 2011

Reality is a Stubborn Thing

                     Truth has stumbled in the street. 

                                                                 Isaiah 59:14

 On January 28, 1986, NASA officials tried to defy reality . . . and failed.

The Challenger space shuttle was scheduled for launch on January 22nd, but the launch had to be postponed until the 23rd, then the 24th, then the 25th, and then the 27th.

Officials at NASA were growing increasingly frustrated with each scratched launch date. They wanted to establish a reputation as a reliable market for scientific and commercial markets, and the frequent postponements weren’t helping their reputation. They had an ambitious launch schedule, and by postponing the Challenger, they would be forced to scuttle launch dates all down the line. President Reagan was preparing his State of the Union address and wanted to feature the Challenger mission – which would be awkward if the shuttle was still sitting on the launch pad. Further, classrooms across the country were tuned into TV to watch Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher, give the first school lesson from space.


The controversy before the scheduled launch on January 28th focused on the o-rings in the solid rocket boosters. The rocket is built like cans stacked on top of each other. The explosive gases, reaching temperatures of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, are sealed between the different rocket stages by o-rings.

Engineers at Morton Thiokol were adamant that the launch must be postponed. The temperatures had dipped to 18 degrees in the night, and, at launch time were still around freezing. Morton Thiokol’s contract with NASA specified that the temperature tolerance of the o-rings extended from 40-90 degrees.

At first the managers at Morton Thiokol sided with their engineers. But NASA was not happy. Under pressure to please their customer the managers finally caved in and gave NASA the green light to launch.

The engineers watched helplessly as the countdown began. They knew the o-rings would not seal. Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, as the Challenger went into its first roll, the o-rings failed, and the space shuttle exploded – killing all seven astronauts.


The well-known physicist, Richard Feynman, served on the Rogers Commission investigating the accident. “Reality,” he concluded, “must take precedence over public relations,” adding that “nature cannot be fooled.”


It is not only Nature which cannot be fooled, but all truth. Some think that morality can be supplanted by a “new morality” as often as youth update their wardrobe.

Jesus claimed to be the Truth, and his teachings have stood solid against the test of time.  We do well to be receptive to what he says because reality is a stubborn thing.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)



The Greater Accomplishment

Story of the Day for Thursday August 4, 2011

The Greater Accomplishment

                     How you have fallen from the sky, O morning star, the son of the dawn!  You, who once brought down other nations, have been thrown down to the earth. 

                                                                                 Isaiah 14:12

Ellis played fiddle for barn dances and found his horse stolen afterward. He did such a brilliant job of discovering the thief that he was asked to find other people’s stolen horses. Ellis Parker’s skill was so uncanny that, in 1892, he became the Chief of Detectives for Burlington County, New Jersey – despite being only twenty-one and lacking a high school education.

Without access to modern forensic technology, Parker relied on his wits. And he could notice incongruities and odd details like no one else. Soon, he became known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

In his forty year career, Parker took on 236 murder cases, and solved all but ten of them. Ellis boasted that he never used an ounce of force on any suspect, yet, in over half of his cases, he talked the guilty party into signing a confession of guilt before the trial.


During World War I, federal agents had been unable to find a wireless station that would interfere with public broadcasts. The Department of Justice hired Parker, who not only deduced that the wireless was operated from a car running up and down the coast, but actually located the car itself.


Yet, none of his fame went to his head. He turned down many high-profile cases and better paying positions to stay in his sleepy town of Mt. Holly – where everyone called him by his first name. Instead of cashing in on his fame, he allowed writers free access to his files.


But, late in his career, something changed in him. Charles Lindbergh’s toddler was kidnapped, and it immediately became known as The Crime of the Century. The detective who solved this case would be world famous and covered in glory. Yet, even though the kidnapping took place only miles from Parker’s hometown, no one invited him to help solve the crime.

Something seemed to snap. Ellis Parker became obsessed with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and, even though he had no access to police records, tried to find the killer based on details reported in the newspaper.

Convinced the police had arrested the wrong suspect, Parker became a criminal himself. He had another suspect kidnapped in order to extort a confession.

Ellis Parker Sr., who will always be known as America’s greatest detective, was tried and convicted for kidnapping. He died in federal prison.


The admiration of others is fine . . . until we crave it. We so easily dream of great achievement and fame, but the greater accomplishment is maintaining a humble heart.

                                          (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

The Point of the Game

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 3, 2011

The Point of the Game

                  “You tithe your mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected the more important laws: justice, mercy, and faith.” 

                                                                                       Matthew 23:23

The Caribbean Cup soccer tournament in 1994 pitted Barbados against Grenada, with the winner going to the tournament finals. Barbados, however, not only had to win, but had to win by two goals to advance to the finals.

The tournament rules prompted one of the zaniest soccer games ever played. You’ll have to pay attention because I’m not going to repeat this.


The tournament committee ruled that, if the game ended in a tie, the game would go into sudden death. The first team to score in overtime is declared the winner. But, and this is important, the final goal would be counted as two points.

Okay, raise your hand if you’re with me so far.

Barbados was ahead, 2-0, when Grenada scored with minutes to go. Even if Barbados now won by one point, Grenada was headed for the finals.

But, with three minutes remaining, Barbados wasn’t even advancing the ball. Two defensive players calmly kicked the ball back and forth in front of their own goal, and then, to everyone’s surprise, a Barbados player kicked the ball into his own goal.

It took everyone a moment to realize what was happening. If play ended with the score tied, 2-2, the game would go into sudden death. If Barbados could then score the winning goal, they would be declared the winner by two points, and advance to the championship game.

Once Grenada grasped what had just happened, they realized that if they, too, scored a goal against themselves, they would lose the game by one point, but would advance to the finals.

The final minutes of regulation play were sheer madness. Grenada was desperately trying – not to score against their opponent – but against themselves. But Barbados was determined to keep Grenada from kicking the ball into its own net. This was no longer looking like what a soccer game was supposed to look like.

The game ended in a tie. In overtime, Barbados scored the tie-breaking goal and was declared the winner by two points.


Rules can have unintended consequences. The religious people of Jesus’ day tithed. No problem there. But, then, in the interests of being “super holy,” they began the practice of tithing everything – even their herb seeds.

Jesus wasn’t impressed by these extra rules because, while they were sitting on their bums counting out seeds and setting aside every tenth one for God, they were failing to be about the true life of God: helping the poor, showing mercy, and learning the life of faith.

When we make rules that God doesn’t make, we end up missing the point of the game.

                                        (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Time To Take a Risk

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 2, 2011

Time To Take a Risk

                     Jesus entered the temple and threw out the buyers and sellers. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling doves.

                                                              Mark 11:15

Do you know who, for many years, has been the most recognizable figure in Canada?  He is a commentator who does a four-minute segment with co-host Ron MacLean between the first and second periods of Hockey Night in Canada.

Don Cherry, who hosts the broadcast, Coach’s Corner, is recognized by more Canadians than any pop star, athlete, or politician – including the Prime Minister.

In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took a national poll of the greatest Canadians in history.  Don Cherry came in seventh – beating out Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky.


How could a commentator – whose show is only broadcast during hockey season, and only for four minutes – become so famous? His flamboyant taste in suit coats doesn’t hurt, but his fame is focused in his outspoken style. Don Cherry is neither impartial nor subtle. He hurls opinions like grenades. When Coach’s Corner is over, you will have no difficulty knowing exactly where Cherry stands on any issue he addresses.


We live in a culture of timid opinions. We don’t want to offend. Even governmental leaders, whom we would expect to be guided by a solid political philosophy, are known for their haste in reversing their convictions in deference to public opinion.

President Harry Truman, however, asked how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt. What would Jesus have preached if he first taken a poll in the land of Israel?  “What would have happened to the Reformation,” he wondered, “if Martin Luther had taken a poll?”


The temple in Jerusalem had a large, outer courtyard. In Isaiah 56, the Lord promised the foreigners that he would designate a place in the temple for them to pray.

The Gentiles, however, were pushed out of their courtyard when the chief priests brought in livestock and doves to sell for the sacrificial offerings. Previously, shops to buy sacrifices and exchange money flourished on the Mount of Olives. But now the chief priests set up their own monopoly in the temple — gouging the people through exorbitant prices, and excluding the foreigners from their place of prayer.

Jesus stormed into the temple – smashing tables and starting a stampede. In the large crowds, his presence was evident by the fluttering of freed doves flying about him – with the poor clambering behind him as they chased down scattered coins. At the risk to his own life, his bold action restored the temple as a house of prayer.


Diplomacy and tact are virtues – unless they’re used to cloak our cowardice. But there comes a time to take a risk. There comes a time to take our stand.

                                          (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)






With All Their Heart

Story of the Day for Monday August 1, 2011

With All Their Heart

                     We rebuilt the wall . . . because the people worked with all their heart. 

                                                                  Nehemiah 4:6

Grete Waitz, a 25 year-old Norwegian, tried to enter the New York City Marathon in 1978, but was turned down. They wanted to see her times in previous races, but she had never run a marathon. She had, in fact, never run a race further than twelve miles.

Later, the race director, Fred Lebow, called her back. He knew of her fast times in six and ten miles events, and told her she could enter the race because he wanted a “rabbit” to set a fast pace for the elite women.

Grete entered the marathon, and, by mile nineteen, knew her body had ventured into unknown territory. Her quads began to cramp and she knew that marathon races were not for her.

When she crossed the finish line, exhausted and in great pain, she was confused by the crowds swarming her and the microphones stuck in her face.  She was not only the first woman to cross the finish, but had smashed the world record by two minutes.


Grete was a teacher, but would get up at five in the morning to train before work. She delighted to get up before dawn in winter and run into the bitter cold Norwegian darkness. She felt that anyone could work out when it was a nice day. Gail Kislevitz, in her book, First Marathons, quoted Waitz’s opinion of training when conditions are favorable, “That’s fun,” she said, “but there’s no sense of sacrifice, no great accomplishment.” Competing, for Grete, was about courage and sacrifice – doing it with all your heart.

In 1988, Grete Waitz had won her ninth New York City Marathon, and was known worldwide as the greatest female marathoner of all time.


But, in 1993, Grete met Zoe Klopowitz, a heavy woman in her mid-forties who suffered from multiple sclerosis. Despite weak muscles and poor balance, Waitz was astounded to learn that Zoe planned to compete in the New York City marathon.

“Who is waiting for you at the finish line?” Zoe explained she had to rely on two canes, and moved so slowly she didn’t plan to finish until the next day. No one would be there to welcome her at the finish.

At dawn, about 20 hours after the marathon had started, Grete stood waiting for Zoe at the finish line. Exhausted and sleep deprived, Zoe fell into Grete’s arms. Two runners: the world’s fastest and slowest marathoners shared a common conviction. Both believed that what mattered most was not ability, but heart.


Nehemiah rallied the people to rebuild the fallen walls of Jerusalem. They worked against constant obstacles, taunts and threats. But the wall was completed because the people were committed to a noble task to the honor of God.

And the Bible says they gave themselves to the task “with all their heart.”

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)