Learn To Listen Intently

Story of the Day for Saturday September 17, 2011

Learn To Listen Intently

                   I waited for you to speak. I listened to your thoughts as you searched for words. I gave you my full attention.

                                                                  Job 32:11-12

 William Osler (pronounced “OH – sler”) is one of the most influential physicians in history, but few – apart from the medical community – know him.

He is called the “Father of modern medicine,” and for good reason. He was one of the “Big Four” founding professors at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He created the first residency program. In England he was knighted for his medical achievements.

 

Osler was obsessed with paying careful attention to the little things. When he served as medical professor at Oxford University, he lectured his students – stressing the vital importance of paying attention to details. Careful observation, he told them, was the key to accurate diagnosis of a patient’s ailment.

A diabetic’s urine, Osler pointed out, often had sugar in it. The professor then displayed a bottle of urine, dipped his finger into the bottle, and brought his hand to his mouth to taste the urine. Passing the bottle around the room, he asked the students to do what he had just done.

The students dutifully participated in the unpleasant task – knowing that if they paid careful attention, they might taste the sugar in the urine. After the student’s had finished their exercise, Osler said, “Now you will understand what I mean when I speak about details, because had you really been watching, you would have seen that I put my index finger into the urine . . . but my middle finger into my mouth.”

 

Today, any licensed doctor must first serve a residency under a supervising physician. But Sir William Osler was the first physician to establish the practice. He was adamant about the need for academic study, but even more passionate about spending time with the patient, and listening patiently to them.

“He who studies medicine without books,” he said, “sails an uncharted sea. But he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.” Osler was the first to drag his students out of the lecture hall for bedside clinical training.

The only epitaph Osler wanted on his tombstone was that he took his students to be with patients at their bedside.

 

Osler originally wanted to become a pastor, but I’m glad that God led him into medicine. Yet, oddly enough, he brings us a spiritual message. First, you learn to pay attention to your teacher (and note which finger he sticks in the urine bottle!), and then you learn to listen intently to those you seek to serve.

I was taught to learn theology, and then to give the world a canned speech. William Osler has reminded me that – yes – I should begin by learning, by paying attention to my Teacher. But, then, it’s better to take time to listen carefully to those who are hurting. The more I learn to listen; the more I’ll have something worth saying.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Story of the Day for Friday September 16, 2011

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

                    I’ve come down to rescue them . . . and to take them out of that land to a good and spacious land – a land that flows with milk and honey. 

                                                              Exodus 3:8

 When James Marshall discovered a small gold nugget at John Sutter’s mill near San Francisco, the word leaked out. Soon, about 400,000 men stampeded to California to search for their fortune.

The amount of gold and the ease in collecting it became more exaggerated by the day. One miner, on his way to California, was doubtful of the wild reports and said, “If I don’t pick up more than a hatful of gold a day, I shall be perfectly satisfied.”

 

There was so much money rumored to be made “in the diggings” that it was difficult to hire anyone to work in a store or shop in California. When a ship arrived at San Francisco, the crew would often abandon their duties to search for gold. Five hundred sailing ships were abandoned at San Francisco and left to rot in the harbor. Boat captains were so desperate for crewmen that they had to pay a lowly cook twice the amount of the captain’s salary.

The military was on hand to keep order among the hundreds of thousands of miners who deluged the area. But over half of the military men deserted their posts to join the miners in their search for riches.

The miners discovered that the journey itself to the gold fields was long and hazardous. Once they arrived, they were forced to provide their own shelter. Prices on all food and goods were astronomical. Disease was widespread. And prospecting was hard, hard work.

Although a few made a fortune, most of the miners didn’t find enough gold to survive, and straggled home with nothing to show for their efforts.

 

I think we all know where this is going, don’t we? I launch into a reproachful warning on the evils of materialism, and we all frown and wonder how some people can be so greedy.

Not so fast.

When God promised to take his people to a land of milk and honey, he, apparently didn’t think it was wrong to offer it, nor a sin for his people to desire it.  And God heightened their interest by appealing to the land’s wealth: “a place where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper from the hills.”

 

True, the gold rush brought out the worst in many greedy miners. But it also brought out the best in those for whom the gold was not the real purpose. It was the dream, the adventure. Though most of the miners returned home with little or nothing, yet the majority glowed about their experience. They viewed it as a challenge, an adventure. They would wax nostalgic in recalling one of the most gratifying times in their lives.

All that is gold does not glitter.

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

The Mystery Critic

Story of the Day for Thursday September 15, 2011

The Mystery Critic

                    Love. . . doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast, it isn’t proud. 

                                                         1 Corinthians 13:4

 Sir Walter Scott, who was born in 1771, pulled off a feat that no one author had ever accomplished. He became the first English writer to enjoy an international reputation while he was still alive – with avid fans in Great Britain, Europe, North America, and Australia.

Scott is best known for his novels. In fact, he invented the genre of the historical narrative. But historical novels weren’t his only innovation: in order to maintain his image as Great Britain’s leading poet, he wrote his first novels anonymously. After his first novel, Waverly, he published his later novels as “Author of Waverly.”

As if being the best writer in the English world wasn’t enough, Sir Walter Scott was granted permission by the future King George IV to search for the long lost crown of Charles II. Armed with military assistants, Scott found the Crown Jewels of Scotland in the bowels of a castle in Edinburgh, and a grateful royalty granted Scott the title of baronet.

Sir Walter Scott could hardly rise higher in popularity.

 

At the height of Scott’s popularity, however, a usurper arose. Lord Byron, a young, charismatic poet began to publish his works.

A London paper printed the reviews of an anonymous contributor. The reviewer gushed over the works of Bryron – praising his poetic genius. Sir Walter Scott, the anonymous critic maintained, could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. Later, it was discovered that the mystery critic was Sir Walter Scott himself.

 

Scott considered literary envy “a base sensation” and lauded Byron as “the man whose splendour dimmed the fame of his competitors.”

Not only did Scott work to bolster the popularity of Lord Byron, but he also defended authors that were scoffed at by the critics. Jane Austen, who today is recognized as a literary giant, was, in the 19th century dismissed as a “woman’s novelist.” Sir Walter Scott was one of the few males who came to her defense and commended Austen’s genius.

 

Scott desperately needed readers to buy his books. When businesses, in which he was heavily invested, crashed, he was financially ruined. Rather than declare bankruptcy, however, he determined to write himself out of debt.  But he never considered the option of bettering his popularity by trying to diminish the fame of his fellow authors.

 

Love is an odd thing. It doesn’t resent the success of others but rejoices for them, rejoices with them. When the Bible urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we begin to learn that we are not at our greatest when we stand boastfully above our rivals, but when we devote our attention to making others better.

                                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 14, 2011

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

                   Get rid of all . . . hypocrisy . . . 

                                                                 1 Peter 2:1

 Dr. Foerster’s patient was fully conscious as the German neurosurgeon performed brain surgery to remove a tumor. As Dr. Foerster touched one region of the brain, however, his patient erupted in compulsive pun making. The patient was unable to control his wild word associations.

Arthur Koestler, who mentioned this incident in his book, The Act of Creation, calls Foerster’s Syndrome the inability to refrain from making puns.

I mention this because my college roommate was a jovial guy, but it was obvious that he got dropped on his head when he was a child, because he had Foerster’s Syndrome in a big way. He didn’t learn and retell the puns of others; he was the sole originator and distributor of endless groaners.

Once, one of the college administrators told him bluntly that punning was the lowest form of humor, but this indirect plea for mercy didn’t dampen my roommate’s enthusiasm for punning in the slightest.

 

Paul, from Elkhart, Indiana, once wrote in to Reader’s Digest about a family dinner. His parents, Fred and Adah, invited Paul and his three siblings for a Sunday meal.

Everyone, except for Adah, was in a silly mood and began rhyming their requests.

“Please pass the meat, Pete.”

“May I have a potatah, Adah?”

“I’d give the moon for a spoon.”

After a while, Adah had heard enough. “Stop this nonsense right now!” she shouted. “It’s Sunday, and I would like to enjoy my dinner with some good conversation, not all this silly chatter.”

Then, in a huff, she snapped, “Pass the bread, Fred.”

 

The most annoying aspect of criticizing others is when I find myself dropping into the same kind of behavior. When I criticize people for being late for appointments, I will soon find that I’m late for an appointment.  Lately, I confided to my wife that I thought someone was a gossip. I took a minute before I realized that I was gossiping about someone else who gossips.

 

Now that I’ve recognized my unfortunate habit of acting like a hypocrite, it has, somewhat, tempered my judgmentalism toward others.

The next step Jesus wants me to learn is to be calmer about others – even if I’m never guilty of doing what they do. After all, others have some vices I don’t. For example, I relish the fact that I’ve mustard the strength to resist the impulse to ketchup to my old roommate in the punning department. I just don’t have the hot dog personality he has.

(I can hear my old roommate now, saying, “Marty, let me be frank with you – you’re not very punny!”)

                                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Two Wagon Loads

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 13, 2011

Two Wagon Loads

                    For you became saddened as God intended. . . Godly sorrow works repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. . .   

                                                                  2 Corinthians 7:9-10

 Have you ever been driving in an unfamiliar area and slowly realized you were going the wrong direction?  You may not be happy about it, but the fastest way to get to where you want to go is to turn around and go backwards.

If you refused to turn around, even though you know it is the shortest way to your destination, and stubbornly bulled your way in the wrong direction, do you know what you are?  You’re an idiot, that’s what.

When we repent, we admit we’re presently moving in the wrong direction, and that the shortest way is to turn around and go backward in order to go forward.  (You might want to pause here for a minute if you need some time to think about that last statement.)

 

Maybe repentance is not a joyful word to me because I think of the disappointment when I realize I’m going the wrong way in life.  But maybe it will help if we think of the sadness as preceding the repentance.

The whole process looks like this: First, we discover that we are going the wrong way.  We’re not living the way God wants us to.   Now, we are sad about our failure to please God.  We’re sad because we have hurt other people by our sin.  And we’re sad because we have wasted our time going the wrong way and now we will have to turn around and start over.

The sadness over our sin comes first.  But then the repentance is the act of turning around.  Repentance is turning around to find that God forgives us and is encouraging us.  This is the order the apostle Paul is teaching us.  First, the believers at Corinth were saddened by the realization of their sin.  Their “godly sorrow” then led them to repent.  Their repentance now opened up to them the life of God’s “salvation,” – and now they have no regrets about the direction God is taking them.

 

We need to be careful here.  Many people get the notion that repentance means we got caught sinning and now we just say we’re sorry.  But we’re not sorry about our sin; we’re only sorry we got caught.  But, after we say we’re sorry. . . nothing changes.

Did you ever hear the story about the farmer who goes to his priest for confession?  He confesses that he stole two wagon loads of his neighbor’s hay.  The priest is surprised, and simply remarks, “Two wagon loads!”  The farmer then clarifies himself, “Well, I’ve only stole one wagon load so far.  I plan to steal the second load tomorrow.”

Telling God we’re sorry is not a “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free” card that gets God off our back so we’re free to continue botching up our life.  True repentance always leads to the desire to change our ways and live as God wants us to.  We may continue to flub up a million times, but each time we repent, it must be with the intent to find the right direction and go there.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Why I Don’t Have a Story Tonight

Story of the Day for Monday September 12, 2011

Why I Don’t Have a Story Tonight

                     You have corrected me, and I was disciplined like an unruly calf. 

                                                               Jeremiah 31:18

Tonight, I honestly planned to write a story. It has been a busy day. We ran errands, picked chokecherries, and went to Stan Holder’s birthday party so I could tell him how old he looked (actually, he looks great – for an old guy).

If life was stable and predictable, when we got home, I would have the evening free to write.

 

Life – and I should have realized this earlier in life – is not stable and predictable. While my wife’s folks are out of town, we are feeding the dog, cats, and giving formula to an orphaned calf. Darla called from her parent’s house to tell me that the calf had escaped from the corral.

This is a problem. We have mountain lion and wolves in the area, and a lone calf is easy prey. And, without milk, a calf is never at its best.

But finding a calf on 150 acres is far more difficult than it may seem. The mountain terrain is rolling, and most of the acreage is forested. Darla drove up the road a mile and then started walking down the mountain. By the time I walked to the ranch she had found the fugitive.

If you’ve never moved cows, you should know that you can’t scare or threaten them into heading in the direction they should go. Instead, you get behind them and patiently push them in the direction they should go.

My wife, youngest daughter, Elly, and I finally managed to walk the straying calf back to his corral. He stood six feet from the gate, but wouldn’t go in. We formed a semi-circle and stood there, so the calf could weigh his options, and make an informed choice.

Instead, the calf bolted. He ran until he was, again, at the far end of the pasture. Elly sprinted until she finally got uphill of him, and waited until we caught up with her.

And then we started the whole process again.

 

This time I lassoed it, but the rope was old, and broke – and the calf disappeared up the mountain. When we found it,  Darla gave it a drink from its bottle, and grabbed it by the ear. This time I had the rope doubled as I looped it around the calf. With Darla and I hanging onto each ear, and Elly holding its tail, we headed back to its corral.

 

We were exhausted by the time we dragged him back into the corral. And, all the while, this dim-witted, belligerent, exasperating calf had no notion that we were working – not to frighten or harm him – but simply to save his life.

 

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that, all my life, while God has been working to lead me back home, I’ve been acting like a stubborn calf.

 

   And that is why I wasn’t able to write a story tonight.

                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Include the Humble Folk

Story of the Day for Saturday September 10, 2011

Include the Humble Folk

                      Be of the same mind toward each other. Don’t be arrogant in your thinking, but make accommodation for the humble folk. 

                                                                                          Romans 12:16

 Imagine a committee of ten members. Everyone has a degree in political science – except one man, who is a vacuum cleaner repairman. A political think tank wants to fly the committee to Washington immediately to help solve an urgent problem. The plane, however, can only seat nine passengers. One member of the committee  must stay back. Who do you choose to leave behind?

The vacuum cleaner repairman, right?

Well no. Actually, the vacuum cleaner repairman should be considered the one indispensible member of the committee.

 

The notion that the repairman is vital to the group comes from the Bible. Well, maybe not that specifically, but that’s where the principle first arose.

 

Researchers are confirming what we have long suspected: “stupid” people make a group smarter.

Have you ever been in a meeting when some lowly novice makes a comment so outlandish that the room erupts in laughter? And then someone says, “Hey, wait a minute – I think he might have a point here.”

When groups of experts get together, they support each other’s views. Their respect for each other’s expertise actually makes them more stupid.

Scott E. Page, a professor at the University of Michigan, posed problems for groups to solve. Some groups were all experts. Other groups included experts and not-so-smart members. Now, get this: the mixed group with the lower average intelligence was always better at solving problems than the group consisting solely of experts.

 

Cool. So, what’s the point?

Groups tend to exclude (or at least, look down on) the person who isn’t on the same wavelength as everyone else. The world thinks the quality of the group will improve when they get rid of the “misfits.”

The Bible says we must take pains to include the “humble folk.” Paul is talking about us as Christians, and about the need to work as a group – to share a common attitude and mindset.  But he makes the observation that wouldn’t be “discovered” for a couple thousand years. Paul warns us against haughtiness. We must renounce an attitude of superiority and show special attention to the “humble folk.”

Why? Because all people are important. And, besides, without them, we’d be pretty stupid.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

He Might Be Talking To Me

Story of the Day for Friday September 9, 2011

He Might Be Talking To Me

                     It is time for judgment to begin with the house of God.

                                                                 1 Peter 4:17     

            I don’t repent when I listen to sermons on repentance. In fact, they usually put me in a sorrier spiritual state.

            When preachers rail against the wickedness in the world, it makes me wish everyone else would repent. After hearing all the lurid and revolting examples of evil, I feel as if I’m not so bad, by comparison.

            In other words, sermons on repentance tend to make me unbearably self-righteous – which is the worst sin of all.

 

            In his memoirs, An American Life, Ronald Reagan recalled a state dinner at the White House. French premiere, Francois Mitterrand and his wife were the guests of honor. After Reagan, Mitterrand, and their wives finished greeting the other guests in the East Room, they all went to the State Dining Room. The proper protocol was for everyone to stand until Nancy Reagan led Francois to her table and President Reagan led Mrs. Mitterrand to his.

            Nancy and Mr. Mitterrand headed for their table, but Mrs. Mitterrand stood still – even after the butler motioned for her to be seated. She whispered something to President Reagan in French, which he didn’t understand. The guests remained standing.             President Reagan quietly told her, “We’re supposed to go over there to the other side.” Mrs. Mitterrand whispered something back, but he didn’t understand what she was saying.

            An interpreter then approached Reagan and said, “She’s telling you that you’re standing on her gown.”

 

            I’m pretty good at spotting sin, and what I mean by that is I’m pretty good at spotting your sin. I’m not so good at realizing when I’m the one stepping on the gown.

 

            In 2003, in the small town of Forest, Ohio, travelling evangelist, Don Hardman held a revival service at the First Baptist Church, and, in Mr. Hardman’s words, “We had a right good crowd of folks.”

            He was preaching on repentance.

            Shortly after he stared preaching, a storm rolled in. As the thunder began to rumble, Hardman told the congregation that, in the Bible, God’s voice sometimes sounded like thunder, and that God was speaking to them tonight. Hardman looked heavenward and said, “That’s right, God! We hear you!”

            And then a bolt of lightning struck the church. Hardman, who was wearing a cordless mike, had sparks of electricity go from his belt buckle up to his microphone.  There was a blue aura in the building as the lights flickered on and off and the sound system exploded. Heavy clay tiles from the steeple feel off and damaged a car in the parking lot.  

            No one was hurt, and Mr. Hardman continued to preach on repentance until a church trustee came in and said the steeple was on fire.

 

            When God tells the world to repent, it’s so hard to realize he might be talking to me.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Audacity and High Praise

Story of the Day for Thursday September 8, 2011

Audacity and High Praise

                  Jesus said to her, “O woman, how great is you faith! Your request is granted.” 

                                                         Matthew 15:28

 John Wayne rose to become one of Hollywood’s greatest stars because he kicked his director in the mud.

In 1927, Wayne was a student at USC and worked as an assistant prop boy and occasional extra at Fox Studios. When director, John Ford, decided to make a movie about the football rivalry between Army and Navy, he asked John Wayne to help him recruit football players.

Sol Wurtzel, the producer, offered to pay the football players seventy-five dollars a week, but Wayne, seeking to be modest, suggested they be paid fifty dollars.

But Wurtzel was not impressed. “Congratulations!” the producer responded with derision, “You just screwed yourself out of twenty-five bucks a week.”

 

John Wayne, apparently, reflected on how he should respond to his superiors. During the filming of the movie, the famous director, John Ford, objected to the way John Wayne lined up in his three-point stance. Ford told Wayne to get in his stance and then kicked Wayne’s arm out and sent him sprawling on the ground.

John Wayne then asked the director to demonstrate the correct football position. As Ford got down into a three-point stance, John Wayne kicked him into the mud.

The director found Wayne’s chutzpah hilarious and immediately took a liking to the brash young man.

 

After the movie was completed, John Wayne began to find more acting roles in Grade B Westerns, but his career was going nowhere.

In 1938, John Ford took Wayne for a cruise on his yacht, Araner. Ford asked Wayne to read the script for Stagecoach and suggest someone to play the lead role of the Ringo Kid. Ford’s financial backers were pressuring the director to hire Gary Cooper for the lead role.  But, after Ford concluded his cutting jibes about Wayne’s stagnant career, he said, “Duke, I want you to play the Ringo Kid.”

Stagecoach was a hit and catapulted John Wayne from obscurity to Hollywood stardom – and all because John Wayne had the nerve to “dish it back” to a famous director.

 

A pagan woman once pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus didn’t even respond to her.  She started following Jesus and his disciples, shouting out for help. When Jesus finally speaks to her, it is to explain that he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

The woman is not about to take no as an answer. She catches up to him and kneels at his feet and pleads for help.

“It’s not good to take the children’s bread,” Jesus says, “and give it to the dogs.”

“True, Lord,” she counters, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.”

 

I don’t think you’re supposed to argue with the Lord, and I have a hard time thinking of faith as spunky. But I do know that Jesus rewarded the pagan woman’s audacity with both high praise . . . and the granting of her request.

                                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Time to Agree

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 7, 2011

A Time to Agree

               I beg of you . . . that all of you agree with each other so that there might be no more divisions among you. 

                                                                          1 Corinthians 1:10

 How many hours is it before the next sunrise? That, obviously, depends on where you live because the sunrise will vary by 24 hours – depending on your longitude.

In the 1800s, communities in England had the instruments to accurately calculate high noon. Keeping accurate time in your hometown created no big problem until the railway system increased its speed. On an east to west railroad, every town will reach high noon at a different time. Even the city of London’s time differed by two minutes from one end of the city to the other.

In the United States, the situation was no better. Each railroad company decided to set a standard time – no matter where it went. But the railroad companies couldn’t agree on what time should be used. So, each railroad operated by a different time. The train station in Pittsburg had six clocks – each one set to a different time – depending on which train you wanted to ride on. In 1883, W. F. Allen found that there were about fifty different “official” times in use throughout the country.

During World War I, the U.S. established Daylight Savings Time in order to conserve fuel. When the war was over, some localities continued using Daylight Savings Time and others refused. In one 35-mile stretch of highway from West Virginia to Ohio, the local time would change no less than seven times.

When communities acted in their own self-interest to determine the time, no one really knew what time it was. Everyone was frustrated and confused.

 

We often assume it’s in our own self-interest to act in our own self-interest, but this isn’t always the case. John Allen Paulos, in his book, Innumeracy, cites an experiment demonstrating how self-interest works against us.

He asks us to imagine twenty casual acquaintances brought together by an eccentric philanthropist. No one is allowed to communicate with each other. The philanthropist then explains to the group that, if everyone refrains from pressing a button in front of them, they will each receive $10,000. If, however, some in the group do press the button, they will receive $3,000, and those who refrained from touching the button will receive nothing.

It is in everyone’s self-interest to avoid touching the button and receiving $10,000 a piece. But, without the ability to talk and cooperate with other, how likely is it that everyone in the group would act to bring the greatest benefit to themselves (and everyone else)?

Not likely.

 

The saddest thing about insisting on what we want is that we won’t get what we want. God has created us so that we gain the greatest good by sacrificing our own best interests for the sake of the needs of others.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)