A Costly Victory

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 6, 2011

A Costly Victory

                     Make sure that no one is lacking in God’s grace and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble . . . 

                                                    Hebrews 12:15

 Sometimes winning is worse than losing.


I knew this guy, whom I’ll call Romiere, who confided to me that he used to be a con man. He shared some of his secrets in swindling people, which I won’t divulge because  . . . well, just because. But, since one of his tricks so was so ingenious (and not strictly illegal), I’ll share it with you as long as you promise not to tell anyone else.

Romiere would walk into a tavern, sit next to a stranger at the bar, and strike up a friendly conversation. Then my ex-con man friend would take off his hat, cover the guy’s drink. “Bet you a quarter I can drink your whiskey without moving my hat.”

“No way; you’re on.”

As soon as the guy took the bet, Romiere would lift his hat, slug down the guy’s whiskey, and say, “You’re right – I couldn’t do it. You win the bet.”

Romiere smiled and said, “I would lose the bet, but it usually took the guy a while to realize I just took his drink for a quarter.”


Have you ever heard of a Pyrrhic victory? Around 280 B.C., Pyhhrus was king of Epirus (which was between modern-day Albania and Greece). He fought the Roman army at Heraclea and Asculum and won both battles.

Even though Pyhhrus was victorious in battle, his tiny country sustained enormous losses. The Romans lost more soldiers in the battles, but they could easily replenish their military strength. When one man congratulated King Pyhhrus on his victories, the king replied that one more such victory would utterly destroy him.

In a Pyrhhic victory, you win – but your victory is so costly, you would have been better off if you had not succeeded.


Getting revenge is a Pyrrhic victory. Even if we retaliate and hurt those who hurt us, we will pay dearly in the attempt. Hatred breeds bitterness, which rots the soul. Have you ever met a bitter person whom you would label as happy?


When Abraham Lincoln was an attorney, an angry man stormed into his office, wanting to sue a poor man who owed him money. Lincoln tried to dissuade him – informing him his legal fees would be four times the amount owed him.

The angry man didn’t care. He wanted his debtor to pay.

So, Lincoln charged his fee, took a quarter of it and gave it to the man who was unable to pay his debt. Lincoln made a tidy profit, the debtor was relieved to have his debt paid off.

But it took a while for the angry man to realize that victory could be so costly.

                                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Looking For Lost Donkeys

Story of the Day for Monday September 5, 2011

Looking For Lost Donkeys

                    Kish told his son, Saul, “. . . Go and look for the donkeys.”

                                                                             1 Samuel 9:3

“Serendipity” is considered one of the ten most difficult words to translate from English into another language. The word was coined by Horace Walpole in the 18th century.  He recounts the ancient legends of the princes from Serendip (modern Sri Lanka) who continually make fortunate discoveries they were not looking for.


That is what happened to Kish’s son, Saul. He went out looking for three of his dad’s lost donkeys, and he came home as the anointed king of Israel.

Saul, and his servant, could not find the lost donkeys. The servant persuaded Saul to ask the prophet Samuel which way they should go to find the donkeys.  The prophet just happened to be in town that very day.  He reassured them the donkeys were okay, but before Saul left, Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king among the people of Israel.


Do you get edgy when God refuses to follow your agenda?  You plan your life one way, and he scraps your schedule and plans and works things differently. There is a spiritual danger in being overly rigid in our plans and expectations. Our expectations can blind us to the wonders God has planned for us.

Prof. Richard Wiseman gathered 400 volunteers who admitted they were exceptionally fortunate in life, or extremely unlucky.  He gave each participant a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs in it.  The “unlucky” group averaged two minutes. The fortunate group averaged a few seconds.  Why? Because, on the second page, in large print, was the message, “Stop counting – there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

The study demonstrates that “unlucky” people become so focused on their agenda that they develop tunnel vision. The harder they look, the less they see or experience.


Check out the stories in the Bible. How many times does the Lord do significant things in people’s lives because they planned it that way?  Not often.


When the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was nine, he walked through a snowy field with his uncle John.

When they reached the far end of the field, they looked back. Frank’s uncle proudly pointed to his tracks – which formed a straight line across the snow.  Frank’s, on the other hand, meandered all over as he examined bronze pod-topped weeds or the play of shadow on a hillside.

Uncle John pointed to the difference in their tracks as an object lesson in focus.

Later in life, Frank Lloyd Wright reflected, “I determined right then,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

If you’re looking for lost donkeys, be open for anything. God is at work.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Newfangled Quartz Movement Contraptions

Story of the Day for Saturday September 3, 2011

Newfangled Quartz Movement Contraptions

                  “The time is coming,” the Lord declares, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant.” 

                                                                              Jeremiah 31:31-32

 When Jesus reached in his pocket and pulled out a new contract from God, the people who had the hardest time accepting it were those who were legal experts on the original contract.


In 1968, Switzerland dominated the world of watch making – owning over eighty percent of the market share in profits.

The Swiss were proud of their watches – and for good reason: they made watches of exceptional craftsmanship.

Yet, in a little over a decade, Switzerland was devastated. Their profit share plummeted to less than twenty percent. By 1988, employment in the watch industry in Switzerland sank from 90,000 to 28,000.


What happened?

The quartz movement watch captured the world’s attention. It was not only cheaper than a mechanical watch, but far more accurate.


The devastation of the Swiss dominance in watch making, however, is not so much tragic, as ironic. After World War II, the Swiss invented a quartz clock. In 1962, a laboratory was established in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, to develop the quartz movement watch. The world’s first prototype quartz wristwatches were displayed in 1967. That year, their laboratory in Neuchâtel entered their quartz movement watches in time trials and won the first ten places for wristwatch accuracy. Two years later, their Beta 21 was available for commercial production.

But the Swiss watchmakers couldn’t adjust to such a radical change.  They focused, instead, on their proud history. They had a well-deserved legacy for making fine mechanical watches. They weren’t about to change their way of life for some newfangled quartz movement contraptions.


Switzerland was well-positioned to dominate the world in quartz movement watches, just as they had for so many generations with their mechanical watches. But they refused to invest in the new technology because they had mastered the old so well.


God’s first covenant stipulated that we would be blessed if we were obedient. Since no one was obedient, God announced his new covenant: he would forgive all who looked to him for mercy.

This new covenant, like the quartz movement watch, was definitely a change for the better.  The only ones who have ignored it are the self-satisfied: those who are (falsely) proud of their religious accomplishments.

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Let Prisoners Run Wild

Story of the Day for Friday September 2, 2011

Let Prisoners Run Wild

                     They will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore what had once been devastated. 

                                                                           Isaiah 61:4

 In 1852, on Vancouver Island, British settlers founded the village of Victoria. The town was built  with beauty and Old World charm. Flowers were imported from England: hollyhocks, wallflower, and mignonette.  Every home boasted a lovely garden in the front yard.

The peaceful village of Victoria was truly idyllic.


But all this changed in a day. On April 25, 1848, most of the 450 residents were returning home from worship when an American boat, the Commodore, pulled into harbor with 450 passengers. Instantly, the size of the town had doubled.

Gold had been discovered. James Douglas, the governor of the area, had 636 pounds of gold dust. The colony had collected so much gold that he decided to send 800 ounces to the gold mint in San Francisco.

Once the secret was out, Americans poured into Victoria, the only port in the area, to get in on the action. Soon, the Sierra Nevada unloaded another 1900 miners. This was quickly followed by other passenger ships: the Orizaba and the Cortez.

The new residents stripped the surrounding hills of timber and quickly erected a rowdy shantytown. The cost of property exploded. A fifty dollar city lot now sold for three thousand dollars.

Within four months the beautiful village of Victoria exploded from 450 residents to 30,000.


The city of Victoria, once so charming, was overrun by those greedy for fortune, but who cared nothing for beauty.

But the city fought back, and their main weapon was the flower.  The city chose to reclaim their original British heritage. Their government buildings and hotels were constructed with an Old World design. Residents played cricket. But, more than anything else, they planted flowers.

Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a city of more abundant and beautiful flowers. The Butchart Gardens alone overflows with 55 acres of flowers – not to mention Finnerty Gardens, Abkhazi Gardens, and countless others.

Today, the various municipalities of the city hold annual contests to determine who has the most flowers. It is a friendly competition to be named the “Bloomingest Community.”

A Canadian survey wanted to know how much residents loved the city in which they lived. The residents of Victoria ranked number one. Conde Nast Traveller magazine ranked Victoria one of the best cities in the world, and number one in ambience.


Jesus’ first recorded sermon was in his hometown of Nazareth, and based on the words of Isaiah 61. He said he was the one God had sent to bring restoration. He came to restore broken hearts and let prisoners run wild. He was coming to give the mourning a crown of beauty, and to rebuild what was torn down.

As we survey the wreckage of our lives, don’t lose sight of the One whose goal is to rebuild.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Gift You’re Given

Story of the Day for Thursday September 1, 2011

The Gift You’re Given

                      “The eye isn’t able to say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” 

                                                     1 Corinthians12:21

 On June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged the largest-ever amphibious assault and established a foothold on European soil.

Nazi commanders, however, knew the invasion was coming. Once a beachhead was established, their strategy was to advance their formidable tank divisions and destroy the Allied forces – who were backed up by the sea and had no means of escape.


Germany’s fearsome  2nd SS Panzer Division was ordered to advance. The division’s new Tigers were the best tanks yet produced. Yet, because of its formidable size (sixty-three tons), the Tiger was a gas-guzzler – getting only a half mile to the gallon. In addition, the steel tracks wore out quickly on highway travel. The Germans had to move the tank division into position by railroad.


To prevent air attacks, the rail cars were carefully camoflauged at village railway sidings in the area of Montabuban.  These transport cars were unguarded.

In his book, D-Day, Stephen Ambrose narrates the actions of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tetty. Joined by her boyfriend and fourteen-year-old sister, Tetty would slip out in the dark on bicycle and siphon off the axle oil from the railroad cars and replace it with an abrasive powder.


When the Allied invasion hit the shores of Normandy, the Germans loaded their Tigers onto the railroad cars and prepared their counterattack. But every railroad car soon seized up and the damage to the axles was so extensive they couldn’t be repaired. The German division was stuck in southern France and couldn’t find replacement railroad cars for a week.

By the time they were able to move, the French Resistance was in place to harass any movement by rail.


Instead of arriving while the Allies were pinned down on the  beaches, the German division didn’t reach the front until seventeen days later—when the Allied forces had already been able to organize, advance, and disperse.


So, did a French teenager prevent the annihilation of the Allies’ precarious foothold on the continent?  Did her brave action tip the balance, which enabled us to eventually win the war?

I don’t know. But I do know that she did what she could.


Whatever your calling in life, don’t bemoan the things you’re unable to do. The Lord asks of you only one thing: to do what you’re able with the gift you’re given.

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)