Breathing Holes

Story of the Day for Monday October 31, 2011

Breathing Holes

                 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good to be here.  Let’s make three tents . . .

                                                        Mark 9:5

In  October, 1988, an Alaskan Eskimo discovered three gray whales who were drowning.  Surrounded by Arctic ice, the whales punched out a small breathing hole, but it was quickly icing over. The Eskimo returned with others who wielded chainsaws and pick axes to cut a series of holes in order to lead the whales back to open water.

The work was exhausting, but their story was picked up by the national news. Soon, oil companies and the military were donating equipment to help free Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone – the names given to the three whales. By creating a series of breathing holes, the rescue teams eventually led the whales to open water.

 

When we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life, have you noticed how we often speak of “drowning”? We need “breathing holes.” If you don’t take regular time to come up for air you will starve your soul of oxygen and other people will notice that your lips are turning blue.

A breathing hole is any way that you can find quiet and refresh your soul. Where you can pray, and ponder, and let God’s love wash over you to cleanse you and heal your wounds.

 

Those who worked to make breathing holes for the gray whales noticed that the whales were bleeding. The ice on the sides of the hole was so jagged that the whales were cutting themselves when they tried to come up for air. The smallest whale, Bone, eventually tore all the flesh off his snout and died.

Can I ask you something?  Is your “breathing hole” jagged around the edges?  I have seen people who go to worship or read books for a breath of fresh air, but come away bloodied with guilt. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, conviction of sin and rebuke are necessary. But remember this: the Good News of Jesus is always exactly that – GOOD news.

 

Our first priority is to find breathing holes with smooth edges.  But, our second priority is to leave them.

The rescuers made a series of breathing holes, but the whales didn’t want to move from the one they were at.

 

Neither did Peter. Standing on a high mountain with James and John, he saw Jesus shine with a glory greater than the sun. This moment was so awesome, that Peter wanted to stay, and offered to build shelters up there on the peak.

The shelters were never built. To love and serve a hurting world, they would have to go down the mountain.

Breathing holes are not meant to escape from the hectic demands of life, but to re-enter the fray with a lungful of fresh air.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 


 

We All Win Together

Story of the Day for Saturday October 29, 2011

We All Win Together

                 Do nothing from selfish ambition or vanity.  Instead, in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Look out – not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

                                                     Philippians 2:2-4

Jesus lived in a “high status” culture.  People were quite competitive about their ranking in society.   Even where you sat at a meal indicated your rank.

Have you noticed how often Jesus’ disciples argue about rank?  The gospels portray them as quite competitive.  Jesus reveals for the first time that he is the Messiah, and that he will sacrifice his life for others.   The disciples don’t get it.  Soon Jesus catches them arguing about who is the greatest.  When the kingdom comes in glory, James and John ask if they can have the highest seats of honor next to Jesus.  Even at the Last Supper, Luke tells us the disciples were arguing about who is greatest.

 

In the end, however, Jesus transformed a handful of vain and self-centered followers into a body where no one was obsessed with outdoing the others. Just as all the parts of a body work for the good of the whole, so we are to be “one in spirit and purpose.”   That is why Paul urges us that “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.”

 

Don’t get me wrong: competition is not always bad. High school sports are a form of competition.  So is business.  Even though these forms of competition can easily get out of hand, they are not inherently bad.

All the same, Jesus has made it clear that our purpose in the body of Christ is not to compete for the highest status, but to lower ourselves to serve. Those who kneel to wash the feet of others are the “greatest” in the kingdom.

 

Some Christian missionaries lived among the Agta Negritto people in the Philippines.  They introduced them to the game of croquet.  They gave everyone a mallet and a ball and showed them, not only how to hit the ball through the wickets, but how to knock someone else’s ball out of the way.

The Negrittos didn’t understand.  “Why would I want to knock his ball out of the way?”

“So you can win!” the missionaries explained.

The Negritto people survive by working together as a community, so they did not understand this kind of competition.

The Negrittos ended up ignoring the missionaries’ advice.  They shouted encouragement to each other until the last person completed the course and then they shouted, “We won!  We won!”

That is how we live in the body of Christ.  We all win together.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Doing Dishes and Giving Foot Rubs

Story of the Day for Friday October 28, 2011

Doing Dishes and Giving Foot Rubs

                      Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord!  Didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many miracles?” 

And then I will say to them plainly, “I never knew you . . .” 

                                                               Matthew 7:22-23

I can move objects with my mind. Experts in the field of the paranormal call this phenomenon “telekinesis.”

Yesterday, when we drove down the mountain into town, my wife put a small plate of chocolate-chip cookies on the dashboard. At the foot of Twin Lakes hill is a sharp right turn that I have recognized as a “psychic field.” In some mysterious way, it focuses my telekinetic powers.

We sped down the hill and my concentration was so intense I neglected to brake around the turn at the bottom. Focusing on the cookies, I actually slid them along the dashboard toward me. Using only my mind!

 

My wife is less than impressed with my paranormal powers.  She is more thrilled when I offer to wash the dishes, or pick wildflowers for her, or when I leave the toilet seat down.

 

When Jesus walked this earth the supernatural flowed out of him. He was continually working miracles and driving out demons. And he authenticated the authority of the Twelve by giving them the power to do miracles too.

Yet, oddly enough, Jesus never considered the supernatural to be a sign of our spirituality.  He never tells us we supposed to perform miracles. Matter of fact, when Jesus gave his most extended teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, he never mentioned miracles at all, except as a cautionary tale.

He said that, on the Judgment Day, many people will try to prove their allegiance to him by the supernatural feats they performed in his name. Jesus, will tell them he’s not impressed. Then he’ll say, “I never knew you.  Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

 

What, then, is Jesus looking for in his followers?  The final words of his sermon tell us we are wise if we listen to his words and put them into practice. Faith is not shown by displays of the supernatural, but by fruit.  Jesus never said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples: if you perform miracles, and brag about them at a prayer meeting.”

 

I don’t think my wife wants to acknowledge my amazing paranormal powers, because, when the cookies slid across the dashboard, they, unfortunately, fell on the floor.  Next time, I think I’ll amaze her by sliding a book, or something.

Until then, I’ll just have to impress her by doing the dishes and giving her foot rubs.

                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 


It’ll Be Enough

Story of the Day for Thursday October 27, 2011

It’ll Be Enough

                    Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother said, “Here’s a boy with five loaves of barley bread and two little fish. But how far will they go among so many people?”  

                                                                                     John 6:8-9

Sometimes at night, when the wolves were howling on Still Peak, our old dog, Ivan the Terrible, would join in. Some deep, primal memory told him he was part of the pack. Pointing his nose to the night sky, he would reply with a lonesome howl.

But Ivan never sounded like a wolf. He sounded like a cow trying to yodel.

 

Ivan the Terrible died this last summer, but I always envied him when he would sing. I didn’t envy him because he was good – he was so bad as to make you wince – but he howled nonetheless. I’m afraid to sing in public. What if I’m off-key? Ivan, on the other hand, never worried what he sounded like – he just gave you what he had.

 

“Use what talents you possess,“ Henry Van Dyke said, “the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

And, yeah, I know William Purkey’s words can be misconstrued, but I like them anyway: “Dance like no one is watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

 

But, hey, if we don’t attempt something, at least we won’t fail, right? Who’s going to laugh at our clumsiness if we don’t join in the dance?

It turns out our common notions about this are completely backward. The well-known psychologist, Karen Horney, discovered that, if you do not attempt to do something, you will usually have the self-impression you have failed.  Horney claims that, by simply attempting to do something, we will almost always conclude that you have succeeded.

It’s not about performance; it’s about trying.

 

All the same, we often define ourselves by our limitations. How many times have you found yourself lamenting, “I wish there was more I could do?”

But the Lord only expects you to use the gifts he’s given you, to offer what you have – and not worry about what you don’t have.

 

Once, a young boy had little to offer Jesus. Just five loaves of barley bread and a couple of small fish. Not much, but he gave what he had.

Yet, in the hands of Jesus, it was plenty.

 

Don’t focus on the talents you don’t have, the money you don’t have, the opportunities you don’t have. The only thing that matters to Jesus is using what you’ve got.

It’ll be enough.

                                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Gain the Same Reputation

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 26, 2011

Gain the Same Reputation

                     Everyone will know you are my followers by this: if you love each other.  

                                                             John 13:35

In A Severe Mercy Sheldon Vanauken writes of the time he and his wife, Davy, traveled across the Atlantic on an ocean liner. During the voyage, a woman traveling to Rome lost her handbag containing all her money: four hundred dollars. Sheldon and Davy were struck by the fact that there were four hundred passengers on the ship. “Only one dollar apiece,” Vanauken thought, “and the poor lady would smile again.”

The couple took their idea to the Purser, who said company rules forbade employees from taking up a collection, but urged them to take up a collection themselves.

The Purser gave them the passenger list and almost everyone – from a Shropshire landed baronet to an American communist gave a contribution. They faced the most suspicion from New Yorkers, who wanted to know what their racket was. They learned to say politely: “Do you mind me asking, are you from New York? You are? Well, never mind, then. We’re not asking New Yorkers – too suspicious. Forget it. Thank you very much.” Later, some of the New Yorkers would sidle up to them and hand them their donation – one giving twenty dollars.

Vanauken tried to keep their activities anonymous, but someone spilled the beans and the woman, who received the collection, rushed to their dining table and wept in gratitude. The woman was so moved by their compassion that she asked if they were Christians.

 

Have you ever gone out of your way to help a stranger and have them ask you that? If you’re a Christian, it’s a gratifying question. But what if you’re not? In Sheldon and Davy’s case, they told the woman, no, they were not Christians.

It must be annoying for those who don’t follow Jesus to go out of their way to help someone, and then be asked if they’re a Christian. Do you have to be a Christian, for Pete’s sake, just to be kind to someone?

No, you don’t. But isn’t the question thought-provoking?  Why is it, when we show care to a stranger that we don’t hear them inquire, “Excuse me, but are you an atheist?” Or, “You wouldn’t, by any chance, happen to be a Steelers fan, would you?”

Sheldon Vanauken and his wife held no religious beliefs. But they were taken aback by the mere assumption that this woman immediately suspected they were Christians. Why, Vanauken wondered, do so many people think that, when compassion is shown, Christians are the most likely culprits?

 

History provides exceptions, of course. We point to crusades and inquisitions staged in the name of Christ, to TV evangelists who are con men posing as prophets.

Yet, the very act of pointing out lovelessness in the name of Christ suggests a revealing truth: that Jesus was known by his sacrificial love for the world, and he calls his followers to gain the same reputation.

                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

The Seedling Mile

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 25, 2011

The Seedling Mile

                 Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

                                                         Psalm 34:8

 Can you envision life in America without the invention of the automobile? When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine asking a girl out to a drive-in movie, and then having to watch the entire show sitting on a horse.

 

The automobile has revolutionized our lives. But, it was Carl Graham Fisher who, in 1912, proclaimed the obvious, but brilliant insight that, “The automobile won’t get anywhere until it has good roads to run on.”

Back in 1912, there were no paved roads in America. Major transportation was done by railways. Most roads were dirt “market roads.” Many rejected the notion of expanding roadways to enhance interstate travel, contemptuously labeling them “peacock alleys” – roads intended only for the pleasure of the wealthy.

 

Fisher proposed building a paved, two-lane highway from New York City to San Francisco. But, without government funding, how would you pay for it? Americans had grown up without paved roads and most saw no need for them.

Carl Graham Fisher realized that the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration, and so he hatched the plan called the “Seedling Mile.”  Across the planned route, he would pave a mile of highway. He required that the seedling mile be at least six miles from any town, and on a section of rutty road where travel was difficult.  Building a smooth, paved road in the middle of nowhere is an odd notion, but Fisher knew that if motorists struggled along a rough road, and then experienced the sheer pleasure of a mile of smooth travel, they would insist on having the entire road paved. Fisher’s madcap idea was furthered by such things as the Iowa-Minnesota football game. A heavy rainstorm after the game bogged down nearly 500 motorists traveling between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The road to Davenport was blocked by stuck cars. Over 1500 football fans had to spend the night in their vehicles or trudge to nearby farmhouses for refuge.

Enough was enough. The people of Iowa saw the difference between muddy roads and the seedling mile. The next spring, Iowa voters approved measures for paving projects across the state.

 

King David wrote a song with the line, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Although Carl Graham Fisher was brilliant, we must credit David with the invention of the “Seedling Mile.”  God knows the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration.

                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

Story of the Day for Monday October 23, 2011

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

                 The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?” Turning around, Jesus scolded them, and they traveled on to the next village. 

                                                                                Luke 9:54-55

Where would we be without Benjamin Franklin? For starters, we wouldn’t have any Ben Franklin department stores. And, without him, that oval in the middle of a fifty dollar bill would’ve been blank.

Seriously, though, Franklin was a genius. For starters, he invented the Franklin stove and bifocals. But, perhaps his most important invention was the lightning rod.

 

Unfortunately, Franklin’s lightning rod was not greeted with gratitude by theologians. Many devout churchmen believed lightning was God’s way of sending His wrath on a wicked world. Using a lightning rod, therefore, defied the will of God.

Franklin introduced the lightning rod in 1752. Three years later, an earthquake rocked Massachusetts – causing some preachers to shout that this was God’s punishment for the “Franklin rods” installed on some buildings in their state. Soon, Bible scholars in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain united in denouncing Franklin’s invention as heresy.

 

James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples. He renamed them the “Sons of Thunder.” Hmm, I wonder why?

As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem, he sent messengers into a Samarian village to get things ready for him. When the Samaritans, who hated the Jews, found out Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they refused to welcome him to their town.

What to do? The Sons of Thunder, eager to help, suggested they pray to God to rain down fire from heaven. That would teach them a lesson.

Jesus, however, did not scold the Samaritans; instead, he scolded his disciples for their snotty attitude.

 

Throughout the ages, some have thundered the message of God’s judgment so loud, the world can barely hear the words of God’s tender mercy. Unbelievers get the feeling God wants to destroy people.  If James and John would’ve called down fire and destroyed that Samaritan village, how many religious people would have nodded in approval?

 

The church in San Nazaro in the Republic of Venice, was designed with huge vaults. The military saw the vaults as the ideal place to store a hundred ton of gunpowder.

In 1767, the church was struck by lightning. Not only the church, but much of the city was obliterated, and more than 3000 people were killed.

Suddenly, theologians made a startling discovery – “Franklin’s rods” did not defy the will of God after all.  From that time on, cathedrals and churches installed lightning rods on their buildings.

 

James and John, the Thunder Brothers, wanted to pray for God’s wrath. They had yet to understand that Jesus, with all due respect to Benjamin Franklin, made the first lightning rod. He was the first lightning rod.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Focus of His Affection

Story of the Day for Saturday October 22, 2011

The Focus of His Affection

                      Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 

                                                                   Luke 12:7

Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. He won six league batting titles and, in a career spanning a couple decades, averaged – averaged! — .344 at the plate.

Williams was meticulous about every aspect of hitting. He would visit lumberyards so he could choose wood with narrow growth rings for his bats. He would weigh his bats on a postal scale in the clubhouse to make sure the humidity had not increased their weight, and was known to bathe them in alcohol to keep them cool.

If a bat didn’t meet his specifications, he would return it. Williams demanded his bats be 33 ounces. An official from the Louisville Slugger company couldn’t believe that Williams could sense such minor differences in weight, so the company official set six bats in front of him, and challenged him to identify the bat that weighed a half an ounce more than the others. He did.

He once set a shipment of bats back to the factory because the handles were too thick. He was right: they measured the grips and they were five thousandths of an inch too large.

 

When we care deeply about something, we pay attention to the smallest details. We’re tuned in to things that others might ignore.

 

Dr. Robert C. Murray, Jr. related an incident in Reader’s Digest. Late one night, he was summoned to the hospital to attend to one of his patients. He tried to quietly slip out of the house, but tripped over a toy in the dark and loudly crashed to the floor. As he lay there, rubbing his sore leg, his wife slept soundly.

Then, their infant made a faint cough in the nursery. His wife immediately leaped out of bed, rushing past her husband as he lay on the floor.

As she returned from the baby’s room she looked at her husband and said, “What on earth are you doing on the floor?”

 

One of the ways that Jesus assures you how deeply he cares about you is by noticing the details. When he tells you he knows the number of hairs on your head, he’s saying that’s how closely he’s focused on you. You are the object of his attention.

 

David wrote a psalm, inviting God to know the details of his life. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any harmful tendency in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

If our standing with God is based on our behavior, our desperate desire is that God would not know us; that we could, somehow, hide from him. But once we understand that we are the focus of his affection, everything changes. He even knows the hairs on our head, but will not turn away his face.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

The Next Step

Story of the Day for Friday October 21, 2011

The Next Step

                Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. 

                                                                 Psalm 119:105

 When Lewis and Clark led the expedition with the Voyage of Discovery, they knew they would travel through much uncharted territory.  What many don’t realize is that they knew the exact location of their destination on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Robert Gray, on the ship Columbia, sailed into the estuary of a large river that he named after his ship. Gray precisely established the latitude and longitude.

Before the voyage, William Clark was trained in the use of the sextant and other navigational tools, and was able to establish the expedition’s location as they traveled. And so, they knew precisely where their journey would end, but had little notion where their path would take them until they reached the mouth of the Columbia River.

 

The journey of the Voyage of Discovery sounds a lot like our lives.  We know the destination. God is leading us home to heaven.  But we have no idea where the path will take us before we make it home.

All of God’s people are occasionally baffled – and even frustrated – with the path the Lord is leading us on.  God leads Abraham up the hills of Moriah to sacrifice his only son. God has Joseph taken captive as a slave and later thrown into prison in a foreign land. God devastates Job’s prosperity and health.  And none of them know what God is up to.

 

We want to know The Plan. We want to see the Big Picture.  But God refuses to tip his hand. In the midst of bankruptcy, or divorce, or the cancer tests that come back positive, we want God to explain himself and show us how these things will work out. We cry out to God with these kinds of questions. But he does not answer.

 

When Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark for their journey, he possessed the most extensive library in the world on what lay before them. His books told him of giant, prehistoric creatures on the upper Missouri River. He learned that all the great rivers of the west: the Missouri, Colorado, Rio Grande, and the Columbia – all began on a single mountain. His books told him the Blue Ridge Mountains of his home were probably the highest mountains on the American continent.

 

God does not guide us by showing us the Big Picture. Instead, he shows us the next step.

When the psalmist says that God’s word is a lamp for his feet, you should understand that the light does not illumine the whole path.  The feeble light of an ancient lamp is only bright enough to show you the next step.

Lewis and Clark did not know what lay around the next bend. You don’t need to know either. All you need to know is where to put your foot for the next step. And where your journey will end. The Lord’s word will  give you the light to do that.

                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Intent of Our Heart

Story of the Day for Thursday October 20, 2011

The Intent of Our Heart

                 We all stumble a lot.  

                                         James 3:2

 A little four-year-old girl has a secret plan. Her mother’s birthday is tomorrow morning, so she is going to make her mommy breakfast in bed.

Her older brother shows her how to set the alarm clock so she can wake up before the rest of the household.  Her mom tucks her in for the night, but she can hardly sleep – she is too full of joy at the thought of the present she is going to give her mommy in the morning.

When the alarm goes off, she yawns, tiptoes downstairs into the kitchen, and prepares a birthday feast. She makes toast with jelly (lots of it), pours a glass of orange juice, and heats a pot of hot water for tea. On the tray she puts the birthday card she made the night before.

The little four-year-old bursts into the bedroom, crying, “Surprise! Happy Birthday Mommy!” She beams as she rushes to set the tray on her mother’s lap. But, in her excitement, she trips on the rug by the bed. Orange juice flies everywhere. Hot tea scalds her mother’s arm, and the toast lands on the new quilt – jelly-side down.

 

As your distraught little girl breaks into tears, what do you do? Will you be furious because of the hot tea water that splattered on your arm? Will you punish her for the damage done to your quilt?

Or will you hug her tight and say, “It’ okay, sweetheart! It was an accident. Thank you for making me such a special breakfast. I love you!”

 

Think hard about how you would respond to your brokenhearted little daughter, because that little girl is you.

 

All of us stumble through life. The problem, however, is that we’re usually lousy at assessing our guilt. We tend to feel guilt based on the consequences of our behavior, rather than the intent of our heart.

But, the unintentional mistakes we make can occasionally have big consequences. As long as we assess our guilt based on the degree of damage we caused, rather than the intent of our heart, we will never find relief from our feelings of guilt.

 

When I said that the little girl who stumbled was you, I didn’t just mean that, like her, you goof up a lot (which we all do).

What I was really getting at, is that Jesus doesn’t punish you based on the consequences of your mistakes. Instead, in your grief, he is crying with you. He wants to wrap you up in his love, and let you know that it’s okay.

God always offers forgiveness for the sins of our heart. And he has nothing but love and understanding for the disastrous mistakes we never intended.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)