Those Who No Longer Have Dirt on Their Feet

Story of the Day for Wednesday November 30, 2011

Those Who No Longer Have Dirt on Their Feet

                     Jesus got up from the dinner, set aside his outer garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then, putting water in a basin, he began to wash his disciple’s feet. 

                                                                      John 13:4-5

When the drawing was over, everyone stared at their leader and realized he was guilty. Their commander ordered that all 28 of them would draw lots, but when it was over, everyone knew the drawing had been rigged.

 

Voter fraud and rigged elections will always occur when those lusting power have the opportunity to cheat the system. At elections, residents of Chicago often cynically urge each other to “vote early; vote often.”

 

Ernest Shackleton and his crew, seeking to become the first party to cross the continent of Antarctica, set out in their ship, Endurance, in 1914. The ice floes in the Weddell Sea, however, stranded their ship. For ten months they waited for the ice to release its grip, but instead the ice crushed Endurance’s sides, and she sank.

Alone in a sea of ice, the crew was forced to pull three lifeboats in sub-zero temperatures, in the hope of finding open water.

 

The expedition never planned that everyone would leave the ship. They had brought only eighteen warm, reindeer-fur sleeping bags. They managed to take some of their wool blankets and improvise extra sleeping bags, but they were hardly comfortable in the arctic cold.

Who should get the warm bags? Shackleton announced they would draw lots. As sailors claimed their sleeping bags, however, they began to grow suspicious. After everyone had drawn lots, they realized the enterprise had been rigged. As seaman William Blakewell later recalled, “There was some crooked work in the drawing, as Sir Ernest, Mr. Wild (the Second in Command), Captain Worsley and some of the other officers all drew wool bags. The fine, warm fur bags all went to the men under them.”

First Officer, Lionel Greenstreet said of Shackleton, “His first thought was for the men under him. He didn’t care if he went without a shirt on his back so long as the men he was leading had sufficient clothing.”

 

In Jewish life, servants could be made to perform any task, no matter how servile, except one: no servant could ever be made to wash his master’s feet. That act was considered too degrading – even for a servant.

Yet, during the Passover feast, Jesus kneeled before the men he led and performed the act that not even a servant would consider.

If all you want from those you lead is compliance, then barking orders and issuing ultimatums should do the trick. But if you’re looking for undying loyalty, you’ll find it from those who no longer have dirt on their feet . . . because of you.

I offer no advice on voter fraud.

                                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

 

Waiting For the Moment

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 29, 2011

Waiting For the Moment

                 Jesus said . . .”Do you still not understand?”  

                                                                         Mark 8:17

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the greatest fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes. Doyle is said to enjoy telling stories where he becomes the butt of the joke.

Once, as the story goes, he left a railway station in Paris and hailed a taxi. When a taxi pulled up, he got in and was about to tell the taxi driver where he wanted to go, when the driver asked, “Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle was surprised that the taxi driver recognized him, and asked whether he knew him by sight.

“No sir, I’ve never seen you before.”

Doyle was puzzled and asked what made him think he was Conan Doyle.

“This morning’s paper,” he said, “had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who return from Marseilles always come to. Your skin color tells me you’ve been on vacation. The ink spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you’re a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“This is truly amazing,” Doyle replied. “You are a real life counterpart to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.”

“There is one other thing,” the driver said.

“What’s that?”

“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”

 

When Jesus walked among us, he didn’t blurt out his identity – that he was God come in human flesh. Instead, he dropped loaded clues. And we must remember that even Jesus’ chosen disciples didn’t fully know who they were following at first. When Jesus calmed a furious storm on the lake, they asked, “Who is this?”

The disciples struggled to connect the dots. Jesus flashed one clue after another, but the disciples couldn’t pick up on them. “Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus asked them.

 

Why was Jesus so coy about who he really was? He wasn’t trying to tease us; he was simply waiting for the right time.

When the Jewish high council sat in a midnight session, the high priest demanded, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am.”

 

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what Jesus was waiting for. He was waiting for the moment when he could offer his life for yours. Only then did he publicly reveal the nameplate on his suitcase.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Kick in the Pants

Story of the Day for Monday November 28, 2011

A Kick In the Pants

                 Those who suffer according to the will of God should entrust their lives to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 

                                                             1 Peter  4:19

The most famous person to die in World War I was not a solider.  She was an English nurse by the name of Edith Cavell (sounds like “gravel”).

When the German forces overran Belgium, Edith left England and traveled to Belgium to work for the Red Cross.   The Berkendael Institute was converted into a hospital to treat wounded soldiers of all nationalities.

Edith Cavell, however, did more than treat the wounded; she also helped soldiers – both British and German – to escape to neutral Holland.

After guiding 200 Allied soldiers to safety, she was caught and arrested on August 3, 1915.  Cavell was thrown in prison for ten weeks.

 

The German military, fearful that higher authorities might grant her clemency, made the quick decision to deliver the death sentence.  Edith’s pastor, the Reverend Stirling Gahan, an Anglican chaplain was allowed to see her the night before her execution.  Cavell received Holy Communion and calmly told him, “I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.”  Then they softly sang “Abide with Me.”

The next day she faced the firing squad.

 

The German military acted quickly to execute this troublemaker before the German high command had the opportunity to release her.   A shrewd move, it would seem.

But it was a major miscalculation.  News of the execution spread swiftly.  The United States, who had not yet entered the war, was outraged, and sentiment shifted to the Allied cause. In Great Britain,  morale soared.  Edith was extolled in countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, posters, and books. As men learned of this woman’s bravery, recruitment doubled in Great Britain.

In the end, Edith’s execution turned into an enormous blunder for the German cause.

 

Edith Cavell was fully aware of the danger of helping wounded soldiers to escape.  Her final words to a Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur were to reassure her loved ones that her soul was safe.

We easily forget that, if we have nothing worth dying for, we have nothing worth living for.  When we commit our lives to God’s will, let’s understand that it often involves suffering.

But there are far worse things than suffering.  One of them is spending your life in a frantic attempt to avoid suffering. When we do that, life has no purpose other than the puny goal of seeking to engineer our own personal comfort.

Go for it.  Find what God has called you to do.  What a kick in the pants it is to charge into life to do good, and leave the results to the faithful Creator.

                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Who’s Pulling the Weight?

Story of the Day for Saturday November 26, 2011

Who’s Pulling the Weight?

                   “Come to me — all of you who are worn out and heavily burdened – and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits well and my burden is light.  

                                                                    Matthew 11:28-30

If I put a yoke on your shoulders, haven’t I just made your burden heavier? And yet, Jesus claims that when you put his yoke on your shoulders, the weight will be lighter?

How can that be?

 

Tim Cahill, in his book, Pecked to Death by Ducks, may have stumbled onto the meaning of Jesus’ saying while at the horse track.

Cahill, a founder of Outside magazine, wanders around the world looking for adventure. A few years ago, his travels led him to chariot racing.

How do you train a horse to pull a chariot? Cahill says the trainers yoke up the big, experienced horses to the young, skittish colts. When the race chute snaps open, the older horse will open at a gallop, and the young colt, harnessed beside him, will quickly learn to do the same.

 

In Jesus’ day, oxen learned to pull in the same way. A young ox was yoked together with an older, well-trained ox. When the master called out instructions, the experienced ox would go or stop, turn left or right, according to command.  The younger ox wasn’t pulling the weight. He was just along for the ride.

 

An old man was trudging down the road with a heavy sack over his shoulder. A pickup pulled over and offered him a ride into town. The cab was full, but he told the man he could hop in the back.

As they drove along, the driver looked in his rearview mirror and noticed the old man was sitting in the back of the truck, but still holding the heavy sack over his shoulder.

The man pulled off the side of the road, got out, and said, “Hey, you silly guy! My truck is already carrying the full weight of your sack. Lay it down. There’s no need for you to be carrying the weight as well.

 

When we try to carry our own load through life, we will find ourselves exhausted, and sooner or later, we will buckle under the weight.

Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves together with him. This yoke will not weigh us down because he is the one who will be pulling the weight.

 

But we’re also learning. Jesus says that, yoked beside him, we, too, will learn to be sensitive and responsive to the will of the Master.

And we will find rest for our souls.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Midnight Ride of Israel Bissel

Story of the Day for Friday November 25, 2011

The Midnight Ride of Israel Bissel

                       Whatever you do, work with all your soul, as for the Lord and not for people, since you know that will receive the reward of your inheritance from the Lord.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

                                              Colossians 3:23-24

 Paul Revere won fame for his midnight ride to warn the people the British were coming. I doubt any of us would know of Revere were it not for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote a well-known poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

You might disagree and say you would have learned this fact from history.  Think so?  Then why have you never heard of Israel Bissel?

Paul Revere galloped on his famous ride for only 10 miles before he was captured by the British. Israel Bissel also rode to warn the American citizens of the British advance.  He warned the citizens of Worchester, Massachusetts, then rode on to New Haven, Connecticut.  After that he rode to New York, and then to Philadelphia. Paul Revere rode 10 miles; Bissel rode 345 miles.  But nobody wrote a famous poem about Israel Bissel (let’s face it: not many words rhyme with “Bissel” – other than “missle,” and “thistle.”)

 

You know what? We all love being like Paul Revere — noticed and appreciated for what we do. You don’t have to be ashamed of that. If anyone tells you that enjoying appreciation is sinful pride, here’s what you do: Say, “Why, thank you. I really appreciate your insightful wisdom!”  Wait until they flash a pleased smile (they will), and then wink at them.

Seriously, think about it: if being appreciated is a bad thing, then we should stop being polite and thanking people for things. We’re only harming them by showing our appreciation!

 

Feeling appreciated is not wrong.  Be aware, however, that it is dangerous. A craving for recognition and appreciation has the potential to warp our motivation.  Instead of doing things out of love for Jesus and our neighbor, we can begin acting so that others will notice us and appreciate us. Not good.

Want to know a test to find out if the desire for appreciation has bent your motives?  Ask yourself: Would I behave exactly the same way if nobody ever saw or noticed what I did?

Here is a suggestion to monitor your motives: make a point to do one small thing every day that no one will see. No one will thank you, or appreciate your act. You did it simply for the wild joy of serving the Lord.

The Bible encourages us to work with all our heart and soul – whether anyone notices or not – whether anyone pats us on the head or not.

There is One who sees. And that is all that really matters.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Looking in the Right Place

Happy Thanksgiving!

Story of the Day for Thursday November 24, 2011

Looking in the Right Place

           I have learned to be content – no matter what happens.  I know what it’s like to live in humble circumstances, and what it’s like to have abundance. In any and every situation: whether well fed or hungry, whether living in prosperity or poverty, I have learned the secret of contentment.  I have strength for anything through Him who empowers me.

Philippians 4:11-13   

             Whenever we are highly motivated to do something, like building a garage or ridding our lawn of dandelions, we can usually achieve our goal.  Yet, when it comes to far higher goals, like happiness and contentment, we are often pretty much clueless.    What do you need to be content?  The knee-jerk response is “more money.”  We would be embarrassed to admit it to anyone, but there is a part of us that believes this.  (Even though research on this subject consistently reports that the wealthiest Americans, as a class, are the most unhappy, we still believe it.)

            My family used to live in an old mansion (built in the late 1800s by a lumber baron).  It had five fireplaces, stained-glass windows along one of the upstairs steps.  The third floor was built to house the butlers and maids.  The dining room was built in a half-circle with a cathedral ceiling.  My daughter counted the rooms one day.  Twenty-eight. 

            Did this enormous house bring us pleasure and enjoyment?  Absolutely! 

            But then, when we moved to Montana, we lived way up a mountain in a one-room cabin with a barrel stove for heat and pack rats annoyed by our intrusion.  And you know what?  We enjoyed that old cabin just as much as our mansion. 

 

            Just as we believe that wealth is the secret to contentment, so we often hear people say, “As long as you have your health, that’s all that matters.” 

            Great.  So what happens if you lose your health?  As counterintuitive as it may sound, people who lose their health often report surprisingly high levels of well-being.  Did you know that, among quadriplegics (those paralyzed from the neck down), only 16% of them consider their happiness to be below average?  The overwhelming majority consider their well-being to be higher than average! 

 

            The apostle Paul is talking about finding the secret to contentment.  He has known wealth and poverty.   As he writes these words, he is in prison.   What has he found that gives him such a remarkable sense of joy in such a dire situation? 

            Paul is not controlled by circumstances.  No matter what his situation in life, he’s on an adventure.   He can sincerely enjoy the pleasures in life but he is not dependent on any circumstance in order to be content.  He knows that he is in the hands of his wise and caring Lord.  He knows that in every situation he can find power from Jesus to love others and know that his life has purpose and challenge. 

            If you are still seeking contentment, make sure you’re looking for it in the right place.

                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rise Again

Story of the Day for Wednesday November 23, 2011

Rise Again

                 Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Even though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light for me. 

                                                                          Micah 7:8

 Leroy and Mike were high school friends who shared a passion for basketball. They both tried out for the varsity, but Leroy made the team, while Mike was cut.

Mike was crushed.

He asked the coach if he could at least ride on the bus with the team for the district tournament. The coach let him accompany them – as long as he helped carry the player’s uniforms.

 

So, how do you respond to failure?

When I fail, I find it convenient to give up – claiming it is God’s will. I have often felt that, if God is behind it, then I will be successful, and it will be easy.

 

Over the years, I have begun to realize that Jesus doesn’t share my theology. He told a parable of a widow who kept coming to a judge with the plea, “Give me justice against my adversary.” Again and again the judge ignored her.

Eventually, she wore him down, and he heard her case.

The point that Jesus is making is that – even after repeated failure – we should never give up. The Lord will come to our aid.

 

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged the incumbent president, Jerry Ford. Reagan fought hard to gain the nomination, but in the end, Ford won.

Reagan had lost, but hadn’t given up. At the Republican National Convention, he met with tearful supporters and quoted from an old ballad, “Sir Andrew Barton.”  There is a line in this poem which says:

I am hurt but I am not slain;

I will lay me down and bleed a while,

And then I will rise and fight again.

 

When, Mike failed to make the basketball team, he didn’t give up. All summer long, he practiced basketball with his friend Leroy Smith. And that next year, Michael Jordan did make the team.

Failure didn’t keep him down. It fueled a fire within him. Jordan says, “It all started when Coach Herring cut me.”

Ronal

Do you feel like you’ve stumbled into a deep pit? Invite your enemies to come quickly, because they won’t have much time to gloat over you. The Lord is our light. He heals, he strengthens, he forgives. You can wallow in the pit for a while, but don’t get used to it down there; the Lord intends to pull you out.

You’re going to rise again.

                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Settled Into a Higher Purpose

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 22, 2011

Settled Into a Higher Purpose

                     And the king said, “Get me a sword . . . and cut the living child in two. Give half to each one of them.”  

                                                          1 Kings 3:24-25

 Two mothers bring their case before King Solomon. One woman claims her child was stolen in the night – that the other woman’s son died, so she stole hers. The other woman says it’s a lie. Both women claim to be the mother of the child, and now Solomon must decide who the true mother really is.

 

Have you ever wished you had greater wisdom?  I’m not talking about the ability to dominate at Trivial Pursuit™. Wisdom is not about knowledge, but the ability to see. It’s not about the quantity of our intelligence but the quality of our decisions.

 

We left King Solomon a moment ago with a dilemma: two women claiming to be the mother of a child. To which woman should he award the child?

While we give Solomon a moment to think, let’s grow in wisdom by playing a game. If you can solve Solomon’s dilemma in one hour, I’ll give you five bucks. If you can figure out how Solomon can know the real mother within ten minutes, I’ll give you all of my daughter’s pets. And, if you solve this case within one minute, I’ll stage a coup d’etat and install you as the dictator of a Third World country. (If, however, you’ve already been taught this story in Sunday school, you’re disqualified from the competition, and, if you wish to become a despot, I must leave you to your own devices.)

Since I’m dangling some pretty handsome rewards in front of you, you might as well set your watch and start thinking before you read further.  Just remember: your reward is based on how quickly you solve the riddle.

 

Researchers from MIT, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon did a study in which they gave rewards for the speed with which participants could perform various tasks. If the tasks involved simple mechanical skill, rewards increased the speed with which the tasks were completed. But – and here is the surprise – when the task involved creative thinking, the higher the reward offered, the longer it took the participants to find the correct solution.

Wisdom is like that: you can’t increase it by trying harder. It doesn’t come through the desire for reward. Wisdom thrives when we’re relaxed and settled into a higher purpose than personal benefit – like when we’re living for the glory of God.

 

Solomon, as you may know, solved his dilemma by requesting a sword and offering to slice the child in two – giving half to each woman. The woman who protested and pleaded that the child be given to the other claimant was deemed the true mother.

If you figured out the solution to Solomon’s problem, I hope you won my daughter’s pets. Inciting an insurrection in a Third World country is dicey . . . and offering to do so wasn’t very wise of me.

                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Simple Smile

Story of the Day for Monday November 21, 2011

A Simple Smile

                         A cheerful heart is good medicine.

                                                                            Proverbs 17:22

 Ron Gutman, a recent graduate of Stanford University, has engaged in intensive study of the smile. It sounds like a frivolous subject for legitimate academic work, but Gutman is very serious about the effect of a smile.

 

Gutman cites a study in which researchers took baseball cards from 1950 and sorted them into three groups: those players who were not smiling, those with a slight smile, and those with beaming smiles. They discovered that the average lifespan of those not smiling was 72.9 years, those who slight smiles, 75, and those with broad smiles lived to an average of 79.9 years.

The researchers didn’t put it in these words, but what they discovered was that the Bible has it right: a cheerful heart is good medicine.

 

Those saddled with a persistent case of the gloomies will be quick to point out that the Bible also says there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep. Well, of course there is. Both mourning and dancing are appropriate in their time.

Cheerfulness, however, isn’t the opposite of mourning; it’s the opposite of scowling – the dour attitude that makes us miserable and deflates the spirits of others.

 

Others are suspicious of cheerfulness because they’ve seen the phony, plastered grins of those trying to manipulate us for selfish ends.

Curiously enough, however, “scowlers” have a tougher time distinguishing false from genuine smilers. A French study had participants hold a pencil in their mouth with their lips – which forces a frown. The other group didn’t get pencils. When both groups were asked to identify photos of faked and genuine smiles, those without the pencil were great judges. Those who were forced to frown suffered impaired judgment.

 

Gutman cites another study in which the frontal lobes of patient’s brains were examined by FMRI scans. A smile sent the frontal lobe into activity greater than receiving $30,000 in cash . . . or even eating chocolate.

A cheerful heart is good medicine. It reduces stress-enhancing hormones and increases mood-enhancing hormones.

 

Cheerfulness is good for us, but the real point I’m working toward is that it’s a gift we can give to others. A simple smile is able to brighten the mood of others.

And, while I know I’m supposed to be saving the planet, averting nuclear war, and ending world hunger, sometimes I need to start with the little things and work my way up. I like how Mother Theresa put it, “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.”

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Repentance Leads Us to Good Places

Story of the Day for Saturday November 19, 2011

Repentance Leads Us to Good Places

                                                     Look what this godly sorrow has worked in you. . . 

                                                                                               2 Corinthians 7:11

 Craig Brian Larson tells the stories I would like to pass on today.

New York’s Citicorp skyscraper was completed in 1977.   Structural engineers hailed the work of architect, William LeMessurier, as they praised this seventh tallest building in the world.

But a year after the building opened, LeMessurier noticed a frightening error.  Certain joints in the superstructure had been bolted.  Nothing wrong with that, except that LeMessurier had neglected to calculate the extra force of a non-perpendicular wind.  He learned that, once every 16 years, a wind comes along which would be strong enough to collapse the joint on the 13th floor.

No one knew about his mistake. If LeMessurier admitted the error, he could face lawsuits, bankruptcy, and disgrace.  LeMessurier took a deep breath and informed city officials.  Welding, costing several million dollars, began immediately and in three months the structure was pronounced one of the safest structures ever built.

And LeMessurier?  Rather than seeing his career in ruins, his reputation soared.  One engineer praised LeMessurier for having the courage to say, “I got a problem. I made the problem.  Let’s fix the problem.”

 

When we recognize and admit our sin, we usually experience a time of sadness.  We feel a genuine sorrow for how we have failed God and how we have hurt others.

But repentance lifts us out of the pit of sorrow.  Jesus has come to inspect the sorry mess we have created, and to forgive us.  How do you describe the utter relief that comes from being released from your sins?

 

When a child wanders from the path his parents tell him to take and winds up falling into a deep pit, it is comforting to know his parents will come looking for him.  It is more comforting to know that they are more concerned than angry.  But the greatest relief is in knowing that they will do anything to help us climb out of the pit.

The final step, however, is the determination to stay on the trail and avoid the pit.

In 1989, University of Michigan basketball player, Rumeal Robinson stepped to the foul line late in the game.  Down by one point, his two shots could put them back in the lead.  He missed them both and Wisconsin won an upset victory.

Robinson felt bad that his two missed shots cost his team the game.  But he didn’t leave it at that.  He “repented.”  He determined that he would work to become better at shooting free throws and began shooting 100 extra foul shots after each practice.

The University of Michigan made it to the national championship game.  With three seconds left, Rumeal was fouled and went to the free throw line with two shots.  First shot, swish.  Second shot, swish, and the Michigan Wolverines were national champions.

Repentance leads us to good places.

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)