Letting Him Find You

Story of the Day for Monday November 6, 2011

Letting Him Find You

                     I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant. 

                                                                                Psalm 119:176

Stephen Pile, in The Book of Failures, tells the story of a traveler returning, years later,  to his native Italy. In 1977, Nicholas Scotti flew from San Francisco to Rome. His flight stopped for a couple hours in New York for refueling. Mr. Scotti assumed they had already landed in Rome and left the airport.

Scotti was confused by the unusual skyline, but assumed the city had undergone recent modernization. He was amazed that most people spoke English, but figured that Rome was a popular tourist attraction for Americans.

When Scotti spotted a policeman, he asked, in Italian, for directions to the bus depot. Oddly enough, the policeman was an immigrant from Naples and conversed with him in fluent Italian.

But Scotti was baffled when he found no one else in Rome who could speak Italian. Even when told he was told he was in New York, he refused to believe it. In the end, police officers drove him back to the airport and sent him on a return flight to San Francisco. But, for Nicholas Scotti, the police car racing to the airport only confirmed he was in Rome. “I know I’m in Italy,” he said, “That’s how they drive.”

 

Nicholas Scotti has nothing on me. Yesterday I got lost while hunting.

Northwest Montana has immense tracts of forbidding wilderness and I love to disappear into the deep woods to explore new areas. Yesterday, my wife drove me several miles up a winding mountain road and dropped me off.

I worked my way up a steep mountainside to an open ridge, but then the fog rolled in and obscured all the surrounding peaks I use as landmarks. Though I had never been in this area before, it, somehow, didn’t look right. Very odd.

The most dangerous time in getting lost is when you don’t know you are. Like Mr. Scotti, you try to reinterpret everything that is confuses you and make it fit your assumptions.

One of the best things that can happen is to be lost, but know it. When the fog lifted yesterday I was astounded to see that Lydia Mountain was no longer sitting in its traditional location. That revelation told me where a road was.

The road was important – not because I could now find my way home – but because my wife could now come looking for me and find me.

 

In today’s religious thought, we think of “The Lost” as those who have no saving faith in Christ. But that usage is rare in the Bible. Usually it is God’s own people who manage to go astray and lose their bearings.

 

When you know you’ve strayed in life and lost your way, it’s not so much a matter of finding God as letting him find you.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Learning to See

Story of the Day for Saturday November 5, 2011

Learning to See

                    Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good to be here. If you’d like, I’ll build three shelters . . .” 

                                                                                 Matthew 17:4

When the hospital administration proposed the construction of a new hospital to the medical staff, the reactions varied.

The dermatologist warned against making any rash moves, while the allergist voted to scratch it.  The ophthalmologist thought the idea was short-sighted, and the pathologist was adamant: “Over my dead body!”

But the gastroenterologist had a gut feeling it might be a good idea, and the podiatrist agreed, saying it would be a big step forward.

The proctologist, however, was adamant, “We’re already in arrears!” The urologist chimed in, saying the idea wouldn’t hold water.

The radiologist claimed he could see right through their objections.

“Well, you’ve got a lot of nerve,” said the neurologist. The anesthesiologists thought the new hospital would be a gas.  “This puts a whole new face on the matter,” the plastic surgeon added.

The orthopedist stood up to offer a joint resolution, and, while the internist thought it was a hard pill to swallow, they finally agreed, and were joined by the micro surgeons, who were thinking along the same vein.

Reluctantly, the psychiatrist voted for the project, but muttered that he still thought the idea was crazy.  And the cardiologist went along with the majority because he didn’t have the heart to say no.

 

We all tend to approach life from our own perspective. This can be a good thing because when it helps others understand a situation from a fresh angle.

But failing to consider where other people are coming from is the source of a lot of aggravation in life.  When we become self-centered, our failure to be sensitive to the viewpoint of others invites hard feelings and misunderstandings.

Everyone agrees that people who are selfish and fail to see the perspectives of others are obnoxious.  It’s harder to grasp, however, how often people who are compassionate can do more harm than good because their perspective is too narrow.

 

When Jesus first explained to his disciples that his mission as the Messiah was to suffer and die, Peter – motivated by love and loyalty – shouted, “This will never happen to you!” Peter’s motives were caring, but to Jesus, the suggestion that he avoid the way of suffering was the temptation of Satan himself.

About a week later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain – where he showed them his true majesty. Again, Peter’s motives were kind, but his perspective was skewed. He voted to stay on the mountain and bask in the glory, and, once again, failed to see the situation from Jesus’ perspective.

 

It’s not enough to care; to do good we must also learn to see.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 


 

Good Excuses

Story of the Day for Friday November 4, 2011

Good Excuses

                     And from the first one to the last, they all made excuses. 

                                                                Luke 14:18

Life was good. Our daughter, Erika, had just gotten married, hunting season was starting in two weeks, and I finally had some time to finish cutting firewood for the winter.

Then my friend, Warren Ellis, ruined it all.

 

Warren gave a presentation to our congregation about volunteering to help the flood victims in Minot, North Dakota. I think appeals to help people in need are wonderful – and I always hope that others will volunteer to help out.

But, afterward, Warren didn’t ask how many other people had signed up to go; he asked me if I had signed up. When I balked and explained my complicated schedule, he offered no sympathy. “Pray about it,” is all he said.

 

I didn’t really pray about it much, because I knew I’d end up going, but I just wished there was someone who would listen empathetically to my excuses for not going.

Warren had plenty of excuses for not going to Minot, but he never invoked them. He has bad knees and a sore back. Nevertheless, he continues to squander his vacation days to volunteer his time to help the flood victims. He makes presentations to churches about the desperate need in Minot, but he told me privately that he is scared to death to speak in public. Yet, week after week he battles his anxiety, and, with his pulse racing wildly, he stands up in front of people to urge others to join him in helping out the flood victims.

 

When we arrived in Minot I was disappointed to learn that almost everyone had better excuses than me for not being there. But there they were.

The one volunteer who captured my attention was Ashley, a young woman in her mid-twenties who came from over 900 miles to help out. Ashley was a spunky one. Mucking out flooded basements is a messy job, but she didn’t shy away from any task, no matter how unpleasant. She worked hard – without whining. Without excuses.

You should also know that Ashley was a paraplegic. A spinal injury two years ago has left her paralyzed in a wheel chair. But she has regained enough use of her arms to outwork anyone around her.

 

Jesus told a story comparing the kingdom of God to a wedding banquet. His point was that those who turn down God’s invitation to join the party don’t do so because they have good reasons; they only have good excuses.

 

I’m learning that, if you’re heart isn’t into sharing the love of Jesus, you can always find a good excuse for not doing it. Those who are passionate about caring ignore excuses.  They just do it.

                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Be Faithful in Attending Your Local Department

Story of the Day for Thursday November 3, 2011

Be Faithful in Attending Your Local Service Department

                 Two men went into the temple to pray . . . The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people. . . “  But the tax collector . . . said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” 

                                                                     Luke 18:10-13

Many years ago, in a small Wisconsin town, a widow and her three small daughters were staying away from worship at the Methodist Church. A member talked to the widow about her worship attendance and discovered the woman was too embarrassed to come to church because she could not afford good clothes for the girls.

The member reported this to the Methodist Women’s Circle of the congregation, and the women’s group immediately responded by generously providing the girls with new clothes.

But still the family didn’t come to church.

When they saw the mother again, and asked about her absence from worship, she said, “The girls looked so nice in their new dresses, I sent them to the Presbyterian Church.”

 

In the old days the church may have been a place to showcase our dress, but I don’t see much of that anymore. But what is always a danger, and never seems to go out of style, is using the church as a place to showcase ourselves.

Pastors from the various churches in a community where I lived, used to gather for meetings. They were good men, and I liked them. But the meetings began to turn into bragfests – each pastor vying to outdo the others in the miracles claimed or the number of conversions. No one dared mention their struggles and failures, or their sins.

 

Jim Corley wrote in Christian Reader about a conversation he had with his friend, and fellow church member, Alex. Jim found out Alex was reluctant to go to worship because he was struggling in his life and felt he was not being a good Christian example. He felt like such a hypocrite.

So, one day, Jim went to the car dealership where Alex worked.

“Alex, what do you call this part of the dealership?” as he nodded to the area outside Alex’s cubicle.

“You mean the showroom?”

“And what’s behind the showroom, past the parts counter?”

“The service department.”

“What if I told you, “ Jim said, “I didn’t want to bring my car to the service department because it was running rough”

“That would be crazy! That’s the whole point of service departments – to fix cars that aren’t running right.”

Jim then told his friend that the church was not a showroom – where we seek to impress people. Instead, the church is meant to be God’s service department. “Helping people get back in running order with God is what the church is all about.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Pets

Story of the Day for Wednesday November 2, 2011

The World’s Worst Pets

                     Put up with each other and forgive whatever complaints you may have with each other. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  

                                                            Colossians 3:13

 I just read a list of the worst pets to own. The article held no value to me because I’ve never been tempted to own a Madagascar hissing cockroach, or an iguana (which can grow to six feet and often carries disease), or a boa constrictor (which can do just what its name suggests).

Don’t get me wrong – I do own dangerous and undesirable pets (which, inexplicably, failed to make the list.)  I’m not proud of this, but I currently own a menagerie of pet peeves.

Pet peeves multiply faster than rabbits, and you waste a lot of time feeding them. A pet peeve, by definition, is something that annoys you. So why I keep adding to my collection of things that irritate me is, to say the least, mystifying.

 

But, just as mystifying is the new school of thought that help us cope with life’s grievances. The new thinking claims we have a right to be angry. When we experience injustice – or even unfortunate events – we, supposedly, are entitled to be upset.

Well, okay. Maybe it does help to ventilate anger and express grievances. But I can’t help thinking about Charlie Plumb. Lieutenant Plumb was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, when he was shot down on May 19, 1967, south of Hanoi. As a POW, he endured unimaginable tortures, starving, and humiliation. Five years and nine months later, Plumb was released and returned to the United States.

Plumb underwent routine psychiatric counseling to help him deal with the trauma from his years of imprisonment. “You have the right,” the psychiatrist kindly told him, “to be bitter.”

But Plumb refused to accept this kind of therapy. “I have the right to be bitter?” he would ask, “That’s like saying I have the right to have diarrhea.”

Now, I doubt if I could stagger out of a prison camp like Charlie Plumb and simply forgive those who tortured me, and get on with life without experiencing deep emotional damage. But, I wish I could.

 

A few weeks ago, I rode over a thousand miles with a guy named Rob. When I drive I get easily annoyed with other drivers who fail to dim their headlights or signal a turn in busy traffic. But Rob had a different approach. He talked other drivers through their faults. “Hey, buddy,” he would calmly say, “no need to cut so sharply in front of me.” “Hey, buddy, no need to tailgate me; I can’t go any faster than the car in front of me.”

By the end of our trip Rob had a lot of “buddies.” But he taught me that life is better lived when we calmly accept the faults of others rather than adding to our growing list of grievances.

Peeves make lousy pets.

                                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Beneath the Dignity of a College Dean

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 1, 2011

Beneath the Dignity of a College Dean

                    The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience of spirit is better than pride. 

                                                                       Ecclesiastes 7:8

A young man, eagerly wanting to be a missionary, applied as a candidate to a mission society.  The examiner told the candidate to meet him at three o’clock in the morning.  On a cold, winter morning the candidate was ushered into the study, where he waited until 9:00 a.m. for his interview.

The examiner was an old pastor.  He sat down before the candidate and said, “Spell FARMER.”  Then asked, “What is three times three?”

After the young man answered these asinine questions, the old pastor was pleased.  “That’s excellent,” he said, “I believe you have passed the examination.  I will recommend you to the board tomorrow.”

 

At the board meeting the pastor enthusiastically recommended the candidate: “He has all the qualifications of a missionary.  First, I tested him on self-denial by telling him to meet me at three in the morning.  He came without complaint.”

The pastor continued, “Second, he arrived on time. He is prompt.”

“And, third,” he added, “I examined him for patience.  I made him wait in my study for six hours, and he did so without complaint.”

The pastor beamed, “And, finally, I tested his humility by asking him simple questions a little child could answer, and he showed no indignation.”

“I believe,” he concluded, “that this young man is the kind of missionary we need.”

 

The Bible links patience with hope, love, and trust.  But, sometimes, patience flows from humility.  The writer of Ecclesiastes contrasts “a spirit of patience” with “pride.”

 

Once, mischief broke out in a men’s dormitory at a small college in Pennsylvania.  The free-for-all in the hallway involved shaving cream, peanut butter, and jelly.

The college dean was summoned.  He went from room to room to ask what happened and who was responsible for the disaster.  Oddly enough, not a single student seemed aware of any raucous behavior in the hallway.

The dean could have demanded that everyone in the dorm be responsible to clean up the mess.  He also knew that he could have summoned the custodian to clean things up.

Instead, the dean left without a word.  He returned shortly with a bucket and brush.  Removing his coat and tie, he set to work cleaning up the mess.

One by one, heads peeped out of doorways.  As students saw what the dean was doing, they soon joined in and offered to help in scrubbing up.

 

To patiently clean up the aftermath of a hallway free-for-all is, of course, beneath the dignity of a college dean.

That’s the point.

                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)