Best Discerned by the Heart

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 20, 2011

Best Discerned by the Heart

His lips are lilies dripping with liquid myrrh.

                                                                                            Song of Solomon 5:13

 A medical doctor, Henry Gibbons, Sr., has defined a kiss as “the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction.” The good doctor has given us a fine effort and no one can question his expertise on these matters.

In the Bible, however, a woman who is swept up in love for Solomon says the kiss of her lover is sweeter than wine; that his lips are lilies dripping with perfume.

The doctor and the woman in love both describe a kiss – but their descriptions vary considerably.

 

We often confuse definition with meaning.  When I ask young people if they’ve ever used the expression, “Rock on!” they invariably say yes. “So,” I ask them, “what does it mean?” I have yet to hear a precise definition of this phrase – but here’s the point: even if they did offer an accurate definition, the definition would sound ridiculous. The meaning of the phrase cannot be captured by the definition – just as an anatomical definition of contracting muscles cannot describe the meaning of a kiss.

 

Ironically, the more serious we are about doing what God wants, the more we are tempted to focus on definition rather than meaning.

 

God told us to rest on the Sabbath. He added that we also provide rest for livestock and even fields. God cares about his creation and wants it to rejuvenate.

But, if we’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath, what is the definition of “work”?  As the years went by, the religious scholars grew more and more obsessive about defining “work.”

Could you, for example, tie a knot on the Sabbath? Some knots were permitted, but a camel driver’s knot was forbidden.  If a deer wandered into a building, could you lock it in? No, that’s work. But if two people did it, it’s okay. Could you chew your fingernails on the Sabbath? No. And, if a false tooth fell out of your mouth, you couldn’t pop it back in. The rabbis also warned that looking for fleas on your coat was work.

The rabbi’s diligence to define “work” took on comic proportions. What if you had a pillow with snot on it? Could you wipe it off?  Is a mother working on the Sabbath if she drags her kid? No, if he has his feet down; yes, if he drags his feet.

 

The Bible scholars focused on definition rather than meaning. As a result, by the time they got done defining “work,” no one knew what it meant to rest.

 

I revel in the fact that Jesus fully engages my intellect. But when it comes to understanding a kiss, I would rather listen to that woman who loved Solomon than the medical scholar who dissected a cadaver.

The love, to which God is drawing us, is best discerned by the heart.

                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Pad Our Stats or Nurse Our Toes?

Story of the Day for Monday December 20, 2011

Pad Our Stats or Nurse Our Toes?

                After they stoned Paul, they dragged him outside the city, assuming he was dead. But . . . he got up and went back into the city.

                                                                                        Acts 14:19-20

When Henry “Zeke” Bonura was sixteen, he entered the javelin competition at a National Track and Field Championship in 1925, and threw it seven feet farther than the “Chariots of Fire” Olympic gold medalist did in Paris the year before. He still remains the youngest male athlete to win an event at an AAU Track and Field Championship.

At Loyola University, he starred in football, basketball, and track. Notre Dame’s famous football coach, Knute Rockne, called him “The South’s Wonder Athlete.”  When he played major league baseball for the Chicago White Sox he twice led American League first basemen with the lowest percentage of errors.

I won’t tell you that Zeke Bonura was an excellent fielder – not to avoid boring you with the obvious, but to avoid lying.

Bonura was LOUSY at first base.  Sports editor, Otis Harris wrote in 1946: “It was never established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bonura was the worst fielding first basemen in the majors, but the consensus was that he would do until another one came along.”

So, how could Bonura win the title of best defensive first basemen in both 1934 and 1938 and yet be considered such a bad defensive player?

Simple. He didn’t try.

Zeke made the brilliant discovery that you can’t be charged with an error if you don’t touch the ball. So, he let easy grounders roll into left field and waved at them with his “Mussolini salute.”

I would love to take this opportunity to heap scorn on the lethargic ambitions of Zeke Bonura, but I can’t. I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes I become so afraid of failing that I never try.

On the apostle Paul’s missionary trips, he often failed to win over the people he met. Once, (against the wishes of the town’s Chamber of Commerce) they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and continued to carry the Good News on his lips.

And good things happened because he wasn’t afraid to fail.

One of the greatest inventors of his time, Charles Kettering, said, “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe.” “But,” Kettering adds, “the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”

When we get our purpose figured out, we won’t waste time trying to pad our stats. We’ll be too busy nursing our toes.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Incognito

Story of the Day for Thursday December 15, 2011

Incognito

                  He was in the world, and even though the world was created through him, the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, but his own people didn’t accept him. 

                                                                                                 John 1:10-11

On January 12, 2007, a man in his late 30s walked into the L’Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C. Dressed in T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, and standing by a trash can, he opened his fiddle case and began playing the violin during the morning rush hour.

In 43 minutes, 1,097 people passed by, and only a half dozen paused to listen for a few minutes. No one applauded.

 

What makes this incident remarkable is that the musician was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists. He was playing his Stradivarius, which he purchased for three-and-a half million dollars. Three days earlier he sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall, where “pretty good” seats fetched $100 and the best sold for $500.

Joshua Bell is so good he can command a performance fee of one thousand dollars a minute.

 

Gene Weingarten, a staff writer for The Washington Post, wanted to find out if, in a commonplace setting, and at an inconvenient time, people could still recognize beauty and artistic brilliance. So, he convinced Bell to perform incognito as a busker.

Apparently not.

Not long after his metro station concert, Joshua Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America.

 

Once, God came to earth. The One through whom the universe was created entered our world.

But the world didn’t notice.

 

How could that happen?

Well, why don’t we look at it the other way round. I can assure you that if Jesus strutted into every village wearing a tux, while the announcer for the Chicago Bulls introduced him, and if lightning flashed while the heavens opened and legions of angels thundered doxologies, the world would’ve given him a standing ovation. They would have recognized him as the mighty God come in the flesh, and begged Him for his autograph.

 

But Jesus didn’t want us to notice his power; he wanted us to see his merciful kindness. He didn’t come to be admired, but to rescue us. So, he came in humility.

The world will never be ready for a God who comes to us wearing a baseball cap. If you want to learn to recognize Him, then remember that He will never be what you expect; he will only be what you need.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Bruised and Showered With Dirt

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 14, 2011

Bruised and Showered With Dirt

                   So David and his men kept going along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside paralleling him, and as he went he cursed and threw stones and showered him with dirt.  

                                                                                             2 Samuel 16:13

Jeannine Buckley wrote to Reader’s Digest about a petty argument she had with her husband, Lonn, in which both of them were unwilling to admit they might be wrong.

In an effort at conciliation, Jeannine said, “I’ll admit I’m wrong, if you’ll admit I’m right.” Lonn agreed and insisted his wife go first.

“I’m wrong,” she said.

With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “You’re right!”

 

I like Lonn already. I used to think I was always right about everything too – despite the adamant objections of those around me.  For years it was a source of wonder to me – why did I possess such an uncanny ability to be right about everything, while everyone else around me was so often mistaken and misguided?  It couldn’t be mere coincidence. Was it my towering intellect or just a boundless supply of common sense?

It took me most of my life before I finally realized that the reason I was always right was because I was woefully lacking in humility.

 

When king David was fleeing from Absalom, a man by the name of Shimei met them along the way. He called David a scoundrel and, as he cursed the king, he pelted him with stones. David’s commander, Abishai, quickly assessed the situation and offered to have the man decapitated.

Oddly, king David ordered that they leave him alone, because, who knows? – he might be right. The royal retinue plodded on while Shimei kept up the tempo of his curses, while he whipped stones at them and showered them with dust.

God called David a man after his own heart. The Lord certainly didn’t say that because David was always right. He said it because David was humble.

 

The war was not going well when President Lincoln, with his assistant, John Hay, and Secretary of State, William Seward, paid a visit to General McClellan’s home. The servant told the President they would have to wait until he returned from a wedding.

An hour later, McClellan returned and looked bemused as he walked past the room in which they were waiting. They sat patiently, and waited.

Finally, the servant returned and informed the President that the general had decided to go to bed.

On their way home, Hay fumed over McClellan’s insolence, but Lincoln calmly replied that this was no time to be concerned about one’s dignity. “I will hold McClellan’s horse,” Lincoln said, “if he will only bring us success.”

 

David and Lincoln were two of history’s greatest leaders. But their secret power was not in armies, but the ability to keep moving while bruised and showered with dirt.

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Learning When to Break the Rules

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 13, 2011

Learning When to Break the Rules

                    The Lord Almighty says, “Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has wise counsel perished from those with common sense? Has their wisdom decayed?”

                                                                             Jeremiah 49:7

 On April 5, 2008, Christopher Ratté took his seven-year-old son, Leo, to a Detroit Tigers baseball game.  Leo wanted a lemonade, so Christopher bought him one at the concession stand.

Mr. Ratté is a professor of classics at the University of Michigan. As an archeologist, he is absorbed with the past, and this may help explain why he had no idea that Mike’s Hard Lemonade was an alcoholic drink.

 

A security guard noticed the boy with the alcoholic drink, and soon Christopher and his son were surrounded by a cluster of security guards. The two were escorted from the game and Leo was examined by a nurse, who found no evidence of inebriation.

No matter. Leo was forcibly taken by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital in Detroit. In the emergency room, they found no evidence of alcohol in his blood. Nevertheless, Leo was taken into a private room by officers from the Child Abuse Division.

By this time, Leo’s mom had been contacted and arrived at the hospital, but even she was denied permission to see or speak with her son. The boy was placed in the custody of the Wayne County Child Protective Services. Scared and confused, little Leo cried himself to sleep.

To lessen their son’s trauma, the parents called Leo’s aunt in Massachusetts – who drove all night to take custody of her nephew. The aunt was not only a social worker, but a licensed foster care provider. Yet, she was refused custody of her nephew.

A couple of days later, a juvenile court judge ruled that the little boy could return home – but only if the father moved out of the house and agreed not to speak to his son.

After two weeks of anguish, the authorities quietly dismissed the case.

The response of the officials, police, social workers, and judges was all the same: they hated to do what they did. They all claimed they were just following rules. No one, apparently, had given them the authority to exercise reason, compassion, or common sense.

What was the purpose of these rules that everyone felt obligated to follow? We can only assume that the rules were made to protect children. And yet, it was not an unwitting academic dad who harmed this little child; this child was severely traumatized by the very agencies whose mission was to protect him.

 

Laws and rules, of course, are absolutely essential. Yet, the Bible says that all the rules that God makes can be summed up in one phrase: Love your neighbor as yourself.

We can hide behind rules as a way to excuse our behavior: “I was simply following procedure.” But to God, rules are the expression of compassion and justice. And, if that is so, we must not only learn to follow rules, but also to break them in the interests of love and common sense.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Charge Into the Fray

Story of the Day for Monday December 11, 2011

Charge Into the Fray

                 Then David said to Solomon, his son, “Be strong and courageous, and act . . .”  

                                                                             1 Chronicles 28:20

 During the Civil War, President Lincoln appointed Gen. George McClellan to lead the Army of the Potomac, and capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

When he took command in July of 1861, McClellan’s troop strength was 50,000. By November it had swelled to 168,000 – the largest army ever assembled in modern times.

As the mighty Northern army slowly rolled toward Richmond, the Confederates knew, with their 35,000 men and few cannons, they could not defend their capitol.

False reports came to McClellan that the enemy troop strength was three times what it actually was. McClellan still had almost twice as many men, but he became so alarmed he refused to attack. Instead he gave his fears free reign. He began to imagine his adversary’s troop strength as greater than his own, and make panicky pleas to Washington for more reinforcements.

McClellan’s forces were bolstered to 192,000, but still he refused to attack. He still believed he was outnumbered.

The Confederate generals were brilliant at assessing the character of their opposing generals. Once they concluded that McClellan was easily unnerved, they did everything they could to accommodate his fears.

In order to gain time in bolstering their defenses at Richmond, the Rebels set up cannon emplacements to block their advance. When their jittery leader finally had his troops advance, they discovered the “cannons” were simply logs that had been stripped of their bark and painted black. “Quaker guns,” they came to be called.

But the showstopper was left to the southern general, John Magruder. His pathetically skimpy troops were no match for McClellan’s troops. So, he sent his troops up a hill and then made them walk past a gap in the hills where the Union troops could observe them. They then formed a circle. All day long they would march in a circle – leading the wide-eyed McClellan to believe they were vastly outnumbered.

Back in Washington, President Lincoln repeatedly wrote to his general, urging him to “strike a blow” – that he must act. But McClellan refused. If he had “acted,” he could easily have taken Richmond. But he never tried.

 

When King David neared the end of his reign, he appointed his son, Solomon, to succeed him. In addition to governing a nation, David called upon his son to build a magnificent temple for the Lord.

This mammoth undertaking was large enough to scare anyone from attempting it. But David gave his son what he needed. He told him not to be afraid; the Lord would be with him. “Be strong and courageous,” David counseled, “. . . and act.”

 

Fear can assemble troops faster than General Magruder to cow you into submission. Sometimes, the only way to puncture the illusion is to charge into the fray.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Competing Loyalties

Story of the Day for Saturday December 10, 2011

Competing Loyalties

 

                     No servant is able to serve two masters. He’ll hate the one and love the other, or he’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and money. 

                                                                                                 Luke 16:13

Those who value love tend to prosper in mental health and human relations. Intriguingly, however, those who value money, but not family, also suffer little mental or emotional stress.

“People’s mental health,” a psychological study (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002) concluded, “is harmed when they value both family relationships and the possession of material objects, because the two values conflict and cause mental stress.

 

Money is a good thing. But when we try to combine priorities of both money and relationships, it doesn’t work.

If someone accidentally spilled a handful of pencils in front of you, would you help pick them up? Professors Kathleen Vohs, Nicole Mead, and Miranda Goode, performed this experiment. These researchers found that if the participants had just finished playing the board game Monopoly, they were less likely to help pick up the pencils.

Vohs, Mead, and Goode then gave participants two dollars in quarters. Later, they were given the opportunity to donate to the University Student Fund. Those participants who had been given tasks thinking about money gave 39 percent of their money. Those who hadn’t been focused on money gave 67 percent.

 

Money isn’t bad. Would you work your tail off at a fast food restaurant if they paid you by giving you a hug at the end of each year?

Jesus doesn’t condemn money; he just wants us to know where our heart lies. If our priorities are caught between service to God and money, our loves will tear us apart.

 

Switzerland gets about forty percent of its electricity from nuclear power. That means, of course, that they must find a place to store the radioactive waste. When the Swiss were asked if they were willing to allow a nuclear waste dump to be built near their town, surprisingly, half of the citizens said, “Yes.” They knew the property values on their homes would go down, but they felt it wasn’t right to expect other communities to bear a burden they were unwilling to share in.

Then, in order to increase the percentage of citizens willing to allow a nuclear waste site in their area, they sweetened the deal. They offered a financial reward. Would they be willing to have a waste disposal site built in their community if they were paid an annual salary worth six weeks wages?

Instead of half the citizens agreeing to the proposal, the offer of money caused the percentage of willing Swiss to drop to twenty-five percent.

 

You can do things because it’s the right thing to do. You can do things for money. You just can’t operate well with competing loyalties.

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Convicted By a Cell Phone

Story of the Day for Friday December 9, 2011

Convicted By a Cell Phone

                 For you will be judged by the standard of judgment you use to judge others.

                                                      Matthew 7:2

 Ed McLaughlin was the general manager at KGO radio in San Francisco, when, in 1972, he was transferred to New York City. His friends in San Francisco warned Ed about New Yorkers. He was always a laid-back, easygoing sort of guy, but now, they told him, he would have to be less trusting and more alert to potential dangers.

Within the first week of moving to New York, Ed was dining at the Pierre Hotel, with his attaché case on the floor under the table. He looked up and spotted a man walking toward the door with the attaché case.

Ed jumped up and ran to the thief, grabbed him by the lapels and warned him, “If you put that attaché case down right now I won’t break your nose.” The man immediately put the case down and disappeared.

Later, when Ed returned to his hotel room, he opened his attaché case . . . and discovered it was not his!  McLaughlin phoned his friends in San Francisco, “Y’all sure were right about New Yorkers. I’ve been a New Yorker for less than one week and I’ve already mugged a guy!”

 

I’m glad Mr. McLaughlin has a sense of humor and can own up to doing the very thing he suspected others would do to him.

Admitting we’re guilty of the things we criticize in others is extremely difficult. We notice it in other people easily enough. Who complains about another person’s big ego more than the one who is a little full of himself?  Have you ever noticed that dishonest people do the most complaining about other people’s dishonesty?

 

I was forced to admit my own inconsistency when I read a recent survey. Drivers were asked to list their top complaints of other drivers.

Know what the number one complaint was? It wasn’t tailgating, slow driving, or failing to use a turn signal. The number one complaint was drivers who talk on their cell phone while behind the wheel.

It certainly annoys me.

But, here is the interesting part.  Most of the people who listed “talking on the cell phone while driving” as their number one complaint, admitted that they, too, use the cell phone when they drive.

For some reason, I dislike it when drivers talk on their cell phone, but I do it too.

 

Jesus prefers to show us mercy over judgment. That’s why he urges us to do the same. It keeps us from passing judgment on ourselves.

A little girl was watching her mom do the dishes at the kitchen sink. As she gazed at her mother’s long, dark hair she noticed that there were several strands of white hair.

“Mommy,” she asked, “why are some of your hairs white?”

Her mother sighed, then explained, “Well, every time you do something naughty and make me sad, one of my hairs turns white.”

The little girl was quiet for a moment. Then she asked, “Mommy, how come ALL of grandma’s hairs are white?”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rock Lobbing Talents

Story of the Day for Thursday December 8, 2011

Rock Lobbing Talents

                I can do all things through the One who gives me strength. 

                                                                           Philippians 4:13

George Dantzig greatest achievement came about because he was late for class.

While taking a graduate-level statistics class at the University of California, Berkeley, he got to class late, but managed to copy down the homework assignment on the board.

George worked on his homework assignment, but found it tough going. But he finally completed the assignment, and handed it in to his professor, Jerzy Neyman.

Six weeks later, George was awakened one morning with a knock on the door. “It was Neyman,” Dantzig recalled, “He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited.” Professor Neyman wanted to immediately send Dantzig’s work for publication. Dantzig had no idea what his professor was talking about. The problems on the blackboard that he had solved, Neyman told him, were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics.”

Now, how was Dantzig able to solve these two baffling problems? He was certainly intelligent, but so were all the other scientists, professors, and students who were stymied by these problems. But, George Dantzig had one advantage over the others: no one told him that it couldn’t be done.

 

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

 

Now, obviously, Mr. Ford’s statement is not a universal truth. If you believe you can snort my Ford pickup up your nose, that doesn’t mean you can. Conversely, if I don’t believe I’ll see an elk while hunting tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I won’t.

We Christians are often leery about talking of faith in what we can do, and rightly so.  Anything that fosters the notion that, if we believe in ourselves, we can work our way into God’s good favor is an abomination.  For starters, we can’t. And, secondly, the mistaken notion that we might be able to earn God’s love destroys the truth that you can never earn God’s love. God’s already loves us despite our most miserable failures.

 

All that said, a little shepherd boy did what no soldier in Israel’s army dared: he believed he could defeat Goliath, and offered to do so. But, he had practiced hard to achieve mastery with his slingshot. Yet, he chose five smooth stones because he knew the first one might not find its mark.

Did this little squirt have confidence in his abilities? I think so. But, ultimately, David’s faith was not in himself, but in what God could do through him. Yes, God could’ve worked unilaterally and conked Goliath on the head with a thunderbolt – without David’s assistance. David, however, believed that God would utilize his rock lobbing talents to win this victory. And God would get the glory.

God is at work in this world. But he delights in working through his children . . . children that believe in a God who can do beautiful things through them.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Starting to Jell as a Team

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 7, 2011

Starting to Jell as a Team

                 As Jesus walked along the shore he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collecting booth. So he says to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  

                                                                 Mark 2:14

I belong to a private club called “The Pinkham Creek Society of People Who Catch Trout.” We’re a small club – just three of us – which is the only discernible reason I’ve been elected secretary. My ten-year-old daughter, Elly, won her bid for the presidency, and the remaining member, our dog, Mona, has been elected The Royal Pain in the Butt.

My colleagues and I all have various responsibilities. I find the deep holes along Pinkham Creek and bait the hook. Elly casts the line into the creek and waits for a bite. And Mona jumps into the creek and scares all the fish away. She then reports on the creek’s water temperature by shaking herself vigorously in front of us.

So far, our club has not met the goals of our “Mission Statement,” but you can be sure Mona will receive stinging innuendos when I type up the minutes for the next meeting.

 

Have you noticed Jesus’ strategy in forming a group? As Jesus walked along the lakeshore near Capernaum, he saw four fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, and called them to follow him.

So, what do we have here? Four fishermen who, obviously, know each other well. This is a team that can work together.

How do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group?

 

Not long after that, they return to the lakeshore at Capernaum, and meet . . . him – the most hated man in town. Levi was a tax collector and, as such, was an outcast from society. He would’ve been excommunicated from the synagogue. By collecting taxes for the Roman government, he was branded a traitor.

But it gets worse. Where was Levi working? On the lakeshore. Odd place to have a tax booth – until you realize that some tax collectors collected poll taxes. Levi had his tax booth on the lakeshore because he taxed the fishermen’s daily catch of fish.

 

Can you imagine the scene?  Jesus says to his four fishermen disciples, “Guess who I just invited to join our group? Levi. You’ve all met Levi, haven’t you?”

Now how do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group?

When Jesus chooses followers he pulls people together from diverse backgrounds.  He doesn’t want to create a club of people held together by similar prejudices or mindsets. He wants to create a miracle by transforming us into the body of Christ.

 

At our last meeting, Mona has been elected chairman of The Committee to Guard the Fish. We tie her to a tree, and when we catch some brookies, we have Mona stand guard over them – just in case they try any funny stuff.

Our club membership attracts diverse personalities, but I think we’re starting to jell as a team.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)