The Best Medicine

Story of the Day for Wednesday January 18, 2012

The Best Medicine

                    When Jesus got ashore, he saw a great crowd, and was moved with compassion for them. 

                                                                        Mark 6:34

Karl Menninger built the internationally renowned Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.  He built a career around providing psychiatric care for troubled patients.

Once, Menninger gave a lecture on mental health and answered questions from the audience.  One person lobbed him a softball, “What would you advise a person to do,” they asked, “if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”

Well, duh!  Everyone already knew his answer before he said it: see a psychiatrist.

Dr. Menninger caught everyone off guard with his response.  What should they do if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?  His answer was, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and then do something to help that person.”

I like this guy.  He’s my favorite person from Topeka, and I’m not saying that just because he’s the only person I know from Topeka – he really sounds like a man of extraordinary common sense.

People who focus on the needs of others are coming down with mental health at an alarming rate.  You’ve already noticed this, haven’t you?  If you are unaware that compassionate people have fewer struggles with depression and anxiety, then maybe you’re just not paying attention.

Physical or emotional pain tends to drive me inward.  When I have a toothache, it’s harder for me to think about your problems.  Yet, as odd as it sounds, the best thing I could do when I’m hurting is to focus on helping other people.

Duffy Daughtery, the legendary football coach at Michigan State, aptly observed, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.  Dancing is a contact sport.”

I loved high school football.  A game consisted of an evening a planned collisions.  Great fun.  Those of you played football know that it isn’t until the game is over that you realize your arm is bleeding and your knee is swollen.  You were too focused on the game.

But imagine if you were standing in a living room during a cocktail party, and someone took a five yard head start and tackled you?  Without an external focus, it would really, really hurt.

When Jesus learned his friend, John the Baptist, was executed, who could blame him for wanting to get away. He tried. But the crowds noticed him and ran after him.  I’m still amazed that Jesus wasn’t annoyed by this.  The Bible says that, when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.  He spent the rest of the day teaching them and giving them fish and bread.

  Please – I’m not trying to minimize your pain. But tending to the hurts of others may be the best medicine you’ll ever find.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

God Doesn’t Try to Shout

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 17, 2012

God Doesn’t Try to Shout

                    He awakens me morning by morning. He awakens my ear to listen as one who wants to learn. 

                                                         Isaiah 50:4

I don’t have a TV, which means, among other things, that I have to sweet-talk friends into letting me watch Packer football games on their TVs.

Some think TV is evil, but it’s not. It broadcasts everything: from the raunchy, to the trivial, to the educational, to the inspiring (and there I go, talking about Packer games again).

After my wife took a sledgehammer to the first ten TVs I bought, I realized I didn’t really need one after all. (She didn’t actually use a sledgehammer, she just took several years teaching me what quiet can do to your soul.)

I still think TVs are a cool invention. My problem is that I don’t have much self-control in this area.

When I wake up, I don’t greet the morning with a glad cry. Instead, I stumble into the kitchen and fumble with the coffeemaker. We heat our house with wood, so I plop in the comfy chair with my coffee cup and stare into the flames.

Now, if I had a TV and a remote control by my side, I have no doubt what would happen next. The TV would blink to life.

“. . .we interrupt to bring you a live broadcast of the school bus accident outside of Wichita. Peter Manning, from our local affiliate, is on the scene. Peter?”

“Sarah, it is chaos here. We have just learned that seven children are dead and many more injured . . . (blah, blah, blah) . . . Back to you Sarah.”

“Thank you, Peter. And now back to our report on the brutal murder outside the mayor’s office in Atlanta. Police are looking for two suspects who . . . (blah, blah, blah)”

“Please stay tuned after the commercial break as Chris brings you a shocking report you won’t want to miss: ‘Is the radon in your basement strong enough to kill all the termites that are eating away the foundation of your home?’”

This is how I used to begin my morning. But then I discovered I could gain the same benefit if I put on a backpack stuffed with three bags of concrete, took a couple slugs of cheap whisky, and let all the air out of my car tires, to start my day.

Now, I don’t think we need to tell my wife that she was right – it would only go to her head and then she’ll think she’s right about the value of my attending Tupperware™ parties with her.

But she was right.

And, before I sound unbearably sanctimonious, you should know that I do check out the news on the internet later in the day, and I really do like Tupperware™ containers. But I have found that God doesn’t try to shout above the noise I create in my life. He waits until I am ready to listen. And in the quiet of the morning (after a very large cup of coffee), he’s been filling my life with good things.

                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rescue From the Bog

Story of the Day for Monday January 16, 2012

Rescue From the Bog

                      “The grace of God . . . instructs us. . . to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” 

                                                                             Titus 2:11-12

 When kids go to summer camp one of their responsibilities is to plot mischief.  You just know that someone is going to get a frog in their bed or the guys are going to raid the girl’s cabins and pull some sort of prank.

Let’s try to imagine this: as the kids wave good-bye to their parents and assemble in the cafeteria, the camp director spells out the rules.  One of them is that must never leave the fenced camp boundary.  “There are quicksand bogs on the adjoining property,” he warns them, “and it’s very dangerous.”

Off limits?  Dangerous?  For kids, this is an irresistible enticement. So, in the middle of the night a few boys sneak out of their cabin and climb the fence.  Sure enough, there is quicksand out there.  And they are stuck.   Their struggling only mires them deeper.  As they sink to their waists they finally cry out for help.

Eventually they see a flashlight bobbing their way and their sleepy-eyed counselor inspecting the damage.  With a big sigh he says, “Didn’t we clearly warn you to stay on the camp property?”

“Yes.”

And didn’t we tell you there were quicksand bogs out here?”

“Yes, we’re sorry.”  By this time they are up to their chests in the quicksand.

“Well, I want you to know something,” the counselor says, “I forgive you.”  And then he wishes them a good night and goes back to bed.

 

Can I ask you something?  Do you think those boys would be satisfied with the response of their counselor?  “Dude! Did you hear that?  He forgives us!  He’s not mad at us for breaking the rules.  Awesome!”

This is not how the story ought to end, is it?  But don’t you see that this is exactly how some believers view forgiveness?  They think, “I like to sin, and God likes to forgive me and say it’s okay.”

When God forgives us it means that our sins have been taken care of.   He’s not holding them against us.  But (and here is the point, so listen up)  God’s forgiveness means that he also wants to pull us out of the quicksand.

And isn’t that what we want?  God’s forgiveness is not a free pass to jump the fence.  But when we do jump the fence and get stuck in the bog, know this:  Jesus not only will come to tell you he forgives you; he will also reach out his hand because he wants to rescue you from the bog.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Coming to Know Him

Story of the Day for Saturday January 14, 2012

Coming to Know Him

                    May grace and peace be multiplied to you by the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                              2 Peter 1:2

Can you know things beyond what you can comprehend with your conscious intellect?   Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink, cites a gambling experiment at the University of Iowa where you are given four decks of cards – two red and two blue.  Your task is to turn over cards in any deck you choose to maximize your winnings.  What you don’t know is that the red cards are rigged so that you can win a lot at times, but can never win in the end.

After about 80 cards, most players can understand intellectually why the red decks are a bad choice.  But, after 50 cards, most people develop a hunch and start choosing the proper deck, but have no idea why.

But it gets even more intriguing.  The players were hooked up to machines that measured sweat glands in the palms as well as temperature.  Stress and nervousness can be measured this way.  After only 10 cards were played, the Iowa scientists could detect stress when players chose a red card – 40 cards before they had a “hunch” and 70 cards before they intellectually figured out the game.

 

Peter is telling us that the source of the grace and peace we receive is found in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  But what does it mean to know God?  Is it just an intellectual comprehension of facts about God?  I don’t think so.

 

A newborn baby immediately cuddles with its mother.  That little infant finds comfort from its mother long before it is old enough to intellectually grasp the concept, “You are my mommy.”  Just as in the experiment with the four decks of cards, there is a kind of knowing that extends beyond our conscious, intellectual recognition.

 

When we know someone, we know them in a deeper way than what documented facts can provide.  Let me give you an example.

The FBI caught a ring of forgers in San Diego.  They were selling thousands of fake autographs and fraudulent historical documents.  How did the FBI discover this ring of counterfeiters?  Among other things, the curiosity of the federal officials was no doubt aroused when they attempted to sell baseballs autographed by . . . Mother Theresa!

Before the feds could document whether Mother Theresa was hawking autographed baseballs, we have an intuitive hunch that Mother Theresa is not like that.  We feel that we know her enough to doubt she would autograph baseballs before we can prove it intellectually.

 

As we grow in our faith, we are not just learning facts about God; we are coming to know him.  What you will find at the end is a shower of grace and peace.

                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

You’re Kidding, Right?

Story of the Day for Friday January 13, 2012

You’re Kidding, Right?

                “Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” 

                                                                                Matthew 10:16

St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

The team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

 

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

 

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

 

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

 

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

 

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination.  That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Should I Poison My Dinner Guests?

Story of the Day for Thursday January 12, 2012

Should I Poison My Dinner Guests?

              Some people, coming from Judea, taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” This created sharp disagreement from Paul and Barnabas, and a big debate erupted.

                                                                     Acts 15:1-2

 Pack rats are smelly and can do more damage in my workshop than I can. So, they’ve got to go. Using rat poison, my devious scheme invites them to be my dinner guests.

Mona, our husky with a brain as big as a lima bean, shares my feelings about pack rats. But her strategy involves chasing them under wood piles and then standing guard over them for hours. Her policy of aggressive harassment scares away my clients.

Mona and I are bonded in a common quest: to get rid of pack rats and make this world a better place in which to live. But, though we are both committed to The Cause, we have conflicting strategies.

 

Christians aren’t supposed to fight, but, as believers, we are highly prone to butting heads, because we care so deeply about spiritual things.

 

Years ago, Capper’s Weekly reported about Joyce Grimm, from Lucas, Kansas. She was walking across a parking lot when she saw a driverless car. It was slowly rolling out of its parking space.

Joyce swiftly ran beside the car, swung the door open, and jumped in. She hit the brake and brought the rolling car to a halt. As she got out, a man in overalls approached her. She beamed with slightly suppressed pride and said, “Well, I stopped the car.”

The man in overalls said, “I know. I was pushing it.”

Both Joyce and the man in overalls had the same objective: to assist the owner of the vehicle. But, because they understood the situation differently, they found themselves working against each other.

 

Some well-meaning Christians in Antioch told new gentile converts that they needed to get circumcised, like Moses taught, in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed. Everyone had the same goal (that the gentiles find salvation) but they disagreed on how to get there.

This issue could easily have divided the church in her infancy. But they talked it out and got it right: both Jews and gentiles are saved solely by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

When we encounter conflict in the church, a good starting place is to find where we agree – where we share the same convictions . . . and work from our shared beliefs rather than our differences.

 

I believe that poisoning my dinner guests is still the way to go. And I still think my dog is a dingbat for trying to defeat pack rats by intimidation. But we will continue to discuss the issue with an open mind and monitor results. It’s what you do when you’re partner in The Cause.

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

On Grammar, Eloquence, and Thematic Cohesion

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 10, 2012

On Grammar, Eloquence, and Thematic Cohesion

                  We don’t know what we ought to be praying about, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . . And he who searches hearts knows the thoughts of the Spirit.

                                                                                             Romans 8:26-27

The Reverend William Archibald Spooner was both a kindly Anglican priest and a brilliant professor at New College, Oxford. But, he achieved fame through his slips of the tongue.

Once, he delivered a sermon to the students and sat down. Apparently someone whispered something to him because he walked back up to the pulpit and announced, “In the sermon I just preached, whenever I said Aristotle, I meant St. Paul.”

Dr. Spooner’s superb scholarship, sadly, has been overshadowed by his tendency to scramble words. Through his unintentional efforts, the term “Spoonerism” has worked its way into our present dictionaries. For example, he called the “rate of wages” the “weight of rages,” and “conquering kings,” “kinkering congs.”

Soon, this tendency was noticed by the students, and they waited eagerly for his next slip of the tongue. At the height of his notoriety, Spooner lamented, “You don’t want to hear a speech; you just want me to say one of those . . . things.” Don Hauptman, in his book, Cruel and Unusual Puns, says “the craze spread like filed wire – er, wildfire.”

The enthusiasm to record the latest Spoonerism soon made it difficult to separate his original sayings from those attributed to him.

The professor, it is said, proposed a toast to Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria: “Three cheers for our queer old dean.” At a naval review he is said to have praised “this vast display of cattle ships and bruisers.” Officiating at a wedding, he concluded by informing the groom, “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride.”

 

Once the kindly reverend showed us the way, everyone wanted to get in on the act. Radio announcer, Harry Von Zell, gave tribute to the president of the United States by addressing him as “Hoobert Heever.” This only inspired Lowell Thomas to introduce the British minister, Sir Stafford Cripps as “Sir Stifford Crapps.” The British then solidified the eminence of their native son, the Rev. Spooner, when an announcer proclaimed the military would give their honored royal guest a “twenty-one son galoo.”

 

With all this glorious imperfection surrounding us, it still baffles me that some are reluctant to pray publicly because they don’t think they’ll say the right words – as if God is going to grade them on grammar, eloquence, and thematic cohesion.

But, our situation is far worse than not knowing the right words; most of the time we don’t even know the right topic. Let’s face it: we’re not all that great at informing the Creator of All Things about the best way to run the universe.

Nevertheless, the Lord tells us he wants us to pray and he is ready to listen. And, even when, in our pain and confusion, we can only look to heaven and moan, God assures us the Spirit can interpret our hearts, and send our prayers on their way . . . despite our garbled thoughts and tips of the slung.

                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Nothing Glamorous About Roots

Story of the Day for Monday January 9, 2012

Nothing Glamorous About Roots

                  He will be like a tree planted by the water – that sends out its roots. . . It will not be anxious in a year of drought and will never fail to bear fruit.  

                                                                           Jeremiah 17:8

Let’s imagine you buy seeds for a Chinese Bamboo Tree. You plant them in an indoor greenhouse and hope for the best.

But, after a year of watering the soil, nothing has germinated.

Oh well, you just keep on watering the soil for another year. Still nothing. No sprout; no nothing.  You notice that the neighbors are beginning to look at you funny.

After the third year of constant care and watering, your best friend sits you down over coffee and gently points out that there is a difference between persistence, which a saintly virtue, and beating your head against a wall, which is the mark of an idiot.

You enter your fourth year of watering, and still nothing has happened. Family members have summoned the nice people in the white lab coats to take you for a little ride, but you hide in the broom closet until they quit looking for you and leave.

And you just keep on watering your seeds.

If you keep watering the seeds of a Chinese Bamboo Tree for four years, you won’t see anything happen. But, in the fifth year, a sprout will shoot up from the soil. And then – are you ready for this? – the tree will grow eighty feet high in the next six weeks!

 

But notice: the Chinese Bamboo Tree cannot grow eighty feet in six weeks. It can only grow eighty feet in five years.

The Bamboo Tree needs to develop a good root system first. The first four years of growth are all underground, and we can’t see what’s going on down there.

 

Let’s face it: there is nothing glamorous about roots. And not only that, if conditions stay perfect, a tree doesn’t really need deep roots.

But conditions never stay perfect. When the storms come, they will topple you over unless you’ve got deep roots. When the drought comes, your leaves will wither unless you’ve sunk deep roots.

 

Learning to find our strength in the Lord is like sending roots deep underground. The daily discipline of prayer and meditation and study is not something others see. No one will marvel at your prayer time nor applaud when you read your Bible.

But when the tough times come, you’ll find that the unseen taproot is finding all the water you need.

 

The pastor of a congregation got sick, and so, with little time to prepare, they asked an old pastor to give the sermon that morning.  The sermon was solid, clear, and nourishing. Afterward, a member thanked him for the fine sermon, and then asked, “How long did you take to prepare your sermon?”

The old pastor answered, “Seventy years.”

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Too Long in the Huddle

Story of the Day for Saturday January 7, 2012

Too Long In The Huddle

                 The words of the wise are like goads . . .  

                                                     Ecclesiastes 12:11

University of Miami head coach, Leonard Hamilton, called a time-out with sixteen seconds left in the basketball game. They were leading the Pittsburgh Panthers, 84-82, but Hamilton wanted to give his team instructions on how to preserve their lead in the final seconds.

The official at the scorer’s table sounded the horn to signal there were fifteen seconds left in the time out.  Instead of sending his team back on the floor, Hamilton kept his team huddled up as he shouted directions to his team.

Fifteen seconds later, the horn sounded again, signaling that the timeout was over. A Pitt player was handed the ball, but stood there, confused, as he waited for Miami to take to the court. Panther coach, Paul Evans, screamed at his team to run the play.

Pitt guard, Jerry McCullough took the inbound pass and went in for an uncontested layup. The stunned Miami team took to the floor and McCullough quickly stole the ball, passed to his teammate, Antoine Jones, who drove the lane for the winning basket.

 

Meetings and planning are vital. But sometimes we spend too much time in the huddle.

I have a friend who was a member of a church council. He was frustrated. For thirteen years they discussed building an addition to the church entryway. The hammers have yet to sound, but they love to meet each month to talk and plan.

 

I like to talk politics with a friend. We bemoan the state of the union, and are a little miffed that the President of the United States refuses to call us, so we can tell him how to solve the nation’s problems.

My friend’s wife listened to our griping and said, “If you don’t like what’s happening in government, why don’t you do something about it?”

Well, she’s obviously naïve. We’re political philosophers, for Pete’s sake! We use our searing intellects to provide insightful analysis about the political landscape. We don’t want to do anything; we just want to talk about it.

 

The Bible takes a more alarming approach to education. The spiritually wise, it says, wield goads. A goad is a sharp, pointy stick. You use it to poke slow-moving animals in the rump when you want to inspire them to greater things.

Learning is not an end in itself. The words of Scripture are goads – pointy sticks aimed at our behinds – to quickly kindle in us an interest in moving.

The goal of learning is not just to stuff our heads with biblical information. We learn in order that we may adore God, trust in his mercy, and run a tuna casserole over to a sick neighbor.

 

We huddle up in order to run the next play.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

More or Less Securely Fastened

Story of the Day for Friday January 6, 2012

More or Less Securely Fastened

         In Joppa, a disciple by the name of Tabitha . . .  was always doing good deeds and acts of mercy for the needy.

                                                   Acts 9:36

 In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a pastor in Antioch wrote, “Every day the church feeds 3000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples . . .”

At the same time, in Rome, Jerome mentions a Christian woman, Fabiola. “She was the first person to found a hospital, into which she might gather sufferers out of the streets, and where she might nurse the unfortunate victims of sickness and want.”

All this distressed the Roman Emperor, Julian, who wanted to destroy the Christian faith. He, futilely, urged the pagan priests to try to copy the compassion of the Christians. “It is disgraceful,” he moaned, that Christians “support our poor in addition to their own.”

Julian accused Christians of showing excessive compassion, and we’ve been guilty ever since.

 

Benjamin Rush, in addition to founding our country’s first Bible society, was also the leader in showing compassionate care to the mentally ill. The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association features his portrait in the center.

After seeing the carnage of the Battle of Solferino, with little attention paid to the wounded, Henry Dunant, a devout Christian, inspired the founding of both the International Red Cross and the creation of the Geneva Convention.

A British nurse, Cicely Saunders was appalled by the lack of care given in the hospital for the dying. She founded Hospice to provide compassionate care to the terminally ill.

Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship – we find that Christians are continually finding ways to help the poor and needy.

 

Some (well-meaning) Christians believe the sole purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel and save souls. But, if this is true, what do we make of Jesus? Yes, he came to open the path to heaven. Yet, on his way to cross, his feet kept following his heart – which invariably led him to the tear-stained faces of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.

Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, and spent much of her time working to free children from temple prostitution. She was criticized by fellow-Christians for not focusing solely on saving souls.

Amy responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”

 

Since we can’t pry a person’s soul away from their body without killing the patient in the process, we might as well love the whole darn thing.

                                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)