“Not a Single One!”

Story of the Day for Tuesday February 14, 2012

“Not a Single One!”

                    Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. 

                                                                                      Matthew 20:26

 Who was the greatest quarterback who ever lived? Who was the greatest singer of all time?  When questions like this are raised, the debate often becomes spirited.

Yet, when we disagree with others about greatness, we’re only splitting hairs — we really don’t disagree at all. We all believes that greatness is defined as superiority over others; when we disagree, we’re only niggling over the fine points.

That is why Jesus’ view of greatness packs such a jolt. In God’s eyes, greatness is not defined by how many others we’re superior to, but by how many others we serve. And the Son of God showed the way by becoming the servant to everyone who ever lived.

 

Dale Galloway, in his book Rebuild Your Life, tells the story of a little boy named Chad.

One day in late January Chad came home from school and told his mom he wanted to make a valentine for everyone in his class.

Her heart sank. Chad’s mom watched as the kids walked home from school. They laughed and clumped together as they made their way home from school.  But Chad was never included. He always walked alone behind the others. She knew how Valentine’s Day worked, and that Chad would probably not get many valentines from his classmates.

 

But, she sighed, if her son wanted to make valentines then she would do what she could to help. She bought paper, glue, and other materials. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.

 

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Chad could hardly contain his excitement as he bolted out the door. His mom knew how crushed he would be to find that he had given far more valentines than he received, so she baked his favorite cookies to try to cheer him up when he got home.

By mid-afternoon she had cookies and milk waiting for him on the table. When she heard the sound of children she looked out the window. As usual, the kids were walking and babbling in little groups while Chad walked by himself.

Chad walked a little faster than usual, and his mom noticed he carried no bag of valentines like the one he carried out of the house. Knowing that he might well burst into sobbing as soon as he walked in the door, she worked to choke back her own tears.

As soon as he walked through the door she greeted him and said, “I have some warm cookies and milk for you,” but Chad didn’t seem to hear.

“Not a one . . . not a one.”

Her heart sank.

But Chad looked up to his mom and his face glowed, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Next to the Basin and the Towel

Story of the Day for Monday February 13, 2012

Next to the Basin and the Towel

                    It is not glory to seek out one’s own glory. 

                                              Proverbs 25:27

One early morning in July, 1852, two steamships pulled away from the docks in Albany and headed down the Hudson River to New York City. Because the captain was sick, Thomas Collyer took charge of the Henry Clay.  The Armenia, captained by Isaac Smith, raced past the Henry Clay at the first scheduled stop.

Collyer was furious when he saw the Armenia jump ahead, and so he rushed his ship back in the channel and beefed up the two boilers to 350 pounds per square inch.  The boat boilers made the boat shudder and passengers pleaded with the crew to stop the race, but their pleas were ignored.

At the next docking, the Henry Clay closed the gap.  Soon she nosed up next to the Armenia.  As the Henry Clay slowly inched ahead, the pilot of the Henry Clay rammed his competitor and splintered her bow. The passengers of the Henry Clay were then ordered to one side of the ship so that the boat would rise up to ram above the Armenia’s starboard guard.  The Armenia’s captain cut the engines to keep from running aground.

The Henry Clay now showered her deck with red-hot embers as she raced ahead.  Just past Yonkers, and nearing New York, a stoker, engulfed in flames, staggered up to the deck and dove overboard.  The middle section of the ship was now in flames.

The pilot swung the boat violently toward the east bank – running her 25 feet up the embankment.  The impact toppled a smokestack, and hurled some onto the safety of the shore.  Some were pitched into the waters, while others – trapped by the flames – were forced to jump overboard.  Within twenty minutes the boat had burned down to water level.

Throughout the afternoon and into the night they dredged the river for bodies.  Eighty people perished.

 

The purpose of the steamships was to provide safe travel for the passengers traveling from Albany to New York.  But objectives are easily forgotten when we are overcome by the desire to outdo someone else.  We blow out our boilers to maintain our status.

 

Jesus doesn’t object to competition – it’s just that we’re competing for the wrong thing.  The pride of seeking our own glory is an empty quest.  Our Lord humbly kneeled to serve us; to save us.

He wants us to know the “highest” place we can be is on the floor next to the basin and the towel.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


We Could Use a Lot More Mrs. Leonards

Story of the Day for Saturday February 11, 2012

We Could Use a Lot More Mrs. Leonards

                                  Your beauty should come from your inside you, the unfading loveliness of a gentle and peaceful spirit.

                                                                                1 Peter 3:4

According to an article in Psychology Today, in the past thirty years women are becoming increasingly preoccupied with their physical appearance. In addition to this, while the ideal body preference is getting thinner, Americans are growing heavier.

As women place greater and greater emphasis on outward physique, dissatisfaction with personal appearance is at an all-time high.

While 89% of women want to lose weight, 3% want to gain weight. That doesn’t leave many who are content with how they are.

Oddly enough, satisfaction with personal appearance is not firmly rooted in reality. When ranked by age, teens are the thinnest group, yet they’re also the most distressed with their weight. Smoking among young women is on the rise, and 50% of them claim they started smoking in hopes of controlling their weight.

Even thin women, sadly, often see themselves as overweight. 40% of women classed as extremely underweight, still feel anxious about weighing too much.

 

Mrs. Leonard taught second grade. She was short and round, and exuded happiness. She was a sparkling lady.

Mary Ann Bird, in her book The Whisper Test, recalls the dreadful nightmare of her early years. She was born with a cleft palate and her classmates didn’t fail to draw attention to her misshapen lips, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and speech impediment.

When her classmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” she’d tell them she fell on a piece of glass — thinking an accident could mask the shame of being born this way.

Mary Ann was convinced that no one, outside her family, could possibly love her.

 

One day Mrs. Leonard administered the annual hearing tests. One by one students would stand facing the classroom door while the teacher would sit at her desk and whisper a phrase that the student would have to repeat — phrases like, “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?”

When Mary Ann’s turn came she dutifully faced the door. At that moment she says she heard seven words that changed her life. Mrs. Leonard whispered to her, “I wish you were my little girl.”

 

Mrs. Leonard was short and plump. All the same, Mrs. Leonard was beautiful. Her radiant personality spoke of an acceptance for who she was. And a realization that the inner qualities of a person are what really matter.

I’m only guessing, but I believe Mrs. Leonard’s less-than-glamorous physique only increased her sensitivity toward the blemishes of others.

The world has all the glamour queens it needs. But we sure could use a lot more Mrs. Leonards.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Able to Spot Their Priests

Story of the Day for Friday February 10, 2012

Able to Spot Their Priests

                    Remind everyone to submit to leaders and those in authority, to be obedient, and ready to do whatever is good.

                                                                   Titus 3:1

 The silence was eerie.  After the Korean War, about eighty American prisoners of war were recovering at the army hospital in Tokyo. The former POWs would talk to the doctors, but even though these soldiers had spent three years together in prison and knew each other intimately, they wouldn’t talk with each other.

Why?

The treatment of POWs by the communist Koreans was insidiously effective. The prison camps had no guard towers, no electric fences, no search lights or guard dogs. A prison camp holding between 500 to 600 American prisoners was guarded by a mere half dozen guards. Yet, not one American soldier ever escaped.

The North Korean’s strategy was to demoralize their prisoners, and to accomplish their objective, they began by isolating the leaders. Officers were removed from their men and put in “reactionary camps.” After the officers were segregated, they kept a keen eye out for anyone assuming a leadership role and removed them.

Once the leaders were gone, they created distrust among everyone else. Informants who reported the misdeeds of fellow prisoners were rewarded with cigarettes, candy, or special privileges. But those who were tattled on were never punished. Everyone seemed to profit.

Soon, however, everyone became psychologically isolated. No one trusted anyone else.

The communists knew well what Americans can easily forget: the loss of leadership can devastate a group. When no one exists to encourage, inspire, and maintain a spirit of unity, group members attack each other and look to their own self-interests.

Almost forty percent of the American POWs died in prison — the highest death rate of American prisoners in any war since the American Revolution. The reason for the high mortality rate was neither torture nor malnutrition, but a lack of morale. The prisoners called it “Give-up-itis.” Without leadership, no one chose to resist the enemy. No one worked together. No one took responsibility for his comrade.  After their release, they wouldn’t even talk to each other.

 

Fighting alongside the U.S. in the Korean War were the Turks. They, too, had many POWs. They, too, had their officers isolated. Yet, none of them died of natural causes. As soon as one leader was taken to a “reactionary camp,” another soldier filled his position of leadership. The leaders held the troops together.  As a result, they shared their rations, cared for their sick, and remained loyal to each other.

Years ago, Christians in Uganda were being purged. A missionary society in England asked an Episcopal bishop in Uganda what they could do to help. Did they need food? Medicine?

The bishop replied that they didn’t need food or medicine; they needed 250 clerical collars. “You must understand,” he said, “when our people are being rounded up to be shot, they must be able to spot their priests.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Not Just the Kids

Story of the Day for Thursday February 9, 2012

Not Just the Kids

                     Even if my life is poured out like a sacrificial drink offering . . . I am happy and share my joy with all of you. 

                                                       Philippians 2:17

If you want to be happy, how do you intend to get there?  Or, let’s rephrase the question. What is the most reliable path to happiness: pleasure or sacrifice?

 

The question sounds silly until we think about it a while. But let’s imagine a football team has just won the Super Bowl. One offensive tackle has played the entire game. At the final whistle he’s dirty, bruised, and exhausted.

His replacement at right tackle never played a single down. No pain. Not even a grass stain on his uniform.

One offensive tackle finished the game in complete comfort; the other played his heart out and “left it all on the field.” Which right tackle do you think would be more exuberant at the end of the game? Which tackle would’ve wished to be in the other’s shoes?

 

Comfort brings pleasure and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Yet, there’s a world of difference between pleasure and joy.

The Bible says that Jesus, “for the joy set before him” endured the shame and agony of the cross. No one can call torture a pleasure. But when the Lord offers to sacrifice his own life to save ours, he can speak of joy.

 

Sacrifice sounds painful, but when it’s done for love it brings joy. The apostle Paul is writing from prison, yet he’s wildly happy, and thinks everyone else should be happy with him. Paul describes himself as being a sacrificial offering that he is giving for the sake of others. And the very thought of it makes him explode into joy.

 

I don’t know who came up with the idea, but it’s sheer brilliance. For over fifty years the Green Bay Packers have maintained a tradition during their summer training camps. When the players emerge from the locker room they have a short drive from the stadium to their practice facility.

But the players forego the drive. Instead, kids (ages 7-15) line up outside Lambeau Field with their bicycles. Each Packer picks a kid’s bike to ride to the practice field. If you’ve never seen a burly NFL football player riding a little kid’s bike, let me assure you it’s a comical sight.

No one on the team is forced to ride a bike to practice. If a player wants pleasure , he can certainly afford a comfortable car to drive.

But, if a professional football player isn’t convinced that sacrifice trumps pleasure he has made an inadvisable career choice. Maybe that helps explain why virtually all the players choose to ride a little kid’s bike down the streets of Green Bay.

And why it’s not just the kids who are beaming.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

It Wasn’t Newsworthy

Story of the Day for Wednesday February 8, 2012

It Wasn’t Newsworthy

                      Don’t seek your own glory, challenging and envying each other. 

                                                                 Galatians 5:26

Samuel Langley was passionate about building the first manned, motorized flying machine. He was given financial backing from the U.S. government, with another institution kicking in a substantial (for those days) $20,000.

Langley was an ingenious inventor and his solid financial backing enabled him to hire some of the brightest minds of his day.

His airplane, called the Aerodrome, couldn’t be steered and had no landing wheels. The plane, perched atop a houseboat on the Potomac River, would be launched with a catapult.

On December 9, 1903, the press crowded the shore to witness the first piloted flight. The catapult was to whip the plane from a dead stop to 60 m.p.h. in a mere 70 feet. Unfortunately, the plane was unable to withstand the force of the catapult and the tail and a wing collapsed — swatting the plane over the side of the boat and into the Potomac.

 

Eight days after this humiliating debacle, two brothers took their invention to the sandy Kill Devil Hills of North Carolina. Neither Orville or Wilbur Wright had a high school diploma. They worked out of their bike shop in Dayton, Ohio. Their only assistant was Charlie Taylor, the shop mechanic. Their budget was under a thousand dollars. But on December 17th, 1903, Orville piloted the first motorized flight.

When Orville and Wilbur telegraphed the news to their hometown paper, the newspaper refused to print the story — claiming it wasn’t newsworthy. In fact, the Wright brothers’ amazing feat was ignored by everyone. The first person to understand the significance of their accomplishment and report it was Amos Root, who wrote about it in his journal on beekeeping: Gleanings in Bee Culture.

 

When the rest of the world finally realized what the Wright brothers had accomplished, the Smithsonian Institution remained adamant in refusing to acknowledge the Wright brothers’ feat. Instead, they exhibited Langley’s Aerodrome in its museum, claiming it as the first aircraft “capable” of manned powered flight.

Orville Wright repeatedly presented his claims to the Smithsonian, but they ignored him. In disgust, Wright shipped his airplane to the London Science Museum.

After a generation of wrangling, the Smithsonian finally acknowledged the Wright brothers as the first to achieve a manned, powered flight. The famous airplane was returned from London and, forty-five years after the historic flight, was displayed in the Smithsonian.

 

Why did the Smithsonian fight so hard to name Samuel Langley as the inventor of the first airplane?  Perhaps you would want to know that the institution that generously gave $20,000 to Langley to build his airplane was the Smithsonian. And you may be further interested to know that the director of the Smithsonian at that time was none other than Samuel Langley. And, though Langley made no claims of achieving the first successful flight, his successor at the Smithsonian, Charles Walcott, was Langley’s close friend.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

This is Not the Only Life

Story of the Day for Tuesday February 7, 2012

This Is Not the Only Life

                           I know that I shall not be put to shame. The one who vindicates me is near.

                                                            Isaiah 50:7-8

On May 9, 1957, Air Force Lt. David Steeves disappeared.

Steeves took off in a Lockheed T-33 A trainer jet from Hamilton Air Force Base near San Francisco and vanished. Weeks later, when the Air Force could find no trace of the pilot or the aircraft, Steeves was declared legally dead.

Fifty-four days after his disappearance, however, Steeves emerged alive from Kings Canyon National Park east of Fresno.  He told the tale of an explosion in the cockpit that forced him to bail out. Injuring his ankles on a rough landing, he survived in the snowy mountains for two weeks before finding a remote cabin with meager food supplies. After he regained his strength he hobbled for days on swollen ankles through rugged terrain before encountering two pack-train guides who led him out of the wilderness.

 

Lieutenant Steeves was immediately hailed as a national celebrity.

But, as the weeks went by, questions began to emerge. Why had the aircraft still not been found? And how could anyone survive the ordeal he described?

Could Lt. Steeves have flown the jet to Mexico and then sold it to the Soviets? Or maybe he landed it at a secret location where it could’ve been dismantled and smuggled out of the country.

Soon rumors swirled around the mystery of the missing jet. A national magazine, which planned a major article on the pilot’s incredible survival, canceled the story, claiming discrepancies in Lt. Steeves’ account of his experience.

The innuendos escalated. Time magazine ran the headline: “Certain Discrepancies,” while Life magazine published a story with the title: “The Strange Case of the Sierra Survivor, Pilot’s tale of mountain ordeal arouses some strong suspicions.”

Weary of the allegations, the lieutenant requested, and was granted, a discharge from the Air Force.

 

Have you ever felt the sting of unjust allegations? When we’re falsely accused we don’t want sympathy so much as we want vindication. All the same, Jesus brings us sympathy. He has gone through far worse than we ever will. He was accused of witchcraft, of blasphemy, of being demon-possessed, of being a con man, and of plotting to overthrow the government.

But, beyond sympathy, Jesus teaches us not to wilt. Never let false accusations slow you down from boldly doing what is right.

And Jesus also reminds us that vindication seldom happens in this life. But, then again, this is not the only life. God has the last word.

 

Suspicion hovered over David Steeves’ head and haunted him until his death in 1965.

Eleven years later, a Boy Scout troop from Los Angeles was hiking in Kings Canyon National Park when they discovered a cockpit cover. The serial number, 59-9232A, matched that of the missing Lockheed jet.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

But We Smell Bad

Story of the Day for Monday February 6, 2012

But We Smell Bad

                      To those who considered themselves righteous and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told a parable . . . 

                                                            Luke 18:9

Whenever I start a new discipline, I often get thoughts about others that are really creepy.

In general, I notice that most people are more health-conscious in their food choices than I am. If, however, I go on a diet, I suddenly notice the indulgent, unrestrained eating habits of others. Have they no self-discipline? If I start attending midweek services in addition to Sunday, I start thinking of those who aren’t there – those unspiritual schlubs plopped in recliners in front of their TVs. But, before I started attending church on Wednesday nights, they just seemed normal.

 

Thinking this way is kind of sick, isn’t it?  I do it, even though I already know the root cause: self-righteousness.  When our self-righteousness starts acting up, we are trapped between two contradictory impulses.  On the one hand, we think everyone else should be as “spiritual” as we are.  But, on the other hand, we don’t want them to be.  We secretly enjoy the feeling of considering ourselves a notch above the throng.

 

If you would like to improve your self-righteousness, you can’t go wrong with the Pharisees as role models.  For example, they made their phylacteries wider than yours.  Moses told the faithful to put tassels on the ends of the garments as a sign they were dedicated to a holy God.  The Pharisees made sure that their fringe was longer than your fringe – thus, sending the message that they were more devout than you.

 

If you really want to be self-righteous, the key is subtlety.  You want to let people know you are spiritual, but you don’t want to make it too obvious.  If you buy a Rolex, for instance, it’s not much good if people don’t notice it, is it? (Come on, you don’t think they make Rolexes just to keep time, do you? This is about status.)  The secret is to casually stretch out your arm so that you can see the time, and they can see your superior status.

 

There are, of course, a few downsides to becoming self-righteous. Jesus took the Pharisees to task.  He doesn’t think highly of attempting to portray ourselves as more spiritual than others.

It’s not only that Jesus does not like show-offs.  When we become self-righteous, we turn away from God. We send the message to those “beneath” us that they must be like us to be religious. But we smell bad, so they have no desire to try.

But, most of all, we miss out on the mercy of Jesus.  The pride of self-righteousness blinds us to the truth – that the only path to God is through the mercy of Christ.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Nevertheless, It Happens

Story of the Day for Saturday February 4, 2012

Nevertheless, It Happens

                    And Jesus said to them, “Why are you sorrowful and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 

                                                                     Mark 5:39

University professor, Dr. Denis G. Osborne, was lecturing a high school class in Iringa, Tanzania on physics. When Dr. Osborne finished his lecture, he entertained questions. One of the students, Erasto Mpemba asked, “If you take two similar containers with equal volumes of water, one at 95 degrees Fahrenheit and the other at the boiling point, and then freeze them, why does the water that started at 212 degrees freeze first?”

Erasto’s classmates — along with the professor — exploded in laughter and scoffed at him for asking such a ridiculous question.

You don’t have to have a lot of smarts to understand why Mpemba’s question is so illogical. If the two containers of water are put in a freezer, by the time the boiling water cools down to 95 degrees, the water that began at 95 degrees will be cooler, say 40 degrees. No matter what temperature the boiling water cools down to, the cooler container of water will always be closer to freezing.  This isn’t speculative theory; it’s simple logic.

 

Have you ever shared your beliefs with others — only to have them respond in mocking laughter?  We can usually handle it when others disagree with us. When others calmly try to show us where they think we’re in error, we can hear them out.

But ridicule is much harder to take.  Jeering isn’t simply a sign of disagreement; it’s a gesture of disrespect.

 

While Jesus was going to a synagogue leader’s home to heal his little daughter, men reported that Jesus was too late — the girl had already died. Jesus wasn’t fazed by the news. He told the mourners at the house that the little girl wasn’t dead; she was just sleeping.

You can imagine the sting of the mourner’s bitter laughter.

 

In 1963, during a school cooking class, a thirteen-year-old student was told to freeze ice cream mixes. The student, Erasto Mpemba, noticed that the hot ice cream mixes froze faster than the cold ones. Six years later, through numerous experiments, Mpemba convinced a skeptical university professor, that, under certain conditions, hotter liquids do indeed freeze faster than cooler ones. Together Erasto Mpemba and Dr. Osborne published their findings and called it “The Mpemba effect.”

 

The Mpemba effect is, of course, logically impossible. Nevertheless, it happens.

Raising the dead is also rationally impossible. But I’ll bet it was much harder for the mourners to keep up their derision against Jesus while they watched a happy twelve-year-old girl bouncing around the village.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Sumus Quod Sumus

Story of the Day for Friday February 3, 2012

Sumus Quod Sumus

                      By God’s grace I am who I am.

                                                            1 Corinthians 15:10

James E. Watson writes in his memoirs that he was in President Taft’s private room when Sen. Chauncey Depew walked in. With shocking audacity, Depew put his hand on Taft’s big belly and asked what he planned to name the child when it was born.

The President replied, “If it’s a boy, I’ll call him William. If it’s a girl, I’ll call her Theodora.  But if it’s just gas, I’ll call it Chauncey Depew.”

Taft weighed over 330 pounds, but his easygoing attitude toward his big belly was  refreshing. Others felt free to make good-natured jokes about it. Justice Brewer, who sat on the Supreme Court said, “Taft is the politest man in Washington; the other day he gave up his seat in a streetcar to three ladies.”

I know little about President Taft’s political views or leadership while in the presidency.  But I admire the easy grace with which he accepted himself.  (Yeah, yeah, maybe this was only a “coping mechanism” to mask his feelings of inadequacy. I doubt it. He actually seemed quite comfortable with who he was.)

 

Let’s face it: very few of us are comfortable with our own bodies. I once heard a man ask a convention of women to raise their hand if they had never wished their butt was smaller or that their breasts were larger. No hands went up.

Guys, on the other hand, lament the growing hair in their ears and nose that used to be on top of their head.

We commonly assume that, if only we were a little taller or shorter, skinnier or better looking, we wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about ourselves, but that’s not true.  Some studies suggest that the women who are most distraught about imperfections in their looks are women contestants in beauty contests.

No, we are not self-conscious about our appearance because we fall short of the “ideal” body. We are embarrassed about our bodies because our culture is obsessed with physical appearance, and we have bought into cultural expectations that can’t possibly be met.

Not all cultures put this kind of pressure on people to meet standards of physical appearance. I heard about a man from Africa who came to the United States and was to have a female escort for a social function. Because the African was short, an American acquaintance offered to find him shoes with elevated soles to make him look taller.  The African was baffled, “Why would I want to appear different than I am?”

 

Can I suggest something?  The answer to our self-consciousness about our appearance may not be a toupee or a padded bra. The better solution is to reject the expectations of a superficial culture.

I should end this by quoting Scripture instead of Lake Wobegon’s town motto, but their motto does reflect biblical truth: Sumus Quod Sumus.  We are who we are.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)