Let His Love Dry Your Tears

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 20, 2012

Let His Love Dry Your Tears

                       The memory of my affliction and homelessness is bitterness and gall.  As I recall it over and over, my soul is downcast within me.   

                     Yet, I call this to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, because his mercies never fail.  They are new every morning.

                                      Lamentations 3:19-23

When our children were little my wife always insisted I should take them to the clinic for immunization shots. I tried to convince her that children need a mother at such traumatic moments. Then I would appeal to her higher nature by telling her not to be such a ninny.

Yet, despite my patient reasoning and crystalline logic, she remained adamant that I take them for their shots.

The ninny.

So off I would drive to the clinic with a little child bundled in the car seat. When the nurse walked into the room with the syringe, she would sigh and apologize – as if this is all her fault. (Nurses hate this part of their duties.)

I would hold my little toddler on my lap — this cute little lump of sweetness and joy. How swiftly the fortunes of life were about to change.

What happened next is always the same. One moment they sit on my lap, secure and content. Then the needle. And then the piercing scream that echoes into the next county.  The cry that pierces a daddy’s heart.

Want to know what my children do next? They hug me. As they sob in pain they cling to me for comfort.

I cannot explain to them why I didn’t defend them – why I didn’t fight off the strange woman with the needle who attacked without provocation. I cannot explain that this present wound will pass, but the benefits will carry on. I cannot explain that I deliberately took them here because I love them dearly. My children are too young to understand. All I can do is hold them tight and tell them it will be okay.

Do you think there ever comes a time when God is willing to put you through  painful experiences because he loves you? Do you think there are times when he hurts you but can’t explain his reasons?

Do you think he wants you to cling tighter to him? That he wants to hold you tight and let you know it is going to be okay?

So what do you do when the tears come and life hurts so badly? Cling to your heavenly Father. Blow your nose. And let his love dry your tears.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Taking the Blame for a Wild Pitch

Story of the Day for Monday March 19, 2012

Taking the Blame for a Wild Pitch

                   “Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” “The woman you gave me, gave it to me to eat, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you’ve done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 

                                                 Genesis 3:11-13

Contrary to public opinion, blame was not first discovered by political talk show hosts. Blaming others goes back to the Garden. God asks Adam if he ate from the tree.  Instead of admitting it, he blames both God and Eve: “the woman YOU gave me . . .” When God directs his question to Eve, she passes the blame to the Serpent.

 

TV station managers love bad weather because it’s news. Meteorologists, on the other hand, hate storms. They have learned that people are furious and rain down obscenities on them when bad weather hits the area.  One forecaster in Louisville said she hates to go to the grocery store during storms because everyone blames her for the bad weather.

 

And blaming others is contagious. Nathanael J. Fast from USC and Larissa Tiedens from Stanford published a study on “Blame Contagion.”  In one experiment, half the participants read a newspaper article that said Gov. Schwarzenegger blamed special interest groups for a costly special election that failed.  The other half read an article in which the California governor took full responsibility for the failure.

Afterward, participants were asked to write about a personal failure and add who was responsible.  Those who read the article where the governor blamed special interest groups were more likely to blame others for their failure; those who read the second article tended to accept responsibility for their actions.

 

Every troubled organization knows about the “circular firing squad.”  Pointing fingers and assigning blame, Fast and Tiedens discovered, is especially prevalent among people who feel insecure.

 

This is why God’s grace is so beautiful.  We can have the courage to take responsibility for our failures, because when we do, God will forgive us.  Our sense of security is not based on our goodness, but on the knowledge that we are safe in God.

When we know we’re forgiven, there’s no longer a need to shift the blame.

 

The Baltimore Orioles needed a win to tie for first place in the AL East. But, a Toronto Blue Jay runner scored from third on a wild pitch, and the Orioles lost the game.

Afterward, the Orioles catcher Jamie Quirk shouldered the responsibility.  “A major-league catcher has to block that ball . . . I should have blocked it . . . I’m a professional catcher.”

And guess what?  By taking the blame for a wild pitch, Jamie Quirk didn’t receive scorn from Orioles fans.  He bravely protected his pitcher.  And won the admiration of all.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Word He’ll Speak

Story of the Day for Saturday March 17, 2012

The Word He’ll Speak

                     Job answered the Lord . . . “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I have declared things I didn’t understand.”  

                                                          Job 42:3

Aristotle was the most revered of all the world’s philosophers. He believed that scientific experiment was beneath the dignity of a true philosopher. If something is true, you should be able to figure it out by simply thinking hard about it.

That is why, for almost 2000 years, no one contested Aristotle’s pronouncement that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones at a proportional rate. A ten pound cannonball, he maintained, will fall ten times faster than a one pound musket ball.

 

Galileo wasn’t the first person to disprove Aristotle’s notion. Simon Stevin had already refuted Aristotle by his experiment of dropping various lead balls from the church tower in Delft. They all hit the ground simultaneously.

What made Galileo’s demonstration from the Leaning Tower of Pisa so notable was that philosophy professors loyal to Aristotle witnessed the experiment. According to Aristotle, when a ten pound ball is dropped from 100 feet, it should hit the ground before a one pound ball, dropped at the same time, has fallen ten feet.

Here is the most remarkable thing about the experiment at the Leaning Tower. After Galileo’s experiment disproved Aristotle’s assumption, the philosophy scholars STILL refused to believe their eyes and admit that Galileo was right!

 

After Job lost his health, wealth, and family, his friends stopped by to offer condolences — as well as their theological opinions concerning why God let these things happen to Job. In the end, God silences their debate by demonstrating that all of them are simply spouting their ignorance.

 

The theological experts in Jesus’ day thought they had God pretty well figured out. If good things happened to you, it meant that God loved you and approved of your behavior. If, however, you got sick, or suffered from some misfortune, that meant you were sinful and God was angry with you.

The opinions of the rabbis were reasonable. But they were dead wrong.

 

We still do that today. Ask someone to complete this sentence: “If God loved me, then . . .” You may be surprised at how many people would say, “If God loved me, the cancer would turn out to be benign.” “If God loved me, I wouldn’t have lost my job.” “If God loved me, he wouldn’t have let my sister die in the car accident.”

 

We can spout opinions about God all day long. It hardly seems right that admitting our ignorance is the best way to know God. But it is the only way to know God. The only way we can learn about God is to shut up long enough for him to speak.

And, if we listen, the Word he’ll  speak will be Jesus.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Adjusting The Message

Story of the Day for Friday March 16, 2012

Adjusting the Message

 

                   When the crowds saw what Paul did, they cried out in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us as humans!” 

                                                          Acts 14:11     

 When Paul and Barnabas visited Lystra on a missionary trip, they met a man lame from birth. Paul healed him, and the crowd went wild. The Lycaonian’s, unfortunately, didn’t see this miracle from the viewpoint of the God Paul worshipped. They interpreted the miracle from the perspective of their own gods. They called Barnabas Zeus, and named Paul Hermes.

The priest from the nearby temple of Zeus prepared to sacrifice bulls to worship them. Paul emphatically denied they were pagan gods, but they still had a whale of a time convincing the Lycaonians of that.

 

Now, don’t start thinking, “How could these people be so dense?” because I’m about to apply their way of thinking to you (I’ve already applied it to myself.) Wouldn’t it be easier to understand how others form faulty perceptions when we see why we do the same thing?

Dr. Steven J. Sherman is a professor of psychology at Indiana University. He poses this scenario: Let’s imagine that a Professor Yang teaches at a large American university. He is Asian, very literate, likes to take nature walks, and writes poetry in his spare time? Is it more likely that Professor Yang teaches math or Korean literature?

Based on this information, most of us choose Korean literature. But, that’s because we’ve failed to consider the “base rate” – which, in this case, is the number of math teachers at an American university compared to Korean lit instructors. How many math classes are there compared to every class in Korean literature? A hundred? A thousand? Mathematics is a popular subject while Korean lit is rare.

Despite Professor Yang’s ethnic background or personal interests, it is far more probable that he is a math instructor.

 

But, talking about our misjudgments is not the point of this article. The real purpose is that we understand that those who listen to our message of the Good News of Jesus will do so from their own, biased perspective.

My brother made a missionary trip to India. Through an interpreter, he presented the Gospel to people and was surprised (and pleased) to witness so many conversions.

Then, it dawned on him that these people, steeped in Hinduism, had thousands of gods. Accepting one more was no big deal to them.

My brother alertly notified the missionary society that was sponsoring him of this situation. They refused to listen. Stay with the canned presentation, they warned him, and chalk up the “conversions.”

 

When we understand our own ability to misinterpret the facts, we can become more sensitive to how others may misinterpret our words. And adjust the message for them.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

How All Stories End

Story of the Day for Thursday March 15, 2012

How All Stories End

                      Do not call conspiracy everything these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear.

                                                                    Isaiah 8:12

I’m reading a book about the Revolutionary War, and it is not looking good for the Americans.  Congress has declared independence from Great Britain, but now, a little over a month later, the British have arrived in force: 73 warships, and 400 transport ships.  The British are bearing down with the most powerful, well-trained army in the world.  The ragtag Americans are no match for the 32,000 British troops who have just hammered the Colonial troops at the Battle of Brooklyn.

General George Washington is trying to sneak his army off the island at night, but messages get confused.  The wrong regiments are moving at the wrong time and everything is in confusion. At dawn, with much of the army still trying to cross over to New York, they are sitting ducks for British warships and advancing troops.

 

Do you want to know what I think?  I haven’t read to the end of the book, but I don’t think we’re going to win this war.  The Americans don’t have a chance.  The British are going to notice the retreat at first light and destroy our army.  We’re going to be crushed by British military might and end up a British colony forever!   Then they’re going to slap a tax on all imports of Earl Grey tea and we’re going to have to sing “God Save the King” at the beginning of all our football games.

People often comment on my keen foresight about things.  I don’t know, I just seem to be able to look at these kinds of situations and know what’s going to happen.

 

After reading on, I learn that at the last moment – just before dawn – a thick fog settled in over the American troops.  New York is clear, but the fog surrounding our retreat is so thick the British complained they couldn’t see six feet.  Washington ended up evacuating his entire army of 9000 men without the loss of a single life.

Okay, but that was just luck we weren’t destroyed .

Wasn’t it?

 

I have continued reading and my prediction is being vindicated – we are getting clobbered by the British. Sure, Washington escaped to the mainland, but now the British warships have trounced us at Kips Bay. We retreat. They pursue. They have taken Fort Washington and 2000 patriots have been captured.  They attacked Fort Lee and we gave it up without a fight.  A third of the army is sick, and there are only 3500 American soldiers left.  I just know we’re going to lose this war for independence.

 

Jesus teaches us we should not worry about the future.  He is the King of Kings.  All things are under his control.  And even people of keen foresight (like me), need to trust that the Lord alone knows how all stories end.
                                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Always Open to Learning More

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 14, 2012

Always Open to Learning More

                                “You are so silly and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”

                                                 Luke 24:25

Ever notice that when the Catholics interpret the Bible they find evidence of Purgatory? Or, that when Lutherans interpret the Bible, they discover that the pope is the Antichrist? Or, that when Presbyterians interpret the Bible they discover that choir members should wear blue robes with those white triangles for collars?

Okay, that was a little over the top, but you know what I mean, don’t you? And, because I know the storm this topic creates, let me phrase this carefully: Why is it that every denomination – EXCEPT THE ONE YOU BELONG TO – is so pigheaded that they can’t see that their assumptions about Scripture are sometimes askew?

Now let’s be clear: we can’t understand the meaning of God’s Word without forming assumptions. All that said, however, assumptions are also dangerous because sometimes they keep us from seeing what Scripture is actually trying to say.

 

Ironically, the more anxious we are to have the Bible confirm our assumptions, the less open we become to understanding what the Bible is saying.

Prof. Richard Wiseman had volunteers watch a moving dot in the center of a computer screen. Without warning, larger dots would flash at the corners of the screen. Almost everyone noticed these larger dots.

Wiseman then repeated the experiment with a second group – but this time he offered a large sum of money to those who could accurately watch the central dot.  This time, over a third of the participants failed to even see the larger dots on the edge of the screen.

In other words, the more anxious we become about getting it “right,” the less able we are to see things that are there.

 

So, this guy, Clopas, and his friend are walking home, and meet a stranger. When the stranger asks what they’re talking about, they’re amazed. “Are you the only one around her who hasn’t heard the news?”  Then they tell him the latest – about the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, who just got killed. They share with him their wild hopes and crushed dreams. Then they explain the bizarre part. Some women they know claim they found the prophet’s grave empty and angels told them that this Jesus was alive! Very odd.

Clopas and his friend had no idea the stranger they were talking to was Jesus himself.  Jesus never told them their assumptions were wrong.  Instead, he explained to them what Moses and the prophets had written about this moment in history.

 

I’m in no position to criticize these disciples for having misguided assumptions.  I’m slower of heart to believe than they are. But their experience is a helpful reminder that I should be open to question my assumptions, and let God tell me what he wants to say.

To question your own assumptions does not mean you reject them, or even that you doubt them. It simply means you are always open to learning more from God.

                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Rumba and the Bird Brain

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 13, 2012

Rumba and the Bird Brain

                 You will be driven away from people and will live with the beasts of the field, and will eat grass like cattle. 

                                                                 Daniel 4:32

Our friend, Val, is an animal lover, and is always taking in abused pets. Beside her ponies, donkey, and a blind horse, she has a herd of happy dogs, two parrots, and a cockatoo, named Rumba.

Rumba is a mischievous bird. If she hears me walking in the hallway, she calls out, “Hey you! . . . What’s your name?”  Before I know it, I’m standing in front of her cage and having a conversation with a birdbrain. (Or is it the other way ‘round?)

Cockatoos have an uncanny sense of rhythm, and, while I’m quite self-conscious about dancing, pretty soon she’s bobbing her head, and then I’m bobbing my head, and one thing leads to another . . .

Soon, we’re both swaying and jiving, and I’m yelling, “Oh yeah!” and “Whoo, baby!” As long as no one’s watching, dancing with a cockatoo is a hoot.

But, if you’re self-conscious about dancing, you should always shut the door first. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that my wife told me that she and Val heard the commotion and watched me strutting my stuff.

Oh great — so much for maintaining the reserved dignity with which I like to carry myself.

 

Dignity is a good thing and I commend it for your consideration. But it also carries its hazards. When we assume a dignified pose, it is very difficult to avoid the notion that we are, in some way, superior to others. Honor is a breeding swamp for pride.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king, and there’s no shame in that, because someone’s got to do it. But his exalted status led him to become enamored with his own importance, so God turned him into a cow.  No one laughs at cows for grazing in a field because cows have no sense of self-importance. But when a king gets down on his hands and knees and eats like a cow, it can go a long way in correcting an overinflated ego.

 

Vince Lombardi was at his football office when his wife called to tell him she had invited two Catholic priests to dinner.

In order to have an undisturbed conversation after dinner, the Lombardis put their four-year-old daughter, Susan, to bed.

As the four chatted after dinner with coffee and brandy, little Susan marched into the room – her nightgown sopping wet from her armpits down. She walked up to the two Reverend Fathers, pointed her finger under one nose and then under the nose of the other Father and said, “Either you or you left the seat up, and I fell in!”

 

The loftier our pose, the more humbling it will be in the cattle field.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Straining Knats and Swallowing Camels

Story of the Day for Monday March 12, 2012

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

                 “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.” 

                                               Matthew 23:24

My friend, Mike, from Upper Michigan once told me his experience as a new father.   One day his wife needed to go to church and asked if he could take care of the baby and then bring her to church when he came later.   Hey, no problem.  He has his list of things to bring: bottle, blanket, diapers, baby formula, tiny little baby spoon.

Then he drove to the church and met his wife.  He had remembered everything on his list.  But the first question his wife asked was, “Where’s the baby?”

“The baby!!!”

(You will want to know he raced back home to find his little daughter safe and sound, sleeping in her crib.)

 

Among other reasons, I like Mike, because now I don’t feel so alone for doing similar kinds of things.   Sometimes we can get so absorbed by details that we get diverted from the Big Picture.  As someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”

You would think the importance of the “main thing” would determine our attention to it, but that isn’t true.  A good example of that is Eastern Airlines Flight 401.  The pilot,  on his final approach to Miami International Airport, put the landing gear down, but the indicator light in the cockpit didn’t come on.

Puzzled, he circled around and leveled the plane off at 2000 feet.  The fist officer took a look and he couldn’t figure it out.  A mechanic from Boeing happened to be sitting in the jump seat that flight so he got up to take a look.   All three were so absorbed with the malfunctioning light bulb that they didn’t realize the plane was losing altitude.  No one was flying the plane.

Captain Robert Loft’s last words, before the jet crashed into the Everglades, was, “Hey!  What’s happening here?”

Nothing could be a higher priority for the pilot than to land the aircraft safely.  All the same, his focus was diverted from that by a $12 light bulb.

 

We can say a lot of awful things about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but no one can fault their attention to the smallest details of keeping the commandments.  They not only tithed their money, but they counted out their garden seeds, and carefully picked out every tenth seed to give to God.

But, in their attention to the tiniest detail, we lost sight of the Big Picture.  Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy of tithing seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Jesus’ assessment of them: “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

 

You’re really busy these days, aren’t you?  So many things to do.  What is the main thing that your Lord wants you to be about?

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

That’s What Love Does

Story of the Day for Friday March 9, 2012

That’s What Love Does

                 The chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus while he was teaching and asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” 

                                                                   Matthew 21:23

Derek Redman posted the fastest time in the first round of the 440 meter sprints at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.

In the semi-final run, Redman is racing at the front of the pack when suddenly he  goes down on the track – grabbing his hamstring. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “I’m going to finish this race.”

Slowly, Redman stands up and begins to hobble down the track.

Derek’s face is twisted in pain, when, suddenly, his father jumps over the railing and runs onto the track to help. When Derek recognizes his dad holding onto him he collapses in tears in his father’s arms.

Jim Redman tells his son, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes. I do.”

“Then,” his father said, “We’ll finish together.”

And so, arm in arm, father and son slowly make their way to the finish line.

 

The 65,000 spectators in the stadium have risen to their feet with a thunderous roar. The television announcer for the race says, “He’s getting THE cheer of the Games!”

The poignant finish of Derek Redman and his father is considered one of the most moving events in all of Olympic history.

 

But not everyone saw it that way. When Jim ran to help his son, security guards chased after him to remove him. He was, after all, not allowed on the racetrack.  Even after Jim reaches his son, an official runs up to them, and you can see Derek’s dad trying to swat him away.

The rules clearly state that a runner is not allowed to receive assistance in a race. And even though Derek was lying on his back in agony while the other racers finished, he still was officially racing, was he not?

Weren’t the officials who tried to force Jim Redman off the track simply doing their duty? Following the rules?

Perhaps. But that’s the problem with legalism: it sees rules, but not people. Legalism follows the letter of the law, but is blind to circumstances.

Legalism could never make sense of Jesus.

 

Some see the Bible as nothing more than a list of rules to be obeyed. But, at its heart, the Bible invites us into a relationship. Jesus came to break down the barriers that keep us from fellowship with him. He came to restore the relationship between God and man.

 

Yes, Derek Redman and his dad broke the rules. From time to time, that’s what love does.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Swimming in the Fog

Story of the Day for Thursday March 8, 2012

Swimming in the Fog

                               My soul is very troubled. How long, O Lord, how long?

                                                                 Psalm 6:3

On July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to become the first woman to swim the twenty-one miles from Catalina Island to the California coast.

The fog was so thick, however, she could barely see the support boats accompanying her. After fifteen hours and fifty-five minutes, she begged to be taken out of the water. Soon after she got in the boat, Chadwick discovered she was only half a mile from shore.

At a news conference the next day, she said, “All I could see was the fog . . . I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

 

Marathon runners who know how much further it is to the finish line are better able to summon the strength to reach their goal. But, with most things in life, we’re like Florence Chadwick: we know the goal we want to accomplish, but we have no idea how close we are to reaching it. We live in a fog.

Louis L’Amour has more than 300 million copies of his books in print, but, in the early days, he says, “There was a steady flow of rejection slips.” He was not exaggerating. Publishers rejected his submissions 200 times before the first one was accepted.

If you knew your 200th story would usher you into a life of fame and fortune, you wouldn’t mind your 199th rejection slip. In fact, it would be kind of exciting. But, if you didn’t know whether your writing would ever be accepted by a publisher, your 199th rejection slip would be pretty discouraging, wouldn’t it?

 

The psalmists often ask God a question for which they never get an answer: “How long, O Lord?”

We’re encouraged to ask the Lord the same question – even though we’ll get the same answer they did. All the same, even groaning to God is an act of faith.

We don’t know how many more job applications we’ll have to fill out before we land a job. We don’t know how many prayers we’ll have to make on behalf of a loved one who is breaking our heart. How many more strokes did Florence Chadwick need to make before she reached her goal? How many more manuscripts did Louis L’Amour need to mail before he earned his first dollar?

The key is to take a deep breath, trust the Lord, and keep at it.

 

If we never know when the answers will come, is there ever a time to give up? I guess so. James Reeve’s little poem speaks about just such a time:

The King sent for his wise men all

To find a rhyme for W.

When they had thought a good long time,

But could not think of a single rhyme,

     “I’m sorry,” said he, “to trouble you.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)