No More Spit in Soup

Story of the Day for Monday April 30, 2012

No More Spit in Soup

Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he’s thirsty, give him something to drink.”
Romans 12:17, 20

Ray Stedman recalled a story that took place during the Korean War. Some officers rented a house and hired a Korean boy to cook and do housework for them. He was a cheerful, good-natured young man, and the soldiers soon had a lot of fun playing practical jokes on him.

They would nail his shoes to the floor or balance a pail of water on the door so that when he opened it, the water would come splashing down on him.

But no matter how many tricks they played on him, he always took it with good humor.

The soldiers eventually started feeling bad about the mean tricks they were playing and sat down one day with the Korean boy.

“We’ve been doing all these mean things to you and you’ve taken it so nicely. We just want to apologize to you and tell you that we are never going to do those things again.”

“You mean no more nail shoes to floor?”

“No more,” they assured him.

“You mean no more water on door?”

“No more.”

“Okay, then,” he said, “no more spit in soup.”

Isn’t retaliation wonderful? It gets us through the tough times in life by giving us the satisfaction of knowing we have evened the score.

We enjoy “pay back time.”  If we didn’t, Hollywood would go belly up, because “getting even” is a major theme of movies.

The logic of retaliation is to “fight fire with fire.” But, if you fight fire with fire, what do you have more of? You have more fire.

If you fight evil with evil, what do you have more of?

Jesus came up with a wild, radical notion. He thinks you should fight fire with water.  You fight evil with love.

Dr. J. Stuart Holden conducted worship services for the British Highland Regiment. While in Egypt, a sergeant told him how he became a believer.

“A private became a Christian while we were in Malta,” the sergeant told Holden. One night, the private came in exhausted, but took the time to kneel outside his tent to pray.

Annoyed by this, the sergeant said he took off his muddy boots and slapped the soldier on the side of the head. But he just went on praying.

The next morning the sergeants awoke to find his boots by his tent, cleaned and polished.

“That,” the sergeant said, “was his reply to me . . . I was saved that day.”

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Once You’ve Heard Their Story

Story of the Day for Saturday April 28, 2012

Once You’ve Heard Their Story

He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with justice he will give his verdict on the needy, and will make fair decisions for the meek of the earth.
Isaiah 11:3-4

In 1873, Karl Asmis, a young German forester was deputized by the local postmaster to deliver an important letter. The envelope contained a large sum of money.

The letter was never delivered. Karl reported that, while walking through the woods to deliver the letter, he shot a rabbit. He figured the easiest way to carry both would be to tie the envelope around the rabbit’s neck and sling the rabbit over his shoulder.

But, Karl claimed, the rabbit wasn’t dead; only stunned. It squirmed out of his grasp and hopped into the forest with the envelope around its neck.

An imaginative story, but no one was buying it. Karl was shunned by everyone in town.

Sometimes people say things that betray their lack of believability or dimwittedness.

Joe Theismann was a two time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He led his team to a Super Bowl victory, and then his career was abruptly ended when Giants linebacker, Lawrence Taylor’s tackle shattered Theismann’s lower leg.

Theismann became a sportscaster and his most well-known utterance did nothing to disabuse us of the “dumb jock” stereotype. When another reporter asked Theismann whether he considered his former coach, Joe Gibbs, to be a genius, Theismann said he didn’t think the word “genius” was appropriate. “A genius,” Theismann said, “is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

I scorn liars and snicker at others who say dumb things. And I’m pretty good at finding fault with other people.

But I’ve noticed that, once I get to know someone personally, my attitude changes. Andrew Stanton tells the story about the former television host, Mr. Rogers. Stanton says Mr. Rogers always carried a quote in his wallet that said: “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love, once you’ve heard their story.”

Isaiah 11 is a prophecy that, when the Messiah comes, he won’t be predisposed to judge us. He will come to hear our story and bring reconciliation rather than condemnation.

Back to Joe Theismann. When Joe went to South River High School in New Jersey, he would occasionally play basketball and touch football with a kid down the block. This high school classmate was brilliant. He was the class valedictorian and is now a physician.

His name was Norman Einstein.

As for Theismann, he was an All-American quarterback in college. But he was also an academic All-American. Joe Theismann isn’t a dumb jock; he’s a bright guy.

And before we leave Karl Asmis eternally covered in shame, Doug Storer, in his book  Amazing But True Facts, says that a few years after the money disappeared, some boys reported finding a hawk’s nest. In it were remnants of a rabbit’s skeleton. And the inside of the nest was lined with money.
                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

As Far As the Headlights

Story of the Day for Friday April 27, 2012

As Far As Your Headlights

When God called Abraham, by faith he obeyed and went . . . even though he didn’t know where he was going. . . Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations — where God was the architect and builder.
Hebrews 11:8,10

In Egypt, Israel groaned under the lash of slavery. They longed for freedom, but God promised them far more than an escape from slavery; he promised to lead them to a land “dripping with milk and honey.”

The path to the Promised Land, however, led through a trackless wilderness. God told them the destination, but only He knew the route. As the days wore on they lost sight of the goal. They no longer strode toward their dream; they trudged.

Once they forgot their destination, they became demoralized and demanded that Moses lead them back to Egypt — even if that meant a return to slavery.

When we forget where we’re going, turning back to where we used to be is far more comfortable.

When I came down with strep throat, my doctor would gave me antibiotics. He cautioned me to continue taking the pills until they were all gone. But after a few days I would start feeling perky again, and would quit taking them.

Recently, I’ve been cheered to learn I have comrades. The most common problem in fighting resistant bacteria is patients who quit taking the full course of antibiotics once they start feeling better.

The medical community sought help with this problem from, of all people, Rory Sutherland — a marketing guru from an advertising agency. His solution was simple: “Don’t give them twenty-four white pills,” he advised. “Give them twenty white pills and four blue ones, and tell them to take the blue pills after they’ve finished the white ones.”

Even though the blue pills were no different — other than color — it worked. Instead of taking pills until they felt better, patients focused on the pills at the end of the process — those four blue pills.

When God called Abraham to leave his home and travel to a new land, the Bible says Abraham didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know where he’d pitch his tent the next day. He didn’t need to. Abraham saw that the journey’s end would lead him home to God. Abraham saw the destination and trusted in the mercy of God to get him there. And that’s why he never turned back.

When you see the goal, you can walk without seeing what’s around the bend. Life is a lot like novelist E. L. Doctorow’s description of completing a book. “Writing a novel,” he says, “is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Hey, Who Has the Talking Stick?

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 25, 2012

Hey, Who Has the Talking Stick?

                     If you don’t consult others, plans fail. But with many advisors they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22

In 1906, the livestock fair at Plymouth, in Devon, England accepted wagers on the weight of a butchered ox. About 800 fairgoers placed a bet.

Sir Francis Galton was a brilliant statistician, but was an elitist. He believed most people were incompetent to have a say in political affairs. Because most of those who wagered on the weight of the ox were neither farmers not butchers, he believed the uninformed crowd would guess wildly off the mark — and he was almost right.

Many who made wagers were nowhere near the actual weight of the ox. When the wagering was over, the ox was put on the scale and weighed in at 1198 pounds. Galton took all 800 wagers and averaged their guesses. He was stunned to discover, however, that the statistical mean of all the guesses came to . . . 1197 pounds.

When Native American tribes faced important decisions, their leaders would gather for a council. They began by smoking the calumet. They relaxed, passed the pipe, and established a common bond. When various tribes gathered together, a chief from one tribe would speak. When he finished, the council was over for the day. The next chief would not speak until the others had a day to mull over the words of the first chief.

When some tribes held their own councils, they fashioned a talking stick. Often, an eagle feather was attached to the stick to symbolize the courage to speak truthfully, along with rabbit fur to remind them to speak from the heart. No one was ever allowed to interrupt the one holding the talking stick. By passing the talking stick to every member of the council, everyone viewpoint was heard, and everyone learned to listen carefully to each person’s viewpoint.

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you may be itching for me to hand you the talking stick. And you probably have some excellent points to make.

“Marty, pointing out that the statistical regression to the mean helps a crowd to accurately guess a cow’s weight is not . . .”

“I think it was an ox, actually.”

“Hey, who has the talking stick?”

“Sorry.”

“A group’s ability to accurately estimate the weight of an ox is far different from a group’s ability to discover theological truths by consensus. You can’t discover whether God loves you by taking a vote.”

“Excellent point. When others share their opinion they may well be wrong. But, all the same, we’re never harmed by listening thoughtfully to what they have to say.”

“I still haven’t given you back the talking stick.”

“Oops.”

                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

If Honey Bees Can Do It

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 24, 2012

If Honey Bees Can Do It

                   After a lot of debating . . .
Acts 15:7

When the church was young and began spreading the good news beyond the borders of Israel, a dispute arose. Some believers insisted the gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved, while other believers vigorously opposed this — claiming that we are saved only because of God’s mercy to us in Christ.

How does a group resolve an issue when its members are butting heads? Well, if we can glean any wisdom from honey bees, butting heads is part of the process.

Thomas Seeley, a biology professor at Cornell, found that the ideal bee hive is at least ten gallons in volume, fifteen feet off the ground, and has a narrow entrance.

Seeley found an island off the coast of Maine with no honey bees — nor trees to make a hive. Along with his co-workers, Seeley built several mediocre bee houses but made one honey bee dream home. Then he brought a hive of 6000 bees to the island.

Scouts would fly out from the hive in all directions — looking for a place to relocate. When a scout discovered a possible new home, she would return to the hive and report her findings (all scouts are female) by doing a dance.

Other scouts would then fly out to investigate each report. But with scouts returning from several locations, how does the hive know which new home to choose?

First, the hive looks for enthusiasm. The better the new potential home site the scout has discovered, the wilder its dance when it returns to the hive.

The other vital aspect to a scout’s report is modesty. They don’t behave as if their discovery is the best one. They listen to each other; no one is stubborn.

Once all the scouts have reported in on potential home sites, the head-butting begins. A dancing scout for one location will head-butt a dancing scout reporting on another site, and both stop dancing. When about fifteen bees are all dancing for the same location, scouts start head-butting bees from their own “team.” A quorum has been reached.

The hive has now decided on the best new location. In Dr. Seeley’s experiments, he found the honey bees choose the best option about 90 percent of the time.

The first major dispute in the church was beautifully resolved. Everyone offered an opinion. They butted heads in spirited debate. They recited facts and quoted Scripture.

In the end, the council concluded all people are saved by the grace of Jesus.

To argue a position with both passion and modesty is a difficult balance to achieve. To dance with enthusiasm for your position but then later head-butt your supporters to respectfully consider another viewpoint, is the perfect combination of fervor and humility.

But if honey bees can do it . . .
           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

No Matter How Small

Story of the Day for Monday April 23, 2012

No Matter How Small

                 Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? . . . It’s like a mustard seed which, when you plant it, is the smallest of all the seeds in the ground.”
Mark 4:30-31

In ancient times, Mesopotamia was considered the most advanced civilization on earth. What better place to be if you wanted to have a significant impact on the ancient world.

But when God called Abram, he told him to leave this advanced civilization and retreat to a lonely, desolate land where he could carve out a living as a wandering nomad. So much for significant world impact, right?

The Lord wanted to create a family that could be called “God’s children” – a family greater than the stars you can count in the night sky. And how does God bring about this staggering multitude? He tells Abram and Sarai to go and make a baby.

When your objective is to create staggering multitudes, it just seems that Abram’s contribution didn’t get things off to a rousing start. But that is how God’s kingdom works. You start with the little things – things as tiny as mustard seeds.

Common sense tells us that, if you want to be fabulously wealthy, you should sell products that yield enormous profits – like skyscrapers, or Boeing 747s, or tickets to a Packer game.

But Ray Kroc chose to make a profit of only a few pennies on his products. He started selling hamburgers in 1955 for fifteen cents. He called his restaurant: McDonald’s. Apparently, pennies do add up because Ray’s widow gave a gift from the profits of those hamburgers to the Salvation Army – a gift of 1½ BILLION dollars.

A woman once said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

The “small tasks” this woman sought to accomplish were smaller than you might think. She was both blind and deaf. At the age of seven, she first learned what a “word” was. When the rest of us have reached the age when we can speak fluently, she was learning how to speak audibly. Her small task was to learn to pronounce a word that she would never be able to hear.

But, through her small tasks, Helen Keller became one of the most popular authors of her age. She was invited to the White House by every president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliffe College (graduating cum laude). And she was awarded the country’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Keller summarized her life by saying, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

No matter how small.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What Are You Letting In?

Story of the Day for Saturday April 21, 2012

What Are You Letting In?

Their vine is the grapevine from Sodom. It comes from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters are bitter.
Deuteronomy 32:32

Chris McCandless craved adventure.  Rejecting the materialism of American culture, he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness – both to prove he could live off the land with only the provisions he could carry, and to seek a deeper wisdom to life.

Before plunging into the wilderness, Chris bought a book on edible plants. He wanted to forage for food like the native Dean’ina Indians. He ate berries and dug wild potato root. He also hunted game – mostly birds, porcupines, and squirrels.

But something was wrong. He kept losing weight.

Jon Kraukauer, pieced together this episode of Chris McCandless’s life in his book, Into the Wild.  Through extensive research, Krakauer discovered that Chris noted in his diary that he began eating the seed pods of the wild potato. What McCandless did not know was that, in the summertime, wild potato seed pods become toxic with a chemical called swainsonine.  It blocks the body’s ability to convert other foods into energy.  No matter how much food you eat, you will starve.

When McCandless finally realized his mistake, he was too weak to get up and gather more food. Local hunters found his body later that year.

I like healthy foods.

But –  hold your applause – while I like healthy food, I also scarf down junk food in generous portions.

For example, I love huckleberries. These wild, mountain berries have no greater joy in life than to rush antioxidants through our bodies, and to increase our vigor and zest. But I also love bratwurst – those delicious gut bombs larded with enough cholesterol to plug a drainpipe.

It’s not enough to eat healthy food. All the nutritious food in the world won’t help you if you’re also sucking down poison.

Is our spiritual diet really any different?

Before you think I’m just being a scold, let me emphasize that the issue is not what we are exposed to, but what we embrace.  For example, in Proverbs it says we should avoid associating with people who are easily angered, because we’ll become like them. But it’s impossible to avoid contact with hot-tempered people.

What we’re exposed to doesn’t poison our minds; it’s what we embrace that matters.

God wants us to embrace all that is good. But, when it comes to spiritual health, what you keep out of your heart is just as important as what you let in.
                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Kind Words and A Kiss

Story of the Day for Friday April 20, 2012

Kind Words and A Kiss

What a joy to give an apt reply, and how delightful is a timely word!
Proverbs 15:23

Benjamin West was one of the greatest painters of his day. Do you recall his masterpiece The Death of General Wolfe? Okay, well never mind — he was a good painter. He painted Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. In 1763, he moved to England where King George III had him paint the portraits of the royal family. Later, he became president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

William Barclay describes a time when West was little. One day his mother left him in charge of his little sister Sally. Benjamin discovered some bottles of ink and began to paint Sally’s portrait

He made quite a mess of things, with ink blots all over.

When his mother came home, she saw the mess but said nothing. She noticed the painting, picked it up and said, “Why, it’s Sally!” Then she stooped down and kissed Benjamin.
Benjamin West used to say, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”

Kind words and a kiss. What a joyous moment that must have been.

I’m not, however, referring to the delight of little Benjamin West, but of his mother. Proverbs 15:23 isn’t talking about the joy of receiving an apt reply; it’s talking about the joy of giving one.

Many times, of course, we must criticize others, and others must criticize us. But have you ever noticed that those who are habitually critical of others look like they just found a toenail clipping in their soup?

Yeah, sometimes we have to criticize, but it pains us — or, at least it should pain us. Speaking kind words, on the other hand, does more than bring encouragement to the hearer; an encouraging word delights the giver.

This last winter I completed my twentieth Birkebeiner. The “Birkie” is a cross-country ski marathon stretching over thirty miles from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.
Thousands of spectators line the course. To reach the finish line you must ski down Main Street in Hayward. You can hear the thunderous roar of the crowd well before you hit the street. Through a P.A. system that can be heard above the din of the crowd, the announcer shouts out your name and hometown as you ski to the finish.

The Birkie is a moving experience. Everyone claps for you and cheers you on. Not once has a spectator shouted “Ski faster! I can’t believe how slow you are!”
Fatigue always catches up with you and when you feel you can ski no further, the spectators provide the lift that sees you through to the finish.

When it comes to spiritual things, I’m a late bloomer, but in recent years I’ve made a discovery. When a fellow skier is injured or has hit the wall, I like to stop now and help. I’m slow enough as it is, and stopping to help others does nothing for my race time.
Over all these years the spectators never shared their secret with me . . . but I’ve learned it’s even more thrilling to give encouragement than it is to receive it.

The Bible says Jesus, “for the joy set before him” endured the cross in our place. Slowly I’m learning how true his words are when he taught us, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Great Fires and Small Flames

Story of the Day for Thursday April 19, 2012

Great Fires and Small Flames

                    Look how great a forest is set on fire by a small flame.

                                                                  James 3:5         

      Boston has named its major league baseball team after a certain color of stocking, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th century, Boston’s baseball team used to have a silly name. They were called the Boston Beaneaters.

     The Beaneaters had, arguably, the best stadium in baseball. The South End Grounds included the Grand Pavilion, a two-story grandstand, which featured ornate spires and turrets.

     On May 15, 1894, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Beaneaters in the South End Grounds in Boston. In the third inning, a man lit a cigarette in the right field stands and the match fell below the bleachers, starting a small fire.

     But, at that very moment, a fierce fight broke out between Boston’s Tommy Tucker and Baltimore’s John McGraw. Soon both teams emptied their dugouts and ran onto the field. The fans were riveted on the brawl. Spectators began throwing food and beer bottles onto the field. Fights erupted in the stands.

     All this while, the fire grew and spread. Soon the bleachers were engulfed in flames. The fire not only destroyed the ballpark, but spread through the city. Before the fire was brought under control, 170 buildings were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.

     When a brawl erupts during a baseball game, a little flame doesn’t captivate our attention. But, after it becomes a devastating fire, and hundreds have lost their homes and all their belongings, a fight at a ballgame doesn’t seem all that important.

     The apostle James warns us about the dangers of little things. Great fires are started by small flames. And bitter feuds – even wars – can be started by minor slights or insults. Yet, we’re often unconcerned about the minor rifts we create because, like a small flame, it’s so minor.

     But little things, when ignored, become big things. The longest peacetime border in the world lays between the United States and Canada, but that peace was threatened by the death of a pig.

     On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler shot a neighbor’s pig that got into his garden. His now pigless neighbor threatened to defend his case in British Columbia, but Cutler refused, claiming the island on which they resided was American territory.

     Tensions grew as sixty U.S. soldiers, led by Captain George Pickett (who would later lead the ill-fated charge at Gettysburg) claimed the island as U.S. territory. The Canadians brought an equal number of soldiers – claiming the island for Canada. 

    “The Pig War of 1859,” as it is called, involved a military standoff that lasted twelve years. It was finally settled without loss of life . . . except for one pig.  

Extinguishing a flame early is a lot less costly than trying to put out a raging forest fire.

                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)