Willing to Bow

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 18, 2012

 Willing to Bow

 

                  I am free, but I make myself a servant of everyone, in order that I might win more.

                                                                   1 Corinthians 9:19    

When he died in October of 2001, his funeral brought together politicians from both sides of the aisle. Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton sat next to Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Ted Kennedy attended along with Jesse Helms. He was loved by both Democrats and Republicans alike because, though he served as Senate Majority Leader longer than anyone in history, though he was one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, he always treated everyone with kindness. He was a servant.

In April 1981, Mansfield was serving as Ambassador to Japan, under Ronald Reagan.  A U.S. nuclear submarine, the USS George Washington accidentally rammed a Japanese freighter, the Nissho Maru. To make matters worse, the American vessel did not stay on the scene to attend to the dead and wounded, but disappeared.

 

The submarine was under orders not to disclose its location, but this act created outrage among the Japanese.

 

Mansfield was in the center of the controversy. He demanded a full report from the U.S. .Navy, and delivered it, in person, to Japan’s Foreign Minister, Sunao Sonoda.

 

As Charles Ferris recounted the incident, he said that Mansfield requested the cameras remain on him after their greeting. This was an odd request because Mansfield never enjoyed being in the limelight. But he knew what he was doing.

 

As the cameras were allowed to remain on, Mansfield bowed deeply from the waist before giving the report to the Foreign Minister. He knew Japanese culture well. A deep bow expresses the depth and sincerity of an apology.

 

Mansfield’s biographer, Don Oberdorfer writes, “That five seconds was played and replayed on Japan’s TV stations many times over . . .” The political issue was defused by a public act of regret and humility.

 

 

The apostle Paul was a free man. Yet, he used his freedom to become a servant to everyone. He didn’t have to position himself below others, but he chose to because he wanted others to know the life of Christ. 

What do you think?Do non-Christians today feel as if the Christians they know all stoop down to serve them? Or do they feel as if they’re being hammered by churchgoers who loom over them and swing the Truth like a weapon?

 

 

 

The Japanese still speak fondly of Mansfield. Before he died he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun – the highest honor Japan can bestow on a civilian.

They never forgot the man who was willing to bow.

                                                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

No Yardstick for Love

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 17, 2012

No Yardstick for Love

                 All day long my mouth will tell of your righteousness and salvation, though I don’t know its measure.

                                                                      Psalm 71:15   

 

Women are puzzling when they learn a baby has been born. They always want to know measurements, and excitedly pass on this information. “Did you hear Emily just had a baby girl? Six pounds, eight-and-a-half ounces, seventeen inches long!”

 

Guys are different. After they learn it’s a boy or a girl, they really don’t know what to say. “Um . . .Does it have a belly button?”

 

Women get excited about a newborn’s measurements, but the odd thing is that the actual measurements don’t matter. It’s not like a bass fishing derby — where the bigger the largemouth the better. Babies don’t win awards for their length or weight. It’s not a competition.

I believe a woman needs to measure a newborn because this is how she express her joy.

 

Love always wants to measure what can’t be measured. Lovers write poems claiming their love is deeper than the deepest ocean. So, what are they trying to say? That their love is more than 10.91 kilometers at the point where Mariana Trench lies due north of Papua, New Guinea? Not exactly.

 

Laying a newborn baby on a scale or imagining the depth of the ocean are imprecise means of calculating love, but how else do you measure the immeasurable?

 

A lot of important things, however, can be measured accurately. That’s why we monitor our blood pressure and periodically lift the car hood to check the dipstick. But we get into trouble when precise measurements are the only standards we accept as important.

 

Before his death from pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch, in his book The Final Lecture, talks about his consulting work with Disney World. He asked Disney executives a pointed question: If a child walked into one of their stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker, would their policies allow their workers to replace it free of charge?

 

Not likely. You can easily calculate the cost of a salt and pepper shaker. Giving one away is a financial loss. Do that for a billion customers and it could put you out of business.

 

But Randy would tell the executives of the time, as a youngster, he went into a store at Disney World and bought a salt and pepper shaker for ten dollars. Afterward, he dropped his purchase and broke one of the shakers. He was heartbroken.

 

An adult noticed Randy’s tears and urged him to go back to the store and ask to have it replaced. The store worker cheerfully gave him a new one.

 

Did Disney World lose money doing that? By one way of measurement, yes. But Randy’s dad was so impressed when he heard of this act of kindness he started driving his students to Disney World in a twenty-one passenger bus from Maryland. Pausch says his dad spent over $100,000 at Disney World over the years.

Love can’t be calculated and recorded on a spreadsheet — and this is especially true of Jesus’ love for you. We will always struggle to describe it because there is no yardstick for a love beyond measure.

                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

A Little More Vibrato

Story of the Day for Monday April 16, 2012

A  Little More Vibrato

                     Tell them not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which only end in speculation instead of God’s work, which is done by faith.
1 Timothy 1:3-4

Every year our family hosts an open house. My wife cooks mountains of food, but holds the family under the inflexible rule that we can’t scarf down all the food before the party. This, obviously, places us under an undue hardship. And so, as my daughter, Elly, and I savor the aroma of baked cookies fresh from the oven, we decide the time has come to undo the injustices we have suffered.

We hatch a plan, which revolves around the standard magician’s trick of misdirection. While I occupy my wife’s attention in the living room, Elly will sneak into the kitchen, make the heist, and then we will retire to a private corner of the house to enjoy our bounty.

In the living room, I hold my wife spellbound by singing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. The key to making this song memorable (as my sister taught me) is to sing it like Elmer Fudd, and then to pinch the skin over your Adam’s apple — jiggling it to create a vibrato.

“Cwaa-zy, I’m cwazy fo’ feewin’ so wone-wee . . .”

My wife rolls her eyes and heaves a big sigh. This song always gets to her.

“Cwaa-zy, cwazy fo’ feewin’ so bwue . . .”

When the Nazis overran France in World War II, French resistance fighters continued to oppose Hitler, but they were forced to live in hiding.

In 1943, they decided to come out of hiding and celebrate Armistice Day in the town of Oyonnax. The French holiday, which observes the Allied victory over Germany in World War I, was banned by the Nazis — who were not amused to find posters plastered throughout the town of Nantua, announcing a demonstration on Armistice Day.

On the morning of November 11th, the police from Oyonnax flocked to the neighboring town of Nantua to help authorities arrest the demonstrators.

Once the police left Oyannax, French freedom fighters swept down from their hillside hideouts and easily captured the police station. After shutting down the telephone system and blocking all traffic coming in or out of town, the cheering and weeping citizens welcomed the freedom fighters as they presented a floral cross of Lorraine to “the victors of yesterday from those of tomorrow.” After leading the citizens in a rousing rendition of the “Marseillaise,” the freedom fighters disappeared again into the hills.

The Bible says we can get misdirected from doing what God would have us do. We get embroiled in debates that just aren’t that important and neglect to focus on what we should be doing. The goal is our life in Jesus; a life of faith and love.

I do wish, however, my wife could be more easily diverted from preserving her baked goods for parties. We got nabbed before we could enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Next time, I think a little more vibrato will do the trick.
                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

But Truth Won’t Break

Story of the Day for Saturday April 14, 2012

But Truth Won’t Break

                  Because of rebellion . . . truth was flung to the ground.
Daniel 8:12

When Stephen Covey speaks to audiences, he will sometimes ask everyone to close their eyes and point north. Telling them not to move their arms, he asks everyone to open their eyes. The audience discovers it is pointing every which way.

Are they all correct? Is north whatever direction you think it is? Or, is there one direction that points to true north?

Before you answer that, let’s ratchet things up a notch. Suppose you’re driving in an unfamiliar city when your child in the back seat suddenly becomes ill. You shout out your car window at a passing pedestrian, “Where is the nearest hospital?”

“Three blocks north of here.”

If you are unsure of your directions would you ask which way is north? Or, would you conclude it didn’t matter – north is whatever direction you believe it to be?

Now, if it was up to me, I would never discuss mathematics because I’m so bad at it. But, our present circumstances compel me to bring up the topic of pi.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. And, while most of us can live happy lives without ever learning this fact, I’m told that correctly calculating pi is critical in some areas of life.

The number for pi is often identified as 3.14, but that isn’t true. Pi is an irrational number that keeps going until it disappears over the horizon. (In November, 2005, Chao Lu recited the first 67,890 decimal places of pi from memory.)

All this was not going down well with Edward J. Goodwin. As an amateur mathematician, he offered to the world three ways of calculating pi. The first formula calculated pi as 3.2, while other formulas yielded the numbers 3.23 and 4.

T.I. Record knew a good thing when he saw one. In 1897, as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, he introduced Bill #246, which changed the number of pi to Goodwin’s suggestions. The bill was sent to the House, where everyone was delighted to make pi a simpler number. Bill #246 was unanimously approved, 67 to 0.

The bill was passed on the Senate. But then a mathematics professor from Purdue, C.A. Waldo, convinced them they were a bunch of loons, and the bill died in committee.

We can fling the truth to the ground, but truth won’t break. If we ignore it, it will break us.

God doesn’t exist because we believe in him. He’s True North, and our opinions about him won’t alter who he is. What matters is that we find, and hold on to, what is true about God, and life in general, rather than trying to invent it.

In Indiana, preserving the true number of pi saved all the architects in the state from banging their heads against walls and mumbling incoherently.
                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

Their Stronghold

Story of the Day for Thursday April 12, 2012

Their Stronghold

                   Return to the stronghold, O prisoners of hope.
Zechariah 9:12

August Cyparis was a troublemaker. In his mid-twenties, Cyparis lived in St. Pierre on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He was arrested for brawling and forced to do hard labor. But, near the end of his sentence, he escaped from his laboring job to spend the night dancing. Even though he turned himself in to authorities the next morning, they were not amused and threw him in solitary confinement — a windowless dungeon that used to be a bomb-proof ammunition storage room.

St. Pierre, a beautiful city of 28,000, was called “The Paris of the West.” It was nestled on the ocean at the base of a dormant volcano, Mt. Pelée.

But in January of 1902, Pelée started grumbling. Fumerole activity began to increase, and by April, earth tremors could be felt. The sulfurous gas and ash drove snakes and insects off the volcano and around fifty people died of snakebites while livestock was tormented by biting red ants.

Governor Mouttet, however, convinced the editor of the daily newspaper to downplay the danger. He sent a handful of civic leaders to the summit of the volcano to inspect the situation. Though the only scientist among them was a high school teacher, they reported, “The safety of St. Pierre is completely assured.”

Not all the residents believed the reports. Yet, those who fled for safety were rounded up by troops and returned to St. Pierre — on the Governor’s order.

Governor Mouttet didn’t want a mass exodus from the city because he was up for re-election in one week, and wanted no instability among the voters.

The election never took place. On May 8, Mt. Pelée erupted. The city was leveled by searing hot gas (around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) that blew an estimated 400 miles an hour. A three ton statue was blown sixteen feet off its mount. Three foot masonry walls were demolished.

Within three minutes, all 28,000 residents were killed.

All except for two people. And one of those two survivors was a prisoner sitting in solitary confinement. There in the massive walls of the dungeon, August Cyparis was protected.

Cyparis survived, but not because he was a good man. He survived because of the massive stronghold that protected him.

On the day of Judgment, it is not the good, the strong, who will survive. Those saved will be all those who look to the God of mercy to be their stronghold.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  

“If People Could Just Be…”

Story of the Day for Thursday April 12, 2012

“If People Could Just Be……”

                    In whatever way you judge someone else, you are condemning yourself, for you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 2:1

When I was a young pastor, the wife of a man I’ll call Mike Poganski phoned to say her husband was being transferred to a larger hospital in another town. Mike had already been in the local hospital with a serious condition, so this was not good news.

I jumped in the car and drove to the larger hospital. After getting Mike’s room number at the receptionist’s desk, I rushed off in search of his room.

I peeked into his room and noticed no one in the first bed. I knocked on the door and the man in the second bed behind the curtain invited me in.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said. “It’s the Sunshine Committee coming to check up on you.”

When I saw Mike I did a double-take.  Mike is a big man with a beard. This man was tall and wore a beard, but he was much younger.

Suddenly it dawned on me. When Mrs. Poganski called to say Mike was in the hospital, she didn’t mean her husband, but her son, Mike Jr. I wish people would be more precise about these things because it would eliminate needless confusion.

Luckily, I am quick at piecing things together and know how to roll with the punches. I had never met Mike Jr., but if his mom wanted me to visit him that was fine with me.

“Just talked to your dad yesterday. Have you heard how he’s doing today?”

“No,” he said, “I haven’t talked to him for over a week.”

That grated me. Your dad’s in the hospital and you don’t visit or even give him a phone call? That’s just not right. But I tried not to show my annoyance.

“Well,” I said, “I hope he starts getting better soon.”

“Yeah.”

Mike Jr.’s unenthusiastic response immediately told me he either had a falling out with his dad or he was lacking in his social skills. But I try not to judge people, so I let it go.

“Sure hope your dad gets better soon. We need him for the dartball tournament. He’s one of the best throwers on our team.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Two weeks ago, he got two doubles and a home run.”

“Oh.”

It’s not my place to criticize, but Mike Jr. was just not a very good conversationalist. I couldn’t get him to open up about anything. So, after asking him about his condition and how he was doing, I asked him if he would like me to have a prayer for him.

“Um . . . sure.”

I prayed, and as I was saying goodbye I noticed his plastic hospital bracelet didn’t say Mike Poganski Jr., but had someone else’s name printed on it.

I’m not the kind of guy who gets easily upset about trifles, but I think I need to write a cordial, but firm, letter to the hospital. When someone’s name ends in Jr., the receptionists should be trained to mention this. And nurses should always double-check the names on the bracelets so they don’t misidentify their patients. If people could just be a little more careful about these things it would eliminate costly or embarrassing mistakes.
                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

He Did Know

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 11, 2012

He Did Know

                                   O God, search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

A small town prosecuting attorney called an elderly woman as his first witness. He approached her on the witness stand and said, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

“Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams,” she said. “I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’re a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat, you manipulate people. You think you’re such a hotshot, but you’re never going to amount to anything but a two-bit ambulance chaser. Yes, I know you!”

The lawyer was stunned. As he tried to collect himself he pointed across the courtroom to the other attorney and stammered, “Do you know him?”

“Why, yes, I certainly do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster too. I used to babysit him when he was little. And he’s a big disappointment to me as well. He’s lazy, bigoted, and drinks too much. The man can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the shoddiest affairs I’ve ever seen. Yes, I know him well!”

At that moment the judge rapped his gavel and called both attorneys to approach the bench. In a low voice the judge warned them, “If either of you asks this woman if she knows me . . . I’m going to jail you for contempt!”

As a young boy, Ted Koppel quickly learned that showing weakness invited bullying. So, he developed an air of confident self-control.

Later in life, as a former anchor for ABC’s Nightline, Koppel has won every major broadcasting award you can name — including 37 Emmys. He is known for his air of confidence in reporting the news.

He candidly admits, however, “No one is that confident in reality, but ours is a business of appearances, and it’s terribly important to be self-confident. The moment you give evidence of doubt, people are going to eat you alive.”

Yet, no matter how confident we appear, no matter what persona we present to others, there is still the nagging fear that someone is going to find us out. They’ll see our doubts and fears, our weakness and wobbly faith.

In one sense, we have good reason to hide behind a mask. If we blurted out all our insecurities to the world, some would use our faults as a weapon to harm us.

King David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is shocking because he invites God to scrounge around in the dark corners of his heart and to discover all his anxieties. David could only ask God to search his heart if he knew God could see him for who he really was — and still accept him.

When Jesus met a woman at a well, he offered her “living water.” He didn’t love her because he mistakenly assumed she was a good woman. He loved her because he did know her sin, and wanted her to find forgiveness.  When the woman ran back to her village, she shouted, “Come! See a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”
                                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 10, 2012

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It

                  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.
1 Corinthians 10:11

There’s a lot of wisdom in the down-home saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Yet, I read about a castle in Spain that was built on the edge of a 300 foot cliff. To reach the castle, visitors would be strapped into a large wicker basket and pulled up by a rope with a pulley system.

One visitor reached the top and noticed that the rope that pulled him up was badly frayed.

“How often do you install a new rope?”

The attendant nonchalantly replied, “When the old rope breaks.”

Sometimes we need to talk about fixing things that ain’t broke . . . yet.

It’s a sin to walk up to a member of the Hell’s Angels and tell him he’s a snotty-nosed pile of buffalo dung and that his mother dresses him funny. Not many people, however, commit this sin because they receive immediate feedback that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.

We commit sin because it is a good idea. Or, at least, it seems like it at the time. When I pig out on potato chips or brownies, my life is filled with pleasure and happiness.  There’s no down side . . . until sometime later when I have to suck in my gut to get my pants on. If I blimped out the minute I finished a bag of chips, I would be far more hesitant to do it.  But when the consequences aren’t immediate, somehow, I think my overindulgences are worth the effort.

When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God, the people got tired of waiting for him to come back down, so they made a golden idol and started dancing and whooping it up – proving that idolatry is lots of fun. At first. Later, when Israel arrived east of the Jordan, the men of Israel indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women, who invited them to sacrifice to their pagan god.  And a good time was had by all . . . for the moment. Let’s face it – when we sin, we do so because the pleasure seems, at the moment, to outweigh any negative consequences. And, hey, if it ain’t broke . . .

But Paul uses these incidents of idolatry from Israel’s past to warn us that, even when sin seems like a bargain, it eventually catches up with us.  These tragic examples of Israel’s downfalls are meant as warnings to us that, if it ain’t broke yet, you better fix it anyway, because it is going to break sooner or later.

Jesus didn’t come to pat the “unbroken” on the head and tell them what a good job they did. It’s just as well – he wouldn’t find anyone like that.

He came to heal the brokenhearted, and fit the pieces back together again.
                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Crucial Word is “IF”

Story of the Day for Saturday April 7, 2012

The Crucial Word is “IF”

                     If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is hollow and your faith is useless. 

                                                                                 1 Corinthians 15:14

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of the most popular and well-known politicians in the country. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and was now running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Tim Russert, in his book, Big Russ & Me, says that, during his senate campaign, Moynihan toured a new mental hospital in Utica, New York. He was so exhausted, however, that he decided to take a nap in one of the rooms.

He woke up to discover there were no door handles on the inside. There was a phone, however, so he called the front desk, “Could you please get me out of here?” And then, to give his request a little heft, he added, “This is Ambassador Moynihan.”

“Sure,” the desk clerk chirped, “and Winston Churchill was here yesterday.”

The distraught ambassador repeated his claim, “This is Ambassador Moynihan!”

“Yes, I’m sure it is, but you can’t leave, no matter who you are.”

 

Just as the desk clerk at the mental hospital didn’t believe the man locked in the room was the ambassador to the United Nations, so the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t believe that the corpse lying in the tomb was the Son of God.

Both followers and enemies knew Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead on the third day. Yet, ironically, only his skeptics seemed concerned with the possibility that his prophecy might come true. His followers had already given up hope.

In order to enhance the odds that the tomb would house a corpse on the third day, Jesus’ enemies sought permission from the Roman governor for a military guard to secure the perimeter.

 

So, now, the most important prediction in the history of the universe comes down to a waiting game. If Jesus doesn’t walk out of there by Sunday, faith is worse than useless.

The crucial word is “if.”

Our English word, “laconic,” means to give a short, terse response – to say no more than what is necessary. The term originates from the region of ancient Greece called Laconia.

Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, ruled as king of Macedonia in northern Greece. He wanted to conquer all of Greece, and was on the verge of doing so. Only Laconia remained unconquered.

Philip of Macedon tried to intimidate the Spartans living in Laconia to surrender. He sent them a message saying, “If I enter Laconia with my army, I shall raze Sparta to the ground.”

The Spartans responded to Philip’s threat with a one-word message.

“If.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Real Goal: To Reach the Bottom

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 4, 2012

The Real Goal:  To Reach the Bottom

                                                                    “On the next day, as they came down from the mountain . . .

Luke 9:37

We’re used to watching athletes celebrate when they win a football game or golf tournament. But what is the only sport where athletes do most of their celebrating at the halfway-point of their event?

The answer is mountain climbing. Climbers are triumphant when they reach the peak. They celebrate and take photos and plant flags on the summit.

But, the most difficult part of the climb is still facing them. Mountain climbers tend to see their goal as reaching the top of the mountain. Their real goal, however, must be to reach the bottom.

Most of us are gritty and passionate about climbing the mountains in our life, but we often take some nasty tumbles on the way back down.

Parents often focus their dreams on raising children. When parents have fulfilled their calling and the last kid moves out of the house, a common response for “empty nesters” is depression.

Employees spend their lives working their way up the company ladder. But, once they hand in their keys to the office, the life change becomes more than they’re able to negotiate. They once felt the thrill of making important decisions. Now they are haunted by feelings of uselessness.

Those who make it into professional football have achieved a childhood dream. They have conquered the mountain. But what about climbing down? After the first two years of retirement from the NFL, seventy-eight percent of former players are unemployed, bankrupt, or divorced. The suicide rate for retired NFL players is six times higher than the national average.

Have you achieved an important goal in your life? Great! Pump your fists, plant your flag, and take a photo. But do you know how to turn your back on the summit and climb safely down?

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, whom he dearly loved, and sacrifice him on a mountain top at Moriah. That mountainside was surely the hardest climb Abraham ever made. He reached that summit – not to celebrate his accomplishment, but to faithfully obey the word of the Lord. But once the Lord saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, He substituted a ram on the altar meant for Isaac.

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

Abraham’s joy on coming down that mountain was linked to his reason for climbing it. He didn’t climb Moriah for self-glory; he ascended the peak as an act of faith – willing to lay his life – his son’s life – in the hands of God.

How well you do descending your mountain depends entirely on why you wanted to reach the peak in the first place.
                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)