Don’t Treat Them to Ham Sandwiches

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 16, 2012

Don’t Treat Them to Ham Sandwiches

                    Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. 

                                                                                 Mark 8:23

 “Welcome to McDonalds,” the young man said, “may I take your order?”

“You bet,” my sister’s husband, Sean, said.

The voice on the drive-through intercom replied: “Fire when ready; shoot to kill.”

They laughed at the unexpected reply, and were still chuckling when they pulled up to the take-out window. The restaurant manager, however, stood scowling with his arms folded across his chest. He loomed over a scrawny teen who meekly apologized, “I’m sorry I said ‘Fire when ready; shoot to kill.'”

“Please, don’t apologize,” my sister Mary protested, “we thought it was hilarious!”

But the manager was having none of it. The success of a franchise lies in consistency. You can’t afford to let free spirits slip the leash.

 

Scripted responses (“Would you like fries with that?”) may be necessary for a franchise restaurant to succeed, but we dislike being treated impersonally. Ever call a large company with a question or a complaint? The call service employee types up a decision-tree script on a computer and rattles off the appropriate scripted response.

Management prefers this cost-saving approach. But customers feel like they’re talking to a lawn ornament. It’s even more de-humanizing for the workers. The annual turnover rate at call centers is almost 100 percent.

One company, however, came up with the wacky idea of treating customers personably. After two weeks of introductory training, they offer new recruits $3000 to walk away from their job. They only want workers who want to be there. Employees are encouraged to decorate their work space any way they want. They’re trained to be adventurous, creative, fun, and a little weird. They ask how their customers are doing, about their plans for the upcoming holiday. If the customer isn’t doing well, the call service employee sends flowers. No scripts. Just treat the customer like a person.

 

Jesus’ approach to people was never scripted. No canned speeches; no cookie-cutter approach. When he encountered a Roman captain who viewed verbal orders as a sign of power, Jesus healed the captain’s servant by issuing verbal orders. When he met a blind man, he took him by the hand and led him out of the village. Jesus was always keenly aware of each person’s situation. When he miraculously fed over 5000 Jews, he didn’t treat them to ham sandwiches.

When Jesus sees you . . .

We visited a church in Missoula this last Sunday. The woman greeter welcomed us and patted me on the back. Later, I noticed that when she sang, she moved her hands — as if she was molding the words. “Now I get it,” I thought, “a kinesthetic learner.”

Normally, I miss these opportunities and mumble for the rest of the day about what I should’ve done. I’m not the touchy-feely type, but on the way out of church, I saw her, thanked her for being a good greeter . . . and patted her on the back.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“War Bombs”

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 15, 2012

“War Bombs”

                “You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good so as to bring about this present result: the saving of many lives.” 

                    Genesis 50:20

 The distance from Eureka, Montana to just about anywhere else on earth is endless. When we go to the Midwest, we drive over five hundred weary miles . . . and we’re still in Montana.

Near the end of a long day of driving, I was beginning to flag in zeal. One of my kids noticed my drowsiness and offered me a candy called a War Bomb, or something like that.

WHOA! That thing was sour enough to peel the hair back from your scalp. If those candies were actually approved by the FDA, it only further erodes that fragile bond of trust that exists between government agencies and those they claim to protect.

When your mouth is puckered by candy that sour, your moans take on a muffled, pitiful tone. My kids were having a delightful time.

But that sour bomb worked. I was no longer drowsy.

After the funeral for their father, Joseph’s brothers feared that Joseph would avenge them for selling him into slavery. Instead, he forgave and comforted his brothers. Joseph was able to look back and see that God had used all the cruddy things that happened to him to keep the Egyptians – and his family – from starving.

Adolf Hitler unleashed a storm of suffering and death. World War II saw the tragic loss of millions of lives.

Yet, before 1941, doctors had no access to antibiotics to revere the course of infections. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, but the medical community treated it more as a curiosity than the “miracle drug” it would later be called.

The war prompted intense research. English scientists brought the penicillin culture to America were they learned to mass produce it in an agricultural lab in Peoria, Illinois.

By 1943, only 28 pounds f penicillin had been produced, at a manufacturing cost of $200,000 a pound. Within two years, researchers produced 14,000 pounds and a cost of two dollars per 100,000 units.

The desperate need for antibiotics caused pharmaceutical companies to step up their efforts. Selman Waksman from Rutgers discovered streptomycin, which treated tuberculosis. Soon, many more antibiotics were discovered and manufactured.

A medical historian, Dr. Russell Maulitz, observes that “War is the perverse handmaiden of medical progress.”

Millions died in a tragic war. But, because of it, many more millions of lives were saved through the intense antibiotic research it provoked.

Sucking on sour candy while I drive is far from pleasant. But it makes me perky as I consider my children and plot my revenge.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Path Worn Down

Story of the Day for Monday May 14, 2012

The Path Worn Down

                   Thus says the Lord, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. And you will find rest for your souls.” 

                                                                  Jeremiah 6:16

There probably never has been, nor ever will be, a more magnificent city on this earth than ancient Rome. Their sculptures, artwork, arches, and buildings were stunning.

Then the barbarian hordes swept down from the north and looted and destroyed the city. At least, that is how I remember it.

Archeologist, Rodolfo Lanciani, however, tells us that Alaric destroyed the palace of Sallust and Geneseric and took down the bronze roof of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Yet, other than minor damage, they didn’t destroy the priceless structures in Rome. Do you know who was primarily responsible for tearing down the city? The Romans themselves.

 

The basilica in Rome, 1200 years old, was the oldest and largest cathedral in Christendom. They tore it down to build a modern building.

Michelangelo carved the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol, but he swiped one of the columns of the ancient temple of Castor and Pollux to do so. Material for the columns in the Sistine Chapel was robbed from Hadrian’s mausoleum. Marvelous ancient marble statues were pulled down and pulverized to provide lime so that Renaissance artists could have a convenient source of plaster.  Painters would plaster over old masterpieces so that they could create contemporary works of art.

 

I’m not opposed to change or modern things or newness. I’m not writing this story by dipping a turkey quill into a bottle of ink.  We buy milk from the Sturdevants, which comes straight from their cows. Given the choice between a fresh glass of local milk or discovering a milk jug in the back of the frig that is four months old . . .

 

Technology is improving electronic gizmos at a breathtaking pace. Yet, because of the technological explosion in our society, we face a greater struggle to understand a truth that other generations more easily understood.

Some things, like technology keep improving. But, other things do not. Trusting in God, kindness, honesty, and love never become outdated.

In our fast-paced technological society, “old” means “out-dated.”  As a result, we are far more likely to dismiss God and morality as relics of the past, and to plaster over them.

 

At a crossroad, you have options. You can choose which path to take. God told his prophet Jeremiah to tell the people to examine their options, and to choose the ancient path. The Lord said the path worn down by past ages of believers was the good way.

He wasn’t talking about electronics. He was talking about a way of living that refreshed the soul.

 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Called God’s Friend

Story of the Day for Friday May 11, 2012

Called God’s Friend

                     And he calls his own sheep by name.

                                                        John 10:3

 

I sometimes dream of an idyllic world where I take my car to an auto mechanic and he says, “Excuse me, but have we met before?” Unfortunately, my car guys call me by my first name, and if things get any worse we’ll be exchanging Christmas cards.

 

This morning my wife took our van into town to have the tires changed (in Montana studded tires are legal — but only until the end of May). I loaded the summer tires into the back of the van and sent her on her way. A couple of hours later, I got a phone call. The car guys told me I had the wrong size tires.

I found the right ones, drove the pickup down Pinkham Mountain, and brought them to my friendly car guy.

“Oh, hi Marty. It’s about time you brought the right tires.”

“So,” I asked Joey, “how long you think it’ll take to switch ’em?”

“Oh, give me a break!” he said. “First, I’m sittin’ around here waiting on you, and now you want to know how soon I’ll be done!”

I told him to quit his whining and made a veiled insinuation that the service industry was going to the dogs.

It was a gratifying moment. He felt comfortable enough to give me a hard time and I felt free enough to dish it back, and we both had a good laugh.

Can you imagine what would happen if Joey talked like that to a perfect stranger? The offended customer would’ve complained to the owner and Joey would now be selling herbal cures for hair loss on the internet.

When we know someone, we treat them differently than we do strangers.

 

If you want to get lost in a nameless crowd, you can’t do better than becoming a sheep. Gaze at a flock of sheep they all look like identical bags of wool.

But not to a shepherd. Shepherds in Palestine can distinguish every sheep in their flock and give names to each one. When a shepherd leads his flock to new pastures he can call them all by name.

When we trust in Jesus, our relationship changes. We’re no longer strangers. We belong to him, not because of  how fast we can walk, but simply because when he calls our name we trust him enough to follow.

 

Once Abraham got into a “disagreement” with God. When God told Abraham he intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, Abraham kept bargaining with God not to do it. I always felt Abraham was a little cheeky doing that.

But over the years I’m beginning to realize that Abraham could talk the way he did — not because he was disrespectful — but because he knew God so well. He was bold because of his faith.

No wonder the Bible says of Abraham: “and he was called God’s friend.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


“Get Back on that Pony and Ride”

Story of the Day for Thursday May 10, 2012

“Get Back on that Pony and Ride”

                  Consider it a sheer joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter different kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

                                                           James 1:2-3

 In the spring of 1987, while turkey-hunting near Sacramento, California, Pat accidentally shot his brother-in-law Greg. The blast from the 12 gauge shotgun sent 60 pellets into Greg’s body. His right lung collapsed, and he lost 65 percent of his blood by the time he reached the hospital.

Greg survived, but, to this day, 40 shotgun pellets remain in his body – five in his liver, five in his heart.

Just nine months earlier, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France. Now, his career was over.

 

Or was it? Determined to ride again, Greg got back on his cycle and started riding. To resume his career, he needed a cycling team that would take him. No American team was interested, so Greg’s father flew to Europe to negotiate with the cycling team’s there.

A European team, cautiously, agreed to take Greg on.  And, then, of all things, LeMond was crippled in pain and needed intestinal surgery to repair damage from the shooting accident. Before the surgery, Greg instructed the surgeon to remove his appendix. Afterward, he assured the cycling team that the surgery was an appendectomy. “I didn’t tell them a lie,” LeMond later said in an interview “but I didn’t tell them the absolute truth.”

 

The final leg of the Tour de France is a fifteen mile time trial. In 1989, Laurent Fignon of France has a commanding 50-second lead going into the final sprint to the finish, and he is the fastest time trial racer in the world.

His nearest competitor won’t even look at Fignon’s split times. He tells his own coaches he doesn’t want to know his own splits. He simply digs deep and delivers a dazzling performance – the fastest speed in the history of the Tour de France.

Fignon lost the Tour de France. A young American with 40 shotgun pellets in his body, ended up with the yellow jersey.

 

After the shooting accident, would anyone blame Greg LeMond if he gave up competitive racing? Who believed that LeMond could ever race again – let alone regain the title as the world’s greatest cyclist?

Has adversity knocked the wind out of you? Know what you need? You need the patient, healing care of the Surgeon. But, once you stagger to your feet, you need to know that God never intended obstacles to stop you; they’re there to strengthen your resolve. Trials are meant to fuel our fire; to ignite the passion to give our all for God.

Yes, it hurts to get bucked off your horse. But shake it off. Dust off your jeans and, as Chris LeDeux sings, “get back on that pony and ride.”

 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

How is Woody Doing?

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 9, 2012

How is Woody Doing?

                     I’m content with weaknesses, insults, trouble, persecution, and difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

                                                        2 Corinthians 12:10

Dan Miller was a sports nut. As a high school athlete in central Washington he starred on championship teams in basketball, football, and baseball. Several colleges offered him a sports scholarship. Dan dreamed of playing college sports and graduating as a P.E. instructor.

Five weeks after high school graduation, however, he contracted polio. He was completely paralyzed. After many months of therapy the permanent damage became evident. He lost 80 percent of the muscular control of his legs. His right arm hung limp by his side. He would have to relearn to write with his left hand. But even his left arm had limited mobility and only half its former strength.

 

Now what?

When Dan was able to hobble around with an elbow-high Canadian crutch, he applied and was accepted in 1956 at Eastern Washington College. His registration packet was labeled “P.E. Exempt” as he sat in front of his academic advisor, Dr. Richard Hagelin.

Dan told him, “I want to major in physical education and become a P.E. teacher.”

 

Dan got his B.A., and later his masters, in Physical Education.

But he when began teaching grade school children, he found the students would imitate him — trying to catch a ball, for instance, with one hand rather than two.

So, he bought a wooden 18-inch mannequin and named it “Woody.” Using the mannequin he would demonstrate proper technique. Dan’s wife, Judy, began making a wardrobe for Woody and the kids couldn’t wait to see his next costume.

Woody became larger than life. Parents wanted to see this Woody their kids kept talking about. Woody began writing Christmas letters to his students and to all incoming kindergartners. If there was any problem behavior, they didn’t get a lecture from Mr. Miller, they got a letter from Woody. By speeding up songs on a tape recorder, Woody had a chipmunk-like voice and started singing duets with Dan.

Woody became such a sensational education tool that educators from around the state visited his school to learn more of Dan’s innovative teaching technique.

Many years later, Dan’s daughter attended a ten-year high school reunion. All her classmates still wanted to know how Woody was doing.

In his later years, Dan would speak to churches and tell them, “Please don’t pray for me to be healed. It will ruin my . . . career!”

 

In his book, Living, Laughing and Loving Life (with Jeanne Zornes) he says, “I don’t always think of my handicap as a ‘gift,’ but now I see how it has changed my life for the better.”

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Leave Room for God to Surprise You

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 8, 2012

Leave Room for God to Surprise You

                    As Jesus walked along the lake of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting nets in the lake — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said, “Come, follow me . . .” 

                                                                     Mark 1:16-17

 Steven Spielberg has been called the greatest film director of all time. He has twice won the Academy Award for Best Director. You can hardly read through the list of his blockbuster movies without having to take a bathroom break.

 

When Spielberg was about six or seven, his dad told him, “I’m going to take you to see the greatest show on earth.”

The circus! Little Steven couldn’t wait.

They drove from New Jersey to Philadelphia and waited in a long line. As they went through the entrance Steven expected to find a tent with bleacher seats. Instead, he found himself in a dimly lit room with comfy seats. A large, red curtain opened, the lights went down, and a flickering, grainy image appeared on a screen.

Steven Spielberg was watching the first movie of his life: Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

The young boy felt betrayed, but his indignation quickly evaporated. “I was no longer in a theater; I was no longer in a seat — I wasn’t aware of the surroundings . . . I became part of an experience.”

The movie featured a spectacular train wreck. A speeding train smashed into a vehicle on the tracks. The actual filming of the scene was done with a model train, but to Spielberg “it was as real as I’ve seen anything in my life.”

 

From that moment on, Spielberg knew what he wanted . . . a Lionel electric train. The year after he got his first train set he asked his dad for another one. He was obsessed with trains.

Once he had two train engines he set about recreating the wreck in the Cecil B. DeMille movie. He crashed the trains into each other and broke them. His dad had them repaired and the next week he crashed and broke them again.

“Look!” Steven’s dad threatened, “I’m going to take the train set away from you if you crash this train set into each other one more time.”

Steven wanted to watch train wrecks but didn’t want to lose his train set. So, he grabbed his dad’s 8mm Kodak camera and filmed one of his trains barreling down the tracks toward the camera. He turned off the camera, switched camera angles and filmed the other train coming from the other direction. Then he filmed a crash sequence.

“That’s how,” Spielberg recalled, “I made my first movie.”

The threat of losing his Lionel train set turned Spielberg into a movie maker.

 

If you want to make God laugh, the old axiom goes, tell him your plans. Our lives never follow the scripts we write for our future. We might as well leave room for God to surprise us because he’s going to do it anyway.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Taking the Time to Knock

Story of the Day for Monday May 7, 2012

Taking the Time to Knock

                    . . . he went down the road. When he saw the beaten man, he stepped around him and continued on his way. 

                                                                     Luke 10:31

Psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson conducted an experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary to discover who would be most likely to act as a Good Samaritan.

One at a time, seminary students were asked to record a sermon in a nearby building. Half were asked to preach on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

On their walk to record their sermon, however, the researchers planted a “victim” slumped in a doorway. With his head down he would cough twice and groan.

Would those seminarians who had just rehearsed a sermon on the Good Samaritan be more likely to stop and help the man in need? No.

Darley and Batson did, however, find one factor most likely to determine whether a student stopped to help the man in need. Some of the students were told they were late and needed to hurry, others were told they were right on time, and the rest told they had plenty of time.

Only 10 percent of those who were rushed stopped to help the man slumped in the doorway, while 63 percent of those unrushed stopped to see if the man needed help.

 

The prolific author, Kent Nerburn, recalled a night when he drove taxi in Minneapolis. He was on the “dog shift” when he got a call at 2:30 a.m. He pulled up to the address of the house. Normally, a taxi driver honks one or two times, waits a minute, and then drives away. But for some reason Kent he should get out, so he walked to the door and knocked.

He heard a frail voice say, “Just a minute.” When the elderly woman finally opened the door, Nerburn took her suitcase and helped her to the taxi. She gave him the address and asked if they could drive through downtown.

“It’s not the shortest way.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said, “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

Kent reached over and shut off the meter. For two hours he drove her through town. She showed him where she used to work, where she and her husband first lived as newlyweds, the ballroom where she went dancing as a girl.

When they reached their destination, she asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“You have to make a living,” she protested.

“There are other passengers.”

Nerburn bent down and gave her a hug. She held on tightly and said, “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy. Thank you.”  Kent felt as if he had never done anything more important in his life. “We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware — beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

Kent Nerburn is so thankful he took the time to knock on the door.

                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Being the “Rightest”

Story of the Day for Saturday May 5, 2012

Being the “Rightest”

                                   You rescue the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.  

                                                                        2 Samuel 22:28

 After God has delivered his opinion on haughtiness, it is amazing how many of his followers vie with each other to be the haughtiest.

Christians have split up into countless denominations and every one of them believes the same thing: we’re righter than anyone else about doctrine, and we feel pretty smug about it. When was the last time you heard a denomination admit: “We want to follow Jesus, but, frankly, we’re not sure our doctrine is perfect”?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to be right about stuff. But it’s even more important to be humble. None of us knows God so well that we have eliminated all the fuzziness in our understanding of him.

Yet, how often do we admit that we’ve bumped up against Bible passages that don’t want to agree with our present understanding? We Christians – and especially we Bible teachers – are not eager to talk about the many passages in Scripture that still have us puzzled.

 

In September of 1864, London’s Soho district was ravaged by a cholera epidemic. 143 residents in the Broad Street area died within a single day.

Dr. John Snow believed the cholera outbreak was caused by contaminated water from the public Broad Street pump. But everyone else – including the Medical Committee and a local curate, Rev. Henry Whitehead, believed Snow was wrong.

Dr. Snow wrote up his observations, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, but Whitehead and the Medical Committee overseeing the epidemic disagreed with his conclusions. In opposition to Dr. Snow, Whitehead wrote an opposing account, The Cholera in Berwick Street.

In an effort to prove Snow wrong, Rev. Whitehead began a personal investigation. He went door to door – asking residents about sanitation and their use of the Broad Street water pump.

When he finished his investigation he realized his data supported Dr. Snow’s position. Whitehead did what few have the humility to do: he publicly renounced his former position and urged the Medical Committee to listen to Snow.

 

We now know that Snow’s view about cholera has been validated. But for a decade after Snow presented his evidence, the medical community continued to call his position unsound. Whitehead, alone, was humble enough to admit that his original opposition to Snow had been wrong.

If you want to feel superior to others, don’t gloat that you’re the “rightest”; strive to be the humblest. Then you can take pride in being . . . hey, wait a minute – I think I just goofed up somewhere.

                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Pickle for the Knowing Ones

Story of the Day for Friday May 4, 2012

A Pickle for the Knowing Ones

                          Joseph said, “You meant to do evil against me, but God meant it for good.” 

                                                                     Genesis 50:20

Timothy Dexter was deprived of a formal education. Born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1747, he worked the farm since he was eight. When he turned twenty, he gathered his life savings of eight dollars and moved to Newburyport.  A few years later, he met a wealthy widow in her early thirties, and married her.

 

Timothy would soon learn that his contemporaries resented his newly acquired social status, and worked to ruin him. They encouraged him to invest in stocks and led him to buy large amounts of worthless Continental currency.

Once they realized his naivety, they offered outrageous “business tips.” One merchant told Dexter that the West Indies was desperately in need of warming pans and mittens. Poor Timothy, not realizing that the West Indies was a hot, tropical climate, bought 40,000 New England warming pans and 40,000 pairs of mittens, and shipped them to the West Indies.

Newcastle, England was the center of Great Britain’s coal mining industry. Businessmen urged Dexter to “carry coal to Newcastle.”  Timothy hired scores of ships to sail across the Atlantic with inferior Virginia coal to sell to the coal mining district of England.

Dexter was not only a dim bulb, he was a bit of a goof. He took to calling himself “Lord Dexter,” and celebrated his brilliance by writing a book about himself, entitled: A Pickle for the Knowing Ones. He proclaimed, among other things, “Ime the first Lord in the younited States of A mercary Now of Newburyport it is the voise of the peopel and I can’t Help it and so Let it goue Now as I must be Lord there will foller many more Lords pretty Soune . . .” Lord Dexter neglected to include any punctuation in his book.

 

Joseph knew what it was like to have others envy and hate him and plot his harm. He was sent as a slave to a foreign land, was falsely charged with a crime and imprisoned.

It’s when we sit in our prisons, with rats gnawing at our toes, that we compose our most eloquent tirades about God’s unfairness.

But Joseph’s story wasn’t over. And neither is ours. God is able to collect all the nastiness of an evil world and use it for good in the end.

 

Timothy Dexter, who was tricked into buying worthless stock, found that the Hamilton funding system reinvigorated its value and made him a fortune. He sent warming pans to the West Indies – where they discovered they were ideal molasses scoops for making sugar. A fleet of Russian ships arrived in the West Indies at the same time his mittens did, and he sold them all at a healthy profit.

It turned out there was a miner’s strike at Newcastle when Lord Dexter’s coal shipments arrived, and he sold it all – making him one of the wealthiest nitwits on earth.

Oh, yeah – and his book. It’s so painfully awful, it’s now a valuable collector’s item.

                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)