The Mystery Critic

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 31, 3012

The Mystery Critic

                   Love. . . doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast, it isn’t proud.

                                                        1 Corinthians 13:4

Sir Walter Scott, who was born in 1771, pulled off a feat that no one author had ever accomplished. He became the first English writer to enjoy an international reputation while he was still alive – with avid fans in Great Britain, Europe, North America, and Australia.

Scott is best known for his novels. In fact, he invented the genre of the historical narrative. But historical novels weren’t his only innovation: in order to maintain his image as Great Britain’s leading poet, he wrote his first novels anonymously. After his first novel, Waverly, he published his later novels as “Author of Waverly.”

As if being the best writer in the English world wasn’t enough, Sir Walter Scott was granted permission by the future King George IV to search for the long lost crown of Charles II. Armed with military assistants, Scott found the Crown Jewels of Scotland in the bowels of a castle in Edinburgh, and a grateful royalty granted Scott the title of baronet.

Sir Walter Scott could hardly rise higher in popularity.

At the height of Scott’s popularity, however, a usurper arose. Lord Byron, a young, charismatic poet began to publish his works.

A London paper printed the reviews of an anonymous contributor. The reviewer gushed over the works of Bryron – praising his poetic genius. Sir Walter Scott, the anonymous critic maintained, could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. Later, it was discovered that the mystery critic was Sir Walter Scott himself.

Scott considered literary envy “a base sensation” and lauded Byron as “the man whose splendour dimmed the fame of his competitors.”

Not only did Scott work to bolster the popularity of Lord Byron, but he also defended authors that were scoffed at by the critics. Jane Austen, who today is recognized as a literary giant, was, in the 19th century dismissed as a “woman’s novelist.” Sir Walter Scott was one of the few males who came to her defense and commended Austen’s genius.

Scott desperately needed readers to buy his books. When businesses, in which he was heavily invested, crashed, he was financially ruined. Rather than declare bankruptcy, however, he determined to write himself out of debt.  But he never considered the option of bettering his popularity by trying to diminish the fame of his fellow authors.

Love is an odd thing. It doesn’t resent the success of others but rejoices for them, rejoices with them. When the Bible urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we begin to learn that we are not at our greatest when we stand boastfully above our rivals, but when we devote our attention to making others better.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

Story of the Day for Monday July 30, 2012

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?


                    Above all, be of one mind. Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  

                                                                   1 Peter 3:8


Herman and Donna Ostry bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska. Because the barn was near a creek, the floor was always muddy and wet.

One year, when the creek flooded – leaving 29 inches of water in his barn, Herman decided something had to be done. He contacted a building moving company, but the bid was unaffordable.

At supper, Herman joked to his family, “I’ll bet if we had enough people we could pick up that barn and carry it to higher ground.”

Herman’s son, Mike, however, took the idea seriously. He counted the boards and timber and estimated the barn’s weight at 16,640 pounds. Then he began welding a grid of steel tubing – bringing the total weight to almost ten tons. Mike’s system provided a handhold for 344 people, which meant that each person would be lifting about 55 pounds.


The little town of Bruno was planning its centennial that summer and the planning committee decided to make the moving of Ostry’s barn a part of the official celebration.

On July 30, 1988, local TV cameramen were on hand, along with 4000 spectators.

The 344 volunteers lifted in unison. The crowd then applauded as they moved the barn 115 feet to higher ground in three minutes.


So, what is wrong with you people out there in Nebraska? Don’t you know how groups, such as business organizations and congregations, are supposed to operate? When you announce you want to move a barn, you need a majority to rise up and claim it can’t be done. When you estimate the weight of the barn, isn’t anyone questioning your figures and asking if you have fully accounted for the weight of the nails? A steel pipe grid? Where is the splinter group arguing loudly for an alternate plan of using tractors with frontend loaders? And 344 volunteers – I can’t believe it! If just one of them ends up with a sore back they’ll sue you from one end of the county to the other. And even if you can manage to lift the barn, how can you expect everybody to move in the same direction?  If a third of them insist on moving north, a third south, and the rest away from the creek, that barn is not going very far.


Herman Ostry’s barn got moved because I heard about it too late to warn him that it wouldn’t work.

It’s just as well. I once lived about a half hour from Bruno and I know Nebraskans.  If one person is in need, everyone else will show up in a heartbeat to help out. They don’t argue, they don’t complain. They cheerfully get the job done and then they have a beer and gather at someone’s house to play a few rounds of sheepshead.

Sometimes, Nebraskan farmers look more like the church than the church does.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)


In the Field

As is the teaching/education arm of Athelas Outdoor Ministry, Inc. and summers are our very very busy time of retreat ministry; we are presently in the field.  The Story of the Day postings will resume as soon as possible…we will be visiting Glacier National Park with our group tomorrow and white water rafting on Tuesday.  Please pray for the groups safety and that the spiritual principles to be learned from these outdoor adventures will refresh and renew our guests from Illinois.  See you soon!

Reality is a Stubborn Thing

Story of the Day for Friday July 20, 2012 

Reality is a Stubborn Thing

                     Truth has stumbled in the street.

                                                    Isaiah 59:14



On January 28, 1986, NASA officials tried to defy reality . . . and failed.

The Challenger space shuttle was scheduled for launch on January 22nd, but the launch had to be postponed until the 23rd, then the 24th, then the 25th, and then the 27th.

Officials at NASA were growing increasingly frustrated with each scratched launch date. They wanted to establish a reputation as a reliable market for scientific and commercial markets, and the frequent postponements weren’t helping their reputation. They had an ambitious launch schedule, and by postponing the Challenger, they would be forced to scuttle launch dates all down the line. President Reagan was preparing his State of the Union address and wanted to feature the Challenger mission – which would be awkward if the shuttle was still sitting on the launch pad. Further, classrooms across the country were tuned into TV to watch Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher, give the first school lesson from space.


The controversy before the scheduled launch on January 28th focused on the o-rings in the solid rocket boosters. The rocket is built like cans stacked on top of each other. The explosive gases, reaching temperatures of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, are sealed between the different rocket stages by o-rings.

Engineers at Morton Thiokol were adamant that the launch must be postponed. The temperatures had dipped to 18 degrees in the night, and, at launch time were still around freezing. Morton Thiokol’s contract with NASA specified that the temperature tolerance of the o-rings extended from 40-90 degrees.

At first the managers at Morton Thiokol sided with their engineers. But NASA was not happy. Under pressure to please their customer the managers finally caved in and gave NASA the green light to launch.

The engineers watched helplessly as the countdown began. They knew the o-rings would not seal. Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, as the Challenger went into its first roll, the o-rings failed, and the space shuttle exploded – killing all seven astronauts.


The well-known physicist, Richard Feynman, served on the Rogers Commission investigating the accident. “Reality,” he concluded, “must take precedence over public relations,” adding that “nature cannot be fooled.”


It is not only Nature which cannot be fooled, but all truth. Some think that morality can be supplanted by a “new morality” as often as youth update their wardrobe.

Jesus claimed to be the Truth, and his teachings have stood solid against the test of time.  We do well to be receptive to what he says because reality is a stubborn thing.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre 

Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs

Story of the Day for Thursday July 19, 2012


Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs


                . . . Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to children.”  

                                             Matthew 11:25


Have you heard of the “Dr. Fox Hypothesis”? Dr. John Ware and his colleagues from the University of Southern California introduced Dr. Myron R. Fox to a distinguished group of educators: psychologists, sociologist, physicians, and social workers.

Dr. Fox’s topic was “Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physical Education.” But the audience did not know that Dr. Fox was really an actor.  His speech was a meaningless jumble of non sequiturs, invented words, irrelevant details, and entertaining jokes.  But he said absolutely nothing at all.

The audience loved his speech, and no one realized the speech was nonsensical. Anonymous evaluations afterward said the lecture was clear and stimulating.

Further research by others has demonstrated this is not a fluke. You can write totally unintelligible articles, and as long as it comes from a legitimate source in the reader’s area of expertise, the article will usually win high marks.


If you are in business and are ever called upon to make a report, I recommend to you Philip Broughton’s “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector.”  He produced three columns of ten words. You simply pick one word from each column and incorporate them in a sentence.

For example, the first column has words like: “integrated,” “systematized,” and “functional.”  The second column: “organizational,” “reciprocal,” and “incremental.” And the third column includes: “flexibility,” “time-phase,” and “projection.”

Broughton claims, “No one will have the remotest idea what you are talking about, but the important thing is that they’re not about to admit it.”  One man, who resorted to Broughton’s “Buzz Phrase Projector,” received a standing ovation and a top man in the organization said it was the best presentation he had ever heard.


The theologians of Jesus’ day should have been the first to recognize the Messiah. But, because of their pride, they became blind. God reveals truth to children. And you don’t have to be young to be a child. Jesus calls a “child” anyone who is humble.

It used to bother me that Jesus praised the Father for making the wise and intelligent blind to the truth. But what he meant, I think, is that truth is not found because we’re intelligent, but because we’re humble. If you are proud of your biblical knowledge, you are in a dangerous place.


Frederick Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, said, “Pilate asks What is truth? And for years there have been politicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and so on to tell him. The sound they make is like the sound of empty pails falling down the cellar stairs.”

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Too Busy To Listen

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 18, 2012

Too Busy To Listen

                 Shouting in a loud voice and covering their ears, they rushed together at him and dragging him out of the city they stoned him. 

                                           Acts 7:57-58

 We were up on Still Peak above our house when my brother-in-law hushed us and said, “Do you hear that?”

We are stopped jabbering and listened.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly,” said Sean, “you can’t hear a single thing.”

He was right. No cars or machinery. No dogs. No wind.

Silence is odd to us because we seldom experience it. We live in a noisy world. All the same, we rarely make much of an effort to get away from the racket.

Do you find it a struggle to take time for quiet reflection? Why is that? Yeah, you’re  really busy. But do you think there might be a deeper reason?

I ask because I’ve discovered you can drown out the voice of God by noise.  Sometimes, the Holy Spirit speaks in a still, small voice. And our conscience is an avid talker, but only speaks in a whisper. TVs and radios can easily overpower that voice we need to hear.

When Stephen was arraigned before the Jewish high court on charges of blasphemy, he gave a lengthy recitation of God’s coming to their forefathers, and their rejection of the Lord’s graciousness to them.

Things got tense when Stephen came to his point: “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears!”  He told them, in other words, that they were not listening to God, but were resisting the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, in fact, was speaking to the high council at that very moment – through the words of Stephen.  And how did they respond?  They drowned out his voice by shouting him down and covering their ears.

My friend, Ruth, was riding with a woman who chauffeured a van load of kids.  Ruth noticed the transmission was making a funny noise.  She asked, “You think you ought to get that fixed?”

The woman grinned at Ruth and said, “This is how I fix it,” and immediately turned on the radio until you could no longer hear the noise from the transmission.

Are you taking time for quiet?  When we are silent before the Lord, we may realize that some things need to be fixed.  But that’s a good thing.  Whether we need to make changes, or find forgiveness, or comfort, or inspiration, God will speak a good word to us when we are quiet enough to listen.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Yankee Doodle

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 17, 2012 

Yankee Doodle


                 If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but give praise to God that you bear that name.  

                                     1 Peter 4:16


In 1755, Richard Schuckberg, a British army doctor, wrote a song mocking Americans. “Yankee” was a derisive term for Americans, and “doodle,” a derogatory word, meaning a “dolt” or “simpleton.”

The fashionable wig in the 1770s was called a “macaroni,” and the term became synonymous for high fashion.

The sheet music to the song noted, “The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.” So, Shuckberg’s song began:


Yankee Doodle went to town, 

Riding on a pony; 

He stuck a feather in his hat, 

And called it macaroni.


The first skirmish of the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. At Lexington, British General Hugh Percy’s fifers played “Yankee Doodle” to express their contempt for the backwards American militia.


Have you ever been treated with contempt because you’re a Christian? It doesn’t feel good, does it? Sometimes it hurts so much that you may conclude it’s just easier not to let others know of your loyalty to Christ.

But, do we really want to spend our days shrinking from mockery by slinking around with our tail between our legs? The Bible is encouraging us to take the opposite approach: to embrace our identity and praise God for the honor of bearing the name of Christ. The apostle Peter is not pontificating from an ivory tower – he has been flogged for the name of Jesus. He’s been imprisoned, and, ultimately, he was martyred for the Name.  But he reacted to his sufferings with joy.


The British were surrounded at Yorktown in 1781 and forced to surrender. In order to lay down their firearms in a meadow, the British soldiers marched down the Williamsburg Road, with Americans standing on one side, and their allies, the French, lining the other.

And then the song began. The French fife and drums began playing “Yankee Doodle” – to the utter delight of the American troops.

Yankee Doodle had been transformed from a mocking song of contempt to a joyful expression of national pride. It became our nation’s birthsong. And no American hangs his head to sing it.


Never hang your head for the name that you bear.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Asking is Good Policy

Story of the Day for Monday July 16, 2012 

Asking is Good Policy


                    Ask, and it will be given to you. seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.

                                                             Matthew 7:7


Our family was bone weary from driving across the plains. We found a cheesy hotel and asked if they had a nonsmoking room. They assured us they did.

When we entered our room it reeked of cigarette smoke. But, to make things far worse, it smelled like someone had just emptied an aerosol can of heavily-perfumed air freshener in the room.

We soon discovered that it was, indeed, a nonsmoking room because all the ash trays had been turned upside down.

But I’m the meek sort and didn’t go back to the hotel clerk to sort the matter out.


I found an article by Tim Gard, in the book, Humor Me, especially intriguing. Tim is on the road a lot and stays in hotels 200 days a year. He always makes reservations for a non-smoking room.

Yet, often, as he straggles into a hotel late at night, they have given away his non-smoking room.  When this happens, Tim asks for a free upgrade to a nonsmoking suite.

Normally, the hotel clerk tells him, “Our policy doesn’t allow upgrades based on smoking preference.”

To counter this, Tim wrote his own policy book. When he meets with objections, he pulls out his official-looking policy manual, finds the specific policy he needs, and then reads it to the hotel clerk: “If Tim Gard requests and reserves a nonsmoking room at any hotel and that hotel gives his nonsmoking room away prior to his arrival, then that hotel is required, by law, to provide Tim Gard with an upgrade to a nonsmoker suite at no additional cost.”

“It’s my policy,” he tells the clerk,

“Well, that’s not our policy. You need to talk to the manager.”

“Unfortunately,” Tim responds, “my number one policy is: I don’t repeat my policies. Once I’ve said the policy, I’m forbidden to talk about it any more. I’d like to help you, but . . . it’s a policy.”

“Sir, it’s not our policy.”

Tim then demands to be shown the hotel’s policy manual. When they, invariably, fail to produce a manual, he tells them flatly that they’re going to have to go with his.

Tim usually gets upgraded to a suite at no extra charge. Even when he doesn’t, he claims he has a fun time.


Just as I’m afraid to ask for nonsmoking room upgrades, I’m reluctant to ask God for many of the things I desire. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to be bolder. Jesus tells me to ask, to search, to pound on doors.

Franklyn Broude said, “You don’t always get what you ask for, but you never get what you don’t ask for . . . unless it’s contagious!”

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Time To Take a Risk

Story of the Day for Saturday July 14, 2012

Time To Take a Risk


                    Jesus entered the temple and threw out the buyers and sellers. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling doves.

                                         Mark 11:15


Do you know who, for many years, has been the most recognizable figure in Canada?  He is a commentator who does a four-minute segment with co-host Ron MacLean between the first and second periods of Hockey Night in Canada.

Don Cherry, who hosts the broadcast, Coach’s Corner, is recognized by more Canadians than any pop star, athlete, or politician – including the Prime Minister.

In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took a national poll of the greatest Canadians in history.  Don Cherry came in seventh – beating out Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky.


How could a commentator – whose show is only broadcast during hockey season, and only for four minutes – become so famous? His flamboyant taste in suit coats doesn’t hurt, but his fame is focused in his outspoken style. Don Cherry is neither impartial nor subtle. He hurls opinions like grenades. When Coach’s Corner is over, you will have no difficulty knowing exactly where Cherry stands on any issue he addresses.


We live in a culture of timid opinions. We don’t want to offend. Even governmental leaders, whom we would expect to be guided by a solid political philosophy, are known for their haste in reversing their convictions in deference to public opinion.

President Harry Truman, however, asked how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt. What would Jesus have preached if he first taken a poll in the land of Israel?  “What would have happened to the Reformation,” he wondered, “if Martin Luther had taken a poll?”


The temple in Jerusalem had a large, outer courtyard. In Isaiah 56, the Lord promised the foreigners that he would designate a place in the temple for them to pray.

The Gentiles, however, were pushed out of their courtyard when the chief priests brought in livestock and doves to sell for the sacrificial offerings. Previously, shops to buy sacrifices and exchange money flourished on the Mount of Olives. But now the chief priests set up their own monopoly in the temple — gouging the people through exorbitant prices, and excluding the foreigners from their place of prayer.

Jesus stormed into the temple – smashing tables and starting a stampede. In the large crowds, his presence was evident by the fluttering of freed doves flying about him – with the poor clambering behind him as they chased down scattered coins. At the risk to his own life, his bold action restored the temple as a house of prayer.


Diplomacy and tact are virtues – unless they’re used to cloak our cowardice. But there comes a time to take a risk. There comes a time to take our stand.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)



Is It Legal to Call a Pig “Mrs. Johnson”?

Story of the Day for Friday July 13, 2012

Is It Legal to Call a Pig “Mrs. Johnson”?


                “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it means nothing. But whoever swears by the gold in the temple must keep his oath.’” 

                                                        Matthew 23:16


When a man yelled at Mrs. Johnson and called her a pig, she sued him for defamation of character. The judge found the man guilty and fined him.

After the trial, the man asked the judge. “Does this mean, then, that I can’t call Mrs. Johnson a pig anymore?”

“That is correct,” said the judge.

“Am I allowed to call a pig Mrs. Johnson?”

The judge looked surprised, but said, “Yes, it’s legal to call a pig Mrs. Johnson.”

The man immediately glared at Mrs. Johnson and said, “Hello, Mrs. Johnson!”


Ever since we were young, we’ve been honing our skill at “Getting Around the Law.”  Do you remember, as a kid, how you could renege on your promise if you explained that you had your fingers crossed when you made it?

As adults, did we outgrow this impulse, or simply become more sophisticated in doing it?

Most Americans still remember the infamous attempt to dodge the letter of the law in the response, “It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.”


Not much has changed since Jesus’ day. The religious leaders of his day had their own version of “crossing your fingers.”  They took the obligation to fulfill your vows very seriously. And well they should. But they created clever ways to get out of their oaths by differentiating the object by which they swore. If you swore by the gold in the temple, it counted. But, if you merely swore by the temple itself, you didn’t have to keep your promise.


Look – God is not fooled by our excuses to get around His law. He wants us to face squarely the obligations of righteous living. And, when you fail, honestly admit it.

He forgives.


Years ago, the French king would pardon one man from prison. As he went from cell to cell, each prisoner made emphatic appeals to being innocent and wrongfully imprisoned. All except for one man. He hung his head and said, “Your Majesty, I am a criminal. I deserve to be here because I committed the crimes for which I was sentenced.” The king shouted, “Warden! Release this man at once . . . before he corrupts all these other innocent men.”

Face the will of God head on, and the Lord will pick you up when you stumble.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)