Could You Do It Again?

Story of the Day for Saturday September 29, 2012 

Could You Do It Again?

 

                The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.”

                                                                                             Luke 9:23

 

 Bob Teague, the live correspondent for WNBC-TV was assigned to report on an archery demonstration in Central Park. In his book, Live and Off-Color: News Biz, Teague describes what happened that day.

TV reporters from various networks gathered to watch the archer Darrell Pace. He put on quite a show – shooting steel-tipped hunting arrows with flawless accuracy.

Then Pace asked for a volunteer. “All you have to do,” he explained, “is hold this apple in your hand, waist-high.” Josh Howell, the ABC correspondent stepped forward.

Pace walked 90 feet away, and turned to face Howell. Everyone held their breath as Pace took aim, and . . . THWACK! – a perfect hit exploded the apple in his hand.

As the crowd applauded, Howell, greatly relieved, was all smiles. Then his cameraman came up to him and said, “I’m sorry, Josh, I didn’t get it. Had a problem with my viewfinder. Could you do it again?”

 

You don’t need a lot of faith to hold an apple and let an archer blast it out of your hand. What you need is a very good archer.

 

When Darrell Pace was old enough to get his driver’s license, he was already competing on the U.S. Archery team in the world championships. By the age of 18, he became the world champion archer and held 16 of the 20 archery records.

From 60 feet away, Pace can group fifteen consecutive arrows into a bulls-eye no bigger than a quarter. He has won six national archery championships – along with two world titles and two Olympic gold medals.

 

Our relationship with Jesus should not be centered around the size of our faith. Instead, it should be focused on the size of our God.

Look at it this way: I own a bow. At 90 feet I can often hit the target, and occasionally hit the bulls-eye. But I am erratic.

So, tell me, who is more likely to have his hand shattered by an arrow: a volunteer with an enormous faith in me, or a volunteer with a tentative faith in Darrell Pace?

The life of discipleship is not primarily about inventing gimmicks to boost our faith; it is about looking to the faithfulness of the One we place our faith in.

 

I admire Josh Howell’s courage to hold that apple. But, I’ll tell you this: if Howell was not already acutely aware of Pace’s awesome ability, he’s not a model of faith; he’s an idiot.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Learning to Dream Big

Story of the Day for Friday September 28, 2012

Learning to Dream Big

 

                               The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.  

                                                                                                Psalm 34:18

 

 

If you’ve never heard speakers urge their audience to dream big, to shoot for the stars or sail beyond the horizon, then you don’t listen to many high school commencement speeches.

I vibrate to Commencement Day speeches because I know that, among those bored seniors with sore butts, there is an attentive student who will invent the perpetual motion machine or a grad who will someday win first prize with their strawberry jam at the county fair.

Nevertheless, despite these inspiring themes, I still have the urge to interrupt commencement speeches by making rude noises during their presentations.

Graduation speeches don’t tell us the full truth. They lack the courage to talk about failure and shipwrecked dreams. They don’t even mention the percentage of graduating seniors who will someday wind up with hemorrhoids.

 

Lately, I’ve been reading about high school graduates who have been told to shoot for the stars.

More than a half million males play high school basketball in the United States. Many of them dream of entering the NBA. Yet, only one in thirty five of them will ever play for a college team, and less than one percent of high school players will ever play basketball in competitive Division One colleges.

But even NCAA Division One basketball is a long way from the pros.  One out of every seventy-five NCAA college players will advance to the pros.

The NCAA, whom I commend for their frankness, says that for every ten thousand high school basketball players, only three of them will ever be drafted by an NBA team.

 

That only a few high school players will play in the NBA is not surprising news. But here’s what breaks my heart: Forty-three percent of black high school basketball players believe they will make it into the NBA. Out of every 10,000 black basketball players, 4300 of them think they’ll hit the big time, and 4297 of them will find that their dreams have been crushed.

It gets even sadder: nearly half of those black players believed it’s easier to become a professional basketball player than to become a doctor or lawyer.

 

When you follow your dreams and sail for the horizon – only to find your ship marooned on a hidden reef, don’t expect your high school commencement speaker to paddle out to you to hold your hand.

But I do know someone who will be there for you. The Lord stays close to the brokenhearted.  Admiration attaches itself to achievement, but love is attracted to need.

You will have learned to dream big, when your dreams include the One who will catch you when you fall.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Secret Weapon

Story of the Day for Thursday September 27, 2012

The Secret Weapon

 

          When the Israelites saw the man, everyone ran away in great fear.

                                                                               1 Samuel 17:24

 

 We consider some people brave by the very nature of their occupations: smoke jumpers, police officers, firefighters, babysitters.

And, standing atop this list are soldiers.

So, for an entire army to spot a single combatant, and scatter in a panic seems a little peculiar. But that is exactly what the army of Israel did when Goliath strutted out and challenged them to a duel – winner take all.

 

A shepherd boy with five smooth stones and a slingshot stepped forward to challenge the giant. And we all know the story from the standpoint of what David did to Goliath. But do you remember what David did to the army of Israel that day?

 

The soldiers of Israel watched as David marched up to this fearsome warrior, and opposed him “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

When David stood triumphant over Goliath, the soldiers of Israel sprang to life.  They let out a roar and surged after the frightened Philistine army. The army of Israel chased the Philistines and kicked their can all along the Shaaraim road from Judah to Gath.

 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating our naval fleet in the Pacific, they had a twofold objective. They not only wanted to cripple our naval power but also to crush the American resolve to wage war.

The Japanese high command, however, was completely unaware that we had a secret weapon.

The “secret weapon” was an artist from a small town in Vermont. Norman Rockwell painted pictures of patriotism and bravery. He painted pictures of “Four Freedoms” – those liberties that are the hallmark of our nation. He painted the American spirit.

Fueled by the vision Rockwell portrayed for us, Americans responded. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was not a discouraging reminder of a humiliating defeat. Instead, it became an echo of an earlier cry, “Remember the Alamo!” when a few brave Americans stood bravely against overwhelming odds.

The power of an artist to inspire a nation was the one weapon for which the Japanese military had no defense.

 

Your brothers and sisters in Christ may be impressed by your talents, but they are not inspired by them. They are inspired by your courage.

Make no mistake about this: when you face your Goliaths in the name and power of the Lord, the greatest victory will not be yours; it will be the victories of all those who have found courage from your example.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

Story of the Day for Wed. September 26, 2012

Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

A woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood weeping behind Jesus’ feet. Her tears wet Jesus’ feet, and she wiped them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and put the perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-38

We used to have two puppies, Garibaldi and Ivan the Terrible. After they were housebroken, one of them started to backslide and returned to a life of sin.

One day, we found the evidence of wrongdoing in my son’s bedroom. The situation needed to be addressed, but unless you catch them in the act, how do you know which puppy to admonish?

I stood outside Randy’s bedroom and called the dogs. Garibaldi bounded toward me in a wiggling mass of puppy joy. Ivan the Terrible hung his head, and, taking the coward’s way out, started slinking off to a remote corner of the house.

I caught Ivan by the scruff and escorted him to the scene of the crime. We gazed at the evidence before us, and then Ivan and I had a private moment together.

It’s possible, and maybe sometimes desirable, to use fear to correct the behavior of dogs. And people. But fear and the threat of punishment has little value if your primary desire is a relationship. You can’t frighten a puppy into wagging its tail and licking your face.

Have you noticed how those with sinful reputations flocked to Jesus? You would expect that, in the presence of a holy man, they would avoid him and slink into the dark shadows.

Instead, they’re drawn to him like a magnet. A woman with a sinful past comes up behind Jesus as he reclines at a meal. Women in Jesus’ day always wore their hair up in public (except on their wedding day). If a woman let her hair down in public, it meant she was a whore. This woman wets Jesus’ feet with her hot tears, and, with her hair let down, wipes his feet.

We get it.

This woman cried and kissed his feet and poured out her expensive perfume – not because she was hoping, pleading, for mercy – but because she had found mercy.

Jesus attracted people with broken lives, because they knew he loved them a lot. They knew he would forgive them, and give them a new start.

If the world isn’t breaking down church doors to get in, it’s not because they’ve lost interest in being loved by God. It’s because they fear we’re going to sniff out their sin, grab them by the scruff, and rub their noses in it. Trust me on this: they’ve been burned already.

Thirteen years later, I carried Ivan the Terrible up on a hillside and buried him. He was an awesome dog – always glad to see me. He knew where belly rubs came from.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Three Dollars

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 25, 2012 

Three Dollars

 

                Whoever brings blessing to others will be blessed; the one who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

                                                                                                         Proverbs 11:25

 

A proud grandpa took his little granddaughter, Hannah, out trick-or-treating. The little girl had her bag of candy, but she had trouble mastering the concept. Instead, of holding out her bag at the door, she would reach into her bag and offer candy to the people at the door.

Hannah’s grandpa tried to train her. “No, sweetheart, you’re not supposed to offer people your candy; you’re supposed to take theirs.”

Grandpa taught her the right way to do it. He thinks. But he’s not so sure that little Hannah didn’t have it right.

 

Our view of giving has changed in recent times. The philosophers have weighed in with their expert opinions. If showing kindness to other people brings you happiness, some scholars maintain, then your act was really motivated by self-interest. Your generosity was not altruistic because of the personal benefit your derived from it.

Deferring to the experts, many have accepted this enlightened understanding of our behavior. But, after years of calm reflection, I have come to the conclusion that these philosophers are full of baloney.

Let’s think about this. If a person’s giving is truly motivated by self-interest, one of two things will happen: either they won’t be generous, because they, selfishly, want to keep what they have for themselves, or they may grudgingly give, but it will bring them no pleasure to do so.

God desires that our giving to others should bring us deep joy.  He says he loves a cheerful giver. The happiness that comes from helping others is not selfishness. God himself, the Bible reminds us, delights in showing compassion.

 

Years ago, my wife and I had a hectic day. We asked a lot from our five-year-old son, Randy, but he was a trouper. As a reward, my wife gave him three dollars to buy some candy.

My wife took Randy to the church one evening. People could write prayer requests on a board, and then you would go into the church to pray for them. Randy was struck by a prayer request for Jason, a nine-year-old boy suffering from cancer. He asked mom if he could make a card. With some help with the spelling he wrote, “Dear Jason, I hope you are feeling better. Love, Randy.” He drew a picture and colored it with a green marker. And then he told his mom that he wanted to give his three dollars to Jason.

 

If you think my son’s joy in helping Jason was nothing more than a self-interested act because it brought him pleasure, you’re free to do so.  But I believe the Lord is serious when he says that those who bring blessing to others will themselves be blessed.

(copyright climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

Story of the Day for Monday September 24, 2012 

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

 

                And while he was going. . . a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years . . .came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.

                                                   Luke 8:42-44

 

When I was growing up I didn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, because it hadn’t been invented yet. In high school I was called “The Gaper” because my mouth, apparently, would hang open while I daydreamed in class. In my freshman year of college I won the “Neil Armstrong Spacey Award” because I was so . . . spacey.

When they finally got around to inventing ADD, I took a test from a licensed psychologist, and it turned out I had come down with a bad case of it.

 

Learning to focus your thoughts and goals is challenging for anyone.  But it is especially difficult when your mind wants to wander down any side street it sees.

I have spent my adult life learning how to focus.  But lately I have come to realize it is equally important to learn how not to be too focused, because when you get too focused you can’t see gorillas.

 

Psychologists from Harvard conducted an experiment in which they played a video of basketball players. Participants were told to count the number of times the ball was passed by the team wearing a certain color uniform. In the middle of the video, however, strange things happened. A woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla costume would walk through the center of the court and would be clearly visible for about five seconds.

A control group, who were not asked to count the number of times the basketball was passed, all saw the woman and the gorilla. But, for those asked to focus on the task of counting passes, only a third saw the woman. And, amazingly, the majority (56 percent), failed to notice the gorilla.

 

Jesus was a master at being focused and unfocused at the same time. When he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem to die, nothing could deter him. Yet, at the same time, he was open to notice the needs of people around him.

Jairus, a synagogue ruler, pleads with Jesus to come with him because his only daughter is dying.  Jesus has a clear focus – he wants to help. In doing that, he ignores the crowds pressing in on him.

But, at the same time, he is open to one person who touches his tassel. “Who touched me?” he asks. Peter is dumbfounded by Jesus’ question, and helpfully points out that many people are touching him. They are, in fact, mobbing him. Yet, Jesus is aware that one person in the crowd was different.

That day, Jesus did two miracles. One, because he focused on a goal; the other, because he was sensitive to the unexpected.

How do you do both at the same time?  I don’t know. But I know it’s worth learning.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

He Teaches At Your Pace

Story of the Day for Saturday September 21, 2012 

He Teaches At Your Pace

 

                    Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus says, “How about you? Who do you say I am?” 

                                                                                          Matthew 16:13-15

 

 

Michael Hodgin says that when his daughter was four-years old, she lined up all her dolls on the couch in the living room.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m playing school,” she replied. “I’m the teacher and these are my prisoners.”

 

I understand this girl. For me, the end of a school day didn’t feel like a termination in the advancement of knowledge; the end of a school day felt like a jail break.

 

When Jesus called students to follow him, they didn’t feel forced. They wanted to learn from this rabbi.

Jesus’ teaching methods, however, were nothing short of shocking. He didn’t immediately blurt out all the most important facts they should learn. He didn’t say, “Hey guys, want to follow me?  I’m the Son of God!”

From what we can gather from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is on the tail end of his ministry, and has never explicitly taught his disciples that he is the Son of the living God. Instead, he tells stories and acts like God’s Son, and lets them chew on it.

 

One of the most respected business consultants, Tom Peters, cited a study in which new workers at major companies were placed in separate groups. In the first group, the company execs explained to the new recruits their company’s basic philosophy. They cited all the reasons why this philosophy should be adopted. In the second group, they didn’t explain the company’s philosophy or give reasons why it should be adopted. Instead, they told stories. McDonald’s told stories about their founder, Ray Kroc, closing down a franchise because he found a dead fly in the kitchen. FedEx told the story about a broken communications cable on a mountain, and how he rented a helicopter (without first getting permission) and flew to the mountain, climbed through the snow, and reconnected the broken cable.

The researchers conducting this study found that new employees who were told stories were far more likely to adopt the philosophy of the company than those who were simply told the attitude and priorities they were expected to hold.

 

When I want someone to learn something important, I’m tempted to ram my points home. I’m still amazed that Jesus didn’t just blurt out all the facts he wanted his disciples to learn. But as I read of Jesus’ patience in letting the truth unfold in its proper time, I’m comforted that he is still patient with me as I learn the lessons of the faith.

And walking away from a lesson Jesus teaches never feels like a jail break.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

The Next Step

Story of the Day for Friday September 21, 2012

The Next Step

 

                Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. 

                                                            Psalm 119:105

 

 

When Lewis and Clark led the expedition with the Voyage of Discovery, they knew they would travel through much uncharted territory.  What many don’t realize is that they knew the exact location of their destination on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Robert Gray, on the ship Columbia, sailed into the estuary of a large river that he named after his ship. Gray precisely established the latitude and longitude.

Before the voyage, William Clark was trained in the use of the sextant and other navigational tools, and was able to establish the expedition’s location as they traveled. And so, they knew precisely where their journey would end, but had little notion where their path would take them until they reached the mouth of the Columbia River.

 

The journey of the Voyage of Discovery sounds a lot like our lives.  We know the destination. God is leading us home to heaven.  But we have no idea where the path will take us before we make it home.

All of God’s people are occasionally baffled – and even frustrated – with the path the Lord is leading us on.  God leads Abraham up the hills of Moriah to sacrifice his only son. God has Joseph taken captive as a slave and later thrown into prison in a foreign land. God devastates Job’s prosperity and health.  And none of them know what God is up to.

 

We want to know The Plan. We want to see the Big Picture.  But God refuses to tip his hand. In the midst of bankruptcy, or divorce, or the cancer tests that come back positive, we want God to explain himself and show us how these things will work out. We cry out to God with these kinds of questions. But he does not answer.

 

When Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark for their journey, he possessed the most extensive library in the world on what lay before them. His books told him of giant, prehistoric creatures on the upper Missouri River. He learned that all the great rivers of the west: the Missouri, Colorado, Rio Grande, and the Columbia – all began on a single mountain. His books told him the Blue Ridge Mountains of his home were probably the highest mountains on the American continent.

 

God does not guide us by showing us the Big Picture. Instead, he shows us the next step.

When the psalmist says that God’s word is a lamp for his feet, you should understand that the light does not illumine the whole path.  The feeble light of an ancient lamp is only bright enough to show you the next step.

Lewis and Clark did not know what lay around the next bend. You don’t need to know either. All you need to know is where to put your foot for the next step. And where your journey will end. The Lord’s word will  give you the light to do that.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

The Seedling Mile

Story of the Day for Thursday September 20, 2012

The Seedling Mile

 

                Taste and see that the Lord is good.

                                                               Psalm 34:8

 

Can you envision life in America without the invention of the automobile? When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine asking a girl out to a drive-in movie, and then having to watch the entire show sitting on a horse.

 

The automobile has revolutionized our lives. But, it was Carl Graham Fisher who, in 1912, proclaimed the obvious, but brilliant insight that, “The automobile won’t get anywhere until it has good roads to run on.”

Back in 1912, there were no paved roads in America. Major transportation was done by railways. Most roads were dirt “market roads.” Many rejected the notion of expanding roadways to enhance interstate travel, contemptuously labeling them “peacock alleys” – roads intended only for the pleasure of the wealthy.

 

Fisher proposed building a paved, two-lane highway from New York City to San Francisco. But, without government funding, how would you pay for it? Americans had grown up without paved roads and most saw no need for them.

Carl Graham Fisher realized that the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration, and so he hatched the plan called the “Seedling Mile.”  Across the planned route, he would pave a mile of highway. He required that the seedling mile be at least six miles from any town, and on a section of rutty road where travel was difficult.  Building a smooth, paved road in the middle of nowhere is an odd notion, but Fisher knew that if motorists struggled along a rough road, and then experienced the sheer pleasure of a mile of smooth travel, they would insist on having the entire road paved. Fisher’s madcap idea was furthered by such things as the Iowa-Minnesota football game. A heavy rainstorm after the game bogged down nearly 500 motorists traveling between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The road to Davenport was blocked by stuck cars. Over 1500 football fans had to spend the night in their vehicles or trudge to nearby farmhouses for refuge.

Enough was enough. The people of Iowa saw the difference between muddy roads and the seedling mile. The next spring, Iowa voters approved measures for paving projects across the state.

 

King David wrote a song with the line, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Although Carl Graham Fisher was brilliant, we must credit David with the invention of the “Seedling Mile.”  God knows the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Who Is Taking the Risk?

Story of the Day for Wed. September 19, 2012

Who Is Taking the Risk?

 

                 The kingdom of heaven is like . . . a man leaving on a trip. He called his servants and gave them his possessions.                                                              Matthew 25:14

 

 

When the Confederate Navy built the first steel-plated warship, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, nearly went hysterical. What could the North do to counter it? The destiny of the Union Navy rested in the brainchild of a zany inventor, John Ericsson. It’s hardly a surprise that, when Ericsson presented his ironclad ship design, no one was listening. The Monitor looked like “a cheese box on a raft.” The naval board didn’t believe the ship, if built, would even float. Other than the turret, it was mostly underwater.  The odd-looking vessel was only a third the length of a schooner. It had no sails, but ran on steam. And, as to firepower?  Two guns.

Could the Naval Department afford to take such a risk?

 

There’s no question that stepping out in faith is risky. Tim McMahon put it well when he said, “Yes risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing taking.”

Have you ever burned with a dream? You want to use your talents or possessions in a venture for God’s kingdom.

But you never did it. You were afraid you might fail.

 

Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who handed over his money to his servants.   The servants were to do the best they could with the amount entrusted to them. But whose money was at risk? If the servants tried, and lost the money, they weren’t out a penny.

 

Would it help you to know you really can’t fail?

In our finer moments, we acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God. Not only our salvation, but everything – our time, talents, and money, is His. But, do we realize what we’re saying when we claim this? When we step out in faith, whose possessions are at risk?

 

Many historical accounts portray the Naval Department as taking an enormous risk in commissioning the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor.  Actually, they took no risk at all. They commissioned Ericsson to build his weird-looking boat – but on the condition that, if it didn’t perform as the inventor claimed, Ericsson would have to personally pay for all construction costs.

Ericsson took the risk.

 

Don’t be afraid to try something for God’s kingdom. God is willing to take the risk.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)