Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 18, 2012 

Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

                  And he entered with them into the temple walking and jumping and praising God. And all the people who saw him walking and praising God recognized him: “This is the man who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate.” 

                                                                                                   Acts 3:8-10

 

Have you ever noticed that when your favorite basketball team is blowing out their opponent by thirty points, you’re glad, but you’re also bored? You stop high-fiving your friends when your team scores on a slam dunk. You stop shouting frantically at the head coach that he needs to double-team Salinsky in the low post.

Instead, you say, “I went to Speedo Lube last Tuesday and they charged me extra to refill the windshield washer fluid. Hey, ever try these new corn chips? They’re chipotle.”

 

But what happens when your favorite team is behind, and victory seems out of reach . . . but then the rally starts? And, in the final seconds, when the point guard steals the ball and throws up the buzzer-beater from three-point land to win the game, you go wild and knock the popcorn bowl off the coffee table.

In both instances, your team won. Why do you react so differently?

 

Joy comes when you find victory after a time of uncertainty or loss of hope.

 

At the time of the evening sacrifice, no one was anxious about whether they could successfully walk through the gate to worship God in the temple.

No one – except one beggar who was lame from birth. This poor man couldn’t get into the temple – not because he was lame, but because he was banned. Jewish laws of ritual purity barred the blind and the lame from entrance into the temple. This lame beggar could only sit by the gate, but was allowed no further.

 

When Peter, by Jesus’ power, miraculously heals this man, look where the beggar’s feet take him. He doesn’t run home to tell his friends and neighbors; he rushes through the gate. Here he is in the temple for the first time in his life!

You’ll have to excuse his lack of circumspection in the sanctuary, but this man is bursting with joy, and doesn’t care that he’s creating a ruckus.

 

Have you ever noticed that those who are new to the faith are more exuberant than a happy puppy? They have known the uncertainty or loss of hope in their relationship with God. And, when they discover the downpour of God’s mercy on them, they can’t contain their joy.

But, once we get used to the victory Jesus won for us, we start talking about chipotle corn chips.

 

I don’t think we should ever get used to the grace of God.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Most Contagious Disease

Story of the Day for Monday September 17, 2012 

The Most Contagious Disease

                Then the people from the area discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from continuing to build. . 

                                                                                            Ezra 4:4

One of the most contagious diseases known to man is discouragement.

All great achievements have come about because people persevered in the face of seemingly impossible odds. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton gathered a group of adventurous men and set out to be the first ones to traverse the entire continent of Antarctica. But they never reached the mainland before ice flows trapped their ship, and crushed it.

Alone on an ice flow, with no one to call for help, they embarked on a desperate attempt for survival. The odds were grim.

If you were their leader, what would you determine was the greatest need for your men?  Food? Warmth? Shelter? All these are vital for survival.  But great leaders realize that, in times of crises, morale is vital. One man’s skepticism could demoralize the entire crew. Optimism would not guarantee their survival, but without it, failure was certain.

So, what did Shackleton do? Alfred Lansing, in his book, Endurance, describes how Shackleton made sure Frank Hurley attended the high-level meetings. Hurley was not an officer, nor did he have any previous Antarctic experience. Shackleton included him because he knew that Hurley needed to feel important and did not want him spreading discontent to the others. When Shackleton made tent assignments, he put Hudson, James, and Hurley in his tent. Why? Because these were the men most likely to discourage the rest of the crew.

After surviving the Antarctic winter the crew climbed into lifeboats and made their way through the ice flows to Elephant Island. With his crew very weak, but on dry land, Shackleton needed to leave immediately in a row boat and travel almost a thousand miles to find help. He chose Worsley because he was the best navigator, and McCarthy, because he was built like a bull. But the others, Crean, McNeish, and Vincent were chosen to accompany him because they were the ones who were the most pessimistic at the time. After a year and a half of struggle, Shackleton and all his crew were rescued.

When God’s people began rebuilding the temple, their enemies didn’t force them to quit. Instead, they tried to discourage them so that the people would decide to quit.

Pessimists like to point out what great achievers already know: that the odds their venture will fail is high. And, once any group is convinced it will fail, its downfall is ensured.

Those who refuse to give in to discouragement – who persevere through innumerable obstacles, are the ones who are most likely to attain success.

Has the Lord called you to a high goal?  Don’t give in to discouragement.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Two Swords Among Them

Story of the Day for Saturday Sept. 15, 2012 

                Two Swords Among Them

 

                 So on the day of battle none of the people, except Saul and Jonathan, had a sword or spear in his hand. 

                                                                                              1 Samuel 13:22

 

Adolf Hitler was furious.

As the Third Reich trampled over the nations of Europe, Hitler offered Great Britain terms of peace, in exchange for surrender. When they refused to capitulate, Hitler ordered his military commanders to prepare for the invasion of England. In a top-secret letter, Hitler wrote, “Since England, despite its militarily hopeless situation, still has not shown any signs of being prepared to negotiate, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England.”

Hitler was almost right about England’s “hopeless situation.” How, exactly, did the British intend to defend their homeland against the juggernaut of the German army? In those early days, when the Nazis prepared to pound the Brits into submission, English citizens stood on the eastern coast, armed only with hunting rifles, pitchforks, and, in some cases, golf clubs.

 

The Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel, had developed a super-weapon: iron. The Philistines guarded their new technology so tightly that the Bible says there wasn’t a single blacksmith in all of Israel. “Otherwise,” the Philistines reasoned, “the Hebrews will make swords or spears.”

When the Philistines prepared to march into Israel, they were armed – not only with swords and spears, but with 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen, and foot soldiers “like the sand on the seashore.”  The Israelites managed to cobble together a militia of 600 men – with two swords among them.

 

So, what do you do when your days seem so dark and your situation hopeless?  Many simply cave in to depression and despair. They give up.

But the Lord reminds us that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”  When times seem bleak, we place our lives in God’s hands, suck up our courage, and refuse to give in to fear.

 

During the war, Winston Churchill spoke to the students at Harrow School. He recalled the Battle of Britain, and how “we were quite alone, desperately alone . . .” And then he reminded them that “We were poorly armed.”

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go,” Churchill told them. “But for everyone, surely . . . this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in . . .”

 

German bombers pulverized the city of London, but the British refused to surrender, and, in the end, the plucky Englishmen hung their pitchforks back in their sheds and slammed their nine irons back into their golf bags.

 

The Philistine army was routed, and that small band of unsophisticated Hebrews stood victorious on the field of battle.

Do you believe that, in seemingly hopeless situations, the Lord is still at work? Then never give up. Never, never, never, never.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Are You Primed For This?

Story of the Day for Friday September 14, 2012

Are You Primed For This?

 

                  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is virtuous or praiseworthy – dwell on such things.

                                                                                                                             Philippians 4:8

 

 

When I finish watching a movie with British actors, I fell like talking in a British accent. I don’t think it’s an especially good idea, but I naturally do it until the effect of the movie wears off or my family tells me I’m driving them crazy.

 

We’ve always known it, but recently researchers have demonstrated that much of our behavior is influenced – not by what we choose, but by what we’re exposed to.

Yale professor, Dr. John A. Bargh, has devised a scrambled-sentence test. The task is to take the following five-word lists and make an intelligible four-word sentence from each line.  Why don’t you give it a try?

 

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

 

The subjects who take this test assume the goal is to unscramble a sentence as quickly as possible, but it’s not. Dr. Bargh is actually timing the participants to see how fast they walk. Those who take this test walk out of the building slower than when they came in.

Do you know why? Scattered in the sentences are a few words that suggest old age: “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “forgetful,” “bingo,” and “wrinkles.” Believe it or not, these innocuous suggestions of old age cause the subjects to walk slower afterward.

This priming (as it’s called) has been used to influence a person’s patience or rudeness, and – get this – they never realize their attitudes have been influenced.

 

We like to think our actions are influenced solely by our values and beliefs, but they’re not; our behavior is also influenced by what we’re exposed to.

That is why the apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on noble things. And keep in mind that Paul is writing this from prison. You don’t have to be in a good place to center your thoughts on what is good.

If you’re still dubious about all this, you can research Dr. Bargh’s work for yourself. But maybe it would just be easier to watch a movie with British actors.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

My Wife the Ninny

Story of Day for the 2nd Anniversary of the posting of the first story on climbinghigher.org–Wednesday Sept. 13, 2012 

 Today’s story is being reposted in honor of its being the first story to appear on climbinghigher.org two years ago.  We hope you enjoy it and many more also!!

My Wife the Ninny

 

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.   

Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail.  They are new every morning. 

                                                                                                   Lamentations 3:19-23

 

 

When our children were little my wife always insisted I should take them to the clinic for immunization shots.  I tried to convince her that children need a mother at such a traumatic moment.  And then I would appeal to her higher nature by telling her not to be such a ninny.

Yet, despite my patient reasoning and crystalline logic, she remains adamant that I take them for their shots.

The ninny.

So, off I drive to the clinic with a little child bundled in the car seat. When the nurse walks into the room with the syringe, she sighs and apologizes – as if this is all her fault. Nurses hate this part of their duties.

I hold my little toddler on my lap — this cute little lump of sweetness and joy.  How swiftly the fortunes of life are about to change.

What happens next is always the same.  One moment they sit on my lap, secure and content.  Then the needle. And then the piercing scream that echoes into the next county.  The cry that pierces a daddy’s heart.

Want to know what my children do next?  They hug me.  They cling to me for comfort as they sob in pain.

I cannot explain to them why I did not defend them – why I did not fight off the strange woman with the needle who attacked them without provocation.  I cannot explain that this present wound will pass, but the benefits will carry on.  I cannot explain that I deliberately took them here because I love them dearly.  My children are too young to understand.   All I can do is hold them tight and tell them it’s okay.

Do you think God would do the same thing to you?

Do you think he wants you to cling tighter to him?  That he wants to hold you tight and let you know it is going to be okay?

 

So what do you do when the tears come and life hurts so badly?  Cling to your heavenly Father. Blow your nose.  And let his love dry your tears.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Wild Enjoyment in Possessions

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 12, 2012 

 

A  Wild Enjoyment in Possessions

 

                    Hope in . . . God, who provides us riches for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and extravagant in sharing.  

                                                 1 Timothy 6:17-18

 

 

Randy Pausch captured the hearts of many Americans when he realized he was dying of pancreatic cancer, but refused to let his terminal illness break his spirit.  He helped remind us of the priorities that are so much greater than material things.

 

In his book, The Last Lecture, Randy recalled the time when he was still a bachelor and bought a new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible.  He went to his sister’s house and picked up  his seven-year-old nephew, Chris, and Laura, his nine-year-old niece.

Their mother warned them to be careful in their uncle’s new car. “Wipe your feet before you get in it. Don’t mess anything up. Don’t get it dirty.”

As Randy listened to his sister’s stern warnings he realized the kids were being set up for failure. Of course they’d eventually get the car dirty – it’s just what kids do.

Randy opened a can of soda, and while her sister impressed on her kids the need to be careful, Randy slowly and deliberately poured out the can of soda on the back seat of his brand new convertible. He wanted to convey to them the message that people are more important than things.

He was glad he spilled the soda in front of his nephew and niece because later on Chris threw up in the backseat. The poor boy would’ve felt horrible and guilty, but he had already learned from his crazy uncle that the backseat had already been christened.

 

If you bought a brand new convertible, could you pour a soda on the backseat like Randy did? I don’t know if I could. But don’t you wish you could?  I’ve never met anyone who says they value possessions more than people. But, it’s one thing to say it; it’s another thing to live it.

As much as we want to guard our precious possessions, we should ask ourselves this question: who do you believe finds a wilder enjoyment in possessions – those who live like Randy Pausch, or those who would blow a gasket if a kid gets the backseat of their new car a little dirty?

Oddly, the more we covet and cling to material things, the less we enjoy them.

 

God invites us to be extravagant in our generosity. I hope it’s not irreverent to say that God is obsessive, but, if God is obsessive about anything, it is about giving. He would give you the moon. He would give you his only Son. Invariably, when you read in the Bible about God’s love, you will find him giving you something.

 

If you’re like me, and not quite to the point of wanting to pour pop on the back seat of a new car, maybe we can start by taking the next step: keeping a can of soda stashed under our car seat . . . just in case we get in the mood.

And store some towels too so your passengers don’t ride around with wet butts.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 11, 2012

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

 

                                 Mercy triumphs over judgment.  

                                                                              James 2:13

 

 

Many complain that mercy is unfair, and, of course, they’re absolutely right: it is unfair. Is it ever right to bend the rules for a higher cause than fairness?

 

In 2002, Jake Porter attended Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio – even though he couldn’t read. Jake had Fragile X Syndrome – the most common form of genetic mental retardation.

Yet, Jake was unfailingly cheerful and loved by his classmates. The Homecoming Queen, at the big dance, chose Jake as her escort. Doug Montavon, the school’s all-time rushing leader, doted on Jake and helped him along during football practice.

 

The last football game of the season saw Northwest take a thumping from Waverly High. With five seconds left, Waverly was leading 42-0 when Northwest coach, Dave Frantz called a time out and met with Waverly’s coach, Derek Dewitt.

Coach Frantz told Dewitt that he wanted to send in Jake Porter, who would be handed the ball and would simply take a knee. But Dewitt was having none of it. He returned to the sidelines and told his defense that when the ball was handed to number 54, they were not to touch him, but make sure he scored.

When the quarterback handed Jake the ball, he ran to the line, stopped, and, confused, started running the wrong way. But the referee and players from both teams pointed him toward the goal line.

Jake sliced through the line and galloped for daylight. When he crossed the goal line everyone went wild. Players from both teams were hugging each other. Players from both teams hoisted Jake on their shoulders. Jake’s mom, Liz, said there were no longer two teams out there. “Everybody was on the same team.”

 

Jake’s touchdown run was, of course, unfair – and, with the ref’s assistance, illegal. The sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette whined that if mentally challenged kids want to compete, let them do it in the Special Olympics. “Leave high school football alone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put the fix in.” Other voices joined him.

No one argues that Jake’s touchdown was fair. It was clearly compassionate. But afterward, people became friendlier. Coach Dewitt, the first black coach in the history of the conference, found racial slurs replaced by people approaching him in grocery stores to shake his hand. He was no longer a black man; he was a man. Dewitt said he caught the school bully patiently teaching a couple of special-needs students how to shoot a basketball. Coach Frantz even got a phone call from Steve Mariucci, the head coach of the 49ers, because his NFL players were so touched by Jake’s touchdown.

 

It’s not fair that any of us should be reunited with God. But I hope you won’t mind if Jesus bends the rules of fairness so that, in the end, mercy will triumph.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Holler Warnings and Encouragement

Story of the Day for Monday September 10, 2012 

Holler Warnings and Encouragement

 

 

                   If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall in a pit.

                                                                                       Matthew 15:14

 

 

Leaders are the nucleus of any organization. “Nucleus” is the Latin word for “nut.”  So, if you want to be a leader, it means you have to be . . .

You know something? This isn’t exactly the direction I had hoped this conversation would take. But, since we’re here, we might as well stir things up a little.

 

The Leadership Movement has been a major theme in recent years – both in the corporate world and in the church. We have learned that leaders must “have a vision” and must confidently guide the masses through “paradigm shifts” into the future.

I’m all for this. Yet, it misses the central core of true leadership.

 

Stuart Briscoe tells of the time a military veteran died. Some of his fellow vets wanted to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they asked the pastor to lead them down the aisle to the casket for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door at the front.

The service went well until the pastor led them away from the casket. Instead of leading them out the side door, he marched them all into a broom closet – in full view of all the mourners.

 

What is a leader? Someone who inspires others? Someone who communicates clear goals and motivates others to follow him? Is a great leader someone who can rally the masses around a central vision?

If this is what makes a magnetic leader, then one of the greatest leaders in history is Adolf Hitler. He galvanized a nation, yet, tragically, led them into the darkest days of their history.

 

The primary requirement of a leader has nothing to do with charisma or “casting vision.” The foremost quality of a leader is that he knows where he’s going.

Jesus warns us that, whenever we follow someone who doesn’t know where they’re going, we’ll all wind up in the broom closet.

We shouldn’t follow leaders who are blind, because, sooner or later, we’ll all stumble into a pit. But the responsibility of avoiding pits and broom closets doesn’t rest with the leader; it rests with us. Jesus doesn’t want leaders to be blind, but he doesn’t want followers to be blind either. It’s up to us to see where the Lord wants us to go, and then find the leader who is willing walk at the front of the line and holler warnings of potential hazards and encouragement until we reach the next watering hole.

 

To follow a leader who isn’t doing this for us is . . . nuts.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday September 8, 2012 

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

 

                On the tree, Jesus himself bore our sins in his body . . . by his wounds you’ve been healed. .

                                                                                   1 Peter 2:24

 

 

Albert Schweitzer’s two volume masterpiece on the life of J.S. Bach has pride of place on my living room bookshelf. But I do not admire him most as an author.

Schweitzer was a performing musician – packing concert halls throughout the world with his organ recitals. But I don’t admire him primarily as a musician.

At the height of his fame, Schweitzer left the cathedrals and concert halls to study theology. Even though he became world-renowned as a brilliant theologian, I don’t admire him most as a theologian.

When the academic world stood in awe of his theological insights, he resigned his professorship at the university to study medicine.

 

He went to med school, and, as soon as he was certified as a medical doctor, he got lost in the jungles of equatorial Africa and built a makeshift hospital to serve the poorest of the poor.

Albert Schweitzer’s interpretation of Bach helped me understand the majesty of God. His theology, unfortunately, didn’t help me understand much – other than to expose the tired dogmatisms of some of his contemporaries. But, I admire Schweitzer most for helping me to see that God would sacrifice himself to make me well again.

 

Schweitzer treated many diseases among the African natives, but he had no medicine to treat yellow fever. Then he heard that Professor Ernest Bueding had come from the U.S. to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Along with fellow researchers, Bueding was experimenting with a vaccine for yellow fever.

One day, the Institute got a telephone call, inquiring about the vaccine. They informed him that the vaccine appeared to be successful, but that it had not yet been tested for side effects.

The phone caller appeared the next day and requested the vaccine. When told they couldn’t give him the vaccine until tests proved it was safe, the man replied that he intended to administer the vaccine only to himself – to personally verify its safety.

Dr. Bueding correctly suspected the anonymous caller was Dr. Schweitzer, and told the good doctor it would be foolish to try the vaccine in its experimental stage. But Schweitzer countered that he would not give his African patients anything he would not take himself.

Bueding finally caved in and injected Schweitzer with the experimental drug. After two days of observation at the Pasteur Hospital, Schweitzer was declared fit to travel back to his hospital in Africa – with a desperately-needed antidote for yellow fever.

 

At the organ bench and podium, Schweitzer dazzles us with his genius and virtuosity. But it’s his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sick in a remote African village that captures our highest admiration, for he reminds us of the truest of all stories.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and Marty Kaarre)

Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

Story of the Day for Thursday September 6, 2012 

 

 Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

 

                After a severe whipping, they threw them into prison – commanding the jailer to guard them carefully. Having received his orders, he threw them into an inner cell and secured their feet in the stocks.   Around midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and began to sing hymns to God. 

                                            Acts 16:23-25

 

 

When Paul and Silas were arrested, unjustly, and severely beaten, we can understand why they might shout curses and ask God why he would reward their faithfulness with such agony.

But, instead, around midnight the prison echoes with the sound of singing.

 

Ben Robertson, an American journalist, describes in his book, I Saw England, the time he was sent to England to cover the bombing of London during World War II. He flew into London on Saturday night and was met with one of the worst air raids of the war.

The bombing continued through the night, and fires erupted throughout the city. As he looked around him, Robertson observed a huge circle of fire for ten miles all around London.

The all-clear alarm sounded at one in the morning. Robertson went to his hotel room, nervous and exhausted. He threw himself on his bed and cried, “Oh, God, I don’t want to live another day. I can’t go through another night of hell and horror like this.”

 

Ben fell asleep with the window open. He was awakened on Sunday morning by music. Curious, he got up and went outside looking for the source of the music.

Across the street, he saw a Christian church that had been reduced to rubble by the bombing raid. The roof was gone and only portions of the walls remained.

But there, standing amidst the ruins, was the choir, the rector, and the little congregation – gathered for worship on Sunday morning.

The congregation was not only singing – they were singing triumphantly.

 

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord

She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word

From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride

With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

 

Robertson was overwhelmed by these valiant believers. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw in the world something that was unshatterable . . . something that was indestructible – the spirit and power of Jesus Christ within his church.”

Falling on his knees, Ben Robertson prayed, “Oh, God, now I gather strength and courage to live another day. I will go on . . .”

 

Prisons walls and misfortunes were never meant to muzzle the sound of a good tenor.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)