Category Archives: discipleship

March 29-April 6, 2011 Stories

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 6, 2011

Understanding Paradox with Rufus the June Beetle

God determined . . . the exact times and boundaries where people should live, so they would seek him and, consequently, in their searching would find him . . . For in him we live and move and have our being.

Acts 17:26-28

Today, I want to pick a fight, and argue that we should stop fighting and arguing so much in the church.

When the stakes are high – and they don’t get any higher than when we’re defending the truths about God – we easily confuse unwavering loyalty to God with stubbornness. Listening thoughtfully and openly to another’s point of view sounds far too much like compromising the truth. And so, we entrench, and prepare for battle.

One of the greatest points of doctrinal contention is whether God is totally sovereign, or whether we have free will. As Christians, we have gotten into more food fights over this issue than any other I can name.

But what if both sides are right?

The apostle Paul was comfortable with paradox. When he was speaking to the tweedy philosopher types in Athens, he affirmed both sides of the argument. He talked about God wanting everyone to seek him, and, in their searching, to find him. Sounds like free will. But he also emphasized God’s complete sovereignty. God determines what happens when, and we can’t live or move or exist apart from his decision.

Paul assumes both sides of the matter are true.

Now, many claim that, when I went to seminary to drink from the fountains of knowledge, I only gargled. And I’m certainly not helping my cause by telling you my position on sovereignty and free will has been influenced by Rufus the June beetle.

Once upon a time, a June beetle named Rufus woke to a sunny morning and decided to fly around, and do buggy things. He flew through the open window of a Chevy pickup. No particular reason. He was a bug.

Soon, a human got in, rolled up the windows, and drove down the road.

Is Rufus still free? Obviously not. His movements are totally dictated by the will of the driver. Rufus is going wherever the driver chooses to go.

Is Rufus now under the total control of the driver? Well, no, actually. He’s still free to do beetle stuff, like landing in people’s hair or getting stuck on his back.

Now look at the mess we’ve made. Rufus has free will but doesn’t have free will. The driver is totally controlling Rufus’ movements, but doesn’t totally control Rufus’ movements. We’ve got ourselves a paradox: two truths are true at the same time.

Thinking any deeper than this makes my brain hurt. But I do know that seeing life from both angles allows me to bow before the God who is Lord of all, and still rejoice in the glorious freedom he has given the children of men.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 5, 2011

The Snob

And to those who tried to assure themselves they were righteous and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this story . . .

Luke 18:9

When I was in third grade we learned a song called “Little Robin Redbreast.” It’s a chirpy number that recounts the epic conflict of wills between a robin and a pussycat.

After we learned the song our teacher gave everyone a sheet a paper with a robin on it and we got our crayons out to color it in.

This was my favorite time of the day. I loved art. Whenever my mind wandered during other classes, which was just about all the time, I would draw dinosaurs or football players or soldiers blowing things up.

But, as we colored in our robins, events took a disturbing turn.

Kids are busybodies and like to check up on each other’s progress, and as I looked at my classmates, I was horrified. Oblivious to reality, they were actually coloring the robin’s breast red! A robin’s breast isn’t red – it’s burnt-orange. Granted, we didn’t have burnt-orange in our arsenal of crayons back then, but at the very least, orange would be the better choice. And, if you take a brown crayon, you can lightly feather it over top of the orange for a pleasing effect.

I knew, however, exactly why they were coloring their robin’s breast red. They had been manipulated by a stupid song. And why? Because some two-bit poet lacked the literary skill to compose a song called, “Little Robin Burnt-Orange Breast.”

Nevertheless, the song, didn’t account for why Ronnie chose to color the rest of his robin’s body black. It didn’t even look like a robin; it looked like a raven hugging the top of a traffic light.

My classmates had no idea they were under covert investigation by the Color Police. They just colored away and were happy to be alive while I glumly brooded over their lack of aesthetic rigor.

As I look back on those days, I realize I was an art snob before I even knew what an art snob was. Snobbery has nothing to do with striving for excellence, nor even with thinking you can do something better than others. Snobbery is a dark smugness that enjoys feeling superior to others.

Spiritual snobbery is especially distasteful and dangerous. The Pharisees validated their lives by feeling holier than the common rabble. By seeking to be superior, they were silently acknowledging their secret insecurity in their relationship with God.

Once we know the mercy of Jesus, we enter into a secure relationship with God. He frees us from the desperate need to be holier or “righter” than others . . . or better able to draw robins.

But RED, for Pete’s sake! I still can’t believe it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Monday April 4, 2011

Love and Truth Have Kissed

The Lord will be the stable foundation for your times, a wealthy storehouse of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.

Isaiah 33:6

Tim Stafford wrote an article in Christianity Today about a pastor he knew, Dr. Stephen Bilynskyj. He fills a jar with beans and asks his class to guess how many beans are in the jar. On a big pad of paper he writes down their estimates. Then, next to their estimates he asks them to name their favorite song.

After the two lists are completed, he tells them how many beans are in the jar, and the class checks the list to see whose estimate was the closest. Then Pastor Bilynskyj looks at the list of favorite songs and asks them which song is closest to being right.

The students protest that there isn’t a right answer.

Bilynskj asks them, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?”

The answer is disturbing – invariably they say that their religious faith is like choosing a favorite song.  They see their faith, in other words, not as something that is actually true, but as their personal preference.

If God truly exists, we should expect to find his fingerprints. As we examine the fundamental components of life, we should see evidence of an Intelligent Designer – systems that can’t be constructed by a mindless combination of chemicals. And we do.

When we read the story of God’s working among his people, we would expect to find archeological evidence for the places and buildings spoken about. And we do.

If God doesn’t really exist, then life is meaningless, and we must have the courage to admit it.  But, isn’t it odd that those who claim there is no God, and no purpose in life,  have a dickens of a time practicing their belief?

AsRavi Zacharias was being driven to a lecture he was giving at Ohio State University, his host drove him past the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts, hailed as the first postmodern building. The outer scaffolding gives a sense of incompleteness. Inside, stairways go nowhere and pillars hang from the ceiling without purpose.

The host told Zacharias that the building was designed to reflect life itself – senseless and incoherent – and the “capriciousness of the rules that organize the built world.”

Ravi asked, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

His host said, “That is correct.”

“Did he do the same thing with the foundation?”

God is not an illusion – something you believe in just to make you feel good. He is the foundation of reality. He makes the things we long for: love and a restored life, real.

In the God who is really there, Love and Truth have kissed.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 2, 2011

But Truth Won’t Break

Because of rebellion . . . truth was flung to the ground.

Daniel 8:12

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

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

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

“Three blocks north of here.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Indiana, preserving the true number of pi saved all the architects in the state from banging their heads against walls and mumbling incoherently.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 1, 2011

They Can See Right Through Us

When you fast, don’t be like the gloomy-looking hypocrites. They contort their faces so it becomes obvious to everyone that they’re fasting.

Matthew 6:16

Have you ever noticed that people who are trying to look cool don’t really look cool; they look like they’re trying to look cool?

When I order sub sandwiches they have a tip jar at the end of the counter. I like to tip workers, but sometimes they’re attention is turned elsewhere and they don’t see me giving my generous tip. So, I like to wait until they see me – but here’s the trick: I try to make it look like I’m furtively sneaking a tip in their jar yet hoping they’ll notice. That way, they’ll see me as both humble and generous at the same time.

Jesus thinks I’m a poser when I do that, and, of course, he’s right. Posing is a big deal to him because our vanity destroys the most critical attitude of a believer: humility. Only humble hearts receive undeserved gifts. And that’s what Jesus came to give us.

Becoming proud of our humility is an oxymoron. It doesn’t impress God, and, if you must know the dismal truth, it doesn’t impress other people.

Daniel M. Oppenheimer is a cognitive psychologist at Princeton. He published a study about the benefit of using simple language, and entitled it: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity.”  (I found his title a little ironic until I realized this was meant to be humorous; his subtitle says: “Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”)

Oppenheimer wanted to know if people think we’re more intelligent when we use complicated language rather than using simple words. He found that 86 percent of university students admitted that they deliberately use complicated words in their essays to make their papers sound more valid or intelligent.

His study revealed that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, people do not think you’re more intelligent when you write obscurely – they think you’re less intelligent. In other words, whenever we try to impress others with our intelligence, our attempts backfire.  They can see right through us.

Jesus watched the “religious” people as they prayed and gave alms to the poor, and fasted. All of those things are good. But he observed that these people wanted other people to notice and admire their spirituality. Yet, craving attention is not spiritual, so he called it for what it was and warned us not to imitate that kind of hypocrisy.

But, if you still insist on trying to impress people with your spirituality, let me give you a tip: the key is subtlety. And, if you need any help, come with me some day and watch me pay for a sub sandwich.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday March 31, 2011

Willing to Take the Full Brunt

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life in place of ours.

1 John 3:16

Imagine a happy little kindergarten girl walking to school when another bigger kid runs up behind her and deliberately shoves her to the ground?

We instantly become angry, and if we could talk to that bully, the first word out of our mouth is apt to be “Why?” “Why did you have to do that? She wasn’t doing anything to you!”

If you read through the Psalms, that question is frequently on their lips when life doesn’t make sense to them, “Why? O Lord . . .”

Dan Miller writes about the Clark family in Scotland. The husband and wife worked hard to save up money so they could take their nine children on vacation to the United States. After years of scrimping, they bought their passports and made their reservations on an ocean liner.

You can imagine their excitement as the trip of their dreams was only a week away.

But then their youngest son was bitten by a dog, and the doctor said he would have to remain home under quarantine for two weeks because of the possibility of rabies.

The entire family was crushed by the news, but the father took it the worse – cursing both God and his son for this huge disappointment.

Mr. Clark’s anger melted away five days later. He had just learned that the ocean liner, for which they had reservations, the Titanic, had sunk.

Anaiah Tucker is a nine-year-old who lives in Madison, Georgia. It was raining as she walked hand-in-hand with her five-year-old sister, Camry, to catch the school bus.

As they crossed the road, suddenly, they saw a pickup truck was bearing down on them. In an act of selfless love, Anaiah pushed her sister out of the way to safety, but was hit by the pickup herself.

The mother of the two girls ran to the scene, and found that Anaiah had no pulse. The school bus soon arrived, and the driver, Loretta Berryman, administered CPR until she began to breathe again.

Anaiah broke her neck, lost a kidney, damaged her spleen, broke both legs, and had to eventually have one leg amputated.

We’re angry with kids who would senselessly push another child to the ground . . . as long as we see no purpose in their doing so.

If you’re angry with God and find yourself shouting “Why?” at him a lot, I think you should know that he has a purpose for things – even if we can’t see it at the moment.

And, it’s also good to remember that the same God who may push you to the ground, is the one who was willing to take the full brunt of the truck in order to save you.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Wednesday March 30, 2011

What You’ve Got Left

The gift is acceptable according to what one has, not what he doesn’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12

Noel Paul Stookey (from the folk-rock group Peter, Paul, and Mary) gave a solo concert in River Forest, Illinois back in the 70s.

As a live performer, Stookey is incomparable. But, on one of his final songs, he broke a guitar string. He never missed a beat, but kept on singing and playing. And then, a second string snapped . . . and still he continued his song.

With two strings dangling wildly, his guitar work didn’t sound quite as full, so we gave him a tepid applause for that song, right?

Are you kidding? The auditorium went wild! We weren’t applauding the quality of his guitar sound; we were applauding his courage to do his best with the four strings he had left.

God doesn’t appraise our efforts by what we wish we could do, but by what we can do.

That’s how you treat other people too, isn’t it? That’s why you’re so delighted with a hand-drawn birthday card from a five-year-old. Even if half the words are misspelled and the drawing of you is less than flattering.

So, why do you judge your own situation so differently?  Have you noticed how easily we fall into the habit of comparing our present efforts to what we used to be able to accomplish when we were younger, or what we could do before the accident?

I live up in the mountains of Montana and look out my window at Still Peak. I love to hike to the summit, but, with age, and a massive blood clot, and nerve damage to both my calves, and arthritis in my knees, I can no longer dance up the trail to the summit like I used to.

That’s when I need to remember that God doesn’t care so much about what my body can accomplish; he cares about my heart – what I do with what I’ve got.

My sister once took me and my family to worship at a stately Episcopal church near Detroit.  During the celebration of the Eucharist, the people would walk forward to the altar rail to receive Communion.

As we were singing the Communion hymn, we noticed one man as he made his way to the front. He was in an advanced stage of muscular dystrophy and the spastic movement of his limbs made it virtually impossible for him to lurch toward the front.

It took him a long time to make his way to the front, but he was determined, and we would’ve have waited for him until Tuesday. My wife and I weren’t able to continue with the hymn. While he communed I wanted to applaud.

Don’t be sad about what you don’t have. The only gift that God, and the world, wants from you is to give what you’ve got left.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Tuesday March 29, 2011

Pad Our Stats or Nurse Our Toes?

After they stoned Paul, they dragged him outside the city, assuming he was dead. But . . . he got up and went back into the city.

Acts 14:19-20

When Henry “Zeke” Bonura was sixteen, he entered the javelin competition at a National Track and Field Championship in 1925, and threw it seven feet farther than the “Chariots of Fire” Olympic gold medalist did in Paris the year before. He still remains the youngest male athlete to win an event at an AAU Track and Field Championship.

At Loyola University, he starred in football, basketball, and track. Notre Dame’s famous football coach, Knute Rockne, called him “The South’s Wonder Athlete.”  When he played major league baseball for the Chicago White Sox he twice led American League first basemen with the lowest percentage of errors.

I won’t tell you that Zeke Bonura was an excellent fielder – not to avoid boring you with the obvious, but to avoid lying.

Bonura was LOUSY at first base.  Sports editor, Otis Harris wrote in 1946: “It was never established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bonura was the worst fielding first basemen in the majors, but the consensus was that he would do until another one came along.”

So, how could Bonura win the title of best defensive first basemen in both 1934 and 1938 and yet be considered such a bad defensive player?

Simple. He didn’t try.

Zeke made the brilliant discovery that you can’t be charged with an error if you don’t touch the ball. So, he let easy grounders roll into left field and waved at them with his “Mussolini salute.”

I would love to take this opportunity to heap scorn on the lethargic ambitions of Zeke Bonura, but I can’t. I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes I become so afraid of failing that I never try.

On the apostle Paul’s missionary trips, he often failed to win over the people he met. Once, (against the wishes of the town’s Chamber of Commerce) they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and continued to carry the Good News on his lips.

And good things happened because he wasn’t afraid to fail.

One of the greatest inventors of his time, Charles Kettering, said, “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe.” “But,” Kettering adds, “the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”

When we get our purpose figured out, we won’t waste time trying to pad our stats. We’ll be too busy nursing our toes.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day posts for March 24-28, 2011

Story of the Day for Monday March 28, 2011

Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

The end of a matter is better than its beginning.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.

Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming:

WELCOME TO HARDIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY

BIRTHPLACE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Autographs 5 cents

On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.

When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun.

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday March 26, 2011

Do You Have Your Own Navy?

It’s not good to act without knowledge. If you’re in too much of a hurry, you’ll take the wrong path.

Proverbs 19:2

Known as TCA, 1, 1, 1, trichloroethane hasn’t been sold in the United States since 1996. Previously it was used as an aerosol propellant in various household products.

Who would have guessed that teenagers would discover you could get high on it if you put your head in a plastic bag and sprayed the fumes into it? Trichloroethane, however, can depress the central nervous system and wreak damage to the heart, lungs, nervous system and liver. It was associated with “sudden sniffing death” syndrome.

The product label clearly warned of death or serious injury if inhaled, but teens ignored the warning. They liked getting high. The company wanted to make the product warning label larger, but attorney Victor Schwartz wisely argued that kids would then assume there was more propellant in the aerosol can.

Sometimes kids can be alarmingly blind to the future consequences of their actions. So, Mr. Schwartz came up with a brilliant solution. He asked his clients, “What do kids worry about more than death or injury?” Their appearance. So, his clients re-worded their warning label to say that sniffing the aerosol could cause hair loss or facial disfigurement.

It worked.

Looking ahead to the effect our present actions will have in the future is important. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take risks. In fact, one of the foremost regrets voiced by the elderly is that they didn’t take more risks in life.

But looking ahead does mean that we should be wise. That means we should know where we want to go, and how we plan to get there.

And, if the only thing you’re looking for are a few thrills in this life, maybe you’re not looking ahead far enough.

The Intermarine Company in northwest Italy specializes in making small boats. Their shipyard is a mile up the Magra River and empties into the ocean at the town of Ameglia.

In 1981, they landed a huge contract. The government of Malaysia offered them a huge multi-million dollar agreement to build a minesweeper and three military vessels.

Intermarine had never built ships this large, but they were up to the task. They finished the project on time and on budget.  But they focused so much on construction that they failed to imagine the day they would sail the ships down the river to the sea.

The large boats were too big to float under the Colombiera Bridge. The shipbuilding company offered to tear down the bridge and rebuild it after they floated their vessels to sea. But the town council refused.

Oh well. How many construction companies can brag that they have their own navy?

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Friday March 25, 2011

Ahead of Their Time

Have I covered up my sin like Adam by hiding my guilt in my heart?

Job 31:33

When Rand McNally put out their new atlas in 1989, they inadvertently left out the pages for North and South Dakota and Oklahoma. That’s embarrassing. But, hey, no big deal – we all make mistakes.

The map company, however, made national news – not because of their mistake, but because they denied it was an error! Instead, they made the outrageous claim that they didn’t feel they had enough room in their atlas to include ALL the states. One spokesman for the company said, “It was an editorial decision.”

If they admitted they goofed, people would’ve understood, because, well . . . people goof. But, by denying their error and pretending that it was intentional, they looked ridiculous.

The only people who can get away with denying their faults are those in the creative arts. If their work really stinks, they can sniff and say that they are merely “ahead of their time.”

Making mistakes is not the worst thing in the world. They might be bad, but they’re not the worst thing. The worst thing is denying that we have done anything wrong.

The only sin for which you can’t feel the relief of God’s forgiveness is the one you deny you committed.

When I was a freshman in high school I played the drums in the school band.  We were practicing for the halftime show at homecoming, but, if you played on the varsity football team, you, obviously, didn’t have to do halftime.

That left only two of us drummers: me and this senior girl who was really, really good. The band director gave us a difficult drum piece and told the two of us we would play a solo in the middle of the band number.

We were supposed to memorize the solo, and I’m sure I would have, but a fellow drummer taught me a trick: just tape the music to your drum. No one in the stands can see it, and you can just read the music off your drum head.

When the band played at halftime for homecoming it was horribly windy. I wouldn’t remember a detail like that if it wasn’t for the fact that, when it came time for me and the senior girl to play our solo, the wind ripped the music off my drum head.

As I reflected on it afterward, I realize the proper thing to do would have been to just stop playing and let my partner play the drum solo by herself. Instead, I panicked and pretended everything was fine. I started ad-libbing my own funky little rhythm.

I could see a few of my classmates in the stands laughing at me because they saw my music blow away. But you have to rise above that sort of sniggering when you’re ahead of your time.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Thursday March 24, 2011

What’s New?

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away.

Revelation 21:1

Ever notice how we have a compulsion to point out the first robin of the year?

Why is that?

An armchair psychologist might suggest that the reason we get excited about seeing the first robin or crocus is that we have an unconscious urge for summer to come so we can mow our lawn at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to avenge our neighbor for blowing his snow into our driveway.

Psychologists come up with cool explanations for things.

Yet, while we may be excited about spring because we’re looking forward to summer, that doesn’t fully answer our robin question. Yes, kids get “spring fever” and can’t wait for summer vacation. But they’re also excited about the first day of school, and buying new pencils and clothes.

If you think about it, we get excited about new things – even if they’re things we dread. Parents can’t wait to wake their kids up to see the first snowfall of the season – even if they hate winter. We point out the first dandelion we see in the yard – even if we moan about all the dandelions in the yard by the end of June.

But imagine it’s mid-summer and you’re driving a car full of people – with me in the back seat. Suddenly I shout, “Whoa! Stop! Did you see that?”

Everyone immediately stares out the window, as if they might get their first glimpse of a brontosaurus, or something.

“Over there! Do you see that maple tree out there in the field?”

Everyone says, “Yes?” (still hoping there might be a brontosaurus behind it.)

“Can’t you see it? That maple tree has leaves on it!”

Now, I always point out the first leaves of the year, but if I still got ecstatic about seeing leaves on a tree in mid-July, I would have to roam the hallways of nursing homes and hand out free denture cream in order to find a friend.

Robins and leaves are always lovely, but by summer they’re no longer news. “News” is exciting because it is new.

A pastor once told me to imagine a sparrow flying to a granite mountain once a year to sharpen its beak. The time it takes the sparrow to wear down the mountain . . .that’s how long eternity is.

He might be right, but thinking of heaven in terms of duration unnerves me. I think of the Riverside Baptist choir standing on a cloud and singing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” for the nineteen billionth time . . . and the sparrow can’t get them to shut up!

When God showed John a revelation of heaven, he didn’t show him something that was long, he showed him something that was new.

Heaven, I believe, will always be new.

Stories for March 21-23, 2011

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 23, 2011

 

And Head Back Home

 

When he came to his senses, he said “How many of my father’s hired servants have more to eat than they need, while I’m perishing in this famine. I’m going to get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I sinned …’”

Luke 15:17-18

 

 

Hoover vacuum cleaners were so popular in Great Britain that the company’s name was turned into a verb (“I’m just going to Hoover the hallway before tea, dear.”)

Nevertheless, in the summer of 1992, the company needed to clean up a backlog of appliances in their warehouses, so they launched the Hoover Free Travel Offer. If you bought a hundred pounds worth of Hoover products (about $198 US), you got two free round-trip airline tickets to key cities in Europe.

It didn’t take consumers long to figure out that buying a vacuum cleaner was cheaper than buying two airline tickets, so all available Hoovers were quickly snatched up. The company was now forced to switch to a seven-day work week to meet the demand. Their flagship plant in Cambuslang, Scotland had to hire an additional 75 workers.

Business was brisk, but somehow, the executives at Hoover didn’t realize they were losing money on every vacuum they sold. They insisted that only a few customers would bother to redeem their vouchers for free airline travel.  So, how did they handle this crisis? Elated by the huge sales volume, they decided to expand their promotion. TV ads now advertised two free round-trip tickets to the United States on Hoover purchases.

The flood was on!  Now, however, customers began to present their airline vouchers.  Hoover was so swamped they were forced to charter entire planes to keep up with the demand.

Finally, the Hoover executives had a brilliant insight: if we continue to pay customers $200 to purchase a $100 product, this could hurt us financially.

Travel agents were no longer able to book flights – which created a storm of negative publicity for Hoover – which, in turn, increased the number of customers demanding their two free round-trip tickets.

Britain’s royal family endorses certain firms by granting royal warrants. Selected companies can use the royal logo and it is a huge endorsement. Hoover experienced the extreme indignity of having their royal warrant revoked by the Queen over the promotion debacle.

The company faced legal battles for the next six years. In the end, 220,000 customers did make use of their travel vouchers – which cost Hoover almost $100 million.

 

Sin is stupid. It’s like a Hoover sales promotion. In the beginning, it looks promising, but it’s a train barreling toward a cliff.

There is, however, something worse than sinning. It’s refusing to admit our sin. The prodigal son was a beetlehead to leave his father’s house and squander the inheritance. But, when he realized how foolish he had been, he was wise enough to admit it.

And head back home.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 


 

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 22, 2011

 

More or Less Securely Fastened

 

In Joppa, a disciple by the name of Tabitha . . .  was always doing good deeds and acts of mercy for the needy.

Acts 9:36

 

In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a pastor in Antioch wrote, “Every day the church feeds 3000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples . . .”

At the same time, in Rome, Jerome mentions a Christian woman, Fabiola. “She was the first person to found a hospital, into which she might gather sufferers out of the streets, and where she might nurse the unfortunate victims of sickness and want.”

All this distressed the Roman Emperor, Julian, who wanted to destroy the Christian faith. He, futilely, urged the pagan priests to try to copy the compassion of the Christians. “It is disgraceful,” he moaned, that Christians “support our poor in addition to their own.”

Julian accused Christians of showing excessive compassion, and we’ve been guilty ever since.

 

Benjamin Rush, in addition to founding our country’s first Bible society, was also the leader in showing compassionate care to the mentally ill. The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association features his portrait in the center.

After seeing the carnage of the Battle of Solferino, with little attention paid to the wounded, Henry Dunant, a devout Christian, inspired the founding of both the International Red Cross and the creation of the Geneva Convention.

A British nurse, Cicely Saunders was appalled by the lack of care given in the hospital for the dying. She founded Hospice to provide compassionate care to the terminally ill.

Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship – we find that Christians are continually finding ways to help the poor and needy.

 

Some (well-meaning) Christians believe the sole purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel and save souls. But, if this is true, what do we make of Jesus? Yes, he came to open the path to heaven. Yet, on his way to cross, his feet kept following his heart – which invariably led him to the tear-stained faces of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.

Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, and spent much of her time working to free children from temple prostitution. She was criticized by fellow-Christians for not focusing solely on saving souls.

Amy responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”

 

Since we can’t pry a person’s soul away from their body without killing the patient in the process, we might as well love the whole darn thing.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Monday March 21, 2011

 

“It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over”

 

Now the Philistines rulers assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to celebrate, for they said, “Our God has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”

Judges 16:23

 

Bobby Cruickshank was a likeable Scot – one of the most popular golfers on the PGA circuit.  But he could never win a national championship. In 1923 he almost won the U.S. Open, but came in second – as he did again in 1932. But Cruickshank persevered.

In 1934, with only eight holes to play in the U.S. Open, Cruickshank held the lead by two strokes. As Bobby made his approach shot to the green, he watched in horror as his the ball fell short into the Baffling Brook which guarded the green.

But the ball, apparently, hit a rock in the stream. It bounced out of the water, and rolled on the green, ten feet from the pin.

A miracle! As the crowd broke in wild cheers, Bobby tossed his club into the air, tipped his hat to the spectators, and celebrated his good fortune. At last, the first tournament win of his life was only moments away.

 

Relations were strained between Samson and the Philistines – to put it mildly.

When they finally caught him, they gouged out his eyes, bound him with brass shackles and paraded him down to Gaza like a circus curiosity.

Samson’s downfall called for a party. The Philistines sacrificed to their god, and, in a celebratory mood, called for Samson to be led out of prison to entertain them. Few things are more satisfying than gloating over a fallen enemy.

But we never know when one chapter in life has ended and the next has begun, and, for this reason alone, it’s not a good idea to be presumptive.

 

Samson lost his power when they shaved his head. But, the Bible adds the little detail that, during his time in prison, his hair had begun to grow.

The Philistines were in high spirits as they paraded their fallen prisoner before the public. Three thousand people stood on the roof of the temple of Dagon as Samson stood between the two main pillars.

Samson’s final prayer was that his strength might be renewed one last time.

 

We left Bobby Cruickshank on the eleventh hole with the “miracle shot” and the ecstatic crowds, and his pitching wedge thrown to the heavens in celebration.

Whatever personal opinions you may hold about gravity, you have to admit it isn’t whimsical.  Bobby’s golf club obediently returned to earth, but not before it made a brief visit to the top of Cruickshank’s noggin.

After trying to collect his wits, Bobby staggered to the green and actually two-putted the thing. But he really wasn’t with us for the rest of the competition. By the time he finished, the woozy Mr. Cruickshank had slumped in the polls, and wandered into the club house in third place.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Don’t count your chick –” No, wait, that’s not it . . .

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 


 

Latest Story of the Day Posts for March 2011

Story of the Day for Saturday March 19, 2011

 

 

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)

 

 


Story of the Day for Friday March 18, 2011

 

 

God Is Going to Blow It Up

 

”No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will tear the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be lost. Put new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark 2:22

 

In 1908, Henry Ford developed the Model T.  It was the only car the Ford Motor Company made and it sold like hotcakes. In just a few years, half of all the cars on the road were Model Ts.

But it only came in one color. In 1909, Henry Ford said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Ford’s ace production man, William Knudsen, foresaw that the company needed to improve to keep pace with the competition. So, when Ford took his family on a trip to Europe in 1912, Knudsen prepared a new sleek prototype with four doors and shiny red lacquer-work.

When Ford was shown the prototype, he walked around the car three or four times with his hands in his pockets, and then he grabbed the driver’s side door and ripped it off! He proceeded to pop out the windshield and destroy the car.  The message was clear: don’t mess with my “baby.”

Ford fired Knudsen, who went to General Motors.

But, General Motors kept improving their cars. They had more power, electric starters, and, of course, a choice of colors. But Henry stuck to his Model T. Not until 1927 did Henry, grudgingly, decide to develop a new car: the Model A.

But it was too late. The Ford Motor Company dipped from 50 percent market share to only 28 percent by 1931. For the rest of his life, Henry Ford would have to be content with second place in the auto industry.

 

As wine ferments, it expands. The ancient Jews could not put new wine in clay jars because the growing pressure would shatter them. So, they preferred using the skins of young goats. They would sew up all the holes and pour the new wine into them. As the wine fermented the wineskins would expand like a balloon, but not break.

The wineskins became useless for holding fermenting wine, however, once they became hardened and rigid. If you poured wine into them, they were no longer flexible enough to expand; they would simply crack and now you’ve lost both your wineskin and your wine.

 

When we become rigid in our methods, when we insist that our way is the only way, stand back, because God is going to blow it up. Truth doesn’t change, but the power of the Good News is always expanding. You can’t keep a lid on it.

Jesus’ New Wine is like exploration. Thomas Jefferson made thorough and extensive plans for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. But once their journey rounded the first unexplored bend in the river, rigid plans could only hurt them. From that point on, they needed only to know their goal, and how to be flexible enough to deal with each new adventure they encountered.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Story of the Day for Thursday March 17, 2011

 

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It

 

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.

1 Corinthians 10:11

 

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

 

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

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

“How often do you install a new rope?”

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

He came to heal the brokenhearted, and fit the pieces back together again.

 

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 16, 2011

 

 

Join A Church and Adopt Stray Kittens

 

For Christ’ love compels us, because . . . one died for everyone . . . and he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

 

Back in the old days, a telephone operator had to manually route every phone call. But then, in 1889, a new invention allowed you to dial and connect to a party without the intervention of an operator.

The man who invented the rotary dialing system, Almond Strowger, did not work for the telephone company.  He was, of all things, a funeral director.

 

Back in the late 1800s, Mr. Strowger was one of two funeral directors in Kansas City, Missouri. He noticed that, as telephones began to be installed in his town, his business declined. Odd.

He decided to pay the telephone company a visit and discovered that the telephone operator was the wife of the other funeral director in town. When someone called and needed a funeral director, guess who this telephone operator was connecting them to?

Instead of grumbling about his fate, Mr. Strowger did something about it. In 1889, he invented and later patented, a rotary dial phone and an automated switchboard.

Strowger was not an inventor who accidentally bumbled into a discovery; he was highly motivated to keep his pesky competitor’s wife from ruining his business.

 

The term, “motivation,” is based on two Latin words: “moto,” which means “to move,” and “vation,” which means . . . um . . .

Anyway, let’s not stray from the point – which is that motivation gets us moving.

In life, it’s not just important what you do but why you do it.  You can dance because you’re happy that your daughter just got engaged, or you can dance because a cowboy in a black hat is shooting his .44 at your feet and hollering, “Dance!”  In both cases you’re performing the identical action, but your motivation for doing so makes a huge difference in your disposition.

 

Many people join churches and adopt stray kittens because they hope that, if they do enough good things in life, God will let them go to heaven. But this kind of motivation for being good really stinks. Everything we do becomes ultimately motivated by selfishness. We don’t help old ladies across the street because we care about them; we’re doing it for ourselves, to earn our way into God’s presence.

Jesus changes our motivation for living. He left all our sins nailed permanently on the cross and now offers us life as his gift to us.

Once we understand a love like that we’ll still want to join a church and adopt stray kittens, but now we’ll do it for love.

Motivation changes everything.

 

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 15, 2011

 

Pushing a Fishhook Through

 

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.

James 5:16

 

 

Years ago, I was fishing along Pinkham Creek when I slid on the bank and jammed a fishhook into my finger. The hook was sunk past the barb so I couldn’t yank it out.

I walked back to my in-laws’ house and asked my mother-in-law, “Who’s the best surgeon around here?”

“Either Harry or Randall.”

“Where are they?”

“Out by the tack shed drinking a beer.”

“Oh,” I said. “Who’s the second-best surgeon around here?”

 

I went out to the corral and let them inspect the damage. They didn’t see much of a problem; if you can’t pull the hook out, you just push it through and there you are.

Sadly, they were unable to perform the surgery because their patient kept yelping in pain. I chose to abstain from the operation, but quickly noticed that it’s hard to carry on a normal life when you have a #00 Mepps spinner dangling from your index finger.

In the end, I went to a doctor, who inspected my finger and said, “Oh, well, you simply have to push the hook through . . . like this . . . and there you are.”

And “there I was” with a tidy little doctor bill – and half the day wasted.

 

Apologizing to someone is painful – it’s like pushing a fishhook through your finger. When we apologize we’re admitting that we were wrong, and who likes to do that?

So, since mustering the courage to apologize to someone is so difficult, here’s an idea: don’t do it. Blame your behavior on other people or circumstances beyond your control.

 

In 1939, German scientists had developed a devastating weapon, the V-2 rocket, against which the Allies had no defense. But Hitler was in a grumpy mood as he stood in the pouring rain to watch the demonstration of the new rocket. He rejected its use.

On July 7, 1943, the inventors of the V-2 rocket again showed Hitler its potential, and this time Hitler realized that they could have dominated the world had they manufactured and used this weapon earlier.

Hitler apologized for failing to see its potential. And then he made a revealing comment. He told the scientists it was only the second time in his life that he had ever apologized for anything.

 

By refusing to apologize, Hitler spent his life blaming the Jews and everyone else for his behavior. Rather than apologize, he endured a lifetime with a Mepps spinner stuck in his finger.  And the world learned what denying guilt can do to a man.

 

When we learn to say, “I’m sorry,” the fishhook comes out, relationships are restored, and the healing begins.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Jan.3-Jan.8, 2011 Story of the Day

Story of the Day for Saturday January 8, 2011



Joy In Our Suffering

                 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face any kind of trial, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

James 1:2-3 

When we suffer – and we cannot avoid suffering – there is one thing we need. Good guess, but no, it’s not an aspirin. 

Think of it this way: football is a violent game that involves intense pain.  Yet, with all the suffering involved, most players do not want to stand on the sidelines, where there is little suffering, they want to be on the field.  They love the game. 

Now, try this sometime (but don’t tell anyone I told you to do it).  Find a tough NFL football player, and wait until his day off when he is out walking his dog.  Run up behind him and tackle him.  When you smack him down to the sidewalk, the trick is to get up and run really, really fast.  If you can’t run fast, then tell your loved ones what kind of flowers you would like at your funeral. 

This football player is not going to take kindly to your flying tackle on the sidewalk.  But why not?  He takes harder hits than you can give every time he runs onto a football field.  The difference is that, when he is playing football, he clearly understands the purpose of his suffering. 

Suffering, in other words, is transformed by meaning.  It is not pain that distresses us, but our perception of the pain we are going through.

Now, if a football player can be so absorbed by a game that he doesn’t care about the pain, what if we could see all of life in a way that transforms our suffering? 

That is the message James is trying to show us.  Just as Super Bowl champions can be jubilant, even after their bodies have taken a severe battering, so we are invited by God to find joy in our suffering. 

Some day, the only thing of value we will possess is faith — faith that God would rather die than live without us.  Faith that God did send his Son to die rather than live without us.   Putting our faith to the test, through trials, makes us stronger.  It develops perseverance.   James continues his thought by saying, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

If you think that the trials of this life have no higher purpose, then you may want to keep that aspirin bottle close at hand.   But it won’t help much, will it?  What we all must learn is that faith is like a muscle.  When you lift weights your muscles will cry out in pain.  You will push them to work until they are completely exhausted.  But, two things will happen.  You will walk away from your exercise with a sense of satisfaction.  And, you will become stronger. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday January 7, 2011

An Exercise in Futility?

                When Jesus had again entered Capernaum, the people heard he was in a house.  And so many people gathered there that there was no room, even at the door.

Mark 2:1-2  

Does this experiment sound like an exercise in futility?   A heavy steel bar is suspended by a chain from a high ceiling.  Next to it, hanging on a silk thread, is a cork weighing only four grams. The experimenter pulls the cork back and lets it hit the heavy steel bar.  Guess what happens?  Okay, time’s up – nothing happens.

When we see the results of our actions, we can keep going.  But what happens when you keep trying and nothing happens?  When you keep praying and nothing happens? 

The experimenter I just mentioned was made of sterner stuff than most of us.  He pulled the cork back, let it swing and hit the steel bar.  Nothing happened.  He did it again.  Nothing.  He repeated this process for an hour.  And then he noticed that the steel bar appeared to be “vibrating.”  As he continued to rhythmically hit the steel bar with the cork, the steel bar eventually began to swing in the same pendulum motion as the cork.

If you attempt to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will find obstacles blocking your path.   The sensible thing to do, of course, is to quit.  But Peter Lowe, who has extensively studied people who are at the top of their profession says, “The most common trait I have found in all successful people is that they have conquered the temptation to give up.”  God calls us to persevere in our life with him.  Perseverance is a combination of patience, tenacity, and faith. 

I’m not saying that, if you persevere, you will always bask in the fulfillment of your dreams.  But I am saying that if you quit, you will certainly fail to fulfill your goals. 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the house where he stayed was packed.   A paralyzed man desperately wanted to get inside.   You couldn’t even get to the door.   So, what do you do now?  What else can you do?  You call it a day and go home. 

But those who are stubbornly determined do not give up so easily.  The Bible says that four men carried the paralyzed man up on the roof of the house.  Then they made a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down.

I think Jesus should have lectured them for destroying private property.  But Jesus seldom does what I think he should do.  Instead, Jesus “saw their faith” and rewarded the creative determination of these men.  He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”   Through outrageous perseverance, this man found spiritual healing from Jesus, and a moment later he would stand up, take his mat, and walk home.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday January 6, 2011

Dancing and Pipe Organs

                From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.

                                                                                      Psalm 8:2

            How many senses do we have?  Five, right?  Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. 

          So why do we claim to have five senses?

          “Ahh . . .Marty? Hello?  Maybe because we have five senses?”

          Nope.  The reason we say we have five senses is because the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, told us we have five senses.  (And Aristotle, I might add, was smarter than you and me.)

          But Aristotle was wrong.  The fact is, we have more than five senses, and you are keenly aware of them.  We have a sense of balance.  We can sense when we are in an earthquake even if it’s dark and can’t see the ceiling lamp swaying.  We have a sense of hot and cold that has nothing to do with touching something hot or cold. Close your eyes and move your arm, and you can sense where your arm is in relation to the rest of your body.  Some neurologists claim we have as many as 21 different senses. 

          Ask anyone with a B.A. in Education and they will flood you with more information than you ever wanted to know on how individuals learn and express themselves through different senses.  

          If you scan the Scriptures with an eye (I’m a visual learner) for how believers worship, you may be startled at the variety of it all.  For some, aesthetics played a part in worship (and God directed that the tabernacle would include a sense of beauty and awe).  King David worshiped before the presence of God by dancing.  Psalm 47 calls us to clap our hands in praise.  For some body posture is used: they bow their heads, others kneel – still others raise their hands.  Sometimes they sing.  Sometimes they weep.  Sometimes they use instruments, such as trumpets and cymbals and drums and pipe organs (okay, I couldn’t locate the exact passage where they used pipe organs).  Sometimes they use rituals and religious symbolism.  Sometimes they don’t. 

          So, how do you commune with God?  How do you worship him?  The Eastern Orthodox, like the Old Testament priests, use incense, to incorporate their sense of smell in worship.  Like David, who danced before the Ark of the Covenant, some Christians use liturgical dance.  Experts on J.S. Bach claim he worshiped by composing coded patterns to his instrumental music.  For some, worship is solely cognitive.  For others, it involves the emotions. 

          When the children were shouting praise to Jesus in the temple, the chief priests and scribes were indignant.  But Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”  He was quoting from Psalm 8.

          How do infants praise God?  I have no idea.  But I do know this: it is not displeasing to God simply because it is different from how I praise him.    

          Worship is wrong when we “honor God with our lips but our hearts are far from him.” But worship is not wrong because you employ senses that I do not.

 

Story of the Day for Wednesday January 5, 2011

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over 

               I want you to know, brothers, that those things that happened against me have advanced the good news. .  

Philippians 1:12    

 

In his book, The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose tells the story of a bombing raid during World War II. George McGovern was flying the Dakota Queen over Amstetten, Austria. McGovern’s bombardier, Cooper, tried to drop the bombs, but they got stuck. Cooper worked to free the bombs, but by the time they fell, they had flown over the river and missed their target. When the men returned to base, they were told at the debriefing that their bombs had dropped on an allied prisoner of war camp.  

McGovern and Cooper were devastated.  

Life doesn’t work out the way we want it to. The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most difficult prayers to pray because we plead with our heavenly Father that His will would be done – when what we really want is for life to turn out the way we want it to. 

Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen to us? Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen through us?   

Good question.  

Steve Brown was invited to speak at a missions conference for young people. Just before he spoke, the leader told him there were a lot of kids who weren’t Christians, and asked if he could present the gospel to them.  

Without time to prepare, Steve presented God’s plan of salvation. No response. In his book, If Jesus Has Come, Steve says he left the auditorium that night in shame.  

Steve tried to reassure himself that these things happen. No big deal. But it was a big deal. Every time he heard the name of the town where he had botched his presentation, he winced.  

Five years later, a young man approached him. “Mr. Brown, you don’t know me, but a few years ago I was at a missions conference where you spoke.” Steve groaned inwardly. “The night you spoke I received Christ, and now I’m a student in seminary and I’m going to be a pastor, and I just wanted to thank you.” He told Steve he had a recording of his presentation and shares it with others. “I can’t tell you how God has used your words.”  

Paul was thrown into prison, but wrote that God was even using his incarceration to advance the gospel. Even when things don’t work the way we’d like them to, God is still at work. 

And, before I forget, after Cooper had botched the bombing run, he was haunted by the memory of it. After the war he enrolled at Texas A&M and met an Army Air Forces officer. It turned out the man was a POW at the camp that Cooper accidentally bombed. The former prisoner explained that one of the bombs hit the fence, and in the confusion, several of the Americans managed to escape to freedom.  

 

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 4, 2011

The Real Goal:  To Reach the Bottom

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

Luke 9:37   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

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

How well you do descending your mountain depends entirely on why you wanted to reach the peak in the first place.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
 

 Story of the Day for Monday January 3, 2011

Close Every Gate Through Which You Pass 

              “I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sins no more.” 

Jeremiah 31:34   

A London journalist had the special opportunity to go for a walk with the former prime minister of Great Britain, Mr. David Lloyd George.  As they walked through fields where cattle were grazing, the journalist became so eager to record every word of Mr. Lloyd George that he left a gate open.  When Mr. Lloyd George noticed it, he walked back and closed the gate.   

As they continued their walk, Mr. Lloyd George reminisced about an old doctor who passed away.  “When he lay dying,” he said, “he called his sons and daughters to his bedside and urged them, as they went through life, to close every gate through which they passed.”  Mr. Lloyd George told the journalist that he benefitted greatly from that advice.  

Just as the cattle in the field had no business straying through the gate into another field, so there are things in our past which should not wander with us into the next field.  We need to shut the gate behind us.   

We have all gone through many painful times.  But we can continue to carry the guilt, the regret, the trauma, and the loss with us.  The past, however, is gone, and we need to move on.   

Are you closing the gates behind you?  If not, the Lord wants to speak to you.  Do you know what the Almighty God sees when he looks upon your past?  Nothing.  He erased it.  “I will remember their sins no more.”   

God doesn’t care where you’ve been; he cares about where you are now, and where you’re going.   

Shutting the gate behind us means we can enter each field and make a new start.  That’s what “Easy Eddie” Eddie did.  He was a lawyer who worked for Al Capone.  Through this, and other mob activities, he became a wealthy man.   

But “Easy Eddie” had a son, “Butch,” who wanted to enroll in the Naval Academy.  It was time to come clean for the sake of his son.  “Easy Eddie” informed to Frank Wilson, a federal investigator, and helped send Capone to Alcatraz.  “Easy Eddie” was later gunned down in west Chicago.  

His son, Butch, became a flyboy and the first aviator to be awarded the Medal of Honor.   

You remember Butch O’Hare because the busiest airport in America has been named after him.  But you should also remember that he became what he did because his dad decided to close the gate behind him, and start a new day. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

 

 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Stories for Dec. 20-25, 2010

Story of the Day for Christmas Day December 25, 2010 

climbinghigher.org wishes each and every one of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

For the Story of the Day…in fact the Story of all Days for all Ages please read
Luke 2:1-20!  Here is the true story of God becoming Man to live with us.  He is Emmanuel–God with us–for all time and all eternity.  Born to be our suffering King, born to die, and rise again.  All hail the power of Jesus, our infant King.  Merry Christmas!

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Story of the Day for Friday December 24, 2010

Wear Sweat On Your Brow 

                Do good and don’t get discouraged, for at the proper time we’ll have a harvest – if we don’t give up. 

Galatians 6:9    

Michael J. Pellowski, in his book, Not-So-Great Moments in Sports, tells the story about golf pro, Ray Floyd, who was trying to qualify for the Tournament Players Championship in March,1982. After shooting a couple mediocre rounds, he admitted defeat, packed his bags and left Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for his home in Miami.  

As he was weeding his garden the next morning, his wife rushed out at 11:30 to tell him his score was good enough to qualify for the tournament.  His scheduled tee time was 12:36!  Floyd grabbed his gear, reserved a Lear jet, and raced to the airport.  The jet landed at an airport 15 minutes from the course, where Floyd had reserved a helicopter to fly him to the tournament course.  He landed, jumped into a golf cart and made it to his tee thirty seconds before disqualification.  A couple quick practice swings and last year’s defending champion was in the tournament.  

Our story, however, does not end there. Later, that same year, Floyd played in the LaJet Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas.  His second round was dismal, so he knew he missed the cut and would be ineligible to play the final two rounds.  So he flew home to Miami.   

Yes!  Ray Floyd did it again.  High winds that day hurt the other golfers as well, and Floyd qualified for the tournament.  This time, he made no attempt to fly back to Texas in time for his scheduled tee off.   

The New York Times reported his response, “Well, I did it again, didn’t I?”  If Floyd had not given up, he would almost certainly have won the money winning title for the year.  Floyd ruefully observed, “I guess I’ll never learn.”  

Why do we give up?  We throw in the towel – not because we don’t believe in what we’re doing, but because we don’t believe it will succeed.  We don’t believe it will work.  We don’t believe it will make a difference.   

But the Bible encourages us to never give up. Wait, and the harvest will come. 

During the Vietnam War, the billionaire Ross Perot decided to buy a Christmas present for every American prisoner of war.  Perot took thousands of packages, chartered a fleet of Boeing 707s, and flew them to Hanoi.  The Hanoi government, however, said they would not provide charity to prisoners while American bombers were destroying villages.  Perot offered to send construction companies to rebuild the villages.  Still they refused.  As Christmas drew closer, Perot took off with his chartered fleet, and flew to Moscow.  His aides mailed the packages, one at a time.  Stamped by the Moscow post office, every package got delivered.  

Life doesn’t always plop blessings onto our laps. Sometimes God invites us to know the joy of moving mountains by refusing to give up.  

Those who live by faith wear sweat on their brow.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday December 23, 2010

Joseph’s Silence Speaks Volumes 

                And Joseph got up from his dream and did what the angel of the Lord told him. 

Matthew 1:24   

When we read the Christmas story and hear about Mary and Joseph, does it come as a surprise to you that, in the Bible, Joseph never speaks a single word?   

Why does this seem so odd?  Maybe it’s because Joseph “speaks” so powerfully by his life.   

After Joseph was engaged to Mary, he discovers she is pregnant.  At this time, he doesn’t know what’s going on.  But he does know that Mary isn’t pregnant because of him.   

In the Old Testament, if a woman is betrothed and another man sleeps with her, both are to be executed.  Not only that, but in the culture of the day, Joseph is expected to stand up and defend his innocence by publicly denouncing Mary.   

But Joseph didn’t do this.  Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly.  Engagements could only be legally dissolved by divorce, but he could do so without making a big stink about it.   

Do you see what Joseph’s plan meant?  Mary, he thought, had been unfaithful to him.  As heartbreaking as this was, Joseph didn’t plan to retaliate by harming her.  But think about it: if he divorced Mary quietly, who would everyone assume got her pregnant?  Joseph!  Yet, Joseph was willing to bear the public shame in order to protect Mary.  And, not only that, by divorcing her quietly, he also loses the dowry he paid for her. 

Joseph had no idea Mary was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit.  Only later, in a dream, does the angel of the Lord tell Joseph what is happening and that he must take Mary as his wife.  And he does.   

In the 19th century, one of the most well-known preachers in America was Charles Spurgeon.  On the side, Spurgeon and his wife raised chickens and sold the eggs.  Some of Spurgeon’s close friends and relatives expected a discount on the price of his eggs.  Spurgeon refused. He insisted that everyone pay the full price.   

Needless to say, Spurgeon earned a reputation for being a cheapskate.  It wasn’t until after Spurgeon’s wife  died that the public learned all of the money the Spurgeons raised from the sale of his eggs went to support two poor widows. 

Charles Spurgeon was willing to let gossips attack his character rather than reveal the true motive for his egg prices.  Joseph was willing to bear dishonor and humiliation rather than to expose Mary to public disgrace.  

Are you willing to do the same?  

Joseph’s displayed a higher kind of righteousness; he showed mercy.  And, in the years to come, Joseph’s son would proclaim that God longs – not to give us what we deserve, but to show us mercy.  And Jesus would invite us to both accept and adopt this higher law.   

That is why Joseph speaks so clearly without saying a word.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Wednesday December 22, 2010

The Compassion of Christ’s Heart

                 The Lord is good to all; he has mercy on all he has made.

                                                                                                      Psalm 145:9  

            This past year, one of Ireland’s greatest authors, Christopher Nolan, died at the age of 43. Throughout his life he was showered with awards, including: the Honorary Doctor of Letters in the UK, the medal of excellence form the United Nations Society of Writers, and the Person of the Year award in Ireland. 

          I want to contrast this writing genius with another Irishman who died last year. He went to the same school as the members of the rock band, U2. The band wrote a song, “Miracle Drug,” about this classmate who was born a paraplegic. Doctors gave him a drug which allowed him to control one muscle in his neck. They attached a pointer on his forehead. And then his mother, Bernadette, would patiently hold his head in her cupped hands while her paralyzed son would painstakingly attempt to point to a letter of the alphabet. At his normal rate of about 15 minutes to point to one letter, it would take him about 24 hours to write this sentence. 

          Who is more precious in the eyes of God: an author of dazzling genius or an invalid who takes 2 ½ hours to describe his condition – paraplegic?  Sometimes we tend to determine a person’s worth by how much they contribute to society; how much they give to us.  But what about those who have nothing to give us?  Have you considered how much we gain by what we give to them?  I am humbled by the patience and love that this mother could bring to her paralyzed son. This paralyzed young man inspired Bono to sing his life into our hearts as well. 

          And, you may be interested to know that Ireland’s heralded author, Christopher Nolan, and the paraplegic child are the same person. 

          George Gallup Jr. and Timothy Jones wrote a book, The Saints Among Us.  They looked at religious commitment among Americans and isolated those factors that indicated happiness in a person’s life.   The results were surprising.  The happiness people in America tended to be poor, and a member of a racial minority.  But they also discovered that families with a severely handicapped child tended to be happier than those families lacking such a special child to love and care for. 

          We can see clearly in the gospels that Jesus loves all people.  Yet, how his heart gravitated to the needy!  He showed special care for the very people who were shunted off to the edges of society. 

          Christopher Nolan has given a great gift to the world; but his gift is more than the genius of his writings.  His gift is being there, that the healthy may learn to care for the weak, and that all may learn the compassion of Christ’s heart for us.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 21, 2010
 

When It Doesn’t Add Up 

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

2 Samuel 22:28     

Are you pretty good at adding numbers in your head? Without using a pencil or calculator, can you add these numbers and tell me the sum?  

1000 

    40 

1000 

    30 

1000 

    20 

1000 

    10  

That didn’t take much time, did it?  It was a simple problem, but, unfortunately, your answer is wrong. Do you want to try adding the numbers again?  

Now, obviously, I don’t know that you got the wrong answer. But I do know that if your answer was “5000,” it’s wrong.  And I also know that 95% of those who try this test give “5000” as their answer.  

Those who admit they’re not good at addition are more likely to come up with the correct answer. Do you know why?  

When I tell you your answer is wrong and invite you to try again, those who are humble are more likely to try it a second time, and discover their first answer was incorrect.  

Those who take pride in their ability to add numbers in their head, however, are annoyed that I told them they got the wrong answer. When I ask them to try adding the numbers a second time, they are more likely to decline my gracious invitation.  

Joel Barker, in his book, Paradigms, spoke in Deerborn, Michigan, with a leadership group of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He asked the group how good they were at adding and subtracting. They thought that was funny.  

Then he gave them the addition problem I just gave you.  After showing it on an overhead projector, he covered the problem up. When he asked them for the correct answer, they all shouted “5000!”  

He asked them how sure they were of their answer and asked those who were confident they had the correct answer to raise their hand. All 280 of them raised their hand.  

When we become overconfident in our standing before God, we also become slower to see our sin. The quicker you are to admit you’re wrong, the quicker you will find what the Lord wants to give us – his mercy, wisdom, and comfort.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday December 20, 2010
 

The Rise to Freedom

                “Because of His great love for us, God, who is wealthy in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.  You have been saved by grace.”

                                                               Ephesians 2:4-5

All humanity shares a universal impulse.  We know that we have not acted right.  We know that we are not in harmony with God.  And we all have this instinctive, innate sense that, if we want to find God’s favor, we had better get our act together and behave in a way that calms his displeasure.

We all have this impulse.  And we are all dead wrong.

Now, some of you have already raced ahead of me, and you are vigorously denying that you share this view of God.  Yeah, well, hope you’re right.  But my point is that you did not come to your present view of God by following your natural impulses.  The Bible explains that God’s existence is known naturally.   That this Creator has given us a moral code to live by is also known innately.  We just know it. And, even secular anthropologists will tell you that every society ever studied has known this moral code – but, more than that they know that they are guilty of breaking it. 

All of this we know, whether we are Christians or not.  Yes, a few will try to suppress these truths and even deny God’s existence.  But even atheists act as if there is a Lawgiver who has given us a code of conduct.  (If you don’t believe this, find an atheist and steal his car and see how he reacts!) 

But here’s the point: the one thing we cannot know about God intuitively is whether He loves us or not.  That is why the major religions have virtually no mention of God’s love.  (You don’t believe me?  Find a copy of the Koran, then, and show me a passage that speaks of Allah loving you.)

The most astounding thing about God is learned only in the Bible.  The Bible shows us a God who is holy, just, and infinite in power.  But he is also overflowing in mercy. 

Over a century ago, a traveling evangelist was helping the workmen take down the big tent after a series of meetings.  A young man rushed up to the evangelist and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  The evangelist said, “You’re too late,” and kept on working.  The young man protested, “Don’t say that!” and told the evangelist he needed to get right with God.  He would do anything to obtain salvation. 

The evangelist replied, “Well, you’re too late to do anything to obtain salvation because it has already been done two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ.”  He went on to explain that we can do nothing to earn salvation.  It is free to all who will receive it.

The wonder of life is that God does not accept us because we have reached a certain level of good behavior.   The fact is, we can never be good enough to earn any good gift from God.  But we don’t have to.  It’s a gift.

Reader’s Digest printed the story of three-year-old Ryan Hayes, who reported that a little duckling had fallen in a posthole.  After several unsuccessful attempts to rescue it, Ryan’s dad tried to break the news that the duck might not make it.

Ryan was not ready to give up.  He asked, “Dad, why don’t we float him out?”

They gently began to fill the hole with water, and to their great delight, the duckling simply floated to the top and waddled off unharmed. 

God’s mercy is like that for you.  After all our efforts to make ourselves righteous have failed, we let God’s mercy raise us up to freedom. 

“You have been saved by grace.”

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Daily Story Posts for Dec. 13-18, 2010

Story of the Day for Saturday December 18, 2010
Is it Possible to Hit a Baseball?

 

 

Solid food is for the mature, who, by practice, have trained their senses to discern what is good and what is bad.

Hebrews 5:14

 

 

Based on everything I have read, it is impossible to hit a baseball.

George Will, in his book, Men at Work, helps us work our way through the mathematics.  A 90-mile-per-hour fastball leaves the pitcher’s hand 55 feet from the plate and will cross the plate in four tenths of a second.  A change-up will loiter along and reach the plate .052 seconds longer than the fastball.

The batter must decide whether or not to swing at the pitch.  Once he commits to swing, he has two tenths of a second to make his body do it.  The ball is capable of being struck for only fifteen thousandths of a second before it passes the batter and smacks into the catcher’s mitt.

Fifteen thousandths of a second, did I mention that?

 

So, let’s review: a batter must locate the ball as it flies toward the plate.  He must decide if it is a ball or strike.  He must determine if it is a fastball, curveball, or change-up.  Then he must decide whether to swing.  When he does his bat can only make contact with the ball for a time span of fifteen thousandths of a second.

 

Well, if you ask me, that’s impossible.

How can anyone think that fast?  George Will says they can’t.  He says, “they must, through regular discipline and repetition, teach their muscles to react to hit the ball.”

 

The Bible uses an athlete’s training to picture the life of spiritual maturity.  In the book of Hebrews, it says that those who are mature eat solid food.  The food is God’s grace and his teaching about how we life the New Life.

When the Bible talks about mature believers going into “training,” it uses the Greek word, gymnazo – from which we get our English words, “gymnastics,” and “gymnasium.”  In other words, as athletes go through rigorous discipline to train their bodies, so we are eager to go through practice and training to strengthen our maturity in Christ.

A batter in a baseball game must learn “muscle memory.”  He practices his swing so repeatedly that he has trained his muscles to think.  His swing is instinctive.

 

When we begin to pray, to forgive, to love our enemies, to trust in God’s promises, we feel clumsy. We feel like a couch potato on his maiden voyage into the gym.

But, keep in mind: baseball players practice hard, but still don’t hit every pitch.  Same with us.  Sometimes we swing at the curveball that is high and outside.  But the more we train, we more we begin to see the difference between what is good and what is not.  And we know when to swing for the cheap seats.

 

 

 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Friday December 17, 2010


Who’s Pulling the Weight?

 

“Come to me — all of you who are worn out and heavily burdened – and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits well and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

If I put a yoke on your shoulders, haven’t I just made your burden heavier? And yet, Jesus claims that when you put his yoke on your shoulders, the weight will be lighter?

How can that be?

 

Tim Cahill, in his book, Pecked to Death by Ducks, may have stumbled onto the meaning of Jesus’ saying while at the horse track.

Cahill, a founder of Outside magazine, wanders around the world looking for adventure. A few years ago, his travels led him to chariot racing.

How do you train a horse to pull a chariot? Cahill says the trainers yoke up the big, experienced horses to the young, skittish colts. When the race chute snaps open, the older horse will open at a gallop, and the young colt, harnessed beside him, will quickly learn to do the same.

 

In Jesus’ day, oxen learned to pull in the same way. A young ox was yoked together with an older, well-trained ox. When the master called out instructions, the experienced ox would go or stop, turn left or right, according to command.  The younger ox wasn’t pulling the weight. He was just along for the ride.

 

An old man was trudging down the road with a heavy sack over his shoulder. A pickup pulled over and offered him a ride into town. The cab was full, but he told the man he could hop in the back.

As they drove along, the driver looked in his rearview mirror and noticed the old man was sitting in the back of the truck, but still holding the heavy sack over his shoulder.

The man pulled off the side of the road, got out, and said, “Hey, you silly guy! My truck is already carrying the full weight of your sack. Lay it down. There’s no need for you to be carrying the weight as well.

 

When we try to carry our own load through life, we will find ourselves exhausted, and sooner or later, we will buckle under the weight.

Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves together with him. This yoke will not weigh us down because he is the one who will be pulling the weight.

 

But we’re also learning. Jesus says that, yoked beside him, we, too, will learn to be sensitive and responsive to the will of the Master.

And we will find rest for our souls.

 

 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

Story of the Day for Thursday December 16, 2010


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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 15, 2010


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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 14, 2010


The Intent of Our Heart

 

We all stumble a lot.

James 3:2

 

 

A little four-year-old girl has a secret plan. Her mother’s birthday is tomorrow morning, so she is going to make her mommy breakfast in bed.

Her older brother shows her how to set the alarm clock so she can wake up before the rest of the household.  Her mom tucks her in for the night, but she can hardly sleep – she is too full of joy at the thought of the present she is going to give her mommy in the morning.

When the alarm goes off, she yawns, tiptoes downstairs into the kitchen, and prepares a birthday feast. She makes toast with jelly (lots of it), pours a glass of orange juice, and heats a pot of hot water for tea. On the tray she puts the birthday card she made the night before.

The little four-year-old bursts into the bedroom, crying, “Surprise! Happy Birthday Mommy!” She beams as she rushes to set the tray on her mother’s lap. But, in her excitement, she trips on the rug by the bed. Orange juice flies everywhere. Hot tea scalds her mother’s arm, and the toast lands on the new quilt – jelly-side down.

 

As your distraught little girl breaks into tears, what do you do? Will you be furious because of the hot tea water that splattered on your arm? Will you punish her for the damage done to your quilt?

Or will you hug her tight and say, “It’ okay, sweetheart! It was an accident. Thank you for making me such a special breakfast. I love you!”

 

Think hard about how you would respond to your brokenhearted little daughter, because that little girl is you.

 

All of us stumble through life. The problem, however, is that we’re usually lousy at assessing our guilt. We tend to feel guilt based on the consequences of our behavior, rather than the intent of our heart.

But, the unintentional mistakes we make can occasionally have big consequences. As long as we assess our guilt based on the degree of damage we caused, rather than the intent of our heart, we will never find relief from our feelings of guilt.

 

When I said that the little girl who stumbled was you, I didn’t just mean that, like her, you goof up a lot (which we all do).

What I was really getting at, is that Jesus doesn’t punish you based on the consequences of your mistakes. Instead, in your grief, he is crying with you. He wants to wrap you up in his love, and let you know that it’s okay.

God always offers forgiveness for the sins of our heart. And he has nothing but love and understanding for the disastrous mistakes we never intended.

 

 

 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Monday December 13, 2010

 

A Robe Dipped in Blood

 

 

Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant attitude before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

 

 

England did her best when they sent General Edward Braddock to the Colonies during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

He arrived in his shiny brass buttons as commander-in-chief of North America, and led two brigades through the Pennsylvania wilderness to recapture Fort Duquesne (where Pittsburgh sits today).

Benjamin Franklin met with Braddock beforehand and warned him against Indian ambushes, but the general sniffed at the suggestion that savages could intimidate his highly trained British soldiers. Franklin observed later that Braddock “had too much self-confidence” and too low an opinion of the Indians.

A Virginia militia volunteered to fight with the British, and their young, 23-year-old leader, suggested that his rangers lead the expedition, since they understood Indian tactics and were familiar with the terrain. The 60-year-old Braddock was offended: “What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!”

The Virginians were sent to the rear.

 

The British march was a display of pomp and military precision. One observer said, “General Braddock marched through this wilderness as if he had been in a review in St. James Park.” The general sacrificed speed for ceremony, and, as a result, the Indians easily monitored his every move.

 

As they neared Fort Duquesne, the Indian ambush caught the British off balance. The young Virginian leader urged Braddock to disperse his troops and hide behind trees — as the Indians fought. Instead, Braddock stubbornly concentrated his men in tight platoons which were decimated as quickly as they were formed.

As Braddock tried vainly to rally his disorganized troops he was shot in the chest. Later, realizing he was mortally wounded, he gave his ceremonial sash to the Virginian officer whose advice he had ignored.

That young Virginian, George Washington, reportedly wore Braddock’s blood-stained sash for the rest of his career as commander of the Colonial Army. After becoming the first president of the United States, Washington continued to wear the sash.  He would never forget that the greatest enemy to victory is pride.

 

Just as pride blinded General Braddock to the strength of his adversary, so pride blinds us to the power of sin. This is not a battle we can win on our own.  It is not even a battle we must fight.

Jesus has conquered the Enemy. He rides a white horse with a robe dipped in blood. And only the notion that you don’t need his help can keep him from bringing you the victory you long for.

 

 

 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Stories for Dec.6-11, 2010

Story of the Day for Saturday December 11, 2010

Let the Distractions Stare at Your Back

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and focus your gaze directly in front of you.

Proverbs 4:25

Those who know me best will find this article hilarious – not so much because of what it says but because I’m the one writing it. As a kid I changed hobbies about as often as I changed my clothes. Back then, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) hadn’t been invented yet.

A few years ago a psychologist told me he had ADD.  His symptoms sounded eerily familiar, so he gave me a test and guess what . . . hey, did you hear who won the game last night?

Learning to focus does not come easily for me.  I want to do everything . . . except learn how to crochet.

Do you ever find yourself frittering away your time?  You have so many tasks to do and you go from one thing to the other – and at the end of the day you feel like you haven’t accomplished much of anything.

Don’t get me wrong: we all must juggle several priorities simultaneously.  We have priorities of family life, profession, health, and spiritual growth.  But focus means we do not allow distractions to keep us from our intended goals.

Chuck Swindoll once related a story from Charles Paul Conn’s book, Making It Happen. When Mr. Conn lived in Atlanta, he was looking in the Yellow Pages when he noticed a restaurant called the “Church of God Grill.”  The name was so peculiar that he called them up just to ask how they came up with such an unusual name.

The man told him they had started a church, but began selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills.  People loved the chicken.  Soon business was so good that they had to cut back on their worship time.  After a while, they closed the church down in order to serve chicken dinners.  But they kept their name, “Church of God Grill.”

Many people tried to deflect Jesus from his mission.  They wanted him to stay in town, while his Father was calling him to move on.  When he first told his disciples his goal was to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Peter objected.  Jesus bridled at that forcefully told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  He put anything that interfered with his goal behind him, and focused his gaze on the goal before him. When the time came for him to die, the Bible says he “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  When Jesus determines his goal, you had best get out of his way, because you are not going to stop him.

What is God calling you to accomplish with your life?  When you find out, look straight ahead to the goal, and let the distractions stare at your back.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday December 10, 2010

“It’s What You Know after You Know It All That Counts.”

Instruct a wise person, and he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous person, and he will increase his learning.

Proverbs 9:9

Hoagy Carmichael rarely let the facts bully him around when he had a good story to tell. So, according to one version, his first day golfing went like this:

His golf instructor patiently showed him how to hold the club, how to stand, how to follow through. After a half hour of instruction, Hoagy teed up on the first hole and smacked the ball down the fairway. It rolled onto the green and dropped in for a hole in one. Hoagy flipped the club to a caddy, and said to the dumbstruck instructor, “Okay, I think I’ve got the idea now.”

We can only hope that Hoagy Carmichael’s instruction didn’t end there. But it is true that accomplishment can be one of the greatest hindrances to growth.

Contrast Carmichael’s attitude with professional golfers. The top golfers in the PGA depend on their coaches to help them improve every day. I listened to an interview where one of the world’s top golfers spoke about his preparation. He didn’t say, “I’m getting ready for the Masters . . .” but “We’re getting ready for the Masters, and one day we just took a day off – which we normally do, but . . .” He viewed his career in terms of himself and his coach.

Best-selling author, Steven Pressfield, says, “The student of the game knows that the levels of revelation that can unfold in golf, as in any art, are inexhaustible.”

If “the levels of revelation” in golf are inexhaustible, how much more is the knowledge of the living God? Yet, sadly, our growth in biblical knowledge can become the very thing that hinders further understanding of the ways of the Lord. Once we’ve learned more than we used to know, we begin to feel like we know it all. And that is where growth stops.

The wise person is one who is humble enough to admit there is always more to learn.

John Wooden is rightly considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time. He took a faltering program at UCLA and transformed it into a powerhouse – winning ten national championships.

Wooden listened to others. When Wooden’s players were shorter-than-average, his assistant coach, Jerry Norman, persuaded him that a zone press defense would work. It won them a national championship.

But then Wooden got a tall, talented player. After winning a national championship with one style of play, he decided to scrap it and learn a completely new system that exploited the talents of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The result: three more national championships with Alcindor.

John Wooden’s  favorite motto reflected the Proverbs: “It’s what you know after you know it all that counts.”

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday December 9, 2010

This Will Make It Better

The disciples came up to Jesus and said, “Tell her to leave, because she’s following behind us and making a fuss.”

Matthew 15:23

Jesus often mentioned that he was “sent” by his heavenly Father. He had, in other words, a clear goal. He knew the direction his life should take.

That divine mission appeared to get interrupted when a noisy Canaanite woman followed behind Jesus and kept crying out for him to heal her daughter.  The disciples urged Jesus to tell her to shut up and go away.

And Jesus did that, sort of. He explained that his mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel. And she was not an Israelite, but a pagan Canaanite.

I’m a goal-oriented kind of guy. When I’m focused on a project, frequent interruptions irk me, and I heave exasperated sighs when the phone won’t stop ringing.

Stephen Pile writes in The Book of Heroic Failures about the bus route from Hanley to Bagnall in Staffordshire, England. Up to thirty people would be waiting at the bus stop and the bus driver would often sail past them without stopping. One man, Bill Hancock, complained to the authorities. Arthur Cholerton responded to Mr. Hancock’s complaint with the memorable excuse that, if the buses stopped to pick up passengers, they would disrupt the bus company’s time-table.

Running on time — what a noble goal. Picking up passengers, unfortunately, threatens this goal, and, like me, they see people as a bother. An interruption.

Jesus explained to the Canaanite woman that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread (by which he meant the children of Israel) and give it to the dogs (by which he meant, among others, her).

The woman boldly stood her ground. She didn’t quibble with Jesus about his mission, but argued that even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table.

You know the rest. Jesus praised her as a woman of great faith, and granted her request by healing her daughter. Yes, Jesus was sent to the people of Israel, but our Lord didn’t see the needs of people as an interruption to his goal.

Nine contestants lined up at the starting line at the Seattle Special Olympics.  When the gun went off, one little boy stumbled and fell. The others heard him crying and slowed down to look back. One by one, they all went back to him. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down and kissed him. “This will make it better.”

Then all nine linked arms and walked together, to a standing ovation, across the finish line.

The goal for which these kids trained was to win the race. But these children remind us that the need of another person doesn’t interrupt the goal; for in that moment, they become the goal.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 8, 2010

Incognito

He was in the world, and even though the world was created through him, the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, but his own people didn’t accept him.

John 1:10-11

On January 12, 2007, a man in his late 30s walked into the L’Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C. Dressed in T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, and standing by a trash can, he opened his fiddle case and began playing the violin during the morning rush hour.

In 43 minutes, 1,097 people passed by, and only a half dozen paused to listen for a few minutes. No one applauded.

What makes this incident remarkable is that the musician was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists. He was playing his Stradivarius, which he purchased for three-and-a half million dollars. Three days earlier he sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall, where “pretty good” seats fetched $100 and the best sold for $500.

Joshua Bell is so good he can command a performance fee of one thousand dollars a minute.

Gene Weingarten, a staff writer for The Washington Post, wanted to find out if, in a commonplace setting, and at an inconvenient time, people could still recognize beauty and artistic brilliance. So, he convinced Bell to perform incognito as a busker.

Apparently not.

Not long after his metro station concert, Joshua Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America.

Once, God came to earth. The One through whom the universe was created entered our world.

But the world didn’t notice.

How could that happen?

Well, why don’t we look at it the other way round. I can assure you that if Jesus strutted into every village wearing a tux, while the announcer for the Chicago Bulls introduced him, and if lightning flashed while the heavens opened and legions of angels thundered doxologies, the world would’ve given him a standing ovation. They would have recognized him as the mighty God come in the flesh, and begged Him for his autograph.

But Jesus didn’t want us to notice his power; he wanted us to see his merciful kindness. He didn’t come to be admired, but to rescue us. So, he came in humility.

The world will never be ready for a God who comes to us wearing a baseball cap. If you want to learn to recognize Him, then remember that He will never be what you expect; he will only be what you need.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 7, 2010

Outsmarted By a Dairy Farmer

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

In 1975 the Cherry Festival parade in Traverse City, Michigan, drew over 300,000 people. The parade’s Grand Marshall that year was the President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

In his memoir, Senator George McManus Jr., tells a story of that day.

George’s cousin, Doug Gallagher was a farmer who milked Holstein cows. When his kids asked to go to the parade to see the president, Doug told them, “Well, we’ve got to make hay today.” He promised them, however, that they’d get to see the president – and be as close as anyone at the parade – if they did what he told them.

Doug’s kids did what their dad told them. They worked hard all morning making hay. But when they came in for lunch at noon the parade was already over. They trusted their dad, but he didn’t deliver on his promise.

Ignoring the fact that the parade had ended, Mr. Gallagher told his kids to make signs saying, “WELCOME, PRESIDENT FORD.” Doug had read in the local paper that, after the parade, the president would be going to Senator Bob Griffin’s cabin – up the road from his farm on North Long Lake Road.

After the parade was over, Doug told his kids to go up the road with their signs. Then he waited while the state police drove past and blocked all the side roads. He waited while the helicopters flew low over the road. And then he shouted to his wife, Joanne, who stood down the road at the gate to the cattle fence, “Turn ‘em loose!”

A hundred cows ambled across the road just as the presidential cavalcade arrived. Secret servicemen sprang out of their cars with their hands on their holsters – nervously looking at the tops of the silos and demanding that Doug get his cows out of the road.

Doug just shrugged. “Well, they’ll be out of the road when they get to the other side.”

Meanwhile, Doug’s kids were standing outside the president’s limo – waving their signs and shouting their greetings. The most powerful man in the world, realizing he’d been outsmarted by a dairy farmer, grinned in delight, and waved happily at the kids.

Doug Gallagher’s kids wanted to go to the parade to see the president, but their dad didn’t grant their wish. Instead, he promised them something better.

These farm kids didn’t know how their dad would deliver on his promise. They simply did what they were told and trusted him.

In Proverbs it says we should trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. In 1975, Mr. Gallagher’s kids got an unforgettable lesson in what that means.

And, you may be interested to know, when Gerald Ford was sworn in as the President of the United States, his Bible was opened to Proverbs 3:5-6. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Monday December 6, 2010

The Rest Lay in God’s Hands

Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow can worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Michael Hodgin tells the story about a woman who was so worried she had an incurable liver condition that she went to see her doctor about it.

The doctor assured her she was okay. “You wouldn’t know if you had this condition,” he explained, “because it causes no discomfort of any kind.”

The woman gasped. “Those are my symptoms exactly!”

There’s a road sign outside my hometown which says, “WORRY IS A MISUSE OF THE IMAGINATION.” We can imagine positive things we can accomplish in the world, or we can imagine all kinds of horrible tragedies that might rain down upon us.

Are you are in the habit of imagining all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future?  If your list of possible nightmares ever reaches an end, it only signifies a lack of creativity of your part – there’s no end to the list of bad things that could conceivably happen to us.

When you find yourself knotted up with anxiety about the future, I think there are some things you need to know. The first is that Jesus doesn’t tell you not to worry because he won’t let bad things happen to you. Bad things will happen to you.

Jesus wants you to know that he’s walking with you through those times, and he’ll give you everything you need. But the things you need can only be found by faith. Worry is a thief. It robs you of the security which is only found in trust.

Worry is a spectacular waste of time. It’s like a rocking chair: there’s a lot of movement, but we don’t go anywhere. Jesus put it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?”

Don’t waste your days imagining what might happen tomorrow. God never lets us live a “tomorrow”; we only get to live “today.”

Sir Wilfred Grenfell is honored with a feast day in the Episcopal Church (October 9) because of his compassionate missionary work among the poor in Labrador, Canada.

In April, 1908, he was rushing on his dogsled to perform surgery for a boy.  Taking a shortcut over an ocean bay, he broke through the ice.  He managed to crawl onto an ice flow, which was heading toward open waters.  Alone along a desolate shoreline, he faced the concerns of the present moment – drying his soaking clothing, unraveling rope to make insulation for his boots, and making a signal flag.

Three days later, he was rescued. His observation captured the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching, “There was nothing to fear. I had done all I could; the rest lay in God’s hands.”

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

You’re Kidding, Right?

You’re Kidding, Right?


“Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Matthew 10:16

St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

The team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination.  That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?” Turning around, Jesus scolded them, and they traveled on to the next village.

Luke 9:54-55

Where would we be without Benjamin Franklin? For starters, we wouldn’t have any Ben Franklin department stores. And, without him, that oval in the middle of a fifty dollar bill would’ve been blank.

Seriously, though, Franklin was a genius. For starters, he invented the Franklin stove and bifocals. But, perhaps his most important invention was the lightning rod.

Unfortunately, Franklin’s lightning rod was not greeted with gratitude by theologians. Many devout churchmen believed lightning was God’s way of sending His wrath on a wicked world. Using a lightning rod, therefore, defied the will of God.

Franklin introduced the lightning rod in 1752. Three years later, an earthquake rocked Massachusetts – causing some preachers to shout that this was God’s punishment for the “Franklin rods” installed on some buildings in their state. Soon, Bible scholars in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain united in denouncing Franklin’s invention as heresy.

James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples. He renamed them the “Sons of Thunder.” Hmm, I wonder why?

As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem, he sent messengers into a Samarian village to get things ready for him. When the Samaritans, who hated the Jews, found out Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they refused to welcome him to their town.

What to do? The Sons of Thunder, eager to help, suggested they pray to God to rain down fire from heaven. That would teach them a lesson.

Jesus, however, did not scold the Samaritans; instead, he scolded his disciples for their snotty attitude.

Throughout the ages, some have thundered the message of God’s judgment so loud, the world can barely hear the words of God’s tender mercy. Unbelievers get the feeling God wants to destroy people.  If James and John would’ve called down fire and destroyed that Samaritan village, how many religious people would have nodded in approval?

The church in San Nazaro in the Republic of Venice, was designed with huge vaults. The military saw the vaults as the ideal place to store a hundred ton of gunpowder.

In 1767, the church was struck by lightning. Not only the church, but much of the city was obliterated, and more than 3000 people were killed.

Suddenly, theologians made a startling discovery – “Franklin’s rods” did not defy the will of God after all.  From that time on, cathedrals and churches installed lightning rods on their buildings.

James and John, the Thunder Brothers, wanted to pray for God’s wrath. They had yet to understand that Jesus, with all due respect to Benjamin Franklin, made the first lightning rod. He was the first lightning rod.