Category Archives: Inspiration

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 8, 2010


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 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 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 and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day Articles for Oct. 18-23, 2010

Story of the Day for Saturday October 23, 2010

Dreamers and Bean Counters 

                In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

Romans 12:5   

Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.  

I’m not good at math. 

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.  

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”    

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum. 

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”   

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life. 

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way. 

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.   

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.   

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.  

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that. 

Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday October 22, 2010

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points


                A person of understanding walks a straight path.

                                                                                                             Proverbs 15:21   

            The Bible uses the idea of “straightness” to picture the life God wants us to live. To walk on a straight path is to live according to God’s truth and wisdom. When we wander from God’s ways, our path is no longer straight, but crooked.

          “Straight” and “crooked” are not foreign religious concepts. We naturally think this way. What do we call criminals who steal? We call them “crooks” because their behavior is “crooked”. We describe someone who acts in an evil way as “bent” or “twisted.” Those who hold devious ideas are “warped” in their thinking.

          And what about “straight”?  We talk about “straightening up” the house before company comes, or “straightening out” the checkbook at the end of the month. Parents try to keep their kids “in line.” 

          When the Bible talks about a crooked or straight path, we get it.

          But, while we admit that taking the crooked path is bad, the alternative often sounds unappealing. When you hear someone described as “straight-laced,” don’t you immediately imagine the person as stodgy and dull?  Taking the “straight and narrow” way sounds like reading a fourteen page legal warranty. It may be important, but it is definitely not thrilling.

          So, why does walking on the “straight and narrow” path sound so … boring? 

          The main reason religious and moral living can become so dull is that there is no person on the other end of the line. 

          What I mean is this: what is the shortest distance between two points? A straight line.  When a soldier steps off the plane after a long tour of duty, what direction do family and loved ones take?  They run straight for that soldier they have loved and missed. When a toddler gets lost and the frantic mother finally finds her little girl, what does she do?  Meander and wander?  She makes a beeline to pick her up and hold her in her arms.                                                                                                                                                                                        

          Do you see what’s happening here? No one has to badger and scold you about making a straight line when there is someone we love on the other end.  Let’s face it: when you have to walk toward a moral policy manual it can be tough sledding. That’s because you aren’t closing the distance to someone you love.

          But what if Jesus is on the other end? What if being in his presence is the ultimate fulfillment of your longings? What if, being closer to Jesus brings you the comfort of his forgiveness, and the wild joy of knowing the life that flows from him? What if he forgot to say, “Come to my moral policy manual,” and actually said, “Come to me, all you who are burdened and weighed down.” What if he actually said, “Let the little children come to me.

          The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday October 21, 2010

Why Your Microwave Doesn’t Love You 

               “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.  But you must never eat off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, for when you eat from it, you will surely die.” 

Genesis 2:16-17   

When God created Adam and Eve, he made “all kinds of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Fine and good. But what bothers us is  the “other tree.” Why did God put this one, lousy tree in the garden – and then forbid them to eat it on pain of death? 

Doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? If God would not have put that Death Tree in the garden, they would not have the opportunity to be tempted to eat it.  

Want to know why God put one forbidden tree in the garden?  Because he wanted to make creatures who would love him.   

Love is not love unless there is freedom. That, for instance, is why your microwave oven doesn’t love you.  Machines can only do what they are programmed to do. Love cannot be forced or coerced. No one can terrify you or manipulate you into loving them.  

Threats can force outward compliance, but we intuitively know they are powerless to change our hearts.   

As odd as it sounds, God put one, forbidden tree in the garden so Adam and Eve would have the choice – to love him by not eating from it, or to turn from love by tasting its fruit.   

So now what?  The nature of love never changes, but God has not given up.  The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells the story of a king, who rode through a small village, and saw a beautiful young peasant woman.  He was smitten. Considering his power, he thought of issuing a royal decree requiring her to be brought to the palace and be made queen.  As his subject, she could be forced to obey. But he knew he could never force her to love him.  

Maybe he could invite her to his royal court and dazzle her with the splendor of his kingdom? But he could never be certain whether she loved him or his wealth.                       

The king finally chose another way.  He dressed like a peasant and lived among them. He worked among them, cared for them, and served them.  And he won the heart of the woman who would become his bride.   

God wanted to have a relationship of love with Adam and Eve in the garden.   He gave them freedom, and they used their freedom to turn away from him.   The story of all history is about a king who would neither threaten nor dazzle to win our hearts.  Instead, he would come as a peasant and win our hearts. 

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Wednesday October 20, 2010

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?  

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

Luke 8:42-44     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Tuesday October 19, 2010

A  Monomaniac With a Mission 

                Don’t slow down, but be active in spirit – serving the Lord. 

Romans 12:11     

Peter Drucker, a highly esteemed guru in the business world, observed, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”   

“Monomaniacs with a mission” are passionate people. They radiate enthusiasm. They know where they want to go, and are single-minded in pursuit of their goals.   

When I am spiritually discouraged, it is almost always because I have slammed into roadblocks. Here I am, nobly offering my life to the service of the Lord, and what does he do? He puts one obstacle after another in my way.   

You don’t think he does it for a reason, do you?   

Maybe so. 

The 1904 summer Olympics were being held in St. Louis, and a poor, Cuban mailman,Felix Carvajel decided to enter the marathon. The Cuban Olympic Committee, however, would not sponsor him. Felix would have to raise the money on his own. He would run in circles in Havana’s central plaza and beg for money from onlookers. Carvajal finally raised enough money to board a tramp steamer bound for New Orleans.   

In New Orleans, he lost the remainder of his money to swindlers in a dice game. But don’t spend your day worrying about Felix. He started running from New Orleans to St. Louis.  He bummed rides and food where he could.   

On the day of the marathon, the temperature and the humidity were over 90.  Felix, unacquainted with racing attire, showed up in long woolen pants, a long linen shirt, high-top boots, and a felt hat. A sympathetic American discus thrower cut his pants off below the knee before the starting gun sounded.   

The race was so grueling that only 14 of the 32 starters would finish.  Felix was running well, but hadn’t eaten all day. When he saw an apple orchard, he stopped and gorged himself on green apples.  Near the finish, he got sick.   

Despite the fact that Felix’s rivals had their coaches giving them sponge baths, food, and water (the only water offered on the course was at the 12 mile marker), despite the fact that the first-place finisher was actually assisted across the finish line by two coaches, Carvajal still managed to finish fourth.   

Despite overwhelming obstacles, Felix kept going.   

Don’t be discouraged by the difficulties you’re facing. Let ‘er rip, don’t give up, and serve the Lord.  

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Monday October 18, 2010

Breathing Holes  

                And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good to be here.  Let’s make three tents . . .  

Mark 9:5    

In  October, 1988, an Alaskan Eskimo discovered three gray whales who were drowning.  Surrounded by Arctic ice, the whales punched out a small breathing hole, but it was quickly icing over. The Eskimo returned with others who wielded chainsaws and pick axes to cut a series of holes in order to lead the whales back to open water.   

The work was exhausting, but their story was picked up by the national news. Soon, oil companies and the military were donating equipment to help free Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone – the names given to the three whales. By creating a series of breathing holes, the rescue teams eventually led the whales to open water.   

When we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life, have you noticed how we often speak of “drowning”? We need “breathing holes.” If you don’t take regular time to come up for air you will starve your soul of oxygen and other people will notice that your lips are turning blue.  

A breathing hole is any way that you can find quiet and refresh your soul. Where you can pray, and ponder, and let God’s love wash over you to cleanse you and heal your wounds.   

Those who worked to make breathing holes for the gray whales noticed that the whales were bleeding. The ice on the sides of the hole was so jagged that the whales were cutting themselves when they tried to come up for air. The smallest whale, Bone, eventually tore all the flesh off his snout and died.   

Can I ask you something?  Is your “breathing hole” jagged around the edges?  I have seen people who go to worship or read books for a breath of fresh air, but come away bloodied with guilt. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, conviction of sin and rebuke are necessary. But remember this: the Good News of Jesus is always exactly that – GOOD news.   

Our first priority is to find breathing holes with smooth edges.  But, our second priority is to leave them.   

The rescuers made a series of breathing holes, but the whales didn’t want to move from the one they were at.    

Neither did Peter. Standing on a high mountain with James and John, he saw Jesus shine with a glory greater than the sun. This moment was so awesome, that Peter wanted to stay, and offered to build shelters up there on the peak.   

The shelters were never built. To love and serve a hurting world, they would have to go down the mountain.  

Breathing holes are not meant to escape from the hectic demands of life, but to re-enter the fray with a lungful of fresh air.  

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

October 7-9 Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday October 9, 2010

A Continual Feast

All the days of the afflicted are miserable, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Proverbs 15:15

At the Olympics, two athletes reach the podium. Who will be happier: The athlete who won the bronze medal or the athlete who took silver?

Not too difficult to answer, is it? The athlete who won the silver medal did better than the athlete who won the bronze, so obviously he or she is happier.

But Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Herfordshire, UK, suggests otherwise. He believes that those who win a bronze medal are happier about their achievement. Why? The silver medalists looks to the top of the podium, and tends to think, “If only I had done a little better, I could have won the gold. But I fell short.”

Bronze medal winners tends to look in the other direction. They see that, if they hadn’t outperformed the other competitors, they wouldn’t have made it to the podium at all. The difference in attitude between silver and bronze medalists is not accomplishment, but perspective.

We are not victims of happiness or misery. Our disposition is not determined by outside forces beyond our control, but by our attitude. A Hollywood celebrity can become furious because the chateaubriand was served medium rather than medium rare, while a starving man may burst with joy at finding a moldy piece of bread.

Prof. Wiseman, has written a book called The Luck Factor, where he seeks to discover the differences between people who are considered lucky and unlucky. (Wiseman rejects the notion of luck as a magical, superstitious power. When he talks about “luck” he simply means “fortunate.”) He asked the participants in his study to imagine they were waiting in line at a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters the bank, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Wiseman asks them, “Would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?”

Those who defined themselves as unlucky people said this shooting would be very unlucky.  Just their luck to be in the bank when a robbery takes place.  But those in the study who considered themselves lucky were far more likely to consider themselves fortunate. “You could have been shot in the head,” they would say.  Some thought about how you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.

Wiseman concluded that much of the good and bad fortune we encounter in life is a result of our thoughts and behavior. In other words, it’s about our attitude.

An old saying goes: “The same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay.”  Identical circumstances in life may make some people bitter, and other people better.

God teaches us in this proverb that cheerfulness is an attitude. It comes from the heart. But let’s never forget that the Lord provides the ultimate basis for cheerfulness over misery. All our most vital battles will end in victory because of Jesus.

And thinking about that is a continual feast.



Story of the Day for Friday October 8, 2010


Clarence Jordan’s Failure

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you don’t listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t come to the rescue?

Habakkuk 1:2

When they blow up your buildings and strafe your house with machine guns, you begin to get the feeling that some people really don’t like you.

Clarence Jordan became a Baptist minister with a Ph.D in New Testament Greek. In 1942, Clarence, and his wife, Florence, went to Sumter County, Georgia, because they wanted to live out the teachings of Jesus.

They started a farm, called Koinonia (the Greek word for “Community”). Their goal was to bring both blacks and whites together, to share their goods with each other, and to help those poorer than themselves.

In those days of racial segregation, many objected to Koinonia Farm. The Baptists kicked Jordan out of their church. Vandals cut their fences, stole crops from the field, dumped garbage on their property, put sugar in their gas tanks to ruin their truck engines, chopped down nearly 300 pecan trees.

The community boycotted the farm. They refused to sell seed, fertilizer, or fuel to them. They refused to buy their goods – forcing them to wastefully slaughter thousands of chickens that couldn’t be sold.

It got more serious than that. The farm’s roadside store was burned down. Gasoline pumps were punctured. Crosses were burned at night on the lawns of the black residents. Fires were set on the property. The smokehouse was dynamited. Residents were beaten, and even the children were sprayed with gunfire while out playing.

After that incident, Clarence wrote: “. . . neither property nor lives were ours but God’s. They never had really been ours in any sense of the word. We hadn’t even ‘given them back to Him’ – they were His all along. And if this was the way He wanted to spend His property and His people in order to accomplish His purpose, why should we pitch a tantrum?”

On October 21, 1968, the year before Clarence died, he wrote: “. . . Koinonia stands at the end of an era or perhaps its existence.” Only two families were left.

Clarence and Florence Jordan’s dreams never materialized. Or did they? That last year of his life, a young couple, Millard and Linda Fuller visited the farm and ended up staying. Jordan and Fuller conceived a dream of providing housing for the needy.

You may have heard of their dream. They called it Habitat for Humanity. Its headquarters is not far from the farm at Koinonia . . . in the Clarence Jordan Center.

Jordan put it well when he observed that the Lord doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful. He just let the Lord do what He wanted with His own property.

Story of the Day for Thursday October 7, 2010

The Candle Problem

They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath – in order that they might condemn him. . . And Jesus asked them, “Is it legal to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”

Mark 3:2-3

Here’s a problem for you to solve. You are led into the front of a church, and stand behind a table. A little kid walks up and sets three objects on the table before you: a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal. Your assignment, in ten seconds, is to pick up the object which represents the most religious activity you could do at that moment.

What would you pick up?

How ‘bout if I give you a clue to (what I believe) is the correct answer.

In 1945, Karl Duncker first conducted The Candle Problem. On a table, he set a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. The assignment was to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax wouldn’t drip on the table.

Most people will begin by trying to tack the candle to the wall, but the candle is too large in diameter to do that.  The second most popular solution is to light a match, melt some candle wax, and attempt to “glue” the candle to the wall. The candle, unfortunately, is too heavy, and this doesn’t work either.

It usually takes several minutes before the participant solves the puzzle. The answer is to take the box of tacks and thumbtack it to the wall. Then you can melt wax in the bottom of it and set the candle in the box.

Most people see the box only as the means to hold the tacks; not as the solution itself.

One Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue surrounded by religious people — and a man with a withered hand. They knew Jesus could heal miraculously, so they watched closely to see if he would heal the man. The Sabbath was a day of rest, and healing was . . . you know, like, work. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it proved he was not a religious man, and that he defied the law of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, thought the most important religious act he could at that moment was to help a handicapped man on the holy day of rest.

So, back to your puzzle. The little kid sets a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal on the table in front of you. What should you pick up as the most religious act you could do at that moment?  Okay, here we go. Ten seconds.


Times up. The answer is to . . . pick up the little kid. Thank him for bringing you books that are very special to you. Give him a great big hug. Then get down on one knee – so you’re at his eye level — and ask why he has that bandage on his finger.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief from today’s story. And, I would love to debate this issue with you, but right now I’m busy. Reading my Bible.

(But only after the little kid has left to go out and play.)

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.