Category Archives: spiritual journey

A Higher Calling Than Ourselves

Story of the Day for Thursday June 20, 2013

A Higher Calling Than Ourselves

Then Moses called for Joshua and said to him before all Israel, “Be strong and full of courage.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, he regularly attended New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and became well-acquainted with the pastor, Dr. Phineas Gurley. Pastor Gurley was an articulate and popular preacher.

After a midweek service, an aide asked the president his opinion of pastor Gurley’s sermon. Lincoln praised the careful preparation and the eloquence of the message.

“Then you thought it was a great sermon?” the aide asked.

“No,” Lincoln replied, “because he did not ask us to do something great.”

Spiritual leaders often struggle with this. Wouldn’t we attract more followers if we ease up on the requirements? Oddly enough, the opposite is true. George Orwell had it right when he said, “High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. What it all comes down to is that human beings are heroic.”

When we no longer have a heroic purpose in life, we will seek a life of ease, safety, and comfort. But we will not be content.

When Moses knew the end of his days were near, he passed on the leadership to Joshua. He called upon him to lead the people with strength and courage.

A century ago, one man demonstrated this deep longing we have to do something courageous. An arctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton ran a London newspaper ad that has now been called one of the greatest advertisements ever written: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.”

Who would respond to an ad like that? Shackleton was so overwhelmed with offers to join him that he had to turn away over 5000 requests. Shackleton’s response was, “It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany us.”

There was a day in America when professing your Christian faith brought admiration. It was socially acceptable to go to church. It was safe. John Maxwell once quoted an Anglican bishop, who wryly asked, “I wonder why it is that everywhere the apostle Paul went they had a revolution, and everywhere I go they serve a cup of tea?”

Those days when our faith is considered socially acceptable are quickly drawing to a close. Today we are being called to a life of courage. We seldom hear the old adage anymore, but we need it now more than ever: “If you don’t have anything in your life worth dying for, you don’t have anything worth living for.” For years evangelists have sought to attract others to Christ by promising prosperity, comfort, good health, and safety. We can no longer live as pampered, self-centered Christians. We need to call each other to a higher calling than ourselves. We need to appeal to the heroic. Ernest Shackleton had it right.

Did Ernest Shackleton have it right? Why do we need to appeal to the heroic in people? Share with us a time when it all came down to being heroic in your life?

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Home Field Advantage

Story of the Day for Saturday March 2, 2013

The Home Field Advantage

Commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people… he Deuteronomy 3:28

Two writing groups were formed at the University of Wisconsin. Both groups were comprised of bright and talented writers. The men would meet and share their writings with the other guys for evaluation. The critiques were so critical of each others writing that they named their group The Stranglers.
So, some of the gifted women decided to form their own writing group and called themselves The Wranglers. They also read their writings to each other for comment. But with this difference: they didn’t criticize. The comments were positive. No matter how poor or undeveloped the writing was, they found a way to offer encouragement.
Twenty years later, a university alumnus researched the careers of his classmates. The two writing groups were examined. Not one of the talented Stranglers ever became successful. By contrast, a half dozen of the Wranglers became well-known writers. One of them, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings even won a Pulitzer prize in literature in 1939.
If someone tells you the opinions of other people don’t matter at all to them, don’t believe them. We may chafe at the thought but others have an enormous influence on who we believe we are and what we can accomplish. Yet, sports commentators often talk about the “home field advantage”? What is that? Isn’t it simply the fact that the team with a stadium of fans cheering encouragement is more likely to win the game?

Encouragement gives people strength. In the book, Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose relates the story of 101st Airborne Division. Before shipping off for Europe, their commander read that a Japanese Army battalion set an endurance record by marching 100 miles in 72 hours.
Not to be outdone, Colonel Sink declared, “My men can do better than that.” He picked the 2nd Battalion to prove his point. The men had to carry all their gear and weapons – which, for some soldiers, were heavy mortars and machine guns.

100 miles of the 118 mile march was over slippery, muddy roads. The weather could hardly be worse. The biting wind combined with sleet and snow. At night the temperatures dipped into the low twenties, with many boots frozen to the ground. Soldiers would have to completely unlace their boots in order to get their swollen feet back into them. Since the cook stoves wouldn’t work in the cold, the men had to survive on bread with butter and jam.

On the third day, they still had 38 miles to go. One soldier was too exhausted to stand up so he crawled to the chow line.

News of the march spread quickly in Georgia. As the weary soldiers straggled to the final mile of the march, they were met by a huge crowd who lined the road and cheered wildly for them. A band began to play.
And that is when the magic began. Malarkey, the soldier who crawled to chow earlier that day, said, he had “a strange thing happen to me when that band began to play. I straightened up, the pain disappeared, and I finished the march as if we were passing in review at Toccoa [their training camp].”

Encouragement costs us nothing, but the difference it makes for others is beyond counting.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(photo credit: http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid22/13/05/35/3/medal-honor-staff-1305353-h.jpg; creative commons license 2.5)

Where They Found Bread

Story of the Day for Friday October 5, 2012

 

Where They Found Bread

 

                                    Jesus said, . . . “Everything they do is done to impress others.” 

                                                                                                       Matthew 23:5

 

 

When I was in seventh grade, our Science and English teachers were both single, and I think they were flirting.

After Science, we tumbled into Miss Polk’s English class. She noticed someone’s assignment given by Mr. Brinkman, our Science teacher.  Snatching the assignment, she copied it on the blackboard (white boards were black in those days) and we spent the class period parsing it for grammatical flaws. We were all sobered to discover that it was a gravely flawed exhibition of the English language.

Miss Polk encouraged us to hand our revised copy of his assignment to him the next day – which we cheerfully did.

People who know a lot about sub-phyla and nematodes are not easily intimidated, and Mr. Brinkman took our chastisement in good humor. You could tell, however, that he was plotting revenge. He asked us to participate in a science experiment for English class next hour, and we all eagerly complied – because we all coveted a well-rounded education.

 

Mr. Brinkman asked us to engage in an act of civil obedience. He told us to walk into Miss Polk’s class without saying a word. He wanted us to be a model of perfect behavior.

The next hour, we quietly walked into class and took our seats. No talking, no laughing, no gum chewing. We all put our hands on our desks and stared attentively at Miss Polk.

At first, Miss Polk look surprised, but we noticed she was becoming unnerved by our attentiveness. As she started her lesson, and stared at a classroom where every face was focused on her every word, she became increasingly agitated. After five minutes, she waved toward the door and said, “Class dismissed.”

 

A classroom of perfect children is so eerie and unnatural that it soon becomes unbearable. Yet, sometimes, Christians get the impression that the world would be impressed if we acted perfect – as if we were unaffected by grief or temptation.

A plastered pious smile, when inwardly our heart is broken, looks phony — because it is phony. And when we try to hide our imperfections we look like a bald man whose toupee is sitting on his head sideways.

 

The world isn’t looking for us to be perfect; they’re looking for us to be honest. They’re not impressed with someone who claims that they’re never hungry, but they are intrigued by anyone who simply tells them where they found bread.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What Happened on the Drawbridge?

Story of the Day for Thursday October 4, 2012 

                                One of our FAVORITE stories being reposted for your reading today! 

What Happened on the Drawbridge?

 

 

              God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

                                                          John 3:16

 

John Griffith worked as the controller of a railroad drawbridge across the Mississippi River.  One day, in the summer of 1937, John took his eight-year-old son, Greg, along with him to work.

At noon, John put the bridge up so ships could pass, and then sat on the observation deck with his son to eat lunch.

John was startled by the sound of a train whistle from the east.  He knew it was the Memphis Express, a 400-passenger train heading over the Mississippi from East St. Louis.

He raced from the observation deck to the control tower.  Just before he threw the lever to lower the bridge, he glanced down to see if any ships were passing below, and noticed that his son had slipped from the observation tower and fallen into the gear mechanism.  His left leg was caught in the cogs of the two main gears.

John Griffith froze for a moment in fear.  The Memphis Express was nearing the  river. If he did not lower the bridge, the train would have no time to stop.  But if he lowered the bridge, it would crush his son to death.

John knew what he had to do.  He grabbed the master lever . . . and lowered the bridge.  The train was just starting across the river when the bridge was completely lowered.

As the train passed his control booth, he saw the faces of the passengers.  No one looked at him.  No one looked down at his dead son in the gear assembly.

In his anguish John shouted, “I sacrificed my son for you!”

 

This story, made popular by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, has been retold countless times as a parable of the Good News.

But how could such a tragedy become a picture of good news?  Well, it’s about love, really.  God the Father spoke form heaven at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love! With him I am well pleased.”  When Jesus stood on a mountain top with three of his disciples, the Father repeated his words, “This is my Son, whom I love!”

We cannot comprehend the moment, but we know that the Father willingly took his beloved Son, and put him to death.

 

Why?  To spare the lives of all of us as we were speeding to our deaths.  God’s Son stood in our place and died, that we, the guilty ones, might live.

God loved his Son.  No surprise there.  But the beauty of it all, and what makes this message so good, is that God loves us as well.

And many years ago, he stood with his hand on the switch, and made his choice.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The One Who Sang a Perfect Song

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 2, 2012 

The One Who Sang a Perfect Song

 

                   Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord – but not like his father David. Instead, he followed the example of his father Joash.

                                                                                                    2 Kings 14:3

 

A woman from Asheville, Alabama, bought a mynah bird, but as soon as she brought it home she discovered it was sick. The bird started wheezing and coughing and hacking as if it trying to clear its throat. The vet said the bird looked healthy, but maybe it had a rare aviary virus, so he gave antibiotics to clear up its respiration.

After treatment with antibiotics, however, the bird continued to cough and wheeze. But, finally, the bird’s problem was solved.

Can you guess the problem? Like parrots, mynah birds mimic sound. When they tracked down the previous owner, they discovered it was recently owned by a woman who had emphysema.

 

All of us influence each other. The good news is that we can become a positive influence in the lives of others. The bad news is that our faults are a bad influence on others. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick which of our traits will affect the lives of others.

A man owned a lovely Chinese plaque with raised figures on it. He hung it on his wall, but one day it fell and broke it half. He wanted the valuable handmade plaque replaced, so he glued the plate together as best he could and mailed it to China so that they could make a copy of it.

A half a year later, his new plaque was finished and mailed to him. The copy was exquisitely made – just like the original . . . including a crack across the center.

 

As the king of Judah, Amaziah got off to a good start. But, while he could’ve been a great king if he sought to model his rule after king David, he instead followed the example of king Joash, and needlessly bungled things up.

 

The village of Andreasberg, Germany, became famous for raising canaries. The birds, although not native to the Harz Mountain region, nevertheless, were known worldwide for the quality of their beautiful songs.

The secret to the superior song of these canaries was no great mystery. The Germans of Andreasberg understood that a bird learns to sing from others around it. So, they wouldn’t sell their best songbirds – they kept them so that the other canaries would be influenced by their song.

 

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for those times you’ve been a bad influence on others. That’s why forgiveness is so refreshing.

But, if we want to grow in becoming a helpful influence on those around us, the best place to begin is by placing our lives under the influence of the One who sang a perfect song.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Take the Whole Mess to Jesus

Story of the Day for Monday October 1, 2012

Take the Whole Mess to Jesus

 

                Wash me thoroughly from all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always staring me in the face.   

                                                                                                           Psalms 51:2-3

 

 In 1987, Ron Harper Mills told a story to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. The story wasn’t true (although the internet gossip machine claimed it was). Mills said he made it up to entertain the audience and “to illustrate how, if you alter a few small facts, you greatly alter the legal consequences.”

 

The story goes like this: Ronald Opus left a suicide note and then jumped from a ten-story building. As he fell, a shotgun blast tore through a window and killed him. But, Mr. Opus’s suicide attempt would have failed because construction workers had set up a safety net and he would have fallen harmlessly into it.

When a person attempts suicide and succeeds, even if the mechanism of death is not the one intended, it is still considered a suicide. Yet, because the suicide would have failed, and he was killed by the shotgun blast, homicide now had to be considered.

The shotgun blast came from the apartment of an elderly couple. They had been arguing and the husband had threatened her with the gun. The man pulled the trigger, missed his wife, and the blast pierced the window. When you intend to kill subject A, and instead kill subject B, you’re guilty of the murder of subject B.

When confronted with the murder charge, both the husband and wife insisted that the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said he often threatened his wife with the unloaded gun, but had no intention of killing her.

The killing of Mr. Opus, therefore, would appear to be an accident.

As the investigation proceeded, a witness claimed he saw the elderly couple’s son secretly load the shotgun. He was angry because his mother had cut off his financial support, and the son, knowing his father’s habit of threatening his wife with the shotgun, loaded the gun in the hope that his father would shoot and kill his mother.

The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son. But here is the exquisite twist: Mr. Ronald Opus, who jumped from the building in a suicide attempt, it turns out, was the son of the arguing elderly couple. He loaded the shotgun and had, therefore, murdered himself.

 

We tend to judge the depth of our sin by the seriousness of the consequences. That can only send us, as Ron Harper aptly points out, into endless speculation of “what ifs” and “yes, buts.”  The emotional torment of doing this will never end. Even if you try to convince yourself you weren’t really at fault, your heart will give you no peace.

There’s a better way. Take the whole mess to Jesus, lay it at his feet, and ask him if he would cleanse you.  Ask him to wash you clean, and make you feel like you just stepped out of a bubble bath.

If you ask him to do this, I know what Jesus will do. I’m not going to tell you, though, because I want it to be a surprise.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Secret Weapon

Story of the Day for Thursday September 27, 2012

The Secret Weapon

 

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

                                                                               1 Samuel 17:24

 

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

And, standing atop this list are soldiers.

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Three Dollars

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 25, 2012 

Three Dollars

 

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

                                                                                                         Proverbs 11:25

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

(copyright climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

Story of the Day for Monday September 24, 2012 

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

 

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

                                                   Luke 8:42-44

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

He Teaches At Your Pace

Story of the Day for Saturday September 21, 2012 

He Teaches At Your Pace

 

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

                                                                                          Matthew 16:13-15

 

 

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

“What are you doing?” he asked.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)