Category Archives: spiritual journey

The Next Step

Story of the Day for Friday September 21, 2012

The Next Step

 

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

                                                            Psalm 119:105

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Who Is Taking the Risk?

Story of the Day for Wed. September 19, 2012

Who Is Taking the Risk?

 

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

 

 

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

Could the Naval Department afford to take such a risk?

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Ericsson took the risk.

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 18, 2012 

Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?

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

                                                                                                   Acts 3:8-10

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Are You Primed For This?

Story of the Day for Friday September 14, 2012

Are You Primed For This?

 

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

                                                                                                                             Philippians 4:8

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

My Wife the Ninny

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

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

My Wife the Ninny

 

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

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

                                                                                                   Lamentations 3:19-23

 

 

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

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

The ninny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“It’s Not Fair!”

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 11, 2012

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

 

                                 Mercy triumphs over judgment.  

                                                                              James 2:13

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday September 8, 2012 

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

 

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

                                                                                   1 Peter 2:24

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and Marty Kaarre)

Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

Story of the Day for Thursday September 6, 2012 

 

 Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

 

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

                                            Acts 16:23-25

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord

She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Greater Accomplishment

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 5, 2012

The Greater Accomplishment

 

                    How you have fallen from the sky, O morning star, the son of the dawn!  You, who once brought down other nations, have been thrown down to the earth. 

                                                                                                        Isaiah 14:12

 

Ellis played fiddle for barn dances and found his horse stolen afterward. He did such a brilliant job of discovering the thief that he was asked to find other people’s stolen horses. Ellis Parker’s skill was so uncanny that, in 1892, he became the Chief of Detectives for Burlington County, New Jersey – despite being only twenty-one and lacking a high school education.

Without access to modern forensic technology, Parker relied on his wits. And he could notice incongruities and odd details like no one else. Soon, he became known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

In his forty year career, Parker took on 236 murder cases, and solved all but ten of them. Ellis boasted that he never used an ounce of force on any suspect, yet, in over half of his cases, he talked the guilty party into signing a confession of guilt before the trial.

 

During World War I, federal agents had been unable to find a wireless station that would interfere with public broadcasts. The Department of Justice hired Parker, who not only deduced that the wireless was operated from a car running up and down the coast, but actually located the car itself.

 

Yet, none of his fame went to his head. He turned down many high-profile cases and better paying positions to stay in his sleepy town of Mt. Holly – where everyone called him by his first name. Instead of cashing in on his fame, he allowed writers free access to his files.

 

But, late in his career, something changed in him. Charles Lindbergh’s toddler was kidnapped, and it immediately became known as The Crime of the Century. The detective who solved this case would be world famous and covered in glory. Yet, even though the kidnapping took place only miles from Parker’s hometown, no one invited him to help solve the crime.

Something seemed to snap. Ellis Parker became obsessed with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and, even though he had no access to police records, tried to find the killer based on details reported in the newspaper.

Convinced the police had arrested the wrong suspect, Parker became a criminal himself. He had another suspect kidnapped in order to extort a confession.

Ellis Parker Sr., who will always be known as America’s greatest detective, was tried and convicted for kidnapping. He died in federal prison.

 

The admiration of others is fine . . . until we crave it. We so easily dream of great achievement and fame, but the greater accomplishment is maintaining a humble heart.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

Story of the Day for Labor Day 2012….September 3rd 

 

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

 

                  Get rid of all . . . hypocrisy . . .

                                                      1 Peter 2:1

 

 

Dr. Foerster’s patient was fully conscious as the German neurosurgeon performed brain surgery to remove a tumor. As Dr. Foerster touched one region of the brain, however, his patient erupted in compulsive pun making. The patient was unable to control his wild word associations.

Arthur Koestler, who mentioned this incident in his book, The Act of Creation, calls Foerster’s Syndrome the inability to refrain from making puns.

I mention this because my college roommate was a jovial guy, but it was obvious that he got dropped on his head when he was a child, because he had Foerster’s Syndrome in a big way. He didn’t learn and retell the puns of others; he was the sole originator and distributor of endless groaners.

Once, one of the college administrators told him bluntly that punning was the lowest form of humor, but this indirect plea for mercy didn’t dampen my roommate’s enthusiasm for punning in the slightest.

 

Paul, from Elkhart, Indiana, once wrote in to Reader’s Digest about a family dinner. His parents, Fred and Adah, invited Paul and his three siblings for a Sunday meal.

Everyone, except for Adah, was in a silly mood and began rhyming their requests.

“Please pass the meat, Pete.”

“May I have a potatah, Adah?”

“I’d give the moon for a spoon.”

After a while, Adah had heard enough. “Stop this nonsense right now!” she shouted. “It’s Sunday, and I would like to enjoy my dinner with some good conversation, not all this silly chatter.”

Then, in a huff, she snapped, “Pass the bread, Fred.”

 

The most annoying aspect of criticizing others is when I find myself dropping into the same kind of behavior. When I criticize people for being late for appointments, I will soon find that I’m late for an appointment.  Lately, I confided to my wife that I thought someone was a gossip. I took a minute before I realized that I was gossiping about someone else who gossips.

 

Now that I’ve recognized my unfortunate habit of acting like a hypocrite, it has, somewhat, tempered my judgmentalism toward others.

The next step Jesus wants me to learn is to be calmer about others – even if I’m never guilty of doing what they do. After all, others have some vices I don’t. For example, I relish the fact that I’ve mustard the strength to resist the impulse to ketchup to my old roommate in the punning department. I just don’t have the hot dog personality he has.

(I can hear my old roommate now, saying, “Marty, let me be frank with you – you’re not very punny!”)

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)