Dec. 27-Jan.1 Stories


Story of the Day for New Year’s Day January 1, 2011

His Grace Will Tune Us Up 

                 God’s grace teaches us to renounce godlessness and worldly desires, and to live wisely, justly, and godly in this present time.  

Titus 2:11-12      

I like New Year’s Day, for the obvious reason that there’s a lot of football games on TV. But, in a deeper sense, a new year is refreshing because it’s the closest that Time comes to picturing the grace of God.  

When we begin a new year, the slate is wiped clean.   

And what happens when we put the past behind us? Inevitably, we look forward. We’re optimistic, and make resolutions to lose weight or to clean the broom closet. When we don’t have to lug last year into the future, we feel light and cheery. We don’t want to be slugs (for more than a day). We want to live.   

Some think that, when Jesus forgives your sins, it makes you want to sin more. If you assure a criminal, for example, that, if he robs a bank, he will be immune from prosecution, wouldn’t that motivate him to rob more banks?   

It would seem so. But let me ask you this: does the arrival of a New Year make you want to fail in your new resolution to lose fifteen pounds by summer? No, whenever we put the past behind us, we’re fired up to do better.  

When I was an adolescent, we visited my grandma in Upper Michigan. I sat down at the piano, and, not knowing how to play, sounded awful. 

Then my sister, Lois, who was a child prodigy at piano, sat down to play. Not to brag or anything, but she has gone on to play piano for the Detroit Metropolitan Opera. A vocalist demanded that she be flown to London as her accompanist. She has even performed at Carnegie Hall.  

From memory, my sister played an intricate piano piece. And you know what? It sounded awful too!  If Beethoven played this piano it would have hurt your ears, because grandma’s piano hadn’t been tuned since sometime before the French Revolution.   

In the end, the New Year can evoke God’s grace, but cannot replace it. If we resolve to play a better song with our lives this coming year, but our piano is still out of tune, then we’ll produce nothing of beauty.  

That’s why we need to confide in the Lord and to confess that our life is out of tune. His grace will tune us up.    

I can hardly wait to start hammering away at “Chopsticks.”  

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday December 31, 2010 

“Get Back on that Pony and Ride” 

                 Consider it a sheer joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter different kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 

James 1:2-3   

In the spring of 1987, while turkey-hunting near Sacramento, California, Pat accidentally shot his brother-in-law Greg. The blast from the 12 gauge shotgun sent 60 pellets into Greg’s body. His right lung collapsed, and he lost 65 percent of his blood by the time he reached the hospital.  

Greg survived, but, to this day, 40 shotgun pellets remain in his body – five in his liver, five in his heart.  

Just nine months earlier, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France. Now, his career was over.  

Or was it? Determined to ride again, Greg got back on his cycle and started riding. To resume his career, he needed a cycling team that would take him. No American team was interested, so Greg’s father flew to Europe to negotiate with the cycling team’s there.  

A European team, cautiously, agreed to take Greg on.  And, then, of all things, LeMond was crippled in pain and needed intestinal surgery to repair damage from the shooting accident. Before the surgery, Greg instructed the surgeon to remove his appendix. Afterward, he assured the cycling team that the surgery was an appendectomy. “I didn’t tell them a lie,” LeMond later said in an interview “but I didn’t tell them the absolute truth.”  

The final leg of the Tour de France is a fifteen mile time trial. In 1989, Laurent Fignon of France has a commanding 50-second lead going into the final sprint to the finish, and he is the fastest time trial racer in the world.  

His nearest competitor won’t even look at Fignon’s split times. He tells his own coaches he doesn’t want to know his own splits. He simply digs deep and delivers a dazzling performance – the fastest speed in the history of the Tour de France.  

Fignon lost the Tour de France. A young American with 40 shotgun pellets in his body, ended up with the yellow jersey. 

After the shooting accident, would anyone blame Greg LeMond if he gave up competitive racing? Who believed that LeMond could ever race again – let alone regain the title as the world’s greatest cyclist?   

Has adversity knocked the wind out of you? Know what you need? You need the patient, healing care of the Surgeon. But, once you stagger to your feet, you need to know that God never intended obstacles to stop you; they’re there to strengthen your resolve. Trials are meant to fuel our fire; to ignite the passion to give our all for God.   

Yes, it hurts to get bucked off your horse. But shake it off. Dust off your jeans and, as Chris LeDeux sings, “get back on that pony and ride.” 

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday December 30, 2010 

Love ‘Til You’ve Loved It Away 

                 You have swept them away in the sleep of death; they are like new grass that springs up in the morning – though in the morning it springs up fresh, by evening it’s dry and withered. 

Psalm 90:5-6      

A study revealed that most people don’t see themselves as “living” so much as waiting to live. They’re waiting until graduation, waiting until they get married. They’re waiting until they get the big promotion, waiting until they can retire. And then, they imagine, they can really start living. . . until they must wait in a nursing home to die.   

This psalm helps us see the brevity of our life in this world. It speaks of our lives as grass – which springs up in the morning, and is dry and withered by evening.  

Is this a depressing thought? Well, it shouldn’t be. Instead, it should remind us that we don’t have a moment to waste living without the compassion of God. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”   

When we have learned to number our days, we will have learned to fill each day with meaning because it is filled with the unfailing love of God.  

One December, a university professor was invited to speak at a military base. A soldier met the professor at the airport. 

As they walked down the concourse to the baggage claim, the soldier kept meandering off: once to help an elderly woman with her suitcase, then to lift two toddlers up so they could see Santa Claus, and once again to help a person with directions.  

“Where did you learn that?” the professor asked. 


“Where did you learn to live like that?” 

“Oh,” the soldier said, “during the war, I guess.” He told the professor that his duty in Vietnam was to clear minefields. It was a dangerous job, and he watched as, one after another, his buddies were blown up by exploding mines.  

He never knew whether his next step would be his last. “I learned,” he said, “to live between steps.”  

Bob Franke wrote a song, “Thanksgiving Eve,” which echoes the meaning of Psalm 90. The chorus is:  

What can you do with your days but work and hope 

Let your dreams bind your work to your play 

What can you do with each moment of your life 

But love til you’ve loved it away 

Love til you’ve loved it away.

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 29, 2010 
Two Swords Among Them


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

1 Samuel 13:22  

Adolf Hitler was furious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 28, 2010 


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. 


(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday December 27, 2010 

“Shake Away, Knees!”



                            I came to you in weakness and in fear and in a lot of trembling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Corinthians 2:3   


            We tend to think of courage as the absence of fear.   Those who face danger without fear are not courageous, but stupid. 

          An old man once took some young men fishing on one of the Great Lakes.  The old man kept looking off to the west and frowning.  After a while he told them that he was going to head the boat back because a storm was heading their way. 

          One young man said, “We don’t need to go back now.  We’re not afraid.”

          The old man shot back, “You’re too ignorant to be afraid.” 


          The apostle Paul was a man of great courage.  Despite much opposition and persecution, he was undaunted in his mission.  He had the dubious habit of speaking about Jesus and starting riots, and getting into a lot of trouble. 

          Paul was bold, but not fearless.  Although he was called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in many places, he appears to be a good debater, but not an exceptional speaker.  He mentions his lack of eloquence, and admits he came to the people in the city of Corinth with “fear and a lot of trembling.” 


          We don’t think of people who are shaking in fear as courageous, do we?  One of Napoleon’s commanders, Marshall Ney, would tremble so violently before battle that he had trouble mounting a horse. Yet, Napoleon repeatedly referred to Ney as the bravest man he ever knew.  Ney was scared, but he never let that stop him.  Once, before battle, he shouted, “Shake away, knees!  You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you.” 


          Maria Schell was a German actress who began her career with stage fright. When she was seventeen, “I came to the theater on the eve of the opening,” she recalled, “and I saw my name being posted in big letters.”

          Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with a sinking feeling, as she realized she was expected to be, in her words, “very, very good.” Maria felt paralyzed.

          On opening night she told her mother she had a fever and wanted to stay home in bed. Her mother would have nothing of it. Maria said she never forgot her mother’s counsel: “If you cannot be good, then you must have the courage to be bad.”


          The Lord did not call Paul to be an eloquent speaker; he called him to be faithful – to boldly speak about Jesus – even he if wasn’t good.  Sometimes, we have to do the right thing, even if we’re not very good at it.

          Courage is not about eliminating your fears.  It’s about pressing on when your knees shake.  Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War II flying ace said it well, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”


(Copyright 2010 by and by Marty Kaarre)


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