Posts for April 12-19, 2011

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 19, 2011

Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

               The head priests and the Bible scholars saw the wonders Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple, saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” And they were indignant.

Matthew 21:15

Alina, one of my wife’s former students is now grown up, married, and has two little girls. Last week, her daughter said a bedtime prayer for her Mommy and Daddy, sister, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. And then she added, “And God, please be with all the potatoes because I know you and me just LOVE potato chips!”

I’d like to casually toss out the fact that I’m a Bible scholar. If you’re confused about the soteriological implications of proleptic eschatology, I’m your man. And, excuse me while I politely cough, but I also (ahem) . . . read the New Testament in the Greek!  Yes.

We Bible scholars tend to wince at the prayers and praises of children. They don’t know what they’re talking about. When we scholars compose a prayer, it’s carefully sculpted to reflect a theologically precise view of God. The grammar is impeccable and nuanced. You will never – and I repeat myself for emphasis – you will never find us composing prayers which go romping on about our delight with potato chips.

Yet, ironically, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day, for all their knowledge of Scripture, couldn’t recognize God if he was standing right in front of them. They knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know him.

The kids, on the other hand, shattered the solemnity with their boisterous praise to the Son of David. When the theologians objected to this, Jesus defended the kids and pointed to the Psalm which said, “From the mouths of children and nursing infants I have prepared praise.” Jesus liked their worship.

The beauty of a child’s understanding of God is that it is a relationship.

Yes, it’s important to have correct theology, but not at the expense of knowing God personally. I can easily find myself viewing the Trinity, say, more as a complex mathematical formula than the God who protects me, and loves me, and gives me strength.

Once, when our daughter, Erika, was little she asked for something and we told her we couldn’t buy it because we couldn’t afford it. Later that evening, she came into my office and gave me a dollar to bail us out of our fiscal crisis.

I wasn’t offended at my little daughter’s unsophisticated view of finances nor did I hand the dollar back to her in disgust at her ignorance. Instead, I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity.

I have a little box on my dresser. And, every now and then, I open it and look at the dollar she gave me.

In the end, it’s all about relationship . . . like sharing a mutual love for potato chips.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday April 18, 2011

The Wily Game Warden

                The sound of a rustling leaf will cause them to run, and even when no one is chasing them they will flee as though from a sword . . . They will stumble even though no one is pursuing them.

Leviticus 26:36-37

Before we lived in Montana, we would drive out west on vacation to my in-laws ranch. After a weary 1200 miles, we observed the happy little ritual of stopping at the last town to buy our fishing licenses. We always bought an annual out-of-state license – expensive, but worth it to enjoy heaping plates of fresh brook trout.

One year, we tumbled into town so late that all the stores were closed. We drove up to my wife’s parent’s ranch and walked through the trees to their house by moonlight.

Buckhorn Ranch is the last ranch up the mountain, and so you don’t drive into town every time you need one item. We discussed driving into town later that day, and then we would be able to buy our fishing licenses. But my wife and I were so anxious to catch some fish, and because we knew in our hearts that we were going to buy our fishing licenses later that day, we didn’t see any harm in re-honing our technique on the creek.

Pinkham Creek is a fairly remote, heavily wooded mountain valley. That is one reason we were totally unprepared for what happened next.

“Do you hear something?” my wife asked.

“Yeah.” It sounded liked an old John Deere tractor with a fouled spark plug.

And then we saw it. It was a helicopter flying low right up the creek bottom. This was not a small, commercial sight-seeing helicopter, but a big, olive-green military chopper.

“Hide!” I shouted to my wife. We darted behind some trees as the chopper roared over our heads. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I thought a Montana game warden had come up with an ingenious way to catch people who were fishing without a license.

We scooted back to the house and I asked my mother-in-law about it. She said the area was so remote some found it a safe place to grow marijuana. The military was combing the area because they have special equipment to spot marijuana plots.

As I reflected on it later, I realized how silly my fears were. What? Would the game warden really hire out a military aircraft to patrol remote mountain streams on the unlikely chance he might spot a fisherman?

I imagined him spotting us, ordering the pilot to hover in place while he scrambled down a rope ladder. With a couple of soldiers pointing machine guns at us to prevent us from fleeing, he would stride up to us in his sunglasses, and say, “Good morning. Nice day for fishing. May I see your licenses please?”

As I say, the whole notion is ludicrous. But, when you have a guilty conscience, fear balloons out of proportion to reality, and makes you think stupid.

If you’ve already blown it, Jesus can cleanse your conscience, (although helicopters may make you nervous for years afterward.) But, if you’re still considering your options, buying a fishing license first is definitely the way to go.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 16, 2011

Backward Path to Freedom

                 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from having to be righteous. What benefit did you enjoy from doing those things you’re now ashamed of? Those things only result in death.

Romans 6:20-21

In his book, Memories from the Mountains, C.B. Rich recalls the time in 1938 when he was grazing cattle on a five thousand acre spread in south-central Montana. At the farthest corner there was a spring that didn’t freeze up, so he led the cattle there. A Chinook wind raised the temperature, and Rich relaxed in the warmth while the cattle grazed.

C.B. instinctively kept his eye on the southwest because, when the weather changed, it usually came from that direction.

Not today.

As he glanced over his shoulder, he was alarmed to see a dark storm approaching from the northeast. He quickly caught his horse, Star, put the bridle back on, and rode for the ranch house – hoping to outrace the storm.

A blast of wind hit his left side, and then a blinding snowstorm engulfed him. Though he could barely see, he kept the wind on his left to keep his bearings. But, after a while, he noticed shod tracks in the snow. He had ridden in a circle.

The temperature was plummeting fast. Pointing his horse toward what he thought was home, he kept Star to a swinging gallop. Again, he came upon his own tracks, and realized the wind must be swirling.

It would soon be dark.

C.B. made a daring decision. He ignored the wind and raced in the opposite direction of where he supposed the ranch to be.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be free from the constraints the Lord puts on my life. It’s not always easy to give generously when the budget’ tight or worship on Sunday morning when friends say the fish are biting.

In one sense, following Jesus is confining – but only in the sense that highways are confining. Yet, in another sense, staying on the road is the only path to freedom.

When we live in greed and selfishness we are not restricted. But neither are we free.

In the swirling blizzard C.B’s only hope was to head in the opposite direction of the ranch. He was looking for a fence line. Once he found it, he knew it would lead him safely home. Following the fence was two to three times longer, but C.B. gladly gave up the freedom to ride in the blizzard unrestricted.

C.B. finally caught sight of the ranch and then passed out from hypothermia.  By then the temperature had plummeted to thirty below zero.

With his right arm in the lariat, his horse would carry him the rest of the way home.

Following the fence restricted his movements, but it was his only path to freedom.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 15, 2011

Pay Attention to the Signs

                 I will listen to what God, the Lord, will say. For he will speak peace to his people.

Psalm 85:8

In 1874, Homer Wheeler was an Army officer stationed at Fort Keogh near Miles City, Montana. In his memoirs he describes the tracking abilities of Poor Elk, a Cheyenne scout.

A column of troops was sent out to find some Indians who were reported to have crossed the Yellowstone River not far from their outpost.

The surrounding area had been trampled by buffalo and the grass cropped short by their grazing, so finding their trail would be extremely difficult. Half the column had already ridden past the Indian’s path before Poor Elk noticed their trail.

After following it for a mile, he found where they had camped. He brushed away the ashes from the fires and felt the ground underneath for warmth. After locating the fires he found the pin holes from the tepees. By knowing the size of each tepee he could estimate the number of Indians in the party.

Poor Elk found a moccasin and a piece of cloth that had been thrown away. The moccasin was sewn with thread instead of sinew. This told him they were probably following Sioux, instead of Cheyenne, as they originally supposed. A piece of calico was not the pattern available at the Cheyenne reservation, and a hair braid was the kind the Sioux used to fasten to the scalp lock.

He found where a sweat-lodge had been built – which meant they had stayed in camp for at least an entire day. But the horse droppings showed they had not stayed for more than one day. Further, seeds in horse droppings indicate where the party had come from, and the position of the urine in relation to the hoof prints showed the sex of the horse (the presence of mares indicated it was not a war party, since only women rode mares).

The position of the wickiups and tepees in relation to where the horses were tied – in addition to the care taken in leaving camp was evidence they were not moving in any special hurry.

These Indians, Poor Elk told them, were not Cheyenne, as they suspected, but Sioux, who had recently left an agency. They didn’t cross the Yellowstone at the time reported to them, but two days earlier. Their direction indicated they were probably heading north to join with other Indians north of the Canadian border.

Poor Elk could see what the others could not because he had learned to pay attention to the signs. In the same way, God wants us to pay attention to what he’s doing for us.

The Lord doesn’t bonk us on the head with spiritual truth and wisdom. But he teaches us the way of wholeness, of peace, when we focus our attention on him.

You don’t see much in life unless you learn to look for it.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday April 14, 2011

Don’t Sell Them a Lantern

                Jesus sent messengers on ahead to go into a Samaritan village to prepare for his stay. But the Samaritans would not welcome him because his destination was Jerusalem.

Luke 9:52-53

In the late 1800s, a young William C. Coleman got a job selling typewriters. He left his home in Kansas on a sales trip to Alabama, and noticed a stunningly bright lamp shining in a store window. He discovered that, while lanterns used kerosene for fuel, a company from Memphis, Tennessee used gasoline instead.

Coleman quit selling typewriters and began selling gas lanterns. The lantern company owner offered Coleman both their patent and franchise, so he quickly scrambled together enough money to buy the company.

In 1900, he took his business west and set up shop in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. But he was crushed to discover that no one wanted to buy his lanterns. Another company had already been in the area selling an inefficient brand of gas lantern. Repeatedly, he heard the same story: “Don’t try to sell me one of those. Already bought one. They don’t work; they won’t be lit.”  Everyone had gone back to their dim, but reliable, kerosene lamps.

C. A. Roberts, in his book, A Life Worth Living, relates how the discouraged young salesman returned to his dark hotel room. He could see people in the store across the street, which was dimly lit by three kerosene lamps.

Then the insight hit him: “I’ll stop selling lamps and start selling light!”

He raced across the street to see the storeowner, who reminded him he wasn’t interested in his gas lanterns. But Coleman told him he wasn’t selling lanterns; he was selling light. “You pay me to light your store. If the lamps don’t work, that’s my problem.”  He didn’t ask the storeowner to pay for the lantern – only the light.

Customers loved the idea, and soon he was servicing customers as far away as San Diego. William soon became wealthy as the founder of the Coleman Lantern Company.

You can hardly imagine hatred more intense than that between the Israelites and the Samaritans. Galileans traveling south to Jerusalem would cross the Jordan River and make a loop around Samaria, rather than travel through it.

Jesus, however, loved Samaritans. He offered an immoral Samaritan woman the water of life. We still speak today of being a “Good Samaritan” based on the story Jesus told to a Jewish lawyer.

As he began his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus ignored the circuitous road and traveled straight south from Galilee to Jerusalem. When Samaritans learned he was heading for Jerusalem, however, they refused to show him any hospitality.

Jesus didn’t get angry. He understood. The Samaritans, like many you know, have been deeply hurt and mistreated by others in the name of religion.

Usually, the first thing they need is not a sermon, but a listening ear. And don’t try to sell them a lantern. Let them see, instead, the brightness of the Light.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 13, 2011

Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

                Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:67

There is this politician I know and I want to share something that happened to him. Off the record, of course.

Quite a few years ago, he was asked, as an afterthought, to speak at a special gathering. The committee told him he shouldn’t try to be funny or to talk too long. You have to admire any politician who would agree to those stipulations, but he did.

Then, just as he was getting reading to leave, his son got sick. Normally, this wouldn’t be overly traumatic, but their older son had just died the year before, and now his wife was in hysterics about him leaving. He felt, however, that he had to fulfill his obligation, and sadly, walked out the door on his sick son and angry wife.

And, then, on his way to give his speech, he got sick himself. He still hadn’t written his speech. Dog tired, he tried to put some thoughts together.

Fifteen thousand people attended the gathering. A singing group from Baltimore performed a song, and then he was on.

If you’re a preacher, public speaker, or even a student in a high school speech class, you know what it feels like to bomb. You’re embarrassed and humiliated.

He gave his speech. When he finished, there was an awkward silence, followed by tepid, scattered applause. He bombed.

When he slumped into his seat on the podium, he told his friend sitting next to him that his speech failed, and, as if to confirm this, pointed out the disappointment of the crowd.

But a tepid response from the crowd was nothing compared to some in the media. The Chicago Times jumped all over him, calling his speech “silly, flat, and dishwatery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania paper chose to ignore his “silly remarks” in order to spare their readers from such an awful speech.

I’ve kept quiet about this politician’s name, but I guess there’s no harm in sharing it with you now. His name was Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t say I knew him personally). And the speech he gave was for the dedication of a seventeen-acre military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

When Jesus was at the height of his popularity, he gave a speech and the crowds disliked it. So many people quit following him that he had to ask his own disciples if they intended to leave him as well.

People may reject or ridicule what you have to say – not because it isn’t true, but because they’re not ready to hear it.

Want to know what you should do? Speak the truth anyway. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took time to become the most well-loved speech in American history.

And two thousand years later, we still feed our souls on Jesus’ “failed” speech.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 12, 2011

The Biblical View of Sledding

                  So David took the spear and water jug from next to Saul’s head, and they left.

1 Samuel 26:12

When Tim and Irene Martin invited our church youth group to a sledding party, we thought it would be fun. But we soon learned the important distinction between fun and crazy.

The Martins lived at Star Meadows, high up in the mountains of Montana, and after we parked our cars along the roadside, our adventure began by sledding uphill.

Tim tied a heavy rope to the back of his four-wheel drive. We would sit on our sleds, hang onto the rope, and he would gun his rig – taking us on a wild ride up his long driveway. As we rounded a bend, the centrifugal force threw Lauren off her sled and I ran over her, but we found her still breathing, so the party was successful so far.

Once we got to the top things got interesting. Tim expected us to go sledding down the mountain back to the road. We pointed out to him that there were a lot of big trees on his very steep mountainside, but he failed to comprehend the significance of this.

While we tried to think of a Bible verse that talked about prudence, Tim’s dad came out of the house. He was a retired medical doctor, so everyone still called him Doc.

“Hey, Doc,” one of the kids said, “you come out to watch us?”

Doc looked hurt. “No,” he said, “I came to go sledding!”

I hasten to point out that Doc Martin was 83 years old at the time, so we laughed at his joke. But, it turned out that Doc wasn’t joking. He sat on his sled and we listened to him whooping it up as he disappeared down the mountain.

When Saul was king of Israel, he was intent on killing the young warrior, David. When men reported David’s whereabouts to Saul, the king gathered 3000 chosen men to pursue him.

David’s scouts reported that Saul was after him, so he went out to investigate and saw where Saul was camped for the night.

Somehow, David got it into his head that he wanted to sneak into Saul’s camp and asked which of his leaders wanted to join him. Abishai, who couldn’t think of a Bible verse about prudence, agreed to join him.

That night, David and Abishai snuck past 3000 of Saul’s best soldiers, and stole Saul’s spear and water jug that was lying beside the king’s head.

You can’t deny that David and Abishai were daring, but what’s the point? Why attempt something so foolhardy? It’s not as if David had to do this.

David did this because he was David. He didn’t have an onoff switch to regulate his courage.

Careening down a mountainside on a sled doesn’t sound like an overly biblical thing to do. But it’s practice – practice for the day when the Lord will call on us to suppress our fears to do something valiant in his name. And, since only Luke broke a bone, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we originally thought it would be.

No one has ever accused the Martin family of being sane. But, no matter – they have taught us the glory of stealing spears and water jugs.

And the importance of memorizing Bible verses about prudence.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)

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