Stories of the Day for Jan.10-15, 2011

 

Story of the Day for Saturday January 15, 2011

Yankee Doodle

                If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but give praise to God that you bear that name.

1 Peter 4:16    

In 1755, Richard Schuckberg, a British army doctor, wrote a song mocking Americans. “Yankee” was a derisive term for Americans, and “doodle,” a derogatory word, meaning a “dolt” or “simpleton.”

The fashionable wig in the 1770s was called a “macaroni,” and the term became synonymous for high fashion. 

The sheet music to the song noted, “The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.” So, Shuckberg’s song began:

Yankee Doodle went to town,

Riding on a pony;

He stuck a feather in his hat,

And called it macaroni.

The first skirmish of the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. At Lexington, British General Hugh Percy’s fifers played “Yankee Doodle” to express their contempt for the backwards American militia.

Have you ever been treated with contempt because you’re a Christian? It doesn’t feel good, does it? Sometimes it hurts so much that you may conclude it’s just easier not to let others know of your loyalty to Christ.

But, do we really want to spend our days shrinking from mockery by slinking around with our tail between our legs? The Bible is encouraging us to take the opposite approach: to embrace our identity and praise God for the honor of bearing the name of Christ. The apostle Peter is not pontificating from an ivory tower – he has been flogged for the name of Jesus. He’s been imprisoned, and, ultimately, he was martyred for the Name.  But he reacted to his sufferings with joy.

The British were surrounded at Yorktown in 1781 and forced to surrender. In order to lay down their firearms in a meadow, the British soldiers marched down the Williamsburg Road, with Americans standing on one side, and their allies, the French, lining the other.

And then the song began. The French fife and drums began playing “Yankee Doodle” – to the utter delight of the American troops.

Yankee Doodle had been transformed from a mocking song of contempt to a joyful expression of national pride. It became our nation’s birthsong. And no American hangs his head to sing it.

Never hang your head for the name that you bear.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday January 14, 2011

Brick by Brick

                By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; with knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Proverbs 24:3-4   

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in economics at Carnegie-Mellon, performed an experiment with fellow psychology professor, William C. Chase.

The experiment utilized chess players: one group consisted of novices, the second, of intermediate chess players, and the final group was composed of chess masters with international rankings.

Simon and Chase set up a partially played chess game, and each participant was given five seconds to look at the board. Then they were asked to re-position the pieces on a blank chessboard from what they recalled of their five second observation.

Who do you think did the best? You got it. With twenty pieces left on the board, the chess masters correctly recalled the piece and position of 81 percent of them. The novices only placed about a third of the chess pieces correctly.

So far, this experiment isn’t interesting, since anyone could predict the outcome. Their second experiment, however, was surprising. But, before we get to it, can I ask you something? Why do you think the chess masters did better than the novices?

The most obvious answer is that chess masters are brilliant people; no one can compete at the international level unless they have brains as big as cantaloupes. Another explanation is that chess masters have developed mental techniques for recalling the pieces.

These are good guesses – which is why the next experiment was so surprising. Chase and Simon set up the chess board again, and gave each participant five seconds to view it. This time, however, the pieces were randomly positioned by a computer. When each group tried to re-create the board from memory, the chess masters did slightly worse than the novices!  So much for big brains or memory techniques.

What enabled the chess masters to do so well in re-creating an actual chess game from memory was not brilliance, but experience.  By years of practice, they can “see” the game with exquisite insight. In five seconds, they can “see” it, “Ha! The King’s Gambit versus the Nimzovich Defense.” 

The Lord makes no connection between wisdom and brilliance. Spiritual wisdom is not based on intelligence, but humility. Through humility we accept God’s grace and love. And, through humility, we let God teach us the best way to live.

A chess master learns to “see” one game at a time. We build the house of wisdom brick by brick. But, over time, we will find the rooms filling up with rare and beautiful treasures.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday January 13, 2011

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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday January 12, 2011

Convicted By a Cell Phone

                For you will be judged by the standard of judgment you use to judge others.

Matthew 7:2     

Ed McLaughlin was the general manager at KGO radio in San Francisco, when, in 1972, he was transferred to New York City. His friends in San Francisco warned Ed about New Yorkers. He was always a laid-back, easygoing sort of guy, but now, they told him, he would have to be less trusting and more alert to potential dangers.

Within the first week of moving to New York, Ed was dining at the Pierre Hotel, with his attaché case on the floor under the table. He looked up and spotted a man walking toward the door with the attaché case.

Ed jumped up and ran to the thief, grabbed him by the lapels and warned him, “If you put that attaché case down right now I won’t break your nose.” The man immediately put the case down and disappeared.

Later, when Ed returned to his hotel room, he opened his attaché case . . . and discovered it was not his!  McLaughlin phoned his friends in San Francisco, “Y’all sure were right about New Yorkers. I’ve been a New Yorker for less than one week and I’ve already mugged a guy!”

I’m glad Mr. McLaughlin has a sense of humor and can own up to doing the very thing he suspected others would do to him.

Admitting we’re guilty of the things we criticize in others is extremely difficult. We notice it in other people easily enough. Who complains about another person’s big ego more than the one who is a little full of himself?  Have you ever noticed that dishonest people do the most complaining about other people’s dishonesty? 

I was forced to admit my own inconsistency when I read a recent survey. Drivers were asked to list their top complaints of other drivers.

Know what the number one complaint was? It wasn’t tailgating, slow driving, or failing to use a turn signal. The number one complaint was drivers who talk on their cell phone while behind the wheel.

It certainly annoys me. 

But, here is the interesting part.  Most of the people who listed “talking on the cell phone while driving” as their number one complaint, admitted that they, too, use the cell phone when they drive.

For some reason, I dislike it when drivers talk on their cell phone, but I do it too.

Jesus prefers to show us mercy over judgment. That’s why he urges us to do the same. It keeps us from passing judgment on ourselves.

A little girl was watching her mom do the dishes at the kitchen sink. As she gazed at her mother’s long, dark hair she noticed that there were several strands of white hair.

“Mommy,” she asked, “why are some of your hairs white?”

Her mother sighed, then explained, “Well, every time you do something naughty and make me sad, one of my hairs turns white.”

The little girl was quiet for a moment. Then she asked, “Mommy, how come ALL of grandma’s hairs are white?”

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 11, 2011


Dead Reckoning 

                I will lead the blind along ways they don’t know; on a path which they don’t know about I will guide them.  

Isaiah 42:16   

My family appreciates my astonishing ability to lead them on wilderness hikes without the aid of hiking trails or maps. Without my innate powers of dead reckoning, there are countless box canyons that my wife and kids would never have had the opportunity to see and enjoy.  

The ability to navigate by dead reckoning is a useful talent, and I’m so glad I can share my gift with others. But, sometimes I get it into my head that the best way to follow the Lord is by my same sense of dead reckoning. I have this internal gyroscope that tells me the fastest way “up” is up. Jesus insists the fastest way “up” is down.  He says, “He who humbles himself will be exalted,” and tells me to sit at the foot of the table when I attend dinner parties.   

It’s all quite confusing. But, recently, driving to church has helped clear things up for me.  

One of my favorite places to be is a remote Montana community in the West Kootenai. I can’t describe where it is by telling you what it’s close to because it’s not close to anything. But they do have a church there where I worship.  

As the crow flies, it’s only 8 ½ miles from my home. But, if you try to get there by dead reckoning, you will thrash through mountain ranges and no one will ever hear from you again.  

If you take the road to the West Kootenai, it is 33 miles, and the directions you take make little sense. When Pinkham Creek Road meets the highway, you know that if you turn right and head north you will be only a few miles away. But, instead, you must turn left and drive south for several miles in the opposite direction.   

That’s the only way to reach the one bridge that crosses the Koocanusa.  

In Proverbs it says there’s a path that seems to us like the right way to go, but, in the end it leads to death. Common sense – confidence in our spiritual knack for dead reckoning – will lead us to a miserable place.  If you always insist on taking the path in life that makes the most sense, you’re on the wrong road.  

On several occasions, the Bible observes that intelligent, scholarly people are less likely to follow Jesus than others. Why is that? It’s not because they know something the rest of us don’t, but simply because they’re more prone to trusting in their intelligence rather than in the Lord.  

Isaiah compares the Lord’s guidance to the leading of a blind man. The blind cannot see how the path should go, so they simply trust that their Guide knows where he’s going.  It’s just as well the blind don’t do things my way; without vision they wouldn’t be able to appreciate the beauty of a box canyon anyway.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Monday January 10, 2011


One Missing Crescent Wrench 

                Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with each other? 

Malachi 2:10    

When I was young I picked up a couple of hitchhikers.  We were driving down a dark, lonely stretch of road when the guy next to me said he was going to kill me.  (Not to ruin the suspense or anything, but he didn’t.)  They did, however, promise to rob me, and they were faithful to their word.  They went through my glove compartment, found nothing memorable, and finally settled on stealing my crescent wrench lying on the passenger side floor.   

Whenever we break a promise or betray a trust, we are creating more than a single incident of disappointment for someone.  When someone puts their trust in us and we let them down, they now become less likely to trust others.   

Have you heard the old story of the Bedouin who was riding his camel through the desert?  He came upon a stranger who said he was stranded, and asked if he might be able to ride with him on the camel.  The kindly Bedouin was happy to help him out.  

They had not ridden long together before the stranger threw the Bedouin off the camel.  As the stranger fled on the camel, the Bedouin shouted after him, “I am not so much angry that you stole my camel, as that, from now on, it will be harder for me to help a stranger who is in need.”  

As a society, and even more so, as a body of believers, we live in community.  Healthy communities are founded on trust.  Loren Morse wrote to Reader’s Digest about his friend, David, who moved from the big city to rural Maine. David went to a store to rent a rototiller.  He was told the rental fee was not based on how many hours he had the tiller, but on how many hours he actually used it.   

David was confused, “How will you know how long I’ve used it?” 

Puzzled, the owner said, “You tell me.” 

Life is so much more refreshing when we’re are able to trust each other.   

Sadly, communities can break down.  Every lock you buy testifies to the insecurity we live in when we can no longer trust each other.   

We cannot control the climate of the community we live in.  But we can influence it.  Jesus said, after all, that we are the salt of the earth.  You don’t have to trust everyone, but you can become a person others can trust.  And even if we have failed to be trustworthy in the past, God’s mercy provides you a new day, and a new start.   

And, although I never do it with my wife and kids in the car, and though I don’t commend the practice to others, I still pick up hitchhikers.  Helping others get down the road has been well worth the price of one missing crescent wrench.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre

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