Tag Archives: priorities

Taking the Time to Knock

Story of the Day for Monday May 7, 2012

Taking the Time to Knock

                    . . . he went down the road. When he saw the beaten man, he stepped around him and continued on his way. 

                                                                     Luke 10:31

Psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson conducted an experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary to discover who would be most likely to act as a Good Samaritan.

One at a time, seminary students were asked to record a sermon in a nearby building. Half were asked to preach on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

On their walk to record their sermon, however, the researchers planted a “victim” slumped in a doorway. With his head down he would cough twice and groan.

Would those seminarians who had just rehearsed a sermon on the Good Samaritan be more likely to stop and help the man in need? No.

Darley and Batson did, however, find one factor most likely to determine whether a student stopped to help the man in need. Some of the students were told they were late and needed to hurry, others were told they were right on time, and the rest told they had plenty of time.

Only 10 percent of those who were rushed stopped to help the man slumped in the doorway, while 63 percent of those unrushed stopped to see if the man needed help.


The prolific author, Kent Nerburn, recalled a night when he drove taxi in Minneapolis. He was on the “dog shift” when he got a call at 2:30 a.m. He pulled up to the address of the house. Normally, a taxi driver honks one or two times, waits a minute, and then drives away. But for some reason Kent he should get out, so he walked to the door and knocked.

He heard a frail voice say, “Just a minute.” When the elderly woman finally opened the door, Nerburn took her suitcase and helped her to the taxi. She gave him the address and asked if they could drive through downtown.

“It’s not the shortest way.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said, “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

Kent reached over and shut off the meter. For two hours he drove her through town. She showed him where she used to work, where she and her husband first lived as newlyweds, the ballroom where she went dancing as a girl.

When they reached their destination, she asked, “How much do I owe you?”


“You have to make a living,” she protested.

“There are other passengers.”

Nerburn bent down and gave her a hug. She held on tightly and said, “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy. Thank you.”  Kent felt as if he had never done anything more important in his life. “We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware — beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

Kent Nerburn is so thankful he took the time to knock on the door.

                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Raise Every Ship

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 3, 2012

Raise Every Ship

                      Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

On September 21, 1989, in Southhampton, England, Steve Mc Carthy was knocking the stuffing out of Tony Wilson in a light-heavyweight boxing match.

In the third round, Wilson collapsed and barely managed to stagger to his feet by the count of eight. McCarthy then pinned Wilson against the ropes and the referee stepped in intending to stop the fight and award McCarthy a TKO.

But then Tony Wilson’s mother climbed into the ring and, with one of her stiletto high heels, smacked McCarthy a couple of good ones on the back of the head.

The fight was stopped while officials escorted Tony’s mother out of the ring. When the ref signaled for the fight to resume, McCarthy was unable to continue. Dazed, and with a nasty gash on the back of his head, he was led away to the hospital.

According to the rules, the referee, Adrian Morgan, had no choice but to hold Tony Wilson’s arm high in the air and declare him the winner.

No one questions the intense love Mrs. Wilson harbors for her son. But, is it possible to love someone too much?


The problem isn’t the intensity of our love for someone, but clinging to a love disproportionate to a higher devotion. When the Lord becomes our highest love, oddly enough, our love for parents, spouse, or children is not lessoned, but enhanced.

Love itself isn’t the problem. We can love anything — our country, our family, our race. But when we hold to any of these loves with a misplaced fervor it produces jingoism, the Hatfields and the McCoys, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Ask Steve McCarthy, as he stumbled out of the hospital with stitches in his scalp and the loser’s paycheck, how much he appreciated Mrs. Wilson’s undying love for her son. When love becomes disproportionate to devotion to God, injustice always results; every benefit we bestow on a loved one causes someone else to suffer.

But at least Tony benefitted from his mother’s love, right?

Not exactly. After Tony was declared the winner, the fans were furious and Tony received death threats.

And it got worse. Tony could never live down the taunts. “Hey, Tony, is your mummy going to step in and help you win this fight for you, too?”

Tony will always know his mother loves him. But as he looks back at his dream to win the light-heavyweight championship, he may have wished she hadn’t have loved him quite so much.

When we learn the life of Jesus, love becomes a rising tide that raises every ship.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Straining Knats and Swallowing Camels

Story of the Day for Monday March 12, 2012

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

                 “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.” 

                                               Matthew 23:24

My friend, Mike, from Upper Michigan once told me his experience as a new father.   One day his wife needed to go to church and asked if he could take care of the baby and then bring her to church when he came later.   Hey, no problem.  He has his list of things to bring: bottle, blanket, diapers, baby formula, tiny little baby spoon.

Then he drove to the church and met his wife.  He had remembered everything on his list.  But the first question his wife asked was, “Where’s the baby?”

“The baby!!!”

(You will want to know he raced back home to find his little daughter safe and sound, sleeping in her crib.)


Among other reasons, I like Mike, because now I don’t feel so alone for doing similar kinds of things.   Sometimes we can get so absorbed by details that we get diverted from the Big Picture.  As someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”

You would think the importance of the “main thing” would determine our attention to it, but that isn’t true.  A good example of that is Eastern Airlines Flight 401.  The pilot,  on his final approach to Miami International Airport, put the landing gear down, but the indicator light in the cockpit didn’t come on.

Puzzled, he circled around and leveled the plane off at 2000 feet.  The fist officer took a look and he couldn’t figure it out.  A mechanic from Boeing happened to be sitting in the jump seat that flight so he got up to take a look.   All three were so absorbed with the malfunctioning light bulb that they didn’t realize the plane was losing altitude.  No one was flying the plane.

Captain Robert Loft’s last words, before the jet crashed into the Everglades, was, “Hey!  What’s happening here?”

Nothing could be a higher priority for the pilot than to land the aircraft safely.  All the same, his focus was diverted from that by a $12 light bulb.


We can say a lot of awful things about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but no one can fault their attention to the smallest details of keeping the commandments.  They not only tithed their money, but they counted out their garden seeds, and carefully picked out every tenth seed to give to God.

But, in their attention to the tiniest detail, we lost sight of the Big Picture.  Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy of tithing seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Jesus’ assessment of them: “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”


You’re really busy these days, aren’t you?  So many things to do.  What is the main thing that your Lord wants you to be about?

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Competing Loyalties

Story of the Day for Saturday December 10, 2011

Competing Loyalties


                     No servant is able to serve two masters. He’ll hate the one and love the other, or he’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and money. 

                                                                                                 Luke 16:13

Those who value love tend to prosper in mental health and human relations. Intriguingly, however, those who value money, but not family, also suffer little mental or emotional stress.

“People’s mental health,” a psychological study (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002) concluded, “is harmed when they value both family relationships and the possession of material objects, because the two values conflict and cause mental stress.


Money is a good thing. But when we try to combine priorities of both money and relationships, it doesn’t work.

If someone accidentally spilled a handful of pencils in front of you, would you help pick them up? Professors Kathleen Vohs, Nicole Mead, and Miranda Goode, performed this experiment. These researchers found that if the participants had just finished playing the board game Monopoly, they were less likely to help pick up the pencils.

Vohs, Mead, and Goode then gave participants two dollars in quarters. Later, they were given the opportunity to donate to the University Student Fund. Those participants who had been given tasks thinking about money gave 39 percent of their money. Those who hadn’t been focused on money gave 67 percent.


Money isn’t bad. Would you work your tail off at a fast food restaurant if they paid you by giving you a hug at the end of each year?

Jesus doesn’t condemn money; he just wants us to know where our heart lies. If our priorities are caught between service to God and money, our loves will tear us apart.


Switzerland gets about forty percent of its electricity from nuclear power. That means, of course, that they must find a place to store the radioactive waste. When the Swiss were asked if they were willing to allow a nuclear waste dump to be built near their town, surprisingly, half of the citizens said, “Yes.” They knew the property values on their homes would go down, but they felt it wasn’t right to expect other communities to bear a burden they were unwilling to share in.

Then, in order to increase the percentage of citizens willing to allow a nuclear waste site in their area, they sweetened the deal. They offered a financial reward. Would they be willing to have a waste disposal site built in their community if they were paid an annual salary worth six weeks wages?

Instead of half the citizens agreeing to the proposal, the offer of money caused the percentage of willing Swiss to drop to twenty-five percent.


You can do things because it’s the right thing to do. You can do things for money. You just can’t operate well with competing loyalties.

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Value of Leaping and Dancing

Story of the Day for Saturday July 2, 2011

The Value of Leaping and Dancing


                                                               Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

                                                          Acts 3:6

 Doug Storer, in his book, Amazing But True Facts, writes about the sinking of the Dutch steamship, Tambora, in May, 1901. When the ship hit a reef and sank near a small island in the East Indies, the island natives rowed to the wreckage to salvage what they could find.

A Chinese merchant, who made regular trading visits, visited the area a few months later. The merchant met a native who wanted to buy a needle and thread and offered to trade a large fishbone for them. The Chinese trader had no interest in buying a fishbone, but the native was so insistent that the merchant finally agreed to examine the fishbone which the man had in his hut.

The native only had a fishbone to trade because, unfortunately, he arrived late on the scene of the sunken Dutch steamship and all the valuable items had already been taken. All he found was a box of brightly colored paper.

When the trader stooped into the man’s hut to see his fishbone, he could hardly believe what he saw: insulating his hut, the native had plastered $40,000 in Dutch banknotes to his walls.


One of the biggest challenges of life is sorting out the relative value of things. Bill Hybels, in his book, Honest to God?, cites a study in which college freshman, in 1967, were asked whether it was more important to be well-off financially or to discover a meaningful philosophy of life. The vast majority chose a meaningful philosophy of life. By 1986, however, eighty percent said it was more important to be well-off financially.


In Proverbs it says that God’s wisdom is more valuable than rubies. All the same, just about everyone would prefer to be foolish and wealthy – which (I must be stern here) – is foolish.

If you amass enough rubies you can buy cool stuff like a white truffle from Tuscany or a riding lawnmower. And God doesn’t have a problem with rubies. He really doesn’t. Material things only become a curse when we cherish them above gifts of greater value.


A beggar spotted Peter and John as they were entering the gateway into the temple. The beggar didn’t get what he wanted, but was given more than he could have dreamed. He was thinking about a fishbone but was about to discover the Dutch treasury.

A silver coin does have value, but not as much as the ability to leap and dance in the temple court.

                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)