Tag Archives: wisdom

Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs

Story of the Day for Thursday July 19, 2012

 

Sound of Empty Pails Falling Down the Stairs

 

                . . . Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to children.”  

                                             Matthew 11:25

 

Have you heard of the “Dr. Fox Hypothesis”? Dr. John Ware and his colleagues from the University of Southern California introduced Dr. Myron R. Fox to a distinguished group of educators: psychologists, sociologist, physicians, and social workers.

Dr. Fox’s topic was “Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physical Education.” But the audience did not know that Dr. Fox was really an actor.  His speech was a meaningless jumble of non sequiturs, invented words, irrelevant details, and entertaining jokes.  But he said absolutely nothing at all.

The audience loved his speech, and no one realized the speech was nonsensical. Anonymous evaluations afterward said the lecture was clear and stimulating.

Further research by others has demonstrated this is not a fluke. You can write totally unintelligible articles, and as long as it comes from a legitimate source in the reader’s area of expertise, the article will usually win high marks.

 

If you are in business and are ever called upon to make a report, I recommend to you Philip Broughton’s “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector.”  He produced three columns of ten words. You simply pick one word from each column and incorporate them in a sentence.

For example, the first column has words like: “integrated,” “systematized,” and “functional.”  The second column: “organizational,” “reciprocal,” and “incremental.” And the third column includes: “flexibility,” “time-phase,” and “projection.”

Broughton claims, “No one will have the remotest idea what you are talking about, but the important thing is that they’re not about to admit it.”  One man, who resorted to Broughton’s “Buzz Phrase Projector,” received a standing ovation and a top man in the organization said it was the best presentation he had ever heard.

 

The theologians of Jesus’ day should have been the first to recognize the Messiah. But, because of their pride, they became blind. God reveals truth to children. And you don’t have to be young to be a child. Jesus calls a “child” anyone who is humble.

It used to bother me that Jesus praised the Father for making the wise and intelligent blind to the truth. But what he meant, I think, is that truth is not found because we’re intelligent, but because we’re humble. If you are proud of your biblical knowledge, you are in a dangerous place.

 

Frederick Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, said, “Pilate asks What is truth? And for years there have been politicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and so on to tell him. The sound they make is like the sound of empty pails falling down the cellar stairs.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Distilling the Truth

Story of the Day for Saturday July 7, 2012

Distilling the Truth

                    . . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

                                                            2 Corinthians 1:18, 20

 

At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.  “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?”  But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!

 

Let’s talk about bumper stickers.  Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.”  In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.

 

Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.

 

Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the  whole thing.  Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker?  I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker.  Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith.  When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going.  On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.”  When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.”  When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

 

Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God.  In my bumbling way, I want to do the same.  But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.

Maybe.

But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator.  Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word.  Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Truth Should Never Go For Walks Alone

Story of the Day for Friday June 29, 2012

Truth Should Never Go For Walks Alone

                    . . . You desire truth in the inner being; deep in the heart you teach me wisdom.

                                 Psalm 51:6

Just because something’s true doesn’t mean it’s good.  For example, you can’t argue with the truthfulness of this statement: “Build a man a fire and you’ll keep him warm for a day; set a man on fire and you’ll keep him warm the rest of his life.”

When I was in college, the poster over my dorm room desk showed a photo of a bloated, warty toad. Below the photo was the maxim:

EAT A LIVE TOAD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING

AND NOTHING WORSE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU FOR THE REST OF THE DAY

The poster amused me because, while it may be true, it’s not advice I intended to follow. Truth should never go for walks alone; it should always be accompanied by wisdom, fairness, common sense, or love.

The University of Houston was in a tight basketball game against UAB when the Houston coach, Tom Penders, suffered a heart attack. He fell to his knees, then collapsed face down on the court.

League rules state that coaches and players on the sideline may not step across the foul line while the ball is in play. However, because part of Penders body slumped across the foul line, officials called him for a technical foul.

Penders suffered from cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition, and the medical staff put him on oxygen and carried him off the court on a stretcher. The official originally assumed that Penders was reacting to his call. But when it became obvious that Penders was seriously ill, the three-man officiating crew refused to reverse the call.

The referees were simply following the rules. The rule book never said it was acceptable to cross the foul line if you collapsed with a heart attack. Yet, while the referee adhered to “The Truth,” the conference commissioners, coordinator of officials, and the general public, felt differently. Truth should’ve teamed up with common sense, and the technical foul should’ve been reversed.

The incredible love of Jesus brings us a truth that we can twist to our own harm. Is it true that someone could become a drug lord or engage in insider trader on the stock market and still find forgiveness? Yes! It’s true. We can find forgiveness from any sin.

Since it’s true that all sins can be forgiven, does that mean it’s okay to sin? Utilizing truth in this way is about as brilliant as eating a live toad first thing in the morning.

When King David prayed his famous prayer of confession in Psalm 51, he didn’t just speak of learning what is true; he longed for the deepest kind of truth: the truth that knows God’s heart.

                  (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

Lessening Our Height

Story of the Day for Monday June 24, 2012

Lessening Our Height

                 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by the quality of his behavior – in actions that demonstrate wisdom’s humility. 

                                                                  James 3:13

A police officer arrested a man in Plentywood, Montana, for drunk driving. The man refused to take the breathalyzer and insisted he had to go to the bathroom first. The officer granted his request and waited outside the rest room until he came out.

When the motorist emerged his lips and tongue were blue. He had been told that toilet bowl freshener would disguise alcohol on the breath and foil a breath analyzer.

He was wrong.

Ignorance of what is true can leave us sitting behind bars with an unpleasant taste in our mouth. John Newton, who authored the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” said: “Zeal without knowledge is like speed to a man in the dark.”.

Knowledge is vitally important because it can keep our mouth from turning blue. Yet, knowledge, in itself, can also be harmful. Philip Gulley makes a telling observation in his novel, Home Town Tales, when he writes: “Teenagers sit at the picnic table and carve dirty words into the wood. It is a testimony to our town’s academic excellence that all the words are spelled correctly.”

Education that has been torn free from morality cannot make you wise; it can only increase the effectiveness of evil. Adlai Stevenson liked to tell the story about the prisoner who said to his cellmate: “I’m going to study and improve myself – and when you’re still a common thief, I’ll be an embezzler.”

Wisdom can’t be measured by an I.Q. test or a tendency to win at Trivial Pursuit™.  As odd as it may sound, the Bible tells us the foundation for wisdom is humility. Wisdom, in other words, is not rooted in information, but in character.

Look at it this way: the best thing we could ever do is allow God to pour his love over us. But God’s gifts can only be given to the humble. Whoever accepts God’s gracious offer and responds by living filled with the fruits of love, is wiser than anyone holding a diploma from M.I.T.

When I was in grade school I remember reading a book of brain teasers at my cousin’s house. One posed this problem: A truck tried to go under a bridge and got stuck. People brought in tow trucks and tried to pull it out, but it was wedged tight. Then a young boy suggested they let the air out of the truck tires. It worked.

Everyone else was focused on power to dislodge the truck; no one but the young boy saw the problem from a different perspective: decreasing the height of the truck. But that’s what true wisdom is like; lessening our height that we might know what it’s like to be free.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“It’s What You Know After You Know it All That Counts”

Story of the Day for Friday June 1, 2012

“It’s What You Know after You Know It All That Counts.”

                Instruct a wise person, and he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous person, and he will increase his learning.  

                                                                Proverbs 9:9

 

Hoagy Carmichael rarely let the facts bully him around when he had a good story to tell. So, according to one version, his first day golfing went like this:

His golf instructor patiently showed him how to hold the club, how to stand, how to follow through. After a half hour of instruction, Hoagy teed up on the first hole and smacked the ball down the fairway. It rolled onto the green and dropped in for a hole in one. Hoagy flipped the club to a caddy, and said to the dumbstruck instructor, “Okay, I think I’ve got the idea now.”

 

We can only hope that Hoagy Carmichael’s instruction didn’t end there. But it is true that accomplishment can be one of the greatest hindrances to growth.

Contrast Carmichael’s attitude with professional golfers. The top golfers in the PGA depend on their coaches to help them improve every day. I listened to an interview where one of the world’s top golfers spoke about his preparation. He didn’t say, “I’m getting ready for the Masters . . .” but “We’re getting ready for the Masters, and one day we just took a day off – which we normally do, but . . .” He viewed his career in terms of himself and his coach.

Best-selling author, Steven Pressfield, says, “The student of the game knows that the levels of revelation that can unfold in golf, as in any art, are inexhaustible.”

 

If “the levels of revelation” in golf are inexhaustible, how much more is the knowledge of the living God? Yet, sadly, our growth in biblical knowledge can become the very thing that hinders further understanding of the ways of the Lord. Once we’ve learned more than we used to know, we begin to feel like we know it all. And that is where growth stops.

The wise person is one who is humble enough to admit there is always more to learn.

 

John Wooden is rightly considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time. He took a faltering program at UCLA and transformed it into a powerhouse – winning ten national championships.

Wooden listened to others. When Wooden’s players were shorter-than-average, his assistant coach, Jerry Norman, persuaded him that a zone press defense would work. It won them a national championship.

But then Wooden got a tall, talented player. After winning a national championship with one style of play, he decided to scrap it and learn a completely new system that exploited the talents of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The result: three more national championships with Alcindor.

John Wooden’s  favorite motto reflected the Proverbs: “It’s what you know after you know it all that counts.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Which Foot Church?

Story of the Day for Thursday May 31, 2012

Which Foot Church?

 

                I call on you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, that there may be no divisions among you. 

                                                                                 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

When Jesus told us to wash each other’s feet, I think he meant that we are to show love by humbly serving each other. Other Christian groups, however, interpret his words literally: we should get a basin of water and a towel and wash other people’s feet.

Even if I don’t agree on how they interpret Jesus’ words, at least it is comforting to know that these groups are practicing a powerful act of love and service to others.

William P. Barker tells how a church in Tennessee practiced foot washing.  But then someone wanted to know which foot you should wash first.  The Bible isn’t real clear on this, and so an argument arose in the church about it.

The disagreement of which foot to wash first could not be settled, so the congregation divided.  Now there is a church sign which reads: LEFT FOOT BAPTIST CHURCH.

Isn’t it nice to know that this congregation can imitate the incredible humility of Jesus by washing people’s feet – in the secure knowledge that they are washing the right foot first? (By “right foot,” of course, I mean the “left foot,” and refer to the left foot of the “washee” rather than the left side of the one washing.  I think.)

 

Did you know that, for ten centuries, the Christian church was not divided?  The church had her squabbles, but, despite all the disagreements, believers lived in unity. The “Great Schism” occurred in the 11th century, and if focused on one word.  The West wanted to add the Latin word, filioque, to a creed, and the East objected.

I’m not going to explain the controversy, or the other issues swirling around it. I’m not even going to tell you which side I agree with.  My point is that it is sad that it had to come to this: that the day came when believers in Christ could no longer live in fellowship with each other.

 

Unity in the church is so easy to attain.  If every Christian on this earth would simply agree with all of my opinions and views, all divisions would evaporate.

Unfortunately, there are some of you obstinate souls out there who think you’re  right instead of me!  What are we going to do?

For starters, we must never compromise what we believe in order to create an appearance of unity.  But I have been amazed lately by how much we can erase misunderstandings and soften each other’s rough edges when we humbly listen to each other.

There’s no question about it: there is disunity among Christ’s followers based on doctrine.  But I believe the far greater cause of disunity is not those who hold to a faulty understanding of the Bible. Unity’s chief enemy is pride.

What would happen if we met those from another denomination – not first to argue,  not first to protect our egos, but to wash their feet?

If only we can remember which foot to wash first.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Brick by Brick

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 22, 2012

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.

Waiting For the Moment

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 29, 2011

Waiting For the Moment

                 Jesus said . . .”Do you still not understand?”  

                                                                         Mark 8:17

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the greatest fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes. Doyle is said to enjoy telling stories where he becomes the butt of the joke.

Once, as the story goes, he left a railway station in Paris and hailed a taxi. When a taxi pulled up, he got in and was about to tell the taxi driver where he wanted to go, when the driver asked, “Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle was surprised that the taxi driver recognized him, and asked whether he knew him by sight.

“No sir, I’ve never seen you before.”

Doyle was puzzled and asked what made him think he was Conan Doyle.

“This morning’s paper,” he said, “had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who return from Marseilles always come to. Your skin color tells me you’ve been on vacation. The ink spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you’re a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“This is truly amazing,” Doyle replied. “You are a real life counterpart to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.”

“There is one other thing,” the driver said.

“What’s that?”

“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”

 

When Jesus walked among us, he didn’t blurt out his identity – that he was God come in human flesh. Instead, he dropped loaded clues. And we must remember that even Jesus’ chosen disciples didn’t fully know who they were following at first. When Jesus calmed a furious storm on the lake, they asked, “Who is this?”

The disciples struggled to connect the dots. Jesus flashed one clue after another, but the disciples couldn’t pick up on them. “Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus asked them.

 

Why was Jesus so coy about who he really was? He wasn’t trying to tease us; he was simply waiting for the right time.

When the Jewish high council sat in a midnight session, the high priest demanded, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am.”

 

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what Jesus was waiting for. He was waiting for the moment when he could offer his life for yours. Only then did he publicly reveal the nameplate on his suitcase.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Settled Into a Higher Purpose

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 22, 2011

Settled Into a Higher Purpose

                     And the king said, “Get me a sword . . . and cut the living child in two. Give half to each one of them.”  

                                                          1 Kings 3:24-25

 Two mothers bring their case before King Solomon. One woman claims her child was stolen in the night – that the other woman’s son died, so she stole hers. The other woman says it’s a lie. Both women claim to be the mother of the child, and now Solomon must decide who the true mother really is.

 

Have you ever wished you had greater wisdom?  I’m not talking about the ability to dominate at Trivial Pursuit™. Wisdom is not about knowledge, but the ability to see. It’s not about the quantity of our intelligence but the quality of our decisions.

 

We left King Solomon a moment ago with a dilemma: two women claiming to be the mother of a child. To which woman should he award the child?

While we give Solomon a moment to think, let’s grow in wisdom by playing a game. If you can solve Solomon’s dilemma in one hour, I’ll give you five bucks. If you can figure out how Solomon can know the real mother within ten minutes, I’ll give you all of my daughter’s pets. And, if you solve this case within one minute, I’ll stage a coup d’etat and install you as the dictator of a Third World country. (If, however, you’ve already been taught this story in Sunday school, you’re disqualified from the competition, and, if you wish to become a despot, I must leave you to your own devices.)

Since I’m dangling some pretty handsome rewards in front of you, you might as well set your watch and start thinking before you read further.  Just remember: your reward is based on how quickly you solve the riddle.

 

Researchers from MIT, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon did a study in which they gave rewards for the speed with which participants could perform various tasks. If the tasks involved simple mechanical skill, rewards increased the speed with which the tasks were completed. But – and here is the surprise – when the task involved creative thinking, the higher the reward offered, the longer it took the participants to find the correct solution.

Wisdom is like that: you can’t increase it by trying harder. It doesn’t come through the desire for reward. Wisdom thrives when we’re relaxed and settled into a higher purpose than personal benefit – like when we’re living for the glory of God.

 

Solomon, as you may know, solved his dilemma by requesting a sword and offering to slice the child in two – giving half to each woman. The woman who protested and pleaded that the child be given to the other claimant was deemed the true mother.

If you figured out the solution to Solomon’s problem, I hope you won my daughter’s pets. Inciting an insurrection in a Third World country is dicey . . . and offering to do so wasn’t very wise of me.

                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Worth the Sweat


Story of the Day for Tuesday November 15, 2011

 

Worth the Sweat

 

                     If you call out for insight and cry out for understanding, and if you seek it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 

 

                                                                               Proverbs 2:3-5

 

 

 

Jefferson Davis had a great idea.  Serving as Secretary of War under President Pierce, he pushed hard for importing camels to transport military supplies in the arid southwest.  Water between forts was scarce, and camels could lumber on for eight days without water in the summer, and eight weeks in the winter.  Not only that, they could carry 500 pounds, while horses and mules could carry less than half that amount.

In 1856, Davis imported 79 camels from Arabia.  And, since no one knew how to operate a camel, several Arabs were employed to care for them.

The camels showcased their virtues in June that next year.  They carried water and supplies from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to Fort Tyron, California.  In this arid region, they proved themselves superior to horses and mules.

But matters took a turn for the worse.  The Arab handlers spoke no English, and no one in the military spoke Arabic.

This is when the fun began.

While quartered in Camp Verde, Texas, the men were given a daily ration of beer.  The Arabs, who don’t drink, poured out their beer in one of the camel’s water pails.  The Army soldiers assumed that beer must be a necessary part of the camel’s diet, so they provided them generous amounts of beer, and discovered the camels were quite fond of their new drink.

Now, camels, at the best of times, are an ornery lot, and their surly nature was not improved by keeping them snockered.  The camels staggered around and largely ignored the responsibilities of their vocation.

In the end, the Great Camel Experiment fizzled.

 

The American soldiers clearly saw the “facts” – namely, that the Arabs poured their beer into the camel’s pails.  What they lacked, unfortunately, was the understanding of what those facts meant.

They had information but not understanding.

 

How many of our boneheaded decisions in life have been the result of misunderstandings about life?  About God?

Wisdom doesn’t always come easy.  Sometimes it’s like digging for hidden treasure.  But don’t stop digging.  The treasures of God’s wisdom are worth the sweat.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)