Two Bridges

Story of the Day for Thursday September 11, 2014

Two Bridges

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

And the Lord responded, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6


http://bata.mtc.ca.gov/img/Carq_Walk.jpgI’m going to ask you a question in just a moment. It’s not a trick question, but most Christians answer it wrong, while those who aren’t particularly religious tend to give the right answer.

You and a friend go for a walk and come to a raging river. Since it’s impossible to swim across it, you look along the bank, and spot two bridges.

The first bridge is buttressed on both ends with thick concrete. Massive steel girders span the river, which have been overlaid with thick oak planks. It looks like you could drive a tank over it.

The other bridge is an oddity. It’s constructed out of cardboard and fastened together with duct tape. The light rain the night before has left the cardboard sagging somewhat, but it is, nevertheless, a bridge.

Your friend asks, “What bridge you gonna to take?”

“What! You’re joking, right? I’m taking the steel bridge.”

You soon discover your friend isn’t joking. “I’m taking the cardboard bridge,” he says.

As your friend starts out across the sagging cardboard bridge, he doesn’t have the slightest concern about its strength. He’s humming a song as he boldly strides across.

You, on the other hand, are unnerved. Your palms begin to sweat and you notice there’s a tremor in your hands. Thinking it will help to better disperse your weight, you begin to crawl across the steel bridge.

So, here’s the question. Who will make it safely to the other side: the person with the strong faith or the person with the weak faith?

I’ve asked this question dozens of times, and, invariably, Christians tend to blurt out, “The person with the strong faith.”

Wrong answer. The person who will make it safely across the river is you, with the weak faith. Your friend may have a strong faith, but it is faith in a weak bridge incapable of holding a person’s weight. You, on the other hand, may have a weak faith, but as long as it is in a strong bridge, you will make it safely to the other side.

Jesus’ followers asked him to increase their faith – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But Jesus knew they were looking at things from the wrong perspective. Ultimately, it’s not how much faith you have that matters; it’s what you have your faith in that counts.

Even a weak faith, a faith as tiny as a mustard seed, can do great things if it’s placed in the true source of power and strength.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://bata.mtc.ca.gov/img/Carq_Walk.jpg)

Avoid Going Cross-Eyed

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 10, 2014


Avoid Going Cross-Eyed



Why do you look down on your brother?

Romans 14:10


Sarah’s middle name was Ophelia, in honor of the noble character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  She grew up in a cultured, sophisticated home. Sarah’s mother had attended a finishing school to learn the social graces of high society.

Sarah herself attended a prestigious college known for its refinement. Majoring in theatre and dance, she landed a job with an acting company. Her job was to travel to rural areas of the southeast and make presentations to civic organizations — seeking to convince them to sponsor local plays with the community’s residents as actors.

One winter night, a furious snowstorm stranded her on Brindley Mountain in northern Alabama. Sarah found shelter at the cabin of an old hillbilly couple who took her in. She was overwhelmed by their hospitality, and charmed by their rustic wit.

Sarah was trained to perform serious Shakespearean roles, but now her stay with this backwoods couple inspired her to develop a new character. She auditioned in Nashville and soon became a regular at the Ryman Auditorium’s Grand Ole Opry.

She wore a dowdy calico dress and a straw hat with plastic flowers on it with the price tag dangling from the side. Calling herself Minnie Pearl, she marched on stage and hollered, “How-DEE!” Soon the audience learned to roar back, “How-DEE!”

Minnie would always begin, “Ahm ‘jez so proud ta be here!” and then launched into a  monologue of such cheerful yappiness that you couldn’t help but like her.

The world couldn’t get enough of Minnie Pearl. Today, she is enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, even though she never sang a single chart-topping song. The main lobby at the Ryman displays two bronze statues, and hers is one of them. And her gaudy straw hat with the dangling price tag is now on display in the Smithsonian.

Sarah’s acting skills were so polished most people assumed she was a simple country hayseed who made it big. Yet, Sarah Cannon was anything but. She lived next door to the governor’s mansion and traveled in high society — hosting bridge parties in her mansion.  Sarah even admitted she much preferred classical music to country.

How could a woman immersed in refined society become so wildly popular playing a chattering rustic? I think there’s one clear reason: she learned to admire and respect a down-home couple who took her into their cabin during a snowstorm.  Sarah Cannon donated much to civic causes; she purchased the new organ for her church.  But she couldn’t match the generosity of the poor couple who sheltered her in a storm. Sarah never made Minnie Pearl an object of derision. She never mocked rural culture.

Have you noticed how easily we look down our nose at those who live in different cultures? Country people call those from urban areas “city slickers.” Those from the city call rural people “hicks.”  The middle class thinks the rich have too much leisure time; the rich think the lower classes are too lazy to succeed and would rather steal hub caps.

Let’s face it: it’s much easier to love people who are like us.

What makes Jesus’ behavior so startling is the ease with which he glided between those of different social standing. He accepted a dinner invitation from a prominent Pharisee as well as one from a low-life tax collector. He didn’t look down on anyone.

We can’t love those we look down our nose at. And when we try, we go cross-eyed.

(copyright 2014 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Better Than We Used To Be

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 9, 2014

Better Than We Used To Be

It’s right for us to always give thanks to God for you . . . because your faith is growing and increasing.

2 Thessalonians 1:3


If sport is all about winning, what do you do when you’re the worst at it?

As an uncoordinated seventh grader, John joined a league swim team for a two month summer program. He didn’t swim again until he entered high school, where he soon learned he was the slowest swimmer on the team.

John didn’t worry about being the best. Instead, he competed with himself to improve. Even though he would lose races, John would be happy with his performance, because his goals were focusing solely around performing better.

In high school, he won the “Most Improved” award three years in a row.

http://dumais.us/newtown/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Swimming.gifHis magic number was seventy. John’s dad created a spreadsheet with the swimming events across the top and the swim meets down the side. After each competition, his dad would write in John’s time, and if it was the fastest time yet, he would circle it in red. John’s goal was that seven out of ten races, that is, seventy percent, would be his personal best.

At the Montreal Olympics, John Naber set four world records in swimming. He didn’t care so much about the gold medals (he left them at his parent’s home), nor about the opportunity to turn his fame into big money (he turned down endorsements).

Instead of money and fame, John chose to grow. After the Olympics he enrolled in college at USC. Living in a cramped apartment with three other guys, he took a full course load of studies, and joined the university swim team. He volunteered as a resident advisor – sometimes staying up until 3 a.m. listening to his fellow students.

And he still found time to attend a weekly Bible study.

The Christian life is not a competition. It doesn’t work if you’re trying to be better than someone else.

Instead, God pours out his love to us, and we want to learn how to stand underneath that waterfall. When we’re not competing against others, we learn there’s room for others to join us.

Winning Olympic medals had no impact on Naber’s drive as a swimmer. Is he proud of his achievement? Of course. But, he quickly adds, “it was the records (his personal best times) that kept me moving forward.”

John Naber didn’t want to be better than other people. He just wanted to be better than who he used to be.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://dumais.us/newtown/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Swimming.gif)

Story of the Day for Friday September 5, 2014

Learning When to Break the Rules



The Lord Almighty says, “Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has wise counsel perished from those with common sense? Has their wisdom decayed?”

Jeremiah 49:7


On April 5, 2008, Christopher Ratté took his seven-year-old son, Leo, to a Detroit Tigers baseball game. Leo wanted a lemonade, so Christopher bought him one at the concession stand.

Mr. Ratté is a professor of classics at the University of Michigan. As an archeologist, he is absorbed with the past, and this may help explain why he had no idea that Mike’s Hard Lemonade was an alcoholic drink.

A security guard noticed the boy with the alcoholic drink, and soon Christopher and his son were surrounded by a cluster of security guards. The two were escorted from the game and Leo was examined by a nurse, who found no evidence of inebriation.

No matter. Leo was forcibly taken by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital in Detroit. In the emergency room, they found no evidence of alcohol in his blood. Nevertheless, Leo was taken into a private room by officers from the Child Abuse Division.

By this time, Leo’s mom had been contacted and arrived at the hospital, but even she was denied permission to see or speak with her son. The boy was placed in the custody of the Wayne County Child Protective Services. Scared and confused, little Leo cried himself to sleep.

To lessen their son’s trauma, the parents called Leo’s aunt in Massachusetts – who drove all night to take custody of her nephew. The aunt was not only a social worker, but a licensed foster care provider. Yet, she was refused custody of her nephew.

A couple of days later, a juvenile court judge ruled that the little boy could return home – but only if the father moved out of the house and agreed not to speak to his son.

After two weeks of anguish, the authorities quietly dismissed the case.

The response of the officials, police, social workers, and judges was all the same: they hated to do what they did. They all claimed they were just following rules. No one, apparently, had given them the authority to exercise reason, compassion, or common sense.

What was the purpose of these rules that everyone felt obligated to follow? We can only assume that the rules were made to protect children. And yet, it was not an unwitting academic dad who harmed this little child; this child was severely traumatized by the very agencies whose mission was to protect him.

Laws and rules, of course, are absolutely essential. Yet, the Bible says that all the rules that God makes can be summed up in one phrase: Love your neighbor as yourself.

We can hide behind rules as a way to excuse our behavior: “I was simply following procedure.” But to God, rules are the expression of compassion and justice. And, if that is so, we must not only learn to follow rules, but also to break them in the interests of love and common sense.

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Gift You’re Given

Story of the Day for Thursday September 4, 2014

The Gift You’re Given



The eye isn’t able to say to the hand, “I don’t need you.”

1 Corinthians12:21


On June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged the largest-ever amphibious assault and established a foothold on European soil.

Nazi commanders, however, knew the invasion was coming. Once a beachhead was established, their strategy was to advance their formidable tank divisions and destroy the Allied forces – who were backed up by the sea and had no means of escape.

Germany’s fearsome 2nd SS Panzer Division was ordered to advance. The division’s new Tigers were the best tanks yet produced. Yet, because of its formidable size (sixty-three tons), the Tiger was a gas-guzzler – getting only a half mile to the gallon. In addition, the steel tracks wore out quickly on highway travel. The Germans had to move the tank division into position by railroad.

To prevent air attacks, the rail cars were carefully camouflaged at village railway sidings in the area of Montabuban. These transport cars were unguarded.

In his book, D-Day, Stephen Ambrose narrates the actions of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tetty. Joined by her boyfriend and fourteen-year-old sister, Tetty would slip out in the dark on a bicycle and siphon off the axle oil from the railroad cars and replace it with an abrasive powder.

When the Allied invasion hit the shores of Normandy, the Germans loaded their Tigers onto the railroad cars and prepared their counterattack. But every railroad car soon seized up and the damage to the axles was so extensive they couldn’t be repaired. The German division was stuck in southern France and couldn’t find replacement railroad cars for a week.

By the time they were able to move, the French Resistance was in place to harass any movement by rail.

Instead of arriving while the Allies were pinned down on the beaches, the German division didn’t reach the front until seventeen days later—when the Allied forces had already been able to organize, advance, and disperse.

So, did a French teenager prevent the annihilation of the Allies’ precarious foothold on the continent? Did her brave action tip the balance, which enabled us to eventually win the war?

I don’t know. But I do know that she did what she could.

Whatever your calling in life, don’t bemoan the things you’re unable to do. The Lord asks of you only one thing: to do what you’re able with the gift you’re given.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 3, 2014

The Real Goal: To Reach the Bottom


“On the next day, as they came down from the mountain . . .

Luke 9:37

We’re used to watching athletes celebrate when they win a football game or golf tournament. But what is the only sport where athletes do most of their celebrating at the halfway-point of their event?

The answer is mountain climbing. Climbers are triumphant when they reach the peak. They celebrate and take photos and plant flags on the summit.

But, the most difficult part of the climb is still facing them. Mountain climbers tend to see their goal as reaching the top of the mountain. Their real goal, however, must be to reach the bottom.

Most of us are gritty and passionate about climbing the mountains in our life, but we often take some nasty tumbles on the way back down.

Parents often focus their dreams on raising children. When parents have fulfilled their calling and the last kid moves out of the house, a common response for “empty nesters” is depression.

Employees spend their lives working their way up the company ladder. But, once they hand in their keys to the office, the life change becomes more than they’re able to negotiate. They once felt the thrill of making important decisions. Now they are haunted by feelings of uselessness.

Those who make it into professional football have achieved a childhood dream. They have conquered the mountain. But what about climbing down? After the first two years of retirement from the NFL, seventy-eight percent of former players are unemployed, bankrupt, or divorced. The suicide rate for retired NFL players is six times higher than the national average.

Have you achieved an important goal in your life? Great! Pump your fists, plant your flag, and take a photo. But do you know how to turn your back on the summit and climb safely down?

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, whom he dearly loved, and sacrifice him on a mountain top at Moriah. That mountainside was surely the hardest climb Abraham ever made. He reached that summit – not to celebrate his accomplishment, but to faithfully obey the word of the Lord. But once the Lord saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, He substituted a ram on the altar meant for Isaac.

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

Abraham’s joy on coming down that mountain was linked to his reason for climbing it. He didn’t climb Moriah for self-glory; he ascended the peak as an act of faith – willing to lay his life – his son’s life – in the hands of God.

How well you do descending your mountain depends entirely on why you wanted to reach the peak in the first place.

(text and image copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Letting Him Find You

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 19, 2014

Letting Him Find You

I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant.

Psalm 119:176



Stephen Pile, in The Book of Failures, tells the story of a traveler returning, years later, to his native Italy. In 1977,  flew from San Francisco to Rome. His flight stopped for a couple hours in New York for refueling. Mr. Scotti assumed they had already landed in Rome and left the airport.

Scotti was confused by the unusual skyline, but assumed the city had undergone recent modernization. He was amazed that most people spoke English, but figured that Rome was a popular tourist attraction for Americans.

When Scotti spotted a policeman, he asked, in Italian, for directions to the bus depot. Oddly enough, the policeman was an immigrant from Naples and conversed with him in fluent Italian.

But Scotti was baffled when he found no one else in Rome who could speak Italian. Even when told he was told he was in New York, he refused to believe it. In the end, police officers drove him back to the airport and sent him on a return flight to San Francisco. But, for Nicholas Scotti, the police car racing to the airport only confirmed he was in Rome. “I know I’m in Italy,” he said, “That’s how they drive.”

Nicholas Scotti has nothing on me. Yesterday I got lost while hunting.

Northwest Montana has immense tracts of forbidding wilderness and I love to disappear into the deep woods to explore new areas. Yesterday, my wife drove me several miles up a winding mountain road and dropped me off.

I worked my way up a steep mountainside to an open ridge, but then the fog rolled in and obscured all the surrounding peaks I use as landmarks. Though I had never been in this area before, it, somehow, didn’t look right. Very odd.

The most dangerous time in getting lost is when you don’t know you are. Like Mr. Scotti, you try to reinterpret everything that is confuses you and make it fit your assumptions.

One of the best things that can happen is to be lost, but know it. When the fog lifted yesterday I was astounded to see that Lydia Mountain was no longer sitting in its traditional location. That revelation told me where a road was.

The road was important – not because I could now find my way home – but because my wife could now come looking for me and find me.

In today’s religious thought, we think of “The Lost” as those who have no saving faith in Christ. But that usage is rare in the Bible. Usually it is God’s own people who manage to go astray and lose their bearings.

When you know you’ve strayed in life and lost your way, it’s not so much a matter of finding God as letting him find you.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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