Taking the Time to Knock

Story of the Day for Friday November 21, 2014

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 felt 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 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Paint It Like A Hippie Van

Story of the Day for Thursday November 20, 2014

Paint It Like A Hippie Van



My feet almost slipped, and I almost lost my footing, because I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:3

When our family moved to Montana, we needed another vehicle to pull a trailer. I bought an old, beat-up van for $500. It was a piece of work, let me tell you, but it did have a big motor and an AM radio.

One day a teenager was riding with me when we stopped at an intersection, and he saw a very expensive sports car. He marveled at the car, and named the make and model. “Man, I wish I had a car like that.”

“Want to know something?” I said, “I think I get more enjoyment out of this old junker of mine than he does from his sports car.”

He looked at me as if I was joking.

But I was serious. I asked him who was more anxious about getting a scratch on his vehicle: him or me? Who was more concerned about his vehicle getting stolen? Who had the bigger payments? Who was more worried about someone backing into his car while he’s in the grocery store? I pointed out that he would enjoy the luxury and handling of his car, but that his ultimate pleasure would be enjoying the envy of others. Yet, next year, a newer model would come out. How would he feel when he sees people on the road with newer, better, more expensive cars than his?

At this point my teenage friend suggested I was compensating for feelings of inadequacy at having to drive an old, beat up clunker.

But he was wrong. That old van finally reached the point where it could no longer be fixed with duct tape and piano wire, and we had to junk it. (My daughter had just been planning to paint the whole thing and make it look like a hippie van.) Do our kids still light up and laugh when we reminisce about the old, mean green machine and the fun times we had?


Do rich kids reminisce and tell fond stories about the luxury cars they used to own? I hope so, but I suspect they don’t.

But I do know this: wealth is a gift from God. If you have it, I hope the Lord also gives you the gift to enjoy it.

But Benjamin Franklin once posed an interesting question: What kind of furniture would you buy if everyone in the world but you were blind? If we use our wealth to create envy, we will find our pleasure is pretty hollow.

And if we envy those who have what we do not, we will always live in a state of discontent.

Be content with what you have.

All that said, I still hope that, some day, you, too, can own a $500 beater van. Paint it like a hippie van as soon as you get it . . . because things don’t last forever.

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

The “Iceman”

Story of the Day for Wednesday November 19, 2014

The “Iceman”

The Judeans said to Jesus, “Aren’t we correct in saying you are a Samaritan and are possessed by a demon?”

John 8:48

The mole hunt began in the mid-1990s when the CIA and FBI learned someone inside one of their agencies was selling top secrets to the Russians.

The agencies used a “matrix” of the secrets betrayed and who could have known about them. Beginning with 235 suspects, the list was narrowed to one.

http://www.iwp.edu/imgLib/20100714_BrianKelley.jpgNow the challenge was to assemble enough evidence to convict CIA agent, Brian J. Kelley. His phone was tapped and his house secretly searched, but he was too sly to operate out of his home. A search of his garbage, however, turned up a revealing piece of evidence. The FBI knew that Nottoway Park in Vienna, Virginia was a drop zone. Secrets were dropped there and money picked up. In Kelley’s garbage they found a hand-drawn map of Nottoway Park, with times written for various places.

Agents tailed Kelley wherever he went. One day, he drove north to Canada and eluded them across the border. This maneuver, called “dry cleaning,” evades a tail so a private drop can to be made to a foreign agent.

The FBI then set up a “false flag.” A phony Russian agent knocked on Kelley’s door and told him to flee the country because he had been found out. But Kelley coolly reported for work at CIA headquarters the next morning and reported the incident. If he fled that night, he knew he would’ve been apprehended.

Brian Kelley was so cool under pressure that he was given the name, the “Iceman.” The CIA, under pretense of giving him a new assignment, had him take a lie detector test. He passed. It’s possible to fool a lie detector exam, but it takes a lot of expertise.

Frustrated, the FBI confronted Kelley with the Nottoway Park drop zone map. “How did you get my jogging log?” he asked in surprise.

The CIA placed Kelley on administrative leave, while the FBI presented a 70-page report to the Justice Department and requested charges for espionage be filed. Charges involving the death penalty.

As the FBI continued their search for incriminating evidence, a retired KGB agent sold them the evidence they needed. For seven million dollars.

The incriminating evidence revealed they had the wrong man. The mole turned out to be Robert Hanssen, who also lived near Nottoway Park. The jogging times on the map were . . . jogging times. Kelley’s trip to Canada was assigned by his superiors. He passed the lie detector test because he was telling the truth.

Mary gave birth to Jesus shortly after the wedding. The Jews claimed she must have had an affair with a despised Samaritan. Jesus proved he was the Son of God by performing miracles. The Jews saw it as evidence he was empowered by a demon.

We must always be careful about branding a person, a race, or any class of people. Once we do, we will not see what is there. We will see only what we want.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.iwp.edu/imgLib/20100714_BrianKelley.jpg)

What Comes From the Heart

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 18, 2014

What Comes From the Heart



With their mouths these people honor me. But their hearts are far from me.

Isaiah 29:13

If you resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can eat the same food every day and yet be grateful for it,

If you can bear your aches and pains without boring others with your troubles,

If you patiently wait when others are too busy to give you their time,

If you can take criticism without blaming others,

If you can honestly claim no prejudice against another’s creed, color, or religion,

If you can conquer stress without relying on alcohol, drugs, or nicotine,

If you can ignore another’s rudeness without lashing back,

If you can defend those close to you without first having to justify their actions,

then, my friend, you are almost as well-adjusted as my dog.

When I assess my behavior, sometimes I’m quite satisfied with myself, but only because my standards are too low. For example, being faithful in worship attendance is a good thing, yet, it can easily degenerate into the notion that we’ve done something spiritual just by showing up.

But even my dog used to be faithful in worship attendance. When I was young I served a rural church out in the country. In the summertime they would open the windows and entrance doors to create a cooling breeze in the sanctuary.

I was embarrassed one day when I looked at the back of the church to discover that my golden retriever, Fred, had sauntered in and joined us for worship.

Afterward, one of the members who always sat in the back pew, sheepishly approached me. He said that this wasn’t the first visit by my dog; he had been attending all summer. When Fred would walk in to join the faithful they would quietly invite him into the back pew where he would lie down and enjoy the service.

My dog had been attending church all summer and yet I noticed no growth in his spiritual life.

Jesus told the religious people of his day that they worshiped God with their lips — they attended synagogue and said all the right things — but their hearts were far away. Yet, the life that God is looking for is something deeper than outward actions.

Suppose a child runs into the house and leaves the door open. If his dad tells him to shut the door and his son refuses, that’s not good.

But suppose the child stomped back to the door, slammed it shut as hard as he could, and huffed off to his room. Would that action now please the father? Not really.

Outward actions may be commendable, but, in themselves, may be no more praiseworthy than the behavior of my pet dog. God is looking for more than the outward action; he’s looking for what comes from the heart.

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

Looking For Ping Pong Balls

Story of the Day for Monday November 17, 2014

Looking For Ping Pong Balls



And Paul replied, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was the high priest.”

Acts 23:5

An elderly man, living just south of town, had an apple tree in his front yard which stood temptingly close to the road. The apple tree provided the man with far more fruit than he could use, so he generously allowed others to pick what they wanted.

One evening, a carload of youth pulled up in front of his house and raced over to the apple tree looking down in the grass. The old man instantly realized they were looking to see if any apples had fallen into the highway ditch — since any fruit falling on the right-of-way of the road was fair game.

The old man wanted the kids to know that they were more than welcome to come into his yard and pick all the apples they wanted, so he hollered from his porch, “Looking for some apples?”

One of the kids shouted back, “No, we’re looking for ping-pong balls!”

The old man looked at them with a hurt expression. Why did they have to respond to his generosity with such a sarcastic comment?

That same evening, I was busy orchestrating the annual scavenger hunt for our church’s youth group. I would hide objects all over town and hand each team a sheet of clues on how to find them. The kids would pile into cars and each team would try to find the most objects. Everyone had to be back in the church parking lot in an hour or they were disqualified. The group that found the most objects was declared the winner.

Just south of town was a large billboard and I hid one of the objects at its base and wrote clues about how to find it. The billboard stood by the side of the road — right next to an apple tree. And the objects I was hiding this year for the scavenger hunt were . . . ping-pong balls.

We can hurt others because we’re trying to hurt others. But how often have hurt feelings been the result of a misunderstanding?

When the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem his enemies recognized him and had him arrested. As he stood on trial before the court, he announced he had been dutiful to God, and for that comment the high priest ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth.

This infuriated Paul and he shouted some insulting things at the one who gave the order.

Those present were horrified. “How dare you revile God’s high priest!”

Immediately, Paul apologized. He didn’t know it was the high priest. True, he felt he had been wronged, but he knew the Bible taught you should never insult the your leaders.

Misunderstandings are, sad to say, unavoidable. Even looking for a ping-pong ball has the potential to cause hurt feelings. But they can be minimized when we learn to either apologize or forgive all hurts we cause or receive.

Even the disrespectful insults from snotty-nosed kids who try to steal our apples.

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

We Were Made For This

Story of the Day for Friday November 14, 2014

We Were Made For This

Eagerly practice hospitality.

Romans 12:13

Gander is a small, quiet town on the island of Newfoundland. All that changed on September 11, 2001. With planes used as weapons, the U.S., for the first time in its history, shut down the skies. All incoming flights from Europe were diverted to Canada.

The runway at the Gander airport shook as 747s began to make emergency landings. Within three hours, the airport was crammed with 38 jets and over 6,500 passengers. Instantly, the area swelled by 60% in population.

Pilots and crews filled the local hotels, but where do you put so many thousands of stranded passengers? The local residents mobilized for action.

All high schools, church basements, and meeting halls within an hour from the airport were opened to provide housing. Many residents opened up their homes.

http://ayearinredwood.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/img_6511.jpg?w=315&h=210Residents scrambled to find diapers, baby formula, and bedding. In perhaps the biggest “refrigerator raid” in history, the townspeople emptied their fridges and cupboards. They brought out their local delicacies: moose meat, cod filets, and wild partridgeberry jam. One of those stranded, a folk singer composed a song with the line: “Our plates are never empty, Lord, they’re feeding us again.”

The local businesses sprang to action. Fishermen donated their catch. Bakeries stayed open late baking fresh bread. A store owner donated $3,000 in bed sheets. Pharmacies filled prescriptions and provided medicine for free.

At a camp outside of town, Salvation Army members stood outside cabins all night long — just in case someone needed to talk.

In those three anxious days, social barriers began to relax. Some of those marooned were dirt poor refugees. Sleeping on cots next to them might be a British member of Parliament, the mayor of Frankfort, Germany, or a king from the Middle East. Everyone began addressing each other by their first names.

One resident, Scott Cook, told of a local woman who drove those stranded on tours of the area. Afterward, she exchanged cards. She looked at one card, “So,” she said, “you work with Best Western?” “No,” he replied, “I own Best Western.”

When the planes were finally cleared to depart, both passengers and residents hugged and wept. One resident said this time was the highlight of his life.

There is a ritual if you’d like to become an honorary Newfoundlander. You get on your knees, kiss a codfish on the lips, eat a piece of local hardbread, pound down some “screech” (a local rum), and speak a word in praise of Newfoundland. Many passengers took the pledge.

I sometimes dream of making more money and having more free time to do what I want. The Lord, however, gently reminds me that what I really want is to sacrifice my time, money, and wild grouseberry jam to serve others.

The people from Newfoundland remind the rest of us that we were made for this.

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://ayearinredwood.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/img_6511.jpg)

Looking Forward

Story of the Day for Thursday November 13, 2014

Looking Forward

I was young and now I’m old. Yet I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken.

Psalm 37:25


Some people don’t like to get old. They’re too embarrassed to admit it, but the reason they complain about getting old is because they have no idea how to do it.

My twelve-year-old daughter, Elly, and Claire have always loved doing things together. In summer they ride horses together. In winter they go sledding together.

Claire, however, is a little more adventurous. When Elly visits her grandma, Claire does somersaults in the living room, while Elly is too reserved to imitate her.

A couple months ago, I was driving them up Pinkham Creek, when the subject of dancing came up. “Elly,” Claire blurted out, “why don’t we take tap dance lessons together!” Elly thought the notion a little too daring.

Claire, I should point out, is Elly’s seventy-five-year-old grandma, and is brimming with spunk.

And, while she no longer does handstands on the back of a horse, and some day will no longer entertain her grandchildren by flipping somersaults in her living room, she will always be thrilled by the beauty of wild flowers, or awed by the power of a thunderstorm. She will always be overwhelmed by her Lord who flooded her life with his grace.

Claire ages like a French wine.

Why is growing old so tricky that few can do it well? Why is it that no one wants to die young, but if we get our wish, we moan about it?

The main obstacle to aging gracefully is envy. And the person we envy most is ourselves. Older women stare wistfully at faded photographs of themselves in the flower of their beauty. Older men envy the days when they were fleet of foot.

Jesus taught that you can’t plow when you’re looking back over your shoulder. But the older we get, the more tempting it becomes to focus on what we’ve left behind rather than on what God has set before us.

That’s why I’m so glad to have visited Hope Village in Williamsburg, Michigan. This senior retirement center’s mission is: “Serving people as an expression of the love of Christ,” and it shows.

My dad, who lives there, treated us to the noon ritual in the foyer. Residents surround Pauline as she sits down at the grand piano. While she plays from memory, we clap in rhythm and belt out “When the Saints Go Marching In” and end with “God Be with You ‘Till We Meet Again.”

I’ve walked the halls of many retirement centers, but seldom have I seen such cheerfulness. They all looked forward — in this case to their daily hymn-sing. And that is where the Lord sets joy. Before us.

If we miss it, it’s only because we’re looking behind us.


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