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Story of the Day for Friday May 22, 2015

Nothing Glamorous About Roots

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He will be like a tree planted by the water – that sends out its roots. . . It will not be anxious in a year of drought and will never fail to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8

Let’s imagine you buy seeds for a Chinese Bamboo Tree. You plant them in an indoor greenhouse and hope for the best.

But, after a year of watering the soil, nothing has germinated.

Oh well, you just keep on watering the soil for another year. Still nothing. No sprout; no nothing. You notice that the neighbors are beginning to look at you funny.

After the third year of constant care and watering, your best friend sits you down over coffee and gently points out that there is a difference between persistence, which a saintly virtue, and beating your head against a wall, which is the mark of an idiot.

You enter your fourth year of watering, and still nothing has happened. Family members have summoned the nice people in the white lab coats to take you for a little ride, but you hide in the broom closet until they quit looking for you and leave.

And you just keep on watering your seeds.

If you keep watering the seeds of a Chinese Bamboo Tree for four years, you won’t see anything happen. But, in the fifth year, a sprout will shoot up from the soil. And then – are you ready for this? – the tree will grow eighty feet high in the next six weeks!

But notice: the Chinese Bamboo Tree cannot grow eighty feet in six weeks. It can only grow eighty feet in five years.

The Bamboo Tree needs to develop a good root system first. The first four years of growth are all underground, and we can’t see what’s going on down there.

Let’s face it: there is nothing glamorous about roots. And not only that, if conditions stay perfect, a tree doesn’t really need deep roots.

But conditions never stay perfect. When the storms come, they will topple you over unless you’ve got deep roots. When the drought comes, your leaves will wither unless you’ve sunk deep roots.

Learning to find our strength in the Lord is like sending roots deep underground. The daily discipline of prayer and meditation and study is not something others see. No one will marvel at your prayer time nor applaud when you read your Bible.

But when the tough times come, you’ll find that the unseen taproot is finding all the water you need.

The pastor of a congregation got sick, and so, with little time to prepare, they asked an old pastor to give the sermon that morning. The sermon was solid, clear, and nourishing. Afterward, a member thanked him for the fine sermon, and then asked, “How long did you take to prepare your sermon?”

The old pastor answered, “Seventy years.”

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

Story of the Day for Thursday May 21, 2015

A Monomaniac With a Mission

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Don’t slow down, but be active in spirit – serving the Lord.

Romans 12:11

Peter Drucker, a highly esteemed guru in the business world, observed, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

“Monomaniacs with a mission” are passionate people. They radiate enthusiasm. They know where they want to go, and are single-minded in pursuit of their goals.

When I am spiritually discouraged, it is almost always because I have slammed into roadblocks. Here I am, nobly offering my life to the service of the Lord, and what does he do? He puts one obstacle after another in my way.

You don’t think he does it for a reason, do you?

Maybe so.

The 1904 summer Olympics were being held in St. Louis, and a poor, Cuban mailman, Felix Carvajel decided to enter the marathon. The Cuban Olympic Committee, however, would not sponsor him. Felix would have to raise the money on his own. He would run in circles in Havana’s central plaza and beg for money from onlookers. Carvajal finally raised enough money to board a tramp steamer bound for New Orleans.

In New Orleans, he lost the remainder of his money to swindlers in a dice game. But don’t spend your day worrying about Felix. He started running from New Orleans to St. Louis. He bummed rides and food where he could.

On the day of the marathon, the temperature and the humidity were over 90. Felix, unacquainted with racing attire, showed up in long woolen pants, a long linen shirt, high-top boots, and a felt hat. A sympathetic American discus thrower cut his pants off below the knee before the starting gun sounded.

The race was so grueling that only 14 of the 32 starters would finish. Felix was running well, but hadn’t eaten all day. When he saw an apple orchard, he stopped and gorged himself on green apples. Near the finish, he got sick.

Despite the fact that Felix’s rivals had their coaches giving them sponge baths, food, and water (the only water offered on the course was at the 12 mile marker), despite the fact that the first-place finisher was actually assisted across the finish line by two coaches, Carvajal still managed to finish fourth.

Despite overwhelming obstacles, Felix kept going.

Don’t be discouraged by the difficulties you’re facing. Let ‘er rip, don’t give up, and serve the Lord.

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


Story of the Day for Wednesday May 20, 2015

Jesus’ View on Status

Jesus told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. For the least one among you is the greatest.”

Matthew 25:40

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The murmurs of anticipation began to increase in the 2012 draft as the Indianapolis Colts were on the clock to make their pick. They surprised everyone by picking a quarterback.

I’m not talking about the Colt’s number one pick of quarterback Andrew Luck; the place was buzzing over the last pick in the draft: Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois. By being selected dead last in the draft, Chandler captured the dubious honor of being named “Mr. Irrelevant.”

For the last twenty years, the final pick in the draft has been announced by Paul Salata, a white-haired man in his mid-eighties. He invented the Mr. Irrelevant award thirty-seven years ago — not to honor the first, but the last player picked in the NFL draft.

Chandler Harnish will hold news conferences and be showered with gifts. One bank will give him one day’s interest on a million dollars so he can feel like a millionaire for a day. He’ll get a jersey from every team in the NFL just in case he, um, gets traded to another team.

Harnish will be flown to Newport Beach, California, where they’ll throw beach parties, parades, and regattas in his honor. Then Disneyland. He will drag the infield during an Anaheim Angel’s baseball game (they won’t let him throw out the first pitch because that would make him relevant). After a banquet held in his honor he will receive his award. Instead of the

Heisman, he’ll get the Lowsman trophy — a statue of a football player with a clueless stare as he’s fumbling the football.

Some think the hoopla surrounding the Mr. Irrelevant award is stupid. Even more consider it insensitive. But I think Paul Salata’s brainchild is genius. He reminds us of a teaching of Jesus that we easily forget.

In society, we honor and award the highest achievers, and why not?

But love can’t be won by achievement. Ask a mother if she loves her newborn baby less because it hasn’t yet won a spelling bee or hit the winning home run in little league. God doesn’t love us because we’re better than others; God loves us because we’re there.

Jesus gravitated toward society’s losers. He takes all our rankings according to status and tips them upside down. When it comes to learning acceptance and love, it may take us a while to wallow through the confusion and realize the least are the greatest.

Paul Salata knows what it’s like to be overshadowed by greatness. He played for the 49ers and the Colts, but didn’t amount to much. Salata went on to become an actor. He appeared in movies such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Ten Commandments,” but his roles were so unimportant he’s not even listed in the credits.

The public may see Mr. Irrelevant Week as a lot of overblown silliness. Yet, Salata has used donations for the event to quietly give over a million dollars to those who are “irrelevant”: Goodwill, Marines at Camp Pendleton, and disabled athletes needing artificial limbs.

Whenever anyone reminds me about Jesus’ view on status, I find it intensely relevant.

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

The Seedling Mile


Story of the Day for Tuesday May 19, 2015

The Seedling Mile

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Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Psalm 34:8

Can you envision life in America without the invention of the automobile? When I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine asking a girl out to a drive-in movie, and then having to watch the entire show sitting on a horse.

The automobile has revolutionized our lives. But, it was Carl Graham Fisher who, in 1912, proclaimed the obvious, but brilliant insight that, “The automobile won’t get anywhere until it has good roads to run on.”

Back in 1912, there were no paved roads in America. Major transportation was done by railways. Most roads were dirt “market roads.” Many rejected the notion of expanding roadways to enhance interstate travel, contemptuously labeling them “peacock alleys” – roads intended only for the pleasure of the wealthy.

Fisher proposed building a paved, two-lane highway from New York City to San Francisco. But, without government funding, how would you pay for it? Americans had grown up without paved roads and most saw no need for them.

Carl Graham Fisher realized that the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration, and so he hatched the plan called the “Seedling Mile.” Across the planned route, he would pave a mile of highway. He required that the seedling mile be at least six miles from any town, and on a section of rutty road where travel was difficult.

Building a smooth, paved road in the middle of nowhere is an odd notion, but Fisher knew that if motorists struggled along a rough road, and then experienced the sheer pleasure of a mile of smooth travel, they would insist on having the entire road paved. Fisher’s madcap idea was furthered by such things as the Iowa-Minnesota football game. A heavy rainstorm after the game bogged down nearly 500 motorists traveling between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The road to Davenport was blocked by stuck cars. Over 1500 football fans had to spend the night in their vehicles or trudge to nearby farmhouses for refuge.

Enough was enough. The people of Iowa saw the difference between muddy roads and the seedling mile. The next spring, Iowa voters approved measures for paving projects across the state.

King David wrote a song with the line, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Although Carl Graham Fisher was brilliant, we must credit David with the invention of the “Seedling Mile.” God knows the easiest way to prove anything is by demonstration.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Wildness of Love


Story of the Day for Monday May 18, 2015

Wildness of Love

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In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of His grace that he showered on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:7-8

In The Christian Reader, a woman wrote about her brother and his bride on their honeymoon. Late at night they finally got to their fancy hotel’s bridal suite. The room had only a sofa, a table, and chairs.

Then, discovering the sofa pulled out into a bed, they spent an uncomfortable night on a lumpy mattress with saggy springs. In the morning, he gave the hotel clerk at the front desk an earful.

The clerk asked, “Did you open the door in your room?”

The door?

He thought it was a closet. He went back to his room, opened the door, and found a gorgeous bedroom, complete with fruit baskets and chocolates.

He had spent the night with his bride in the entryway!

I really want to laugh at him for being so silly. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I do the same thing.

The apostle Paul describes the riches of grace that God showers down on us. It is as if God has filled the bridal suite with the wealth of the world. . . and, sometimes, where am I? Making the best of it in the entryway.

God’s love for us is not a limited commodity that he, reluctantly, parcels out in meager doses. Grace is an unending waterfall. The question is whether we will stand under it or not.

The problem for many of us is that we are half right. As we honestly take stock of our lives we know that we are guilty of living contrary to the way God wants us to. And, because we are guilty, we realize we are unworthy of receiving any good gift from the Lord.

So far so good.

But here is where we tend to wander off track: if we are unworthy, then it would seem that God should give us just enough to get by. Why would God heap truckloads of blessing on people who have been so unfaithful to Him?

But that is exactly what He does!

God is reckless in lavishing his love on undeserving people. You will have learned the wildness of his love when you let him rain it down on you.

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

Story of the Day for Friday May 15, 2015

God Only Forgives People Who Are Wrong

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If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” your merciful love, O Lord, will hold me up.

Psalm 94:18

I hate to admit I’m wrong.

But, over the years, to my good fortune, I have noticed that I seldom am wrong – about anything.

Don’t get me wrong – being right all the time does have its burdens. Once I discovered that I was always right, I shrewdly realized that “other people” must be the ones who are screwing things up. When I bemoan the faults and idiocy of Democrats, tree huggers, and Presbyterians, it dawned on me that being irked by the faults of others took up a good part of my day.

One day I discovered that the joy of always being right is not a joy. I had become a thief . . . and I was robbing from myself.

Zig Ziglar tells the story of Emmanuel Nenger. In 1887, Nenger walked into the local grocery store to buy turnip greens. He gave the clerk a twenty dollar bill, but as she put the money in the cash drawer, she noticed ink from the bill had stained her hands, which were damp from handling the turnip greens.

The clerk has known Mr. Nenger for years. He can’t be a counterfeiter! But, finally, she goes to report the incident to the police, who confirm that the twenty dollar bill is a counterfeit.

With a search warrant in hand, the police search Mr. Nenger’s home. In the attic they find the room where he is counterfeiting money. Emmanuel Nenger is a master artist and he was reproducing money with paint and brush.

The police also found three portraits that Nenger had painted and confiscated them. These later sold at auction for $16,000 (in 1887 currency). The irony is that Nenger spent as much time counterfeiting a twenty dollar bill as it took to paint a portrait that would sell for over $5000.

Emmanuel Nenger was a thief, but the person he stole from was himself.

I’m a slow learner, but I have begun to realize that, when I refuse to admit my faults, I am robbing myself. I’m robbing myself of the grace of God. God can’t show mercy to people who are always right. He can only forgive people who are wrong.

When my foot would slip, I used to claim that I was just practicing a dance step like Fred Astaire did in Singing in the Rain. But I’m starting to learn that when I admit that my foot slipped, the merciful love of the Lord will be there to support me.

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

Not About Us


Story of the Day for Thursday May 14, 2015

Not About Us

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Accept each other, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:7

You’ve heard of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Have you also heard of the Am ha aretz? The Pharisee’s need to feel loved meant they had to be better than others. But, for them to be superior, somebody had to be inferior. And so, they called the “common” people, who were not as religious as they were, the Am ha Aretz, which literally means “the earthy people.”

A pious Pharisee would not invite “common people” to dinner, would not converse with them in the street, and did their best to keep their shadow from touching them. The Pharisees were very religious, very moral – because they felt they must, somehow, earn God’s love and approval.

But their pathetic need for approval turned cruel. They viewed those who were physically sick or deformed as cursed by God for their sin. Thus, they banned them from entrance to the temple. If you were blind or lame, for example, you could not go to the temple to pray or worship or offer a sacrifice. You were classed as one rejected by God.

Is it any surprise that the Pharisees were outraged at Jesus’ behavior? He gravitated to the sick, the weak, the sinful, and showed them compassion. He touched lepers and other people considered “unclean.” He ate with tax collectors and whores. Jesus said that it was not the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick. And, like a caring physician, he had come to help those who are weak and helpless.

Jesus came with this simple, clear message: you don’t have to earn God’s love or approval. You don’t have to think of yourself as superior to others in order to meet God’s standard. You are loved. You are accepted, and there is nothing you have to prove.

Steve May tells the story of a young woman who was nervous because she was dining with her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Would they like her? Would she be acceptable? She took one last look at herself before heading out her door. She noticed her shoe had a dirt spot so she used a paper towel to wipe the dirt off. It was the same paper towel that she used to blot her bacon grease at breakfast that morning.

When she arrived at her boyfriend’s house, his parent’s poodle immediately smelled the bacon grease, and followed her wherever she went. At the end of the evening, as she was leaving the boyfriend’s parents said, “Cleo really likes you, dear, and she is an excellent judge of character. We are delighted to welcome you into our little family.”

Our acceptance is not about us. It does not depend whether we are good or bad. It is all about the Lord. His love for us is based on who we are, but who he is. He is the God of love and mercy.

(copyright by climinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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