Are You Listening?

Story of the Day for Wednesday February 3, 2016

Are You Listening?

Who among you will listen to this or pay close attention in times to come?

Isaiah 42:23

If you spoke to a group and wanted their attention, what age group would have the toughest time focusing on you? It’s hard to go wrong choosing a squirmy group of first-graders, right?

https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/blogs/72035/2011/11/80946-71556.jpgSurprisingly, Ralph Nichols, the father of listening research from the University of Minnesota, discovered that young children are the best listeners. On tests to measure how well people pay attention, first-graders give a correct answer 90 percent of the time.

By junior high, correct answers drop to 44 percent. In high school, scores plummet to 25percent. When a 10-minute oral presentation is given to adults, 75 percent can’t eventell you what the subject was 24 hours later.

The older we get, the more opinions we form about life. In addition, our accumulatedknowledge causes us to “skim” information. Children, on the other hand, have no hardened preconceptions, and, as a result, soak in everything.

Boris Goldovsky once gave his piano student a Brahms capriccio to play. When she made a mistake, he stopped her and told her to play it again. She looked confused. She had played it as it was written. Sure enough, there was a misprint in the music. Yet, noone noticed it: not the composer (and he died in 1897), nor the publisher, nor the proofreader, nor other pianists.

Why? Because, in the context, everyone assumed the note should be a G-sharp, even though Brahms had a G-natural. Goldovsky gave the Brahms piece to several skilled musicians, told them there was a mistake in the music, and asked them to find it.

Though they were allowed to play the piece as many times as they liked, not one musician ever found the error.

The older we get, the more we feel we’ve got God pretty well figured out. That’s a good thing — as long as our understanding of God is perfect. But, unfortunately, it means we’re more likely to “skim” God’s word and only hear what matches our theological position.

To pay attention to God doesn’t get easier as we age, it gets much, much harder. Yet, I believe the Lord wants us to always remain curious, to ask questions about what he teaches in his Word. And to listen openly like a child.

Studies not only show children listen better than adults. They also show women are significantly better listeners than men. However, if this information fell into the wrong hands life could be, well, awkward for me. And, obviously, my wife’s I-told-you-so attitude would not benefit her spiritual life. So, how about if we just keep this information between us?

Are you listening to me?

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/blogs/72035/2011/11/80946-71556.jpg)

Story of the Day for Tuesday February 2, 2016

Forgive Those Who Haven’t Sinned

For we all stumble in many ways.

James 3:2

The Netherlands is a flat country, so it is no surprise that the Dutch ski team has yet to make its mark in the winter Olympics. When it comes to speed skating, however, they own the ice.



The men’s 10,000 meters, a grueling 25 lap race, is the crown of the skating events. For the last three Olympics, the Dutch have won gold in this event, and it is a major source of national pride.

In the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver, Sven Kramer skated the 10,000 meters for a fourth consecutive gold medal. As he crossed the finish, Kramer raised his arms in triumph . . . until he was informed he was disqualified for an illegal lane change.

Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kemkers, was responsible. With eight laps to go, Kemkers told Kramer to switch to the inside lane. Confused, Kramer obeyed his coach. But his coach was wrong. Because of the mental error, the rejoicing in the Netherlands turned to disbelief. The headlines in De Telegraaf shouted, “How is this possible!”

Coach Kemkers feels understandably horrible about his mental lapse. He is devoted to helping his country take home the gold.

Many of the Dutch are in no mood to forgive. Kemkers knows full well that he will face humiliation and even hostility when he returns home from Vancouver. He will, undoubtedly, join those in the athletic world who are always remembered for one mistake instead of their hard work and achievements.

The disgust of the Dutch, however, points out a flaw which we all share. We all tend to assess another person’s guilt – not on the basis of their intent, but on the basis of the result of their actions. If a child accidentally spills milk at the dinner table, you may be a little exasperated, but you would probably clean up the mess without much fuss. But if a child accidentally spills a glass of milk on your computer, does the severity of your scolding increase? Learning to respond to a person’s action according to their intent, instead of the damage caused, is a challenge.

But, do you want to know something far more satisfying than celebrating a gold medal for your home country? Reaching out in sympathy and comfort to a forlorn coach responsible for losing a medal. Want to know something far more important than replacing a computer keyboard? Showing a child what God’s patience and understanding is like – because of how you respond to your child.

God tells us to forgive everyone who sins against us. (And you’ll be happy to know that the Lord practices what he preaches!)

But we must also learn to forgive those who haven’t sinned – those who have hurt us simply because they made a mistake.

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

A Joy Greater than Fear

Story of the Day for Friday January 29, 2016

A Joy Greater than Fear

Strengthen the trembling hands, steady the knees that give out. Tell those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, don’t be afraid. Your God will come.”

Isaiah 35:3-4

    The fear among the Nigerians is as dry as tinder right now, and the smallest spark sets off an inferno.  Last month, two boys returning from work on a farm got into an argument about money. They began fighting. Those near the scuffle were terrified, thinking another religious war had broken out. The villagers stampeded and two children were trampled to death.

    In the U.S., a couple of confirmed cases of Ebola caused national alarm. Imagine living in Nigeria where thousands are dying and you can never know who may be spreading the deadly disease?

    A brave woman (I’ll call Rachel) has chosen to live in Nigeria. Recently, her friend was driving her to the Plateau region when an oncoming car signaled for them to turn around. They made a lurching U-turn and pulled off the road. They were told robbers were stopping traffic up ahead. Only after traffic resumed twenty minutes later did they know the robbers had fled.

    Despite the dangers, Rachel works for Wycliffe Bible Translators and is passionate about translating God’s Word into a Nigerian tribe’s native tongue.


    Last September, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, took over a town on a Sunday morning. Two Bible translators from the town snatched their laptops and ran. The townspeople crossed the river to find safety. The two translators waded across, the water came to their chin but they held their laptops on their heads and made it to safety.

    Many in town were killed and those trapped in the mountains were starving, unable to slip through the Boko Haram net. The translator team later found their home burned to the ground. They lost everything they owned — except for their laptops with their precious translation work.

    When Rachel finally reunited with her co-workers, they were surprisingly cheerful.

    “It’s much harder for people who weren’t ready,” her co-worker said.

    “Ready how?” Rachel asked.

    “Boko Haram burned my house and everything in it,” he replied, “but I was ready. I have always told people that God gave it to me, and if He takes it away one day, that is up to Him.”

    Why don’t Rachel and her fellow translators leave such a dangerous place and come home? Perhaps it’s because they’ve seen the joy.

    Last Christmas, they had just finished translating Luke 2 into the Tugbiri language. A young man stood up and read the Christmas story, and the people heard it for the first time in their own language. The congregation erupted with applause. But the pastor stood up and said, “I don’t think that was good enough. Really clap for him!” The people thundered their approval and then crowded around him at the front of the church and began stuffing his pockets with money, as if he was the bride at a wedding dance.

    “Fear not,” the angel at Bethlehem says, “for I bring you good news of great joy.” Slowly, I am beginning to learn there is a joy far greater than fear.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) (image: http://aa.com.tr/uploads/Contents/2015/08/18/thumbs_b_c_264c8bfeecb6276dde2c13ca7adc6823.jpg)


What Will Be

Story of the Day for Thursday January 28, 2016

What Will Be

Enlarge your tent, widen your tent curtains. Don’t hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.

Isaiah 54:2

    Art Linkletter’s friend once took him for a drive through barren land in southern California. A few horses, some orange groves, and run-down shacks.

    Linkletter’s friend said he was going to build a theme park, but didn’t have the money to invest in the land around it. He wanted his friend, Art, to get in on it.  The nearly worthless land, his friend claimed, would become a city. It wouldn’t merely double or triple in price, but land values would increase more than a hundredfold.

    https://i0.wp.com/thesimpleparent.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Visting-the-Walt-Disney-Family-Museum-Disneyland.jpgArt was dubious. Who in the world is going to drive out in the middle of nowhere to attend an entertainment park?

    His friend was persistent. He urged Art to buy the big hotel he planned to build next to his theme park. Linkletter balked.

    A few years later, Art Linkletter served as the emcee for the opening day of his friend, Walt Disney’s theme park, Disneyland. In the years to follow, Linkletter would walk around Disneyland and sigh, “And there’s another million I missed out on.”

    Walt Disney wanted Linkletter to act, not on what he saw, but on what would be in the future.  Not an easy thing to do.

    We often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But God often asks us to believe it so that we may see it.  When Isaiah was prophet, God’s people were experiencing tough times. They had been invaded by the Assyrians. The Babylonians were coming next. Yet, in the midst of their hopelessness, God tells them to enlarge their tents and pound their stakes in deeper, because the Lord was going to bring abundance to those who trusted in him.

    Jesus convinced Peter to let down his nets one more time, even though fishing had proved fruitless.  God convinced Abraham to found a land for his descendants, even though his wife was barren. He invites all of us who suffer shame for his name to rejoice and leap for joy. Not because of what is, but because of what will be.

    Dignitaries from around the world gathered on September 5, 1883, for the cornerstone laying of the new state capitol building in Bismarck, North Dakota.

    The feature that stunned the Europeans present was the location.  “It was not in the city,” wrote Britain’s Lord James Bryce. “Nor even on the skirts of the city. It was nearly a mile off, on the top of a hill in the brown and dusty prairie.”

    “Why here?” we asked. “Is it because you mean to include the building in a public park?”

    “By no means,” was the response. “The capitol is intended to be in the center of the city. It is in this direction that the city is to grow.”

    Afterward, Bryce observed, “They see the country — not merely as it is, but as it will be.”

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Offer a Hand

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 26, 2016

Offer a Hand

We all make mistakes in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he’s a perfect man.

James 3:2

My sister handed me a glossy brochure she had recently received in the mail from a local bar and restaurant. Without commenting on it, she asked me to read it.

“Oops, they goofed up,” I noted. “We grind and cut are meat daily.” It should say, “our meat.”

“And their New York Strips are spelled STIRPS.”

“Oh, and look at this,” I grinned. “It says, WHILE SURPLIES LAST.”

I read through the entire brochure and pointed out more mistakes. “Too bad they didn’t take more time to do some simple spell checking.”

My sister said, “Did you read the last line?”

The fine print on the bottom said, “NOT RESPOSIBLE FOR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS.”

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/88/af/4f/88af4f0d394bdd65c41be55e49ac575d.jpgThose stinkers! They put the errors in on purpose in order to get us to read their entire brochure. They knew people delighted in finding errors so they used it to their advantage.

What is it about us that we focus so much on other people’s faults?

You can probably guess where this discussion is headed. I point out how quick we are to find fault with others, and then I scowl, and conclude we need to stop it.

But I don’t think it’s that simple. We are adept at seeing faults and mistakes, and I don’t see that as a problem. Could we survive without doing it?

When you board a flight, do you want the mechanic inspecting the plane to focus only on what is good about the jet engine? Or do you want him to have an eagle eye to detect the slightest stress fracture?

When we drive in slippery road conditions, we don’t focus on the many times we have turned a corner without problems. We focus on that one time we failed to slow down enough and slid into the ditch.

If we lack the capacity for spotting even the slightest errors, in ourselves or others, I don’t believe our stay on this earth will be a lengthy one.

I don’t think we can help detecting faults in others. But judging others for their faults while we are tone deaf to our own is a constant spiritual hazard.

During the Civil War, Confederate general, Braxton Bragg tended to find fault with everyone. Once, he served as both quartermaster and company commander. As quartermaster, he would send a requisition for supplies. But when he received the request as company commander, he refused to grant the requisition. The post commandant took a look at the correspondence and threw up his hands. “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!”

Theirs nothing wrong with noticing when others stumble. We reflect the the grace of God, however, when, instead of scoffing, we offer a hand to help them up.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/88/af/4f/88af4f0d394bdd65c41be55e49ac575d.jpg)

My Shiny Armored Man

Story of the Day for Monday January 25, 2016

My Shiny Armored Man

And Jesus said, “How long am I going to put up with you?”

Mark 9:19

  https://i1.wp.com/www.shrink4men.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/knight-in-shining-armor.jpg  My wife is the sweetest thing on earth, and I love her dearly.  And that is why it pains me to publicly expose one of her shortcomings. But the truth of the matter is that my wife invariably bungles clichés.

    She says things like, “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got all our Ps and Qs in a row.”  She told a friend, “Here’s my opinion, and you can take it for what you’re worth.”

    Darla means well, and she’s definitely not dull-witted. She teaches English and serves as Academic Director for a private school. But no matter how hard she tries, her clichés have an exotic oddness about them.

    “We’ve got to make hay while the rain shines,” she will say. Or, “He who hesitates, loses.”

    In 1978, a British family was on vacation in Bordeaux, France. Their car had broken down, but being a foreign vehicle, they could find no spare parts in the area.

    They were desperate. They spoke no French. They had no way to get to Boulogne for their boat ride home, and the father needed to be back at work in Sheffield the next morning.

    That was when they were blessed to meet a fellow Brit, Mr. Hugh Pike. Not only did he have a working knowledge of French, he assured them, but he also had a vehicle and offered to give them a ride.

    Pike raced to Paris to the Gare du Nord, ran to the ticket desk with seconds to spare, asked an attendant for the train to Boulogne, led the family to platform six, and got the family from Sheffield on the train — just as it was pulling out.

    The stranded family’s eyes were filled with tears as they thanked him profusely while waving good-bye.

    As Mr. Pike was walking back down the platform, however, he realized he had mistakenly put them on the train to Bologna, Italy.

    Jesus’ disciples meant well, but they were continually goofing up. They wanted Jesus to stay in a village when it was time to go. They wanted to build permanent shelters on the mountain when Jesus wanted to go back down where the people were. They wanted to get the children out of the way when Jesus wanted to meet with them and give them hugs.

    The Lord once sighed and said, “How long am I going to put up with you?” Thankfully, we know the answer; he will put up with us as long as he needs to. Through all our flubs and failures, Jesus will never give up on us.

    Despite my wife’s inability to correctly articulate a cliché, I think I’m going to overlook her shortcoming and keep her anyway. I think she feels the same way about me. As she once told a friend about me, “He’s my shiny armored man.”

copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre 
image: http://www.shrink4men.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/knight-in-shining-armor.jpg


Story of the Day for Tuesday January 19, 2016

What’s Going to Happen Next?

If serving the Lord isn’t desirable to you, then choose right now whom you will serve . . .

Joshua 24:15

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Health/donatelife/images/donate.jpgResearchers Daniel Goldstein and Eric J. Johnson noticed that several European countries had nearly 100 percent of its citizens voluntarily participating in an organ donor program. Other countries had very few signed up to donate their organs.

Why would some countries have such a high percentage of organ donors while other countries had so few? What do you think?

Most people would conclude that the disparity between the percentage of organ donors is due to culture. If most citizens of a country felt that organ donation was unnatural or banned by one’s religion, that would explain the difference.

But that’s not the reason. Countries sharing similar cultures show a marked contrast. For example, in Sweden 86% signed up for the organ donor program; in Denmark next door, only 4% have done the same. Germany has only 12%, while Austria has almost 100% participation. The Netherlands (after writing to every household in the nation pleading with them to join the organ donor program) has 28%. Belgium, which borders the Netherlands, has 98% of its citizens signed up in an organ donor program.

The stark contrast by nation in organ donor participation can be explained by the Department of Motor Vehicles. When citizens from Denmark, Germany, or the Netherlands renew their drivers licenses, they are asked to check a box if they want to become an organ donor. In Sweden, Austria, and Belgium, drivers are asked to check a box if they DON’T want to become an organ donor.

Both groups tend not to check the box.

The more important an issue becomes, the more we become reluctant to make a decision.

We don’t make decisions to believe. We either believe in the Easter Bunny or we don’t. We either believe or don’t believe that grass grows or that God exists.

But once we believe anything, we must daily make decisions based on what we believe to be true — whether it’s hiding our own Easter eggs, mowing the lawn, or praying.

When God’s people were returning to the Promised Land, Joshua gathered the people at Shechem, and he told them the story of what God had done for them. Joshua reminded them of how the Lord led their forefathers, how God worked with power to liberate them from their slavery in Egypt.

After Joshua convinced the people of the steadfast care of the God of Israel, he called for them to decide: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Faith comes first; then decision. You must first believe that diet contributes to good health before you decide to cut down on the lardburgers and fries.

Once you believe in the beauty of the life that Jesus lays before you, you must decide what’s going to happen next.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
image: (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Health/donatelife/images/donate.jpg)

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