Archive for November, 2010

Story of the Day for Saturday November 6, 2010

What’s Your “Coffee Image”?



                “You’re not to be like the others. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the leader should act like the servant.”

Luke 22:26   



Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist who holds a Ph.D from Harvard. I have no idea what a psychophysicist does, but I’m trying to impress you with his credentials.

Malcolm Gladwell has introduced Moskowitz to the public as the genius who has transformed how food companies market their products.


When Mr. Moskowitz did his research for a coffee company, he discovered something surprising about coffee drinkers.

If you’re a coffee drinker, what kind of coffee do you like? How ‘bout if I tell you: you like a dark, rich, hearty roast. That’s what virtually all coffee drinkers claim they like. And that’s what coffee companies have advertised. Their commercials assure us we will enjoy the “robust” flavor of their coffee.

Moskowitz did countless taste tests with coffee drinkers, and do you know what he discovered? Few coffee drinkers really like a dark, rich, hearty roast!  Most coffee drinkers prefer a milky, weak coffee.


So, what do we make of this? Why do we coffee drinkers think we like a dark, rich, hearty roast, when only 25-27 percent of us actually do?

Have you ever considered that we want to project an image to other people – and that even minor things, like coffee, can be used to establish our character?  (You may not know this about yourself, but believe me, advertising companies have known this for a long, long time.)

Somehow, we think that those who drink their coffee black and strong are stouthearted souls with hair on their chest who grab a pair of pliers when they have a toothache. If, on the other hand, we want others to be aware of our sophistication and discriminating palate, we will go to the coffee shop and order a Bolivian roast, medium grind double latte espresso – easy on the crème brulee.


Before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, he spent an evening with his disciples in an upper room. He was not only their rabbi, they were beginning to realize he was their King.

Yet, Jesus was unconcerned with his image. He got up from the meal to kneel before his disciples with a wash basin and a towel.

After Jesus had inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, what did the disciples do? Luke tells us they got in an argument over who was more important. 

The graphic visual teaching of the foot washing didn’t take, so Jesus put it to them plainly. In the kingdom of God, image counts for nothing.  True greatness is found when we forsake our images of superiority.

Jesus doesn’t want us to impress others; he wants us to serve them. . . as he served us.



(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Friday November 5, 2010

Looney the Loony 



                Those who resist authority oppose what God has ordained and will bring judgment on themselves.   

Romans 13:2     



Joe Don Looney was a rocket.  As an All-American running back for the University of Oklahoma he weighed 224 pounds, and could run 100 yards in 9.8 seconds.   

He never graduated from the university, however.  They kicked him off the team after he decked one of his assistant coaches.   

The New York Giants were fully aware of his problems, but were so dazzled by his talent that they made him their top pick in the NFL draft.   

He missed bed checks, refused to listen to coaches or trainers, and would not cooperate with the team’s public relations department.  He lasted 28 days. 

Baltimore picked him up and he promptly electrified the crowd at his first exhibition game.  He didn’t last the season.  After slugging someone, he was traded to Detroit 

The Lions were so impressed with his running skill they decided to build their entire offensive scheme around him, and talked of a 1000 yard rushing season for him.  His pre-season running stunned everyone.  But, once the regular season opened, the coach sent Looney in with a play for the quarterback.  Joe said, “If you want a messenger make a call to Western Union.”   

Not the thing to do.  

So, now he wore a Washington Redskins uniform.  Then to New Orleans 

And then it was over.  He simply would not submit to authority, and no one else would take a chance on him.  


At times, we get the notion that if we could shake off the authority over us, we could be free.  And, in some cases, this is true.  Some authorities are coercive, oppressive and violent, and do not have our interests at heart.   

But God wants us to respect the concept of authority because it is his idea.   

Freedom is not shaking off the constraints of those in authority over us.  Ask Joe Don Looney.   

Tom Landry, the legendary coach for the Dallas Cowboys explained his role of authority this way: “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”  Landry drove his players hard, and they loved him for it.   


A college dean once told Elisabeth Elliot that the happiest students on any campus are the musicians and the athletes.  He said the students sitting in the television lounge are “volunteers.”  But, he added, “the athletes and musicians put themselves under a coach or director who tells them what to do.  They delight to do his will.  They are actually having fun.” 



(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)




Story of the Day for Thursday November 4, 2010

Be Faithful in Attending Your Local Service Department


                Two men went into the temple to pray . . . The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people. . . “  But the tax collector . . . said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-13 



Many years ago, in a small Wisconsin town, a widow and her three small daughters were staying away from worship at the Methodist Church. A member talked to the widow about her worship attendance and discovered the woman was too embarrassed to come to church because she could not afford good clothes for the girls.

The member reported this to the Methodist Women’s Circle of the congregation, and the women’s group immediately responded by generously providing the girls with new clothes.

But still the family didn’t come to church.

When they saw the mother again, and asked about her absence from worship, she said, “The girls looked so nice in their new dresses, I sent them to the Presbyterian Church.”


In the old days the church may have been a place to showcase our dress, but I don’t see much of that anymore. But what is always a danger, and never seems to go out of style, is using the church as a place to showcase ourselves.

Pastors from the various churches in a community where I lived, used to gather for meetings. They were good men, and I liked them. But the meetings began to turn into bragfests – each pastor vying to outdo the others in the miracles claimed or the number of conversions. No one dared mention their struggles and failures, or their sins.


Jim Corley wrote in Christian Reader about a conversation he had with his friend, and fellow church member, Alex. Jim found out Alex was reluctant to go to worship because he was struggling in his life and felt he was not being a good Christian example. He felt like such a hypocrite.

So, one day, Jim went to the car dealership where Alex worked.

“Alex, what do you call this part of the dealership?” as he nodded to the area outside Alex’s cubicle.

“You mean the showroom?”

“And what’s behind the showroom, past the parts counter?”

“The service department.”

“What if I told you, “ Jim said, “I didn’t want to bring my car to the service department because it was running rough”

“That would be crazy! That’s the whole point of service departments – to fix cars that aren’t running right.”

Jim then told his friend that the church was not a showroom – where we seek to impress people. Instead, the church is meant to be God’s service department. “Helping people get back in running order with God is what the church is all about.




 (Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Wednesday November 3, 2010

Can You Keep A Secret? 



                A gossip exposes hidden things, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.   

Proverbs 11:13     


William White, in his book, Stories for the Journey, relates an old Jewish story that goes like something like this: 

The Teacher took one of his students along to visit a wealthy man. They were seeking financial help for a man who had suffered a heart attack.   

The rich man listened quietly as the Teacher explained the desperate need for help to aid the ailing man. “We are asking for a generous gift,” the Teacher concluded.  

“Who is the sick man?” the wealthy man asked.  

“I’m sorry, but we cannot reveal names. In this case, it would be awkward for the public to know that he needs charity.”   

“If I am going to help this man,” the rich man replied, “I need to know his identity. I am willing to donate one thousand dollars – on the condition that you tell me who it is.  I promise his name will be kept in strict confidence.” 

The Teacher sadly shook his head, “I will not reveal his name.”  

“Then, let me double the offer. Two thousand dollars.” 

The student looked at his Teacher in disbelief as he again refused.  

Taking a deep breath, the rich man said, “Ten thousand dollars.”  

The student could stand it no longer. “Teacher, ten thousand dollars will pay for all his hospital bill. He is an honorable man, and his secret will be safe between us.”   

“A man’s honor is not open to negotiation,” the Teacher replied, as he made his way to the door.   

As the Teacher turned to leave, the wealthy man blurted out, “Please, wait. May I speak with you alone for a moment.”   

While the student stood outside, the rich man broke into tears and said, “Teacher, I have lost all my fortune. I cannot even make my next payment on the mortgage. I have wanted to ask for help, but I am ashamed to let everyone know of my failure.”   

“Ah, now I understand,” the Teacher replied. “You were testing me to see if I could be trusted to keep your secret.” The Teacher assured the man that the matter would be kept in confidence, and that he would also raise money to help him as well.  

After the two left, the student could stand it no longer. “I know he offered you a great amount of money so that you would tell him the name of the sick man. How much did he give you?”   

The Teacher smiled and winked at the student, “Shame on you! You know these things are a secret.”   


Why are we so eager to gossip?  Why do we find pleasure in spreading the secret faults of others?   

I don’t know. But I do know this: there is One who covers all my shame.  And, whatever sick pleasure I may find in spreading gossip, he teaches me a far greater joy in keeping a confidence.   




(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Tuesday November 2, 2010

Rise Again


                Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Even though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

Micah 7:8   


Leroy and Mike were high school friends who shared a passion for basketball. They both tried out for the varsity, but Leroy made the team, while Mike was cut.

Mike was crushed.

He asked the coach if he could at least ride on the bus with the team for the district tournament. The coach let him accompany them – as long as he helped carry the player’s uniforms.


So, how do you respond to failure?

When I fail, I find it convenient to give up – claiming it is God’s will. I have often felt that, if God is behind it, then I will be successful, and it will be easy.


Over the years, I have begun to realize that Jesus doesn’t share my theology. He told a parable of a widow who kept coming to a judge with the plea, “Give me justice against my adversary.” Again and again the judge ignored her.

Eventually, she wore him down, and he heard her case.

The point that Jesus is making is that – even after repeated failure – we should never give up. The Lord will come to our aid.


In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged the incumbent president, Jerry Ford. Reagan fought hard to gain the nomination, but in the end, Ford won.

Reagan had lost, but hadn’t given up. At the Republican National Convention, he met with tearful supporters and quoted from an old ballad, “Sir Andrew Barton.”  There is a line in this poem which says:

I am hurt but I am not slain;

I will lay me down and bleed a while,

And then I will rise and fight again.


When, Mike failed to make the basketball team, he didn’t give up. All summer long, he practiced basketball with his friend Leroy Smith. And that next year, Michael Jordan did make the team.

Failure didn’t keep him down. It fueled a fire within him. Jordan says, “It all started when Coach Herring cut me.” 


Do you feel like you’ve stumbled into a deep pit? Invite your enemies to come quickly, because they won’t have much time to gloat over you. The Lord is our light. He heals, he strengthens, he forgives. You can wallow in the pit for a while, but don’t get used to it down there; the Lord intends to pull you out

You’re going to rise again.


(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)




Story of the Day for Monday November 1, 2010


Who Is Taking the Risk?




                The kingdom of heaven is like . . . a man leaving on a trip. He called his servants and gave them his possessions.

Matthew 25:14   



When the Confederate Navy built the first steel-plated warship, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, nearly went hysterical. What could the North do to counter it? The destiny of the Union Navy rested in the brainchild of a zany inventor, John Ericsson. It’s hardly a surprise that, when Ericsson presented his ironclad ship design, no one was listening. The Monitor looked like “a cheese box on a raft.” The naval board didn’t believe the ship, if built, would even float. Other than the turret, it was mostly underwater.  The oddlooking vessel was only a third the length of a schooner. It had no sails, but ran on steam. And, as to firepower?  Two guns.

Could the Naval Department afford to take such a risk?


There’s no question that stepping out in faith is risky. Tim McMahon put it well when he said, “Yes risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing taking.”

Have you ever burned with a dream? You want to use your talents or possessions in a venture for God’s kingdom.

But you never did it. You were afraid you might fail.


Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who handed over his money to his servants.   The servants were to do the best they could with the amount entrusted to them. But whose money was at risk? If the servants tried, and lost the money, they weren’t out a penny.


Would it help you to know you really can’t fail?

In our finer moments, we acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God. Not only our salvation, but everything – our time, talents, and money, is His. But, do we realize what we’re saying when we claim this? When we step out in faith, whose possessions are at risk?


Many historical accounts portray the Naval Department as taking an enormous risk in commissioning the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor.  Actually, they took no risk at all. They commissioned Ericsson to build his weird-looking boat – but on the condition that, if it didn’t perform as the inventor claimed, Ericsson would have to personally pay for all construction costs.

Ericsson took the risk.


Don’t be afraid to try something for God’s kingdom. God is willing to take the risk.



(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



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Story of the Day for Saturday October 30, 2010

Should We Kick Out the Misfits? 


                As Jesus walked along the shore he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collecting booth. So he says to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  

Mark 2:14    


I belong to a private club called “The Pinkham Creek Society of People Who Catch Trout.” We’re a small club – just three of us – which is the only discernible reason I’ve been elected secretary. My ten-year-old daughter, Elly, won her bid for the presidency, and the remaining member, our dog, Mona, has been elected The Royal Pain in the Butt.  

My colleagues and I all have various responsibilities. I find the deep holes along Pinkham Creek and bait the hook. Elly casts the line into the creek and waits for a bite. And Mona jumps into the creek and scares all the fish away. She then reports on the creek’s water temperature by shaking herself vigorously in front of us.  

So far, our club has not met the goals of our “Mission Statement,” but you can be sure Mona will receive stinging innuendos when I type up the minutes for the next meeting.   


Have you noticed Jesus’ strategy in forming a group? As Jesus walked along the lake shore near Capernaum, he saw four fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, and called them to follow him.  

So, what do we have here? Four fishermen who, obviously, know each other well. This is a team that can work together.   

How do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group? 


Not long after that, they return to the lake shore at Capernaum, and meet . . . himthe most hated man in town. Levi was a tax collector and, as such, was an outcast from society. He would’ve been excommunicated from the synagogue. By collecting taxes for the Roman government, he was branded a traitor.  

But it gets worse. Where was Levi working? On the lake shore. Odd place to have a tax booth – until you realize that some tax collectors collected poll taxes. Levi had his tax booth on the lake shore because he taxed the fishermen’s daily catch of fish.   


Can you imagine the scene?  Jesus says to his four fishermen disciples, “Guess who I just invited to join our group? Levi. You’ve all met Levi, haven’t you?”   

Now how do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group? 

When Jesus chooses followers he pulls people together from diverse backgrounds.  He doesn’t want to create a club of people held together by similar prejudices or mindsets. He wants to create a miracle by transforming us into the body of Christ.   


At our last meeting, Mona has been elected chairman of The Committee to Guard the Fish. We tie her to a tree, and when we catch some brookies, we have Mona stand guard over them – just in case they try any funny stuff.    

Our club membership attracts diverse personalities, but I think we’re starting to jell as a team.  




(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Story of the Day for Friday October 29, 2010

Does God Want to Ruin Prayer Meetings? 


                Rhoda . . . ran inside and announced that Peter was at the door. “You’re crazy!” they told her. 

Acts 12:14-15   



Rhoda knew how to wreck a prayer meeting.  

Peter had just been arrested and thrown in prison.  Many believers gathered at the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother (the Mark, by the way, who wrote the second Gospel) to pray for Peter’s release.  

An angel of the Lord freed Peter from prison, and Peter went immediately to Mary’s house. When Rhoda, the servant girl, recognized Peter standing at the door, she ran to tell everyone.  Everyone thought she was crazy and were annoyed that she was interrupting their meeting to pray for Peter’s release from prison!   


Once, after a long drought, a church held a special meeting to pray for rain. After the people had assembled the pastor asked a pointed question, “How come none of you brought your umbrella along?”   


When we explain why certain things are impossible, let’s be sure God isn’t already at work doing them.  

Benjamin Butler was a politician with no military training.  During the Civil War, however, he was appointed a general.  When General Grant told him to capture Fort Fisher, a vital target in the war, Butler proved disappointing.  When Grant tried to sack him, Butler went to Washington to appeal his case before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War.   

Butler produced charts and reports by subordinates to prove he was right to call off the attack on Fort FisherGeneral Butler then proceeded to prove that close scrutiny of the fort showed it could not be taken. The fort’s thick walls and torpedo fields made it impossible to attack by land or naval bombardment.  

While Butler passionately defended his actions before the committee, the noise outside became distracting.  People were cheering. Soon they discovered why. The newspaper headline announced that Fort Fisher had been captured by General Terry.   

The committee meeting dissolved into laughter.  While General Butler proved that Fort Fisher would not be captured, it was captured.  


The Chinese have a proverb: “The man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man who is doing it.”   


I often caution people about prayer.  I tell them that prayer is not a magic wand. But, on the other hand, we  must be careful not to tell God what can and cannot be done.  If past history is any indicator, he doesn’t mind ruining prayer meetings. 


(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday October 28, 2010

The Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector 


                . . . 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, sociologists, 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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 27, 2010

The Gospel With Strings Attached 


                Why do you . . . put yokes on the necks of the disciples which neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear? 

Acts 15:10     



In the late 1800s, missionaries evangelized the Yahgans to extinction.   

The Yahgans lived in Tierra Del Fuego, an archipelago on the southern tip of South AmericaIn the 1860s, Christian missionaries from England sailed to South America to bring the gospel to these primitive natives.     

The Yahgans had developed an unbelievable tolerance for the cold, harsh climate.  The women would dive into the frigid waters to find shellfish.  They would grease their bodies to repel water.  Except for a bikini-like cloth around their bottom, they were, well, like, naked.   

Some of the missionaries objected to this immorality and insisted they wear clothes.  They prevailed. But their clothes, which were perpetually wet in the damp climate, produced outbreaks of pneumonia and tuberculosis.  This, along with the introduction of European diseases, reduced the Yahgan tribe to extinction.


In the U.S., well-meaning Christians have tried to force the citizenry to behave like Christians.  “Blue Laws” were once common, in which civil laws were passed forbidding stores or businesses to open on Sunday.   

Where did we get the notion that we could make the world more Christian by ramming our religion down their throats?  The Christian faith is about a relationship of love with God.  Love never emerges from coercion.  The only result of force is bitterness and resentment. How many believers can you name who were bludgeoned into the faith by being forced to behave like Christians? 


Early in the life of the Church, the disciples faced a dilemma.  People who weren’t Jewish began to believe in Jesus.  Should they insist these Gentiles get circumcised and follow other Jewish practices?  

Peter became a hero.  He stood up and reminded everyone that both we and they are saved by grace of the Lord Jesus.  Forcing them to bear the burdens of Jewish customs and laws was not going to bring them closer to the Lord. 

The Church chose wisely and grace prevailed.  And that’s why Gentile Christians have never gone extinct.   



(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 26, 2010

The Next Step 


                Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. 

Psalm 119:105    



When Lewis and Clark led the expedition with the Voyage of Discovery, they knew they would travel through much uncharted territory.  What many don’t realize is that they knew the exact location of their destination on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  

Robert Gray, on the ship Columbia, sailed into the estuary of a large river that he named after his ship. Gray precisely established the latitude and longitude.   

Before the voyage, William Clark was trained in the use of the sextant and other navigational tools, and was able to establish the expedition’s location as they traveled. And so, they knew precisely where their journey would end, but had little notion where their path would take them until they reached the mouth of the Columbia River.  


The journey of the Voyage of Discovery sounds a lot like our lives.  We know the destination. God is leading us home to heaven.  But we have no idea where the path will take us before we make it home.  

All of God’s people are occasionally baffled – and even frustrated – with the path the Lord is leading us on.  God leads Abraham up the hills of Moriah to sacrifice his only son. God has Joseph taken captive as a slave and later thrown into prison in a foreign land. God devastates Job’s prosperity and health.  And none of them know what God is up to.  


We want to know The Plan. We want to see the Big Picture.  But God refuses to tip his hand. In the midst of bankruptcy, or divorce, or the cancer tests that come back positive, we want God to explain himself and show us how these things will work out. We cry out to God with these kinds of questions. But he does not answer. 


When Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark for their journey, he possessed the most extensive library in the world on what lay before them. His books told him of giant, prehistoric creatures on the upper Missouri River. He learned that all the great rivers of the west: the Missouri, Colorado, Rio Grande, and the Columbia – all began on a single mountain. His books told him the Blue Ridge Mountains of his home were probably the highest mountains on the American continent.  


God does not guide us by showing us the Big Picture. Instead, he shows us the next step.  

When the psalmist says that God’s word is a lamp for his feet, you should understand that the light does not illumine the whole path.  The feeble light of an ancient lamp is only bright enough to show you the next step.  

Lewis and Clark did not know what lay around the next bend. You don’t need to know either. All you need to know is where to put your foot for the next step. And where your journey will end. The Lord’s word will  give you the light to do that.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday October 25, 2010

The Home Field Advantage 


                “Commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people. . . 

Deuteronomy 3:28   



Two writing groups were formed at the University of Wisconsin. Both groups were comprised of bright and talented writers. The men would meet and share their writings with the other guys for evaluation. The critiques were so critical of each others writing that they named their group The Stranglers.   

So, some of the gifted women decided to form their own writing group and called themselves The Wranglers. They also read their writings to each other for comment. But with this difference: they didn’t criticize. The comments were positive. No matter how poor or undeveloped the writing was, they found a way to offer encouragement.   

Twenty years later, a university alumnus researched the careers of his classmates. The two writing groups were examined. Not one of the talented Stranglers ever became successful. By contrast, a half dozen of the Wranglers became well-known writers. One of them, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings even won a Pulitzer prize in literature in 1939 


If someone tells you the opinions of other people don’t matter at all to them, don’t believe them. We may chafe at the thought but others have an enormous influence on who we believe we are and what we can accomplish. Yet, sports commentators often talk about the “home field advantage”? What is that? Isn’t it simply the fact that the team with a stadium of fans cheering encouragement is more likely to win the game?   


Encouragement gives people strength. In the book, Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose relates the story of 101st Airborne Division. Before shipping off for Europe, their commander read that a Japanese Army battalion set an endurance record by marching 100 miles in 72 hours.   

Not to be outdone, Colonel Sink declared, “My men can do better than that.” He picked the 2nd Battalion to prove his point. The men had to carry all their gear and weapons – which, for some soldiers, were heavy mortars and machine guns.   

100 miles of the 118 mile march was over slippery, muddy roads. The weather could hardly be worse. The biting wind combined with sleet and snow. At night the temperatures dipped into the low twenties, with many boots frozen to the ground. Soldiers would have to completely unlace their boots in order to get their swollen feet back into them. Since the cook stoves wouldn’t work in the cold, the men had to survive on bread with butter and jam.   

On the third day, they still had 38 miles to go. One soldier was too exhausted to stand up so he crawled to the chow line.   

News of the march spread quickly in Georgia. As the weary soldiers straggled to the final mile of the march, they were met by a huge crowd who lined the road and cheered wildly for them. A band began to play.   

And that is when the magic began. Malarkey, the soldier who crawled to chow earlier that day, said, he had “a strange thing happen to me when that band began to play. I straightened up, the pain disappeared, and I finished the march as if we were passing in review at Toccoa [their training camp].”   

Encouragement costs us nothing, but the difference it makes for others is beyond counting.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday October 23, 2010

Dreamers and Bean Counters 

                In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

Romans 12:5   

Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.  

I’m not good at math. 

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.  

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”    

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum. 

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”   

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life. 

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way. 

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.   

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.   

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.  

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that. 

Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday October 22, 2010

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points


                A person of understanding walks a straight path.

                                                                                                             Proverbs 15:21   

            The Bible uses the idea of “straightness” to picture the life God wants us to live. To walk on a straight path is to live according to God’s truth and wisdom. When we wander from God’s ways, our path is no longer straight, but crooked.

          “Straight” and “crooked” are not foreign religious concepts. We naturally think this way. What do we call criminals who steal? We call them “crooks” because their behavior is “crooked”. We describe someone who acts in an evil way as “bent” or “twisted.” Those who hold devious ideas are “warped” in their thinking.

          And what about “straight”?  We talk about “straightening up” the house before company comes, or “straightening out” the checkbook at the end of the month. Parents try to keep their kids “in line.” 

          When the Bible talks about a crooked or straight path, we get it.

          But, while we admit that taking the crooked path is bad, the alternative often sounds unappealing. When you hear someone described as “straight-laced,” don’t you immediately imagine the person as stodgy and dull?  Taking the “straight and narrow” way sounds like reading a fourteen page legal warranty. It may be important, but it is definitely not thrilling.

          So, why does walking on the “straight and narrow” path sound so … boring? 

          The main reason religious and moral living can become so dull is that there is no person on the other end of the line. 

          What I mean is this: what is the shortest distance between two points? A straight line.  When a soldier steps off the plane after a long tour of duty, what direction do family and loved ones take?  They run straight for that soldier they have loved and missed. When a toddler gets lost and the frantic mother finally finds her little girl, what does she do?  Meander and wander?  She makes a beeline to pick her up and hold her in her arms.                                                                                                                                                                                        

          Do you see what’s happening here? No one has to badger and scold you about making a straight line when there is someone we love on the other end.  Let’s face it: when you have to walk toward a moral policy manual it can be tough sledding. That’s because you aren’t closing the distance to someone you love.

          But what if Jesus is on the other end? What if being in his presence is the ultimate fulfillment of your longings? What if, being closer to Jesus brings you the comfort of his forgiveness, and the wild joy of knowing the life that flows from him? What if he forgot to say, “Come to my moral policy manual,” and actually said, “Come to me, all you who are burdened and weighed down.” What if he actually said, “Let the little children come to me.

          The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday October 21, 2010

Why Your Microwave Doesn’t Love You 

               “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.  But you must never eat off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, for when you eat from it, you will surely die.” 

Genesis 2:16-17   

When God created Adam and Eve, he made “all kinds of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Fine and good. But what bothers us is  the “other tree.” Why did God put this one, lousy tree in the garden – and then forbid them to eat it on pain of death? 

Doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? If God would not have put that Death Tree in the garden, they would not have the opportunity to be tempted to eat it.  

Want to know why God put one forbidden tree in the garden?  Because he wanted to make creatures who would love him.   

Love is not love unless there is freedom. That, for instance, is why your microwave oven doesn’t love you.  Machines can only do what they are programmed to do. Love cannot be forced or coerced. No one can terrify you or manipulate you into loving them.  

Threats can force outward compliance, but we intuitively know they are powerless to change our hearts.   

As odd as it sounds, God put one, forbidden tree in the garden so Adam and Eve would have the choice – to love him by not eating from it, or to turn from love by tasting its fruit.   

So now what?  The nature of love never changes, but God has not given up.  The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells the story of a king, who rode through a small village, and saw a beautiful young peasant woman.  He was smitten. Considering his power, he thought of issuing a royal decree requiring her to be brought to the palace and be made queen.  As his subject, she could be forced to obey. But he knew he could never force her to love him.  

Maybe he could invite her to his royal court and dazzle her with the splendor of his kingdom? But he could never be certain whether she loved him or his wealth.                       

The king finally chose another way.  He dressed like a peasant and lived among them. He worked among them, cared for them, and served them.  And he won the heart of the woman who would become his bride.   

God wanted to have a relationship of love with Adam and Eve in the garden.   He gave them freedom, and they used their freedom to turn away from him.   The story of all history is about a king who would neither threaten nor dazzle to win our hearts.  Instead, he would come as a peasant and win our hearts. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Wednesday October 20, 2010

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?  

                And while he was going. . . a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years . . .came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment. 

Luke 8:42-44     

When I was growing up I didn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, because it hadn’t been invented yet. In high school I was called “The Gaper” because my mouth, apparently, would hang open while I daydreamed in class. In my freshman year of college I won the “Neil Armstrong Spacey Award” because I was so . . . spacey.  

When they finally got around to inventing ADD, I took a test from a licensed psychologist, and it turned out I had come down with a bad case of it.   

Learning to focus your thoughts and goals is challenging for anyone.  But it is especially difficult when your mind wants to wander down any side street it sees.  

I have spent my adult life learning how to focus.  But lately I have come to realize it is equally important to learn how not to be too focused, because when you get too focused you can’t see gorillas. 

Psychologists from Harvard conducted an experiment in which they played a video of basketball players. Participants were told to count the number of times the ball was passed by the team wearing a certain color uniform. In the middle of the video, however, strange things happened. A woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla costume would walk through the center of the court and would be clearly visible for about five seconds.  

A control group, who were not asked to count the number of times the basketball was passed, all saw the woman and the gorilla. But, for those asked to focus on the task of counting passes, only a third saw the woman. And, amazingly, the majority (56 percent), failed to notice the gorilla.  

Jesus was a master at being focused and unfocused at the same time. When he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem to die, nothing could deter him. Yet, at the same time, he was open to notice the needs of people around him. 

Jairus, a synagogue ruler, pleads with Jesus to come with him because his only daughter is dying.  Jesus has a clear focus – he wants to help. In doing that, he ignores the crowds pressing in on him.    

But, at the same time, he is open to one person who touches his tassel. “Who touched me?” he asks. Peter is dumbfounded by Jesus’ question, and helpfully points out that many people are touching him. They are, in fact, mobbing him. Yet, Jesus is aware that one person in the crowd was different.  

That day, Jesus did two miracles. One, because he focused on a goal; the other, because he was sensitive to the unexpected.  

How do you do both at the same time?  I don’t know. But I know it’s worth learning.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Tuesday October 19, 2010

A  Monomaniac With a Mission 

                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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for  Monday October 18, 2010

Breathing Holes  

                And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good to be here.  Let’s make three tents . . .  

Mark 9:5    

In  October, 1988, an Alaskan Eskimo discovered three gray whales who were drowning.  Surrounded by Arctic ice, the whales punched out a small breathing hole, but it was quickly icing over. The Eskimo returned with others who wielded chainsaws and pick axes to cut a series of holes in order to lead the whales back to open water.   

The work was exhausting, but their story was picked up by the national news. Soon, oil companies and the military were donating equipment to help free Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone – the names given to the three whales. By creating a series of breathing holes, the rescue teams eventually led the whales to open water.   

When we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life, have you noticed how we often speak of “drowning”? We need “breathing holes.” If you don’t take regular time to come up for air you will starve your soul of oxygen and other people will notice that your lips are turning blue.  

A breathing hole is any way that you can find quiet and refresh your soul. Where you can pray, and ponder, and let God’s love wash over you to cleanse you and heal your wounds.   

Those who worked to make breathing holes for the gray whales noticed that the whales were bleeding. The ice on the sides of the hole was so jagged that the whales were cutting themselves when they tried to come up for air. The smallest whale, Bone, eventually tore all the flesh off his snout and died.   

Can I ask you something?  Is your “breathing hole” jagged around the edges?  I have seen people who go to worship or read books for a breath of fresh air, but come away bloodied with guilt. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, conviction of sin and rebuke are necessary. But remember this: the Good News of Jesus is always exactly that – GOOD news.   

Our first priority is to find breathing holes with smooth edges.  But, our second priority is to leave them.   

The rescuers made a series of breathing holes, but the whales didn’t want to move from the one they were at.    

Neither did Peter. Standing on a high mountain with James and John, he saw Jesus shine with a glory greater than the sun. This moment was so awesome, that Peter wanted to stay, and offered to build shelters up there on the peak.   

The shelters were never built. To love and serve a hurting world, they would have to go down the mountain.  

Breathing holes are not meant to escape from the hectic demands of life, but to re-enter the fray with a lungful of fresh air.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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