Archive for January, 2011


Story of the Day for Saturday January 15, 2011

Yankee Doodle

                If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but give praise to God that you bear that name.

1 Peter 4:16    

In 1755, Richard Schuckberg, a British army doctor, wrote a song mocking Americans. “Yankee” was a derisive term for Americans, and “doodle,” a derogatory word, meaning a “dolt” or “simpleton.”

The fashionable wig in the 1770s was called a “macaroni,” and the term became synonymous for high fashion. 

The sheet music to the song noted, “The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.” So, Shuckberg’s song began:

Yankee Doodle went to town,

Riding on a pony;

He stuck a feather in his hat,

And called it macaroni.

The first skirmish of the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. At Lexington, British General Hugh Percy’s fifers played “Yankee Doodle” to express their contempt for the backwards American militia.

Have you ever been treated with contempt because you’re a Christian? It doesn’t feel good, does it? Sometimes it hurts so much that you may conclude it’s just easier not to let others know of your loyalty to Christ.

But, do we really want to spend our days shrinking from mockery by slinking around with our tail between our legs? The Bible is encouraging us to take the opposite approach: to embrace our identity and praise God for the honor of bearing the name of Christ. The apostle Peter is not pontificating from an ivory tower – he has been flogged for the name of Jesus. He’s been imprisoned, and, ultimately, he was martyred for the Name.  But he reacted to his sufferings with joy.

The British were surrounded at Yorktown in 1781 and forced to surrender. In order to lay down their firearms in a meadow, the British soldiers marched down the Williamsburg Road, with Americans standing on one side, and their allies, the French, lining the other.

And then the song began. The French fife and drums began playing “Yankee Doodle” – to the utter delight of the American troops.

Yankee Doodle had been transformed from a mocking song of contempt to a joyful expression of national pride. It became our nation’s birthsong. And no American hangs his head to sing it.

Never hang your head for the name that you bear.

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

Story of the Day for Friday January 14, 2011

Brick by Brick

                By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; with knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Proverbs 24:3-4   

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in economics at Carnegie-Mellon, performed an experiment with fellow psychology professor, William C. Chase.

The experiment utilized chess players: one group consisted of novices, the second, of intermediate chess players, and the final group was composed of chess masters with international rankings.

Simon and Chase set up a partially played chess game, and each participant was given five seconds to look at the board. Then they were asked to re-position the pieces on a blank chessboard from what they recalled of their five second observation.

Who do you think did the best? You got it. With twenty pieces left on the board, the chess masters correctly recalled the piece and position of 81 percent of them. The novices only placed about a third of the chess pieces correctly.

So far, this experiment isn’t interesting, since anyone could predict the outcome. Their second experiment, however, was surprising. But, before we get to it, can I ask you something? Why do you think the chess masters did better than the novices?

The most obvious answer is that chess masters are brilliant people; no one can compete at the international level unless they have brains as big as cantaloupes. Another explanation is that chess masters have developed mental techniques for recalling the pieces.

These are good guesses – which is why the next experiment was so surprising. Chase and Simon set up the chess board again, and gave each participant five seconds to view it. This time, however, the pieces were randomly positioned by a computer. When each group tried to re-create the board from memory, the chess masters did slightly worse than the novices!  So much for big brains or memory techniques.

What enabled the chess masters to do so well in re-creating an actual chess game from memory was not brilliance, but experience.  By years of practice, they can “see” the game with exquisite insight. In five seconds, they can “see” it, “Ha! The King’s Gambit versus the Nimzovich Defense.” 

The Lord makes no connection between wisdom and brilliance. Spiritual wisdom is not based on intelligence, but humility. Through humility we accept God’s grace and love. And, through humility, we let God teach us the best way to live.

A chess master learns to “see” one game at a time. We build the house of wisdom brick by brick. But, over time, we will find the rooms filling up with rare and beautiful treasures.

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

Story of the Day for Thursday January 13, 2011

Three Dollars

                Whoever brings blessing to others will be blessed; the one who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:25    

A proud grandpa took his little granddaughter, Hannah, out trick-or-treating. The little girl had her bag of candy, but she had trouble mastering the concept. Instead, of holding out her bag at the door, she would reach into her bag and offer candy to the people at the door.

Hannah’s grandpa tried to train her. “No, sweetheart, you’re not supposed to offer people your candy; you’re supposed to take theirs.”

Grandpa taught her the right way to do it. He thinks. But he’s not so sure that little Hannah didn’t have it right.

Our view of giving has changed in recent times. The philosophers have weighed in with their expert opinions. If showing kindness to other people brings you happiness, some scholars maintain, then your act was really motivated by self-interest. Your generosity was not altruistic because of the personal benefit your derived from it. 

Deferring to the experts, many have accepted this enlightened understanding of our behavior. But, after years of calm reflection, I have come to the conclusion that these philosophers are full of baloney.

Let’s think about this. If a person’s giving is truly motivated by self-interest, one of two things will happen: either they won’t be generous, because they, selfishly, want to keep what they have for themselves, or they may grudgingly give, but it will bring them no pleasure to do so.

God desires that our giving to others should bring us deep joy.  He says he loves a cheerful giver. The happiness that comes from helping others is not selfishness. God himself, the Bible reminds us, delights in showing compassion.

Years ago, my wife and I had a hectic day. We asked a lot from our five-year-old son, Randy, but he was a trouper. As a reward, my wife gave him three dollars to buy some candy.

My wife took Randy to the church one evening. People could write prayer requests on a board, and then you would go into the church to pray for them. Randy was struck by a prayer request for Jason, a nine-year-old boy suffering from cancer. He asked mom if he could make a card. With some help with the spelling he wrote, “Dear Jason, I hope you are feeling better. Love, Randy.” He drew a picture and colored it with a green marker. And then he told his mom that he wanted to give his three dollars to Jason.

If you think my son’s joy in helping Jason was nothing more than a self-interested act because it brought him pleasure, you’re free to do so.  But I believe the Lord is serious when he says that those who bring blessing to others will themselves be blessed.

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

Story of the Day for Wednesday January 12, 2011

Convicted By a Cell Phone

                For you will be judged by the standard of judgment you use to judge others.

Matthew 7:2     

Ed McLaughlin was the general manager at KGO radio in San Francisco, when, in 1972, he was transferred to New York City. His friends in San Francisco warned Ed about New Yorkers. He was always a laid-back, easygoing sort of guy, but now, they told him, he would have to be less trusting and more alert to potential dangers.

Within the first week of moving to New York, Ed was dining at the Pierre Hotel, with his attaché case on the floor under the table. He looked up and spotted a man walking toward the door with the attaché case.

Ed jumped up and ran to the thief, grabbed him by the lapels and warned him, “If you put that attaché case down right now I won’t break your nose.” The man immediately put the case down and disappeared.

Later, when Ed returned to his hotel room, he opened his attaché case . . . and discovered it was not his!  McLaughlin phoned his friends in San Francisco, “Y’all sure were right about New Yorkers. I’ve been a New Yorker for less than one week and I’ve already mugged a guy!”

I’m glad Mr. McLaughlin has a sense of humor and can own up to doing the very thing he suspected others would do to him.

Admitting we’re guilty of the things we criticize in others is extremely difficult. We notice it in other people easily enough. Who complains about another person’s big ego more than the one who is a little full of himself?  Have you ever noticed that dishonest people do the most complaining about other people’s dishonesty? 

I was forced to admit my own inconsistency when I read a recent survey. Drivers were asked to list their top complaints of other drivers.

Know what the number one complaint was? It wasn’t tailgating, slow driving, or failing to use a turn signal. The number one complaint was drivers who talk on their cell phone while behind the wheel.

It certainly annoys me. 

But, here is the interesting part.  Most of the people who listed “talking on the cell phone while driving” as their number one complaint, admitted that they, too, use the cell phone when they drive.

For some reason, I dislike it when drivers talk on their cell phone, but I do it too.

Jesus prefers to show us mercy over judgment. That’s why he urges us to do the same. It keeps us from passing judgment on ourselves.

A little girl was watching her mom do the dishes at the kitchen sink. As she gazed at her mother’s long, dark hair she noticed that there were several strands of white hair.

“Mommy,” she asked, “why are some of your hairs white?”

Her mother sighed, then explained, “Well, every time you do something naughty and make me sad, one of my hairs turns white.”

The little girl was quiet for a moment. Then she asked, “Mommy, how come ALL of grandma’s hairs are white?”

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

Story of the Day for Tuesday January 11, 2011

Dead Reckoning 

                I will lead the blind along ways they don’t know; on a path which they don’t know about I will guide them.  

Isaiah 42:16   

My family appreciates my astonishing ability to lead them on wilderness hikes without the aid of hiking trails or maps. Without my innate powers of dead reckoning, there are countless box canyons that my wife and kids would never have had the opportunity to see and enjoy.  

The ability to navigate by dead reckoning is a useful talent, and I’m so glad I can share my gift with others. But, sometimes I get it into my head that the best way to follow the Lord is by my same sense of dead reckoning. I have this internal gyroscope that tells me the fastest way “up” is up. Jesus insists the fastest way “up” is down.  He says, “He who humbles himself will be exalted,” and tells me to sit at the foot of the table when I attend dinner parties.   

It’s all quite confusing. But, recently, driving to church has helped clear things up for me.  

One of my favorite places to be is a remote Montana community in the West Kootenai. I can’t describe where it is by telling you what it’s close to because it’s not close to anything. But they do have a church there where I worship.  

As the crow flies, it’s only 8 ½ miles from my home. But, if you try to get there by dead reckoning, you will thrash through mountain ranges and no one will ever hear from you again.  

If you take the road to the West Kootenai, it is 33 miles, and the directions you take make little sense. When Pinkham Creek Road meets the highway, you know that if you turn right and head north you will be only a few miles away. But, instead, you must turn left and drive south for several miles in the opposite direction.   

That’s the only way to reach the one bridge that crosses the Koocanusa.  

In Proverbs it says there’s a path that seems to us like the right way to go, but, in the end it leads to death. Common sense – confidence in our spiritual knack for dead reckoning – will lead us to a miserable place.  If you always insist on taking the path in life that makes the most sense, you’re on the wrong road.  

On several occasions, the Bible observes that intelligent, scholarly people are less likely to follow Jesus than others. Why is that? It’s not because they know something the rest of us don’t, but simply because they’re more prone to trusting in their intelligence rather than in the Lord.  

Isaiah compares the Lord’s guidance to the leading of a blind man. The blind cannot see how the path should go, so they simply trust that their Guide knows where he’s going.  It’s just as well the blind don’t do things my way; without vision they wouldn’t be able to appreciate the beauty of a box canyon anyway.  

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

Story of the Day for Monday January 10, 2011

One Missing Crescent Wrench 

                Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with each other? 

Malachi 2:10    

When I was young I picked up a couple of hitchhikers.  We were driving down a dark, lonely stretch of road when the guy next to me said he was going to kill me.  (Not to ruin the suspense or anything, but he didn’t.)  They did, however, promise to rob me, and they were faithful to their word.  They went through my glove compartment, found nothing memorable, and finally settled on stealing my crescent wrench lying on the passenger side floor.   

Whenever we break a promise or betray a trust, we are creating more than a single incident of disappointment for someone.  When someone puts their trust in us and we let them down, they now become less likely to trust others.   

Have you heard the old story of the Bedouin who was riding his camel through the desert?  He came upon a stranger who said he was stranded, and asked if he might be able to ride with him on the camel.  The kindly Bedouin was happy to help him out.  

They had not ridden long together before the stranger threw the Bedouin off the camel.  As the stranger fled on the camel, the Bedouin shouted after him, “I am not so much angry that you stole my camel, as that, from now on, it will be harder for me to help a stranger who is in need.”  

As a society, and even more so, as a body of believers, we live in community.  Healthy communities are founded on trust.  Loren Morse wrote to Reader’s Digest about his friend, David, who moved from the big city to rural Maine. David went to a store to rent a rototiller.  He was told the rental fee was not based on how many hours he had the tiller, but on how many hours he actually used it.   

David was confused, “How will you know how long I’ve used it?” 

Puzzled, the owner said, “You tell me.” 

Life is so much more refreshing when we’re are able to trust each other.   

Sadly, communities can break down.  Every lock you buy testifies to the insecurity we live in when we can no longer trust each other.   

We cannot control the climate of the community we live in.  But we can influence it.  Jesus said, after all, that we are the salt of the earth.  You don’t have to trust everyone, but you can become a person others can trust.  And even if we have failed to be trustworthy in the past, God’s mercy provides you a new day, and a new start.   

And, although I never do it with my wife and kids in the car, and though I don’t commend the practice to others, I still pick up hitchhikers.  Helping others get down the road has been well worth the price of one missing crescent wrench.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre


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Story of the Day for Saturday January 8, 2011

Joy In Our Suffering

                 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face any kind of trial, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

James 1:2-3 

When we suffer – and we cannot avoid suffering – there is one thing we need. Good guess, but no, it’s not an aspirin. 

Think of it this way: football is a violent game that involves intense pain.  Yet, with all the suffering involved, most players do not want to stand on the sidelines, where there is little suffering, they want to be on the field.  They love the game. 

Now, try this sometime (but don’t tell anyone I told you to do it).  Find a tough NFL football player, and wait until his day off when he is out walking his dog.  Run up behind him and tackle him.  When you smack him down to the sidewalk, the trick is to get up and run really, really fast.  If you can’t run fast, then tell your loved ones what kind of flowers you would like at your funeral. 

This football player is not going to take kindly to your flying tackle on the sidewalk.  But why not?  He takes harder hits than you can give every time he runs onto a football field.  The difference is that, when he is playing football, he clearly understands the purpose of his suffering. 

Suffering, in other words, is transformed by meaning.  It is not pain that distresses us, but our perception of the pain we are going through.

Now, if a football player can be so absorbed by a game that he doesn’t care about the pain, what if we could see all of life in a way that transforms our suffering? 

That is the message James is trying to show us.  Just as Super Bowl champions can be jubilant, even after their bodies have taken a severe battering, so we are invited by God to find joy in our suffering. 

Some day, the only thing of value we will possess is faith — faith that God would rather die than live without us.  Faith that God did send his Son to die rather than live without us.   Putting our faith to the test, through trials, makes us stronger.  It develops perseverance.   James continues his thought by saying, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

If you think that the trials of this life have no higher purpose, then you may want to keep that aspirin bottle close at hand.   But it won’t help much, will it?  What we all must learn is that faith is like a muscle.  When you lift weights your muscles will cry out in pain.  You will push them to work until they are completely exhausted.  But, two things will happen.  You will walk away from your exercise with a sense of satisfaction.  And, you will become stronger. 

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

Story of the Day for Friday January 7, 2011

An Exercise in Futility?

                When Jesus had again entered Capernaum, the people heard he was in a house.  And so many people gathered there that there was no room, even at the door.

Mark 2:1-2  

Does this experiment sound like an exercise in futility?   A heavy steel bar is suspended by a chain from a high ceiling.  Next to it, hanging on a silk thread, is a cork weighing only four grams. The experimenter pulls the cork back and lets it hit the heavy steel bar.  Guess what happens?  Okay, time’s up – nothing happens.

When we see the results of our actions, we can keep going.  But what happens when you keep trying and nothing happens?  When you keep praying and nothing happens? 

The experimenter I just mentioned was made of sterner stuff than most of us.  He pulled the cork back, let it swing and hit the steel bar.  Nothing happened.  He did it again.  Nothing.  He repeated this process for an hour.  And then he noticed that the steel bar appeared to be “vibrating.”  As he continued to rhythmically hit the steel bar with the cork, the steel bar eventually began to swing in the same pendulum motion as the cork.

If you attempt to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will find obstacles blocking your path.   The sensible thing to do, of course, is to quit.  But Peter Lowe, who has extensively studied people who are at the top of their profession says, “The most common trait I have found in all successful people is that they have conquered the temptation to give up.”  God calls us to persevere in our life with him.  Perseverance is a combination of patience, tenacity, and faith. 

I’m not saying that, if you persevere, you will always bask in the fulfillment of your dreams.  But I am saying that if you quit, you will certainly fail to fulfill your goals. 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the house where he stayed was packed.   A paralyzed man desperately wanted to get inside.   You couldn’t even get to the door.   So, what do you do now?  What else can you do?  You call it a day and go home. 

But those who are stubbornly determined do not give up so easily.  The Bible says that four men carried the paralyzed man up on the roof of the house.  Then they made a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down.

I think Jesus should have lectured them for destroying private property.  But Jesus seldom does what I think he should do.  Instead, Jesus “saw their faith” and rewarded the creative determination of these men.  He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”   Through outrageous perseverance, this man found spiritual healing from Jesus, and a moment later he would stand up, take his mat, and walk home.  

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

Story of the Day for Thursday January 6, 2011

Dancing and Pipe Organs

                From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.

                                                                                      Psalm 8:2

            How many senses do we have?  Five, right?  Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. 

          So why do we claim to have five senses?

          “Ahh . . .Marty? Hello?  Maybe because we have five senses?”

          Nope.  The reason we say we have five senses is because the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, told us we have five senses.  (And Aristotle, I might add, was smarter than you and me.)

          But Aristotle was wrong.  The fact is, we have more than five senses, and you are keenly aware of them.  We have a sense of balance.  We can sense when we are in an earthquake even if it’s dark and can’t see the ceiling lamp swaying.  We have a sense of hot and cold that has nothing to do with touching something hot or cold. Close your eyes and move your arm, and you can sense where your arm is in relation to the rest of your body.  Some neurologists claim we have as many as 21 different senses. 

          Ask anyone with a B.A. in Education and they will flood you with more information than you ever wanted to know on how individuals learn and express themselves through different senses.  

          If you scan the Scriptures with an eye (I’m a visual learner) for how believers worship, you may be startled at the variety of it all.  For some, aesthetics played a part in worship (and God directed that the tabernacle would include a sense of beauty and awe).  King David worshiped before the presence of God by dancing.  Psalm 47 calls us to clap our hands in praise.  For some body posture is used: they bow their heads, others kneel – still others raise their hands.  Sometimes they sing.  Sometimes they weep.  Sometimes they use instruments, such as trumpets and cymbals and drums and pipe organs (okay, I couldn’t locate the exact passage where they used pipe organs).  Sometimes they use rituals and religious symbolism.  Sometimes they don’t. 

          So, how do you commune with God?  How do you worship him?  The Eastern Orthodox, like the Old Testament priests, use incense, to incorporate their sense of smell in worship.  Like David, who danced before the Ark of the Covenant, some Christians use liturgical dance.  Experts on J.S. Bach claim he worshiped by composing coded patterns to his instrumental music.  For some, worship is solely cognitive.  For others, it involves the emotions. 

          When the children were shouting praise to Jesus in the temple, the chief priests and scribes were indignant.  But Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”  He was quoting from Psalm 8.

          How do infants praise God?  I have no idea.  But I do know this: it is not displeasing to God simply because it is different from how I praise him.    

          Worship is wrong when we “honor God with our lips but our hearts are far from him.” But worship is not wrong because you employ senses that I do not.


Story of the Day for Wednesday January 5, 2011

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over 

               I want you to know, brothers, that those things that happened against me have advanced the good news. .  

Philippians 1:12    


In his book, The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose tells the story of a bombing raid during World War II. George McGovern was flying the Dakota Queen over Amstetten, Austria. McGovern’s bombardier, Cooper, tried to drop the bombs, but they got stuck. Cooper worked to free the bombs, but by the time they fell, they had flown over the river and missed their target. When the men returned to base, they were told at the debriefing that their bombs had dropped on an allied prisoner of war camp.  

McGovern and Cooper were devastated.  

Life doesn’t work out the way we want it to. The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most difficult prayers to pray because we plead with our heavenly Father that His will would be done – when what we really want is for life to turn out the way we want it to. 

Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen to us? Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen through us?   

Good question.  

Steve Brown was invited to speak at a missions conference for young people. Just before he spoke, the leader told him there were a lot of kids who weren’t Christians, and asked if he could present the gospel to them.  

Without time to prepare, Steve presented God’s plan of salvation. No response. In his book, If Jesus Has Come, Steve says he left the auditorium that night in shame.  

Steve tried to reassure himself that these things happen. No big deal. But it was a big deal. Every time he heard the name of the town where he had botched his presentation, he winced.  

Five years later, a young man approached him. “Mr. Brown, you don’t know me, but a few years ago I was at a missions conference where you spoke.” Steve groaned inwardly. “The night you spoke I received Christ, and now I’m a student in seminary and I’m going to be a pastor, and I just wanted to thank you.” He told Steve he had a recording of his presentation and shares it with others. “I can’t tell you how God has used your words.”  

Paul was thrown into prison, but wrote that God was even using his incarceration to advance the gospel. Even when things don’t work the way we’d like them to, God is still at work. 

And, before I forget, after Cooper had botched the bombing run, he was haunted by the memory of it. After the war he enrolled at Texas A&M and met an Army Air Forces officer. It turned out the man was a POW at the camp that Cooper accidentally bombed. The former prisoner explained that one of the bombs hit the fence, and in the confusion, several of the Americans managed to escape to freedom.  


Story of the Day for Tuesday January 4, 2011

The Real Goal:  To Reach the Bottom

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

Luke 9:37   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

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

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

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

 Story of the Day for Monday January 3, 2011

Close Every Gate Through Which You Pass 

              “I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sins no more.” 

Jeremiah 31:34   

A London journalist had the special opportunity to go for a walk with the former prime minister of Great Britain, Mr. David Lloyd George.  As they walked through fields where cattle were grazing, the journalist became so eager to record every word of Mr. Lloyd George that he left a gate open.  When Mr. Lloyd George noticed it, he walked back and closed the gate.   

As they continued their walk, Mr. Lloyd George reminisced about an old doctor who passed away.  “When he lay dying,” he said, “he called his sons and daughters to his bedside and urged them, as they went through life, to close every gate through which they passed.”  Mr. Lloyd George told the journalist that he benefitted greatly from that advice.  

Just as the cattle in the field had no business straying through the gate into another field, so there are things in our past which should not wander with us into the next field.  We need to shut the gate behind us.   

We have all gone through many painful times.  But we can continue to carry the guilt, the regret, the trauma, and the loss with us.  The past, however, is gone, and we need to move on.   

Are you closing the gates behind you?  If not, the Lord wants to speak to you.  Do you know what the Almighty God sees when he looks upon your past?  Nothing.  He erased it.  “I will remember their sins no more.”   

God doesn’t care where you’ve been; he cares about where you are now, and where you’re going.   

Shutting the gate behind us means we can enter each field and make a new start.  That’s what “Easy Eddie” Eddie did.  He was a lawyer who worked for Al Capone.  Through this, and other mob activities, he became a wealthy man.   

But “Easy Eddie” had a son, “Butch,” who wanted to enroll in the Naval Academy.  It was time to come clean for the sake of his son.  “Easy Eddie” informed to Frank Wilson, a federal investigator, and helped send Capone to Alcatraz.  “Easy Eddie” was later gunned down in west Chicago.  

His son, Butch, became a flyboy and the first aviator to be awarded the Medal of Honor.   

You remember Butch O’Hare because the busiest airport in America has been named after him.  But you should also remember that he became what he did because his dad decided to close the gate behind him, and start a new day. 

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




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


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

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Dec. 27-Jan.1 Stories


Story of the Day for New Year’s Day January 1, 2011

His Grace Will Tune Us Up 

                 God’s grace teaches us to renounce godlessness and worldly desires, and to live wisely, justly, and godly in this present time.  

Titus 2:11-12      

I like New Year’s Day, for the obvious reason that there’s a lot of football games on TV. But, in a deeper sense, a new year is refreshing because it’s the closest that Time comes to picturing the grace of God.  

When we begin a new year, the slate is wiped clean.   

And what happens when we put the past behind us? Inevitably, we look forward. We’re optimistic, and make resolutions to lose weight or to clean the broom closet. When we don’t have to lug last year into the future, we feel light and cheery. We don’t want to be slugs (for more than a day). We want to live.   

Some think that, when Jesus forgives your sins, it makes you want to sin more. If you assure a criminal, for example, that, if he robs a bank, he will be immune from prosecution, wouldn’t that motivate him to rob more banks?   

It would seem so. But let me ask you this: does the arrival of a New Year make you want to fail in your new resolution to lose fifteen pounds by summer? No, whenever we put the past behind us, we’re fired up to do better.  

When I was an adolescent, we visited my grandma in Upper Michigan. I sat down at the piano, and, not knowing how to play, sounded awful. 

Then my sister, Lois, who was a child prodigy at piano, sat down to play. Not to brag or anything, but she has gone on to play piano for the Detroit Metropolitan Opera. A vocalist demanded that she be flown to London as her accompanist. She has even performed at Carnegie Hall.  

From memory, my sister played an intricate piano piece. And you know what? It sounded awful too!  If Beethoven played this piano it would have hurt your ears, because grandma’s piano hadn’t been tuned since sometime before the French Revolution.   

In the end, the New Year can evoke God’s grace, but cannot replace it. If we resolve to play a better song with our lives this coming year, but our piano is still out of tune, then we’ll produce nothing of beauty.  

That’s why we need to confide in the Lord and to confess that our life is out of tune. His grace will tune us up.    

I can hardly wait to start hammering away at “Chopsticks.”  

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

Story of the Day for Friday December 31, 2010 

“Get Back on that Pony and Ride” 

                 Consider it a sheer joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter different kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 

James 1:2-3   

In the spring of 1987, while turkey-hunting near Sacramento, California, Pat accidentally shot his brother-in-law Greg. The blast from the 12 gauge shotgun sent 60 pellets into Greg’s body. His right lung collapsed, and he lost 65 percent of his blood by the time he reached the hospital.  

Greg survived, but, to this day, 40 shotgun pellets remain in his body – five in his liver, five in his heart.  

Just nine months earlier, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France. Now, his career was over.  

Or was it? Determined to ride again, Greg got back on his cycle and started riding. To resume his career, he needed a cycling team that would take him. No American team was interested, so Greg’s father flew to Europe to negotiate with the cycling team’s there.  

A European team, cautiously, agreed to take Greg on.  And, then, of all things, LeMond was crippled in pain and needed intestinal surgery to repair damage from the shooting accident. Before the surgery, Greg instructed the surgeon to remove his appendix. Afterward, he assured the cycling team that the surgery was an appendectomy. “I didn’t tell them a lie,” LeMond later said in an interview “but I didn’t tell them the absolute truth.”  

The final leg of the Tour de France is a fifteen mile time trial. In 1989, Laurent Fignon of France has a commanding 50-second lead going into the final sprint to the finish, and he is the fastest time trial racer in the world.  

His nearest competitor won’t even look at Fignon’s split times. He tells his own coaches he doesn’t want to know his own splits. He simply digs deep and delivers a dazzling performance – the fastest speed in the history of the Tour de France.  

Fignon lost the Tour de France. A young American with 40 shotgun pellets in his body, ended up with the yellow jersey. 

After the shooting accident, would anyone blame Greg LeMond if he gave up competitive racing? Who believed that LeMond could ever race again – let alone regain the title as the world’s greatest cyclist?   

Has adversity knocked the wind out of you? Know what you need? You need the patient, healing care of the Surgeon. But, once you stagger to your feet, you need to know that God never intended obstacles to stop you; they’re there to strengthen your resolve. Trials are meant to fuel our fire; to ignite the passion to give our all for God.   

Yes, it hurts to get bucked off your horse. But shake it off. Dust off your jeans and, as Chris LeDeux sings, “get back on that pony and ride.” 

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

Story of the Day for Thursday December 30, 2010 

Love ‘Til You’ve Loved It Away 

                 You have swept them away in the sleep of death; they are like new grass that springs up in the morning – though in the morning it springs up fresh, by evening it’s dry and withered. 

Psalm 90:5-6      

A study revealed that most people don’t see themselves as “living” so much as waiting to live. They’re waiting until graduation, waiting until they get married. They’re waiting until they get the big promotion, waiting until they can retire. And then, they imagine, they can really start living. . . until they must wait in a nursing home to die.   

This psalm helps us see the brevity of our life in this world. It speaks of our lives as grass – which springs up in the morning, and is dry and withered by evening.  

Is this a depressing thought? Well, it shouldn’t be. Instead, it should remind us that we don’t have a moment to waste living without the compassion of God. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”   

When we have learned to number our days, we will have learned to fill each day with meaning because it is filled with the unfailing love of God.  

One December, a university professor was invited to speak at a military base. A soldier met the professor at the airport. 

As they walked down the concourse to the baggage claim, the soldier kept meandering off: once to help an elderly woman with her suitcase, then to lift two toddlers up so they could see Santa Claus, and once again to help a person with directions.  

“Where did you learn that?” the professor asked. 


“Where did you learn to live like that?” 

“Oh,” the soldier said, “during the war, I guess.” He told the professor that his duty in Vietnam was to clear minefields. It was a dangerous job, and he watched as, one after another, his buddies were blown up by exploding mines.  

He never knew whether his next step would be his last. “I learned,” he said, “to live between steps.”  

Bob Franke wrote a song, “Thanksgiving Eve,” which echoes the meaning of Psalm 90. The chorus is:  

What can you do with your days but work and hope 

Let your dreams bind your work to your play 

What can you do with each moment of your life 

But love til you’ve loved it away 

Love til you’ve loved it away.

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

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 29, 2010 
Two Swords Among Them


                 So on the day of battle none of the people, except Saul and Jonathan, had a sword or spear in his hand.

1 Samuel 13:22  

Adolf Hitler was furious.

As the Third Reich trampled over the nations of Europe, Hitler offered Great Britain terms of peace, in exchange for surrender. When they refused to capitulate, Hitler ordered his military commanders to prepare for the invasion of England. In a top-secret letter, Hitler wrote, “Since England, despite its militarily hopeless situation, still has not shown any signs of being prepared to negotiate, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England.”

Hitler was almost right about England’s “hopeless situation.” How, exactly, did the British intend to defend their homeland against the juggernaut of the German army? In those early days, when the Nazis prepared to pound the Brits into submission, English citizens stood on the eastern coast, armed only with hunting rifles, pitchforks, and, in some cases, golf clubs.

The Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel, had developed a super-weapon: iron. The Philistines guarded their new technology so tightly that the Bible says there wasn’t a single blacksmith in all of Israel. “Otherwise,” the Philistines reasoned, “the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” 

When the Philistines prepared to march into Israel, they were armed – not only with swords and spears, but with 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen, and foot soldiers “like the sand on the seashore.”  The Israelites managed to cobble together a militia of 600 men – with two swords among them.

So, what do you do when your days seem so dark and your situation hopeless?  Many simply cave in to depression and despair. They give up.

But the Lord reminds us that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”  When times seem bleak, we place our lives in God’s hands, suck up our courage, and refuse to give in to fear.

During the war, Winston Churchill spoke to the students at Harrow School. He recalled the Battle of Britain, and how “we were quite alone, desperately alone . . .” And then he reminded them that “We were poorly armed.”

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go,” Churchill told them. “But for everyone, surely . . . this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in . . .”

German bombers pulverized the city of London, but the British refused to surrender, and, in the end, the plucky Englishmen hung their pitchforks back in their sheds and slammed their nine irons back into their golf bags.

The Philistine army was routed, and that small band of unsophisticated Hebrews stood victorious on the field of battle.

Do you believe that, in seemingly hopeless situations, the Lord is still at work? Then never give up. Never, never, never, never. 

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

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 28, 2010 


A Higher Calling Than Ourselves

                Then Moses called for Joshua and said to him before all Israel, “Be strong and full of courage.”

Deuteronomy 31:6  

During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, he regularly attended New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and became well-acquainted with the pastor, Dr. Phineas Gurley. Pastor Gurley was an articulate and popular preacher. 

After a midweek service, an aide asked the president his opinion of pastor Gurley’s sermon.  Lincoln praised the careful preparation and the eloquence of the message.

“Then you thought it was a great sermon?” the aide asked.

“No,” Lincoln replied, “because he did not ask us to do something great.”

Spiritual leaders often struggle with this.  Wouldn’t we attract more followers if we ease up on the requirements?   Oddly enough, the opposite is true.  George Orwell had it right when he said, “High sentiments always win in the end.  The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time.  What it all comes down to is that human beings are heroic.” 

When we no longer have a heroic purpose in life, we will seek a life of ease, safety, and comfort.  But we will not be content. 

When Moses knew the end of his days were near, he passed on the leadership to Joshua.  He called upon him to lead the people with strength and courage. 

A century ago, one man demonstrated this deep longing we have to do something courageous.  An arctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton ran a London newspaper ad that has now been called one of the greatest advertisements ever written: “Men wanted for hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.”

Who would respond to an ad like that?  Shackleton was so overwhelmed with offers to join him that he had to turn away over 5000 requests.  Shackleton’s response was, “It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany us.”

There was a day in America when professing your Christian faith brought admiration.  It was socially acceptable to go to church.  It was safe.  John Maxwell once quoted an Anglican bishop, who wryly asked, “I wonder why it is that everywhere the apostle Paul went they had a revolution, and everywhere I go they serve a cup of tea?” 

Those days when our faith is considered socially acceptable are quickly drawing to a close.   Today we are being called to a life of courage.   We seldom hear the old adage anymore, but we need it now more than ever: “If you don’t have anything in your life worth dying for, you don’t have anything worth living for.”   For years evangelists have sought to attract others to Christ by promising prosperity, comfort, good health, and safety.   We can no longer live as pampered, self-centered Christians.   We need to call each other to a higher calling than ourselves.  We need to appeal to the heroic.  Ernest Shackleton had it right. 


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

Story of the Day for Monday December 27, 2010 

“Shake Away, Knees!”



                            I came to you in weakness and in fear and in a lot of trembling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Corinthians 2:3   


            We tend to think of courage as the absence of fear.   Those who face danger without fear are not courageous, but stupid. 

          An old man once took some young men fishing on one of the Great Lakes.  The old man kept looking off to the west and frowning.  After a while he told them that he was going to head the boat back because a storm was heading their way. 

          One young man said, “We don’t need to go back now.  We’re not afraid.”

          The old man shot back, “You’re too ignorant to be afraid.” 


          The apostle Paul was a man of great courage.  Despite much opposition and persecution, he was undaunted in his mission.  He had the dubious habit of speaking about Jesus and starting riots, and getting into a lot of trouble. 

          Paul was bold, but not fearless.  Although he was called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in many places, he appears to be a good debater, but not an exceptional speaker.  He mentions his lack of eloquence, and admits he came to the people in the city of Corinth with “fear and a lot of trembling.” 


          We don’t think of people who are shaking in fear as courageous, do we?  One of Napoleon’s commanders, Marshall Ney, would tremble so violently before battle that he had trouble mounting a horse. Yet, Napoleon repeatedly referred to Ney as the bravest man he ever knew.  Ney was scared, but he never let that stop him.  Once, before battle, he shouted, “Shake away, knees!  You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you.” 


          Maria Schell was a German actress who began her career with stage fright. When she was seventeen, “I came to the theater on the eve of the opening,” she recalled, “and I saw my name being posted in big letters.”

          Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with a sinking feeling, as she realized she was expected to be, in her words, “very, very good.” Maria felt paralyzed.

          On opening night she told her mother she had a fever and wanted to stay home in bed. Her mother would have nothing of it. Maria said she never forgot her mother’s counsel: “If you cannot be good, then you must have the courage to be bad.”


          The Lord did not call Paul to be an eloquent speaker; he called him to be faithful – to boldly speak about Jesus – even he if wasn’t good.  Sometimes, we have to do the right thing, even if we’re not very good at it.

          Courage is not about eliminating your fears.  It’s about pressing on when your knees shake.  Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War II flying ace said it well, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”


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


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Story of the Day for Christmas Day December 25, 2010 

climbinghigher.org wishes each and every one of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

For the Story of the Day…in fact the Story of all Days for all Ages please read
Luke 2:1-20!  Here is the true story of God becoming Man to live with us.  He is Emmanuel–God with us–for all time and all eternity.  Born to be our suffering King, born to die, and rise again.  All hail the power of Jesus, our infant King.  Merry Christmas!


Story of the Day for Friday December 24, 2010

Wear Sweat On Your Brow 

                Do good and don’t get discouraged, for at the proper time we’ll have a harvest – if we don’t give up. 

Galatians 6:9    

Michael J. Pellowski, in his book, Not-So-Great Moments in Sports, tells the story about golf pro, Ray Floyd, who was trying to qualify for the Tournament Players Championship in March,1982. After shooting a couple mediocre rounds, he admitted defeat, packed his bags and left Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for his home in Miami.  

As he was weeding his garden the next morning, his wife rushed out at 11:30 to tell him his score was good enough to qualify for the tournament.  His scheduled tee time was 12:36!  Floyd grabbed his gear, reserved a Lear jet, and raced to the airport.  The jet landed at an airport 15 minutes from the course, where Floyd had reserved a helicopter to fly him to the tournament course.  He landed, jumped into a golf cart and made it to his tee thirty seconds before disqualification.  A couple quick practice swings and last year’s defending champion was in the tournament.  

Our story, however, does not end there. Later, that same year, Floyd played in the LaJet Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas.  His second round was dismal, so he knew he missed the cut and would be ineligible to play the final two rounds.  So he flew home to Miami.   

Yes!  Ray Floyd did it again.  High winds that day hurt the other golfers as well, and Floyd qualified for the tournament.  This time, he made no attempt to fly back to Texas in time for his scheduled tee off.   

The New York Times reported his response, “Well, I did it again, didn’t I?”  If Floyd had not given up, he would almost certainly have won the money winning title for the year.  Floyd ruefully observed, “I guess I’ll never learn.”  

Why do we give up?  We throw in the towel – not because we don’t believe in what we’re doing, but because we don’t believe it will succeed.  We don’t believe it will work.  We don’t believe it will make a difference.   

But the Bible encourages us to never give up. Wait, and the harvest will come. 

During the Vietnam War, the billionaire Ross Perot decided to buy a Christmas present for every American prisoner of war.  Perot took thousands of packages, chartered a fleet of Boeing 707s, and flew them to Hanoi.  The Hanoi government, however, said they would not provide charity to prisoners while American bombers were destroying villages.  Perot offered to send construction companies to rebuild the villages.  Still they refused.  As Christmas drew closer, Perot took off with his chartered fleet, and flew to Moscow.  His aides mailed the packages, one at a time.  Stamped by the Moscow post office, every package got delivered.  

Life doesn’t always plop blessings onto our laps. Sometimes God invites us to know the joy of moving mountains by refusing to give up.  

Those who live by faith wear sweat on their brow.

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

Story of the Day for Thursday December 23, 2010

Joseph’s Silence Speaks Volumes 

                And Joseph got up from his dream and did what the angel of the Lord told him. 

Matthew 1:24   

When we read the Christmas story and hear about Mary and Joseph, does it come as a surprise to you that, in the Bible, Joseph never speaks a single word?   

Why does this seem so odd?  Maybe it’s because Joseph “speaks” so powerfully by his life.   

After Joseph was engaged to Mary, he discovers she is pregnant.  At this time, he doesn’t know what’s going on.  But he does know that Mary isn’t pregnant because of him.   

In the Old Testament, if a woman is betrothed and another man sleeps with her, both are to be executed.  Not only that, but in the culture of the day, Joseph is expected to stand up and defend his innocence by publicly denouncing Mary.   

But Joseph didn’t do this.  Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly.  Engagements could only be legally dissolved by divorce, but he could do so without making a big stink about it.   

Do you see what Joseph’s plan meant?  Mary, he thought, had been unfaithful to him.  As heartbreaking as this was, Joseph didn’t plan to retaliate by harming her.  But think about it: if he divorced Mary quietly, who would everyone assume got her pregnant?  Joseph!  Yet, Joseph was willing to bear the public shame in order to protect Mary.  And, not only that, by divorcing her quietly, he also loses the dowry he paid for her. 

Joseph had no idea Mary was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit.  Only later, in a dream, does the angel of the Lord tell Joseph what is happening and that he must take Mary as his wife.  And he does.   

In the 19th century, one of the most well-known preachers in America was Charles Spurgeon.  On the side, Spurgeon and his wife raised chickens and sold the eggs.  Some of Spurgeon’s close friends and relatives expected a discount on the price of his eggs.  Spurgeon refused. He insisted that everyone pay the full price.   

Needless to say, Spurgeon earned a reputation for being a cheapskate.  It wasn’t until after Spurgeon’s wife  died that the public learned all of the money the Spurgeons raised from the sale of his eggs went to support two poor widows. 

Charles Spurgeon was willing to let gossips attack his character rather than reveal the true motive for his egg prices.  Joseph was willing to bear dishonor and humiliation rather than to expose Mary to public disgrace.  

Are you willing to do the same?  

Joseph’s displayed a higher kind of righteousness; he showed mercy.  And, in the years to come, Joseph’s son would proclaim that God longs – not to give us what we deserve, but to show us mercy.  And Jesus would invite us to both accept and adopt this higher law.   

That is why Joseph speaks so clearly without saying a word.  

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

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 22, 2010

The Compassion of Christ’s Heart

                 The Lord is good to all; he has mercy on all he has made.

                                                                                                      Psalm 145:9  

            This past year, one of Ireland’s greatest authors, Christopher Nolan, died at the age of 43. Throughout his life he was showered with awards, including: the Honorary Doctor of Letters in the UK, the medal of excellence form the United Nations Society of Writers, and the Person of the Year award in Ireland. 

          I want to contrast this writing genius with another Irishman who died last year. He went to the same school as the members of the rock band, U2. The band wrote a song, “Miracle Drug,” about this classmate who was born a paraplegic. Doctors gave him a drug which allowed him to control one muscle in his neck. They attached a pointer on his forehead. And then his mother, Bernadette, would patiently hold his head in her cupped hands while her paralyzed son would painstakingly attempt to point to a letter of the alphabet. At his normal rate of about 15 minutes to point to one letter, it would take him about 24 hours to write this sentence. 

          Who is more precious in the eyes of God: an author of dazzling genius or an invalid who takes 2 ½ hours to describe his condition – paraplegic?  Sometimes we tend to determine a person’s worth by how much they contribute to society; how much they give to us.  But what about those who have nothing to give us?  Have you considered how much we gain by what we give to them?  I am humbled by the patience and love that this mother could bring to her paralyzed son. This paralyzed young man inspired Bono to sing his life into our hearts as well. 

          And, you may be interested to know that Ireland’s heralded author, Christopher Nolan, and the paraplegic child are the same person. 

          George Gallup Jr. and Timothy Jones wrote a book, The Saints Among Us.  They looked at religious commitment among Americans and isolated those factors that indicated happiness in a person’s life.   The results were surprising.  The happiness people in America tended to be poor, and a member of a racial minority.  But they also discovered that families with a severely handicapped child tended to be happier than those families lacking such a special child to love and care for. 

          We can see clearly in the gospels that Jesus loves all people.  Yet, how his heart gravitated to the needy!  He showed special care for the very people who were shunted off to the edges of society. 

          Christopher Nolan has given a great gift to the world; but his gift is more than the genius of his writings.  His gift is being there, that the healthy may learn to care for the weak, and that all may learn the compassion of Christ’s heart for us.

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

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 21, 2010

When It Doesn’t Add Up 

                You rescue the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.  

2 Samuel 22:28     

Are you pretty good at adding numbers in your head? Without using a pencil or calculator, can you add these numbers and tell me the sum?  









That didn’t take much time, did it?  It was a simple problem, but, unfortunately, your answer is wrong. Do you want to try adding the numbers again?  

Now, obviously, I don’t know that you got the wrong answer. But I do know that if your answer was “5000,” it’s wrong.  And I also know that 95% of those who try this test give “5000” as their answer.  

Those who admit they’re not good at addition are more likely to come up with the correct answer. Do you know why?  

When I tell you your answer is wrong and invite you to try again, those who are humble are more likely to try it a second time, and discover their first answer was incorrect.  

Those who take pride in their ability to add numbers in their head, however, are annoyed that I told them they got the wrong answer. When I ask them to try adding the numbers a second time, they are more likely to decline my gracious invitation.  

Joel Barker, in his book, Paradigms, spoke in Deerborn, Michigan, with a leadership group of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He asked the group how good they were at adding and subtracting. They thought that was funny.  

Then he gave them the addition problem I just gave you.  After showing it on an overhead projector, he covered the problem up. When he asked them for the correct answer, they all shouted “5000!”  

He asked them how sure they were of their answer and asked those who were confident they had the correct answer to raise their hand. All 280 of them raised their hand.  

When we become overconfident in our standing before God, we also become slower to see our sin. The quicker you are to admit you’re wrong, the quicker you will find what the Lord wants to give us – his mercy, wisdom, and comfort.  

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

Story of the Day for Monday December 20, 2010

The Rise to Freedom

                “Because of His great love for us, God, who is wealthy in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.  You have been saved by grace.”

                                                               Ephesians 2:4-5

All humanity shares a universal impulse.  We know that we have not acted right.  We know that we are not in harmony with God.  And we all have this instinctive, innate sense that, if we want to find God’s favor, we had better get our act together and behave in a way that calms his displeasure.

We all have this impulse.  And we are all dead wrong.

Now, some of you have already raced ahead of me, and you are vigorously denying that you share this view of God.  Yeah, well, hope you’re right.  But my point is that you did not come to your present view of God by following your natural impulses.  The Bible explains that God’s existence is known naturally.   That this Creator has given us a moral code to live by is also known innately.  We just know it. And, even secular anthropologists will tell you that every society ever studied has known this moral code – but, more than that they know that they are guilty of breaking it. 

All of this we know, whether we are Christians or not.  Yes, a few will try to suppress these truths and even deny God’s existence.  But even atheists act as if there is a Lawgiver who has given us a code of conduct.  (If you don’t believe this, find an atheist and steal his car and see how he reacts!) 

But here’s the point: the one thing we cannot know about God intuitively is whether He loves us or not.  That is why the major religions have virtually no mention of God’s love.  (You don’t believe me?  Find a copy of the Koran, then, and show me a passage that speaks of Allah loving you.)

The most astounding thing about God is learned only in the Bible.  The Bible shows us a God who is holy, just, and infinite in power.  But he is also overflowing in mercy. 

Over a century ago, a traveling evangelist was helping the workmen take down the big tent after a series of meetings.  A young man rushed up to the evangelist and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  The evangelist said, “You’re too late,” and kept on working.  The young man protested, “Don’t say that!” and told the evangelist he needed to get right with God.  He would do anything to obtain salvation. 

The evangelist replied, “Well, you’re too late to do anything to obtain salvation because it has already been done two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ.”  He went on to explain that we can do nothing to earn salvation.  It is free to all who will receive it.

The wonder of life is that God does not accept us because we have reached a certain level of good behavior.   The fact is, we can never be good enough to earn any good gift from God.  But we don’t have to.  It’s a gift.

Reader’s Digest printed the story of three-year-old Ryan Hayes, who reported that a little duckling had fallen in a posthole.  After several unsuccessful attempts to rescue it, Ryan’s dad tried to break the news that the duck might not make it.

Ryan was not ready to give up.  He asked, “Dad, why don’t we float him out?”

They gently began to fill the hole with water, and to their great delight, the duckling simply floated to the top and waddled off unharmed. 

God’s mercy is like that for you.  After all our efforts to make ourselves righteous have failed, we let God’s mercy raise us up to freedom. 

“You have been saved by grace.”

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




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Story of the Day for Saturday December 18, 2010
Is it Possible to Hit a Baseball?



Solid food is for the mature, who, by practice, have trained their senses to discern what is good and what is bad.

Hebrews 5:14



Based on everything I have read, it is impossible to hit a baseball.

George Will, in his book, Men at Work, helps us work our way through the mathematics.  A 90-mile-per-hour fastball leaves the pitcher’s hand 55 feet from the plate and will cross the plate in four tenths of a second.  A change-up will loiter along and reach the plate .052 seconds longer than the fastball.

The batter must decide whether or not to swing at the pitch.  Once he commits to swing, he has two tenths of a second to make his body do it.  The ball is capable of being struck for only fifteen thousandths of a second before it passes the batter and smacks into the catcher’s mitt.

Fifteen thousandths of a second, did I mention that?


So, let’s review: a batter must locate the ball as it flies toward the plate.  He must decide if it is a ball or strike.  He must determine if it is a fastball, curveball, or change-up.  Then he must decide whether to swing.  When he does his bat can only make contact with the ball for a time span of fifteen thousandths of a second.


Well, if you ask me, that’s impossible.

How can anyone think that fast?  George Will says they can’t.  He says, “they must, through regular discipline and repetition, teach their muscles to react to hit the ball.”


The Bible uses an athlete’s training to picture the life of spiritual maturity.  In the book of Hebrews, it says that those who are mature eat solid food.  The food is God’s grace and his teaching about how we life the New Life.

When the Bible talks about mature believers going into “training,” it uses the Greek word, gymnazo – from which we get our English words, “gymnastics,” and “gymnasium.”  In other words, as athletes go through rigorous discipline to train their bodies, so we are eager to go through practice and training to strengthen our maturity in Christ.

A batter in a baseball game must learn “muscle memory.”  He practices his swing so repeatedly that he has trained his muscles to think.  His swing is instinctive.


When we begin to pray, to forgive, to love our enemies, to trust in God’s promises, we feel clumsy. We feel like a couch potato on his maiden voyage into the gym.

But, keep in mind: baseball players practice hard, but still don’t hit every pitch.  Same with us.  Sometimes we swing at the curveball that is high and outside.  But the more we train, we more we begin to see the difference between what is good and what is not.  And we know when to swing for the cheap seats.




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




Story of the Day for Friday December 17, 2010

Who’s Pulling the Weight?


“Come to me — all of you who are worn out and heavily burdened – and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits well and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30



If I put a yoke on your shoulders, haven’t I just made your burden heavier? And yet, Jesus claims that when you put his yoke on your shoulders, the weight will be lighter?

How can that be?


Tim Cahill, in his book, Pecked to Death by Ducks, may have stumbled onto the meaning of Jesus’ saying while at the horse track.

Cahill, a founder of Outside magazine, wanders around the world looking for adventure. A few years ago, his travels led him to chariot racing.

How do you train a horse to pull a chariot? Cahill says the trainers yoke up the big, experienced horses to the young, skittish colts. When the race chute snaps open, the older horse will open at a gallop, and the young colt, harnessed beside him, will quickly learn to do the same.


In Jesus’ day, oxen learned to pull in the same way. A young ox was yoked together with an older, well-trained ox. When the master called out instructions, the experienced ox would go or stop, turn left or right, according to command.  The younger ox wasn’t pulling the weight. He was just along for the ride.


An old man was trudging down the road with a heavy sack over his shoulder. A pickup pulled over and offered him a ride into town. The cab was full, but he told the man he could hop in the back.

As they drove along, the driver looked in his rearview mirror and noticed the old man was sitting in the back of the truck, but still holding the heavy sack over his shoulder.

The man pulled off the side of the road, got out, and said, “Hey, you silly guy! My truck is already carrying the full weight of your sack. Lay it down. There’s no need for you to be carrying the weight as well.


When we try to carry our own load through life, we will find ourselves exhausted, and sooner or later, we will buckle under the weight.

Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves together with him. This yoke will not weigh us down because he is the one who will be pulling the weight.


But we’re also learning. Jesus says that, yoked beside him, we, too, will learn to be sensitive and responsive to the will of the Master.

And we will find rest for our souls.



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


Story of the Day for Thursday December 16, 2010

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories


On the tree, Jesus himself bore our sins in his body . . . by his wounds you’ve been healed. .

1 Peter 2:24



Albert Schweitzer’s two volume masterpiece on the life of J.S. Bach has pride of place on my living room bookshelf. But I do not admire him most as an author.

Schweitzer was a performing musician – packing concert halls throughout the world with his organ recitals. But I don’t admire him primarily as a musician.

At the height of his fame, Schweitzer left the cathedrals and concert halls to study theology. Even though he became world-renowned as a brilliant theologian, I don’t admire him most as a theologian.

When the academic world stood in awe of his theological insights, he resigned his professorship at the university to study medicine.


He went to med school, and, as soon as he was certified as a medical doctor, he got lost in the jungles of equatorial Africa and built a makeshift hospital to serve the poorest of the poor.

Albert Schweitzer’s interpretation of Bach helped me understand the majesty of God. His theology, unfortunately, didn’t help me understand much – other than to expose the tired dogmatisms of some of his contemporaries. But, I admire Schweitzer most for helping me to see that God would sacrifice himself to make me well again.


Schweitzer treated many diseases among the African natives, but he had no medicine to treat yellow fever. Then he heard that Professor Ernest Bueding had come from the U.S. to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Along with fellow researchers, Bueding was experimenting with a vaccine for yellow fever.

One day, the Institute got a telephone call, inquiring about the vaccine. They informed him that the vaccine appeared to be successful, but that it had not yet been tested for side effects.

The phone caller appeared the next day and requested the vaccine. When told they couldn’t give him the vaccine until tests proved it was safe, the man replied that he intended to administer the vaccine only to himself – to personally verify its safety.

Dr. Bueding correctly suspected the anonymous caller was Dr. Schweitzer, and told the good doctor it would be foolish to try the vaccine in its experimental stage. But Schweitzer countered that he would not give his African patients anything he would not take himself.

Bueding finally caved in and injected Schweitzer with the experimental drug. After two days of observation at the Pasteur Hospital, Schweitzer was declared fit to travel back to his hospital in Africa – with a desperately-needed antidote for yellow fever.


At the organ bench and podium, Schweitzer dazzles us with his genius and virtuosity. But it’s his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sick in a remote African village that captures our highest admiration, for he reminds us of the truest of all stories.



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



Story of the Day for Wednesday December 15, 2010

Is It Legal to Call a Pig “Mrs. Johnson”?


“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it means nothing. But whoever swears by the gold in the temple must keep his oath.’”

Matthew 23:16



When a man yelled at Mrs. Johnson and called her a pig, she sued him for defamation of character. The judge found the man guilty and fined him.

After the trial, the man asked the judge. “Does this mean, then, that I can’t call Mrs. Johnson a pig anymore?”

“That is correct,” said the judge.

“Am I allowed to call a pig Mrs. Johnson?”

The judge looked surprised, but said, “Yes, it’s legal to call a pig Mrs. Johnson.”

The man immediately glared at Mrs. Johnson and said, “Hello, Mrs. Johnson!”


Ever since we were young, we’ve been honing our skill at “Getting Around the Law.”  Do you remember, as a kid, how you could renege on your promise if you explained that you had your fingers crossed when you made it?

As adults, did we outgrow this impulse, or simply become more sophisticated in doing it?

Most Americans still remember the infamous attempt to dodge the letter of the law in the response, “It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.”


Not much has changed since Jesus’ day. The religious leaders of his day had their own version of “crossing your fingers.”  They took the obligation to fulfill your vows very seriously. And well they should. But they created clever ways to get out of their oaths by differentiating the object by which they swore. If you swore by the gold in the temple, it counted. But, if you merely swore by the temple itself, you didn’t have to keep your promise.


Look – God is not fooled by our excuses to get around His law. He wants us to face squarely the obligations of righteous living. And, when you fail, honestly admit it.

He forgives.


Years ago, the French king would pardon one man from prison. As he went from cell to cell, each prisoner made emphatic appeals to being innocent and wrongfully imprisoned. All except for one man. He hung his head and said, “Your Majesty, I am a criminal. I deserve to be here because I committed the crimes for which I was sentenced.” The king shouted, “Warden! Release this man at once . . . before he corrupts all these other innocent men.”

Face the will of God head on, and the Lord will pick you up when you stumble.



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



Story of the Day for Tuesday December 14, 2010

The Intent of Our Heart


We all stumble a lot.

James 3:2



A little four-year-old girl has a secret plan. Her mother’s birthday is tomorrow morning, so she is going to make her mommy breakfast in bed.

Her older brother shows her how to set the alarm clock so she can wake up before the rest of the household.  Her mom tucks her in for the night, but she can hardly sleep – she is too full of joy at the thought of the present she is going to give her mommy in the morning.

When the alarm goes off, she yawns, tiptoes downstairs into the kitchen, and prepares a birthday feast. She makes toast with jelly (lots of it), pours a glass of orange juice, and heats a pot of hot water for tea. On the tray she puts the birthday card she made the night before.

The little four-year-old bursts into the bedroom, crying, “Surprise! Happy Birthday Mommy!” She beams as she rushes to set the tray on her mother’s lap. But, in her excitement, she trips on the rug by the bed. Orange juice flies everywhere. Hot tea scalds her mother’s arm, and the toast lands on the new quilt – jelly-side down.


As your distraught little girl breaks into tears, what do you do? Will you be furious because of the hot tea water that splattered on your arm? Will you punish her for the damage done to your quilt?

Or will you hug her tight and say, “It’ okay, sweetheart! It was an accident. Thank you for making me such a special breakfast. I love you!”


Think hard about how you would respond to your brokenhearted little daughter, because that little girl is you.


All of us stumble through life. The problem, however, is that we’re usually lousy at assessing our guilt. We tend to feel guilt based on the consequences of our behavior, rather than the intent of our heart.

But, the unintentional mistakes we make can occasionally have big consequences. As long as we assess our guilt based on the degree of damage we caused, rather than the intent of our heart, we will never find relief from our feelings of guilt.


When I said that the little girl who stumbled was you, I didn’t just mean that, like her, you goof up a lot (which we all do).

What I was really getting at, is that Jesus doesn’t punish you based on the consequences of your mistakes. Instead, in your grief, he is crying with you. He wants to wrap you up in his love, and let you know that it’s okay.

God always offers forgiveness for the sins of our heart. And he has nothing but love and understanding for the disastrous mistakes we never intended.




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




Story of the Day for Monday December 13, 2010


A Robe Dipped in Blood



Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant attitude before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18



England did her best when they sent General Edward Braddock to the Colonies during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

He arrived in his shiny brass buttons as commander-in-chief of North America, and led two brigades through the Pennsylvania wilderness to recapture Fort Duquesne (where Pittsburgh sits today).

Benjamin Franklin met with Braddock beforehand and warned him against Indian ambushes, but the general sniffed at the suggestion that savages could intimidate his highly trained British soldiers. Franklin observed later that Braddock “had too much self-confidence” and too low an opinion of the Indians.

A Virginia militia volunteered to fight with the British, and their young, 23-year-old leader, suggested that his rangers lead the expedition, since they understood Indian tactics and were familiar with the terrain. The 60-year-old Braddock was offended: “What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!”

The Virginians were sent to the rear.


The British march was a display of pomp and military precision. One observer said, “General Braddock marched through this wilderness as if he had been in a review in St. James Park.” The general sacrificed speed for ceremony, and, as a result, the Indians easily monitored his every move.


As they neared Fort Duquesne, the Indian ambush caught the British off balance. The young Virginian leader urged Braddock to disperse his troops and hide behind trees — as the Indians fought. Instead, Braddock stubbornly concentrated his men in tight platoons which were decimated as quickly as they were formed.

As Braddock tried vainly to rally his disorganized troops he was shot in the chest. Later, realizing he was mortally wounded, he gave his ceremonial sash to the Virginian officer whose advice he had ignored.

That young Virginian, George Washington, reportedly wore Braddock’s blood-stained sash for the rest of his career as commander of the Colonial Army. After becoming the first president of the United States, Washington continued to wear the sash.  He would never forget that the greatest enemy to victory is pride.


Just as pride blinded General Braddock to the strength of his adversary, so pride blinds us to the power of sin. This is not a battle we can win on our own.  It is not even a battle we must fight.

Jesus has conquered the Enemy. He rides a white horse with a robe dipped in blood. And only the notion that you don’t need his help can keep him from bringing you the victory you long for.




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

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Story of the Day for Saturday December 11, 2010

Let the Distractions Stare at Your Back

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and focus your gaze directly in front of you.

Proverbs 4:25

Those who know me best will find this article hilarious – not so much because of what it says but because I’m the one writing it. As a kid I changed hobbies about as often as I changed my clothes. Back then, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) hadn’t been invented yet.

A few years ago a psychologist told me he had ADD.  His symptoms sounded eerily familiar, so he gave me a test and guess what . . . hey, did you hear who won the game last night?

Learning to focus does not come easily for me.  I want to do everything . . . except learn how to crochet.

Do you ever find yourself frittering away your time?  You have so many tasks to do and you go from one thing to the other – and at the end of the day you feel like you haven’t accomplished much of anything.

Don’t get me wrong: we all must juggle several priorities simultaneously.  We have priorities of family life, profession, health, and spiritual growth.  But focus means we do not allow distractions to keep us from our intended goals.

Chuck Swindoll once related a story from Charles Paul Conn’s book, Making It Happen. When Mr. Conn lived in Atlanta, he was looking in the Yellow Pages when he noticed a restaurant called the “Church of God Grill.”  The name was so peculiar that he called them up just to ask how they came up with such an unusual name.

The man told him they had started a church, but began selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills.  People loved the chicken.  Soon business was so good that they had to cut back on their worship time.  After a while, they closed the church down in order to serve chicken dinners.  But they kept their name, “Church of God Grill.”

Many people tried to deflect Jesus from his mission.  They wanted him to stay in town, while his Father was calling him to move on.  When he first told his disciples his goal was to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Peter objected.  Jesus bridled at that forcefully told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  He put anything that interfered with his goal behind him, and focused his gaze on the goal before him. When the time came for him to die, the Bible says he “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  When Jesus determines his goal, you had best get out of his way, because you are not going to stop him.

What is God calling you to accomplish with your life?  When you find out, look straight ahead to the goal, and let the distractions stare at your back.

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

Story of the Day for Friday December 10, 2010

“It’s What You Know after You Know It All That Counts.”

Instruct a wise person, and he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous person, and he will increase his learning.

Proverbs 9:9

Hoagy Carmichael rarely let the facts bully him around when he had a good story to tell. So, according to one version, his first day golfing went like this:

His golf instructor patiently showed him how to hold the club, how to stand, how to follow through. After a half hour of instruction, Hoagy teed up on the first hole and smacked the ball down the fairway. It rolled onto the green and dropped in for a hole in one. Hoagy flipped the club to a caddy, and said to the dumbstruck instructor, “Okay, I think I’ve got the idea now.”

We can only hope that Hoagy Carmichael’s instruction didn’t end there. But it is true that accomplishment can be one of the greatest hindrances to growth.

Contrast Carmichael’s attitude with professional golfers. The top golfers in the PGA depend on their coaches to help them improve every day. I listened to an interview where one of the world’s top golfers spoke about his preparation. He didn’t say, “I’m getting ready for the Masters . . .” but “We’re getting ready for the Masters, and one day we just took a day off – which we normally do, but . . .” He viewed his career in terms of himself and his coach.

Best-selling author, Steven Pressfield, says, “The student of the game knows that the levels of revelation that can unfold in golf, as in any art, are inexhaustible.”

If “the levels of revelation” in golf are inexhaustible, how much more is the knowledge of the living God? Yet, sadly, our growth in biblical knowledge can become the very thing that hinders further understanding of the ways of the Lord. Once we’ve learned more than we used to know, we begin to feel like we know it all. And that is where growth stops.

The wise person is one who is humble enough to admit there is always more to learn.

John Wooden is rightly considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time. He took a faltering program at UCLA and transformed it into a powerhouse – winning ten national championships.

Wooden listened to others. When Wooden’s players were shorter-than-average, his assistant coach, Jerry Norman, persuaded him that a zone press defense would work. It won them a national championship.

But then Wooden got a tall, talented player. After winning a national championship with one style of play, he decided to scrap it and learn a completely new system that exploited the talents of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The result: three more national championships with Alcindor.

John Wooden’s  favorite motto reflected the Proverbs: “It’s what you know after you know it all that counts.”

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

Story of the Day for Thursday December 9, 2010

This Will Make It Better

The disciples came up to Jesus and said, “Tell her to leave, because she’s following behind us and making a fuss.”

Matthew 15:23

Jesus often mentioned that he was “sent” by his heavenly Father. He had, in other words, a clear goal. He knew the direction his life should take.

That divine mission appeared to get interrupted when a noisy Canaanite woman followed behind Jesus and kept crying out for him to heal her daughter.  The disciples urged Jesus to tell her to shut up and go away.

And Jesus did that, sort of. He explained that his mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel. And she was not an Israelite, but a pagan Canaanite.

I’m a goal-oriented kind of guy. When I’m focused on a project, frequent interruptions irk me, and I heave exasperated sighs when the phone won’t stop ringing.

Stephen Pile writes in The Book of Heroic Failures about the bus route from Hanley to Bagnall in Staffordshire, England. Up to thirty people would be waiting at the bus stop and the bus driver would often sail past them without stopping. One man, Bill Hancock, complained to the authorities. Arthur Cholerton responded to Mr. Hancock’s complaint with the memorable excuse that, if the buses stopped to pick up passengers, they would disrupt the bus company’s time-table.

Running on time — what a noble goal. Picking up passengers, unfortunately, threatens this goal, and, like me, they see people as a bother. An interruption.

Jesus explained to the Canaanite woman that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread (by which he meant the children of Israel) and give it to the dogs (by which he meant, among others, her).

The woman boldly stood her ground. She didn’t quibble with Jesus about his mission, but argued that even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table.

You know the rest. Jesus praised her as a woman of great faith, and granted her request by healing her daughter. Yes, Jesus was sent to the people of Israel, but our Lord didn’t see the needs of people as an interruption to his goal.

Nine contestants lined up at the starting line at the Seattle Special Olympics.  When the gun went off, one little boy stumbled and fell. The others heard him crying and slowed down to look back. One by one, they all went back to him. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down and kissed him. “This will make it better.”

Then all nine linked arms and walked together, to a standing ovation, across the finish line.

The goal for which these kids trained was to win the race. But these children remind us that the need of another person doesn’t interrupt the goal; for in that moment, they become the goal.

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

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 8, 2010


He was in the world, and even though the world was created through him, the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, but his own people didn’t accept him.

John 1:10-11

On January 12, 2007, a man in his late 30s walked into the L’Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C. Dressed in T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, and standing by a trash can, he opened his fiddle case and began playing the violin during the morning rush hour.

In 43 minutes, 1,097 people passed by, and only a half dozen paused to listen for a few minutes. No one applauded.

What makes this incident remarkable is that the musician was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists. He was playing his Stradivarius, which he purchased for three-and-a half million dollars. Three days earlier he sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall, where “pretty good” seats fetched $100 and the best sold for $500.

Joshua Bell is so good he can command a performance fee of one thousand dollars a minute.

Gene Weingarten, a staff writer for The Washington Post, wanted to find out if, in a commonplace setting, and at an inconvenient time, people could still recognize beauty and artistic brilliance. So, he convinced Bell to perform incognito as a busker.

Apparently not.

Not long after his metro station concert, Joshua Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America.

Once, God came to earth. The One through whom the universe was created entered our world.

But the world didn’t notice.

How could that happen?

Well, why don’t we look at it the other way round. I can assure you that if Jesus strutted into every village wearing a tux, while the announcer for the Chicago Bulls introduced him, and if lightning flashed while the heavens opened and legions of angels thundered doxologies, the world would’ve given him a standing ovation. They would have recognized him as the mighty God come in the flesh, and begged Him for his autograph.

But Jesus didn’t want us to notice his power; he wanted us to see his merciful kindness. He didn’t come to be admired, but to rescue us. So, he came in humility.

The world will never be ready for a God who comes to us wearing a baseball cap. If you want to learn to recognize Him, then remember that He will never be what you expect; he will only be what you need.

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

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 7, 2010

Outsmarted By a Dairy Farmer

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

In 1975 the Cherry Festival parade in Traverse City, Michigan, drew over 300,000 people. The parade’s Grand Marshall that year was the President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

In his memoir, Senator George McManus Jr., tells a story of that day.

George’s cousin, Doug Gallagher was a farmer who milked Holstein cows. When his kids asked to go to the parade to see the president, Doug told them, “Well, we’ve got to make hay today.” He promised them, however, that they’d get to see the president – and be as close as anyone at the parade – if they did what he told them.

Doug’s kids did what their dad told them. They worked hard all morning making hay. But when they came in for lunch at noon the parade was already over. They trusted their dad, but he didn’t deliver on his promise.

Ignoring the fact that the parade had ended, Mr. Gallagher told his kids to make signs saying, “WELCOME, PRESIDENT FORD.” Doug had read in the local paper that, after the parade, the president would be going to Senator Bob Griffin’s cabin – up the road from his farm on North Long Lake Road.

After the parade was over, Doug told his kids to go up the road with their signs. Then he waited while the state police drove past and blocked all the side roads. He waited while the helicopters flew low over the road. And then he shouted to his wife, Joanne, who stood down the road at the gate to the cattle fence, “Turn ‘em loose!”

A hundred cows ambled across the road just as the presidential cavalcade arrived. Secret servicemen sprang out of their cars with their hands on their holsters – nervously looking at the tops of the silos and demanding that Doug get his cows out of the road.

Doug just shrugged. “Well, they’ll be out of the road when they get to the other side.”

Meanwhile, Doug’s kids were standing outside the president’s limo – waving their signs and shouting their greetings. The most powerful man in the world, realizing he’d been outsmarted by a dairy farmer, grinned in delight, and waved happily at the kids.

Doug Gallagher’s kids wanted to go to the parade to see the president, but their dad didn’t grant their wish. Instead, he promised them something better.

These farm kids didn’t know how their dad would deliver on his promise. They simply did what they were told and trusted him.

In Proverbs it says we should trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. In 1975, Mr. Gallagher’s kids got an unforgettable lesson in what that means.

And, you may be interested to know, when Gerald Ford was sworn in as the President of the United States, his Bible was opened to Proverbs 3:5-6. 

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

Story of the Day for Monday December 6, 2010

The Rest Lay in God’s Hands

Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow can worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Michael Hodgin tells the story about a woman who was so worried she had an incurable liver condition that she went to see her doctor about it.

The doctor assured her she was okay. “You wouldn’t know if you had this condition,” he explained, “because it causes no discomfort of any kind.”

The woman gasped. “Those are my symptoms exactly!”

There’s a road sign outside my hometown which says, “WORRY IS A MISUSE OF THE IMAGINATION.” We can imagine positive things we can accomplish in the world, or we can imagine all kinds of horrible tragedies that might rain down upon us.

Are you are in the habit of imagining all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future?  If your list of possible nightmares ever reaches an end, it only signifies a lack of creativity of your part – there’s no end to the list of bad things that could conceivably happen to us.

When you find yourself knotted up with anxiety about the future, I think there are some things you need to know. The first is that Jesus doesn’t tell you not to worry because he won’t let bad things happen to you. Bad things will happen to you.

Jesus wants you to know that he’s walking with you through those times, and he’ll give you everything you need. But the things you need can only be found by faith. Worry is a thief. It robs you of the security which is only found in trust.

Worry is a spectacular waste of time. It’s like a rocking chair: there’s a lot of movement, but we don’t go anywhere. Jesus put it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?”

Don’t waste your days imagining what might happen tomorrow. God never lets us live a “tomorrow”; we only get to live “today.”

Sir Wilfred Grenfell is honored with a feast day in the Episcopal Church (October 9) because of his compassionate missionary work among the poor in Labrador, Canada.

In April, 1908, he was rushing on his dogsled to perform surgery for a boy.  Taking a shortcut over an ocean bay, he broke through the ice.  He managed to crawl onto an ice flow, which was heading toward open waters.  Alone along a desolate shoreline, he faced the concerns of the present moment – drying his soaking clothing, unraveling rope to make insulation for his boots, and making a signal flag.

Three days later, he was rescued. His observation captured the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching, “There was nothing to fear. I had done all I could; the rest lay in God’s hands.”

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

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Story of the Day for Saturday December 4, 2010

God Only Forgives People Who Are Wrong


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. 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 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)






Story of the Day for Friday December 3, 2010



Not a One Size Fits All Deal

One person judges a day more special than others; another person considers each day no different than the other.  Each one should be convinced in his own mind.

Romans 14:5

I have a message that will be fascinating to some of you, and meaningless to others, but I need your help.

Pick a number between 1 and 10, (and don’t tell me what it is.)

Multiply your number by 9.

If your new number has two digits, add the two digits together.

Take your new number and subtract 5.

Now, we want your number to correspond to a letter of the alphabet.  So, A = 1, B = 2, C= 3, and so on.  Convert your number into a letter.

Think of a country in Europe that begins with your letter.

Whatever your letter is, select the next letter in the alphabet, and think of an animal, let’s say, from Africa.

As we attempt to live out our faith, one of the biggest temptations we face is thinking that everyone should be like we are.

Have you ever heard the story of the two pack mules?  The first mule carried a heavy load of salt. In the heat of the day, he decided to cool off, and waded into a pond.  All the salt dissolved, and he walked up on shore with a greatly lightened load.

Excitedly he told another mule about it.  “You’ve got to wade into this pool.  You walk in with your heavy load, and when you come out, the weight is gone!”

The other mule replied, “But why should I wade into the pool to lighten my load?  My load isn’t heavy to begin with.”

The first pack mule, however, urged the second one to try it.  The mule waded into the pool . . . and drowned. He was carrying a load of sponges.

Christian living is not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal.

The truths of God on things like prayer and worship do not change.  They’re just true.  But each one of us can express our faith in strikingly different ways. The notion that what’s good for me may not be good for you, grates against my religious sensibilities.  But the fact remains that the Lord leads people in different ways.

Some believers in the early church thought the “brethren” who ate meat were compromisers.  Didn’t they know that meat is dedicated to pagan gods?  Not to be outdone, the meat-eaters scoffed at the vegetarians for not seeing the higher truth that all food belongs to the true God.

God leads us in different ways.  If you’re still finding this notion hard to accept, sit down with the 14th chapter of Romans, and wrestle with it for a while.

Oh, and before I forget, the message that is meaningful to some of you and not to others is this: “There are no elephants in Denmark.”

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

Story of the Day for Thursday December 2, 2010

Getting Into the Water



There is profit in all hard work, but more talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23



John W. Holt describes an exercise used by Outward Bound in their program on Hurricane Island, Maine. Twenty people are told to squeeze into a cave that is only wide enough for one person to walk through. The group comes to a dead end. The only way out is to climb up to a crack above them and climb out to the other side. The group is lined up alternating a tall person with a shorter one. The instructors tell them they must climb up and exit the cave in this order within twenty minutes.

Want to know what typically happens?  They argue for 19 minutes about how to solve the problem. The instructor warns them they have one minute left. They stop planning, and by brute force, they climb up through the crack. The point of the exercise is that talking and planning can go on and on. At some point you have to stop talking and just do it.


That’s the hard part: gettin’ ‘er done.  It’s so much easier to talk about what we want to do rather than starting the hard work necessary to accomplish our dreams.

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s, says, “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now.  Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.” Bushnell then concludes, “The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

We would do well to apply Bushnell’s words to our life of faith. John Michael Talbot, in Changes: A Spiritual Journal, does just that. He says, “I am wearied by a fellowship of many words. I grow tired of talking about the worship. I would much rather simply worship. I grow tired of talking about music. I would much rather simply make music. I grow tied of talking about humility and love. I would rather simply serve in humility and love.”


Obviously, you always precede work with talk. With ideas. With discussion of ideas. And a plan. But the focal point is not the talking; it is the work to be accomplished.

When I was in college I took a course in evangelism at a local congregation. The class was great, but the pastor confided to me his disappointment. He told me that the members love the evangelism class. But they don’t want to go out and share their faith.  Instead, they want me to start another class so they can keep on studying about evangelism.


For eight years, Kim Linehan held the world record for the women’s 1500 meter freestyle.  When she was 18 years old, her coach called her the leading amateur woman distance swimmer in the world. It took a lot of hard work for her to accomplish such a feat.  Do you know the hardest part of her training?  Kim says it’s, “Getting into the water.”


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




Story of the Day for Wednesday December 1, 2010


A Test of Strength


. . .so that we might know his exceedingly great power for us who believe. . .which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.

Ephesians 1:19


Although he didn’t intend to, a Massachusetts farmer brought us a picture of the resurrected life. Brilliance is often seeing the obvious. A farmer realized what we already know: that germinating seeds and growing plants have an almost miraculous power.

For example, what is stronger: a dandelion or a concrete slab? Pave a sidewalk over a dandelion seed and you’ll find out. The dandelion can exert a force that will crack the sidewalk.

Rutherford Hayes Platt, in his book, The Great American Forest, describes a farmer who wanted to measure this force, so he cobbled together a device with a counterweight and dial to measure pressure. He strapped various fruits and vegetables to his device . . . and could hardly believe what he was seeing.

Imagine the entire offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys standing together on a plank. One of the farmer’s vegetables was capable – not only of raising up the entire offensive line, but of lifting three times their weight!

Not altogether surprising, nobody believed him. So, Rutherford began setting up exhibits and crowds flocked by the thousands to see for themselves. They were dumbfounded.

In one sense, growing things are so weak: whack a melon with a rolling pin and you have a smushy mess on your hands. But there is an almost unbelievable power within them exerted because they are alive.

God exerted power when he brought his dead Son to life. But what he wants us to know is that this same resurrection power is active within us.

I’m not entirely sure I understand how God takes such weak things as us and makes us powerful, but he does. And I can tell you that, starting with a handful of unassuming disciples from Galilee, God would transform the world through the power working in them.

The Dallas Cowboys in a test of strength against an acorn squash? Doesn’t sound like a fair fight, does it?  But a Massachusetts farmer has demonstrated who the real winner will be.



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




Story of the Day for Tuesday November 30, 2010



Fit it on a Bumper Sticker


. . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:18, 20



At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.  “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?”  But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!


Let’s talk about bumper stickers.  Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.”  In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.


Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.


Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the  whole thing.  Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker?  I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker.  Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith.  When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going.  On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.”  When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.”  When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”


Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God.  In my bumbling way, I want to do the same.  But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.


But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator.  Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word.  Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.



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

Story of the Day for Monday November 29, 2010



How Hard is it for You to Give Up Sugar?



Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but you don’t see the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3



What annoys you the most when you are driving?  Researchers did of study of this and found the most common pet peeve of drivers is other drivers who talk on a cell phone while driving. But here is what made this study especially intriguing: the majority of drivers who listed this as their main annoyance admitted that they, too, talk on a cell phone when they drive!

Do you think the things that most annoy us in others are the things we are guilty of ourselves?  Just asking.


Hugo McCord writes of a military inspection at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.  The inspection was conducted one time by a full colonel.   As the colonel reviewed the line of soldiers he stopped and snapped, “Button that pocket, trooper!”

The flustered soldier stammered, “Right now, sir?”

“Of course, right now!”

The soldier, then, very carefully reached forward and buttoned the flap of the colonel’s shirt pocket.

You have to admit – we notice the faults of others much easier than we notice our own.  Jesus comments on this inconsistency – only he isn’t diplomatic, like me.  He just calls it hypocrisy.  “Hypocrites!” Jesus says, “first, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck from your brother’s eye.”


We learn from an early age that we don’t feel nearly as guilty if we focus on the guilt of someone else.

“Marty, did you just hit your brother?”

“He hit me first.”

If I am embarrassed because my feet stink, what have I accomplished if I go around complaining about other people whom, I claim, have stinkier feet?  Nothing.  They are annoyed by my criticism . . . and I still have stinky feet.

To relieve my guilt, I can make a vain attempt to accuse other people of having stinky feet.  Or, I could ask Jesus for some soap and water. Once we have dealt with our own problem, we can be kind and understanding in helping others.


There is an old legend about a mother in India who went to the local wise man for guidance.

“My son has horrible eating habits.  Please,” she said, “come and tell him to stop eating so much sugar.  He will listen to you.”

The teacher listened sympathetically, then said, “Come back next week and talk with me.”

The mother returned next week, and lamented, “Please come and speak with my son.  He won’t eat vegetables or fruit; he just eats sugar.”

“Come back and see me next week,” the wise man said again.

The next week she returned and the wise man agreed to go with her and talk to her son.

“I am grateful that you will take the time to speak with my son,” she said, “but why did you wait so long?”

“Because,” he replied, “I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to give up sugar.”


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

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