Archive for March, 2011

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 23, 2011


And Head Back Home


When he came to his senses, he said “How many of my father’s hired servants have more to eat than they need, while I’m perishing in this famine. I’m going to get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I sinned …’”

Luke 15:17-18



Hoover vacuum cleaners were so popular in Great Britain that the company’s name was turned into a verb (“I’m just going to Hoover the hallway before tea, dear.”)

Nevertheless, in the summer of 1992, the company needed to clean up a backlog of appliances in their warehouses, so they launched the Hoover Free Travel Offer. If you bought a hundred pounds worth of Hoover products (about $198 US), you got two free round-trip airline tickets to key cities in Europe.

It didn’t take consumers long to figure out that buying a vacuum cleaner was cheaper than buying two airline tickets, so all available Hoovers were quickly snatched up. The company was now forced to switch to a seven-day work week to meet the demand. Their flagship plant in Cambuslang, Scotland had to hire an additional 75 workers.

Business was brisk, but somehow, the executives at Hoover didn’t realize they were losing money on every vacuum they sold. They insisted that only a few customers would bother to redeem their vouchers for free airline travel.  So, how did they handle this crisis? Elated by the huge sales volume, they decided to expand their promotion. TV ads now advertised two free round-trip tickets to the United States on Hoover purchases.

The flood was on!  Now, however, customers began to present their airline vouchers.  Hoover was so swamped they were forced to charter entire planes to keep up with the demand.

Finally, the Hoover executives had a brilliant insight: if we continue to pay customers $200 to purchase a $100 product, this could hurt us financially.

Travel agents were no longer able to book flights – which created a storm of negative publicity for Hoover – which, in turn, increased the number of customers demanding their two free round-trip tickets.

Britain’s royal family endorses certain firms by granting royal warrants. Selected companies can use the royal logo and it is a huge endorsement. Hoover experienced the extreme indignity of having their royal warrant revoked by the Queen over the promotion debacle.

The company faced legal battles for the next six years. In the end, 220,000 customers did make use of their travel vouchers – which cost Hoover almost $100 million.


Sin is stupid. It’s like a Hoover sales promotion. In the beginning, it looks promising, but it’s a train barreling toward a cliff.

There is, however, something worse than sinning. It’s refusing to admit our sin. The prodigal son was a beetlehead to leave his father’s house and squander the inheritance. But, when he realized how foolish he had been, he was wise enough to admit it.

And head back home.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Tuesday March 22, 2011


More or Less Securely Fastened


In Joppa, a disciple by the name of Tabitha . . .  was always doing good deeds and acts of mercy for the needy.

Acts 9:36


In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a pastor in Antioch wrote, “Every day the church feeds 3000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples . . .”

At the same time, in Rome, Jerome mentions a Christian woman, Fabiola. “She was the first person to found a hospital, into which she might gather sufferers out of the streets, and where she might nurse the unfortunate victims of sickness and want.”

All this distressed the Roman Emperor, Julian, who wanted to destroy the Christian faith. He, futilely, urged the pagan priests to try to copy the compassion of the Christians. “It is disgraceful,” he moaned, that Christians “support our poor in addition to their own.”

Julian accused Christians of showing excessive compassion, and we’ve been guilty ever since.


Benjamin Rush, in addition to founding our country’s first Bible society, was also the leader in showing compassionate care to the mentally ill. The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association features his portrait in the center.

After seeing the carnage of the Battle of Solferino, with little attention paid to the wounded, Henry Dunant, a devout Christian, inspired the founding of both the International Red Cross and the creation of the Geneva Convention.

A British nurse, Cicely Saunders was appalled by the lack of care given in the hospital for the dying. She founded Hospice to provide compassionate care to the terminally ill.

Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship – we find that Christians are continually finding ways to help the poor and needy.


Some (well-meaning) Christians believe the sole purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel and save souls. But, if this is true, what do we make of Jesus? Yes, he came to open the path to heaven. Yet, on his way to cross, his feet kept following his heart – which invariably led him to the tear-stained faces of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.

Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, and spent much of her time working to free children from temple prostitution. She was criticized by fellow-Christians for not focusing solely on saving souls.

Amy responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”


Since we can’t pry a person’s soul away from their body without killing the patient in the process, we might as well love the whole darn thing.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)




Story of the Day for Monday March 21, 2011


“It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over”


Now the Philistines rulers assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to celebrate, for they said, “Our God has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”

Judges 16:23


Bobby Cruickshank was a likeable Scot – one of the most popular golfers on the PGA circuit.  But he could never win a national championship. In 1923 he almost won the U.S. Open, but came in second – as he did again in 1932. But Cruickshank persevered.

In 1934, with only eight holes to play in the U.S. Open, Cruickshank held the lead by two strokes. As Bobby made his approach shot to the green, he watched in horror as his the ball fell short into the Baffling Brook which guarded the green.

But the ball, apparently, hit a rock in the stream. It bounced out of the water, and rolled on the green, ten feet from the pin.

A miracle! As the crowd broke in wild cheers, Bobby tossed his club into the air, tipped his hat to the spectators, and celebrated his good fortune. At last, the first tournament win of his life was only moments away.


Relations were strained between Samson and the Philistines – to put it mildly.

When they finally caught him, they gouged out his eyes, bound him with brass shackles and paraded him down to Gaza like a circus curiosity.

Samson’s downfall called for a party. The Philistines sacrificed to their god, and, in a celebratory mood, called for Samson to be led out of prison to entertain them. Few things are more satisfying than gloating over a fallen enemy.

But we never know when one chapter in life has ended and the next has begun, and, for this reason alone, it’s not a good idea to be presumptive.


Samson lost his power when they shaved his head. But, the Bible adds the little detail that, during his time in prison, his hair had begun to grow.

The Philistines were in high spirits as they paraded their fallen prisoner before the public. Three thousand people stood on the roof of the temple of Dagon as Samson stood between the two main pillars.

Samson’s final prayer was that his strength might be renewed one last time.


We left Bobby Cruickshank on the eleventh hole with the “miracle shot” and the ecstatic crowds, and his pitching wedge thrown to the heavens in celebration.

Whatever personal opinions you may hold about gravity, you have to admit it isn’t whimsical.  Bobby’s golf club obediently returned to earth, but not before it made a brief visit to the top of Cruickshank’s noggin.

After trying to collect his wits, Bobby staggered to the green and actually two-putted the thing. But he really wasn’t with us for the rest of the competition. By the time he finished, the woozy Mr. Cruickshank had slumped in the polls, and wandered into the club house in third place.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Don’t count your chick –” No, wait, that’s not it . . .


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)




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Story of the Day for Saturday March 19, 2011



Slam Dunks or Chipotle Corn Chips?


And he entered with them into the temple walking and jumping and praising God. And all the people who saw him walking and praising God recognized him: “This is the man who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate.”

Acts 3:8-10


Have you ever noticed that when your favorite basketball team is blowing out their opponent by thirty points, you’re glad, but you’re also bored? You stop high-fiving your friends when your team scores on a slam dunk. You stop shouting frantically at the head coach that he needs to double-team Salinsky in the low post.

Instead, you say, “I went to Speedo Lube last Tuesday and they charged me extra to refill the windshield washer fluid. Hey, ever try these new corn chips? They’re chipotle.”


But what happens when your favorite team is behind, and victory seems out of reach . . . but then the rally starts? And, in the final seconds, when the point guard steals the ball and throws up the buzzer-beater from three-point land to win the game, you go wild and knock the popcorn bowl off the coffee table.

In both instances, your team won. Why do you react so differently?


Joy comes when you find victory after a time of uncertainty or loss of hope.


At the time of the evening sacrifice, no one was anxious about whether they could successfully walk through the gate to worship God in the temple.

No one – except one beggar who was lame from birth. This poor man couldn’t get into the temple – not because he was lame, but because he was banned. Jewish laws of ritual purity barred the blind and the lame from entrance into the temple. This lame beggar could only sit by the gate, but was allowed no further.


When Peter, by Jesus’ power, miraculously heals this man, look where the beggar’s feet take him. He doesn’t run home to tell his friends and neighbors; he rushes through the gate. Here he is in the temple for the first time in his life!

You’ll have to excuse his lack of circumspection in the sanctuary, but this man is bursting with joy, and doesn’t care that he’s creating a ruckus.


Have you ever noticed that those who are new to the faith are more exuberant than a happy puppy? They have known the uncertainty or loss of hope in their relationship with God. And, when they discover the downpour of God’s mercy on them, they can’t contain their joy.

But, once we get used to the victory Jesus won for us, we start talking about chipotle corn chips.


I don’t think we should ever get used to the grace of God.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Friday March 18, 2011



God Is Going to Blow It Up


”No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will tear the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be lost. Put new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark 2:22


In 1908, Henry Ford developed the Model T.  It was the only car the Ford Motor Company made and it sold like hotcakes. In just a few years, half of all the cars on the road were Model Ts.

But it only came in one color. In 1909, Henry Ford said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Ford’s ace production man, William Knudsen, foresaw that the company needed to improve to keep pace with the competition. So, when Ford took his family on a trip to Europe in 1912, Knudsen prepared a new sleek prototype with four doors and shiny red lacquer-work.

When Ford was shown the prototype, he walked around the car three or four times with his hands in his pockets, and then he grabbed the driver’s side door and ripped it off! He proceeded to pop out the windshield and destroy the car.  The message was clear: don’t mess with my “baby.”

Ford fired Knudsen, who went to General Motors.

But, General Motors kept improving their cars. They had more power, electric starters, and, of course, a choice of colors. But Henry stuck to his Model T. Not until 1927 did Henry, grudgingly, decide to develop a new car: the Model A.

But it was too late. The Ford Motor Company dipped from 50 percent market share to only 28 percent by 1931. For the rest of his life, Henry Ford would have to be content with second place in the auto industry.


As wine ferments, it expands. The ancient Jews could not put new wine in clay jars because the growing pressure would shatter them. So, they preferred using the skins of young goats. They would sew up all the holes and pour the new wine into them. As the wine fermented the wineskins would expand like a balloon, but not break.

The wineskins became useless for holding fermenting wine, however, once they became hardened and rigid. If you poured wine into them, they were no longer flexible enough to expand; they would simply crack and now you’ve lost both your wineskin and your wine.


When we become rigid in our methods, when we insist that our way is the only way, stand back, because God is going to blow it up. Truth doesn’t change, but the power of the Good News is always expanding. You can’t keep a lid on it.

Jesus’ New Wine is like exploration. Thomas Jefferson made thorough and extensive plans for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. But once their journey rounded the first unexplored bend in the river, rigid plans could only hurt them. From that point on, they needed only to know their goal, and how to be flexible enough to deal with each new adventure they encountered.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Thursday March 17, 2011


If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It


These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.

1 Corinthians 10:11


There’s a lot of wisdom in the down-home saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Yet, I read about a castle in Spain that was built on the edge of a 300 foot cliff. To reach the castle, visitors would be strapped into a large wicker basket and pulled up by a rope with a pulley system.

One visitor reached the top and noticed that the rope that pulled him up was badly frayed.

“How often do you install a new rope?”

The attendant nonchalantly replied, “When the old rope breaks.”


Sometimes we need to talk about fixing things that ain’t broke . . . yet.


It’s a sin to walk up to a member of the Hell’s Angels and tell him he’s a snotty-nosed pile of buffalo dung and that his mother dresses him funny. Not many people, however, commit this sin because they receive immediate feedback that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.

We commit sin because it is a good idea. Or, at least, it seems like it at the time. When I pig out on potato chips or brownies, my life is filled with pleasure and happiness.  There’s no down side . . . until sometime later when I have to suck in my gut to get my pants on. If I blimped out the minute I finished a bag of chips, I would be far more hesitant to do it.  But when the consequences aren’t immediate, somehow, I think my overindulgences are worth the effort.


When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God, the people got tired of waiting for him to come back down, so they made a golden idol and started dancing and whooping it up – proving that idolatry is lots of fun. At first. Later, when Israel arrived east of the Jordan, the men of Israel indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women, who invited them to sacrifice to their pagan god.  And a good time was had by all . . . for the moment. Let’s face it – when we sin, we do so because the pleasure seems, at the moment, to outweigh any negative consequences. And, hey, if ain’t broke . . .


But Paul uses these incidents of idolatry from Israel’s past to warn us that, even when sin seems like a bargain, it eventually catches up with us.  These tragic examples of Israel’s downfalls are meant as warnings to us that, if it ain’t broke yet, you better fix it anyway, because it is going to break sooner or later.

Jesus didn’t come to pat the “unbroken” on the head and tell them what a good job they did. It’s just as well – he wouldn’t find anyone like that.

He came to heal the brokenhearted, and fit the pieces back together again.



(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Wednesday March 16, 2011



Join A Church and Adopt Stray Kittens


For Christ’ love compels us, because . . . one died for everyone . . . and he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15



Back in the old days, a telephone operator had to manually route every phone call. But then, in 1889, a new invention allowed you to dial and connect to a party without the intervention of an operator.

The man who invented the rotary dialing system, Almond Strowger, did not work for the telephone company.  He was, of all things, a funeral director.


Back in the late 1800s, Mr. Strowger was one of two funeral directors in Kansas City, Missouri. He noticed that, as telephones began to be installed in his town, his business declined. Odd.

He decided to pay the telephone company a visit and discovered that the telephone operator was the wife of the other funeral director in town. When someone called and needed a funeral director, guess who this telephone operator was connecting them to?

Instead of grumbling about his fate, Mr. Strowger did something about it. In 1889, he invented and later patented, a rotary dial phone and an automated switchboard.

Strowger was not an inventor who accidentally bumbled into a discovery; he was highly motivated to keep his pesky competitor’s wife from ruining his business.


The term, “motivation,” is based on two Latin words: “moto,” which means “to move,” and “vation,” which means . . . um . . .

Anyway, let’s not stray from the point – which is that motivation gets us moving.

In life, it’s not just important what you do but why you do it.  You can dance because you’re happy that your daughter just got engaged, or you can dance because a cowboy in a black hat is shooting his .44 at your feet and hollering, “Dance!”  In both cases you’re performing the identical action, but your motivation for doing so makes a huge difference in your disposition.


Many people join churches and adopt stray kittens because they hope that, if they do enough good things in life, God will let them go to heaven. But this kind of motivation for being good really stinks. Everything we do becomes ultimately motivated by selfishness. We don’t help old ladies across the street because we care about them; we’re doing it for ourselves, to earn our way into God’s presence.

Jesus changes our motivation for living. He left all our sins nailed permanently on the cross and now offers us life as his gift to us.

Once we understand a love like that we’ll still want to join a church and adopt stray kittens, but now we’ll do it for love.

Motivation changes everything.



(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



Story of the Day for Tuesday March 15, 2011


Pushing a Fishhook Through


Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.

James 5:16



Years ago, I was fishing along Pinkham Creek when I slid on the bank and jammed a fishhook into my finger. The hook was sunk past the barb so I couldn’t yank it out.

I walked back to my in-laws’ house and asked my mother-in-law, “Who’s the best surgeon around here?”

“Either Harry or Randall.”

“Where are they?”

“Out by the tack shed drinking a beer.”

“Oh,” I said. “Who’s the second-best surgeon around here?”


I went out to the corral and let them inspect the damage. They didn’t see much of a problem; if you can’t pull the hook out, you just push it through and there you are.

Sadly, they were unable to perform the surgery because their patient kept yelping in pain. I chose to abstain from the operation, but quickly noticed that it’s hard to carry on a normal life when you have a #00 Mepps spinner dangling from your index finger.

In the end, I went to a doctor, who inspected my finger and said, “Oh, well, you simply have to push the hook through . . . like this . . . and there you are.”

And “there I was” with a tidy little doctor bill – and half the day wasted.


Apologizing to someone is painful – it’s like pushing a fishhook through your finger. When we apologize we’re admitting that we were wrong, and who likes to do that?

So, since mustering the courage to apologize to someone is so difficult, here’s an idea: don’t do it. Blame your behavior on other people or circumstances beyond your control.


In 1939, German scientists had developed a devastating weapon, the V-2 rocket, against which the Allies had no defense. But Hitler was in a grumpy mood as he stood in the pouring rain to watch the demonstration of the new rocket. He rejected its use.

On July 7, 1943, the inventors of the V-2 rocket again showed Hitler its potential, and this time Hitler realized that they could have dominated the world had they manufactured and used this weapon earlier.

Hitler apologized for failing to see its potential. And then he made a revealing comment. He told the scientists it was only the second time in his life that he had ever apologized for anything.


By refusing to apologize, Hitler spent his life blaming the Jews and everyone else for his behavior. Rather than apologize, he endured a lifetime with a Mepps spinner stuck in his finger.  And the world learned what denying guilt can do to a man.


When we learn to say, “I’m sorry,” the fishhook comes out, relationships are restored, and the healing begins.


(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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