Archive for April, 2011

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 19, 2011

Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

               The head priests and the Bible scholars saw the wonders Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple, saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” And they were indignant.

Matthew 21:15

Alina, one of my wife’s former students is now grown up, married, and has two little girls. Last week, her daughter said a bedtime prayer for her Mommy and Daddy, sister, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. And then she added, “And God, please be with all the potatoes because I know you and me just LOVE potato chips!”

I’d like to casually toss out the fact that I’m a Bible scholar. If you’re confused about the soteriological implications of proleptic eschatology, I’m your man. And, excuse me while I politely cough, but I also (ahem) . . . read the New Testament in the Greek!  Yes.

We Bible scholars tend to wince at the prayers and praises of children. They don’t know what they’re talking about. When we scholars compose a prayer, it’s carefully sculpted to reflect a theologically precise view of God. The grammar is impeccable and nuanced. You will never – and I repeat myself for emphasis – you will never find us composing prayers which go romping on about our delight with potato chips.

Yet, ironically, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day, for all their knowledge of Scripture, couldn’t recognize God if he was standing right in front of them. They knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know him.

The kids, on the other hand, shattered the solemnity with their boisterous praise to the Son of David. When the theologians objected to this, Jesus defended the kids and pointed to the Psalm which said, “From the mouths of children and nursing infants I have prepared praise.” Jesus liked their worship.

The beauty of a child’s understanding of God is that it is a relationship.

Yes, it’s important to have correct theology, but not at the expense of knowing God personally. I can easily find myself viewing the Trinity, say, more as a complex mathematical formula than the God who protects me, and loves me, and gives me strength.

Once, when our daughter, Erika, was little she asked for something and we told her we couldn’t buy it because we couldn’t afford it. Later that evening, she came into my office and gave me a dollar to bail us out of our fiscal crisis.

I wasn’t offended at my little daughter’s unsophisticated view of finances nor did I hand the dollar back to her in disgust at her ignorance. Instead, I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity.

I have a little box on my dresser. And, every now and then, I open it and look at the dollar she gave me.

In the end, it’s all about relationship . . . like sharing a mutual love for potato chips.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday April 18, 2011

The Wily Game Warden

                The sound of a rustling leaf will cause them to run, and even when no one is chasing them they will flee as though from a sword . . . They will stumble even though no one is pursuing them.

Leviticus 26:36-37

Before we lived in Montana, we would drive out west on vacation to my in-laws ranch. After a weary 1200 miles, we observed the happy little ritual of stopping at the last town to buy our fishing licenses. We always bought an annual out-of-state license – expensive, but worth it to enjoy heaping plates of fresh brook trout.

One year, we tumbled into town so late that all the stores were closed. We drove up to my wife’s parent’s ranch and walked through the trees to their house by moonlight.

Buckhorn Ranch is the last ranch up the mountain, and so you don’t drive into town every time you need one item. We discussed driving into town later that day, and then we would be able to buy our fishing licenses. But my wife and I were so anxious to catch some fish, and because we knew in our hearts that we were going to buy our fishing licenses later that day, we didn’t see any harm in re-honing our technique on the creek.

Pinkham Creek is a fairly remote, heavily wooded mountain valley. That is one reason we were totally unprepared for what happened next.

“Do you hear something?” my wife asked.

“Yeah.” It sounded liked an old John Deere tractor with a fouled spark plug.

And then we saw it. It was a helicopter flying low right up the creek bottom. This was not a small, commercial sight-seeing helicopter, but a big, olive-green military chopper.

“Hide!” I shouted to my wife. We darted behind some trees as the chopper roared over our heads. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I thought a Montana game warden had come up with an ingenious way to catch people who were fishing without a license.

We scooted back to the house and I asked my mother-in-law about it. She said the area was so remote some found it a safe place to grow marijuana. The military was combing the area because they have special equipment to spot marijuana plots.

As I reflected on it later, I realized how silly my fears were. What? Would the game warden really hire out a military aircraft to patrol remote mountain streams on the unlikely chance he might spot a fisherman?

I imagined him spotting us, ordering the pilot to hover in place while he scrambled down a rope ladder. With a couple of soldiers pointing machine guns at us to prevent us from fleeing, he would stride up to us in his sunglasses, and say, “Good morning. Nice day for fishing. May I see your licenses please?”

As I say, the whole notion is ludicrous. But, when you have a guilty conscience, fear balloons out of proportion to reality, and makes you think stupid.

If you’ve already blown it, Jesus can cleanse your conscience, (although helicopters may make you nervous for years afterward.) But, if you’re still considering your options, buying a fishing license first is definitely the way to go.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 16, 2011

Backward Path to Freedom

                 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from having to be righteous. What benefit did you enjoy from doing those things you’re now ashamed of? Those things only result in death.

Romans 6:20-21

In his book, Memories from the Mountains, C.B. Rich recalls the time in 1938 when he was grazing cattle on a five thousand acre spread in south-central Montana. At the farthest corner there was a spring that didn’t freeze up, so he led the cattle there. A Chinook wind raised the temperature, and Rich relaxed in the warmth while the cattle grazed.

C.B. instinctively kept his eye on the southwest because, when the weather changed, it usually came from that direction.

Not today.

As he glanced over his shoulder, he was alarmed to see a dark storm approaching from the northeast. He quickly caught his horse, Star, put the bridle back on, and rode for the ranch house – hoping to outrace the storm.

A blast of wind hit his left side, and then a blinding snowstorm engulfed him. Though he could barely see, he kept the wind on his left to keep his bearings. But, after a while, he noticed shod tracks in the snow. He had ridden in a circle.

The temperature was plummeting fast. Pointing his horse toward what he thought was home, he kept Star to a swinging gallop. Again, he came upon his own tracks, and realized the wind must be swirling.

It would soon be dark.

C.B. made a daring decision. He ignored the wind and raced in the opposite direction of where he supposed the ranch to be.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be free from the constraints the Lord puts on my life. It’s not always easy to give generously when the budget’ tight or worship on Sunday morning when friends say the fish are biting.

In one sense, following Jesus is confining – but only in the sense that highways are confining. Yet, in another sense, staying on the road is the only path to freedom.

When we live in greed and selfishness we are not restricted. But neither are we free.

In the swirling blizzard C.B’s only hope was to head in the opposite direction of the ranch. He was looking for a fence line. Once he found it, he knew it would lead him safely home. Following the fence was two to three times longer, but C.B. gladly gave up the freedom to ride in the blizzard unrestricted.

C.B. finally caught sight of the ranch and then passed out from hypothermia.  By then the temperature had plummeted to thirty below zero.

With his right arm in the lariat, his horse would carry him the rest of the way home.

Following the fence restricted his movements, but it was his only path to freedom.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 15, 2011

Pay Attention to the Signs

                 I will listen to what God, the Lord, will say. For he will speak peace to his people.

Psalm 85:8

In 1874, Homer Wheeler was an Army officer stationed at Fort Keogh near Miles City, Montana. In his memoirs he describes the tracking abilities of Poor Elk, a Cheyenne scout.

A column of troops was sent out to find some Indians who were reported to have crossed the Yellowstone River not far from their outpost.

The surrounding area had been trampled by buffalo and the grass cropped short by their grazing, so finding their trail would be extremely difficult. Half the column had already ridden past the Indian’s path before Poor Elk noticed their trail.

After following it for a mile, he found where they had camped. He brushed away the ashes from the fires and felt the ground underneath for warmth. After locating the fires he found the pin holes from the tepees. By knowing the size of each tepee he could estimate the number of Indians in the party.

Poor Elk found a moccasin and a piece of cloth that had been thrown away. The moccasin was sewn with thread instead of sinew. This told him they were probably following Sioux, instead of Cheyenne, as they originally supposed. A piece of calico was not the pattern available at the Cheyenne reservation, and a hair braid was the kind the Sioux used to fasten to the scalp lock.

He found where a sweat-lodge had been built – which meant they had stayed in camp for at least an entire day. But the horse droppings showed they had not stayed for more than one day. Further, seeds in horse droppings indicate where the party had come from, and the position of the urine in relation to the hoof prints showed the sex of the horse (the presence of mares indicated it was not a war party, since only women rode mares).

The position of the wickiups and tepees in relation to where the horses were tied – in addition to the care taken in leaving camp was evidence they were not moving in any special hurry.

These Indians, Poor Elk told them, were not Cheyenne, as they suspected, but Sioux, who had recently left an agency. They didn’t cross the Yellowstone at the time reported to them, but two days earlier. Their direction indicated they were probably heading north to join with other Indians north of the Canadian border.

Poor Elk could see what the others could not because he had learned to pay attention to the signs. In the same way, God wants us to pay attention to what he’s doing for us.

The Lord doesn’t bonk us on the head with spiritual truth and wisdom. But he teaches us the way of wholeness, of peace, when we focus our attention on him.

You don’t see much in life unless you learn to look for it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday April 14, 2011

Don’t Sell Them a Lantern

                Jesus sent messengers on ahead to go into a Samaritan village to prepare for his stay. But the Samaritans would not welcome him because his destination was Jerusalem.

Luke 9:52-53

In the late 1800s, a young William C. Coleman got a job selling typewriters. He left his home in Kansas on a sales trip to Alabama, and noticed a stunningly bright lamp shining in a store window. He discovered that, while lanterns used kerosene for fuel, a company from Memphis, Tennessee used gasoline instead.

Coleman quit selling typewriters and began selling gas lanterns. The lantern company owner offered Coleman both their patent and franchise, so he quickly scrambled together enough money to buy the company.

In 1900, he took his business west and set up shop in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. But he was crushed to discover that no one wanted to buy his lanterns. Another company had already been in the area selling an inefficient brand of gas lantern. Repeatedly, he heard the same story: “Don’t try to sell me one of those. Already bought one. They don’t work; they won’t be lit.”  Everyone had gone back to their dim, but reliable, kerosene lamps.

C. A. Roberts, in his book, A Life Worth Living, relates how the discouraged young salesman returned to his dark hotel room. He could see people in the store across the street, which was dimly lit by three kerosene lamps.

Then the insight hit him: “I’ll stop selling lamps and start selling light!”

He raced across the street to see the storeowner, who reminded him he wasn’t interested in his gas lanterns. But Coleman told him he wasn’t selling lanterns; he was selling light. “You pay me to light your store. If the lamps don’t work, that’s my problem.”  He didn’t ask the storeowner to pay for the lantern – only the light.

Customers loved the idea, and soon he was servicing customers as far away as San Diego. William soon became wealthy as the founder of the Coleman Lantern Company.

You can hardly imagine hatred more intense than that between the Israelites and the Samaritans. Galileans traveling south to Jerusalem would cross the Jordan River and make a loop around Samaria, rather than travel through it.

Jesus, however, loved Samaritans. He offered an immoral Samaritan woman the water of life. We still speak today of being a “Good Samaritan” based on the story Jesus told to a Jewish lawyer.

As he began his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus ignored the circuitous road and traveled straight south from Galilee to Jerusalem. When Samaritans learned he was heading for Jerusalem, however, they refused to show him any hospitality.

Jesus didn’t get angry. He understood. The Samaritans, like many you know, have been deeply hurt and mistreated by others in the name of religion.

Usually, the first thing they need is not a sermon, but a listening ear. And don’t try to sell them a lantern. Let them see, instead, the brightness of the Light.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 13, 2011

Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

                Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:67

There is this politician I know and I want to share something that happened to him. Off the record, of course.

Quite a few years ago, he was asked, as an afterthought, to speak at a special gathering. The committee told him he shouldn’t try to be funny or to talk too long. You have to admire any politician who would agree to those stipulations, but he did.

Then, just as he was getting reading to leave, his son got sick. Normally, this wouldn’t be overly traumatic, but their older son had just died the year before, and now his wife was in hysterics about him leaving. He felt, however, that he had to fulfill his obligation, and sadly, walked out the door on his sick son and angry wife.

And, then, on his way to give his speech, he got sick himself. He still hadn’t written his speech. Dog tired, he tried to put some thoughts together.

Fifteen thousand people attended the gathering. A singing group from Baltimore performed a song, and then he was on.

If you’re a preacher, public speaker, or even a student in a high school speech class, you know what it feels like to bomb. You’re embarrassed and humiliated.

He gave his speech. When he finished, there was an awkward silence, followed by tepid, scattered applause. He bombed.

When he slumped into his seat on the podium, he told his friend sitting next to him that his speech failed, and, as if to confirm this, pointed out the disappointment of the crowd.

But a tepid response from the crowd was nothing compared to some in the media. The Chicago Times jumped all over him, calling his speech “silly, flat, and dishwatery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania paper chose to ignore his “silly remarks” in order to spare their readers from such an awful speech.

I’ve kept quiet about this politician’s name, but I guess there’s no harm in sharing it with you now. His name was Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t say I knew him personally). And the speech he gave was for the dedication of a seventeen-acre military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

When Jesus was at the height of his popularity, he gave a speech and the crowds disliked it. So many people quit following him that he had to ask his own disciples if they intended to leave him as well.

People may reject or ridicule what you have to say – not because it isn’t true, but because they’re not ready to hear it.

Want to know what you should do? Speak the truth anyway. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took time to become the most well-loved speech in American history.

And two thousand years later, we still feed our souls on Jesus’ “failed” speech.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 12, 2011

The Biblical View of Sledding

                  So David took the spear and water jug from next to Saul’s head, and they left.

1 Samuel 26:12

When Tim and Irene Martin invited our church youth group to a sledding party, we thought it would be fun. But we soon learned the important distinction between fun and crazy.

The Martins lived at Star Meadows, high up in the mountains of Montana, and after we parked our cars along the roadside, our adventure began by sledding uphill.

Tim tied a heavy rope to the back of his four-wheel drive. We would sit on our sleds, hang onto the rope, and he would gun his rig – taking us on a wild ride up his long driveway. As we rounded a bend, the centrifugal force threw Lauren off her sled and I ran over her, but we found her still breathing, so the party was successful so far.

Once we got to the top things got interesting. Tim expected us to go sledding down the mountain back to the road. We pointed out to him that there were a lot of big trees on his very steep mountainside, but he failed to comprehend the significance of this.

While we tried to think of a Bible verse that talked about prudence, Tim’s dad came out of the house. He was a retired medical doctor, so everyone still called him Doc.

“Hey, Doc,” one of the kids said, “you come out to watch us?”

Doc looked hurt. “No,” he said, “I came to go sledding!”

I hasten to point out that Doc Martin was 83 years old at the time, so we laughed at his joke. But, it turned out that Doc wasn’t joking. He sat on his sled and we listened to him whooping it up as he disappeared down the mountain.

When Saul was king of Israel, he was intent on killing the young warrior, David. When men reported David’s whereabouts to Saul, the king gathered 3000 chosen men to pursue him.

David’s scouts reported that Saul was after him, so he went out to investigate and saw where Saul was camped for the night.

Somehow, David got it into his head that he wanted to sneak into Saul’s camp and asked which of his leaders wanted to join him. Abishai, who couldn’t think of a Bible verse about prudence, agreed to join him.

That night, David and Abishai snuck past 3000 of Saul’s best soldiers, and stole Saul’s spear and water jug that was lying beside the king’s head.

You can’t deny that David and Abishai were daring, but what’s the point? Why attempt something so foolhardy? It’s not as if David had to do this.

David did this because he was David. He didn’t have an on\off switch to regulate his courage.

Careening down a mountainside on a sled doesn’t sound like an overly biblical thing to do. But it’s practice – practice for the day when the Lord will call on us to suppress our fears to do something valiant in his name. And, since only Luke broke a bone, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we originally thought it would be.

No one has ever accused the Martin family of being sane. But, no matter – they have taught us the glory of stealing spears and water jugs.

And the importance of memorizing Bible verses about prudence.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Monday April 11, 2011

Bruised and Showered With Dirt

                  So David and his men kept going along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside paralleling him, and as he went he cursed and threw stones and showered him with dirt.

2 Samuel 16:13

Jeannine Buckley wrote to Reader’s Digest about a petty argument she had with her husband, Lonn, in which both of them were unwilling to admit they might be wrong.

In an effort at conciliation, Jeannine said, “I’ll admit I’m wrong, if you’ll admit I’m right.” Lonn agreed and insisted his wife go first.

“I’m wrong,” she said.

With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “You’re right!”

I like Lonn already. I used to think I was always right about everything too – despite the adamant objections of those around me.  For years it was a source of wonder to me – why did I possess such an uncanny ability to be right about everything, while everyone else around me was so often mistaken and misguided?  It couldn’t be mere coincidence. Was it my towering intellect or just a boundless supply of common sense?

It took me most of my life before I finally realized that the reason I was always right was because I was woefully lacking in humility.

When king David was fleeing from Absalom, a man by the name of Shimei met them along the way. He called David a scoundrel and, as he cursed the king, he pelted him with stones. David’s commander, Abishai, quickly assessed the situation and offered to have the man decapitated.

Oddly, king David ordered that they leave him alone, because, who knows? – he might be right. The royal retinue plodded on while Shimei kept up the tempo of his curses, while he whipped stones at them and showered them with dust.

God called David a man after his own heart. The Lord certainly didn’t say that because David was always right. He said it because David was humble.

The war was not going well when President Lincoln, with his assistant, John Hay, and Secretary of State, William Seward, paid a visit to General McClellan’s home. The servant told the President they would have to wait until he returned from a wedding.

An hour later, McClellan returned and looked bemused as he walked past the room in which they were waiting. They sat patiently, and waited.

Finally, the servant returned and informed the President that the general had decided to go to bed.

On their way home, Hay fumed over McClellan’s insolence, but Lincoln calmly replied that this was no time to be concerned about one’s dignity. “I will hold McClellan’s horse,” Lincoln said, “if he will only bring us success.”

David and Lincoln were two of history’s greatest leaders. But their secret power was not in armies, but the ability to keep moving while bruised and showered with dirt.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 9, 2011

The Score Keeper’s Error

                   The Lord guides the humble in what is right. . .

Psalm 25:9

If we want to learn the English language, we begin by learning the rules.

But, once we master the language, we learn to transcend the rules. School children learn: “Never end a sentence with a preposition.” The literary master, Winston Churchill, on the other hand, said: “That is a rule up with which I will not put!”

When God began leading his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, his guidance was simple – just follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They didn’t have to be spiritually insightful; they just had to be obedient.

The journey through the wilderness began with the people mechanically following the rules. But that isn’t how God wanted them to finish the journey. He wanted them to learn to follow him when there was no more pillar of cloud or fire. His goal was to teach them to trust – to be guided by their knowledge of the living God.

As they neared the Promised Land, Moses sent twelve spies to scope out the Promised Land. They returned and all agreed it was a land flowing with milk and honey. But they gave a dire report about the powerful people who lived there.

Caleb disagreed. “We should go up and take possession of the land. We can absolutely do this.” Among the spies, only Joshua sided with Caleb, and added, “If the Lord is pleased with us he will lead us into that land.”

This is what the Lord was working toward: two men whose actions were guided by humble faith in his gracious gift and his mighty power.

For over forty years, John Condon was the beloved announced for Knicks’ games in Madison Square Garden. Dave Anderson, writing for The New York Times, told how Condon was announcing the Holiday Festival basketball tournament. North Carolina was clobbering Princeton, 103-76, and, in the final minute of the game, Rodney Fogelman ran to the scorer’s table – hoping to play in the last few seconds.

“This kid’s got to get in the game,” Condon told the scorekeeper, Tom Kenville, “Blow the horn.”

    “I can’t blow the horn. Play’s got to be stopped.”

Ignoring the rules, Condon leaned over, grabbed the horn, and blew it.  The referees on the court, stopped and stared at the scorer’s table.

“Scorer’s error,” Condon boomed through the P.A. “Now going into the game for Princeton, Rodney Fogelman.”

Condon leaned toward Kenville, “This kid will remember this the rest of his life.”

Condon knew the rules. But I for one am glad he knew more: he also knew the memories he could create for Rodney Fogelman.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 8, 2011

His Face Betrayed His Secret

                 Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces will never be covered with shame.

Psalm 34:5

On February 4, 1863, six men left the mining camp of Bannock (later renamed “Bannack” after a clerical error in Washington D.C.).  These prospectors went looking for gold by the Yellowstone River, but, by intruding on Indian land, they were captured by Crow warriors and held captive in a large Indian camp.

They escaped, but were pursued relentlessly by the Crow. The prospectors were hungry and frequently lost.

On May 26, they were camped at a little lake in the Gravelly Mountain range. Two of the men, Bill Fairweather and Barney Hughes, climbed to a nearby summit which they named “Old Baldy.”

It was a good day. Their overview of the area gave them confidence they were no longer pursued by Indians. They identified a landmark which told them they were only four days from Bannock. They had the leisure to shoot elk and bighorn sheep to replenish their nearly exhausted food supplies. They had time to rest their horses.

But best of all, at a little creek, they discovered gold. Lots of it.

They christened the stream, Alder Creek, and headed into town. They all agreed not to breathe a word about their discovery to a soul. They would go to Bannock to resupply and then return to Alder Creek to continue panning.

But, after they restocked their supplies and headed back to their gold find, they were shocked to discover half the town of Bannock following them.

Alright, who squealed?

No one. The miners from town said their beaming faces gave them away.

In his psalm, David says that those who look to the Lord are radiant.

The moon emits no light of its own. It shines because it reflects the light it receives from the sun. When our hearts are exposed to the blazing brilliance of God’s love, we simply reflect it.

Sour-faced Christians, on the other hand, advertise a God who prefers to scowl.

When we talk about reflecting the joy of the Lord by our radiant faces, however, we are walking into a dangerous place. Simply put: it encourages hypocrisy. Have you ever seen believers who wear phony, manufactured happiness? Their plastered smiles don’t look like a reflection of God’s grace. They look artificial – as if they feel a need to impress others with their glowing “radiance.”

Instead, they look kind of creepy.

Jesus radiated light. He was the light of the world. He didn’t have to put on an act. Sometimes he was sad and wept; sometimes he was angry. But I don’t think he had to tell you he lived in harmony with the Father. His face betrayed his secret.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday April 7, 2011

String Your Bow, Flash Your Sword, and Give God the Credit

               I will not trust in my bow, my sword will not bring me victory.

              But you have delivered us from our enemies; you put to shame our adversaries.

             We have made our boast in God all day long, and we will forever give thanks to your name.

Psalm 44:6-8

Warren Buffett, the financial investor with, like, a gazillion dollars, likes to tell the story about his daughter, Emily.  When she turned four, he threw a birthday party for her. One of the main attractions was Beemer the Clown.

Beemer held “the box of wonders” and asked Emily to come forward and wave a magic wand over the box.  He would toss green handkerchiefs into the box, and cover it.  Emily would wave the magic wand, and then Beemer would pull out blue handkerchiefs from the box.  He would toss in loose handkerchiefs.  Emily would wave the wand over the box, and out would come handkerchiefs knotted together.

Emily was delighted. She was so pleased with her mastery of the magic wand that she blurted out, “Gee, I’m really good at this!”

When we enjoy success, we like to take the credit.  After all, it was our “bow” and “sword” (as the Psalmist mentions) that made things happen. That’s why success can be so dangerous.  We treat God like Beemer the Clown, while we wave a magic wand and exult in our triumphs.

When we convince ourselves that God plays no part in our success, unpleasant things happen.

For starters, pride makes us obnoxious, and no one wants to be around us.

But, when we take credit for our success, we view God as our competitor.  We suspect he wants to hog the credit for the wonders we have done.

At Chancellorsville, General “Fighting Joe” Hooker led a Union army of 130,000 soldiers against less than half that number of Confederates.  “The enemy is in my power,” he said, “and God Almighty cannot deprive me of them.”

Hooker got his butt kicked at Chancellorsville.

The Titanic rammed an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank.  Even though other ships warned the Titanic about the icebergs, the pilot ignored the warnings, because, as one of the crew exalted, “God himself could not sink this ship.”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Maybe it’s not such a great idea to thumb your nose at the One who makes all our achievements possible.

J. S. Bach, perhaps the greatest musician of all time, wrote truckloads of brilliant music.  But his trademark signature at the end of his compositions were the initials   S.D.G.  Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be the glory.

Bach strung his bow and flashed his sword. . .but gave God credit for the victories.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Wednesday April 6, 2011

Understanding Paradox with Rufus the June Beetle

God determined . . . the exact times and boundaries where people should live, so they would seek him and, consequently, in their searching would find him . . . For in him we live and move and have our being.

Acts 17:26-28

Today, I want to pick a fight, and argue that we should stop fighting and arguing so much in the church.

When the stakes are high – and they don’t get any higher than when we’re defending the truths about God – we easily confuse unwavering loyalty to God with stubbornness. Listening thoughtfully and openly to another’s point of view sounds far too much like compromising the truth. And so, we entrench, and prepare for battle.

One of the greatest points of doctrinal contention is whether God is totally sovereign, or whether we have free will. As Christians, we have gotten into more food fights over this issue than any other I can name.

But what if both sides are right?

The apostle Paul was comfortable with paradox. When he was speaking to the tweedy philosopher types in Athens, he affirmed both sides of the argument. He talked about God wanting everyone to seek him, and, in their searching, to find him. Sounds like free will. But he also emphasized God’s complete sovereignty. God determines what happens when, and we can’t live or move or exist apart from his decision.

Paul assumes both sides of the matter are true.

Now, many claim that, when I went to seminary to drink from the fountains of knowledge, I only gargled. And I’m certainly not helping my cause by telling you my position on sovereignty and free will has been influenced by Rufus the June beetle.

Once upon a time, a June beetle named Rufus woke to a sunny morning and decided to fly around, and do buggy things. He flew through the open window of a Chevy pickup. No particular reason. He was a bug.

Soon, a human got in, rolled up the windows, and drove down the road.

Is Rufus still free? Obviously not. His movements are totally dictated by the will of the driver. Rufus is going wherever the driver chooses to go.

Is Rufus now under the total control of the driver? Well, no, actually. He’s still free to do beetle stuff, like landing in people’s hair or getting stuck on his back.

Now look at the mess we’ve made. Rufus has free will but doesn’t have free will. The driver is totally controlling Rufus’ movements, but doesn’t totally control Rufus’ movements. We’ve got ourselves a paradox: two truths are true at the same time.

Thinking any deeper than this makes my brain hurt. But I do know that seeing life from both angles allows me to bow before the God who is Lord of all, and still rejoice in the glorious freedom he has given the children of men.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 5, 2011

The Snob

And to those who tried to assure themselves they were righteous and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this story . . .

Luke 18:9

When I was in third grade we learned a song called “Little Robin Redbreast.” It’s a chirpy number that recounts the epic conflict of wills between a robin and a pussycat.

After we learned the song our teacher gave everyone a sheet a paper with a robin on it and we got our crayons out to color it in.

This was my favorite time of the day. I loved art. Whenever my mind wandered during other classes, which was just about all the time, I would draw dinosaurs or football players or soldiers blowing things up.

But, as we colored in our robins, events took a disturbing turn.

Kids are busybodies and like to check up on each other’s progress, and as I looked at my classmates, I was horrified. Oblivious to reality, they were actually coloring the robin’s breast red! A robin’s breast isn’t red – it’s burnt-orange. Granted, we didn’t have burnt-orange in our arsenal of crayons back then, but at the very least, orange would be the better choice. And, if you take a brown crayon, you can lightly feather it over top of the orange for a pleasing effect.

I knew, however, exactly why they were coloring their robin’s breast red. They had been manipulated by a stupid song. And why? Because some two-bit poet lacked the literary skill to compose a song called, “Little Robin Burnt-Orange Breast.”

Nevertheless, the song, didn’t account for why Ronnie chose to color the rest of his robin’s body black. It didn’t even look like a robin; it looked like a raven hugging the top of a traffic light.

My classmates had no idea they were under covert investigation by the Color Police. They just colored away and were happy to be alive while I glumly brooded over their lack of aesthetic rigor.

As I look back on those days, I realize I was an art snob before I even knew what an art snob was. Snobbery has nothing to do with striving for excellence, nor even with thinking you can do something better than others. Snobbery is a dark smugness that enjoys feeling superior to others.

Spiritual snobbery is especially distasteful and dangerous. The Pharisees validated their lives by feeling holier than the common rabble. By seeking to be superior, they were silently acknowledging their secret insecurity in their relationship with God.

Once we know the mercy of Jesus, we enter into a secure relationship with God. He frees us from the desperate need to be holier or “righter” than others . . . or better able to draw robins.

But RED, for Pete’s sake! I still can’t believe it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Monday April 4, 2011

Love and Truth Have Kissed

The Lord will be the stable foundation for your times, a wealthy storehouse of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.

Isaiah 33:6

Tim Stafford wrote an article in Christianity Today about a pastor he knew, Dr. Stephen Bilynskyj. He fills a jar with beans and asks his class to guess how many beans are in the jar. On a big pad of paper he writes down their estimates. Then, next to their estimates he asks them to name their favorite song.

After the two lists are completed, he tells them how many beans are in the jar, and the class checks the list to see whose estimate was the closest. Then Pastor Bilynskyj looks at the list of favorite songs and asks them which song is closest to being right.

The students protest that there isn’t a right answer.

Bilynskj asks them, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?”

The answer is disturbing – invariably they say that their religious faith is like choosing a favorite song.  They see their faith, in other words, not as something that is actually true, but as their personal preference.

If God truly exists, we should expect to find his fingerprints. As we examine the fundamental components of life, we should see evidence of an Intelligent Designer – systems that can’t be constructed by a mindless combination of chemicals. And we do.

When we read the story of God’s working among his people, we would expect to find archeological evidence for the places and buildings spoken about. And we do.

If God doesn’t really exist, then life is meaningless, and we must have the courage to admit it.  But, isn’t it odd that those who claim there is no God, and no purpose in life,  have a dickens of a time practicing their belief?

AsRavi Zacharias was being driven to a lecture he was giving at Ohio State University, his host drove him past the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts, hailed as the first postmodern building. The outer scaffolding gives a sense of incompleteness. Inside, stairways go nowhere and pillars hang from the ceiling without purpose.

The host told Zacharias that the building was designed to reflect life itself – senseless and incoherent – and the “capriciousness of the rules that organize the built world.”

Ravi asked, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

His host said, “That is correct.”

“Did he do the same thing with the foundation?”

God is not an illusion – something you believe in just to make you feel good. He is the foundation of reality. He makes the things we long for: love and a restored life, real.

In the God who is really there, Love and Truth have kissed.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday April 2, 2011

But Truth Won’t Break

Because of rebellion . . . truth was flung to the ground.

Daniel 8:12

When Stephen Covey speaks to audiences, he will sometimes ask everyone to close their eyes and point north. Telling them not to move their arms, he asks everyone to open their eyes. The audience discovers it is pointing every which way.

Are they all correct? Is north whatever direction you think it is? Or, is there one direction that points to true north?

Before you answer that, let’s ratchet things up a notch. Suppose you’re driving in an unfamiliar city when your child in the back seat suddenly becomes ill. You shout out your car window at a passing pedestrian, “Where is the nearest hospital?”

“Three blocks north of here.”

If you are unsure of your directions would you ask which way is north? Or, would you conclude it didn’t matter – north is whatever direction you believe it to be?

Now, if it was up to me, I would never discuss mathematics because I’m so bad at it. But, our present circumstances compel me to bring up the topic of pi.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. And, while most of us can live happy lives without ever learning this fact, I’m told that correctly calculating pi is critical in some areas of life.

The number for pi is often identified as 3.14, but that isn’t true. Pi is an irrational number that keeps going until it disappears over the horizon. (In November, 2005, Chao Lu recited the first 67,890 decimal places of pi from memory.)

All this was not going down well with Edward J. Goodwin. As an amateur mathematician, he offered to the world three ways of calculating pi. The first formula calculated pi as 3.2, while other formulas yielded the numbers 3.23 and 4.

T.I. Record knew a good thing when he saw one. In 1897, as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, he introduced Bill #246, which changed the number of pi to Goodwin’s suggestions. The bill was sent to the House, where everyone was delighted to make pi a simpler number. Bill #246 was unanimously approved, 67 to 0.

The bill was passed on the Senate. But then a mathematics professor from Purdue, C.A. Waldo, convinced them they were a bunch of loons, and the bill died in committee.

We can fling the truth to the ground, but truth won’t break. If we ignore it, it will break us.

God doesn’t exist because we believe in him. He’s True North, and our opinions about him won’t alter who he is. What matters is that we find, and hold on to, what is true about God, and life in general, rather than trying to invent it.

In Indiana, preserving the true number of pi saved all the architects in the state from banging their heads against walls and mumbling incoherently.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday April 1, 2011

They Can See Right Through Us

When you fast, don’t be like the gloomy-looking hypocrites. They contort their faces so it becomes obvious to everyone that they’re fasting.

Matthew 6:16

Have you ever noticed that people who are trying to look cool don’t really look cool; they look like they’re trying to look cool?

When I order sub sandwiches they have a tip jar at the end of the counter. I like to tip workers, but sometimes they’re attention is turned elsewhere and they don’t see me giving my generous tip. So, I like to wait until they see me – but here’s the trick: I try to make it look like I’m furtively sneaking a tip in their jar yet hoping they’ll notice. That way, they’ll see me as both humble and generous at the same time.

Jesus thinks I’m a poser when I do that, and, of course, he’s right. Posing is a big deal to him because our vanity destroys the most critical attitude of a believer: humility. Only humble hearts receive undeserved gifts. And that’s what Jesus came to give us.

Becoming proud of our humility is an oxymoron. It doesn’t impress God, and, if you must know the dismal truth, it doesn’t impress other people.

Daniel M. Oppenheimer is a cognitive psychologist at Princeton. He published a study about the benefit of using simple language, and entitled it: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity.”  (I found his title a little ironic until I realized this was meant to be humorous; his subtitle says: “Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”)

Oppenheimer wanted to know if people think we’re more intelligent when we use complicated language rather than using simple words. He found that 86 percent of university students admitted that they deliberately use complicated words in their essays to make their papers sound more valid or intelligent.

His study revealed that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, people do not think you’re more intelligent when you write obscurely – they think you’re less intelligent. In other words, whenever we try to impress others with our intelligence, our attempts backfire.  They can see right through us.

Jesus watched the “religious” people as they prayed and gave alms to the poor, and fasted. All of those things are good. But he observed that these people wanted other people to notice and admire their spirituality. Yet, craving attention is not spiritual, so he called it for what it was and warned us not to imitate that kind of hypocrisy.

But, if you still insist on trying to impress people with your spirituality, let me give you a tip: the key is subtlety. And, if you need any help, come with me some day and watch me pay for a sub sandwich.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday March 31, 2011

Willing to Take the Full Brunt

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life in place of ours.

1 John 3:16

Imagine a happy little kindergarten girl walking to school when another bigger kid runs up behind her and deliberately shoves her to the ground?

We instantly become angry, and if we could talk to that bully, the first word out of our mouth is apt to be “Why?” “Why did you have to do that? She wasn’t doing anything to you!”

If you read through the Psalms, that question is frequently on their lips when life doesn’t make sense to them, “Why? O Lord . . .”

Dan Miller writes about the Clark family in Scotland. The husband and wife worked hard to save up money so they could take their nine children on vacation to the United States. After years of scrimping, they bought their passports and made their reservations on an ocean liner.

You can imagine their excitement as the trip of their dreams was only a week away.

But then their youngest son was bitten by a dog, and the doctor said he would have to remain home under quarantine for two weeks because of the possibility of rabies.

The entire family was crushed by the news, but the father took it the worse – cursing both God and his son for this huge disappointment.

Mr. Clark’s anger melted away five days later. He had just learned that the ocean liner, for which they had reservations, the Titanic, had sunk.

Anaiah Tucker is a nine-year-old who lives in Madison, Georgia. It was raining as she walked hand-in-hand with her five-year-old sister, Camry, to catch the school bus.

As they crossed the road, suddenly, they saw a pickup truck was bearing down on them. In an act of selfless love, Anaiah pushed her sister out of the way to safety, but was hit by the pickup herself.

The mother of the two girls ran to the scene, and found that Anaiah had no pulse. The school bus soon arrived, and the driver, Loretta Berryman, administered CPR until she began to breathe again.

Anaiah broke her neck, lost a kidney, damaged her spleen, broke both legs, and had to eventually have one leg amputated.

We’re angry with kids who would senselessly push another child to the ground . . . as long as we see no purpose in their doing so.

If you’re angry with God and find yourself shouting “Why?” at him a lot, I think you should know that he has a purpose for things – even if we can’t see it at the moment.

And, it’s also good to remember that the same God who may push you to the ground, is the one who was willing to take the full brunt of the truck in order to save you.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 30, 2011

What You’ve Got Left

The gift is acceptable according to what one has, not what he doesn’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12

Noel Paul Stookey (from the folk-rock group Peter, Paul, and Mary) gave a solo concert in River Forest, Illinois back in the 70s.

As a live performer, Stookey is incomparable. But, on one of his final songs, he broke a guitar string. He never missed a beat, but kept on singing and playing. And then, a second string snapped . . . and still he continued his song.

With two strings dangling wildly, his guitar work didn’t sound quite as full, so we gave him a tepid applause for that song, right?

Are you kidding? The auditorium went wild! We weren’t applauding the quality of his guitar sound; we were applauding his courage to do his best with the four strings he had left.

God doesn’t appraise our efforts by what we wish we could do, but by what we can do.

That’s how you treat other people too, isn’t it? That’s why you’re so delighted with a hand-drawn birthday card from a five-year-old. Even if half the words are misspelled and the drawing of you is less than flattering.

So, why do you judge your own situation so differently?  Have you noticed how easily we fall into the habit of comparing our present efforts to what we used to be able to accomplish when we were younger, or what we could do before the accident?

I live up in the mountains of Montana and look out my window at Still Peak. I love to hike to the summit, but, with age, and a massive blood clot, and nerve damage to both my calves, and arthritis in my knees, I can no longer dance up the trail to the summit like I used to.

That’s when I need to remember that God doesn’t care so much about what my body can accomplish; he cares about my heart – what I do with what I’ve got.

My sister once took me and my family to worship at a stately Episcopal church near Detroit.  During the celebration of the Eucharist, the people would walk forward to the altar rail to receive Communion.

As we were singing the Communion hymn, we noticed one man as he made his way to the front. He was in an advanced stage of muscular dystrophy and the spastic movement of his limbs made it virtually impossible for him to lurch toward the front.

It took him a long time to make his way to the front, but he was determined, and we would’ve have waited for him until Tuesday. My wife and I weren’t able to continue with the hymn. While he communed I wanted to applaud.

Don’t be sad about what you don’t have. The only gift that God, and the world, wants from you is to give what you’ve got left.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 29, 2011

Pad Our Stats or Nurse Our Toes?

After they stoned Paul, they dragged him outside the city, assuming he was dead. But . . . he got up and went back into the city.

Acts 14:19-20

When Henry “Zeke” Bonura was sixteen, he entered the javelin competition at a National Track and Field Championship in 1925, and threw it seven feet farther than the “Chariots of Fire” Olympic gold medalist did in Paris the year before. He still remains the youngest male athlete to win an event at an AAU Track and Field Championship.

At Loyola University, he starred in football, basketball, and track. Notre Dame’s famous football coach, Knute Rockne, called him “The South’s Wonder Athlete.”  When he played major league baseball for the Chicago White Sox he twice led American League first basemen with the lowest percentage of errors.

I won’t tell you that Zeke Bonura was an excellent fielder – not to avoid boring you with the obvious, but to avoid lying.

Bonura was LOUSY at first base.  Sports editor, Otis Harris wrote in 1946: “It was never established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bonura was the worst fielding first basemen in the majors, but the consensus was that he would do until another one came along.”

So, how could Bonura win the title of best defensive first basemen in both 1934 and 1938 and yet be considered such a bad defensive player?

Simple. He didn’t try.

Zeke made the brilliant discovery that you can’t be charged with an error if you don’t touch the ball. So, he let easy grounders roll into left field and waved at them with his “Mussolini salute.”

I would love to take this opportunity to heap scorn on the lethargic ambitions of Zeke Bonura, but I can’t. I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes I become so afraid of failing that I never try.

On the apostle Paul’s missionary trips, he often failed to win over the people he met. Once, (against the wishes of the town’s Chamber of Commerce) they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and continued to carry the Good News on his lips.

And good things happened because he wasn’t afraid to fail.

One of the greatest inventors of his time, Charles Kettering, said, “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe.” “But,” Kettering adds, “the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”

When we get our purpose figured out, we won’t waste time trying to pad our stats. We’ll be too busy nursing our toes.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Monday March 28, 2011

Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

The end of a matter is better than its beginning.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.

Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming:



Autographs 5 cents

On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.

When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun.

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Saturday March 26, 2011

Do You Have Your Own Navy?

It’s not good to act without knowledge. If you’re in too much of a hurry, you’ll take the wrong path.

Proverbs 19:2

Known as TCA, 1, 1, 1, trichloroethane hasn’t been sold in the United States since 1996. Previously it was used as an aerosol propellant in various household products.

Who would have guessed that teenagers would discover you could get high on it if you put your head in a plastic bag and sprayed the fumes into it? Trichloroethane, however, can depress the central nervous system and wreak damage to the heart, lungs, nervous system and liver. It was associated with “sudden sniffing death” syndrome.

The product label clearly warned of death or serious injury if inhaled, but teens ignored the warning. They liked getting high. The company wanted to make the product warning label larger, but attorney Victor Schwartz wisely argued that kids would then assume there was more propellant in the aerosol can.

Sometimes kids can be alarmingly blind to the future consequences of their actions. So, Mr. Schwartz came up with a brilliant solution. He asked his clients, “What do kids worry about more than death or injury?” Their appearance. So, his clients re-worded their warning label to say that sniffing the aerosol could cause hair loss or facial disfigurement.

It worked.

Looking ahead to the effect our present actions will have in the future is important. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take risks. In fact, one of the foremost regrets voiced by the elderly is that they didn’t take more risks in life.

But looking ahead does mean that we should be wise. That means we should know where we want to go, and how we plan to get there.

And, if the only thing you’re looking for are a few thrills in this life, maybe you’re not looking ahead far enough.

The Intermarine Company in northwest Italy specializes in making small boats. Their shipyard is a mile up the Magra River and empties into the ocean at the town of Ameglia.

In 1981, they landed a huge contract. The government of Malaysia offered them a huge multi-million dollar agreement to build a minesweeper and three military vessels.

Intermarine had never built ships this large, but they were up to the task. They finished the project on time and on budget.  But they focused so much on construction that they failed to imagine the day they would sail the ships down the river to the sea.

The large boats were too big to float under the Colombiera Bridge. The shipbuilding company offered to tear down the bridge and rebuild it after they floated their vessels to sea. But the town council refused.

Oh well. How many construction companies can brag that they have their own navy?

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday March 25, 2011

Ahead of Their Time

Have I covered up my sin like Adam by hiding my guilt in my heart?

Job 31:33

When Rand McNally put out their new atlas in 1989, they inadvertently left out the pages for North and South Dakota and Oklahoma. That’s embarrassing. But, hey, no big deal – we all make mistakes.

The map company, however, made national news – not because of their mistake, but because they denied it was an error! Instead, they made the outrageous claim that they didn’t feel they had enough room in their atlas to include ALL the states. One spokesman for the company said, “It was an editorial decision.”

If they admitted they goofed, people would’ve understood, because, well . . . people goof. But, by denying their error and pretending that it was intentional, they looked ridiculous.

The only people who can get away with denying their faults are those in the creative arts. If their work really stinks, they can sniff and say that they are merely “ahead of their time.”

Making mistakes is not the worst thing in the world. They might be bad, but they’re not the worst thing. The worst thing is denying that we have done anything wrong.

The only sin for which you can’t feel the relief of God’s forgiveness is the one you deny you committed.

When I was a freshman in high school I played the drums in the school band.  We were practicing for the halftime show at homecoming, but, if you played on the varsity football team, you, obviously, didn’t have to do halftime.

That left only two of us drummers: me and this senior girl who was really, really good. The band director gave us a difficult drum piece and told the two of us we would play a solo in the middle of the band number.

We were supposed to memorize the solo, and I’m sure I would have, but a fellow drummer taught me a trick: just tape the music to your drum. No one in the stands can see it, and you can just read the music off your drum head.

When the band played at halftime for homecoming it was horribly windy. I wouldn’t remember a detail like that if it wasn’t for the fact that, when it came time for me and the senior girl to play our solo, the wind ripped the music off my drum head.

As I reflected on it afterward, I realize the proper thing to do would have been to just stop playing and let my partner play the drum solo by herself. Instead, I panicked and pretended everything was fine. I started ad-libbing my own funky little rhythm.

I could see a few of my classmates in the stands laughing at me because they saw my music blow away. But you have to rise above that sort of sniggering when you’re ahead of your time.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday March 24, 2011

What’s New?

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away.

Revelation 21:1

Ever notice how we have a compulsion to point out the first robin of the year?

Why is that?

An armchair psychologist might suggest that the reason we get excited about seeing the first robin or crocus is that we have an unconscious urge for summer to come so we can mow our lawn at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to avenge our neighbor for blowing his snow into our driveway.

Psychologists come up with cool explanations for things.

Yet, while we may be excited about spring because we’re looking forward to summer, that doesn’t fully answer our robin question. Yes, kids get “spring fever” and can’t wait for summer vacation. But they’re also excited about the first day of school, and buying new pencils and clothes.

If you think about it, we get excited about new things – even if they’re things we dread. Parents can’t wait to wake their kids up to see the first snowfall of the season – even if they hate winter. We point out the first dandelion we see in the yard – even if we moan about all the dandelions in the yard by the end of June.

But imagine it’s mid-summer and you’re driving a car full of people – with me in the back seat. Suddenly I shout, “Whoa! Stop! Did you see that?”

Everyone immediately stares out the window, as if they might get their first glimpse of a brontosaurus, or something.

“Over there! Do you see that maple tree out there in the field?”

Everyone says, “Yes?” (still hoping there might be a brontosaurus behind it.)

“Can’t you see it? That maple tree has leaves on it!”

Now, I always point out the first leaves of the year, but if I still got ecstatic about seeing leaves on a tree in mid-July, I would have to roam the hallways of nursing homes and hand out free denture cream in order to find a friend.

Robins and leaves are always lovely, but by summer they’re no longer news. “News” is exciting because it is new.

A pastor once told me to imagine a sparrow flying to a granite mountain once a year to sharpen its beak. The time it takes the sparrow to wear down the mountain . . .that’s how long eternity is.

He might be right, but thinking of heaven in terms of duration unnerves me. I think of the Riverside Baptist choir standing on a cloud and singing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” for the nineteen billionth time . . . and the sparrow can’t get them to shut up!

When God showed John a revelation of heaven, he didn’t show him something that was long, he showed him something that was new.

Heaven, I believe, will always be new.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: