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Archive for June, 2011


Story of the Day for Thursday June 30, 2011

The Dog Ate My Lug Wrench

                                              . . . he sent his servant to tell those invited, “Come, because everything is prepared.”’ But one by one, they began to make excuses.” 

                                                                                     Luke 14:17-18

If I would teach my dog to fetch, and then throw a pipe wrench into my garage, he wouldn’t come out until November. I have no excuse for not cleaning it up. But I’m not worried. I have all afternoon to think up a good reason for waiting until tomorrow.

Excuses are so handy. They free us from doing unpleasant tasks or acting responsibly. Not only that, making excuses exercises our creativity – and, although I’m not an expert, I think the process of inventing excuses keeps brain cells from dying.

I have a friend who doesn’t like to make excuses. When his garage gets messy he just cleans it up. He worries me because I have no idea what his lack of excuse-making may be doing to his brain cells.

As beneficial as making excuses can be, there is a serious drawback. Once we get into the habit of making excuses, we begin to lose credibility. Let me ask you: can you recognize a person who habitually makes excuses? Of course you can.  But do you see what that means? Other people can see through your excuses as well. It doesn’t take many excuses before others become skeptical and we lose believability.

Making excuses is really a desperate attempt to avoid repentance. When we repent, we acknowledge our failures and own up to them. But when we make an excuse, we are claiming we are not responsible for our present state of affairs.

So, what do you do? When you’re late for an appointment do you apologize or make excuses?  I find I can fool myself by sounding like I am apologizing when really I’m making an excuse: “I’m sorry I’m late, but I had a flat tire and the dog ate my lug wrench.” The crucial word is “but.” If you apologize, and then use the word, “but,” you didn’t really apologize – you made an excuse.

Want to know what repentance sounds like? “I’m sorry I’m late,” (followed by total silence). You are confessing your fault to the person and asking him to forgive you.

Do you see why this is such a big deal? If we get into the comfortable habit of making excuses to ourselves and others, then why not try it out on God? You can say that’s ridiculous – God knows our heart and mind – you can’t buffalo the Lord. That may be true, but you have no idea how clueless we can be at times. We try it anyway.  Once we become addicted to making excuses, we can’t help ourselves.

We need to repent of not repenting. (I hope I didn’t just say something theologically dopey, but there you are.) I admit, I still like my excuses (and don’t forget about those brain cells), but repentance is so much better.  Jesus wants to forgive, and that feels good. Growing in integrity feels good. And when we take responsibility for our faults, we become more than we were – which is what we were created for.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday June 29, 2011

Let’s Make the Church Together

 

                   “I have given them the glory you gave me, in order that they may be one just as we are one.” 

                                                                                    John 17:22

 The tiny town of Donald in British Columbia had only one employer in 1897: the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the CPR decided to move its divisional headquarters west to Revelstoke, the citizens of Donald knew their village was doomed.

The railroad company offered to move any building in Donald to Revelstoke – free of charge. When the citizens of Revelstoke asked to have St. Peter’s Anglican Church, the railroad company began to dismantle it to move it to its new home.

Many of the residents chose not to move to Revelstoke with the railroad, but instead stayed in their mountain valley, moving south to Windermere.

 

Rufus Kimpton, a leading citizen in Donald, was one of those who moved to Windermere. Rufus’ wife, Celina, dearly missed her beloved church in Donald.

So Rufus stole it.

He had the disassembled church shipped by wagon and barge to Windermere and rebuilt. To this day it is named “St. Peter’s Anglican Church – The Stolen Church.”

While the church was being stolen, however, someone stole the church bell and installed it in their church in the town of Golden – causing their church to be renamed: “St. Paul’s of the Stolen Bell.” The citizens of Golden were so delighted with their heist that they held a parade in honor of their achievement.

The citizens in Revelstoke were upset and demanded the return of their stolen church and stolen bell. The citizens of Windermere were furious and demanded the return of the stolen bell – based on the dubious claim that they had stolen it first.

For over sixty years, resentment smoldered between Windermere and Golden over the rightful owner of the stolen bell. Then, in 1960, a group from Windermere stole back the 600 pound stolen bell from the church in Golden.

Officials in Windermere, however, decided it wasn’t right to steal a stolen bell and, since they already owned a stolen church, they returned the bell to the church in Golden.

 

Jesus prayed that his followers would learn to live in unity, but sometimes it looks more like his church has divided up into competing teams.

 

During a Vacation Bible School, a new student was brought into a teacher’s preschool class. The boy had only one arm and the teacher had no time to prepare his class from making inappropriate remarks to the little boy.

The teacher had the kids do their usual closing. Interlocking their fingers they said: “This is the church, and this is the steeple. Open the doors . . .” The teacher, to her horror, realized she had done the very thing she feared her kids would do.

As she stood there, embarrassed, a little girl sitting next to the boy put her left hand up to the boy’s right hand and said, “Davey, let’s make the church together.”

Why not?

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Story of the Day for Tuesday June 28, 2011

Lessening Our Height

                  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by the quality of his behavior – in actions that demonstrate wisdom’s humility. 

                                                         James 3:13

A police officer arrested a man in Plentywood, Montana, for drunk driving. The man refused to take the breathalyzer and insisted he had to go to the bathroom first. The officer granted his request and waited outside the rest room until he came out.

When the motorist emerged his lips and tongue were blue. He had been told that toilet bowl freshener would disguise alcohol on the breath and foil a breath analyzer.

He was wrong.

Ignorance of what is true can leave us sitting behind bars with an unpleasant taste in our mouth. John Newton, who authored the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” said: “Zeal without knowledge is like speed to a man in the dark.”.

Knowledge is vitally important because it can keep our mouth from turning blue. Yet, knowledge, in itself, can also be harmful. Philip Gulley makes a telling observation in his novel, Home Town Tales, when he writes: “Teenagers sit at the picnic table and carve dirty words into the wood. It is a testimony to our town’s academic excellence that all the words are spelled correctly.”

Education that has been torn free from morality cannot make you wise; it can only increase the effectiveness of evil. Adlai Stevenson liked to tell the story about the prisoner who said to his cellmate: “I’m going to study and improve myself – and when you’re still a common thief, I’ll be an embezzler.”

Wisdom can’t be measured by an I.Q. test or a tendency to win at Trivial Pursuit™.  As odd as it may sound, the Bible tells us the foundation for wisdom is humility. Wisdom, in other words, is not rooted in information, but in character.

Look at it this way: the best thing we could ever do is allow God to pour his love over us. But God’s gifts can only be given to the humble. Whoever accepts God’s gracious offer and responds by living filled with the fruits of love, is wiser than anyone holding a diploma from M.I.T.

When I was in grade school I remember reading a book of brain teasers at my cousin’s house. One posed this problem: A truck tried to go under a bridge and got stuck. People brought in tow trucks and tried to pull it out, but it was wedged tight. Then a young boy suggested they let the air out of the truck tires. It worked.

Everyone else was focused on power to dislodge the truck; no one but the young boy saw the problem from a different perspective: decreasing the height of the truck. But that’s what true wisdom is like; lessening our height that we might know what it’s like to be free.

                                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Monday June 27, 2011

“It’s Not Fair!”

                                  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  

                                                      James 2:13

 Many complain that mercy is unfair, and, of course, they’re absolutely right: it is unfair. Is it ever right to bend the rules for a higher cause than fairness?

 

In 2002, Jake Porter attended Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio – even though he couldn’t read. Jake had Fragile X Syndrome – the most common form of genetic mental retardation.

Yet, Jake was unfailingly cheerful and loved by his classmates. The Homecoming Queen, at the big dance, chose Jake as her escort. Doug Montavon, the school’s all-time rushing leader, doted on Jake and helped him along during football practice.

 

The last football game of the season saw Northwest take a thumping from Waverly High. With five seconds left, Waverly was leading 42-0 when Northwest coach, Dave Frantz called a time out and met with Waverly’s coach, Derek Dewitt.

Coach Frantz told Dewitt that he wanted to send in Jake Porter, who would be handed the ball and would simply take a knee. But Dewitt was having none of it. He returned to the sidelines and told his defense that when the ball was handed to number 54, they were not to touch him, but make sure he scored.

When the quarterback handed Jake the ball, he ran to the line, stopped, and, confused, started running the wrong way. But the referee and players from both teams pointed him toward the goal line.

Jake sliced through the line and galloped for daylight. When he crossed the goal line everyone went wild. Players from both teams were hugging each other. Players from both teams hoisted Jake on their shoulders. Jake’s mom, Liz, said there were no longer two teams out there. “Everybody was on the same team.”

 

Jake’s touchdown run was, of course, unfair – and, with the ref’s assistance, illegal. The sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette whined that if mentally challenged kids want to compete, let them do it in the Special Olympics. “Leave high school football alone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put the fix in.” Other voices joined him.

No one argues that Jake’s touchdown was fair. It was clearly compassionate. But afterward, people became friendlier. Coach Dewitt, the first black coach in the history of the conference, found racial slurs replaced by people approaching him in grocery stores to shake his hand. He was no longer a black man; he was a man. Dewitt said he caught the school bully patiently teaching a couple of special-needs students how to shoot a basketball. Coach Frantz even got a phone call from Steve Mariucci, the head coach of the 49ers, because his NFL players were so touched by Jake’s touchdown.

 

It’s not fair that any of us should be reunited with God. But I hope you won’t mind if Jesus bends the rules of fairness so that, in the end, mercy will triumph.

                                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday June 25, 2011

Will It Take You 21 Days?

                    Jesus told them, “I feel as if I could die from sadness. Stay here and keep awake with me.”  

                                                                          Matthew 26:38

When God created the heavens and the earth, he pronounced everything “good.” The first time the Lord says something was “not good” was not after Adam and Eve sinned,  but while all the fruit still hung on The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As God observed his good creation, he declared it was “not good” that the Man should be alone.

Hunger is not a sin – it simply means we lack the food we need to sustain our bodies. Similarly, loneliness is not a sin because God created us to live in community with others, and he made sure Adam would not be lonely. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, wanted his closest friends to be near him in his struggle. He didn’t need a sermon; he just wanted them to stay awake with him. To be there.

Loneliness is not caused by a lack of people around us, but by a lack of relationship. This is felt most acutely by empty-nesters, the loss of a spouse, or a move into a strange city. The elderly, because they experience severed relationships, often suffer from loneliness. Yet, oddly enough, Dr. Joseph Hartog, an expert in the study of loneliness, says the loneliest age group of all is high school youth. Kids are surrounded by others, but relationships can be precarious and heartbreaking.

Yet, while loneliness is a lack of a God-given need, we can sometimes create the conditions that deepen our aloneness. Many attempts to relieve loneliness only make matters worse.

If you meet a lonely person, what do they do? They talk your ear off, right?  They jabber so incessantly that you struggle to wedge a single sentence into the conversation.  Yet, ironically, those who dominate the conversation will always remain lonely.

The cure for loneliness isn’t simply finding a victim to be a listening ear, because we still haven’t established a relationship. A relationship involves talking AND listening. Receiving AND giving.

The story is told that the famous psychologist, Alfred Adler, once claimed he could cure anyone of emotional difficulties in two weeks – if they followed his prescription.

A desperately lonely woman came to Adler’s office. She was doubtful Adler could cure her loneliness, but asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“If you will do something for someone else every day for fourteen days,” Adler replied, “at the end of the time, your loneliness will be gone.”

The woman objected, “Why should I do anything for someone else? No one ever does anything for me.”

Adler is said to have responded, “Well, maybe it will take you twenty-one days.”

                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



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Story of the Day for Friday June 24, 2011

Take the Whole Mess to Jesus

 

                Wash me thoroughly from all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always staring me in the face. 

                                                                     Psalms 51:2-3

 In 1987, Ron Harper Mills told a story to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. The story wasn’t true (although the internet gossip machine claimed it was). Mills said he made it up to entertain the audience and “to illustrate how, if you alter a few small facts, you greatly alter the legal consequences.”

 

The story goes like this: Ronald Opus left a suicide note and then jumped from a ten-story building. As he fell, a shotgun blast tore through a window and killed him. But, Mr. Opus’s suicide attempt would have failed because construction workers had set up a safety net and he would have fallen harmlessly into it.

When a person attempts suicide and succeeds, even if the mechanism of death is not the one intended, it is still considered a suicide. Yet, because the suicide would have failed, and he was killed by the shotgun blast, homicide now had to be considered.

The shotgun blast came from the apartment of an elderly couple. They had been arguing and the husband had threatened her with the gun. The man pulled the trigger, missed his wife, and the blast pierced the window. When you intend to kill subject A, and instead kill subject B, you’re guilty of the murder of subject B.

When confronted with the murder charge, both the husband and wife insisted that the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said he often threatened his wife with the unloaded gun, but had no intention of killing her.

The killing of Mr. Opus, therefore, would appear to be an accident.

As the investigation proceeded, a witness claimed he saw the elderly couple’s son secretly load the shotgun. He was angry because his mother had cut off his financial support, and the son, knowing his father’s habit of threatening his wife with the shotgun, loaded the gun in the hope that his father would shoot and kill his mother.

The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son. But here is the exquisite twist: Mr. Ronald Opus, who jumped from the building in a suicide attempt, it turns out, was the son of the arguing elderly couple. He loaded the shotgun and had, therefore, murdered himself.

 

We tend to judge the depth of our sin by the seriousness of the consequences. That can only send us, as Ron Harper aptly points out, into endless speculation of “what ifs” and “yes, buts.”  The emotional torment of doing this will never end. Even if you try to convince yourself you weren’t really at fault, your heart will give you no peace.

There’s a better way. Take the whole mess to Jesus, lay it at his feet, and ask him if he would cleanse you.  Ask him to wash you clean, and make you feel like you just stepped out of a bubble bath.

If you ask him to do this, I know what Jesus will do. I’m not going to tell you, though, because I want it to be a surprise.

                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday June 23, 2011

 “Schmedsel, Pretzel….What?”

 

               Without consultation, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. 

                                                       Proverbs 15:22

 In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company had high hopes for the new model car they developed.

They hired the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore to suggest a name for the car. She created a dazzling list that included: “The Intelligent Whale,” “The Mongoose Civique,” the “Andante con Moto,” “The Pastelogram,” and “The Utopian Turtletop.” In the end, however, Ernest Breech, chairing a meeting in the absence of the company president, Henry Ford II, decided to name the car after his boss’s father.

Unfortunately, Henry Ford II’s dad was Edsel, which sounded funny to the public. Later, when Ford’s David Wallace sent market analysts to ask people on the street what “immediate associations” they made with “Edsel,” they responded with: “Schmedsel,” “Pretzel,” “Weasel,” – and most disturbing of all, 40% responded with: “What?”

Ford insiders, who knew and admired Edsel Ford, thought the name was perfect. PR director, C. Gayle Warnock, however, disagreed. When he learned of the name of the new car he left a one-sentence memo on his boss’s desk: “We have just lost 200,000 sales.”

The ad campaign, costing $250 million (in the 1950s), raised consumer expectations to a high pitch with their “car of the decade.” In October, 1957, CBS replaced The Ed Sullivan Show with a live broadcast of The Edsel Show. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope were among the guest stars. During rehearsal, when Rosemary Clooney practiced walking up to her purple Edsel and opening the door, the door handle fell off.

When the car was unveiled to the public, they hated it. “Edsel” sounded like a silly name for a car. Ford’s marketing campaign called their new car unusually graceful, but the public though it was ugly. One man described the garish “horse collar” grill as looking “like a Mercury sucking on a lemon.”

The U.S. was in a recession and the public wanted smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The Edsel was more expensive than comparable cars and, among gas guzzlers, was exceptionally thirsty.

 

High confidence and success are almost always attended by a disinterest in listening to the opinions of others. To be attentive to the spiritual counsel of others doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with their advice. It simply means we consider the viewpoints of everyone seriously, because everyone has something to teach us.

In the end, it’s more important for us to grow wise from the counsel of others, than to think we’re brilliant in our own eyes.

 

If you ever find yourself struggling with this concept, ask the makers of the Edsel for their reflections.

                                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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