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Archive for January, 2012


Story of the Day for Tuesday January 31, 2012

“I Felt Like a Lion”

                       Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

                                                     Proverbs 16:24

 According to a poll reported by Tom Rath and Dr. Donald Clifton in How Full Is Your Bucket?, 65 percent of American employees don’t receive any positive recognition for their work in any given year. The author’s also refer to the U.S. Department of Labor which says the number-one reason people quit their jobs is because of lack of appreciation.

 

The Bible says that pleasant words — words of praise and encouragement — boost us in body and soul. Why is it, then, that compliments so easily get stuck in our throats?

“I don’t want it to go to his head,” we say — as if our praise will lead others into a downward spiral of moral degeneration.

 

Have you heard of the Losada Line? Dr. Marcial Losada found that there is a correlation between a company’s success and the positive-to-negative comments made within the workplace. The dividing line between above and below-average performance is a positive to negative ratio of 2.9. In other words, for a company to be successful, workers need to be making more than three positive comments to every criticism they make of another worker.

Can you take the notion of speaking pleasant words too far? Absolutely — although few of us are in any danger of doing so. The research also discovered there is an upper limit to the positive things we say. If the ratio of positive-to-negative comments exceeds eleven to one, our positive words are perceived as insincere, and become ineffective.

 

When we frequently criticize others, we usually feel that we’re helping them to improve their behavior. The irony is that we don’t respond to critical people. We view negative people as crabby rather than as someone with their welfare in mind.

We do, ironically, respond to criticism from those whose words are predominantly positive.

 

Imagine how you would feel if someone paid you a sincere compliment. Once you’ve been encouraged by their pleasant words, then the beauty of Jesus’ golden rule comes into play: seek to encourage others as the words of others have encouraged you.

 

Barbara Tuchman recounts the story of a corporal in Israel’s armored-corps. After three days of combat he was emotionally shattered.  The destruction and carnage left him apathetic — he no longer cared whether he lived or died.

Schools had organized a program where each student sent a letter and a small gift to a soldier.  When the discouraged corporal saw the letter dropped on his bunk, he thought, “Some silly crap.”  Nevertheless, he opened the letter.

“Dear Soldier,” the letter read, “I am sending you this chewing gum. I am not afraid of bombs because I know you are out there protecting me and will not let anyone kill me.”

The corporal immediately jumped to his feet. “I felt,” the soldier said, “like a lion.”

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Story of the Day for Monday January 30, 2012

Who’s Calling the Shots?

                 When they insulted Jesus, he refused to return the insult. 

                                                1 Peter 2:23

I know a guy who wears a grumpy face and looks like he just flunked out of Charm School. When I smile at him and say “Hi,” he normally just scowls and says nothing.

 

While driving through northern Wisconsin, I was listening to the radio and was jolted by the words of a Jewish man who survived the Nazi holocaust.

After Hitler’s regime collapsed, some Jews were intent on seeking vengeance against the Nazis. They were plotting how to torture those who had worked under Hitler.

But the Jewish holocaust survivor on the radio said he would meet a fellow Jew and ask, “Do you like the Nazis?”

“Like them!” the other man would spit back, “I LOATHE them!”

“Then, why do you want to be like them?”

 

When we lash back against those who have hurt us, we inevitably begin to resemble the ones we’re angry with. “They hurt me.” we conclude. “Well, I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”

We become like the ones we hate.

We may not be aware of it, but when we fall into this way of thinking, we surrender our freedom to decide how we will behave. We relinquish that prerogative to those whose behavior we find disgusting. If they’re snotty to us, then we’ll be snotty to them.  But we must understand clearly: our adversary is now the one calling the shots.

 

Jesus never let others dictate how he would behave. When they hammered his body on a cross, his enemies smugly assembled to taunt him and enjoy their triumph. But Jesus refused to trade insults or make threats.

Jesus’ enemies didn’t choose his behavior; he did.

 

Michael Green tells a story that goes something like this: A man goes to a newsstand to buy a paper. He politely asks for a daily newspaper and the man working at the kiosk rudely shoves it at him and, muttering, hands him his change.

As a friend observes all this, he asks the man as they walk away, “Does he always treat you so rudely?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“And are you always so polite to him?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Why are you so nice to him when he’s so rude to you?”

“Because I don’t want him to decide how I am going to act.”

 

My sour-faced friend may never smile and return my greeting. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t get to decide how I choose to behave.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

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Story of the Day for Saturday January 28, 2012

Pay a Compliment to God

              Let us boldly approach the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find gracious help in our time of need. 

                                                      Hebrews 4:16

 

In the 1960s the Hewlett-Packard company was known world-wide for its innovation in electronics.

One night one of the company founders, Bill Hewlett, got a phone call at his home in Palo Alto. An 8th grader was working on a school project and asked Mr. Hewlett if he could have some spare parts to build a frequency counter.

Bill Hewlett not only talked to this young man for twenty minutes, but personally gathered the requested parts. And to top it off, he offered the student a summer job working in the Hewlett-Packard department that assembled frequency counters.

That student, who had the audacity to phone one of the titans of the electronics industry, was Steve Jobs — one of the founders of Apple computers. Jobs often reflected on that day when he called the legendary Bill Hewlett. Steve Jobs was obviously brilliant, but prefers to attribute his astonishing success to his boldness in asking others for what he needed. Most people, he observed, would never pick up the phone.

 

To make requests of famous and influential people seems presumptuous. Who do we think we are, anyway? Most of us feel unworthy to ask things of great people. And we have it exactly right: we are unworthy.

But focusing on who we are misses the point. The question is not whether we deserve the attention of influential people, but whether those influential people are willing to give us of their time.

This issue of unworthiness can seep into our attitude about prayer. Have you ever failed to ask God for great things because you felt you didn’t deserve to make such an audacious request of the almighty God?

If we only ask the Lord for the things we deserve, we will ask him for nothing.

 

But all this misses the point of prayer. God invites us to boldly ask for the moon. Our prayers should never be based on our worthiness, but on God’s wild generosity.

 

In the sixteenth century, Sir Walter Raleigh was a frequent visitor in the Royal Court of England. He made numerous requests to Queen Elizabeth.

Once, after approaching her Majesty with yet one more request — this one on behalf of a friend — the Queen sighed in exasperation.

“When, Sir Walter, will you cease to be a beggar?”

Raleigh quickly replied, “When your gracious Majesty ceases to be a benefactor.”

 

St. Theresa of Avila had it right when she said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of him.”

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Friday January 27, 2012

“The Flyswatter”

                 Don’t forget to do good and share with others, because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.

                                                                      Hebrews 13:16

One hot, summer day, our family shared the living room with a pesky fly. My dad asked my sister, Mary, who was two years old, to get the flyswatter. Mary eagerly scooted off on her mission. She returned without the flyswatter, but my parents were pleased nonetheless.

 

Before I tell you why my parents were so delighted with their little daughter, let me ask you a question: Do you live with an on-going sense of failure in your relationship with God? I’m not talking about the times you deliberately do wrong things, but the times you’re trying to get it right. When you pray, does it feel as if God expected you to have prayed more? When you share with others, does it always feel as if God wanted you to give more than you did?

If you picture the Lord as looking at you with his arms folded across his chest in a perpetual scowl, then maybe you’ve forgotten how you laughed at a baby’s first words.

What do parents do when they hear their child first say, “Mama” or “Dada”?  Or when their child attempts those first wobbly steps?  They’re ecstatic!  They can hardly wait to call friends and family and tell them the news. Parents are so very pleased by every step of growth in their children’s lives.

 

But can I ask you another question: Do you think parents are satisfied by the first, immature actions of their children? Of course not. They won’t be satisfied until their kids learn to talk and walk and act like adults.

 

The Scottish writer, George MacDonald, points out that, in the same way, our heavenly Father is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.

If we don’t know God as our Father, but only as Judge, then everything we do is doomed to failure. We simply can’t keep his perfect law.

But once we become his children, everything changes. God is not only pleased, but delighted by our far-from-perfect attempts to do his will. We don’t have to be perfect in order to please him. Like any loving parent, our heavenly Father is pleased by every step of growth that his children take.

If you feel as if your every action is a deep disappointment to God, maybe you need to ponder the kind of relationship you were meant to have with him.

 

When my two-year-old sister was asked to bring the flyswatter, she bounded off to do what she was told. Instead of getting the flyswatter, however, she ran into the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. She proudly handed the glass to my dad, “Here’s the flies’ water!”

And my dad could hardly have been more pleased.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday January 26, 2012

Getting Into the Water

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

                                                          Proverbs 14:23

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday January 25, 2012

Join A Church and Adopt Stray Kittens

                 For Christ’s 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)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 24, 2012

Give 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)

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