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Archive for March, 2012


Story of the Day for Saturday March 31, 2012

Looking For Ping Pong Balls

                                 And Paul replied, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was the high priest.” 

                                           Acts 23:5

 

An elderly man, living just south of town, had an apple tree in his front yard which stood temptingly close to the road. The apple tree provided the man with far more fruit than he could use, so he generously allowed others to pick what they wanted.

One evening, a carload of youth pulled up in front of his house and raced over to the apple tree looking down in the grass. The old man instantly realized they were looking to see if any apples had fallen into the highway ditch — since any fruit falling on the right-of-way of the road was fair game.

The old man wanted the kids to know that they were more than welcome to come into his yard and pick all the apples they wanted, so he hollered from his porch, “Looking for some apples?”

One of the kids shouted back, “No, we’re looking for ping-pong balls!”

The old man looked at them with a hurt expression. Why did they have to respond to his generosity with such a sarcastic comment?

 

That same evening, I was busy orchestrating the annual scavenger hunt for our church’s youth group. I would hide objects all over town and hand each team a sheet of clues on how to find them. The kids would pile into cars and each team would try to find the most objects. Everyone had to be back in the church parking lot in an hour or they were disqualified. The group that found the most objects was declared the winner.

Just south of town was a large billboard and I hid one of the objects at its base and wrote clues about how to find it. The billboard stood by the side of the road — right next to an apple tree. And the objects I was hiding this year for the scavenger hunt were . . . ping-pong balls.

 

We can hurt others because we’re trying to hurt others. But how often have hurt feelings been the result of a misunderstanding?

 

When the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem his enemies recognized him and had him arrested. As he stood on trial before the court, he announced he had been dutiful to God, and for that comment the high priest ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth.

This infuriated Paul and he shouted some insulting things at the one who gave the order.

Those present were horrified. “How dare you revile God’s high priest!”

Immediately, Paul apologized. He didn’t know it was the high priest. True, he felt he had been wronged, but he knew the Bible taught you should never insult the your leaders.

 

Misunderstandings are, sad to say, unavoidable. Even looking for a ping-pong ball has the potential to cause hurt feelings. But they can be minimized when we learn to either apologize or forgive all hurts we cause or receive.

Even the disrespectful insults from snotty-nosed kids who try to steal our apples.

                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Friday March 30, 2012

Bad News As a Precious Gift

“Do not rebuke an arrogant man or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will become wiser still.”
Proverbs 9:8-9

If you were the head of a large organization, would you be most receptive to subordinates bringing you good news or bad news?

We would all prefer to hear good news, right? But great leaders realize that an organization’s health depends on the leader’s openness to receiving bad news.

Colin Powell, in his book, My American Journey, says, “The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”  Problems cannot be dealt with unless leaders are aware of them.  And leaders will not be aware of them unless subordinates feel free to share their gripes with their leaders.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, shares the same sentiment as Colin Powell.  He says, in Business @ the Speed of Thought, “Sometimes I think my most important job as CEO is to listen to bad news.” He goes on to explain that if you are not receptive to people bringing you bad news, and if you don’t act on it, they will eventually stop bringing you bad news. When that happens, it’s the beginning of the end.

I tend to get frustrated when people complain about me and how I do things.  But that puts me in a dangerous place.  If people anticipate a cold reception when they bring their complaints or suggestions to me, they will stop bringing their concerns altogether.  To no longer have people complaining and criticizing me would feel so good that I would be tempted to encourage them to keep their mouths shut.

But once we are unreceptive to hearing bad news about ourselves, we lose invaluable opportunities to grow in wisdom and character.

A wise man wants to be informed when others see him acting in a way that is unadvisable. He views criticism as a way to grow in wisdom, and encourages others to be honest in pointing out faults in his behavior and decisions.

It’s not fun to be criticized. (Did I say it was fun?  It’s not.)  But we do need to make clear to others that we welcome their rebukes.   We may not agree with all of them, but even if we don’t, we have at least gained the knowledge of how someone else feels about our behavior.

So, how do we let others know that we are open to being corrected?  For starters, if someone corrects you, DO NOT immediately retaliate by correcting them. Secondly, thank them and let them know that you appreciate their honesty and the courage to tell you bad news.  And, finally, take the attitude of great leaders like Colin Powell and Bill Gates and view the delivery of bad news as a precious gift – as a way to be aware of problems and make things better.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday March 28, 2012

Because Things Don’t Last Forever

My feet almost slipped, and I almost lost my footing, because I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  
Psalm 73:3

When our family moved to Montana, we needed another vehicle to pull a trailer. I bought an old, beat-up van for $500. It was a piece of work, let me tell you, but it did have a big motor and an AM radio.

One day a teenager was riding with me when we stopped at an intersection, and he saw a very expensive sports car.  He marveled at the car, and named the make and model. “Man, I wish I had a car like that.”

“Want to know something?”I said, “I think I get more enjoyment out of this old junker of mine than he does from his sports car.”

He looked at me as if I was joking.

But I was serious. I asked him who was more anxious about getting a scratch on his vehicle: him or me? Who was more concerned about his vehicle getting stolen? Who had the bigger payments? Who was more worried about someone backing into his car while he’s in the grocery store? I pointed out that he would enjoy the luxury and handling of his car, but that his ultimate pleasure would be enjoying the envy of others. Yet, next year, a newer model would come out. How would he feel when he sees people on the road with newer, better, more expensive cars than his?

At this point my teenage friend suggested I was compensating for feelings of inadequacy at having to drive an old, beat up clunker.

But he was wrong. That old van finally reached the point where it could no longer be  fixed with duct tape and piano wire, and we  had to junk it. (My daughter had just been  planning to paint the whole thing and make it look like a hippie van.) Our kids still light up and laugh when we reminisce about the old, mean green machine and the fun times we had.

Yes.

Do rich kids reminisce and tell fond stories about the luxury cars they used to own? I hope so, but I suspect they don’t

But I do know this: wealth is a gift from God. If you have it, I hope the Lord also gives you the gift to enjoy it.

But Benjamin Franklin once posed an interesting question: What kind of furniture would you buy if everyone in the world but you were blind?  If we use our wealth to create envy, we will find our pleasure is pretty hollow.

And if we envy those who have what we do not, we will always live in a state of discontent.

Be content with what you have.

All that said, I still hope that, some day, you, too, can own a $500 beater van.  Paint it like a hippie van as soon as you get it . . . because things don’t last forever.

         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday March 28, 2012

It’s Okay to Change Your Answer

  Just as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

The secret to becoming more Christ-like is, oddly enough, to behave in a way that Christ never did.

Even though Jesus was often criticized for his behavior, he never admitted he was wrong. That’s because he was never wrong.

In our case, however, not much is going to happen in our lives until we learn to listen to the criticisms of others and admit when we’re wrong.

If you’re thinking, “Okay, but I’m seldom wrong when others criticize me,” then you’ve come to the right place, because I intend to show you that you’re . . .wrong. Let’s start with this: suppose you’re taking a test and then go back and change your answer. Is your changed answer more likely to improve your score?  Three quarters of college students say no – your changed answer is more likely to be incorrect.  Professors feel the same way, only more so.  Only 16% of professors believe that changing your initial answer on a test will improve your score.

Guess what? They’re wrong. Researchers have been studying this subject for over 70 years now. One researcher examined 33 different studies on this question and every study agreed: students who change an answer on a test are more likely to improve their score.

So, why do the majority of people still favor their initial answer as the correct one?  Could it point to a deeper issue?  Could it be that we have an aversion to admitting that we were wrong in something we did?  Could it be that we are so enamored with our views and opinions that we are reluctant to admit we’re wrong?  That’s what it seems like.

If we want to grow into the image of Christ, we must stop being so impressed with ourselves.  Our focus must not be in defending how right we are, but in admitting how wrong we are.  Only a humble heart can admit faults.  Only one who admits his faults can know how good it feels to have Jesus forgive him.

Do you know what I do when others point out flaws in my character?  My first instinct is to defend myself.   But I cannot grow from the correction of others until I begin by considering the possibility they are probably right.

Darn it.

Others can see faults in us to which we are blind.  We need to listen, evaluate, repent . . . and know that it is okay to “change our answer.”

Yeah, yeah, I realize there are many times when those who criticize us are wrong.   But they aren’t wrong as often as we think.

We aren’t going to make much progress in our spiritual life until we learn that others can see things in ourselves that we cannot.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday March 27, 2012

But, Then Again, on the Other Hand…

At dawn the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up! Take your wife and two daughters, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” But Lot hesitated.

Genesis 19:15-16

One of the greatest singers of all time, Luciano Pavarotti, knew what he wanted to be from a young age. He wanted to be a soccer goalie.

Luciano’s mother urged him to become a teacher instead, so he sought a degree in education. But his father, Fernando, introduced him to the joy of singing. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor, took on Luciano as a student — teaching him without pay.

Pavarotti was torn. Should he pursue a teaching career or seek to become a

professional singer? Finally, his father put it to him bluntly, “Luciano, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

When Abram and Lot started running out of elbow room, they decided to part ways on friendly terms. Abram gave his nephew Lot first choice, and he chose the fertile lands to the east. Lot settled with his family in the town of Sodom.

One day, two angels warned Lot to take his family and flee from the city because God was about to destroy it. This wasn’t a great time to hesitate, but that’s exactly what Lot did.

Major decisions in life have the tendency to paralyze us. No matter what we decide we can always say, “Yes, but on the other hand . . .”  When we seek to serve the Lord with our gifts and abilities, our problem is seldom that we choose the wrong direction; it’s that we can’t decide, so we choose no direction at all.

Up on Pinkham Creek, the animal version of  Russian Roulette is to attempt to run in front of a vehicle without becoming roadkill.

The gophers gather in the ditch and one of them says, “Okay Harvey, it’s your turn.” Another gopher shouts, “Hey, I hear something coming!” The gophers keep Harvey poised until the vehicle is closing in on them and then they shout, “Go, Harv, hit it!” And Harvey barrels across the road as fast as he can scamper . . . which isn’t all that fast.

Yet, while gophers aren’t all that fast, they seldom get hit because they always race for the other ditch without hesitation.

The pine squirrels play the same game but are far faster. Yet, in the middle of the road they stop, turn around and start to run back. Hesitate. Turn around. Run the other way. Stop. Hesitate . . . Squirrels are lighting quick but often lose at Russian Roulette.

There’s a lesson here.

But, then again, do I really need to spell it out for you?

On the other hand, without an application my meaning could be misunderstood.

Nevertheless, shouldn’t I trust that you’re smart enough to figure it out for yourself?

Okay, maybe I should explain the meaning of the gopher story, but I always limit my articles to one page, so it’ll have to be brief.

Oh, for crying out loud, I just ran out of space.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Monday March 26, 2012

All The Active Verbs Belong to God

                     Because God is wealthy in mercy, he loved us with an overwhelming love.  And, when we were dead in our sins, he made us alive in Christ.  
Ephesians 2:4-5

You would think that, having heard it all my life, I would be used to it by now.  Yet, it is still a continual source of amazement.  At funerals, friends reminisce about the loved one in the coffin.  They say things like, “Well, I’ll tell ya, if anyone’s going to heaven, it’ll be him. What a great guy.”

Have you noticed the language?  It’s all in the active voice.  They paint the image of a corpse deciding to crawl out of the coffin and confidently striding to the gates of heaven with a long list of earthly accomplishments in hand.  Then the angels usher him in – grateful to grant a halo to such a wonderful human being.

Of course, I’m not so boorish as to say what I’m thinking, “He’s dead.  It doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere on his own power.”

Our righteousness has no power. If it did, then at the funeral, we should invite the corpse to rise up out of the casket, and join us for a game of pinochle.

I can be as good as a boy scout with two dozen merit badges, but when I die, my goodness cannot buy me another breath.  Once we’re dead, we’re all completely helpless.  If we go to heaven, it will not be because of our goodness, but God’s.

The Canadian actor, Charles Coghlan, lived in a small village on Prince Edward Island.  Born there, raised there, he planned to be buried in that same town on the sea.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  In 1899, while touring in the States, he died in Galveston, Texas.  He was placed in a lead-lined coffin and buried in a granite vault.

In September of 1900, a fierce hurricane hit Galveston, flooding the cemetery.   The storm broke Coghlan’s vault and the coffin floated free into the Gulf of Mexico.  Eventually, it bobbed its way around Florida and was caught in the Gulf Stream.

Eight years later, in October, 1908, fishermen spied his coffin bobbing off the coast and brought it to shore.  There they recognized the man’s name engraved on a metal plate.  Charles Coghlan’s casket had floated back to Prince Edward Island – just a short distance from his native town.  His body was re-buried in the village where he was born.

What did Charles Coghlan do to free himself from his Galveston cemetery and return to his beloved Prince Edward Island?  Absolutely nothing.  He was helpless.  He may have been a good man, but his goodness did not budge him an inch.

God wants us to understand that the active power in raising us to life belongs to him.  And he doesn’t raise people who think they’re good; he brings those to life who trust in him for mercy.

All the active verbs belong to God.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday March 24, 2012

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’s 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)

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