Archive for May, 2012

Story of the Day for Thursday May 31, 2012

Which Foot Church?


                I call on you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, that there may be no divisions among you. 

                                                                                 1 Corinthians 1:10


When Jesus told us to wash each other’s feet, I think he meant that we are to show love by humbly serving each other. Other Christian groups, however, interpret his words literally: we should get a basin of water and a towel and wash other people’s feet.

Even if I don’t agree on how they interpret Jesus’ words, at least it is comforting to know that these groups are practicing a powerful act of love and service to others.

William P. Barker tells how a church in Tennessee practiced foot washing.  But then someone wanted to know which foot you should wash first.  The Bible isn’t real clear on this, and so an argument arose in the church about it.

The disagreement of which foot to wash first could not be settled, so the congregation divided.  Now there is a church sign which reads: LEFT FOOT BAPTIST CHURCH.

Isn’t it nice to know that this congregation can imitate the incredible humility of Jesus by washing people’s feet – in the secure knowledge that they are washing the right foot first? (By “right foot,” of course, I mean the “left foot,” and refer to the left foot of the “washee” rather than the left side of the one washing.  I think.)


Did you know that, for ten centuries, the Christian church was not divided?  The church had her squabbles, but, despite all the disagreements, believers lived in unity. The “Great Schism” occurred in the 11th century, and if focused on one word.  The West wanted to add the Latin word, filioque, to a creed, and the East objected.

I’m not going to explain the controversy, or the other issues swirling around it. I’m not even going to tell you which side I agree with.  My point is that it is sad that it had to come to this: that the day came when believers in Christ could no longer live in fellowship with each other.


Unity in the church is so easy to attain.  If every Christian on this earth would simply agree with all of my opinions and views, all divisions would evaporate.

Unfortunately, there are some of you obstinate souls out there who think you’re  right instead of me!  What are we going to do?

For starters, we must never compromise what we believe in order to create an appearance of unity.  But I have been amazed lately by how much we can erase misunderstandings and soften each other’s rough edges when we humbly listen to each other.

There’s no question about it: there is disunity among Christ’s followers based on doctrine.  But I believe the far greater cause of disunity is not those who hold to a faulty understanding of the Bible. Unity’s chief enemy is pride.

What would happen if we met those from another denomination – not first to argue,  not first to protect our egos, but to wash their feet?

If only we can remember which foot to wash first.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday May 30, 2010

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)

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Dear Readers,

Since climbinghigher.org is the educational arm of Athelas Outdoor Ministry, Inc. and since the author and the techy person are adventure leaders and planners for the adventure retreats we will often be in the field during our busiest season of summer.  Last week was our season opener retreat with a group of 6th graders on their annual outdoor education retreat titled “Rock On’.  Thus the reason for no posts for four days.  We hope you will not give up on us but be patient when being in the outdoors away from high tech stuff does not allow us to post.  Thanks for your faithfulness and encouragement in reading and responding to the posts.  We will be here as often as possible.  Enjoy! Image

Group picture on last day of Rock On retreat…’Rock On’ t-shirts made by one of the fathers as a surprise!




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Story of the Day for Tuesday May 29, 2012

Peek From Under Your Blindfold


                          Warn those who are lazy, cheer up those who are discouraged, assist the weak . . . 

                                                  1 Thessalonians 5:14

 “That’s not fair!” is the common chorus of kids everywhere. I used to think kids had a heightened sense of justice, but I don’t any longer. In a classic case of overreaction, I now maintain kids don’t know beans about fairness.

Kids only grouse about unfairness when the situation isn’t working to their advantage. Tell them the old folks get to go first in line at a potluck and they’ll moan, “That’s not fair!” Announce, instead, that kids get to go first, and their laments about injustice evaporate.

Lately, however, I’ve begun to question my own understanding of justice.

I’ve always thought of justice as equality: equal treatment for all. The statue of Lady Justice outside the U.S. Supreme Court wears a blindfold. Blind equality under the law is such a noble sentiment, it will be all the more challenging to explain why I no longer believe in it.

Justice, I believe, is not about equal treatment; it’s about fair treatment.

Imagine two guys, each in a hot rod. They gun their engines at a stop light, burn rubber when the light turns green, and race down the street. Now, imagine a little girl who accidentally ate peanuts, to which she is highly allergic, and is unable to breath. Her frantic father rushes her to the hospital. Both the hot rodders and the desperate father are clocked at twenty miles over the speed limit. Should they receive equal treatment under the law?

I hope the judge peeks from under his blindfold.


I once knew two pastors who served in the same congregation. We’ll call them Fred and Josh. The two would argue over who got to make the monthly visit to Mrs. Sexton’s apartment. Although too old and frail to attend worship, Mrs. Sexton always welcomed her pastors’ visits with a broad smile and a plate of homemade cream buns.

After making the latest call on Mrs. Sexton, Fred consoled his partner by telling Josh he saved a cream bun for him. But when Josh started devouring the bun he discovered that Fred had taken out the cream and had replaced it with shaving cream.

A few weeks later, Fred and Josh shared a hotel room at a pastor’s conference. Josh was looking out the hotel room window with his binoculars when he shouted, “Fred! Look at this eagle in the pine tree!”

Fred snatched the binoculars but couldn’t find the bird. Josh told him it had flown away. He didn’t tell Fred, however, that he put graphite on the eyepieces. With two black circles around his eyes, Fred attended that evening’s banquet, and only discovered when he returned to his room why the other pastor’s kept giving him quizzical looks.

If Fred or Josh had pulled those stunts on an enemy, the reaction would be fury. But because of their close friendship, they’re still laughing over the pranks they used to play on each other.

The Bible says that all people are created in God’s image. We’re all equal in worth. But Jesus doesn’t demand we treat all people equally; he calls us to treat all people appropriately — and that means we should warn one, cheer up another, and put shaving cream in another’s cream bun.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)



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Story of the Day for Wednesday May 23, 2012

Scared Spitless But Willing to Trust


                Whenever I’m afraid, I will trust in you.

                                     Psalm 56:3


If you ever find a job opening for the position of aerialist manager, you might want to learn about Harry Colcord before you call for an interview.

But let’s leave Harry Colcord in his manager’s office for a moment while we focus on the wacky antics of Jean Francois Gravelot, a French aerialist who, because of his fair hair, called himself The Great Blondin. While touring with P.T. Barnum in 1858, he saw Niagara Falls for the first time and knew he had to cross it . . . on a tightrope.

The next year he stretched a 1300-foot rope 160 feet above the roaring falls, while 10,000 anxious spectators watched as he walked across. For two summers, Blondin repeated his stunt – each time making his crossing more breathtaking. He crossed on a bicycle. Next, with his feet chained together. He did it blindfolded; he did it on stilts.


Before Blondin left Niagara Falls for other things, he needed a Grand Finale – a climactic stunt that would top his previous heart-stopping acts. He knew what would thrill the crowds: he would cross the falls with another person sitting on his shoulders.

But no one would volunteer to make the crossing.

And now, at last, we can drag Harry Colcord out of his manager’s office. You’ll have to excuse him for looking so pale, but he doesn’t feel very well at the moment. No one could be found to cross Niagara Falls on Blondin’s shoulders . . . and, as they say, the show must go on.

With 10,000 spectators watching, Blondin held his 35-foot balancing pole, and his manager on his back, and started across Niagara Falls.


It’s so easy to trust others when you’re just a spectator. Unfortunately, the Lord never lets you sit comfortably in the back row of the auditorium. He’s always calling you onstage. Faith is lived when we’re scared spitless, but still willing to trust in the calm assurances of the Lord.


Blondin walked twenty feet to the first guy rope, but it snapped, jerking them violently sideways. Blondin quickly ran to the next guy rope and told Harry to get off his shoulders quick. Colcord had to feel with his feet for the vibrating rope and hold on for dear life to his slippery tights, while Blondin rested and regained his composure.

And then a gust of wind caused the two of them to sway – terrifying the crowd. Other guy ropes failed (reporters later learned that the guy lines were deliberately sabotaged). Blondin, realizing the danger, sprinted the last twenty yards, and plunged into the crowd with his human passenger.


After this stunt, I think we can reasonably assume that Harry Colcord had great job security. When you dare to live the life of faith, the competition thins.


But you will live.

                            (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday May 22, 2012

Brick by Brick


                By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; with knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

                                                                                Proverbs 24:3-4


Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in economics at Carnegie-Mellon, performed an experiment with fellow psychology professor, William C. Chase.

The experiment utilized chess players: one group consisted of novices, the second, of intermediate chess players, and the final group was composed of chess masters with international rankings.

Simon and Chase set up a partially played chess game, and each participant was given five seconds to look at the board. Then they were asked to re-position the pieces on a blank chessboard from what they recalled of their five second observation.

Who do you think did the best? You got it. With twenty pieces left on the board, the chess masters correctly recalled the piece and position of 81 percent of them. The novices only placed about a third of the chess pieces correctly.


So far, this experiment isn’t interesting, since anyone could predict the outcome. Their second experiment, however, was surprising. But, before we get to it, can I ask you something? Why do you think the chess masters did better than the novices?

The most obvious answer is that chess masters are brilliant people; no one can compete at the international level unless they have brains as big as cantaloupes. Another explanation is that chess masters have developed mental techniques for recalling the pieces.

These are good guesses – which is why the next experiment was so surprising. Chase and Simon set up the chess board again, and gave each participant five seconds to view it. This time, however, the pieces were randomly positioned by a computer. When each group tried to re-create the board from memory, the chess masters did slightly worse than the novices!  So much for big brains or memory techniques.


What enabled the chess masters to do so well in re-creating an actual chess game from memory was not brilliance, but experience.  By years of practice, they can “see” the game with exquisite insight. In five seconds, they can “see” it, “Ha! The King’s Gambit versus the Nimzovich Defense.”


The Lord makes no connection between wisdom and brilliance. Spiritual wisdom is not based on intelligence, but humility. Through humility we accept God’s grace and love. And, through humility, we let God teach us the best way to live.


A chess master learns to “see” one game at a time. We build the house of wisdom brick by brick. But, over time, we will find the rooms filling up with rare and beautiful treasures.

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He Did It Anyway


                   Jesus said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” And when he held it out, his hand was healed. Immediately, the Pharisees, along with the Herodians, went out and discussed plans on how they could put Jesus to death.  

                                                                                         Mark 3:5


Back in the 1950s, when we lived in Kalkaska, Michigan, my dad would travel to work in a nearby town. Mrs. McCurdy, who worked in the same building, would park her big Buick in a No Parking zone.

No one seemed to mind Mrs. McCurdy’s bad habit. But, one day, my dad decided to play a joke on her. He went to a police officer he knew and asked if he would give a ticket to Mrs. McCurdy. The officer thought this was a delightful idea, and gave dad a blank parking ticket.

Dad filled it out and put it on Mrs. McCurdy’s windshield. The police officer then turned the joke on dad by saying, “And now I’m arresting you for impersonating a police officer!”

The judge was duly informed of the joke on Mrs. McCurdy. When she found the ticket she immediately reported to the judge. The judge, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “I find you guilty. Your sentence is to kiss the judge every morning before you go to work.” Mrs. McCurdy said, “I’d rather go to jail!”


How times have changed. There was a day when people were free to laugh and pull harmless pranks, and the stories are still being told.

Today, the police officer and my dad would be smacked with million dollar lawsuits. The judge would be arrested and charged with sexual harassment, and the police department would be under investigation for refusing to ticket a woman who daily parked in a prohibited zone.

Don’t get me wrong: rogue cops and sexual harassment are real offenses that must be firmly dealt with. But we know that no one would dare play a harmless joke like this in our day.  Even though this joke brought great mirth to my dad, the police officer, the judge, and Mrs. McCurdy, we would never dream of doing the same thing today because we’re terrified we would be punished by lawsuits.


Jesus lived in a legalistic society. Penalties were often severe for minor infractions of the law.  What could be more compassionate than to find a man in church with a deformed hand and to heal him? But, because Jesus’ miracle was considered “work”, and because work was forbidden on the Sabbath, the gospel of Mark says the religious leaders joined forces with the politicians to find a way to put Jesus to death.

Jesus’ healing was not simply an act of compassion; it was an act of courage.


Just as Jesus lived in a legalistic society, so do we. We know that the more we become involved in helping others, the more we risk being severely punished in the form of lawsuits. A generation ago, all you needed to help others was a caring heart. Today, you also need courage.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do. The threat of lawsuits is real. But we do need to understand that, sometimes, Christ-like love is compassion combined with courage.

Jesus knew the danger of healing a man on the Sabbath day.

But he did it anyway.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday May 19, 2012

Working at Happiness

                  It is God’s gift that everyone would see good in all his labor. 

                                                                                 Ecclesiastes 3:13

A Chinese proverb says, “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk. If you want to be happy for three days, get married. If you want to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you want to be happy forever, learn to fish.

Now, — don’t even think it – I’m not advocating getting drunk, and my wife and I have shared 28 years together, and we’re still on our honeymoon. Last month, we butchered our pigs, and I’ve been happy about that for several weeks.

We want to commend, however, the wisdom of the Chinese in seeing the vital connection between work and happiness.  Researchers at Gothenburg University in Sweden published their findings that people are made happy by working toward a goal (not the attainment, but the striving).

And this is where things get bollixed up. We tend to focus on the money (i.e., the “attainment”) as the source of happiness, when it is really the striving (i.e., the work) that brings fulfillment.

We are made in the image of God. As God creates, so he has made us to create – to be creative.  Work really is meant to be satisfying.

One of the most respected studies on job satisfaction was done a few years ago at the University of Chicago.  The school’s National Opinion Research Center found little correlation between job satisfaction and money. Nor is there a link between job satisfaction and time for leisure (two or the top three happiest professions work over 50 hours a week).

What makes a job satisfying? Helping other people, being creative, and using special talents and expertise.

Want to know the profession that produces the greatest job satisfaction? (Are you ready for this?) Pastors.  They are followed by physical therapists, firefighters, school principals, artists, teachers, authors, psychologists, and special education teachers.

Beside the school principals and psychologists, the pay is average.  But when we  are active in helping and using our God-given creativity, we are the happiest in our work.

The point of all this, however, is not that you need the right job to find fulfillment. What you need is the right attitude.  Figure out how your work serves others. Be creative. And recognize the uniqueness of the talents God gave you.

Final note: Although the University of Chicago doesn’t consider this an “occupation,” I believe the most satisfying job involves long hours and no pay. The occupation is called: “being a mom.”

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Story of the Day for Friday May 18, 2012

Second Nature


                   Train yourself to be godly. 

                                                              1 Timothy 4:7

How quickly can you say your ABCs? If you’ve got a nimble tongue you can recite the entire alphabet in about four seconds. Try it; I’m in no hurry.

Okay, very good. Now, try reciting the alphabet again — and make sure you time yourself –but this time start with Z and go backwards to A.

Hmmm . . . not quite as impressive.


Let’s try something else. Few things are easier than buttoning a shirt. You’ve done it hundreds of thousands of times. So, with your hands folded on your lap, imagine exactly how you button your shirt.

It’s harder than you think. Do you use your middle fingers? What do your thumbs do? What does your left hand do? What are the last fingers to touch the button?


Malcom Gladwell stared at Vic Braden in disbelief. “What do you mean? That’s crazy!” Gladwell could hardly believe what Braden, a famous tennis coach, had just told him. Braden interviewed some of the best tennis players in the world, such as Andre Aggasi, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, and Jimmy Conners, and would hold long conversations with them about their game.

For over thirty years Braden talked to the best tennis players in the world, “I can honestly say that there is nothing to be learned about tennis,” Braden confided to Gladwell, “from talking to top tennis players about tennis.”

Braden, for example, would ask the tennis greats, “How do you hit a topspin forehand?” Every one of them told him that, at the moment of impact, they would roll their wrists. Braden then filmed these tennis players in top tournaments and discovered that not one of them roll their wrists at the moment of impact. They only roll their wrists after the ball is gone as part of their follow-through.

When the best tennis players in the world hit a topspin forehand, it’s as natural and unconscious as saying your ABCs or buttoning a shirt.


I’m quite conscious about my spirituality. I know when I’m generous or when I’m (trying to be) patient. You know why? I’m still on my learner’s permit and following Jesus has yet to become second nature. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t think of herself as generous or patient. That’s because she is. It’s second nature to her.


The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, and told him that learning the life of godliness was like an athlete going into training.

The odd thing about godliness is that the more we train, the less we have to consciously think about what we’re doing.

It becomes second nature.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday May 17, 2012

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)

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