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Archive for August, 2012


Story of the Day for Friday August 31, 2012

Got Any Steeples?

 

                 If I don’t understand what someone is saying, I’m a foreigner to the speaker, and he’s a foreigner to me.

                                                                     1 Corinthians 14:11

 

“Got any steeples?”

“Um,” I said, “got any what?”

“Got any steeples?”

Even though I was confident I didn’t have any steeples, I hedged by saying, “I don’t think so.”

Robert, who was fixing my fence, looked puzzled. “I left some here last fall.”

When you don’t understand something, and others think you should, there’s no point in blurting out your ignorance. Those who learn from me resort, instead, to sly subterfuge.

“So,” I asked, “what do you want steeples for?”

Robert looked at me as if I was a duck that had been whacked over the head with a shovel.

“To nile the bob whar.”

To . . . nail the barbed wire! “You want some staples!”

Robert didn’t answer, but gave me a strange look – as if uncertain whether it was worth his time to engage in conversation with a dazed duck.

 

Robert, to put it mildly, was not awed by my intellectual prowess. But, in my defense, you should know that Robert grew up in Oklahoma – which can stunt anyone’s linguistic clarity.

 

Once, this guy was walking down the street when he noticed a man struggling by himself with a washing machine at the doorway of his house.

“Can I help?”

The man smiled, and between heaving breaths, replied, “Yeah, thanks!”

With one man on each end they lifted and grunted, and pushed, but nothing happened.

“Sorry,” the Good Samaritan told the man, “I don’t think the two of us can get this washing machine inside by ourselves.”

“Inside? I’m trying to get it out of my house.”

 

Ask a non-Christian what we believe, and most will say our faith is about trying to be good enough to get to heaven, and condemning everyone else who isn’t as holy as we are. Have you ever wondered whether all of them reject the mercy of Jesus, or whether, sometimes, they simply don’t know what we’re trying to say?

 

This evening, I asked my wife if she was awed by my intellectual prowess.

From the blank look she gave me you’d think I came from Oklahoma, or something.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Story of the Day for Thursday August 30, 2012 

Truth Poses No Threat

 

                 . . .that we might no longer be infants, tossed by the waves, and blown around by every wind of teaching and by the craftiness and cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.  

                                                                             Ephesians 4:14

 

 Do you know what conqueror created the largest contiguous Empire in history? I’ll give you a clue: his empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Adriatic Sea, and included China, Baghdad, and Moscow.

His name was Genghis Khan, and in the 13th century, his Mongol army was unstoppable.

 

He didn’t rely simply on brute force and superior numbers. His army was well-trained, but Genghis Khan was a master of deception.

In 1241, the Hungarians seemed to be strong and willing to fight to the death. Since Ghengis Khan didn’t have the strength to stage a frontal assault, he surrounded the enemy. The Hungarians, however, noticed that they failed to completely surround them. There was a gap in the lines through which they could escape. As soldiers broke ranks to escape from their attackers, they had no idea they were running into the trap. The Mongols created an “escape hatch” so that, once in the open, they could be funneled into a trap where they would be overwhelmed.

In 1258, the Mongols invaded Szechuan with 40,000 but spread rumors that they had 100,000 soldiers. Genghis Khan set up camp and ordered every soldier to light five campfires to create the illusion that they he had an overwhelming opposing army. On the horizon, the Mongols would tie branches to the tails of their horses to stir up dust in order to make it appear to their adversary that a large army of enemy reinforcements was arriving.

When near the Dneiper River, the Mongols were far outnumbered by 80,000 warriors led by Prince Mstitslav of Kiev. The Mongols sent a token force on horseback to attack, but then they turned and retreated. The prince’s cavalry realized the Mongols were few in numbers, and left their defensive position to pursue them. The Mongols retreated to the Kalka River, with their enemy strung out in pursuit. Then, the bulk of the Mongol army waited to ambush the attackers from both sides. The retreating Mongols suddenly spun around and attacked from the front – destroying their adversary.

 

Truth poses no threat to the believer. The Christian community has always welcomed debate with atheists, evolutionists, pro-abortionists – you name it.

But, the Bible urges us to grow up in our faith. Spiritual maturity doesn’t make us more loved by God, but it does make us wiser to the many deceptions and false claims that intimidate those young in the faith.

Genghis Khan could never have accomplished what he did without the cunning to deceive his enemies.

The only way deception can hurt you is to believe it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012 

Well, Join the Crowd

 

                    Strive to enter through the narrow doorway. 

                                                               Luke 13:24

George Evans served as the press agent for a young singer whose career had not yet ignited. But, after spending sixty dollars, Evans catapulted Frank Sinatra into stardom in one night.

In 1942, Sinatra was booked to sing at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In order to generate enthusiasm for Sinatra, Evans hired a dozen teenage girls and paid them five bucks a piece to follow his instructions.

The girls were paid to sit in the front row at the concert and swoon. They rehearsed in the basement of the Paramount. Some of them practiced fainting in the aisles when Sinatra sang his slow songs, and others rehearsed jumping up and screaming, “Oh, Daddy!” when Frank sang Embraceable You. Evans then made sure the concert hall was packed by passing out free tickets.

That night, a dozen girls earned their five dollars. About twenty girls, who weren’t paid to faint, also passed out. The crowd went hysterical. The next time Sinatra performed at the Paramount, a promoter recalled, “They went nuts. Absolutely nuts!”

Frank Sinatra became an overnight sensation, and soon was the most popular singer of his day.

 

George Evan’s stunt may be ethically dubious, but I admire his genius in understanding how easily people are swayed by the behavior of the crowd. None of us likes to admit that we tend to conform our behavior to those around us, but we do.

 

The Asch Paradigm, developed in the 1950s, was pivotal in our understanding of conformity.  Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College developed a simple experiment. He gave students a “vision test.” Participants were shown a vertical line, and then a group of three lines of various lengths. They simply had to identify which of the three lines matched the length of the first line. When subjects were given the test privately, only one of out 35 ever gave an incorrect answer.

But things got interesting when Asch gave the same test to a group. The first several participants were confederates. They were told, in advance, the answer Asch wanted them to give. The last student asked didn’t know this.

At first, the confederates would give the correct answer. Then, they were cued to deliberately give the wrong answer – to say a vertical line matched the first line, when it, obviously, did not. What would the unwitting student say when the rest of the group gave the wrong answer?  Seventy-five percent would conform their answer to that of the group.

 

Jesus wants us to be thoughtful about life and not be swayed by the opinions of others. Have you ever felt as if you were being manipulated to conform to the decisions of a group? Well, join the crowd. No, wait – that’s not what I meant . . .

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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Story of the Day for Monday August 27, 2012 

It’s Time to Cut Anchor

 

 

                I have been in danger from rivers…danger from robbers… In danger…danger…danger… 

                                                            2 Corinthians 11:26

 

No one ever accused me of being prudent, which is slightly disappointing, because it is, after all, a virtue. Prudence is just a starchy term for common sense.

Prudence used to mean, for example, that, if you go for a hike in the wilderness, you should take a sharp knife, dry matches, and a good crossword puzzle (in case you get lost for a few days.) Today, we view prudence as never daring to lace up our hiking boots.  Might get lost.  Might sprain an ankle.  Might become grizzly bear poop. Better to be prudent, make a frig run, and plop in front of the TV.

 

There is a huge difference between common sense: avoiding senseless danger, and timidity: fearing all possibility of danger. Have you noticed how we, as a culture, have developed a heightened concern for safety? Nothing wrong with that, in itself, I guess.  But something is wrong.  We are becoming so fearful of danger that we are afraid to live.

Where is a ship the safest? In port. But, John A. Shedd put it well, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” God never advises us to be foolhardy, but he doesn’t want us to spend our lives docked to the pier.  We are meant to sail into open waters, and both enjoy the gentle breezes . . . and brave the raging storms.

The apostle Paul was prudent.  In Damascus, he knew when it was time to get out of Dodge and slip over the city wall at night. But, Paul also had the careless habit of preaching about Jesus and starting riots. He knew the danger, but took risks anyway.

 

A young shepherd boy, armed only with a slingshot, once marched up to the fearsome warrior, Goliath. Suddenly, the young boy’s mother rushed frantically onto the battlefield, screaming, “David!  David! What are you doing! How many times have I told you not to fight giants without your safety helmet!”

Look, I’m not opposed to safety helmets. But haven’t you noticed that past ages possessed a valiant spirit that is lacking in our present day?

The patriarchs left the security of home – without itinerary, GPS, or even life insurance. Moses, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah. Can you name anyone who did great things in God’s name, but chose personal security over danger?

 

Jesus told a story about a man who gave out various amounts of money, then left town. Apparently, those who put the money to work took some risks, because the one who did not later admitted to his master, “I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground.  See, here it is.”  And there it was, safe and sound. But the point Jesus makes is that God does not entrust us life or talents so that we can “play it safe.”   I don’t think Jesus wants us simply to exist. To just survive.

Don’t be afraid of dying — you have to die to go to heaven.  Be afraid, instead, of not living. God calls us to live with the wind in our face – to cut anchor and sail for the horizon.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday August 25, 2012 

 

Rhino Tracks

 

                  For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

                                                                                                            Matthew 24:24

 

 

Hugh Troy was an illustrator for children’s books, but his work as an artist failed to exhaust his creativity.  This excess of imagination led him to the slightly deviant habit of inventing practical jokes.

Once, Troy and an accomplice, dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying ladders, strode into the elegant lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Calmly and efficiently, they removed every light bulb and then left. No one questioned them or tried to stop them.

Serving as a captain in Army Intelligence during World War II, he became bored with the endless paperwork so he began submitting a Daily Flypaper Report to the Pentagon. Using official report forms, Troy filed detailed reports on the number of flies stuck to the flypaper in the mess hall each day. Troy carefully analyzed the wind direction, proximity of the kitchen, and the nearness of the flypaper to windows, and slipped his report in with his other required paperwork. Other officers began asking him how to fill out a form on flies because the Pentagon was hounding them for not submitting their Flypaper Report.

 

Although some question its accuracy, Hugh Troy’s most legendary prank took place when he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Troy found a hideous wastebasket with an actual rhinoceros foot as its base. He tied thirty feet of clothesline to both sides and filled the wastebasket with weights. Late one winter night, he and a friend suspended the wastebasket between them and carried it across the snow – dropping it every few feet to make a rhinoceros footprint, but keeping their own footprints away from the rhino track.

The next morning, someone excitedly summoned learned professors, and pointed out the rhinoceros tracks. The trail led them onto ice-covered Beebe Lake, where the tracks ended by a large hole in the ice.

The school’s drinking water came from the lake, and afterward, some stopped drinking the tap water. A handful of imaginative paranoids even claimed the water tasted like rhinoceros.

 

The Devil doesn’t mind at all if you believe in Jesus – just so long as the Jesus you believe in doesn’t exist. The Devil hopes you are entranced with reports of miracles – just so long as you believe the false signs and wonders he is able to concoct. The Devil wants you to be open to the spiritual world – just so long as you are open to the messages of false prophets.

If the truth of God is  . . . true, then it can stand up to questioning and investigation. Jesus doesn’t scold us for lacking faith when we work to discern the truth from a hoax. He’s the one who told us to do it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Story of the Day for Friday August 24, 2012

Bean Counters and Dreamers

                      In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

                                                                                           Romans 12:5    

Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.

I’m not good at math.

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum.

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us visionaries as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life.

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way.

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Story of the Day for Thursday August 23, 2012 

 

Audacity and High Praise

 

                  Jesus said to her, “O woman, how great is you faith! Your request is granted.” 

                                                               Matthew 15:28

 

 

John Wayne rose to become one of Hollywood’s greatest stars because he kicked his director in the mud.

In 1927, Wayne was a student at USC and worked as an assistant prop boy and occasional extra at Fox Studios. When director, John Ford, decided to make a movie about the football rivalry between Army and Navy, he asked John Wayne to help him recruit football players.

Sol Wurtzel, the producer, offered to pay the football players seventy-five dollars a week, but Wayne, seeking to be modest, suggested they be paid fifty dollars.

But Wurtzel was not impressed. “Congratulations!” the producer responded with derision, “You just screwed yourself out of twenty-five bucks a week.”

 

John Wayne, apparently, reflected on how he should respond to his superiors. During the filming of the movie, the famous director, John Ford, objected to the way John Wayne lined up in his three-point stance. Ford told Wayne to get in his stance and then kicked Wayne’s arm out and sent him sprawling on the ground.

John Wayne then asked the director to demonstrate the correct football position. As Ford got down into a three-point stance, John Wayne kicked him into the mud.

The director found Wayne’s chutzpah hilarious and immediately took a liking to the brash young man.

 

After the movie was completed, John Wayne began to find more acting roles in Grade B Westerns, but his career was going nowhere.

In 1938, John Ford took Wayne for a cruise on his yacht, Araner. Ford asked Wayne to read the script for Stagecoach and suggest someone to play the lead role of the Ringo Kid. Ford’s financial backers were pressuring the director to hire Gary Cooper for the lead role.  But, after Ford concluded his cutting jibes about Wayne’s stagnant career, he said, “Duke, I want you to play the Ringo Kid.”

Stagecoach was a hit and catapulted John Wayne from obscurity to Hollywood stardom – and all because John Wayne had the nerve to “dish it back” to a famous director.

 

A pagan woman once pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus didn’t even respond to her.  She started following Jesus and his disciples, shouting out for help. When Jesus finally speaks to her, it is to explain that he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

The woman is not about to take no as an answer. She catches up to him and kneels at his feet and pleads for help.

“It’s not good to take the children’s bread,” Jesus says, “and give it to the dogs.”

“True, Lord,” she counters, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.”

 

I don’t think you’re supposed to argue with the Lord, and I have a hard time thinking of faith as spunky. But I do know that Jesus rewarded the pagan woman’s audacity with both high praise . . . and the granting of her request.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

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