Archive for October, 2012

Story of the Day for Wed. October 31, 2012 

Step Up to the Plate and. . .Hit a Single


                     When Paul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him.  They didn’t believe he really was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. 

                                                                                             Acts 9:26-27


I don’t know if you’re supposed to have “favorite” Bible characters, so don’t tell anyone I said this, but one of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas.

Barnabas is not what his parents named him. His real name was Joseph, but he was so good at lifting the spirits of people that they called him “Barnabas,” which means, “son of encouragement.”

Without Barnabas there would be no Paul.  Saul (who would later be named “Paul”) used to persecute the church and all the disciples were afraid of him.  Barnabas, however, convinced them to have Paul accepted as a fellow believer.

As you read the book of Acts, you’ll find at least 20 times where Luke says “Paul and Barnabas” did this or that on their missionary trips.  But, do you want to know something?  When I think about the book of Acts, it is about the missionary trips of Paul.  Paul is in the limelight and Barnabas almost seems to drop out of the picture.


Are you a Barnabas?  Do you see that it is just as important to help and encourage others as it is to be the one getting all the applause?

I guess it is OK to have favorite baseball players, so let me tell you one of mine: Willie Mays.  Willie Mays was a great hitter.  He hit a lot of doubles.  But, all of a sudden, his doubles declined rapidly.

Do you know why?  When Mays would hit a double, the next batter up was Willie McCovey, who was the best power hitter on the team.  Rather than let him bat, with first base open, they would simply walk him intentionally.

Once Mays realized that his doubles took the bat out of the hands of McCovey, he would deliberately hold up at first base, so that McCovey would have an opportunity to knock one out of the park.  Willie Mays worked to make his teammate look better.

You have to be a person of great humility to help someone else become greater by getting less attention yourself. But, without people who encourage others, the church would have no effective ministry.

Willie Mays would have won more glory if he smacked a lot of doubles rather than singles.  But it is so much more satisfying when we are working for something greater than ourselves – something greater than our own glory.  Mays played on a team.


Why is it that I imagine Barnabas as one of the happiest and most content of the early disciples?  (The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.) Deep down, we find it impossible to imagine this first band of disciples changing a man’s name to “son of encouragement” – and then picturing the guy as morose.  Or obsessed with his own ego.

When we stop to think about it we know that those who delight in encouraging others are those who live with a twinkle in their eyes.


Have you heard of Haley’s comet?  If so, you are mistaken.  It isn’t Haley (as in “hale-ee”), but Halley (as in “hall-ee”).  Let me tell you about Edmund Halley.

But not right now.  First, let’s talk about Sir Isaac Newton.  You know him: the apple falls on his head, supposedly, and he comes up with a mathematical formula for gravity.  After Newton published his findings, he went on to become one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Yet, without Edmund Halley, we probably would never know about Newton.  Halley challenged Newton to think through his theories.  When Newton made mathematical mistakes in his calculations, Halley corrected them.  When Newton wrote up his discoveries, Halley edited his work.  When Newton refused to publish his findings, Halley published them, and paid the printing costs out of his own pocket.  Historians who know this story call it one of the most selfless acts in science history.

And those of us who do know about the comet he discovered rarely pronounce his name right.  Halley was a Barnabas.  He is virtually unknown, but because of his encouragement, he gave Sir Isaac Newton to the world.

Maybe it’s time for us to step up to the plate and. . . hit a single – so that someone else can knock it out of the park.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday October 30, 2012 


Take the Next Step


                . . . next . . . 

                             Nehemiah 3:2



King Artaxerxes noticed that his cupbearer, Nehemiah, was sad. Nehemiah and his fellow Jews had been exiled from their homeland, and he had just heard reports that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and its gates burned.

So, the king gave Nehemiah a leave of absence to return to his homeland to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.


Have you ever been paralyzed by the enormity of the task before you?  The job is so big you don’t know where to start.

It’s important to see the big picture and know what you want to accomplish. But it’s equally important to focus on the next step.


How did Nehemiah rebuild the walls? He started by gathering the priests and having them build the section from the Tower of the Hundred to the Tower of Hananel. From that point on, the word Nehemiah repeats continuously is “next.” Men from Jericho build the next section. Zaccur, son of Imri, builds next to him. Then he has the goldsmiths build the next section, and the perfume-makers begin work next to them.


Since he was twelve, Marcus Luttrell wanted to become a Navy SEAL. The training, however, is as brutal as it gets. Two thirds of those attempting to become SEALS will voluntarily drop out. In his book, Lone Survivor, Luttrell recalls how one legendary SEAL, Captain Joe Maguire, offered priceless advice. He told them not to let their thoughts run away with them “because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take.” What is the secret of surviving basic training? “Don’t look ahead to the pain,” Maguire advised, “Just get through the day.”

In other words, don’t get overwhelmed with the task. Focus on what comes next.

Peter, James, and John responded to Jesus’ call to follow him. But, if they could have foreseen all that awaited them over the horizon, they probably would have chosen to spend the rest of their lives mending nets and smelling like fish.


In the summertime, I guide people on wilderness hikes. When I show them the summit of the mountain we plan to climb, the hikers will often nervously inform me that it’s impossible. They can’t climb anything that high.

I never force them to climb the mountain, but simply invite them to take the next step. By this method, we leave surprisingly few hikers stranded on the mountainside to languish and die.


Nehemiah was not a professional builder. Those he assembled to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem were not professional masons. But the Lord used Nehemiah to accomplish a significant work because he gathered the resources he had, and took the next step.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Monday October 29, 2012 

Breathing Holes


                And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good to be here.  Let’s make three tents . . .  

                                                                        Mark 9:5


In  October, 1988, an Alaskan Eskimo discovered three gray whales who were drowning.  Surrounded by Arctic ice, the whales punched out a small breathing hole, but it was quickly icing over. The Eskimo returned with others who wielded chainsaws and pick axes to cut a series of holes in order to lead the whales back to open water.

The work was exhausting, but their story was picked up by the national news. Soon, oil companies and the military were donating equipment to help free Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone – the names given to the three whales. By creating a series of breathing holes, the rescue teams eventually led the whales to open water.


When we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life, have you noticed how we often speak of “drowning”? We need “breathing holes.” If you don’t take regular time to come up for air you will starve your soul of oxygen and other people will notice that your lips are turning blue.

A breathing hole is any way that you can find quiet and refresh your soul. Where you can pray, and ponder, and let God’s love wash over you to cleanse you and heal your wounds.


Those who worked to make breathing holes for the gray whales noticed that the whales were bleeding. The ice on the sides of the hole was so jagged that the whales were cutting themselves when they tried to come up for air. The smallest whale, Bone, eventually tore all the flesh off his snout and died.

Can I ask you something?  Is your “breathing hole” jagged around the edges?  I have seen people who go to worship or read books for a breath of fresh air, but come away bloodied with guilt. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, conviction of sin and rebuke are necessary. But remember this: the Good News of Jesus is always exactly that – GOOD news.


Our first priority is to find breathing holes with smooth edges.  But, our second priority is to leave them.

The rescuers made a series of breathing holes, but the whales didn’t want to move from the one they were at.


Neither did Peter. Standing on a high mountain with James and John, he saw Jesus shine with a glory greater than the sun. This moment was so awesome, that Peter wanted to stay, and offered to build shelters up there on the peak.

The shelters were never built. To love and serve a hurting world, they would have to go down the mountain.

Breathing holes are not meant to escape from the hectic demands of life, but to re-enter the fray with a lungful of fresh air.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday October 27, 2012 

No Need to Slow Down


                   Let the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the endurance of Christ.

                                                                        2 Thessalonians 3:5



Jim Marshall was a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ feared “Purple People Eaters” – one of the most intimidating defensive lines in the history of the NFL.

Defensive linemen average less than five years in the NFL. Yet, Jim Marshall started every game for the Vikings for an eleven year span – a total of 270 games, and retired at the age of 42.

Marshall has earned the right to speak about success. He has played in two Pro Bowls, has 127 quarterback sacks, and holds the NFL record with 30 recovered fumbles.


Jim Marshall has earned respect both on and off the field. He retired from football to become a licensed stock broker, a real estate agent, a life insurance agent, a licensed securities agent, the owner of a limo service, and a CBS sports commentator – to name a few of his business ventures.

In addition, Jim has volunteered countless hours working with civic and charitable groups. He helped create “Christmas for Kids,” establish a transportation company for the handicapped and elderly, and has helped with scholarship funds to send inner city kids to college. He has done volunteer work with the Special Olympics, The Ronald McDonald House, and The Children’s Miracle Network.

Jim Marshall is in demand as a motivating speaker for 3M, IBM, Chevron, Standard Oil, Pillsbury, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, among others.


In light of Jim Marshall’s enormous success in so many aspects of life, his message is ironic. He urges his audiences to find a direction and dedicate themselves to it.

Yet, Marshall is ruefully aware that the most embarrassing play of his football career happened when he followed his own advice.

In 1964, a running back for the San Francisco 49ers fumbled and Jim Marshall scooped up the ball. He sprinted for the end zone – he had found his direction and sprinted with all his might. Unfortunately, he ran the wrong direction. His 66-yard safety still stands in the record books as the longest play for negative yardage in NFL history.

When the season was over, he was scheduled to fly to Dallas to receive the “Bonehead of the Year” award, but missed his flight and ended up in Chicago. (He did, in the end, succeed in flying to Dallas to receive his coveted award.)


Finding a direction and dedicating yourself to it is a fine thing, I suppose, as long as we temper it with Ashley Brilliant’s perspective: “Maybe I’m lucky to be going so slowly, because I may be going in the wrong direction.”

When we let the Lord direct our hearts, he will lead us into his love and give us the endurance of Christ as our encouragement.

And, if we’re really heading in that direction, there’s no need to slow down.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 


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Story of the Day for Thursday October 25, 2012

What’s Your “Coffee Image”?

                “You’re not to be like the others. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the leader should act like the servant.” 

                                                    Luke 22:26

Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist who holds a Ph.D from Harvard. I have no idea what a psychophysicist does, but I’m trying to impress you with his credentials.

Malcolm Gladwell has introduced Moskowitz to the public as the genius who has transformed how food companies market their products.

When Mr. Moskowitz did his research for a coffee company, he discovered something surprising about coffee drinkers.

If you’re a coffee drinker, what kind of coffee do you like? How ‘bout if I tell you: you like a dark, rich, hearty roast. That’s what virtually all coffee drinkers claim they like. And that’s what coffee companies have advertised. Their commercials assure us we will enjoy the “robust” flavor of their coffee.

Moskowitz did countless taste tests with coffee drinkers, and do you know what he discovered? Few coffee drinkers really like a dark, rich, hearty roast!  Most coffee drinkers prefer a milky, weak coffee.

So, what do we make of this? Why do we coffee drinkers think we like a dark, rich, hearty roast, when only 25-27 percent of us actually do?

Have you ever considered that we want to project an image to other people – and that even minor things, like coffee, can be used to establish our character?  (You may not know this about yourself, but believe me, advertising companies have known this for a long, long time.)

Somehow, we think that those who drink their coffee black and strong are stouthearted souls with hair on their chest who grab a pair of pliers when they have a toothache. If, on the other hand, we want others to be aware of our sophistication and discriminating palate, we will go to the coffee shop and order a Bolivian roast, medium grind double latte espresso – easy on the crème brulee.

Before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, he spent an evening with his disciples in an upper room. He was not only their rabbi, they were beginning to realize he was their King.

Yet, Jesus was unconcerned with his image. He got up from the meal to kneel before his disciples with a wash basin and a towel.

After Jesus had inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, what did the disciples do? Luke tells us they got in an argument over who was more important.

The graphic visual teaching of the foot washing didn’t take, so Jesus put it to them plainly. In the kingdom of God, image counts for nothing.  True greatness is found when we forsake our images of superiority.

Jesus doesn’t want us to impress others; he wants us to serve them. . . as he served us.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wed. October 34, 2012

Doing the Right Things the Right Way


                    Don’t deceive yourselves by merely listening to God’s Word – put it into practice. 

                                                James 1:22


 Don’t get me wrong: I’m a firm believer in reading and learning the Bible. Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in regularly studying the Bible. Over time we easily view our practice of knowing Scripture as virtuous, rather than putting what we have learned into practice.

Life shouldn’t be this way, but it is: those who are the most devout, those who want to establish a daily time for reading the Bible, are the ones who are most prone to this deception. We begin by wanting God’s wisdom to transform our life, but, subtly, we can discover that we have been training ourselves to simply know facts.

This morning I read a portion from Colossians. I shut my Greek New Testament, thinking, “There, I did it. Read my Scripture reading for the day.” But if you would ask, “So, Marty, what do you intend to do today based on what you read this morning?” I wouldn’t know how to answer you.


The more disciplined we are, the more likely we are to train for the wrong thing. David Grossman, in his book On Combat, writes of a law enforcement officer who trained himself to snatch a weapon from an assailant’s hand. With a partner pointing a revolver at him, the law enforcement officer practiced relentlessly. As soon as he successfully disarmed his partner he would hand the gun back to him and practice his technique again.

One day the officer was able to put his technique into practice. An assailant pulled a gun on him and the officer deftly snatched the weapon from the assailant’s hand. And then, just as he had practiced for hours . . . he handed the handgun back to the assailant! (Fortunately, the officer’s partner was present to shoot and disarm the assailant).


After just reporting the disappointing results of my morning Bible reading, I’m hardly the one who should be offering advice. So, I won’t tell you what you should do. But, here’s what I intend to change: I’m going to try turning my Bible reading time into a prayer. Before I close my Bible, I want to take a moment to ask God what I should do with this knowledge, and then ask him for the strength to do it.


Learning to practice the right thing is crucial. I’ve seen video footage of NFL quarterbacks in practice throwing to receivers. The receiver catches the ball, turns his shoulders downfield, and then lopes back to the line of scrimmage.

Yesterday, however, I watched a video clip of a quarterback in his red jersey flipping a short five-yard pass. The receiver didn’t just make the catch and trot back to the line for the next play. He caught the ball and shot off like a rocket all the way down the field to the end zone. No surprise that this team has the highest “yards after catch” in the NFL.

More important than doing the right things is doing the right things the right way.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 



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Story of the Day for Tuesday October 23, 2012 

Panhandlers at Train Stations


                  Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case . . .  

                                                     Psalm 43:1


One of San Diego’s regular transients was at the train station when John took his stepson, Adam, to catch his ride. Buddy is a panhandler and is well-known to many at the train station. He’s not very fragrant, but neither is he persistent, and never ever rude.

Buddy asked John if he had any change so he could buy a cup of coffee.

“Buddy, I’m sorry, I just don’t have any money on me.”

With John ruled out as a contributor, both Buddy and John looked to Adam. Slightly embarrassed, Adam said he didn’t have any money either.

The three exchanged small talk and then John and Adam walked on.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Adam told his stepdad, “He tried to pick my pocket.”

“Are you sure?”

“While you two were talking he came over and bumped into me and I‘m sure he tried to reach into my pocket.” Then Adam said, “This pocket, right here in my jacket.”

Adam reached into the pocket and . . . pulled out a crumpled dollar bill that hadn’t been there before.


In 1798, Fermin Didot, a French printer, created a process by which he could print books without using moveable type. He created a printing plate called a “stereotype.” The printing surface for a stereotype was called a “cliché.”

Walter Lippman used the printing term, stereotype, in 1922 as a metaphor to describe how we often view members of a group as duplicates – all having the same characteristics.


Following our train of thought, this is the perfect opportunity for me to become a scold and warn against stereotyping anyone. But experts say we can’t help stereotyping – we put everything into categories. When I tell my wife, “Hmm, this looks like a good place to look for huckleberries,” I have engaged in stereotyping.

But it’s not simply that I can’t help stereotyping people; sometimes I don’t want to avoid it. I have told others that the Japanese are very polite or that the Inuit are a hospitable people. Are their exceptions to my statements? Of course. I’m sure at least one Apache warrior was a coward, and there’s one Nebraskan farmer who isn’t friendly. All the same, I intend to cling to my stereotypes and praise the whole lot of them.

When, however, we label everyone in a group with a negative trait, stereotypes become sinister (and even the word “sinister” – which means “left-handed” is a stereotype.) What makes negative stereotypes so dangerous is that they are often motivated by a desire to feel we are above others. Other groups are denigrated, in other words, in order that we may feel superior to them.

If you have a better way to go about this, I’m open to suggestions. But, until I learn to view people without categorizing them, I intend to praise groups for positive traits I observe, and try my best not to assume anyone has a negative trait simply because they belong to a certain group.

Not even panhandlers at train stations.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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