Archive for February, 2013

Story of the Day for Thursday February 28, 2013 


Love is More Than a Belly Rub

                     The one who responds to discipline is on the path of life.  

                                  Proverbs 11:17

Foreign languages come easily to me. Do you know what El Dorado means? It’s Spanish for “The Dorado.” When your hot water heater is on the fritz, that’s a German expression, meaning it’s “on the Fred.” Pizza? That’s an Italian word meaning . . . “pizza.”

Because I pick up languages so naturally, it’s no surprise that I also understand the language of Dog. When you own and operate a dog, you gradually begin to understand their native tongue.

We have a yellow lab puppy named Koira, who has little enthusiasm for staying out of mischief. Despite the certain knowledge that she will be rebuked and tied to a tree for chasing our neighbor’s cows, she can’t resist an occasional spree.

It requires surprisingly little discipline, however, to lead her to penitence. As soon as she is tied up, sorrow overwhelms her, and, within minutes, she has vowed to lead a new life.

Koira looks at me with wagging tail and baleful eyes and I can translate her message with ease: “Please, Mr. Marty. Please let me loose. I promise to be good. I’ll be good for the rest of my life.”

Dogs are sincere creatures, and the comical thing about them is that they really think that, once given the chance, they will lead good and upright lives. But, what’s even more comical is that I usually believe them.

Yet, no sooner do I show her mercy than she is off chasing the cat or stealing one of my gloves.

I like to take Koira for walks and scratch her belly. But love means more than allowing her to chew up my shoes. Love is more than license, and she must learn she can’t chase cows or pee in the house. Koira needs both belly rubs and training.

We tend to associate God’s love with pleasure. If God loves us, we think, he wouldn’t let us experience pain. But love is more than a belly rub. Love also disciplines. Love cares about the ultimate well-being of another.

Koira is a good dog; she just can’t stay that way for extended periods of time. Nevertheless, she’s learning. She’s learning to find joy in pleasing me.

Although I’m obviously fluent in many languages, I’m still struggling to learn that discipline is also one of the languages of God’s love.

(text and picture copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Story of the Day for Wednesday February 27, 2013 


Dead Toad in the Stew Pot

                 He will tend his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He will gently lead the ewes that have young.  

                                      Isaiah 40:11

My friend, Stan Holder, is a really great guy, and I would never want to embarrass him. So, to protect his identity, I’m going to refer to him, throughout this article, as Buford A. Tiddschnickle.

Sta—I mean, Buford, is not a hiker; he is a Hiking Machine. When his wife, Mrs. Tiddschnickle, managed a U.S. Forest Service district in California, Buford and his wife hiked every trail in the district – to the astonishment of everyone who knew how many miles this entailed.

 But Buford’s slide into infamy began with “The Mount Ksanka Incident.” Ksanka rises majestically to the east of Eureka, Montana. On Bufe’s recommendation, I decided to climb it.

“How long does it take to get to the top?” I asked.

“Oh,” Buford replied, “forty-five minutes?”

After several long hours of desperate scrambling up the western face, no jury in the land would have convicted me had I enacted my plot to short-sheet his bed and put a dead toad in his stew pot.  

This is a cautionary tale: never ask a hiker with enormous calves how long it takes to go anywhere. They will tell you sincerely, but they calculate according to their own pace.

The thought of following Jesus used to intimidate me. How can I keep up with the Son of God? His life is one of perfect beauty. He forgives the very ones whose hammer blows nailed his body to a tree, while I’m pathetically harboring dark thoughts about toads in stew pots.  How could I have the audacity to consider myself his follower?

But, then, one day, this verse from Isaiah stripped away my fears and excuses. Jesus will lead us like a shepherd. He doesn’t out-hike the flock and disappear over the horizon. Shepherds lead at the pace the sheep are able to walk.

And what if you can’t walk very fast? Isaiah says this Shepherd will go at a gentler pace. And what if you’re only a lamb and can’t keep up at all? Then He’ll pick you up and carry you close to his heart.

 For years, Buford A. Tiddschnickle has invited me to hike with him, but I’ve always concocted inventive excuses.

This last year, however, I’ve learned a secret about Bufe. He loves to hike with friends and family. He loves to hike with kids. But he always hikes at their pace — not his own.

I think I’m going to hike with him, and deliberately walk slow – just to bug him (since I’m still a little peeved about this Ksanka thing.)

But my conscience has convicted me about the dead toad in the stew pot.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(picture credit: http://s3.amazonaws.com/estock/fspid2/74100/toad-compost-heap-74195-h.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday February 26, 2013


Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

                Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

                                                          John 6:67

There is this politician I know and I want to share something that happened to him. Off the record, of course.

Quite a few years ago, he was asked, as an afterthought, to speak at a special gathering. The committee told him he shouldn’t try to be funny or to talk too long. You have to admire any politician who would agree to those stipulations, but he did.

Then, just as he was getting reading to leave, his son got sick. Normally, this wouldn’t be overly traumatic, but their older son had just died the year before, and now his wife was in hysterics about him leaving. He felt, however, that he had to fulfill his obligation, and sadly, walked out the door on his sick son and angry wife.

And, then, on his way to give his speech, he got sick himself. He still hadn’t written his speech. Dog tired, he tried to put some thoughts together.

Fifteen thousand people attended the gathering. A singing group from Baltimore performed a song, and then he was on.

If you’re a preacher, public speaker, or even a student in a high school speech class, you know what it feels like to bomb. You’re embarrassed and humiliated.

He gave his speech. When he finished, there was an awkward silence, followed by tepid, scattered applause. He bombed.

When he slumped into his seat on the podium, he told his friend sitting next to him that his speech failed, and, as if to confirm this, pointed out the disappointment of the crowd.

But a tepid response from the crowd was nothing compared to some in the media. The Chicago Times jumped all over him, calling his speech “silly, flat, and dishwatery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania paper chose to ignore his “silly remarks” in order to spare their readers from such an awful speech.

I’ve kept quiet about this politician’s name, but I guess there’s no harm in sharing it with you now. His name was Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t say I knew him personally). And the speech he gave was for the dedication of a seventeen-acre military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gravestone for Lawrence Conley, a sargeant in the PA infantry, who died in World War II.

When Jesus was at the height of his popularity, he gave a speech and the crowds disliked it. So many people quit following him that he had to ask his own disciples if they intended to leave him as well.

People may reject or ridicule what you have to say – not because it isn’t true, but because they’re not ready to hear it.

Want to know what you should do? Speak the truth anyway. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took time to become the most well-loved speech in American history.

And two thousand years later, we still feed our souls on Jesus’ “failed” speech.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(photo courtesy of s3.amazonaws.com/estock/fspid9/23/87/41/5/gettysburg-cemetery-2387415-h.jpg)


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Story of the Day for Wednesday February 20, 2013


Drops of Water on the Summit

                       . . . Jesus firmly decided to go to Jerusalem.

                                                         Luke 9:51

Keri Russell said, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decision that can change your life forever.”

 Triple Divide Peak, in Glacier National Park, is the only mountain in the world that feeds into three oceans. Rainwater falling on the western slope drains into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, and eventually flows into the Columbia River — which drains into the Pacific Ocean. The northeastern slope flows across Canada into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. And rain from the southeastern slope feeds into Marias River, which flows to the Missouri, and then joins the Mississippi River to empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

Three raindrops could fall within an inch of each other on Triple Divide Peak, and each one would end up in a different ocean.

The religious authorities in Jerusalem wanted to arrest and execute Jesus, but they didn’t know how to get their hands on him. As long as Jesus stayed put up north in Galilee, he had a huge following of people who would protect him.

The most momentous stride in history was the first step Jesus took when he decided he would walk south to Jerusalem in order to die.

Making a decision and acting on it can change the entire destination of our lives. The problem is that – unless you decide to run for the presidency or to have yourself shot out of a cannon – no one really notices what you’ve done. Or cares.  No one finds the first inches a raindrop travels on Triple Divide Peak to be of any significance. Who noticed Jesus’ first footstep after he firmly resolved to walk the dusty road to his own execution?

We can talk a lot about God’s will. We can think a lot about The Dream that the Lord has put in our hearts, but everything depends on the direction of our first footstep . . . and taking it.

My friend, Carl, once asked me: “Three frogs are sitting on a log and one frog decides to jump into the pond. How many frogs are now sitting on the log?”

“Two,” I said.

“No, three. Because, until that frog acts on his decision to jump, he’s nothing but a frog sitting on a log.”

For several years now, I’ve wanted to climb Triple Divide Peak and pour a few drops of water on the summit – and think of the water levels rising in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans.

I’ve never stood on the top of Triple Divide Peak, however, because I’ve never made the decision to do it. One of these days, though . . .

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/chriswegg/4032399013/)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday February 19, 2013


God Is Going to Blow It Up

                ”No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will tear the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be lost. Put new wine into new wineskins.”

                                  Mark 2:22

Ford Model A, Billetproof, Contra Costa Fairgrounds, Antioch, CA, 2007

In 1908, Henry Ford developed the Model T.  It was the only car the Ford Motor Company made and it sold like hotcakes. In just a few years, half of all the cars on the road were Model Ts.

But it only came in one color. In 1909, Henry Ford said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Ford’s ace production man, William Knudsen, foresaw that the company needed to improve to keep pace with the competition. So, when Ford took his family on a trip to Europe in 1912, Knudsen prepared a new sleek prototype with four doors and shiny red lacquer-work.

When Ford was shown the prototype, he walked around the car three or four times with his hands in his pockets, and then he grabbed the driver’s side door and ripped it off! He proceeded to pop out the windshield and destroy the car.  The message was clear: don’t mess with my “baby.”

Ford fired Knudsen, who went to General Motors.

But, General Motors kept improving their cars. They had more power, electric starters, and, of course, a choice of colors. But Henry stuck to his Model T. Not until 1927 did Henry, grudgingly, decide to develop a new car: the Model A.

But it was too late. The Ford Motor Company dipped from 50 percent market share to only 28 percent by 1931. For the rest of his life, Henry Ford would have to be content with second place in the auto industry.

As wine ferments, it expands. The ancient Jews could not put new wine in clay jars because the growing pressure would shatter them. So, they preferred using the skins of young goats. They would sew up all the holes and pour the new wine into them. As the wine fermented the wineskins would expand like a balloon, but not break.

The wineskins became useless for holding fermenting wine, however, once they became hardened and rigid. If you poured wine into them, they were no longer flexible enough to expand; they would simply crack and now you’ve lost both your wineskin and your wine.

When we become rigid in our methods, when we insist that our way is the only way, stand back, because God is going to blow it up. Truth doesn’t change, but the power of the Good News is always expanding. You can’t keep a lid on it.

Jesus’ New Wine is like exploration. Thomas Jefferson made thorough and extensive plans for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. But once their journey rounded the first unexplored bend in the river, rigid plans could only hurt them. From that point on, they needed only to know their goal, and how to be flexible enough to deal with each new adventure they encountered.

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(photo courtesy of Brian Toad, creative commons license.)

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Story of the Day for Monday February 18, 2013 


Sharpen Each Other

            As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

                                           Proverbs 27:17

My daughter, Krista, is a freshman at the university.  Most students at college work unbelievably hard.  So, to let off a little steam, they do impulsive things.  At least that is my explanation for why she decided to get her nose pierced.

When she announced her decision, I let her know that I would always love her.  But I told her I hoped she got a booger right where her nose was pierced and that it would hurt when she picked it. But, it’s her nose. Parents like to give wise counsel, but we can’t spend our time  managing our kids’ noses once they go off to college.  I have tried to forget Get you out of my head But the memories won't fade I can run I can hide from this feeling inside But the pain won't go away

 On spring break, Krista joined us and was helping to prepare for a special banquet at church.  That’s when she met Paul.

Paul is a very successful, retired businessman.  But, more than that, his faith in Jesus makes him kind. That evening, Paul met my daughter.

Seeing no sense in beating around the bush, Paul, with a tactfulness that only he can pull off, told Krista he didn’t think the pierced nose was a good idea.

High schools ask Paul to speak to their students. He teaches them how to succeed.  Among other things, that means they need to adjust to the adult standards of the working world if they want to get hired.  Paul knows the business world well.  And he knows that kids who show up for interviews with baggy pants that leave their shorts showing, and tattoos on their face are less likely to find good jobs.

Krista, for her part, held her ground.  She said she doesn’t want to work for anyone who would not hire her because she has a pierced nose.

 Later that evening, Krista was holding jars for Paul while he poured oil into them.  Pouring oil into jars is not among Paul’s greater gifts and a lot of it dribbled down the side of the bottle.

“You know something, Paul?” Krista said, “If you learned to pour straighter, I’d hire you.”  The successful businessman and the outspoken college student started laughing together.  They really liked each other.

 Look around you. It seems we no longer meet with people of differing viewpoints; we collide.  We wield our opinions like clubs.

We may not be able to do much about the loss of civility in society, but we must do so in the body of Christ.  When we listen to each others perspective, we grow.  We help each other.  We don’t grow in wisdom when we only listen to opinions we already hold.

Paul and Krista come from radically different perspectives.  But their mutual respect for each other drew them closer together instead of further apart.

As iron is used to sharpen iron, God is using us to “sharpen” each other.

(text copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(photo credit:http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/15/95/83/7/hair-face-black-1595837-l.jpg
  under creative commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/)

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Story of the Day for Friday February 15, 2013 


Newfangled Quartz Movement Contraptions

                 “The time is coming,” the Lord declares, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant.” 

                                Jeremiah 31:31-32

 When Jesus reached in his pocket and pulled out a new contract from God, the people who had the hardest time accepting it were those who were legal experts on the original contract.

 In 1968, Switzerland dominated the world of watch making – owning over eighty percent of the market share in profits.

The Swiss were proud of their watches – and for good reason: they made watches of exceptional craftsmanship.

Yet, in a little over a decade, Switzerland was devastated. Their profit share plummeted to less than twenty percent. By 1988, employment in the watch industry in Switzerland sank from 90,000 to 28,000.

What happened?


The quartz movement watch captured the world’s attention. It was not only cheaper than a mechanical watch, but far more accurate.

The devastation of the Swiss dominance in watch making, however, is not so much tragic, as ironic. After World War II, the Swiss invented a quartz clock. In 1962, a laboratory was established in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, to develop the quartz movement watch. The world’s first prototype quartz wristwatches were displayed in 1967. That year, their laboratory in Neuchâtel entered their quartz movement watches in time trials and won the first ten places for wristwatch accuracy. Two years later, their Beta 21 was available for commercial production.

But the Swiss watchmakers couldn’t adjust to such a radical change.  They focused, instead, on their proud history. They had a well-deserved legacy for making fine mechanical watches. They weren’t about to change their way of life for some newfangled quartz movement contraptions.

Switzerland was well-positioned to dominate the world in quartz movement watches, just as they had for so many generations with their mechanical watches. But they refused to invest in the new technology because they had mastered the old so well.

God’s first covenant stipulated that we would be blessed if we were obedient. Since no one was obedient, God announced his new covenant: he would forgive all who looked to him for mercy.

This new covenant, like the quartz movement watch, was definitely a change for the better.  The only ones who have ignored it are the self-satisfied: those who are (falsely) proud of their religious accomplishments.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(photo credit: http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid31/36/44/95/5/antique-vintage-time-3644955-o.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday Valentine’s Day 2013 


Gain the Same Reputation


                    Everyone will know you are my followers by this: if you love each other. 

                                     John 13:35

In A Severe Mercy Sheldon Vanauken writes of the time he and his wife, Davy, traveled across the Atlantic on an ocean liner. During the voyage, a woman traveling to Rome lost her handbag containing all her money: four hundred dollars. Sheldon and Davy were struck by the fact that there were four hundred passengers on the ship. “Only one dollar apiece,” Vanauken thought, “and the poor lady would smile again.”  A baby boat by Grand Harbour standards

The couple took their idea to the Purser, who said company rules forbade employees from taking up a collection, but urged them to take up a collection themselves.

The Purser gave them the passenger list and almost everyone – from a Shropshire landed baronet to an American communist gave a contribution. They faced the most suspicion from New Yorkers, who wanted to know what their racket was. They learned to say politely: “Do you mind me asking, are you from New York? You are? Well, never mind, then. We’re not asking New Yorkers – too suspicious. Forget it. Thank you very much.” Later, some of the New Yorkers would sidle up to them and hand them their donation – one giving twenty dollars.

Vanauken tried to keep their activities anonymous, but someone spilled the beans and the woman, who received the collection, rushed to their dining table and wept in gratitude. The woman was so moved by their compassion that she asked if they were Christians.

 Have you ever gone out of your way to help a stranger and have them ask you that? If you’re a Christian, it’s a gratifying question. But what if you’re not? In Sheldon and Davy’s case, they told the woman, no, they were not Christians.

It must be annoying for those who don’t follow Jesus to go out of their way to help someone, and then be asked if they’re a Christian. Do you have to be a Christian, for Pete’s sake, just to be kind to someone?

No, you don’t. But isn’t the question thought-provoking?  Why is it, when we show care to a stranger that we don’t hear them inquire, “Excuse me, but are you an atheist?” Or, “You wouldn’t, by any chance, happen to be a Steelers fan, would you?”

Sheldon Vanauken and his wife held no religious beliefs. But they were taken aback by the mere assumption that this woman immediately suspected they were Christians. Why, Vanauken wondered, do so many people think that, when compassion is shown, Christians are the most likely culprits?

 History provides exceptions, of course. We point to crusades and inquisitions staged in the name of Christ, to TV evangelists who are con men posing as prophets.

Yet, the very act of pointing out lovelessness in the name of Christ suggests a revealing truth: that Jesus was known by his sacrificial love for the world, and he calls his followers to gain the same reputation.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(photo credit: http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/98/37/10/7/malta-travel-valletta-9837107-l.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday February 12, 2013 


Should I Poison My Dinner Guests?

 A table awaits its dinner guests at the United States Military Academy's Class of 2009 Graduation Banquet on Friday, May 22, 2009.  (Photo by John Pellino/DOIM MMB)

             Some people, coming from Judea, taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” This created sharp disagreement from Paul and Barnabas, and a big debate erupted.  

                                                                           Acts 15:1-2

Pack rats are smelly and can do more damage in my workshop than I can. So, they’ve got to go. Using rat poison, my devious scheme invites them to be my dinner guests.

Mona, our husky with a brain as big as a lima bean, shares my feelings about pack rats. But her strategy involves chasing them under wood piles and then standing guard over them for hours. Her policy of aggressive harassment scares away my clients.

Mona and I are bonded in a common quest: to get rid of pack rats and make this world a better place in which to live. But, though we are both committed to The Cause, we have conflicting strategies.

 Christians aren’t supposed to fight, but, as believers, we are highly prone to butting heads, because we care so deeply about spiritual things.

 Years ago, Capper’s Weekly reported about Joyce Grimm, from Lucas, Kansas. She was walking across a parking lot when she saw a driverless car. It was slowly rolling out of its parking space.

Joyce swiftly ran beside the car, swung the door open, and jumped in. She hit the brake and brought the rolling car to a halt. As she got out, a man in overalls approached her. She beamed with slightly suppressed pride and said, “Well, I stopped the car.”

The man in overalls said, “I know. I was pushing it.”

Both Joyce and the man in overalls had the same objective: to assist the owner of the vehicle. But, because they understood the situation differently, they found themselves working against each other.

 Some well-meaning Christians in Antioch told new gentile converts that they needed to get circumcised, like Moses taught, in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed. Everyone had the same goal (that the gentiles find salvation) but they disagreed on how to get there.

This issue could easily have divided the church in her infancy. But they talked it out and got it right: both Jews and gentiles are saved solely by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

When we encounter conflict in the church, a good starting place is to find where we agree – where we share the same convictions . . . and work from our shared beliefs rather than our differences.

 I believe that poisoning my dinner guests is still the way to go. And I still think my dog is a dingbat for trying to defeat pack rats by intimidation. But we will continue to discuss the issue with an open mind and monitor results. It’s what you do when you’re partner in The Cause.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Story of the Day for Monday February 11, 2013


We Were Made For This


               Eagerly practice hospitality. 

                                       Romans 12:13


Gander is a small, quiet town on the island of Newfoundland.  All that changed on September 11, 2001.  With planes used as weapons, the U.S., for the first time in its history, shut down the skies. All incoming flights from Europe were diverted to Canada.  Gander Airport, Newfoundland, September 11, 2001

The runway at the Gander airport shook as 747s began to make emergency landings. Within three hours, the airport was crammed with 38 jets and over 6,500 passengers.  Instantly, the area swelled by 60% in population.

Pilots and crews filled the local hotels, but where do you put so many thousands of stranded passengers? The local residents mobilized for action.

All high schools, church basements, and meeting halls within an hour from the airport were opened to provide housing. Many residents opened up their homes.

Residents scrambled to find diapers, baby formula, and bedding. In perhaps the biggest “refrigerator raid” in history, the townspeople emptied their fridges and cupboards. They brought out their local delicacies: moose meat, cod filets, and wild partridgeberry jam.  One of those stranded, a folk singer composed a song with the line: “Our plates are never empty, Lord, they’re feeding us again.”

The local businesses sprang to action. Fishermen donated their catch. Bakeries stayed open late baking fresh bread. A store owner donated $3,000 in bed sheets. Pharmacies filled prescriptions and provided medicine for free.

At a camp outside of town, Salvation Army members stood outside cabins all night long — just in case someone needed to talk.

 In those three anxious days, social barriers began to relax. Some of those marooned were dirt poor refugees. Sleeping on cots next to them might be a British member of Parliament, the mayor of Frankfort, Germany, or a king from the Middle East. Everyone began addressing each other by their first names.

One resident, Scott Cook, told of a local woman who drove those stranded on tours of the area. Afterward, she exchanged cards. She looked at one card, “So,” she said, “you work with Best Western?” “No,” he replied, “I own Best Western.”

When the planes were finally cleared to depart, both passengers and residents hugged and wept. One resident said this time was the highlight of his life.

There is a ritual if you’d like to become an honorary Newfoundlander. You get on your knees, kiss a codfish on the lips, eat a piece of local hardbread, pound down some “screech” (a local rum), and speak a word in praise of Newfoundland. Many passengers took the pledge.

 I sometimes dream of making more money and having more free time to do what I want. The Lord, however, gently reminds me that what I really want is to sacrifice my time, money, and wild grouseberry jam to serve others.

The people from Newfoundland remind the rest of us that we were made for this.

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(image credit: http://www.snowbirds.org/csanews/issues/41/images/ganderAirport2.jpg)


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