Archive for July, 2013

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 30, 2013 


“Not a Single One!” 


                   Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. 

Matthew 20:26             



Who was the greatest quarterback who ever lived? Who was the greatest singer of all time?  When questions like this are raised, the debate often becomes spirited.  

Yet, when we disagree with others about greatness, we’re only splitting hairs — we really don’t disagree at all. We all believe that greatness is defined as superiority over others; when we disagree, we’re only niggling over the fine points.   

That is why Jesus’ view of greatness packs such a jolt. In God’s eyes, greatness is not defined by how many otherswe‘re superior to, but by how many others we serve. And the Son of God showed the way by becoming the servant to everyone who ever lived.  


Dale Galloway, in his book Rebuild Your Life, tells the story of a little boy named Chad.  

One day in late January Chad came home from school and told his mom he wanted to make a valentine for everyone in his class.  

Her heart sank. Chad’s mom watched as the kids walked home from school. They laughed and clumped together as they made their way home from school.  But Chad was never included. He always walked alone behind the others. She knew how Valentine’s Day worked, and that Chad would probably not get many valentines from his classmates.  


But, she sighed, if her son wanted to make valentines then she would do what she could to help. She bought paper, glue, and other materials. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.  

February 2010--Valentine Cookies, Pretzels, Ellly 055

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Chad could hardly contain his excitement as he bolted out the door. His mom knew how crushed he would be to find that he had given far more valentines than he received, so she baked his favorite cookies to try to cheer him up when he got home.  

By mid-afternoon she had cookies and milk waiting for him on the table. When she heard the sound of children she looked out the window. As usual, the kids were walking and babbling in little groups while Chad walked by himself.  

Chad walked a little faster than usual, and his mom noticed he carried no bag of valentines like the one he carried out of the house. Knowing that he might well burst into sobbing as soon as he walked in the door, she worked to choke back her own tears.  

As soon as he walked through the door she greeted him and said, “I have some warm cookies and milk for you, but Chad didn’t seem to hear.   

“Not a one . . . not a one.”  

Her heart sank.  

But Chad looked up to his mom and his face glowed, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”  

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


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Story of the Day for Monday July 29, 2013 


Begin by Slowing Down 


                     Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. 

Psalm 1:2-3     



Never has any generation lived at the frantic pace which we do today.  If the car at the traffic light in front of me doesn’t respond to the green light within three seconds I get agitated.  “C’mon, what’s your problem?  Let’s move!”   


Thomas Huxley was a zealous promoter of Darwin’s views on evolution.  “Darwin’s Bulldog” they called him.  Chuck Swindoll wrote about the time when Huxley lectured in Dublin and gave a series of public assaults against Christian beliefs.   

The next morning he was in a hurry to catch a train.  He took one of Dublin’s horse-drawn taxis, and assumed the driver had been instructed where he wanted to go.  “Hurry!” Huxley shouted, “I’m almost late.  Drive fast!” 


The driver whipped his horses and off they went.  After a while, Huxley looked out the window of the taxicab and noticed they were headed west instead of east. “Do you know where you’re going?” Huxley asked. The driver shouted back, “No, your honor.  But I am driving very fast!”   

We don’t always know where we’re going, but we’re getting there fast.   


I have taught guitar lessons to quite a few people.  Invariably, they want to learn to play a song at the proper tempo first. Later, as they improve, they assume they will learn to play it without making mistakes.   

But they won’t.   One of my sisters is a music professor.  She says you must first learn to play correctly, and then work to increase the tempo.  If you begin by playing fast, making lots of mistakes in the process, you are actually training your brain to play the mistakes.  So, even though you need both correct fingering and proper tempo, the order is crucial.   


The same thing is true for your inner life.  We have to begin by slowing down.  The Bible says we need to take time to meditate on God’s law. Then, when we start racing around, at least we’ll be reading in the right direction. 

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

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Story of the Day for Friday July 26, 2013 


Why Some Good Manners Are Bad 


                    But God has composed the Body as to give greater honor to those lacking it.  

1 Corinthians 12:24     


Finns are considered one of the most informal cultures in the world. Some have said their national costume is the tracksuit. They seldom wear suits and ties and normally call teachers by their first names.  

The Finns don’t make a big fuss about a person’s status in society.  But they are kind, and understand their informality could easily offend those from other cultures. Thus, guidebooks on social etiquette have been frequent best-sellers in Finland 


Manners should be motivated by respect for other people. But, sometimes, manners originate to show our dis-respect for them. 


In medieval times, feudal societies marked their social status by their “manners.” Our English word, “courtesy,” originally referred to the behavior of those in royal “courts” – as opposed to the feudal peasants. Those who received a formal education adopted distinct manners to indicate their superiority to the uneducated masses. Before 1611, dining forks were unknown in England. After Thomas Coryate introduced them from Italy, they soon became markers of social status and sophistication.  

Don’t get me wrong: I highly encourage showing respect to those in offices of authority. While performing their duties, we’re doing a good thing when we call a judge “Your Honor,” or a policeman, “Officer.” But we must remember that drinking tea with our pinkie in the air can become a thinly disguised means of displaying our snobbishness.  


The Bible says we should show respect for those in authority. But God destroys snobbishness by flipflopping the rules. He has composed the body of Christ so that those who lack status are to be shown special honor.   


A century ago, Cecil Rhodes was, to put it mildly, an influential man. He founded the Rhodes Scholarship, the largest diamond company in the world (DeBeers), and even founded a country (Rhodesia).  

As a British statesman, Rhodes was a stickler for proper dress. Once, Rhodes invited a young man to dinner. The man arrived by train and was directly escorted to Rhode’s mansion in his travel-stained clothes. The young man was aghast to see all the other guests wearing full evening dress.  

When Rhodes spotted his young guest, he immediately disappeared. When he returned to his guests, he was no longer wearing evening dress, but instead, an old suit similar to that of the young man who just arrived off the train.  


Manners can be used to flaunt social status. But manners can also be used to show that, in God’s eyes, we’re all loved equally. And to remind each other of that fact.  

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

(image: http://s0.geograph.org.uk/photos/59/25/592547_91d15c12.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday July 25, 2013 


The Mystery Critic 


                   Love. . . doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast, it isn’t proud. 

1 Corinthians 13:4       



Sir Walter Scott, who was born in 1771, pulled off a feat that no one author had ever accomplished. He became the first English writer to enjoy an international reputation while he was still alive – with avid fans in Great Britain, Europe, North America, and Australia 

Scott is best known for his novels. In fact, he invented the genre of the historical narrative. But historical novels weren’t his only innovation: in order to maintain his image as Great Britain’s leading poet, he wrote his first novels anonymously. After his first novel, Waverly, he published his later novels as “Author of Waverly.”


As if being the best writer in the English world wasn’t enough, Sir Walter Scott was granted permission by the future King George IV to search for the long lost crown of Charles II.  Armed with military assistants, Scott found the Crown Jewels of Scotland in the bowels of a castle in Edinburgh, and a grateful royalty granted Scott the title of baronet.  

Sir Walter Scott could hardly rise higher in popularity.  


At the height of Scott’s popularity, however, a usurper arose. Lord Byron, a young, charismatic poet began to publish his works.  

A London paper printed the reviews of an anonymous contributor. The reviewer gushed over the works of Bryron – praising his poetic genius. Sir Walter Scott, the anonymous critic maintained, could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. Later, it was discovered that the mystery critic was Sir Walter Scott himself.  


Scott considered literary envy “a base sensation” and lauded Byron as “the man whose splendour dimmed the fame of his competitors.”  

Not only did Scott work to bolster the popularity of Lord Byron, but he also defended authors that were scoffed at by the critics. Jane Austen, who today is recognized as a literary giant, was, in the 19th century dismissed as a “woman’s novelist.” Sir Walter Scott was one of the few males who came to her defense and commended Austen’s genius.  


Scott desperately needed readers to buy his books. When businesses, in which he was heavily invested, crashed, he was financially ruined. Rather than declare bankruptcy, however, he determined to write himself out of debt.  But he never considered the option of bettering his popularity by trying to diminish the fame of his fellow authors.  


Love is an odd thing. It doesn’t resent the success of others but rejoices for them, rejoices with them. When the Bible urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we begin to learn that we are not at our greatest when we stand boastfully above our rivals, but when we devote our attention to making others better.  

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

(image: http://www.lornebair.com/pictures/17067.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday July 24, 2013 


Is it a Dirge or a Flute He is Playing? 


                    What can I compare this generation to?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace who called to each other, saying, “We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance.  We sang a mourning song and you did not mourn.” 

Matthew 11:17     



Deion Sanders is one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He is the only athlete to hit a Major League home run and score a touchdown in the NFL in the same week.  He is the only player to play in the World Series in baseball and the Super Bowl in football. 



We Christians sometimes think God has given us the task of rooting out sin wherever we find it (as long as it’s in other people).  I never liked Deion’s cocky attitude on the field, and there are many who would be shocked that I am going to use him as an example for us to follow. Oh well. How many people were shocked when Jesus used a devious business manager as an example of shrewdness?  

My view of Deion Sanders has softened since I read about his upbringing.  He was born and raised in a poor section of Fort Myers, Florida.  The “heroes” of his neighborhood were the corner drug dealers.  They wore flashy jewelry and drove expensive cars.  Sanders, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, said, “in my hometown, [drug dealing] was the community job.”   

Deion began playing football in the Pop Warner youth league since he was eight.  He played basketball.  He played baseball. He worked hard. 


When Sanders worked hard, and became successful, many were turned off by his gaudy jewelry and “showiness” of wealth.  But he says he was trying to show the kids from his culture that you can have the trappings of wealth without becoming a drug dealer.  “I’m showing them something else,” he said, “I’m proving you can do it on the right side.”   


In an interview with Esquire magazine, Deion says the world’s best athletes are standing on street corners, selling drugs.  He calls them “I’das.”  He explained how they say, “If I’da done this, I’d be here today,” or “If I’da practiced a little harder. . . I’d be a superstar.”  Deion admits that some of them were as fast as he was as a kid.  But instead of working hard and disciplining themselves, they chose the easy option of selling drugs.   


Do you have any “I’das”?  If I would have written all my “I’das” down, I would have a handsome, three volume set by now.  If only I’da . . . 

I’das” look backward.  They can only bring regret.  But God calls us to change our focus.  To listen to his call for today.  When he plays a dirge, it’s time to repent.  When he plays the flute, he’s inviting us to dance.   

Like Deion Sanders, the Lord wants us to go for it.  

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


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Story of the Day for Tuesday July 23, 2013 


How It Should End 


                   Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now want to reach your goal through human effort? 

Galatians 3:3         



Why is it that, whenever we try to be more religious than other people, we end up becoming worse?  

The Puritans felt the Reformation didn’t go far enough. Seeking greater purity, some separatist groups removed themselves from other Christians. 


Alice Morse Earle, who liked rummaging through old documents, discovered some juicy news from these groups. John Lewis and Sarah Chapman, she found, were accused and tried for sitting together under an apple tree on the Lord’s Day. A soldier from Dunstable was fined forty shillings for wetting a piece of an old hat and stuffing it in his shoe on the Sabbath. In 1656, Captain Kemble from Boston was put in the public stocks for his “lewd and unseemly behavior” of kissing his wife at the doorstep of his house. (This was the first time Kemble had seen his wife since a three year voyage).    


Why have so many people done things in the name of Jesus that Jesus himself would deplore? Could it be that, whenever we seek to become superior to others, we’re moving in the wrong direction? The prime virtue of a Christian should be humility. When we discover we’re covered in muck — just like everyone else — we can honestly report the grim news to God, and know he’ll forgive us. Humility is what faith is about. 

Seeking to be better than others, however, neglects humility in favor of pride, judgmentalism, false piety, self-righteousness, minimizing personal faults, fear of those on the “outside” (which breeds slander) and group conformity for fear of expulsion.  


“Well, Bartholomew, I thank God we aren’t like the heathen.” (pride) 

“Me, too.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group) 

“The heathen probably lurk in dark alleys and torture cats.” (fear of those outside the group, which leads to slander) 

“Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group) 

“But, praise God, on the Judgment Day, the Most High will reward us for the fruit of our labors.” (self-righteousness) 

Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group) 

“Hey, are you eating that without praying first?” (judgmentalism 

“It’s, ah . . . it’s just a stalk of celery.” (minimizing personal faults) 

“So?I thank the Almighty for every morsel that touches my lips.” (false piety)  

“I thanked the Lord, but I said it in my head.” (lying to cover own sins)  

“You should‘ve at least bowed your head in reverence.” (false piety)  

“I’m going to do that from now on.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group) 


We begin the new life by relying on the grace of Jesus, and that’s how it should end.  

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

(image: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3037/3066111934_1622d0cfcc.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday July 22, 2013 


Their Stronghold 


                   Return to the stronghold, O prisoners of hope. 

Zechariah 9:12     



August Cyparis was a troublemaker. In his mid-twenties, Cyparis lived in St. Pierre on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He was arrested for brawling and forced to do hard labor. But, near the end of his sentence, he escaped from his laboring job to spend the night dancing. Even though he turned himself in to authorities the next morning, they were not amused and threw him in solitary confinement — a windowless dungeon that used to be a bomb-proof ammunition storage room.


The Stronghold confinement cell of August Cyparis

St. Pierre, a beautiful city of 28,000, was called “The Paris of the West.” It was nestled on the ocean at the base of a dormant volcano, Mt. Pelée 

But in January of 1902, Pelée started grumbling. Fumerole activity began to increase, and by April, earth tremors could be felt. The sulfurous gas and ash drove snakes and insects off the volcano and around fifty people died of snakebites while livestock was tormented by biting red ants.  


Governor Mouttet, however, convinced the editor of the daily newspaper to downplay the danger. He sent a handful of civic leaders to the summit of the volcano to inspect the situation. Though the only scientist among them was a high school teacher, they reported, “The safety of St. Pierre is completely assured.” 

Not all the residents believed the reports. Yet, those who fled for safety were rounded up by troops and returned to St. Pierre — on the Governor’s order.  

Governor Mouttet didn’t want a mass exodus from the city because he was up for re-election in one week, and wanted no instability among the voters.  


The election never took place. On May 8, Mt. Pelée erupted. The city was leveled by searing hot gas (around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) that blew an estimated 400 miles an hour. A three ton statue was blown sixteen feet off its mount. Three foot masonry walls were demolished.  

Within three minutes, all 28,000 residents were killed.  


All except for two people. And one of those two survivors was a prisoner sitting in solitary confinement. There in the massive walls of the dungeon, August Cyparis was protected.  


Cyparis survived, but not because he was a good man. He survived because of the massive stronghold that protected him.   

On the day of Judgment, it is not the good, the strong, who will survive. Those saved will be all those who look to the God of mercy to be their stronghold.  

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