Archive for May, 2014

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 27, 2014

Nothing Glamorous About Roots 

                He will be like a tree planted by the water – that sends out its roots. . . It will not be anxious in a year of drought and will never fail to bear fruit. 

Jeremiah 17:8


Let’s imagine you buy seeds for a Chinese Bamboo Tree. You plant them in an indoor greenhouse and hope for the best.

But, after a year of watering the soil, nothing has germinated.

Oh well, you just keep on watering the soil for another year. Still nothing. No sprout; no nothing.  You notice that the neighbors are beginning to look at you funny.

After the third year of constant care and watering, your best friend sits you down over coffee and gently points out that there is a difference between persistence, which a saintly virtue, and beating your head against a wall, which is the mark of an idiot.

You enter your fourth year of watering, and still nothing has happened. Family members have summoned the nice people in the white lab coats to take you for a little ride, but you hide in the broom closet until they quit looking for you and leave.

And you just keep on watering your seeds.

If you keep watering the seeds of a Chinese Bamboo Tree for four years, you won’t see anything happen. But, in the fifth year, a sprout will shoot up from the soil. And then – are you ready for this? – the tree will grow eighty feet high in the next six weeks!

But notice: the Chinese Bamboo Tree cannot grow eighty feet in six weeks. It can only grow eighty feet in five years.

The Bamboo Tree needs to develop a good root system first. The first four years of growth are all underground, and we can’t see what’s going on down there.

Let’s face it: there is nothing glamorous about roots. And not only that, if conditions stay perfect, a tree doesn’t really need deep roots.

But conditions never stay perfect. When the storms come, they will topple you over unless you’ve got deep roots. When the drought comes, your leaves will wither unless you’ve sunk deep roots.

Learning to find our strength in the Lord is like sending roots deep underground. The daily discipline of prayer and meditation and study is not something others see. No one will marvel at your prayer time nor applaud when you read your Bible.

But when the tough times come, you’ll find that the unseen taproot is finding all the water you need.

The pastor of a congregation got sick, and so, with little time to prepare, they asked an old pastor to give the sermon that morning.  The sermon was solid, clear, and nourishing. Afterward, a member thanked him for the fine sermon, and then asked, “How long did you take to prepare your sermon?”

The old pastor answered, “Seventy years.”

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.completebamboo.com

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Story of the Day for Friday May 23, 2014

The Gerber Boy


Filled with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.

Mark 1:41


The Raymond Dunn, Jr. Memorial Field is a baseball field that is, not surprisingly, named after Raymond Dunn, Jr. What is curious, however, is that Raymond never played baseball nor had the slightest interest in the game.

Raymond died in January of 1995, and many feel it might have been better if he had never been born. Oxygen deprivation caused severe retardation. He was born blind with an undersized brain. His complications grew with his age. He never learned to walk or talk. He was racked with twenty seizures a day and had asthma. Even after he reached ten years of age, he barely weighed over thirty pounds.

Raymond’s serious troubles began when his parents discovered he had severe allergies to all foods – except for one special food manufactured by Gerber baby foods.

Because of the high production costs and lack of demand, Gerber announced they were discontinuing production of MBF, an expensive meat-based formula.

When Raymond’s mom heard the news, she frantically bought up every jar of the food she could find. She told Gerber of her plight and they – with approval from the FDA – gave her their remaining outdated stock.

Eventually, the discontinued brand of Gerber food that was keeping Raymond alive was almost depleted. Gerber agreed to reveal their formula to any company willing to make it. No takers.

When Raymond’s plight was announced to the members of Research and Development at the Fremont, Michigan plant, they volunteered to help. Without pay and on their own time, they set up production to produce the discontinued Gerber food for one person. Raymond Dunn, Jr. became known as “The Gerber Boy.”

The volunteers at Gerber kept Raymond alive for another ten years before he died of his complications. I suppose many consider it a waste of time and resources to dedicate so much for the help of a kid who was so severely retarded. But that is a matter you’ll have to take up with the employees at Gerber. I suspect that they would say that helping Raymond was one of the most moving and inspiring things they had ever done.

The compassionate volunteers at Gerber remind us that God’s love is not limited to healthy over-achievers. We are not saved because we are strong and good, but because we trust in the One who cares for the helpless.

And Raymond’s life was not a waste. The compassion he evoked led to the construction of a recreational site and a house to provide care to medically fragile adults.

Compassion always baffles our cold, cynical analysis of what is valuable in life.

(copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.fattyweightloss.com/wp-content/uploads/gerber-logo.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday May 22, 2014

“It’s Not Fair!”


Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:13



Many complain that mercy is unfair, and, of course, they’re absolutely right: it is unfair. Is it ever right to bend the rules for a higher cause than fairness?

In 2002, Jake Porter attended Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio – even though he couldn’t read. Jake had Fragile X Syndrome – the most common form of genetic mental retardation.

Yet, Jake was unfailingly cheerful and loved by his classmates. The Homecoming Queen, at the big dance, chose Jake as her escort. Doug Montavon, the school’s all-time rushing leader, doted on Jake and helped him along during football practice.


The last football game of the season saw Northwest take a thumping from Waverly High. With five seconds left, Waverly was leading 42-0 when Northwest coach, Dave Frantz called a time out and met with Waverly’s coach, Derek Dewitt.

Coach Frantz told Dewitt that he wanted to send in Jake Porter, who would be handed the ball and would simply take a knee. But Dewitt was having none of it. He returned to the sidelines and told his defense that when the ball was handed to number 54, they were not to touch him, but make sure he scored.When the quarterback handed Jake the ball, he ran to the line, stopped, and, confused, started running the wrong way. But the referee and players from both teams pointed him toward the goal line.

Jake sliced through the line and galloped for daylight. When he crossed the goal line everyone went wild. Players from both teams were hugging each other. Players from both teams hoisted Jake on their shoulders. Jake’s mom, Liz, said there were no longer two teams out there. “Everybody was on the same team.”

Jake’s touchdown run was, of course, unfair – and, with the ref’s assistance, illegal. The sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette whined that if mentally challenged kids want to compete, let them do it in the Special Olympics. “Leave high school football alone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put the fix in.” Other voices joined him.

No one argues that Jake’s touchdown was fair. It was clearly compassionate. But afterward, people became friendlier. Coach Dewitt, the first black coach in the history of the conference, found racial slurs replaced by people approaching him in grocery stores to shake his hand. He was no longer a black man; he was a man. Dewitt said he caught the school bully patiently teaching a couple of special-needs students how to shoot a basketball. Coach Frantz even got a phone call from Steve Mariucci, the head coach of the 49ers, because his NFL players were so touched by Jake’s touchdown.

It’s not fair that any of us should be reunited with God. But I hope you won’t mind if Jesus bends the rules of fairness so that, in the end, mercy will triumph.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  (image: http://www.rob-robson.com/jake_porter/porter01_125.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday May 21, 2014


Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?


Job replied, “. . . Shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”

Job 2:10

On June 13, 1883, the little town of Mystic, Connecticut, was flooded with reporters from the biggest newspapers in New England: the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New London Daily, Providence Journal, New York Herald, and many others.

The estimates of the crowd ranged from 5,000 to 12,000. They had come to Mystic to witness the unveiling of a statue honoring those who had fought in the Civil War.


The festivities got off to a slow start because the train from New London – which carried the governor and other dignitaries, was late.

Then the grandstands, which had been erected to accommodate the crowds for the occasion, collapsed.

When the granite statue was to be unveiled, cannons stood ready to deliver a 38-gun salute (in tribute to the 39 states in the Union). But when those manning the cannon battery noticed the state governor approaching, they abruptly changed plans and decided to deliver their 38-gun salute to him instead.

The cannons were loaded with blanks, but the timing could hardly have been more unfortunate. Civil War veterans were marching down the street to the monument. As the cannons roared their approval of the governor, the first three ranks of soldiers were mowed down. Burning powder lacerated their faces and scorched their uniforms. One officer was severely injured and another soldier’s leg badly bruised.

The former Civil War general, Joseph R. Hawley delivered a stirring speech which rattled on for forty minutes, and then the famished crowds were treated to a lavish meal served up by the ladies of Mystic. But a sudden downpour scattered the crowds, and the joyous day came to a fitting conclusion.

Have you ever had a day like this?

I knew a man who claimed that, if you really trust God, you won’t experience bad things. He boasted that, since he began a certain spiritual discipline, he had never had a flat tire. I had been practicing the same discipline for years, and I had flat tires.

Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. But, then again, maybe he was wrong.

When we live the way God invites us to, we, obviously, avoid many unnecessary troubles. But, once we get it into our heads that God’s mission is to keep the ants away at our picnics, we are priming ourselves for disappointment.

This darkened planet is not a luxury resort but a battleground. The Lord is looking for faith, but faith in something far bigger than whether or not our tires go flat.

I hope that guy with good tires enjoys his share of flats. Keep in mind that I say this – not out of meanness, but in the interests of theology.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.drbronsontours.com/coljosephhawley2.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday May 20, 2014

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.

4637904620 89b63e1b02 How To Be Pickpocketed 2X On The Same Train Ride & Still Keep Your Cash“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)
(image: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4058/4637904620_89b63e1b02.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday May 19, 2014

You’re Kidding, Right?


 “Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Matthew 10:16


St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

The team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination. That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.4261592.1353961545!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.JPG)

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Story of the Day for Friday May 16, 2014

Spotting Thieves and Rascals



Don’t judge anything before the proper time – when the Lord comes. He will bring to light the secrets hidden in darkness and will reveal the motives of the heart.

1 Corinthians 4:5


Our driveway used to be the community gathering place for kids to play basketball.

My kids had the bad habit of leaving our basketball outside. I warned them that if they didn’t bring it in at night, somebody was going to steal it.

Sure enough – one day I looked out the window. No basketball.


So, who took it? I had my list of suspects. When my kids would invite friends over to play, I would level my gaze at them. If you lack my ability, this may sound odd to you, but it’s almost as if I can peer into a person’s soul and know what they’re thinking. When I stare into the eyes of the neighbor kids, I notice the ones who drop their heads slightly and avert my gaze. In this way, I can quickly assess who the thieves and rascals are.

My wife doesn’t judge people. She just loves them. When the neighbor kids come over, I’m staring at them to root out the thieves and rascals, and she’s asking them if they would like some cookies. I don’t think you should reward thieves and rascals by giving them chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. But she does it anyway.

You know, it’s bad enough that I think I can discern what’s going on in another person’s heart. What’s even worse is that, once I claim to know their thoughts and motives, I look down on them.

Jesus is the only person who knows what’s going on in the dark, murky places of our heart. Yet, oddly enough, he didn’t walk around with a rock in his hand – ready to wing it at the first sinner he met.

When a Samaritan woman with loose morals met him at Jacob’s well, he told her he knew about her past husbands and present live-in lover. If his goal was to condemn her, he certainly didn’t have to sit by a well at the hottest part of the day. He was sitting there because he wanted to offer her

the water of life. When Jesus looked into the darkness of her soul, it brought out his compassion for her.

People who meet my wife leave with warm cookies in their tummies, but also with the warm feeling that they are accepted and loved. When people meet my soul-searching gaze, they leave with a vague feeling of guilt – like they ought to buy me a new basketball, or something.

Our kids led a basketball-less life for several months. One day, as I was cleaning out the entryway closet I found – way in the back – my kids’ basketball.

The funny thing is: the neighborhood kids don’t look like thieves anymore.

They still look like rascals, though . . . I can see it in their eyes.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.ahronian.com/images/dover-asian-fusion-before.jpg)

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