Archive for October, 2014

Story of the Day for Friday October 31, 2014

What Are You Letting In?

Their vine is the grapevine from Sodom. It comes from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters are bitter.

Deuteronomy 32:32

Chris McCandless craved adventure. Rejecting the materialism of American culture, he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness – both to prove he could live off the land with only the provisions he could carry, and to seek a deeper wisdom to life.

Before plunging into the wilderness, Chris bought a book on edible plants. He wanted to forage for food like the native Dean’ina Indians. He ate berries and dug wild potato root. He also hunted game – mostly birds, porcupines, and squirrels.

But something was wrong. He kept losing weight.

Jon Kraukauer, pieced together this episode of Chris McCandless’s life in his book, Into the Wild. Through extensive research, Krakauer discovered that Chris noted in his diary that he began eating the seed pods of the wild potato. What McCandless did not know was that, in the summertime, wild potato seed pods become toxic with a chemical called swainsonine. It blocks the body’s ability to convert other foods into energy. No matter how much food you eat, you will starve.

When McCandless finally realized his mistake, he was too weak to get up and gather more food. Local hunters found his body later that year.

https://transforminglifenow.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/pictures-of-healthy-food-and-junk-food-700x418.jpg?w=338&h=202I like healthy foods.

But – hold your applause – while I like healthy food, I also scarf down junk food in generous portions.

For example, I love huckleberries. These wild, mountain berries have no greater joy in life than to rush antioxidants through our bodies, and to increase our vigor and zest. But I also love bratwurst – those delicious gut bombs larded with enough cholesterol to plug a drainpipe.

It’s not enough to eat healthy food. All the nutritious food in the world won’t help you if you’re also sucking down poison.

Is our spiritual diet really any different?

Before you think I’m just being a scold, let me emphasize that the issue is not what we are exposed to, but what we embrace. For example, in Proverbs it says we should avoid associating with people who are easily angered, because we’ll become like them. But it’s impossible to avoid contact with hot-tempered people.

What we’re exposed to doesn’t poison our minds; it’s what we embrace that matters.

God wants us to embrace all that is good. But, when it comes to spiritual health, what you keep out of your heart is just as important as what you let in.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://transforminglifenow.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/pictures-of-healthy-food-and-junk-food-700×418.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday October 30, 2014

Total Abandonment to Your Calling

Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else.”

Exodus 4:13

Have you ever wanted to do something, but were afraid to try?

There’s a lot to be said for not trying. Think about it: if you try to do something new, you’ll inevitably begin wobbly and will always be able to point to those who can do it better than you. When we try, and fail, it produces embarrassment, frustration, discouragement, and criticism from others.

If, however, you simply refuse to try, you will be spared these humiliations of failure. Moses put up an admirable protest when the Lord called him to be the spokesman for his people. He stuttered. He was not a good speaker.

The Lord didn’t ask Moses to be good; he just told him to do it.

Bill Staines is one of the most popular folksingers of our day. Both his resonant singing and accomplished guitar playing are easy to listen to.

Yet, Staines didn’t start his musical career because he was talented. He was inspired, as a child, by a framed embroidery that his mother hung above the piano. It said:




https://i2.wp.com/images.nymag.com/nymetro/arts/music/classical/classical051121_3_175.jpgFlorence Foster Jenkins loved to sing. Much to the dismay of her parents and husband, she decided to perform publicly. Her voice sounded like she was killing a cat, and the notes soared in a futile search for the correct pitch. Undaunted by any sense of rhythm, she never let the music’s tempo boss her around. Her accompanist, Mr. Cosmé McMoon, would constantly adjust the pace of the music to her unique sense of timing.

In The Book of Heroic Failures, Stephen Pile summed it up by saying, “No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.”

Jenkins’ popularity began to soar. It wasn’t simply that she was so spectacularly awful; many people know how to sing poorly. Instead, it was her total abandonment to her calling. She loved to sing. Robert Bagar in the New York World-Telegram captured her appeal: “She was exceedingly happy in her work. It is a pity so few artists are. And the happiness was communicated as if by magic to her hearers.”

Florence Foster Jenkins culminated her career on October 25, 1944, when she screeched and warbled before a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

Although Florence was fully aware of her critics, she simply didn’t care. “People may say I can’t sing,” she observed, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

Michael Jordan nailed it: “If I try something and I don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean I failed. It means I tried.”

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday October 28, 2014

Scatter Seed With Reckless Abandon


Whoever plants sparingly will harvest sparingly. But whoever plants generously will also reap generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Dr. Earl Pearce tells the story about a “city slicker” who decided to move into the country and start up a hobby farm. He bought a cow to provide his family fresh milk. But soon after he started milking, the cow dried up.

The man shared his misfortune with a neighboring farmer. What was especially troubling to the city slicker was the fact that he did not milk her often. “If I needed a quart, I would only milk her for a quart.” His neighbor had to explain to him that you must fully milk a cow every time. The less you milk it, the less you will get.

We often think that the less we give, the more we will have. I suppose that’s true for some things. But it’s not true for cows, it’s not true for love, and it’s certainly not true for spiritual growth.

Earl Weaver, former manager for the Baltimore Orioles, wrote a book called Weaver On Strategy. His Fifth Law states, “If you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get.” He’s referring to the bunt. He believes you should only bunt if you need just one run to win the game. He claims you’ll be far more successful if you “swing away.”

How would you describe your generosity? Is it a bunt? God promises to bless us lavishly when we are daring enough to “swing away.” The more we plant, God says, the bigger the harvest. Apparently, that is not an easy promise to swallow. The studies show that the average Christian’s giving is only around 3% of his earnings. We haven’t exactly developed a reputation for extravagant generosity.

Do you know the main reason I am not more generous? I honestly believe that, when I buy a new, remote-controlled gizmo for my TV it will bring me more pleasure than using that money to buy a washing machine for this poor widow I know – the one who goes to a laundry mat that sucks quarters out of her pocket like a vacuum cleaner.

Yet, whenever I am seized with an attack of sanity, I remember the wild joy of sharing with someone needier than myself. My remote-controlled gizmo never made me want to dance like this.

Are you nervous about living without the latest “stuff”? Then here’s what you do: find a friend who has the latest gizmo and tell him you would like to borrow it to see how it works. When he asks for it back, tell him you lost it. With the money you save, you can help people in need.

But, if that doesn’t work (and it probably won’t), why don’t you just GO FOR IT? Scatter seed with reckless abandon. Then wait. Seeds grow.

And, try to keep up with Him, but just remember: you’ll never be a more reckless, generous sower than your Lord.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image:  http://stacyjross.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/scatteredseed.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday October 27, 2014

Why Faith Doesn’t Create Open Pickup Windows



They called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice; no one answered.

1 Kings 18:26

Different roads can lead us to the same town and many believe that all religions lead to the same God. Our generation has made a breathtaking transition in thinking. In the past, people thought you could be right about what you believed, or you could be wrong. But something wasn’t true because you believed it.

All that has now changed. Today, vast multitudes think that, if you believe something, and believe it sincerely, then it’s true. Why? Because you believe it.

Brian Tracy, a leader of the Positive Thinking movement teaches that, if you are on a crowded street looking for an empty parking space, and you believe strongly enough, you will always find that a vacant parking space has been created for you.

In this same vein, we don’t bother so much with asking whether our beliefs in God are true; the only thing that matters is that we have a sincere faith.

Last week, I used a cup of cold coffee to disprove this notion.

Early, on a chilly morning in the mountains, I grabbed a cup of coffee and drove down the road to the old Pinkham schoolhouse. The day turned into a scorcher and, by late afternoon, everyone had opened the windows to their vehicles to cool them down.

When it was time to go home, I climbed in my pickup and noticed I hadn’t finished my coffee so I picked up the cup and threw the cold coffee out the window.


I thought the window was open, but it wasn’t. The cup banged against the window and sent a shower of cold coffee my way.

If you ever want to feel really stupid . . .

Now, I sincerely believed that the window on my pickup was rolled down. I sincerely believed that I could fling the cold coffee outside and life would be better for my having done so.

Sadly, my faith could not create truth. If faith made things true, I wouldn’t have had sore knuckles and coffee dripping from my face.

On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest. Whoever could pray to their God to miraculously light the sacrifice on the altar would be acknowledged as serving the true God. Back then, everyone agreed that faith was useless unless it was placed in the truth.

In the old days, they wouldn’t scratch their heads and wonder why my faith didn’t create an open window on my pickup; they would be looking at my soppy face and laughing until their stomachs hurt.

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

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Story of the Day for Friday October 24, 2014

When Gifts of Love Collide

The gift is acceptable because of what one gives; not by what they don’t have to give.

2 Corinthians 8:12

Last night, Elly cried herself to sleep.

Our fifth-grader didn’t take the bus home after school on Tuesdays. She stayed in town to take a pottery class, and then her big sister, Nikki, would take her to her house to spend the night.

Elly's Cup for her Dad 004

Yesterday, my wife had to go to town, so she picked Elly up and drove her home. All the way home Elly babbled about her secret plottings. In pottery class she made a coffee cup. The cup is the color of sand, but has concentric circles with intricate designs on each side of the handle. The first four inner circles are blue, which then yield to green. It’s round but not obsessively so. And, if you turn the handle toward you, it lists slightly to starboard. You can tell it was made with loving hands.

It’s more beautiful than anything you could ever buy in a store.

On the drive up Pinkham Creek, Elly revealed her carefully hidden secret: she made a coffee cup in pottery class because she knew how much her daddy loved his morning coffee. It was a Father’s Day present, but that was too far away. She decided she would give it to me as soon as she got home. Joy can’t be kept a secret for long.

They stopped at the mailbox, descended the long driveway, crossed the cattle guard, and drove into the yard.

Last Christmas, I gave the most joyous gift I’ve ever set under the Christmas tree. Ivan the Terrible was a part of our household before Elly was born. He died last summer, and we promised Elly we would get her another dog. But we never got around to it.

Then, last December, Krista saw an ad in the Fortine Mercantile for puppies. I got Elly a little (mostly) yellow lab. We put it in a box with a bow and Elly opened it on Christmas Eve.

It was one of the happiest days of my life.

But, last night, our gifts of love collided. When Elly climbed out of the van, forty pounds of happy puppy pounced on her. She dropped the coffee cup and the handle broke off.

She was heartbroken, and, in tears, handed me a handle-less Father’s Day present. I told her it was okay, but she cried herself to sleep anyway.

I’m drinking coffee right now from my broken Father’s Day present. There’s a crack by the handle, so the desk is a little wet, but I don’t care.

You’ve always thought the gifts of love you give to your heavenly Father are so imperfect and inadequate, haven’t you? Well, maybe you’re just plain wrong about that.

(copyright 2011 by climinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday October 22, 2014

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 Tuesday October 21, 2014

Stop Killing them with Kindness




I have become everything to everyone, in order that, of everyone, I might save some.

1 Corinthians 9:22

After Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, launched reprisals against the Kurds. Although they were fellow Iraqis, the Kurds were an independent ethnic group – largely opposed to the dictates of Hussein.

In April of 1991, about one and a half million Kurds became refugees – fleeing for the Turkish border – most of them on foot.

The U.S. came to the aid of the Kurds. Transport planes flew over the Kurdish camps and dropped huge crates of food and supplies to the starving refugees.

The airdrop was greeted, not with shouts of joy, but outrage. Even though the large crates were dropped with parachutes, the elderly and children were too weak to move out of the way. As a result, the airdropped crates were crushing them to death.

Some Kurds were so furious that they refused to eat the food – even though they were starving.

Our intentions were well-meaning. The Kurds were not angered by our benevolence, but by the way it was delivered.

I have seen non-Christians upset by the message of Jesus, but more often than not, they are annoyed by the messenger. Our intentions may be compassionate, but when we are insensitive to the culture and perspective of the people we seek to reach, we can create an unnecessary barrier to the Good News.

The apostle Paul would never compromise the truth, but he was a master of accommodating himself to the culture of those he wished to reach. Around Jewish people, he argues from the Old Testament Scriptures because they accepted them as the authority of God. He observed Jewish rituals and holidays.

But when he went to the pagan world, he was sensitive to their culture. He found common ground in the God of creation. Instead of quoting Scripture all over the place, he quoted from their poets and philosophers. He used their customs as a launching pad to explain the message about Jesus.

Many of the methods used in past generations to bring people to Jesus are not very effective today. How do we reach people today? I don’t know. But I do know that we need to imitate the attitude of the apostle Paul and accommodate our message to the individual we want to reach.

Sometimes that means we should do more listening than talking.

Oh, and before I forget, the U.S. military did listen to the Kurds. They altered the contents of their supplies and sent more milk for the babies. They switched from planes to helicopters, and dropped the supplies on gentle mountain slopes.

We cared enough to stop killing them with kindness.

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

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