Archive for October, 2015

Story of the Day for Friday October 30, 2015

“Why, O Lord . . .?”


“Why, O Lord . . .?”

Psalm 88:14

When Nick Vujicic (pronounced VOY-a-chich) was born, his mother did not cradle him in her arms. Instead, she screamed in horror, “Take him away!”

Nick was born without arms or legs. He is head, neck, and trunk – without a little deformed foot (which he calls “my little chicken drumstick”).

As he grew up in Australia, Nick was banned from attending public school. When he was finally admitted, he was cruelly bullied. At the age of 10, he contemplated suicide. He felt hopeless, alone, cold, and bitter.

Nick cried out to God, “Why?” Why did you make me like this? Why won’t you answer my prayer and grow arms and legs for me? Why?

And then Nick realized that the Lord could use him just the way he was. He noticed that others considered him an inspiration.

Today, Nick is a college graduate with a double major. In 2005, he received the “Young Australian of the Year” award. He is a dedicated Christian man – whose mantra is: “I love life! I am happy!” Nick has learned to be thankful for what he has instead of bitter for what he doesn’t have.

Nick has spoken to millions of people. Without legs, of course, he can’t stand in front of his audiences. He is just plopped there on stage. And then he deliberately tips over.

“So, what do you do when you fall down?” he asks the audience. You get back up. “But I tell you,” he says as he lies on the stage, “there are some times in life where you fall down and you don’t feel like you have the strength to get back up.” He talks about trying a hundred times to get back up . . . and failing a hundred times.

Nick thinks you should never give up. Failure is not the end, he tells us: “It matters how you’re going to finish. Are you going to finish strong?” After a long pause he concludes, “Then you will find that strength to get back up.”

Slowly, he moves toward a book and puts his forehead on it. Then he arches is body and convulses it and plops upright.

When Nick would go to the beach, he says he would watch couples holding hands and realized that, when he marries, he can never hold his wife’s hand. He fell into a mindset focusing on “I can’t do this; I can’t do that.”

Now Nick says, “But I realize, I may not have hands to be able to hold my wife’s hand. But, when the time comes, I’ll be able to hold her heart. I don’t need hands to hold her heart.”

Nick Vujicic is a happy man. He cried out to God, “Why?” And, I for one, have been deeply touched by God’s answer.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Thursday October 29, 2015

A Time to Agree

I beg of you . . . that all of you agree with each other so that there might be no more divisions among you.

1 Corinthians 1:10



How many hours is it before the next sunrise? That, obviously, depends on where you live because the sunrise will vary by 24 hours – depending on your longitude.

In the 1800s, communities in England had the instruments to accurately calculate high noon. Keeping accurate time in your hometown created no big problem until the railway system increased its speed. On an east to west railroad, every town will reach high noon at a different time. Even the city of London’s time differed by two minutes from one end of the city to the other.

In the United States, the situation was no better. Each railroad company decided to set a standard time – no matter where it went. But the railroad companies couldn’t agree on what time should be used. So, each railroad operated by a different time. The train station in Pittsburg had six clocks – each one set to a different time – depending on which train you wanted to ride on. In 1883, W. F. Allen found that there were about fifty different “official” times in use throughout the country.

During World War I, the U.S. established Daylight Savings Time in order to conserve fuel. When the war was over, some localities continued using Daylight Savings Time and others refused. In one 35-mile stretch of highway from West Virginia to Ohio, the local time would change no less than seven times.

When communities acted in their own self-interest to determine the time, no one really knew what time it was. Everyone was frustrated and confused.

We often assume it’s in our own self-interest to act in our own self-interest, but this isn’t always the case. John Allen Paulos, in his book, Innumeracy, cites an experiment demonstrating how self-interest works against us.

He asks us to imagine twenty casual acquaintances brought together by an eccentric philanthropist. No one is allowed to communicate with each other. The philanthropist then explains to the group that, if everyone refrains from pressing a button in front of them, they will each receive $10,000. If, however, some in the group do press the button, they will receive $3,000, and those who refrained from touching the button will receive nothing.

It is in everyone’s self-interest to avoid touching the button and receiving $10,000 a piece. But, without the ability to talk and cooperate with other, how likely is it that everyone in the group would act to bring the greatest benefit to themselves (and everyone else)?

Not likely.

The saddest thing about insisting on what we want is that we won’t get what we want. God has created us so that we gain the greatest good by sacrificing our own best interests for the sake of the needs of others.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 28, 2015

Carry Him in Your Pack



Each one should use whatever spiritual gift he has received to serve others. . .

1 Peter 4:10

When we talk about spiritual gifts, we can easily get the wrong impression. The emphasis seems to be on the word “spiritual” – distinguishing it from “normal” gifts, such as being a talented musician or mechanic.

Surprisingly, the Greek word for “spiritual” is not even present in the term. Instead, if you translate it literally, it comes out like “grace gift.” The emphasis is not that the gift is “spiritual” or “miraculous,” but that it is a gift of God’s grace to us.

When God gives us grace, he is giving us something we haven’t earned. We don’t get it because we deserve it. It’s just a gift. When God washes us clean from our sin, it’s a gift. When he promises us eternal joy in heaven, it’s a gift.

As Jesus gave his life in sacrifice to us, he wants us to know the same kind of life. Whatever talent we have is a gift of grace, which we are not to use to promote our own glory, but to serve other people.

Using your talents to serve others doesn’t sound especially fun – at least not when you compare it to receiving admiration and becoming the focus of attention. But once you get the hang of what it really means to help others, there is no comparison.

Father and son, Frank and John Schaeffer, wrote a book, Keeping Faith. Marine recruit John Schaeffer explains how, if you drop out of training for medical reasons, you are put in another platoon and pick up where you left off. But no one wants to leave their platoon. They have suffered so much together. They are a band of brothers.

Schaeffer writes about Recruit Parks. Parks was a small, skinny kid from New York. He developed double pneumonia just before the final, tortuous test to becoming a Marine called “The Crucible.” Their Senior Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant Marshal told the platoon: “Parks is going to finish with us if I have to carry him in my pack!”

The night before the Crucible, unbeknownst to the Drill Instructors, a few of the stronger recruits took out the heavier items in Park’s pack and put them in their own.

For the 2 ½ day Crucible, they marched 54 miles with all their equipment. They only slept four hours a night and received only two meals for the entire ordeal.

Each squad had to pretend one of their men was wounded and drag and carry him through combat conditions. Park’s squad designated him as “wounded” and carried him. They put recruits on each side of him on the ropes course.

As they stood at attention and saluted the flag at end of the Crucible, Parks stood with them, weak and pale. He received his “Stars and Bars” – becoming a Marine with his platoon. Tears streamed down the cheeks of his comrades. They carried each others burdens. And no one was left behind.

Ask those Marines if it’s worth it to use your strengths to help your brother.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 27, 2015

The One With the Knowledge to Speak

They were all amazed and asked each other, “Who is this? A new teaching – with authority!”

Mark 1:27



Many years ago, I listened to a speech by Elisabeth Elliot – which, as best I can recall, went like this:

When her daughter gave an opinion on a certain topic, Elliot responded by saying, “But I don’t care about your opinion.”

One of Elisabeth’s friends was appalled. “Elisabeth! How can you say you don’t care about what your daughter has to say?”

“Because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“But,” her friend protested, “she has a right to her own opinion.”

Elisabeth thought this over for a moment, and then asked her friend, “Tell me: when I worked as a missionary among the Auca Indians, I translated the Bible into their language. How good a job did I do?”

“Well,” her friend said, “I’m sure you did a very fine job.”

“That’s your opinion,” Elliot shot back, “but you don’t know a single thing about the Auca language or my competence in mastering it. You have the right to offer your opinion, but your opinion about the quality of my work has no value.”

“My daughter,” Elisabeth continued, “is giving her opinion about something she knows little about. Therefore, I’m not interested in her opinion.”

Freedom of speech is a notable hallmark of our American form of government. But the right to offer our opinion should never be confused with the value of our opinion.

When the rabbis of Jesus’ day taught the people, they had a lot to say, but no authority. Their opinions constantly differed among themselves. So, they would schwaffle in their teaching by saying, “Rabbi Johanan says this . . ., but Rabbi Gamaliel says this . . .”

Jesus, on the other hand, assumes a quiet confidence that is startling in its audacity. He claims an authority higher than the Scriptures. “You have heard that it was said (in the Scriptures), but I say to you . . .” No one except God himself has the authority to do that. Hmmm. Could it be . . .?

The veteran American League baseball umpire, Bill Guthrie, was working behind the plate one game. The catcher for the visiting team repeatedly protested his calls. Guthrie quietly endured this for a few innings, and then he called a time out.

“Son,” he said quietly, “you’ve been a big help to me in calling balls and strikes today, and I appreciate it. But I think I have the hang of it now, so I’m going to ask you to go to the clubhouse and show whoever’s there how to take a shower.”

Everyone wants to offer us their opinions, but we are wise to focus our attention on the One with the knowledge to speak, and the authority to claim our attention.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Monday October 26, 2015

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 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Friday October 23, 2015

Taking the Blame for a Wild Pitch



“Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” “The woman you gave me, gave it to me to eat, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you’ve done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3:11-13

Contrary to public opinion, blame was not first discovered by political talk show hosts. Blaming others goes back to the Garden. God asks Adam if he ate from the tree. Instead of admitting it, he blames both God and Eve: “the woman YOU gave me . . .” When God directs his question to Eve, she passes the blame to the Serpent.

TV station managers love bad weather because it’s news. Meteorologists, on the other hand, hate storms. They have learned that people are furious and rain down obscenities on them when bad weather hits the area. One forecaster in Louisville said she hates to go to the grocery store during storms because everyone blames her for the bad weather.

And blaming others is contagious. Nathanael J. Fast from USC and Larissa Tiedens from Stanford published a study on “Blame Contagion.” In one experiment, half the participants read a newspaper article that said Gov. Schwarzenegger blamed special interest groups for a costly special election that failed. The other half read an article in which the California governor took full responsibility for the failure.

Afterward, participants were asked to write about a personal failure and add who was responsible. Those who read the article where the governor blamed special interest groups were more likely to blame others for their failure; those who read the second article tended to accept responsibility for their actions.

Every troubled organization knows about the “circular firing squad.” Pointing fingers and assigning blame, Fast and Tiedens discovered, is especially prevalent among people who feel insecure.

This is why God’s grace is so beautiful. We can have the courage to take responsibility for our failures, because when we do, God will forgive us. Our sense of security is not based on our goodness, but on the knowledge that we are safe in God.

When we know we’re forgiven, there’s no longer a need to shift the blame.

The Baltimore Orioles needed a win to tie for first place in the AL East. But, a Toronto Blue Jay runner scored from third on a wild pitch, and the Orioles lost the game.

Afterward, the Orioles catcher Jamie Quirk shouldered the responsibility. “A major-league catcher has to block that ball . . . I should have blocked it . . . I’m a professional catcher.”

And guess what? By taking the blame for a wild pitch, Jamie Quirk didn’t receive scorn from Orioles fans. He bravely protected his pitcher. And won the admiration of all.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Thursday October 22, 2015

The Big Reunion



“Now you may leave. Go in peace.”

Acts 16:36

Have you noticed that, when parting ways with a friend, how often we speak to each other a blessing or a promise?

“Good-by” is the abbreviated form of the blessing, “God be with you.” The French say adieu – which means, “Go with God.” In Spanish, adios means the same thing.

Even in our secularized culture we still offer the common benediction: “Have a nice day!”

When we’re not wishing them well, then we tend to leave others with a promise of reunion, such as “See ya later.” Whenever I left the home of an old German couple, they would wave and say, Auf wiedersehen, and I would return the sentiment by saying, “All feet are the same!” My sister says “See ya later, crocodile,” and my mom (whose native language was Finnish) used to say, “Näkemiin, Jellybean” – which is roughly translated, “See you later, you oblong, gelatin-based sugar candy.”

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans have trumped everyone by combining both a blessing and the wish for reunion with “Happy trails to you (blessing) until we meet again (reunion).”

There are, of course, times when people offer neither blessing nor promise. The British like to say tootle-oo or cheerio. But then the Brits will be Brits, and there’s not much we can do about that.

What causes this common desire that those we leave would be blessed and that we would meet again? You could say, I suppose, that these blessings and promises of reunion are simply ways to ease the awkwardness of leaving someone, but I’m not buying it.

C.S. Lewis says that a man’s hunger doesn’t prove he will get bread, but it does indicate that there is such a thing as food which is necessary to nourish his body. Peter Kreeft jumps on this point by claiming “No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.”

“If I find in myself a desire,” Lewis goes on to say, “which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

When we part from friends and loved ones, we share a longing that God would go with them; that they would fare well. And we long to be reunited again.

I believe the blessings and hopes of reunion that we offer each other when we part speak to a deeper reality. They express the spiritual longing that God would bless us and reunite us in heaven.

A man’s hunger doesn’t prove that food exists, but it does indicate it’s available to us. God is inviting us all to the Big Reunion.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 21, 2015

Making Someone’s Day



“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Proverbs 25:11

Yesterday I received a letter of appreciation from Larry and Rose. It was so thoughtful and it made my day.

At a 1995 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a study on doctors was revealed. Researchers gave 44 physicians a “hypothetical” patient’s symptoms and asked each physician to diagnose the illness. Half of the doctors were given candy and were told it was a token of appreciation for their participation in the study. The other half were given nothing.

Alice Isen, a Cornell University psychologist, said the doctors receiving the candy did far better in diagnosing the patient than those who received nothing.

Appreciation lifts people up and increases their competence.

For some reason most of us persist in the notion that criticism is far more helpful in improving others. And don’t get me wrong – criticism is sometimes necessary. But ask yourself, do you perform better in life when criticized or encouraged?

So why are we reluctant to express our appreciation to others? I don’t really know why. But I do know that showing appreciation is a healthy spiritual practice. When we tell someone we appreciate them, it is a way of saying that we are indebted to them for what they have done for us.

John Busacker once told a story about Bill, a member of the Board of Regents for a Christian college in Pennsylvania. Bill was boarding a flight for a flight to Pittsburg when the public address system paged his name. If he didn’t board immediately he would miss his flight. But he got out of line to take the message.

Bill’s secretary called him to say the Board of Regents meeting was cancelled and she had re-booked him for a flight home. When he reached his home town of Atlanta, he called his wife at the airport to pick him up. There was a long pause and then his wife began sobbing. “Obviously you haven’t heard the news. The flight you were supposed to be on crashed and everyone on board has been killed.”

The point is not that the Lord protects us from all harm. What about the people who died in the crash? Bill was unfazed by the incident. He knows he’s in God’s hands and trusts in Jesus to bring him to heaven. But, here’s the point: after the story spread, many people came up to Bill to say how much they appreciate him and how he has touched their lives. The close call created an awareness of how much we appreciate others.

In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch says, “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”

Do you agree? So, what should we do? Why don’t we procrastinate? How about if we put off a hand-written “letter of appreciation” to someone for. . .oh, a half hour. Get a cup of coffee. Then think of someone who has touched your life. You might be surprised at the joy you find in making someone’s day.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 20, 2015

Are You Primed For This?

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is virtuous or praiseworthy – dwell on such things.

Philippians 4:8

When I finish watching a movie with British actors, I feel like talking in a British accent. I don’t think it’s an especially good idea, but I naturally do it until the effect of the movie wears off or my family tells me I’m driving them crazy.

We’ve always known it, but recently researchers have demonstrated that much of our behavior is influenced – not by what we choose, but by what we’re exposed to.



Yale professor, Dr. John A. Bargh, has devised a scrambled-sentence test. The task is to take the following five-word lists and make an intelligible four-word sentence from each line. Why don’t you give it a try?

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

The subjects who take this test assume the goal is to unscramble a sentence as quickly as possible, but it’s not. Dr. Bargh is actually timing the participants to see how fast they walk. Those who take this test walk out of the building slower than when they came in.

Do you know why? Scattered in the sentences are a few words that suggest old age: “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “forgetful,” “bingo,” and “wrinkles.” Believe it or not, these innocuous suggestions of old age cause the subjects to walk slower afterward.

This priming (as it’s called) has been used to influence a person’s patience or rudeness, and – get this – they never realize their attitudes have been influenced.

We like to think our actions are influenced solely by our values and beliefs, but they’re not; our behavior is also influenced by what we’re exposed to.

That is why the apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on noble things. And keep in mind that Paul is writing this from prison. You don’t have to be in a good place to center your thoughts on what is good.

If you’re still dubious about all this, you can research Dr. Bargh’s work for yourself. But maybe it would just be easier to watch a movie with British actors.

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

Read Full Post »

Story of the Day for Monday October 19, 2015

“Bad Potato! Bad! Bad! Bad!”



“Blessed are you when others mock you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you. Rejoice and be glad . . .”

Matthew 5:11-12

For her work in the field of therapeutic humor, Patty Wooten has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. One of her favorite stories is about a grumpy patient who continually pressed his buzzer for help.

Despite a hectic day, his nurse clung to her good cheer and asked, “What’s wrong?”

The patient complained about his dinner. “This is a bad potato.”

The nurse, determined to keep things upbeat, picked up the potato with one hand and spanked it with the other. She scolded the potato, “Bad potato! Bad! Bad! Bad!” Satisfied that the potato had learned its lesson, the nurse set it back down on the plate.

The patient was so taken off guard that he burst into laughter. A crabby, irritable patient had been instantly transformed.

What changed his whiny attitude? His circumstances hadn’t changed: he was still lying in a hospital bed with an unappealing dinner before him. But the thought of the naughty potato lying on his plate completely altered how he viewed his situation.

When we’re in a sour mood we feel we’ve earned the right to nurse a bad attitude. That’s because we believe our attitudes are dependent on our circumstances.

They’re not. When we’re crabby, it’s never because of the situation we’re in, but how we are interpreting our situation.

Jesus tells us that when we’re horribly mistreated for following him, instead of moaning, it’s a good time to dance on the table. The proper attitude to persecution is joy.

No circumstance in life demands a crabby attitude.

One hot summer day, Robert Fulghum was sitting at an oceanfront café on the Greek island of Crete. The temperature was over a hundred degrees and the tempers of both tourists and waiters were rising.

At the table next to Fulghum’s, an attractive young couple, fashionable dressed, were kissing and laughing. Suddenly, they picked up their small table, and stepped off the quay into the shallow water of the harbor. The man waded back for their chairs and gallantly seated his lady before sitting down. The onlookers roared with laughter and applauded.

The surly waiter appeared, raised his eyebrows, and picking up a tablecloth, napkins, and silverware, waded into the water to set their table. Minutes later, the waiter returned with a bucket of iced champagne and two glasses. The couple toasted each other, the waiter, and the crowd – which prompted cheers as the other customers threw flowers to them from their table decorations.

The circumstances didn’t change. It was still hot. But everyone’s disposition was transformed because one young couple taught the rest to see in a new way.

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: