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Archive for November, 2015


Story of the Day for Monday November 30, 2015

The Path Worn Down

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Thus says the Lord, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. And you will find rest for your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16

There probably never has been, nor ever will be, a more magnificent city on this earth than ancient Rome. Their sculptures, artwork, arches, and buildings were stunning.

Then the barbarian hordes swept down from the north and looted and destroyed the city. At least, that is how I remember it.

Archeologist, Rodolfo Lanciani, however, tells us that Alaric destroyed the palace of Sallust and Geneseric took down the bronze roof of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Yet, other than minor damage, they didn’t destroy the priceless structures in Rome. Do you know who was primarily responsible for tearing down the city? The Romans themselves.

The basilica in Rome, 1200 years old, was the oldest and largest cathedral in Christendom. They tore it down to build a modern building.

Michelangelo carved the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol, but he swiped one of the columns of the ancient temple of Castor and Pollux to do so. Material for the columns in the Sistine Chapel was robbed from Hadrian’s mausoleum. Marvelous ancient marble statues were pulled down and pulverized to provide lime so that Renaissance artists could have a convenient source of plaster. Painters would plaster over old masterpieces so that they could create contemporary works of art.

I’m not opposed to change or modern things or newness. I’m not writing this story by dipping a turkey quill into a bottle of ink. We buy milk from the Sturdevants, which comes straight from their cows. Given the choice between a fresh glass of local milk or discovering a milk jug in the back of the frig that is four months old . . .

Technology is improving electronic gizmos at a breathtaking pace. Yet, because of the technological explosion in our society, we face a greater struggle to understand a truth that other generations more easily understood.

Some things, like technology keep improving. But, other things do not. Trusting in God, kindness, honesty, and love never become outdated.

In our fast-paced technological society, “old” means “out-dated.” As a result, we are far more likely to dismiss God and morality as relics of the past, and to plaster over them.

At a crossroad, you have options. You can choose which path to take. God told his prophet Jeremiah to tell the people to examine their options, and to choose the ancient path. The Lord said the path worn down by past ages of believers was the good way.

He wasn’t talking about electronics. He was talking about a way of living that refreshed the soul.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://amysorrells.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/011_jfr_a.jpg)
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Story of the Day for Wednesday November 25, 2015

“Pass the Bread, Fred”

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http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/food/how-the-smell-of-fresh-bread-makes-us-kinder/story-fneuz8zj-1226508179646

Get rid of all . . . hypocrisy . . .

1 Peter 2:1

Dr. Foerster’s patient was fully conscious as the German neurosurgeon performed brain surgery to remove a tumor. As Dr. Foerster touched one region of the brain, however, his patient erupted in compulsive pun making. The patient was unable to control his wild word associations.

Arthur Koestler, who mentioned this incident in his book, The Act of Creation, calls Foerster’s Syndrome the inability to refrain from making puns.

I mention this because my college roommate was a jovial guy, but it was obvious that he got dropped on his head when he was a child, because he had Foerster’s Syndrome in a big way. He didn’t learn and retell the puns of others; he was the sole originator and distributor of endless groaners.

Once, one of the college administrators told him bluntly that punning was the lowest form of humor, but this indirect plea for mercy didn’t dampen my roommate’s enthusiasm for punning in the slightest.

Paul, from Elkhart, Indiana, once wrote in to Reader’s Digest about a family dinner. His parents, Fred and Adah, invited Paul and his three siblings for a Sunday meal.

Everyone, except for Adah, was in a silly mood and began rhyming their requests.

“Please pass the meat, Pete.”

“May I have a potatah, Adah?”

“I’d give the moon for a spoon.”

After a while, Adah had heard enough. “Stop this nonsense right now!” she shouted. “It’s Sunday, and I would like to enjoy my dinner with some good conversation, not all this silly chatter.”

Then, in a huff, she snapped, “Pass the bread, Fred.”

The most annoying aspect of criticizing others is when I find myself dropping into the same kind of behavior. When I criticize people for being late for appointments, I will soon find that I’m late for an appointment. Lately, I confided to my wife that I thought someone was a gossip. I took a minute before I realized that I was gossiping about someone else who gossips.

Now that I’ve recognized my unfortunate habit of acting like a hypocrite, it has, somewhat, tempered my judgmentalism toward others.

The next step Jesus wants me to learn is to be calmer about others – even if I’m never guilty of doing what they do. After all, others have some vices I don’t. For example, I relish the fact that I’ve mustard the strength to resist the impulse to ketchup to my old roommate in the punning department. I just don’t have the hot dog personality he has.

(I can hear my old roommate now, saying, “Marty, let me be frank with you – you’re not very punny!”)

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

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The Mystery Critic


Story of the Day for Tuesday November 24, 2015

The Mystery Critic

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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 copyright by: http://www.reedgallery.co.nz/exhibitions/by-the-author-of-waverley/13)

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Avoid Going Cross-Eyed


Story of the Day for Monday November 23, 2015

Avoid Going Cross-Eyed

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Why do you look down on your brother?

Romans 14:10

Sarah’s middle name was Ophelia, in honor of the noble character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She grew up in a cultured, sophisticated home. Sarah’s mother had attended a finishing school to learn the social graces of high society.

Sarah herself attended a prestigious college known for its refinement. Majoring in theatre and dance, she landed a job with an acting company. Her job was to travel to rural areas of the southeast and make presentations to civic organizations — seeking to convince them to sponsor local plays with the community’s residents as actors.

One winter night, a furious snowstorm stranded her on Brindley Mountain in northern Alabama. Sarah found shelter at the cabin of an old hillbilly couple who took her in. She was overwhelmed by their hospitality, and charmed by their rustic wit.

Sarah was trained to perform serious Shakespearean roles, but now her stay with this backwoods couple inspired her to develop a new character. She auditioned in Nashville and soon became a regular at the Ryman Auditorium’s Grand Ole Opry.

She wore a dowdy calico dress and a straw hat with plastic flowers on it with the price tag dangling from the side. Calling herself Minnie Pearl, she marched on stage and hollered, “How-DEE!” Soon the audience learned to roar back, “How-DEE!”

Minnie would always begin, “Ahm ‘jez so proud ta be here!” and then launched into a monologue of such cheerful yappiness that you couldn’t help but like her.

The world couldn’t get enough of Minnie Pearl. Today, she is enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, even though she never sang a single chart-topping song. The main lobby at the Ryman displays two bronze statues, and hers is one of them. And her gaudy straw hat with the dangling price tag is now on display in the Smithsonian.

Sarah’s acting skills were so polished most people assumed she was a simple country hayseed who made it big. Yet, Sarah Cannon was anything but. She lived next door to the governor’s mansion and traveled in high society — hosting bridge parties in her mansion. Sarah even admitted she much preferred classical music to country.

How could a woman immersed in refined society become so wildly popular playing a chattering rustic? I think there’s one clear reason: she learned to admire and respect a down-home couple who took her into their cabin during a snowstorm. Sarah Cannon donated much to civic causes; she purchased the new organ for her church. But she couldn’t match the generosity of the poor couple who sheltered her in a storm. Sarah never made Minnie Pearl an object of derision. She never mocked rural culture.

Have you noticed how easily we look down our nose at those who live in different cultures? Country people call those from urban areas “city slickers.” Those from the city call rural people “hicks.” The middle class thinks the rich have too much leisure time; the rich think the lower classes are too lazy to succeed and would rather steal hub caps.

Let’s face it: it’s much easier to love people who are like us.

What makes Jesus’ behavior so startling is the ease with which he glided between those of different social standing. He accepted a dinner invitation from a prominent Pharisee as well as one from a low-life tax collector. He didn’t look down on anyone.

We can’t love those we look down our nose at. And when we try, we go cross-eyed.

(copyright 2014 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Friday November 20, 2015

Making the Best of it in the Entryway

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In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of His grace that he showered on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:7-8 (mck)

In The Christian Reader, a woman wrote about her brother and his bride on their honeymoon. Late at night they finally got to their fancy hotel’s bridal suite. The room had only a sofa, a table, and chairs.

Then, discovering the sofa pulled out into a bed, they spent an uncomfortable night on a lumpy mattress with saggy springs. In the morning, they gave the hotel clerk at the front desk an earful.

The clerk asked, “Did you open the door in your room?”

The door?

He thought it was a closet. He went back to his room, opened the door, and found a gorgeous bedroom, complete with fruit baskets and chocolates.

He had spent the night with his bride in the entryway!

I really want to laugh at him for being so silly. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I do that kind of thing with a frequency that alarms all who know me.

The apostle Paul describes the riches of grace that God showers down on us. It is as if God has filled the bridal suite with the wealth of the world. . . and, sometimes, where am I? Making the best of it in the entryway.

God’s love for us is not a limited commodity that he, reluctantly, parcels out in meager doses. Grace is an unending waterfall. The question is whether we will stand under it or not.

The problem for many of us is that we are half right. As we honestly take stock of our lives we know that we are guilty of living contrary to the way God wants us to. And, because we are guilty, we realize we are unworthy of receiving any good gift from the Lord.

So far so good.

But here is where we tend to wander off track: if we are unworthy, then it would seem that God should give us just enough to get by. Why would God heap truckloads of blessing on people who have been so unfaithful to Him?

But that is exactly what He does!

God is reckless in lavishing his love on undeserving people. You will have learned the wildness of his love when you let him rain it down on you.

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

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Story of the Day for Thursday November 19, 2015

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

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And while he was going. . . a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years . . came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.

Luke 8:42-44

When I was growing up I didn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, because it hadn’t been invented yet. In high school I was called “The Gaper” because my mouth, apparently, would hang open while I daydreamed in class. In my freshman year of college I won the “Neil Armstrong Spacey Award” because I was so . . . spacey.

When they finally got around to inventing ADD, I took a test from a licensed psychologist, and it turned out I had come down with a bad case of it.

Learning to focus your thoughts and goals is challenging for anyone. But it is especially difficult when your mind wants to wander down any side street it sees.

I have spent my adult life learning how to focus. But lately I have come to realize it is equally important to learn how not to be too focused, because when you get too focused you can’t see gorillas.

Psychologists from Harvard conducted an experiment in which they played a video of basketball players. Participants were told to count the number of times the ball was passed by the team wearing a certain color uniform. In the middle of the video, however, strange things happened. A woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla costume would walk through the center of the court and would be clearly visible for about five seconds.

A control group, who were not asked to count the number of times the basketball was passed, all saw the woman and the gorilla. But, for those asked to focus on the task of counting passes, only a third saw the woman. And, amazingly, the majority (56 percent), failed to notice the gorilla.

Jesus was a master at being focused and unfocused at the same time. When he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem to die, nothing could deter him. Yet, at the same time, he was open to notice the needs of people around him.

Jairus, a synagogue ruler, pleads with Jesus to come with him because his only daughter is dying. Jesus has a clear focus – he wants to help. In doing that, he ignores the crowds pressing in on him.

But, at the same time, he is open to one person who touches his tassel. “Who touched me?” he asks. Peter is dumbfounded by Jesus’ question, and helpfully points out that many people are touching him. They are, in fact, mobbing him. Yet, Jesus is aware that one person in the crowd was different.

That day, Jesus did two miracles. One, because he focused on a goal; the other, because he was sensitive to the unexpected.

How do you do both at the same time? I don’t know. But I know it’s worth learning.

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

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Story of the Day for Wednesday November 18, 2015

Take the Next Step

. . . next . . .

Nehemiah 3:2

King Artaxerxes noticed that his cup bearer, Nehemiah, was sad. Nehemiah and his fellow Jews had been exiled from their homeland, and he had just heard reports that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and its gates burned.

So, the king gave Nehemiah a leave of absence to return to his homeland to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

Have you ever been paralyzed by the enormity of the task before you? The job is so big you don’t know where to start.

It’s important to see the big picture and know what you want to accomplish. But it’s equally important to focus on the next step.

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How did Nehemiah rebuild the walls? He started by gathering the priests and having them build the section from the Tower of the Hundred to the Tower of Hananel. From that point on, the word Nehemiah repeats continuously is “next.” Men from Jericho build the next section. Zaccur, son of Imri, builds next to him. Then he has the goldsmiths build the next section, and the perfume-makers begin work next to them.

Since he was twelve, Marcus Luttrell wanted to become a Navy SEAL. The training, however, is as brutal as it gets. Two thirds of those attempting to become SEALS will voluntarily drop out. In his book, Lone Survivor, Luttrell recalls how one legendary SEAL, Captain Joe Maguire, offered priceless advice. He told them not to let their thoughts run away with them “because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take.” What is the secret of surviving basic training? “Don’t look ahead to the pain,” Maguire advised, “Just get through the day.”

In other words, don’t get overwhelmed with the task. Focus on what comes next.

Peter, James, and John responded to Jesus’ call to follow him. But, if they could have foreseen all that awaited them over the horizon, they probably would have chosen to spend the rest of their lives mending nets and smelling like fish.

In the summertime, I guide people on wilderness hikes. When I show them the summit of the mountain we plan to climb, the hikers will often nervously inform me that it’s impossible. They can’t climb anything that high.

I never force them to climb the mountain, but simply invite them to take the next step. By this method, we leave surprisingly few hikers stranded on the mountainside to languish and die.

Nehemiah was not a professional builder. Those he assembled to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem were not professional masons. But the Lord used Nehemiah to accomplish a significant work because he gathered the resources he had, and took the next step.

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

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