Archive for February, 2016

Story of the Day for Monday February 29, 2016

A Rare Breed

And his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger. They go away from him because they don’t recognize the stranger’s voice.

John 10:4-5

   By the end of his career, Moe Drabowsky  was more admired for his zany practical jokes than his ERA. Moe played for a handful of teams in his career as a relief pitcher, and knew the phone numbers to quite a few bull pens around the league.

    Having once played for the Baltimore Orioles, he learned to imitate the voice of his former manager, Earl Weaver. While Drabowsky would be in another city, he would call the bull pen in Baltimore, and pretending to be Weaver, would tell a certain pitcher to start warming up — much to the puzzlement of the manager sitting in the dugout.


    Can I ask you a question? Is obedience a good thing? (Take your time; I’m in no big hurry).

    Okay, so, if I tell you to go to the vegetable aisle at your local supermarket and sing the Star-Spangled Banner as loud as you can, would it be good for you to obey me?

    Obedience can be a virtue, but it can just as easily be a vice. It all depends on who we’re listening to and obeying.

    Though some imagine God demanding sheer, blind obedience to his will, that is not how he pictures our relationship with him. Jesus describes himself as a good and caring shepherd. He calls us by name. He creates a barrier at night and guards the entrance so no one can steal us away. He leads us to the good grazing lands we can’t find on our own.

    We listen to and obey the voice of our shepherd because we trust him. By the same token, we refuse to follow the voice of a stranger.

    John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, wrote of the time he was weary after a rough schedule. He asked his housekeeper, Emily Gloria Wilson, who had worked for him for forty years, to hold off any telephone calls while he took a nap.

    Shortly afterward, the President called from the White House. “Lyndon Johnson here. Get me Ken Galbraith. I want to talk to him.”

    “He’s resting, Mr. President.”

    “Well, get him up. I need to talk to him.”

    “No, I’m sorry, I can’t,” his housekeeper said, “I work for him; not for you, Mr. President.”

    When Galbraith woke up, he was mortified that the President had been kept waiting. He immediately called to apologize. But Johnson could scarcely contain his pleasure. “Tell that woman I want her here in the White House!”

    Those who know who to listen to, and why, are a rare breed.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://bradhoffmann.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Obedience.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday February 25, 2016

Dragons Can be Beaten

We exalt in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3


    When my grade school friend, Ben, got a chemistry set for Christmas, his world changed. He no longer wanted to be an astronaut; now he was destined to become a scientist.

    Ben wasn’t interested in the chemistry kit manual, however, which showed you things like how to mix baking soda in a solution to make a balloon expand. He was a scientific inventor and wanted to discover things on his own. (And, with a little luck, make things blow up.)

    When you read a lot, like Ben did, you learn that there are sugars in urine. “If we could discover how to extract them . . . ” he mused.

    When you give a boy a test tube and a Bunsen burner, something’s bound to happen. Trust me, you don’t want to know how this experiment turned out. We all love stories with happy endings, but this is not one of them. Let’s just say scientific advancement made little progress that day.

    Ben died a few years ago. The scientific community benefited greatly the day he decided to become a musician instead. And then an engineer. And world traveler. But though he never became a scientific inventor, as I look back on his life, I see how his curiosity, creativity, and failed chemistry experiments all worked together to create the adventurous life he enjoyed.

    None of us is good at foreseeing how our lives will turn out. Marshall McLuhan said, “We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror.”

    When we get old and look back on our lives, I doubt any of us will say our lives worked out as we imagined it would in our youth. I doubt most of us will retire from the career we foresaw in sixth grade. But the thing that will surprise us most isn’t the career changes, but the suffering. The failures. The losses.

    If we trust in God, shouldn’t the arc of our lives be filled with continual victory and blessing? In a word, no. God’s agenda is radically different from our own. We always ask kids what they want to be when they grow up; God is more interested in who we want to be.

 https://i0.wp.com/www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/niE/x6M/niEx6MBiA.jpeg   Through all our broken dreams, God is teaching us to persevere. Through that stubborn determination he is building our character. And through the building of our character he is teaching us to overcome all obstacles through his help and strength.

    “Fairy tales are more than true,” says Neil Gaiman, “not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

    All of the plot twists in our lives are conspiring to help us become the person God desires us to be, because, in the end, it’s not what we’ve become, but who we’ve become that matters.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/niE/x6M/niEx6MBiA.jpeg)


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Story of the Day for Wednesday February 24, 2016

Plowing into the Unknown



“Didn’t we tell you when we were in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone . . .?’

Exodus 14:12

    In India many of the poor cannot get out of poverty because their vision is too poor to obtain productive work. One social enterprise has tried to remedy this by providing eyeglasses for as little as $2.50.

    They discovered that, when a client tries on a pair of glasses for the first time, they are astonished at what they can see. When they take the glasses off to choose a style, however, many of them balk and decide not to buy the glasses.

    Why? It’s not that they don’t want to see better; they’re simply afraid to make a significant change in their lives.


    In a small farming community in Kenya, Seth Godin, working with Western Seed, has been trying to convince farmers to stop saving their seed from the year before and, instead, buy seeds designed to grow more corn. For $30 they can buy seed which will yield $2000 in harvest.

    Two-thirds of the farmers turn down the offer. It’s not that they’re suspicious of Western Seed’s claims. One Kenyan woman has no more land than her neighbor. Yet, she is now a millionaire, while her neighbor is still a subsistence farmer.

    Why do the majority continue to save their inferior seed to plant the next year? Because that’s how it’s been done for ages. They’re afraid to make such a drastic change from what they’re accustomed.

    I’m telling you stories about other people first before I deftly nudge the conversation over to you and me. I like to think I choose to behave in a way that agrees with my convictions and goals, but that’s not always true. I believe, for example, that a good diet is important. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve changed my eating lifestyle.

    Our behavior, alarmingly, tends to conform to what we’re used to doing. We’re comfortable there. Safer.

    Patty Dobrowolski, a consultant for major corporations, claims that studies show the odds against making a change in our lives is nine to one — even when the issue may be life threatening.


    When the Hebrew people lived in harsh slavery under the Pharaoh, they cried to God to set them free. But, when God answered their prayers and liberated them, they balked. They continually whined to Moses that they wanted to return to Egypt. The security of what they were used to, even if it was slavery, was preferable to the insecurity of plowing into the unknown.


    God understands. When he called people and they balked at making a drastic change in their lives, he seldom called them slime balls or rattled off lectures on using their common sense. The Lord’s most common response was, “Do not be afraid.”

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Monday February 22, 2016

Refuse to Lose Heart

So many people gathered to hear Jesus there wasn’t enough room to get in the door. . . Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man. Not able to get through the crowd, they dug a hole through the roof over where Jesus was, and lowered the paralyzed man on his mat.  

 Mark 2:2-4

    As the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul neared, swimmer Matt Biondi, was hyped as America’s best hope to scoop up a basket full of gold medals.

    In his first race, however, he came in third. His second race, the 100-meter butterfly, saw him come shy of the gold by one hundredth of a second.

https://i2.wp.com/www.tradingcarddb.com/Images/Cards/Multi-Sport/61811/61811-3763650Bk.jpg    The press expected Biondi to win these first two events. Sportscasters now altered their tone. They speculated Biondi would be so discouraged, his performance would suffer in the subsequent races.

    Dr. Martin Seligman, however, knew these dismal forecasts were wrong. As the leading psychologist in his field, he had been hired to run an assessment of the swimmers on the U.S. swim team, and find out how they reacted to failure.

    Each swimmer was timed for their best effort, but Seligman asked the coach to take his swimmer’s times and tell them it was a couple seconds slower than it actually was. Many of the swimmers were distraught by their poor times and, when asked to rest and race a second time, swam considerably slower.

    Matt Biondi, however, was unfazed by failure. Told of his discouraging time, Biondi raced a second time and swam faster than his first race.

    When I have faced obstacles in life, I’ve often wondered, “Lord, are you trying to tell me something?” Maybe these roadblocks were God’s way of telling me I needed to give up and go in another direction.

    But the four men who wanted Jesus to heal their paralyzed friend thought differently. When they carried their friend to the house where Jesus was, they couldn’t even get through the door. This, obviously, was a sign they wouldn’t be able to see Jesus. Maybe they should’ve been more sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting.

    These men, thankfully, didn’t think like that. Houses had steps on the outside that led to a flat roof. They carried the paralyzed man up to the roof and dug a hole in it. As Jesus and the crowd ducked from pieces of hardened clay raining down on them, they watched in amazement as these four intrepid souls lowered their friend down in front of Jesus.

    Jesus didn’t see four men who failed to sense God’s will. He saw faith that wouldn’t give up.

    After Matt Biondi came in third and second in his first two events, he refused to lose heart. He won gold in his last five races.

    I used to believe setbacks and failure was God’s sign for me to quit. But, as I think of Jesus’ response to those four guys who refused to give up when they hit a brick wall and a blocked door, I’m reconsidering that assumption.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.tradingcarddb.com/Images/Cards/Multi-Sport/61811/61811-3763650Bk.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday February 12, 2016

Something Waiting for Me

Tell them to do good, to be wealthy in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will store up treasure for themselves as a good foundation in the coming age.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

    When the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, the hopes of many Americans collapsed with them. Suddenly, we realized just how unpredictable the future really was. This act of terrorism so shook our time frames that many simply caved in and began living for the moment. Who would’ve guessed that one of the aftershocks of 9-11 was a huge wave of cancellations at weight loss centers? Why sacrifice for the future when tomorrow might not be there?

    When we lose hope for the future, we make bad decisions.



    Joseph T. Hallinan, in his book, Why We Make Mistakes, cites an experiment where one group is asked to pick a movie they will watch in the future, while the other group is asked to choose a movie they want to watch now. The watch-it-later groups tended to pick movies that were “highbrow” — educational and culturally edifying. The watch-it-now groups, on the other hand, tended to pick “lowbrow” movies that featured a lot of explosions and chase scenes.

    Researchers discovered a similar choice pattern with food. When office workers were offered food they would eat later, they tended to choose a healthy option. When they were offered food, and allowed to eat it now, they tended to choose junk food.

    The educational outlook in East Harlem is dire. Half of the students drop out before high school graduation. In 1981, self-made millionaire, Eugene Lang, asked the school principal how many, per class, would go on to college. “Maybe one,” the principal said.

    So, Lang received permission to address the sixth-grade class. “Stay in school,” he told them, “and I’ll pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

    Lang took these disadvantaged minority kids on field trips to colleges, he provided tutors, and the door to his office was always open for them.

    Nearly 90 percent of these students graduated from college, and many went on to the university.

    What made the difference? They had hope. One student summed it up, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me.”

    One of the most common complaints about Christians is that they are so focused on enjoying heaven that they neglect the daily needs of those around them. “They’re so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good,” is how it’s often put.

    But this accusation is all backwards. The Bible says, if there’s no heaven, then “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Those without a future live for themselves.

    The promise of heaven doesn’t make us lethargic. It encourages us to live. We freely give and love and care. We invest in eternity. And if we’re not spending our days doing wild, reckless, heavenly things, maybe we’ve misunderstood why we’re still here.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday February 11, 2016

 A Simple Smile                       

https://singlesoulsisters.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/smile_by_engelvleugels.jpg?w=335&h=251A cheerful heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 17:22

Ron Gutman, a recent graduate of Stanford University, has engaged in intensive study of the smile. It sounds like a frivolous subject for legitimate academic work, but Gutman is very serious about the effect of a smile.

Gutman cites a study in which researchers took baseball cards from 1950 and sorted them into three groups: those players who were not smiling, those with a slight smile, and those with beaming smiles. They discovered that the average lifespan of those not smiling was 72.9 years, those who slight smiles, 75, and those with broad smiles lived to an average of 79.9 years.

The researchers didn’t put it in these words, but what they discovered was that the Bible has it right: a cheerful heart is good medicine.

Those saddled with a persistent case of the gloomies will be quick to point out that the Bible also says there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep. Well, of course there is. Both mourning and dancing are appropriate in their time.

Cheerfulness, however, isn’t the opposite of mourning; it’s the opposite of scowling – the dour attitude that makes us miserable and deflates the spirits of others.

Others are suspicious of cheerfulness because they’ve seen the phony, plastered grins of those trying to manipulate us for selfish ends.

Curiously enough, however, “scowlers” have a tougher time distinguishing false from genuine smilers. A French study had participants hold a pencil in their mouth with their lips – which forces a frown. The other group didn’t get pencils. When both groups were asked to identify photos of faked and genuine smiles, those without the pencil were great judges. Those who were forced to frown suffered impaired judgment.

Gutman cites another study in which the frontal lobes of patient’s brains were examined by FMRI scans. A smile sent the frontal lobe into activity greater than receiving $30,000 in cash . . . or even eating chocolate.

A cheerful heart is good medicine. It reduces stress-enhancing hormones and increases mood-enhancing hormones.

Cheerfulness is good for us, but the real point I’m working toward is that it’s a gift we can give to others. A simple smile is able to brighten the mood of others.

And, while I know I’m supposed to be saving the planet, averting nuclear war, and ending world hunger, sometimes I need to start with the little things and work my way up. I like how Mother Theresa put it, “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.”

(copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org  and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://singlesoulsisters.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/smile_by_engelvleugels.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday February 10, 2016

Be There to Pick Us Up

The Lord is faithful in everything he says and loving in all he does. The Lord upholds all those who fall and raises up all who are bowed down.

Psalm 145:13-14

    In 149 B.C., two Chinese provinces were at war with each other. One of the military commanders, Kong Ming, sent a vanguard to make initial contact with the enemy and assess its strength.

    Apparently, the enemy was imposing because the advance troops retreated with such terror in their eyes that the main army turned and fled in panic. Kong Ming, left only with his bodyguards, fell back to the walled city of Yangping.

    The enemy reached the city and surrounded it.

    Ming, unable to withstand a siege, removed all the city guards and took down the battle flags. He ordered all four city gates to be flung open.

    As the enemy commander cautiously approached, he looked through the gates and saw only a few old men sweeping the grounds. Kong Ming could be clearly seen in a tower above the city wall — smiling and playing a lute.

    “That man seems too happy for my comfort, the commander said. Fearing that Ming had contrived a clever scheme, and not wanting to fall into his trap, the commander ordered his troops to withdraw.

    Both the city and his adversary’s commander were there for the taking. No army kept him from capturing the city. Only his fear.

   https://i2.wp.com/i.ebayimg.com/images/i/111729069631-0-1/s-l1000.jpg Have you ever wondered what you might have accomplished — if only you had more faith in God?  While greater faith is a good thing, the fear of taking a risk isn’t so much a lack of faith as it is a lack of worth.

    A Stanford psychologist, John Atkinson, devised a game for kids called hoop-the-peg. The further you threw your hoop over the peg, the greater your reward.  Atkinson was secretly watching those in the group who had a high fear of failure. Unlike the others, who would back up to a distance where success was challenging, those kids with a high fear of failing would either stand right over the peg, where they couldn’t miss, or back up to a distance where success was practically impossible. Atkinson discovered that taking little risks and taking enormous risks are both due to the same thing: the fear of humiliation for failing. You can’t fail if you don’t try, and you can’t be criticized for failing if your goal was nearly impossible to reach.

    We will always be afraid to take risks as long as we assume that failure is a reflection of our worth as a person. We can’t overcome this fear by lectures to have more faith; in this case, we need to hear about God’s grace.  When we learn that God so loves us that our worth has nothing to do with our successes or failures, then we will have found the secret to combating the fear of taking a risk.

    We can step out boldly in faith when we know that, even if we fail, the Lord will be there to pick us up.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://i.ebayimg.com/images/i/111729069631-0-1/s-l1000.jpg)

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