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Archive for March, 2016


Story of the Day for Monday March 21, 2016

Something that is New

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away.

Revelation 21:1

 Ever notice how we have a compulsion to point out the first robin of the year?

Why is that?

An armchair psychologist might suggest that the reason we get excited about seeing the first robin or crocus is that we have an unconscious urge for summer to come so we can mow our lawn at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to avenge our neighbor for blowing his snow into our driveway.

Psychologists come up with cool explanations for things.

Yet, while we may be excited about spring because we’re looking forward to summer, that doesn’t fully answer our robin question. Yes, kids get “spring fever” and can’t wait for summer vacation. But they’re also excited about the first day of school, and buying new pencils and clothes.

If you think about it, we get excited about new things – even if they’re things we dread. Parents can’t wait to wake their kids up to see the first snowfall of the season – even if they hate winter. We point out the first dandelion we see in the yard – even if we moan about all the dandelions in the yard by the end of June.

But imagine it’s mid-summer and you’re driving a car full of people – with me in the back seat. Suddenly I shout, “Whoa! Stop! Did you see that?

Everyone immediately stares out the window, as if they might get their first glimpse of a brontosaurus, or something.

“Over there! Do you see that maple tree out there in the field?”

Everyone says, “Yes?” (still hoping there might be a brontosaurus behind it.)

“Can’t you see it? That maple tree has leaves on it!”

Now, I always point out the first leaves of the year, but if I still got ecstatic about seeing leaves on a tree in mid-July, I would have to roam the hallways of nursing homes and hand out free denture cream in order to find a friend.

Robins and leaves are always lovely, but by summer they’re no longer news. “News” is exciting because it is new. 

A pastor once told me to imagine a sparrow flying to a granite mountain once a year to sharpen its beak. The time it takes the sparrow to wear down the mountain . . .that’s how long eternity is.

He might be right, but thinking of heaven in terms of duration unnerves me. I think of the Riverside Baptist choir standing on a cloud and singing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” for the nineteen billionth time . . . and the sparrow can’t get them to shut up!

When God showed John a revelation of heaven, he didn’t show him something that was long, he showed him something that was new.

Heaven, I believe, will always be new.

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

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Story of the Day for Friday March 19, 2016

 Free to Live

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. . .the king should issue a decree and enforce it that anyone who prays to any God or man during the next thirty days – except to you, O King – shall be thrown into the lion’s den. 

Daniel 6:7

You know how political power struggles work, don’t you?

The ancient ruler, Darius, appointed three people to rule under him. He then appointed 120 satraps who would be accountable to these three rulers.

Daniel was one of the three rulers under king Darius, but he displayed such exceptional character that Darius was planning to increase his authority.

The satraps, however, resented Daniel’s emerging influence so they looked for ways to tar his name. If they could get the goods on him, they could, perhaps, convince Darius to curb his authority.  But they couldn’t find anything. Daniel was a man of integrity.

Then Daniel’s underlings finally came up with a dastardly plan. Why not use Daniel’s character against him? He faithfully follows his God. Why not make his loyalty a crime?

The satraps, (those miserable, pinch-faced little weasels), persuaded Darius to issue an imperial edict that anyone caught praying to anyone but king Darius would have his body torn to shreds by the lions.

Daniel was a man of conviction, and continued to pray to God.

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and then became a Presbyterian pastor. He returned to the press because he wanted to reach more people. After witnessing the lynching of a black man, Lovejoy committed himself to the repeal of slavery.

Mobs threatened Lovejoy. They repeatedly destroyed his printing presses, but he would not be silenced. “If by compromise is meant,” he wrote, “that I should cease from my duty, I cannot make it. I fear God more than I fear man. Crush me if you will, but I shall die at my post . . .” Four days later he was murdered.

Holding to our convictions in the truth of God doesn’t mean we will always be spared from the jaws of the lions. We might be delivered; we might be martyred. Holding to our convictions means that we are living for something greater than ourselves, and we don’t have to be consumed with re-calibrating our values based on our own self-interest. If we have nothing worth dying for, we have nothing worth living for.

Daniel refused to budge in his loyalty to the Lord, and God used this, in the end, to prosper Daniel and to have Darius’ kingdom “reverence the God of Daniel.” Elijah Lovejoy refused to back down, and he was killed. But one man, newly elected to the Illinois legislature, was deeply moved by Lovejoy’s convictions against slavery. And who could guess that in the years to come his signature would ratify the Emancipation Proclamation.

When you live by your convictions you are free to live – and let God worry about the results.

 (text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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Story of the Day for Thursday March 17, 2016

Letting Him Find You

                    I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant.

Psalm 119:176

https://i1.wp.com/blog.biblia.com/files/2014/03/psalm119.176-660x371.pngStephen Pile, in The Book of Failures, tells the story of a traveler returning, years later,  to his native Italy. In 1977, Nicholas Scotti flew from San Francisco to Rome. His flight stopped for a couple hours in New York for refueling. Mr. Scotti assumed they had already landed in Rome and left the airport.

Scotti was confused by the unusual skyline, but assumed the city had undergone recent modernization. He was amazed that most people spoke English, but figured that Rome was a popular tourist attraction for Americans.

When Scotti spotted a policeman, he asked, in Italian, for directions to the bus depot. Oddly enough, the policeman was an immigrant from Naples and conversed with him in fluent Italian.

But Scotti was baffled when he found no one else in Rome who could speak Italian. Even when told he was told he was in New York, he refused to believe it. In the end, police officers drove him back to the airport and sent him on a return flight to San Francisco. But, for Nicholas Scotti, the police car racing to the airport only confirmed he was in Rome. “I know I’m in Italy,” he said, “That’s how they drive.”

Nicholas Scotti has nothing on me. Yesterday I got lost while hunting.

Northwest Montana has immense tracts of forbidding wilderness and I love to disappear into the deep woods to explore new areas. Yesterday, my wife drove me several miles up a winding mountain road and dropped me off.

I worked my way up a steep mountainside to an open ridge, but then the fog rolled in and obscured all the surrounding peaks I use as landmarks. Though I had never been in this area before, it, somehow, didn’t look right. Very odd.

The most dangerous time in getting lost is when you don’t know you are. Like Mr. Scotti, you try to reinterpret everything that confuses you and make it fit your assumptions.

One of the best things that can happen is to be lost, but know it. When the fog lifted yesterday I was astounded to see that Lydia Mountain was no longer sitting in its traditional location. That revelation told me where a road was.

The road was important – not because I could now find my way home – but because my wife could now come looking for me and find me.

In today’s religious thought, we think of “The Lost” as those who have no saving faith in Christ. But that usage is rare in the Bible. Usually it is God’s own people who manage to go astray and lose their bearings.

When you know you’ve strayed in life and lost your way, it’s not so much a matter of finding God as letting him find you.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(image:  http://blog.biblia.com/files/2014/03/psalm119.176-660×371.png)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday March 16, 2016

 No Yardstick for Love

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                 All day long my mouth will tell of your righteousness and salvation, though I don’t know its measure. 

Psalm 71:15

 Women are puzzling when they learn a baby has been born. They always want to know measurements, and excitedly pass on this information. “Did you hear Emily just had a baby girl? Six pounds, eight-and-a-half ounces, seventeen inches long!”

Guys are different. After they learn it’s a boy or a girl, they really don’t know what to say. “Um . . .Does it have a belly button?”

Women get excited about a newborn’s measurements, but the odd thing is that the actual measurements don’t matter. It’s not like a bass fishing derby — where the bigger the largemouth the better. Babies don’t win awards for their length or weight. It’s not a competition.

I believe a woman needs to measure a newborn because this is how she express her joy.

Love always wants to measure what can’t be measured. Lovers write poems claiming their love is deeper than the deepest ocean. So, what are they trying to say? That their love is more than 10.91 kilometers at the point where Mariana Trench lies due north of Papua, New Guinea? Not exactly.

Laying a newborn baby on a scale or imagining the depth of the ocean are imprecise means of calculating love, but how else do you measure the immeasurable?

A lot of important things, however, can be measured accurately. That’s why we monitor our blood pressure and periodically lift the car hood to check the dipstick. But we get into trouble when precise measurements are the only standards we accept as important.

Before his death from pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch, in his book The Last Lecture, talks about his consulting work with Disney World. He asked Disney executives a pointed question: If a child walked into one of their stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker, would their policies allow their workers to replace it free of charge?

Not likely. You can easily calculate the cost of a salt and pepper shaker. Giving one away is a financial loss. Do that for a billion customers and it could put you out of business.

But Randy would tell the executives of the time, as a youngster, he went into a store at Disney World and bought a salt and pepper shaker for ten dollars. Afterward, he dropped his purchase and broke one of the shakers. He was heartbroken.

An adult noticed Randy’s tears and urged him to go back to the store and ask to have it replaced. The store worker cheerfully gave him a new one.

Did Disney World lose money doing that? By one way of measurement, yes. But Randy’s dad was so impressed when he heard of this act of kindness he started driving his students to Disney World in a twenty-one passenger bus from Maryland. Pausch says his dad spent over $100,000 at Disney World over the years.

Love can’t be calculated and recorded on a spreadsheet — and this is especially true of Jesus’ love for you. We will always struggle to describe it because there is no yardstick for a love beyond measure.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday March 14, 2016

We Were Made For This

               Eagerly practice hospitality.

Romans 12:13

Gander is a small, quiet town on the island of Newfoundland.  All that changed on September 11, 2001.  With planes used as weapons, the U.S., for the first time in its history, shut down the skies. All incoming flights from Europe were diverted to Canada.

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The runway at the Gander airport shook as 747s began to make emergency landings. Within three hours, the airport was crammed with 38 jets and over 6,500 passengers.  Instantly, the area swelled by 60% in population.

Pilots and crews filled the local hotels, but where do you put so many thousands of stranded passengers? The local residents mobilized for action.

All high schools, church basements, and meeting halls within an hour from the airport were opened to provide housing. Many residents opened up their homes.

Residents scrambled to find diapers, baby formula, and bedding. In perhaps the biggest “refrigerator raid” in history, the townspeople emptied their fridges and cupboards. They brought out their local delicacies: moose meat, cod fillets, and wild partridgeberry jam.  One of those stranded, a folk singer composed a song with the line: “Our plates are never empty, Lord, they’re feeding us again.”

The local businesses sprang to action. Fishermen donated their catch. Bakeries stayed open late baking fresh bread. A store owner donated $3,000 in bed sheets. Pharmacies filled prescriptions and provided medicine for free.

At a camp outside of town, Salvation Army members stood outside cabins all night long — just in case someone needed to talk.

In those three anxious days, social barriers began to relax. Some of those marooned were dirt poor refugees. Sleeping on cots next to them might be a British member of Parliament, the mayor of Frankfort, Germany, or a king from the Middle East. Everyone began addressing each other by their first names.

One resident, Scott Cook, told of a local woman who drove those stranded on tours of the area. Afterward, she exchanged cards. She looked at one card, “So,” she said, “you work with Best Western?” “No,” he replied, “I own Best Western.”

When the planes were finally cleared to depart, both passengers and residents hugged and wept. One resident said this time was the highlight of his life.

There is a ritual if you’d like to become an honorary Newfoundlander. You get on your knees, kiss a codfish on the lips, eat a piece of local hardbread, pound down some “screech” (a local rum), and speak a word in praise of Newfoundland. Many passengers took the pledge.

I sometimes dream of making more money and having more free time to do what I want. The Lord, however, gently reminds me that what I really want is to sacrifice my time, money, and wild grouseberry jam to serve others.

The people from Newfoundland remind the rest of us that we were made for this.

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://40.media.tumblr.com/cd96ceec7332153af2da410f5f7c41db/tumblr_inline_nsr15rMr7C1rzql1b_500.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday March 11, 2016

Square Pegs in Round Holes

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Is everybody an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Does everyone perform miracles? Does everyone have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

1 Corinthians 12:29-30

 

All my ancestors come from Finland.  The Finns are noted for their determination, which they call “sisu.”  (Non-Finns, like my wife, often mistakenly call this “bullheaded stubbornness”.) Finns take a funny hot baths, called sauna, and drink more coffee per capita than any nation on earth.

In all these areas, I have proudly represented my heritage.

But the Finns are also known for their painful shyness, and I have grown up with this dubious distinction.

When you’re shy you are uncomfortable in public.  You look at your shoes a lot when you talk to people.  If you have to stand up in front of a crowd to give a speech, you feel like your fly is open.

You shouldn’t think shy people are generally fearful.  I lead trips into remote wilderness areas in Montana. We often encounter fresh grizzly bear sign. A grizzly leaves a pile of poop which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. And, believe me, extroverts get just as nervous as introverts when they come across a fresh pile on the trail.

I had a pastor who was charismatic and outgoing.  He once told us in Bible study that shyness was a sin. All Christians, he claimed, should be extroverts.

For many years I lugged around a vague sense of guilt. Gradually, it dawned on me that I was just as judgmental as my former pastor (who really was a wonderful shepherd).  I would look at extroverts and wonder why they were such excitable loudmouths.  Why couldn’t they be more . . . you know, quiet? Contemplative. Like me.

We all have a tendency to judge a person according to temperament, rather than character.  We’ve always recognized that people have different personalities. Four centuries before Christ, the Greek physician, Hippocrates, had classified everyone as either choleric (hot-tempered), sanguine (cheerful), phlegmatic (sluggish), or melancholy (sad). We have refined his classifications over the years, but have never refuted the notion that people have distinctly different temperaments.

We are not only distinct in personality, but the Bible tells us, God has given us all a variety of different gifts.  At times, we’ve all wanted to pound square pegs into round holes; we have wanted people to change their temperament.

But God gives us a variety of personalities and gifts – for the same reason you don’t plant your entire garden with rutabagas.

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

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Story of the Day for Thursday March 10, 2016

It Just Looked a Lot Like a Dining Room Table

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Do you see a man skilled in his work?  He will stand in the presence of kings.

Proverbs 22:29

 Talent is greatly overrated. Talent is a God-given gift. But skill is the honing of that gift by dogged, daily discipline.

We Christians can get uneasy talking excelling at a skill. For one, our faith is founded on what God has accomplished for us – without our cooperation and effort. The beauty of God is that we don’t work our way up to heaven, but that he comes down to us.  If you work for something, you get a paycheck. But a gift is free. Jesus gives us the gift of eternal life.

But, secondly, striving for excellence sounds suspiciously like pride – which is a particularly ugly sin.

Both of these cautions are legitimate.  We can’t get to heaven by working hard, and pride bugs others and rots our soul.

But working hard to develop the gifts God has given us pleases him. The paradox of faith is that we are not saved by our works, but we are created by God to do good works.

God does not give gifts so that we may gloat in our distinction over others.  God gives gifts so we can serve others.

I’m not impressed by your natural talent, or my own. The real question is: how hard are you willing to work to develop that natural talent into excellence?

Rosalind Russell was one of the most famous movie stars of her day.  She says she gets letters from people who say they have talent – their teachers think so, their mothers think so, and they were a hit in the school play.  Russell’s responds, “Fine, but do you also have self-discipline?”  She claims the ability to work hard is the key to success in show business.

Albert Schweitzer’s talent as a musician was obvious at an early age.  He was performing in church by the age of nine.  By his late twenties he was an internationally renowned concert organist.

During World War I, he was interned as a German citizen in French occupied Africa.  He was sent from his home in Africa to a concentration camp at Garaison in the Pyrenees. Schweitzer had no access to an organ, so his fellow prisoners watched for hours while he would pretend the dining room table was his organ.  His feet would work the imaginary pedals as he would perform chorales and fugues from memory.  Hour after hour.

When Schweitzer was released in 1918, after years of confinement, the world was stunned he still retained his virtuosity at the pipe organ.

His fellow prisoners knew better.  He had been practicing the organ all the time.  It just looked a lot like a dining room table.

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday March 8, 2016 

Waiting For the Right Time

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Jesus said . . .”Do you still not understand?” 

Mark 8:17

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the greatest fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes. Doyle is said to enjoy telling stories where he becomes the butt of the joke.

Once, as the story goes, he left a railway station in Paris and hailed a taxi. When a taxi pulled up, he got in and was about to tell the taxi driver where he wanted to go, when the driver asked, “Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle was surprised that the taxi driver recognized him, and asked whether he knew him by sight.

“No sir, I’ve never seen you before.”

Doyle was puzzled and asked what made him think he was Conan Doyle.

“This morning’s paper,” he said, “had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who return from Marseilles always come to. Your skin color tells me you’ve been on vacation. The ink spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you’re a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“This is truly amazing,” Doyle replied. “You are a real life counterpart to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.”

“There is one other thing,” the driver said.

“What’s that?”

“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”

When Jesus walked among us, he didn’t blurt out his identity – that he was God come in human flesh. Instead, he dropped loaded clues. And we must remember that even Jesus’ chosen disciples didn’t fully know who they were following at first. When Jesus calmed a furious storm on the lake, they asked, “Who is this?”

The disciples struggled to connect the dots. Jesus flashed one clue after another, but the disciples couldn’t pick up on them. “Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus asked them.

Why was Jesus so coy about who he really was? He wasn’t trying to tease us; he was simply waiting for the right time.

When the Jewish high council sat in a midnight session, the high priest demanded, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am.”

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what Jesus was waiting for. He was waiting for the moment when he could offer his life for yours. Only then did he publicly reveal the nameplate on his suitcase.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday March 7, 2016

Alarming Others with Hospitality

Offer hospitality to each other without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:9

When we invite our kids and grand kids over for a quiet meal, my dear wife interprets this as merely the opening salvo. The next day, she’ll come home and inform me, “I bumped into Aunt Millie today, so I invited her too.”

    “Good.”

    The next day, she breezily announces she has also invited Boomer and Susie Brombley, and all their offspring.

    “Um . . . good.”

    But Darla has only begun to warm to her theme. Before long, she loses her head and invites enough people to resemble a Mongrel invasion.

    She knows she can’t fit that many people in the dining room — not even with a card table set up. She doesn’t care. “We’ll put the rest in the living room.”

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    When I delicately inform her she’s inviting over more people than we can shoehorn into the house, she just tells me I’m a hermit. I think we all notice, don’t we, how she is deflecting my valid point to mask her compulsion to cook meals for numberless hordes?

    Our home is sometimes so crowded we could elect our own mayor and be eligible to build a post office. And, if we did incorporate, you can be sure Darla would wangle a seat on the Chamber of Commerce to attract more tourism to our dinner table.

    Henry Wardlaw was the Scottish bishop who founded the prestigious University of St. Andrews in 1411. He was a man of such unbounded generosity, it is said, that his secretary became alarmed at the expense of inviting so many people at mealtimes.

    Wardlaw’s secretary approached the bishop and asked him to make a list of those people to whom his hospitality should be confined. “Well,” bishop Wardlaw responded, “take a pen and begin. First, put down the counties of Fife and Angus . . .”

    There you have it. We can only imagine the emotional strain this exuberant hospitality placed on the bishop’s poor secretary. Alarming others with your generosity? I mean, how pious is that?

    I fear, however, that if this story fell into my wife’s hands, she would misinterpret the point, and find it as inspiration, or even worse, as a competitive challenge. So, let’s just keep this between us, okay?

    Since I trust you to keep this quiet from my wacky wife, I will admit that sharing meals together unites us in a unique way. We can share a drink and a meal and get to know each other better. Worship is essential, of course, but we tend to stare at the back of each other’s heads and listen to one person talk. And the ushers frown should you pop open a beer in the middle of the sermon.

    As Max Lucado reminded me recently, the first churches had no altars or pulpits; worship began in homes, where they shared God’s Word — and a meal together.

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

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Story of the Day for Friday March 4, 2016

 “The Flyswatter”

                Don’t forget to do good and share with others, because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices. 

Hebrews 13:16

 One hot, summer day, our family shared the living room with a pesky fly. My dad asked my sister, Mary, who was two years old, to get the flyswatter. Mary eagerly scooted off on her mission. She returned without the flyswatter, but my parents were pleased nonetheless.

 

 Before I tell you why my parents were so delighted with their little daughter, let me ask you a question: Do you live with an on-going sense of failure in your relationship with God? I’m not talking about the times you deliberately do wrong things, but the times you’re trying to get it right. When you pray, does it feel as if God expected you to have prayed more? When you share with others, does it always feel as if God wanted you to give more than you did?

If you picture the Lord as looking at you with his arms folded across his chest in a perpetual scowl, then maybe you’ve forgotten how you laughed at a baby’s first words.

What do parents do when they hear their child first say, “Mama” or “Dada”?  Or when their child attempts those first wobbly steps?  They’re ecstatic!  They can hardly wait to call friends and family and tell them the news. Parents are so very pleased by every step of growth in their children’s lives.

But can I ask you another question: Do you think parents are satisfied by the first, immature actions of their children? Of course not. They won’t be satisfied until their kids learn to talk and walk and act like adults.

The Scottish writer, George MacDonald, points out that, in the same way, our heavenly Father is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.

If we don’t know God as our Father, but only as Judge, then everything we do is doomed to failure. We simply can’t keep his perfect law.

But once we become his children, everything changes. God is not only pleased, but delighted by our far-from-perfect attempts to do his will. We don’t have to be perfect in order to please him. Like any loving parent, our heavenly Father is pleased by every step of growth that his children take.

If you feel as if your every action is a deep disappointment to God, maybe you need to ponder the kind of relationship you were meant to have with him.

When my two-year-old sister was asked to bring the flyswatter, she bounded off to do what she was told. Instead of getting the flyswatter, however, she ran into the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. She proudly handed the glass to my dad, “Here’s the flies’ water!”

And my dad could hardly have been more pleased.

(copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)(image: http://media.qcsupply.com/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/2/3/230395.jpg)

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