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Story of the Day for Monday May 16, 2016

A  Monomaniac With a Mission

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                Don’t slow down, but be active in spirit – serving the Lord.

Romans 12:11

 Peter Drucker, a highly esteemed guru in the business world, observed, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

“Monomaniacs with a mission” are passionate people. They radiate enthusiasm. They know where they want to go, and are single-minded in pursuit of their goals.

When I am spiritually discouraged, it is almost always because I have slammed into roadblocks. Here I am, nobly offering my life to the service of the Lord, and what does he do? He puts one obstacle after another in my way.

You don’t think he does it for a reason, do you?

Maybe so.

The 1904 summer Olympics were being held in St. Louis, and a poor, Cuban mailman, Felix Carvajel decided to enter the marathon. The Cuban Olympic Committee, however, would not sponsor him. Felix would have to raise the money on his own. He would run in circles in Havana’s central plaza and beg for money from onlookers. Carvajal finally raised enough money to board a tramp steamer bound for New Orleans.

In New Orleans, he lost the remainder of his money to swindlers in a dice game. But don’t spend your day worrying about Felix. He started running from New Orleans to St. Louis.  He bummed rides and food where he could.

On the day of the marathon, the temperature and the humidity were over 90.  Felix, unacquainted with racing attire, showed up in long woolen pants, a long linen shirt, high-top boots, and a felt hat. A sympathetic American discus thrower cut his pants off below the knee before the starting gun sounded.

The race was so grueling that only 14 of the 32 starters would finish.  Felix was running well, but hadn’t eaten all day. When he saw an apple orchard, he stopped and gorged himself on green apples.  Near the finish, he got sick.

Despite the fact that Felix’s rivals had their coaches giving them sponge baths, food, and water (the only water offered on the course was at the 12 mile marker), despite the fact that the first-place finisher was actually assisted across the finish line by two coaches, Carvajal still managed to finish fourth.

Despite overwhelming obstacles, Felix kept going.

Don’t be discouraged by the difficulties you’re facing. Let ‘er rip, don’t give up, and serve the Lord.

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

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Story of the Day for Friday April 8, 2016

 With All Their Heart

                    We rebuilt the wall . . . because the people worked with all their heart.

Nehemiah 4:6

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 http://cdn.tristro.net/catalog/878/full/t25703-whatever.jpg  

 Grete Waitz, a 25 year-old Norwegian, tried to enter the New York City Marathon in 1978, but was turned down. They wanted to see her times in previous races, but she had never run a marathon. She had, in fact, never run a race further than twelve miles.

Later, the race director, Fred Lebow, called her back. He knew of her fast times in six and ten miles events, and told her she could enter the race because he wanted a “rabbit” to set a fast pace for the elite women.

Grete entered the marathon, and, by mile nineteen, knew her body had ventured into unknown territory. Her quads began to cramp and she knew that marathon races were not for her.

When she crossed the finish line, exhausted and in great pain, she was confused by the crowds swarming her and the microphones stuck in her face.  She was not only the first woman to cross the finish, but had smashed the world record by two minutes.

Grete was a teacher, but would get up at five in the morning to train before work. She delighted to get up before dawn in winter and run into the bitter cold Norwegian darkness. She felt that anyone could work out when it was a nice day. Gail Kislevitz, in her book, First Marathons, quoted Waitz’s opinion of training when conditions are favorable, “That’s fun,” she said, “but there’s no sense of sacrifice, no great accomplishment.” Competing, for Grete, was about courage and sacrifice – doing it with all your heart.

In 1988, Grete Waitz had won her ninth New York City Marathon, and was known worldwide as the greatest female marathoner of all time.

But, in 1993, Grete met Zoe Klopowitz, a heavy woman in her mid-forties who suffered from multiple sclerosis. Despite weak muscles and poor balance, Waitz was astounded to learn that Zoe planned to compete in the New York City marathon.

“Who is waiting for you at the finish line?” Zoe explained she had to rely on two canes, and moved so slowly she didn’t plan to finish until the next day. No one would be there to welcome her at the finish.

At dawn, about 20 hours after the marathon had started, Grete stood waiting for Zoe at the finish line. Exhausted and sleep deprived, Zoe fell into Grete’s arms. Two runners: the world’s fastest and slowest marathoners shared a common conviction. Both believed that what mattered most was not ability, but heart.

Nehemiah rallied the people to rebuild the fallen walls of Jerusalem. They worked against constant obstacles, taunts and threats. But the wall was completed because the people were committed to a noble task to the honor of God.

And the Bible says they gave themselves to the task “with all their heart.”

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday April 5, 2016

 A Hard Time Seeing

                The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

          And she said to them, “They’ve taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

John 20:13

Tom Mullen, in his book, Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences, tells a story – the gist of it going like this:

https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/5f990-mp9004444165b15d.jpg?w=327&h=217Three men were hunting deep in the Canadian wilderness when they came upon an old trapper’s cabin. Hoping to find shelter for the night, they knocked, and when no one answered, they went in.

The cabin was simple and plain – but the one thing that caught their attention was the stove. The pot-bellied stove didn’t sit on the floor but hung suspended from the ceiling and was supported by wire.

One of the party, a psychologist, said, “Interesting! Obviously, this trapper, in his loneliness and isolation has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the security of his mother’s womb.”

“Nonsense!” said his friend, who was an engineer. “He’s simply implementing the laws of thermal transfer. By elevating the stove, radiant heat is increased – thus heating the cabin with greater efficiency.”

The third member of the hunting party, a sociologist, scoffed at both of them. “Don’t you guys get it? Fire is an archetypal cultural symbol for passionate desire. He is simply engaging in ritual behavior to symbolize his deep desire for successful trapping. It’s like a lucky rabbit’s foot – only more so.”

Later that night, the trapper returned. He welcomed them to stay for the night.

As the evening wore on, one of them finally got up the courage to ask, “Say, we were all wondering why you’ve hung your stove from the ceiling like that?”

The trapper shrugged and replied, “Had a lot of wire but not much stove pipe.”

We often have a hard time seeing what we’re seeing. We interpret life from our own experience. As someone once said, if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

When your only experience in life is that dead people stay where you last laid them, who could blame Mary of Magdala for concluding that someone must have taken away the corpse from the tomb?

Even when Mary saw the risen Jesus she didn’t see him – since he’s not supposed to be there. She looked at Jesus and saw the cemetery gardener.

When God does a new thing, everything looks fuzzy at first. But, as we come to understand his purpose, things begin to come into focus.

Since the Fall of mankind, God has pointed all of history to this moment, when he would undo the curse of sin and recreate life from death.

Once we see it, it becomes as obvious as why a trapper would hang his stove from the ceiling.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/5f990-mp9004444165b15d.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday April 4, 2016

The Crucial Word is “IF”

 https://i2.wp.com/beautyforashes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6GMYp2pS_400x400.jpeg                   If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is hollow and your faith is useless.

1 Corinthians 15:14

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of the most popular and well-known politicians in the country. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and was now running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Tim Russert, in his book, Big Russ & Me, says that, during his senate campaign, Moynihan toured a new mental hospital in Utica, New York. He was so exhausted, however, that he decided to take a nap in one of the rooms.

He woke up to discover there were no door handles on the inside. There was a phone, however, so he called the front desk, “Could you please get me out of here?” And then, to give his request a little heft, he added, “This is Ambassador Moynihan.”

“Sure,” the desk clerk chirped, “and Winston Churchill was here yesterday.”

The distraught ambassador repeated his claim, “This is Ambassador Moynihan!”

“Yes, I’m sure it is, but you can’t leave, no matter who you are.”

Just as the desk clerk at the mental hospital didn’t believe the man locked in the room was the ambassador to the United Nations, so the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t believe that the corpse lying in the tomb was the Son of God.

Both followers and enemies knew Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead on the third day. Yet, ironically, only his skeptics seemed concerned with the possibility that his prophecy might come true. His followers had already given up hope.

In order to enhance the odds that the tomb would house a corpse on the third day, Jesus’ enemies sought permission from the Roman governor for a military guard to secure the perimeter.

So, now, the most important prediction in the history of the universe comes down to a waiting game. If Jesus doesn’t walk out of there by Sunday, faith is worse than useless.

The crucial word is “if.”

Our English word, “laconic,” means to give a short, terse response – to say no more than what is necessary. The term originates from the region of ancient Greece called Laconia.

Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, ruled as king of Macedonia in northern Greece. He wanted to conquer all of Greece, and was on the verge of doing so. Only Laconia remained unconquered.

Philip of Macedon tried to intimidate the Spartans living in Laconia to surrender. He sent them a message saying, “If I enter Laconia with my army, I shall raze Sparta to the ground.”

The Spartans responded to Philip’s threat with a one-word message.

“If.”

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://beautyforashes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6GMYp2pS_400x400.jpeg)

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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://i2.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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