Something that is New

Story of the Day for Monday March 21, 2016

Something that is New



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)

Free to Live

Story of the Day for Friday March 19, 2016

 Free to Live




. . .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) 

Letting Him Find You

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://i0.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)

No Yardstick for Love

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 16, 2016

 No Yardstick for Love



                 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) 

We Were Made For This

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.


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)

Story of the Day for Friday March 11, 2016

Square Pegs in Round Holes



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)

Story of the Day for Thursday March 10, 2016

It Just Looked a Lot Like a Dining Room Table



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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