Every problem is an opportunity to prove God's power. Every day we encounter countless golden opportunities,
brilliantly disguised as insurmountable problems.
C. Swindoll, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,
If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.
Carl Perkins, Loose Talk (Quick Fox).
According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is
composed of less that one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those
minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from your sight.
Many Christians today live their lives in a fog. They allow a cupful of troubles to cloud their vision and dampen their
spirit. Anxiety, turmoil and defeat strangle their thoughts. Their lives are being "choked by the cares of this world" (Luke
8;14). But "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (II Tim. 1:7).
Let's not let the fog get us down! "Let's live in the Sunshine!
The Paper Pulpit.
Edward deBono, the Oxford exponent of lateral thinking, suggests that when we can't solve a problem using traditional methods, we
should try "detours and reversals," anything that will give us a different angle from which to ponder solutions. To illustrate,
he tells this story about a problem faced by executives of a large company.
The company had moved into a new skyscraper and discovered that the builder apparently
had not put in enough elevators. Employees were disgruntled because there were over long waits for the elevators,
especially at both ends of the working day.
The company got a wide cross-section of the staff together and asked them to sit down and solve the problem. The task force
came up with four possible solutions:
1. Speed up the elevators, or arrange for them to stop at certain floors during rush periods.
2. Stagger working hours to reduce elevator demand at either end of the day.
3. Install mirrors around entrances to all elevators.
4. Drive a new elevator shaft through the building.
Which solution would you have chosen? According to Professor deBono, if you chose the first, second, or fourth solutions,
then you are a "vertical" or traditional thinker. If you chose the third possibility, then you are a
"lateral thinker." The vertical thinker takes the narrow view; the lateral thinker has a broader view.
After some consideration, the company chose the third solution. It worked. "People became so preoccupied with looking at themselves (or
surreptitiously at others)," said deBono, "that they no longer noticed the wait for the elevator. The problem was not so much
the lack of elevators as the impatience of the employees."
Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991.
Most of life's problems are like cloverleaf exchanges on the highways. It may not seem like it at first, but there is a way
Bits & Pieces, April 30, 1992.
Lord, I've never moved a mountain and I guess I never will. All the faith that I could muster wouldn't move a small ant hill. Yet
I'll tell you, Lord, I'm grateful for the joy of knowing Thee, and for all the mountain moving down through life You've done for me.
When I needed some help you lifted me from the depths of great despair. And when burdens, pain and sorrow have been more than I can bear, you have
always been my courage to restore life's troubled sea, and to move these little mountains that have looked so big to me.
Many times when I've had problems and when bills I've had to pay, and the worries and the heartaches just kept mounting every day, Lord, I don't know how
you did it. Can't explain the wheres or whys. All I know, I've seen these mountains turn
to blessings in disguise.
No, I've never moved a mountain, for my faith is far too small.
Yet, I thank you, Lord of Heaven, you have always heard my call.
And as long as there are mountains in my life, I'll have no fear,
for the mountain-moving Jesus is my strength and always near.
Charles Kettering, the inventor, had a unique method of solving problems. He would
break down each problem into the smallest possible subproblems. Then he did research to
find out which subproblems had already been solved. He often found that what looked like a
huge problem had previously been 98 percent solved by others. Then he tackled what was
One of the reasons problems don't get solved is that too often we misunderstand the
true nature of the problem. Take the following story--a favorite at General Motors--about
a complaint received by Pontiac. The customer's letter to the president of the Pontiac
Division is as follows:
This is the second time I have written you, and I don't blame you for not answering me,
because what I have to say sounds kind of crazy.
But it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for desert after
dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varies. So every night, after we've eaten,
the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the
store to get it.
It's also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac, and since then my trips to
the store have created a problem. You see, every time I buy vanilla ice cream, when I
start back from the store my car won't start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the
car starts fine.
I want you to know I'm serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds:
"What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream,
and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?"
The Pontiac president was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an
engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful,
obviously well-educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just
after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was
vanilla ice cream that night and sure enough after they came back to the car it wouldn't
The engineer returned for three more nights. The first night the man got chocolate. The
car started. The second night he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he
ordered vanilla. Again the car failed to start.
Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man's car was
allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged therefore, to continue his visits for as long
as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: he jotted
down all sorts of data, time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth, etc.
In a short time he had a clue: the man took more time to buy any other flavor than
vanilla. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular
flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other
flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took
considerably longer to find the flavor and get checked out.
Now the question for the engineer was why the car wouldn't start when it took less
time. Once time became the problem--not the vanilla ice cream--the engineer quickly came
up with the answer: vapor lock, It was happening every night but the extra time taken to
get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man
got vanilla the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate.
Executives who get there and stay suggest solutions when they present the problems.
Malcolm S. Forbes.
One of the classic baseball television shots comes from the 1975 World Series, in which NBC captured Carlton Fisk, jumping up and
down, waving his arms, trying to coax his hit to stay fair. It did--for a home run. That colorful close-up would have been
missed had the cameraman followed the ball with his camera, as was his responsibility. But the cameraman inside the Fenway Park scoreboard had one eye
on a rat that was circling him. So instead of focusing the camera on the ball, he left it on Fisk.
A young couple decided to start their own business. He was an engineer and she was an advertising copywriter. They wound up
buying a small salmon cannery in Alaska. They soon discovered they had a problem. Customers opening a can of their salmon
discovered that the fish was gray. Sales sagged. Investigation revealed that the problem was a result of the way they processed the fish. "This
is a technical problem," said the wife, "and you're an engineer. You have to
find a way to fix this."
A month later, the husband announced that they would have to replace some machinery and make other changes. It was going to
take at least 10 months to do the job and it was going to cost a lot of money. "We
have to do something sooner than that," said the wife, "or we're going to go
under." For the next two days she pondered the problem and came up with this
solution: There was nothing wrong with the salmon--it tasted fine. The problem lay in its
looks. So she changed the label on the can. In bold letters, right under the brand name,
the labels thereafter announced, "The only salmon guaranteed not to turn pink in the
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 9-10.
The hills ahead look steep and high,
And often we behold them with a sigh;
But as we near them level grows the road,
We find on every slope, with every load,
The climb is not so steep, the top so far.
The hills ahead look harder than they are.
There's an Ozark story about a hound sitting in a country store and howling as hounds do. In comes a stranger who says to the
storekeeper, "What's the matter with the dog?" "He's sitting on a cocklebur." "Why doesn't he get off?" "He'd rather holler."
Bits and Pieces, May, 1990, p. 20.
An old farmer had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. He had
broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it. After breaking another plowshare one
fall, and remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he
finally determined to do something about it. When he put his crowbar under the rock, he
was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches thick and that he could break
it up easily.
As he was carting it away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that the rock had caused him and how easy it would have
been to get rid of it sooner. There is often a temptation to bypass small obstacles when we're in a hurry to get a large
problem solved. We simply don't want to stop and take the time to deal with it now. Like the old farmer, we "plow" around it.
Usually we tell ourselves that we'll come back to it later. What often happens is that we never do. If the obstacle is of a type that will keep
reappearing over and over, we're usually better off to take the time to fix it and be done
with it. If we are tempted to go round it time and time again, we had best stop and ask
ourselves if the cost in time and money and trouble is worth it. As someone once said,
"The best way out of a problem is through it."
Bits and Pieces, August, 1989.