Friday, October 29, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation: The Black Squirrel

Wherever you find trees you will also find a bushy tail critter known as the squirrel. Some are gray, some are black, some are red, and there are some that even fly. Some other animals that are in the squirrel family are: chipmunks, woodchucks, and prairie dogs.

It is in the early spring when you will see the trees inundated with squirrels. This is due in part because the buried nuts are beginning to sprout so they rely on the buds of trees for food. And my guess would also be that the food they stored for winter has pretty much been eaten by spring.

Though the squirrel is small in body size, they have large eyes with excellent vision. It makes you kind of wonder than why they choose to run out in the street when cars are driving by. Perhaps they find enjoyment in the game of dodge the tires.

One of the more unique of these critters is the black squirrel. I actually caught a glimpse of my first one just a couple of weeks ago. They are most common in the Midwest, the Northern states and in Ontario. So where do the black squirrels originate from? The gray mating pairs may produce black offspring and so obviously mixed litters are common.

Though the black squirrel is common, their overall rarity (1 in 10,000)has some small towns and colleges taking pride in their local population of these unique animals by holding festivals in their honor. The black squirrel can even be found as an official or unofficial mascot for some colleges.

1. Haverford College in Pennsylvania has the black squirrel as their official mascot for the athletic teams.

2. Kent State University in Ohio holds a black squirrel festival and uses the black squirrel as the imprint for the Kent State University Press.

3. Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester County, New York carries the black squirrel as their unofficial mascot and their bookstore sells plush squirrels.

So if you are bored and looking for something fun to do and your small town or neighborhood has a large population of black squirrels, you can celebrate these unique critters by holding a festival in their honor.

The black squirrel, truly unique, and certainly one of God's creation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"It was a sweet feeling. All the work I put in was for that moment. I pictured it playing out that way. It was the best ending I could think of as far as the whole story." -- Cain Velasquez,the new Ultimate Fighting Champion,spoke this after defeating the sport's biggest star in only 4 minutes and 12 seconds.

I am not in the habit of using quotes from fighters and especially from a sport I have no interest in, but I love this quote. How many times have we ever felt of wanting that story book ending, or a story book life? Those of us who are believers in Christ already know we have a story book ending to our lives,one that's eternal. But how about that middle part of each of our stories?

I am sure we all want to succeed in every facet of our lives, and we know that God wants that for our lives as well, but it's what gets in the way of our story from becoming a victorious one: our grumbling and complaining.

How many times have we ever felt like God was short changing us? Or that things aren't going our way, so we must do something because God has no clue as to what He is doing in our life and we feel we can do it better? Now we all know what happens when we do take matters into our own hands and not trust God; we make a mess of it!

I am now finishing up my first year of non-grumbling and complaining. Or should I say, succeeding at trying to make a conscious effort not to complain. I used to be a habitual grumbler and complainer, even when trusting God in certain situations I still found myself complaining. But then I realized that grumbling and complaining is just really accusing God of mismanaging your life.

What is quickly becoming one of my favorite books is Power in Praise
by Merlin Carothers. Here is his take on this subject:

"We can't change ourselves from unbelieving grumblers to thankful, cheerful believers. God has to do the changing. We must decide to stop complaining and start thanking and praising God, it is God's power that works the transformation.
Our job is to keep our eyes on Jesus and thank God for what He is able to do."

I think one of the biggest things we can do when we feel like God is short changing us is to: start loving God more than life itself, and love the person that God has made you to be. And remind yourself of this:

Psalm 139:14:

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation:The SeaLion

One of my all-time favorites at the zoo are the sea lions.I love the way these characters can hamm it up for spectators and bark for attention from the trainers.
Four years ago I got to spend some time at the zoo behind the scenes with these amazing creatures and their trainers and of course, I had a blast. They truly are one the most intelligent animals of God's creation.

The sea lions are one of 7 species of pinnipeds. And how can you tell a sea lion apart from the others? By the presence of: ear flaps, long front flippers,and they can walk on all four flippers on land. Along with their dog-like bark, these fellas teeth will eventually turn black. But no need to fear Mr.Dentist or Miss Hygienist! Whether they are in the wild or in captivity, these flippered felines teeth turn black due to a normal, healthy bacteria.

These guys love swimming and can seal their nose shut and swim underwater for up to 15 minutes. Wish I could do that!

The California Sea Lions are the most intelligent of this species and are so easily trained that you will find them at most any zoo you visit. And some are even used by the U.S. Navy:

The Navy trains and uses them to detect underwater land mines and for equipment recovery. Since these animals can swim silently underwater they are used in the Persian Gulf. They are trained to swim behind an enemy diver who may be approaching a ship, can attach a clamp(which is connected to a rope)and attach it to the enemy's leg in seconds without the diver ever knowing the clamp is attached to his leg.

Hmmm, perhaps these guys are the "real" Navy Seals.

The sea lions, another one of God's amazing creation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Major Miner Miracle

I am sure by now you have heard of the amazing rescue of the 33 miners in Chile who were trapped underground for a record 69 days beginning on August 5. The whole world watched diligently and many people prayed for a successful rescue.

Once the rescue officially began with the miners being successfully pulled up from underground individually,one rescue operator had commented that these men were "extraordinary lucky". And of course the media ran with those two words as far as the eye can see. But here are the facts to dispute that these men were "extraordinary lucky" but were a part of something far greater:

1. The miners were trapped a half-mile underground. If you were to take the Empire State building and stack a second Empire State building atop of it, that is as close to being how far these men actually were underground.

2. The safety shaft that these miners were trapped in held enough food to survive for 48 hours. They rationed this food to last 17 days before anyone was able to make contact with them. The first hole drilled to reach the men was the size of a grapefruit,the hole was then used to send down water and nutrition gels.

3. There were 700,000 pounds of rock between them and the earth's surface. The rescuers drilled 3 individual holes through this rock for 24 hours straight in shifts, and this went on for 52 days. Each hole had to be drilled with such precision in order to avoid any further collapse in any open spaces around the men.

4. The men were rescued on the 69th day of being underground in a dark and dusty, humid climate. Each man was raised individually by riding inside a capsule.

If this was all by extraordinary luck then that is one giant magic rabbit's foot someone was carrying!

This rescue operation will forever be a part of history and perhaps these lyrics to the worship song Might To Save should always accompany this piece of history:

He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lessons Learned From a Dog Named Hachiko

You may want keep a box of kleenex close by when reading this one.

After waiting a few months on Netflix it was finally "my turn" to watch the film
Hachiko starring Richard Gere. It is an adaptation (and a good one) of the true story of a dog who faithfully waited for his master who wasn't coming home. I will part ways with the Hollywood version and give you the real story:

Hachiko was an Akita mix and was born in Odate, Japan in 1923. The dog was 2 months old when he was given to Professor Uyeno in Tokyo. The two of them would become inseparable as the Professor obviously showed great love and affection towards the dog. Living in a small village in Tokyo, the Professor took the train at the Shibuya station to Imperial University everyday. Hachiko would accompany his master to the station everyday and would then return later to the station and wait for his master's return.

This went on consistently for two straight years and the local townspeople had taken notice of this amazing loyalty. And despite the fact Hachiko was only two years old, the bond between him and his master was strong.

Then one day the Professor did not return. He became ill and passed away at the University. Hachiko remained vigil in hopes of his master's return as he would return to the station everyday at 5 pm and wait. He would faithfully do this for the next nine years.

I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to stop for a moment to think about this: Hachiko went to the station everyday for nine years to wait for his master.

At times Hachiko would not return home for days at a stretch. You would find him at the station just waiting.

On March 8, 1935 Hachiko died at the very spot he waited each day for 9 years. The local townspeople erected a bronze statue in his honor at the Shibuya train station.

Today that statue is one of the largest tourist attractions in Tokyo.

This story is billed as one that represents: loyalty, faithfulness, and unconditional love. You do not have to necessarily be spiritual to relate to any of these character traits. If any of us want to be successful at our job, in our home, in our relationships, we need these characteristics within us.

A few days later and still pondering this story (I just cannot get this story out of my head), I began to also wonder this about Hachiko:

The dog was still young when his master died, so why didn't he have a short vigil and just go on being a dog and do the things that dogs enjoy doing?

Perhaps it was the unconditional love that he had received from his master, and so he chose to remain loyal and faithful and wait for his return.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation: The Giraffe

When someone mentions to you the giraffe you instinctively think of the animal with the long legs and long neck. So when you look at the unique features of this animal and see how they live, it makes you wonder who else but God could create such an animal.
This was part of a lunchtime conversation with some co-worker friends a couple of weeks ago.

Here are some interesting facts I found about this long-legged creature:

1. A new born giraffe measures about 6 feet

2. Every step a giraffe takes is 15 feet long, so if you were to walk alongside one
you would literally have to run to keep up with them.

3. A giraffe sleeps no more than 5-30 minutes in a 24 hour period.
How do they do that without caffeine is what I want to know!

4. Each time a giraffe lifts it's neck it is picking up 550 pounds.

5. A giraffe's heart is 24 pounds in weight and 2 feet in length.
And their blood pressure is twice that of a human.

And here is the most fascinating fact I found about this peaceful animal:

The elastic blood vessels in their necks makes it possible for them to drink water from a stream without fainting. And this is because their jugular vein contains many one-way valves that prevents the back flow of blood.

Next time you see a giraffe at your local zoo think of who created this
magnificent animal.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gotta Keep On Singing

Princess Giselle wakes up to an absolute mess in the apartment, opens the window and begins to sing.
All of a sudden birds fly through the window, squirrels, mice, and rats appear. The next thing you know the Princess is now prancing around the room with the vacuum and singing "The Happy Working Song", while the rats and mice are scrubbing the sinks, tub and toilet.

This is one of the many humorous scenes from the Disney film Enchanted. Now it's hard to imagine any of this actually happening if you were singing while cleaning your house and I would suspect you wouldn't want any mice or rats scrubbing your sink, tub or toilet either.

But I do think that singing while doing work, whether it be at your job or around the house, can have an effect on your attitude. And that is exactly what praise can do. In the morning it sets the tone for the rest of your day. Just like breakfast being the most important meal of the day, praise also brings the nourishment you need to start your day. Now this doesn't mean everyday will be a cartoon-land day like Princess Giselle, but your attitude will remain in check when something unexpected should happen to pop up.

I listen to praise music on my way to work. Listening and/or singing worship songs in the car on your way to work lifts you up to a higher level. Then while you are at work, if your fortunate to sit at a desk for some of your day
and are able to listen to music, put on or any worship music of your choice. If you work at a job that lets you listen to an IPOD with headphones then pump up some praise. Once you feel you are now in the flow of things spiritually, go ahead and seize the day.

The hardest part of praise is obviously when things are not going right for you and your struggling. You may be going through a financial crisis or maybe out of work, but if you have surpassed the believing in God stage and know you are in the trusting in God stage,then praising your way through it shouldn't be difficult for you.

But I know that it is still hard to praise God when you are wondering how that next bill is going to get paid. When you begin to praise God in all circumstances that's when your confidence in God begins to grow. And through that praise you are also reminding yourself that God is in control and He is going to come through for you.
God is bigger than the battle.

If you want peace in your life you have to put in the effort to get closer to God. Worship is a divine exchange between you and the Father.

For to be carnally minded is death,but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.(Romans 8:6)

To the spiritually minded we have the promise of life and peace. Isn't that what we all long for?

I'll leave you with a hymn of praise written by Isaiah at a time when he was struggling (12:1-3), this is one of my favorites because it reminds us of: who God is, what we gain from being close to Him,and why we should all praise Him:

O Lord, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For Yah, the Lord is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.

Therefore with joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Git Your Praize On

Marshmallows roasting on an open fire, moonlight shining on the bay,words of praise being spoken by a choir of men, git your praise on, git your praise on, one and all!

Last weekend at my church's men retreat we sat around a bonfire the first night and talked about the power of praise and how it keeps that spiritual fire within us still burning. Some 14 hours later that same bonfire was still smoldering. That is exactly was praise does.

And that power within our praise will only work when we put it into action everyday and not just on Sunday.

Praise places an important role in our lives.

Last week I also learned something new: the lesser the amount of water in a pot the quicker it will boil. So how does this relate to praise? I am so glad you asked!

If you tend to get angry quickly at anything pertaining to life, and you've reached that "boiling point", you may be in a dry season and need some more water in your pot. In other words, your soul needs more refreshing, this comes not just from God's Word but through praise.

If you attend church on Sunday and then go to work or school on Monday feeling crappy and mad at the world, then you didn't get the refreshing you need, your tank is empty and it needs to be refilled.
That is why praise is important everyday.

I have learned much through my church in the last couple of years about praise, how to praise, why to praise, and what praise does.
And now the way I approach each day with praise has made a world of difference in my life. So I think I would be remiss if I didn't help others to "git that praise out".

Before you can even conquer the world and your life with praise, you need to surpass from the believing in God stage(accept as truth) to the trust in God stage(having a full assurance). Once you have made the commitment to trust in God the praise should come more natural to you.

I'll share on my next post some simple steps that I do to help and encourage you to
"git your praise on".