Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The other day I saw a church sign that read:

Thanksgiving is good, but thanks living is better

Having a heart of thanksgiving everyday, what a novel idea!

But sometimes it is hard to have a grateful heart when you are going through a difficulty. My Pastor often reminds us to look at what we have and where we live and compare it to places that don't have any of these essential items: We have a Walgreens drugstore at every major intersection to buy our medications. There are several choices of grocery stores within reach that have aisles upon aisles of food at our disposal. We have running water,flushing toilets,bathtubs and showers with clean water. In some countries this would be called living in luxury.

I often reflect back to the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
penned by Horatio Sprafford back in the 1800's. He wrote this hymn after losing his daughters in an accident out on the ocean. Not only did he have to endure this but he had lost much of the property he owned in the Chicago Fire a short time before this. Yet he was able to say in the worst of times, "It is well with my soul."

We all know that our faith grows the most through our circumstances, and we sometimes
probably even ask ourselves, "Why can't my faith just grow during the good things in life?"

Here's one good answer,which comes from the book Power in Praise:

Why can't our faith grow in pleasant, easy circumstances? It can, and as we come to trust and rely more and more on God's promises, it does. But the purifying, the testing of our faith, comes through circumstances that are a challenge to our determination to believe, trust, and rely on God's word, in spite of what our senses tells us. For too long we've trusted our senses, our emotions, and our intellect to dictate our beliefs. We must break that habit in order to exercise faith.

Remember, faith means a deliberate determination to believe something we can't see or feel the evidence of.

So if God is telling us He's working everything out for our good, and we see everything go wrong, our faith grows when we stand on God's word and thank Him for everything that happens.

I guess this would be called Thankful Living. May we all find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation: The Pelican

The pelicans are one of the more unique birds that is so easily recognizable. They definitely stand out in a crowd with their large pouched bill. These birds can easily catch fish just by opening their mouth and expanding their throat pouch in the water. But once they reach a surface above the water they need to drain all that water before actually swallowing their meal.

One of the pelicans more acrobatic acts is that of catching the large fish. They use their bill-tip to snag a large fish than toss the fish into the air and catch it with their open mouth. Mmmm, fresh fish sounds good, doesn't it?

There are 8 species of pelicans and they can all be found in the warm regions of all continents except Antarctica. In our region you will most likely find them in the Gulf states and Louisiana has the distinct pleasure of having the pelican as it's state bird.

In the two above pictures you see some pelicans who were rescued from the recent BP oil spill. If you look closely you can see a discoloration on their feathers. These birds were brought to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago as part of a global rescue operation. The pelicans you see here are able to do everything but fly. After residing at the zoo for a few months they will be sent to a wildlife preserve to live out the rest of their lives.

This is just another example of the importance of supporting your local zoo.

The pelicans are unique birds that fall into that special group we call
God's creation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dressed For Success

No,this is not a report from the fashion police,and no snoddy remarks from Joan Rivers, nor am I going to try to persuade you to switch your clothing attire. But I will try to point out to you a whole different approach into your dressing for success.

If you follow football and even if you don't but watch other sports, you are aware of the team with the star on their helmet and coming from Texas. Better known as America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Two weeks ago they fired their coach after starting off with a 1-7 record. They were a team destined to go to the Super Bowl because of all of their talent. But talent alone does not make a team. These players were undisciplined. So a new coach was brought in and laid down the law on them. Along with taking a strict approach to discipline, the coach is making them wear suits on their flights to and from road games.His reasoning on this was that he wanted the players to have respect for the team and the city they were playing for and to have some pride when representing that star on their helmets. It worked as they finally won another game this past Sunday.

About three years ago a Pastor at a large church in California had his congregation wear their faith on their sleeve, or should I say wrist. The month-long experiment was this:

Each member was given a bracelet to wear that included words of faith on them. They would wear the bracelet on their left wrist and then whenever they found themselves grumbling and complaining or having a lack of faith they would switch the bracelet to the other wrist.

At the end of the month just about everyone had switch their bracelets from wrist to wrist several times. The pastor himself even exclaimed he had switched his so many times that the bracelet actually broke.

This experiment was more than just a test of their faith. It was to make the members more conscious of their faith.

If you are a believer and know the Word of God than you should be familiar with the passages instructing us to put on the whole Armor of God each day of our lives.(Ephesians 6)

But just as Jesus instructed His Disciples, He instructs us to have faith in God and do not doubt in your heart, but believe.

Wearing your faith on your sleeve and living it out each day represents well that Christ is in your heart and is an important part of your life.

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."


Friday, November 12, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation: The Sled Dogs

One of the few outdoor winter events I enjoy viewing is the sled dog races held at the local Arboretum every January. There is nothing more incredible than hearing 45 dogs all howling together in the cold winter air, as they wait to be hitched up to their sleds. It is amazing to see how excited these dogs get when its their turn to run.

Today there are many distinct breeds of dogs used in racing. Some of the more well known pure breeds are: the Alaskan Husky, Alaskan Malamute,and the Siberian Husky.

A sled dog team consists of the leader dogs, then the point dogs, the swing dogs, and finally the wheel dogs. And obviously the lead dogs are the fastest, but the wheel dogs at the end are just as important, they are the dogs that are powerful enough to pull the sled out of heavy snow. It is in the blood of these distinct breeds to run for miles,to love the cold frigid air, and to pull a fairly large amount of weight(up to 85 lbs.). Dogs have been used for work since the 10th century; most notably during the Gold Rush Era.

The Alaskan Iditarod race is probably the most famous sled dog race, and has been around since 1973 and begins on the first Saturday of March. The race covers over 1100 miles in 9 to 15 days. To train for this race some sled teams will run up to 2,000 miles in the months leading up to the big race. The race itself has 26 checkpoints where veterinarians stand by to check the health and safety of each dog. Each dog has to go through a health inspection prior to the race as well. At certain checkpoints the teams camp out overnight to rest the dogs.

The record time for the winner in this race was this past March; just 51 seconds short of 9 days.

The sled dog races have grown in popularity in the Midwest the past few years and I can see why.

These dogs are very special and unique. They are one of God's great creation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Know God, Know Peace, No Fear

I still marvel at the fearlessness of these big guys as they choose to nap in the strangest positions in such high places. They can choose the smallest of branches and lie there in complete peace with no fear.

Having peace within our everyday lives can be a daily chore. We all struggle with it at one time or another. Whether it's a circumstance we are facing,a physical ailment suddenly occurs, our life isn't going the way we want it to be, or we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes, these can all be obstacles to our having peace.

Charles Dickens suggests-

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."

When we choose to remember our present blessings and go to God with our circumstances and make the decision to follow and trust in Him then peace will overtake our fear.

The other day I was driving through a neighborhood on my lunch break. With the unseasonably warm weather my windows were down. At the doorstep of one house stood a very large hawk gawking at a large hedge as I could hear many small birds hiding inside the hedge.A large hawk will not attempt to go inside a hedge because he would get stuck in there. So these small birds knew where to go for that "hedge of protection" from their enemy.(sorry for the use of a pun here!)

The best place for us to run to for that "hedge of protection" is to God. He is our source of strength, comfort, protection, and peace. And nothing or no one can take that away from us.

Here's another thought from the book Power in Praise:

Just look at all the provisions our Father in heaven has made for us- every blessing in heaven. Not because we are worthy, but because we belong to Christ!

If you belong to Christ and are walking in faith then you should be walking in peace.

And when you do have peace, you should be able to confess in all things,"Whatever is front of me I choose to sing Hallellujah!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Inspiration Through Creation:The Panda Bear

The Panda Bears are one of my favorites of the warm and fuzzy animals.Their uniqueness is obviously in their black and white patches and scientists have absolutely no explanation as to why all Pandas are born with these patches. When Pandas are born they typically weigh only 3-7 oz.and the male bear can grow up to 330 pounds.They are part of the bear family, are an endangered species, and live in the habitat of China.

If you live in the United States you may find the Panda Bears living in only 4 zoos:
San Diego, Memphis, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. The reason why they are only in a small amount of zoos is simple: it costs each zoo $1 million dollars per year on a ten-year contract with the Chinese government.

I live in the Chicago area so I found it interesting that the first Panda bear (named Su Lin) to live in our country was at Brookfield Zoo in 1936.

A couple of interesting facts about these fuzzy bears:

1. Their diet consists of 99 percent bamboo.

2. In the wild of China these bears do not hibernate, they just seek an elevation with warmer temps.

3. Instead of visual memory they navigate by spatial memory which is recording information in their brain like us humans.

On my last visit to San Diego Zoo I was blessed to view these remarkable animals and watch one of them use his climbing skills. He casually climbed up a tree, sat on the highest branch for about 60 seconds, then retreated back down.

Thanks for the show Mr. Panda Bear, you are definitely a unique animal and one of God's great creation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Crafts,Chikin, and The Baylor Bears

"Welcome to Atlanta, where it is proper to eat chikin"--a cow dressed as
Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind.

"Chikin zone next 3,000 miles"-- a cow in a safety vest in a construction zone.

These are a couple of the humorous billboards posted in the southern states for

This chicken fast-food restaurant, second largest to KFC, has been expanding to other areas of the country, including the Chicagoland area. They may be famous for their chicken, but they are also recognized as being one of the few businesses that is closed on Sunday. And they've been doing it since 1967. The owner, Truett Cathy, wasn't a big fan of working on Sundays, no matter what job he had, and says,

"I don't want to ask people to do what I myself am not willing to do."

His other reason to be closed on Sunday was of course,

"Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than business."

So even with today's fluttering economy, here is a business that chooses to honor God first and finds themselves prospering and growing. They even have a college bowl game named after them: The Chik-Fil-A Bowl.

Another business that is still thriving amidst the economy and chooses to honor God by staying closed on Sunday is Hobby Lobby, which began in 1972. As soon as you come up to one of their entrances you will find a sign on each door: We are closed on Sundays so that our employees can spend time with family and worship.

This arts and crafts store now has close to 500 stores in the U.S. One of the unique things you will find when you visit one of their stores is the fact that they do not use a bar code pricing system on the items they sell. This allows them to stay competitive with other stores.

And finally we have the University of Baylor Bears football team. One of their alumnus,worship leader David Crowder, wrote a new fight song for the Bears called "Rise Up". The football team is now off to one of it's greatest seasons ever as they stand at 7-2 and are ranked in the top twenty in the nation.

When you mix God into everything you do, you will succeed.

Remember: Impossible is not a word, it's a reason not to try.