The Morning

Good morning, God. I know it is early and You’ve been up all night, but Your Word says you never sleep so I figured I could bug you now. I had a lot of fun last night talking to a new friend until it was late. Even though I slept pretty well, I’m awake at 5:00 AM with all kinds of thoughts whirling in my head. They’re not necessarily bad things but they are keeping me from resting. Do You mind if I give them to You? It amazes me that You can listen to all of Your children at once and pay total attention to every one. If You can do that, You can handle the song that is looping in my brain, the ideas for craft projects, and my plans for the week. I may not be able to get back to sleep now that I’ve been this awake, but I can rest in bed until I’m ready to get up. Or until my alarm goes off – whichever comes first. Thank You, God, for being there, for listening, and for caring about something so small.
“Casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

The Little One

 A lot of times when we visit zoos, we like to see the “unusual” animals – the smallest species, the largest, the fastest, or the strongest. In some cases, we ooo and ahhh over rare colour variations like white tigers and albino pythons. As a penguin keeper, I’ve always kind of hoped one of my penguins would hatch out in a unique colour variation called leucism. Leucistic animals simply have less pigment in their scales, hair, fur, or feathers so they are a lighter or sometimes pure white version of the normal colouring. This sounds like I’m describing an albino animal but the difference is that leucistic animals still have the normal skin and eye colour where albino animals have no pigment there either. The white tigers I mentioned before are good examples. They still have stripes but they are lighter brown and the orange areas are white instead, but if you look at their eyes and lips, you will see they are the normal colour. Leucistic penguins end up having white feathers in the normal places and blonde feathers where they should have black or grey feathers. 

 

A leucistic African Penguin among his naturally coloured counterparts


Our colony of penguins has yet to produce a leucistic chick, but we recently had another type of unique baby: the smallest African Penguin I’ve ever seen. His name is Thumper and though all penguin chicks are adorable, he has an extra measure of cute! The average weight of one of our penguins is between 2.8 and 3.3 kilograms (around 7-12 pounds). The other two chicks raised with Thumper, Chip and Marty, weigh right around 3.0 kilograms. Thumper weighs just 2.0 kilograms. Thumper is just small proportioned all over. He has tiny feet, a short beak, and dainty wings. In fact, when we put his identification band on his wing, we only used 4 plastic beads instead of the usual 6 because that would have made the band wider than his wing. I love all of the birds I care for, but I readily admit that Thumper holds a special place in my heart.

 

Left to right: Chip, Thumper, and Marty

 
When Jesus was on Earth, He often picked the unusual people to pay attention to. Not the ones we would pick: the strongest, the smartest, the richest, or the best looking. He chose the weak, the humble, the faithful, the willing, and the child-like. Even His disciples were the “wrong” people for someone who was expected to save the world. Most had ordinary jobs like being fishermen. And yet, God used every single person that Jesus chose for great things. Even if that great thing was just going back to their town and telling their friends and family about Him. It is actually a wonderful thing to realize that God doesn’t need us to be extraordinary before He can use us. He makes us extraordinary when we are willing to be chosen by Him.

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7

The View from the Top

I was cleaning the outdoor area of the Penguin exhibit today when a small songbird flew over my head. I looked up and followed the path of its flight until it disappeared to the other side of the building beside me. But right beside, and far above, the path of the bird’s flight was another flying creature – an airplane. All I could see was its silvery white belly and two long lines of condensation trailing off the back. It looked like a very small toy. Then I thought about what the view from the plane would be like and realized the passengers wouldn’t even be able to see me from that distance. I was less than a toy – a speck. I remembered taking flights on many trips home and on vacations. Looking out of the windows, I would sometimes try to pick out something to distinguish the landscape below me. Usually, I can’t even figure out which giant city I am flying over. From up that high, everything looks small, insignificant, and all so similar.

We usually think of Heaven being up beyond the sky, yet we know that space is above the sky that we see. Even if it were just above the outer reach of Earth’s atmosphere, that would put God much higher above where that airplane was flying! There are times when it certainly feels like God is that far away. What is amazing is that God isn’t that distant. He isn’t looking down on the Earth and dealing with us at the level of countries and cities. He looks down and sees us as individuals. He saw me today, standing on the Penguin island. He sees me right now, sitting on my couch and typing. He sees you, and is right there for you, always.

“So she called the Lord who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, ‘In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?'” Genesis 16:13

The Father

One of the most common questions I am asked about penguins is “Do they really mate for life?” My usual answer is that I prefer to call them “long term pairs.” One reason is that if a bird loses their mate for any reason, they will find a new one. The other reason is a bird named Penelope.

I’ve seen most of my penguins flirt with each other, but Penelope is something else. In the few years Penelope has been in my zoo, sh has had 3 mates, none of which were “lost,” and has had trysts with a couple other males. Because her genes are important to the penguin breeding program, she’s pretty much approved to raise chicks with all of the males she has paired with. The only problem is keeping track of who is the father! We’ve actually looked into having som of her offspring DNA tested to be sure they are carrying the important genes the breeding program is looking for.

As important as a family tree is in breeding zoo animals, it was considered even more important in ancint Israel. The Bible is full of lists of names showing the lineage of important figures. If you couldn’t trace your family, you were looked down on. So you would think that when God sent His Son to be born on earth, He would have chosen a family with a prestigious pedigree. Though the Bible does trace Jesus’ family back to King David as the prophets promised, His parentage was questioned from the beginning.

Joseph must have been shocked when his fiancé told him she was pregnant. He knew he wasn’t the father and the explanation Mary offered seemed ridiculous. He was ready to break off their engagement. Only a direct message from an angel reassured him.

So, as important as a person’s parentage was, the most important Person in history was considered illegitimate, except by those who put their faith in Him.

The Cure

Personal Anxiety Cure

  1. Pray – say a quick prayer about your anxiety and then switch to praying for someone else.
  2. Sing – sing a hymn or praise song… or hum, or whistle, or play it in your head.
  3. Occupy yourself – make a meal from scratch, talk to someone about them, work on a craft project, play a video game.
  4. Do something comforting – drink a cup of tea, take a bath… drink a cup of tea in the bath.
  5. When you suddenly realize that your anxiety is gone, repeat steps 1 and 2, this time in thanks.

The Recipe

I’m a bit of a nerd. It’s no secret. My nerd-doms include Sci-Fi TV shows, superhero movies, and fantasy video games. I definitely watch more Youtube than I do TV. But probably the biggest thing I’m into is the video game Minecraft. During my downtime, If I’m not playing Minecraft, chances are I’m watching someone play it on Youtube. Sometimes, I’m doing both at the same time. If you haven’t seen it, Minecraft is a game in which the computer generates a random world full of trees, rocks, and animals for you to explore and use the elements of to build pretty much anything you feel like. There are Furnace recipe

hundreds of things you can make, from the humble wooden pick axe to the useful enchanting table. And each thing needs to be made using a specific set of items in a specific order. The image to the left shows the crafting recipe for a simple item: the furnace. Everyone who plays Minecraft quickly learns these simple shapes and the basic elements that go into them. If that isn’t enough for you, you can add mods to your Minecraft game, adding hundreds and even thousands more items with their corresponding crafting recipes.Pump recipe Here’s the recipe for a relatively simple machine called a pump. The red stuff at the top (redstone dust) and the iron ingots on the sides are basic elements included in the normal Minecraft game, but the red tank, gold pipe and iron gears that make the rest of the item all have to crafted with their own recipes. I could tell you how to make them off the top of my head, but I won’t bore you with that.

If I can remember all of these crazy video game things, why do I have a hard time remembering really basic things like “God loves me” and “Put others first?” My brain is such a sponge for relatively useless things that it fills up and has no more room for the big, important things. In my devotion time recently, I was reading about the Israelites crossing the Jordan River as they finally entered the Promised Land. The river was full to overflowing with seasonal runoff and seemed impossible to cross, but God had a plan. He commanded the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant to wade out into the water, and when they did, God held back the whole river. The water hit an invisible wall and would go no further. As long as the priests with the Ark stood in the riverbed, the Israelites were able to walk across to the other side on dry land. You would think something like that would be completely unforgettable, but in Joshua chapter 4, God commands Joshua to “Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.” (Joshua 4:2-3). Why would God have them pick up 12 probably ordinary looking stones and carry them from one place to another? “So that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore, these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” (Joshua 4:6-7)

It seems silly that such a direct and miraculous work of God would need a physical reminder to cause parents to tell their children about it. Clearly, God knows how the human brain works. He knows that we clutter our memories with names of fictional characters, lists of likes and dislikes, words and melodies of songs, and silly digital building instructions. Just like the Israelites, I need reminders of how great my God is. There are many of them around. I just have to look at them with the eyes of a child and ask, “What does this tell me about God?”

The Static

As is common in zoos, most employees at my zoo carry walkie talkies so we can communicate throughout the park. Being able to make a zoo wide announcement about a lost child or call the vet about a sick animal without trying to get them on the phone makes a big difference. Recently, there have been a few incidences of interference on our radios that make it impossible for people to use them. It sounds like the channel is “open” without anyone talking. This can happen if you are somehow leaning on the broadcast button without knowing it. We tend to call it “sitting on your radio.”

For about 15 minutes this morning, the radio was emitting a quiet static, interrupted only by the occasional robotic squawk as someone else tried to talk. Eventually, the static of an open radio channel went away as someone stood up off of their radio. Almost as soon as the channel cleared, the people who had been unable to communicate started taking it in turns to make their calls: “Ready to shift Polar Bears onto exhibit,” “The pump is up and running again,” and “Are you ready for a garbage pick up?”

I wondered what the person who had been sitting on their radio must have thought about the prolonged radio silence and then sudden burst of activity. It may have even been annoying if they were waiting for someone to call them that whole time, not knowing that they were the ones preventing the call from coming. That made me think about how often we think God is silent. We may even be waiting specifically to hear from Him but there is just silence between us. We tend to blame God for not speaking. I’m sure it is more common for us to not be listening. Sometimes we’re even actively blocking Him out! I have ears capable of hearing, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m always listening. Anyone who has ever said “I’m sorry. What did you say?” knows that distractions – both other sounds and intruding thoughts – can keep us from actually hearing and taking in what someone has said. Isaiah 42:20 says, “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” Even Jesus, who had crowds of people following Him around to hear Him speak, said in Matthew 13:13 “This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

Just as someone who is accidentally leaning on their walkie talkie isn’t meaning to block people out, we may not be purposefully tuning out God’s voice. We may simply need to purposefully listen.

Micah 1:2a “Listen, all you peoples; pay attention, earth and everyone in it!”
John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”