Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Archive for July 2007

Penguin Sex and Faith

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This winter I read through Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz” and I wanted to share a humorous excerpt about penguin sex and faith to give you your chuckle for the day:

Tony and I were talking about Laura at the Horse Brass the other day; we were talking about belief, what it takes to believe, and he asked me h ow I believed in God.

I felt silly trying to explain it, even though Tony is a Christian. I felt as if I were saying I believed in Peter Pan or the Tooth Fairy, and yet I don’t believe in Peter Pan or the Tooth Fairy. I believe in God, and as I said before it feels so much more like something is causing me to believe than that I am stirring up belief. In fact, I would even say that when I started in faith I didn’t want to believe; my intellect wanted to disbelieve, but my soul, that deeper instinct, could no more stop believing in God than Tony could, on a dime, stop being in love with his wife. There are things you choose to believe, and the beliefs that choose you.

“You know what really helped me to understand why I believe in Jesus, Tony?”

“What’s that?”

“Penguins,” I told him.

“Penguins?”

“Penguins,” I clarified. “Do you know very much about penguins?”

“Nope.” Tony smiled. “Tell me about penguins.”

“I watched a nature show on OPB the other night about penguins. They travel in enormous groups, perhaps five hundred of them, and they swim north in the coldest winter, so far north they hit ice. They look like cartoon, like something out of the movie Fantasia. All five hundred of them swim till they hit ice then they jump out of the water, one by one, and start sliding on their bellies. They sort of create ruts as they slide, and they follow each other in a line. They do this for days, I think.”

“They slide on their bellies for days?” Tony asked.

“Days,” I told him,

“Why?”

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “But after awhile they stop sliding, and they get around in a big circle and start making noises. And what they are doing is looking for a mate. It’s crazy. It’s like a penguin nightclub or something – like a disco. They waddle around on the dance floor until they find a mate.’”

“Then what?” Tony asked, sort of laughing.

“Penguin sex,” I said.

“Penguin sex?”

“Yes. Penguin sex. Right there on television. I felt like I was watching animal porn.”

“What was it like?” he asked.

“Less than exciting,” I told him. “Sort of a letdown.”

“So what does penguins having sex have to do with their belief in God?” Tony asked.

“Well, I’m getting to that. But let me tell you what else they do. First, the females lay eggs. They do that standing up. The eggs fall down between their legs, which are about an inch or something long, and the females rest the eggs on their feet. Then, the males go over to the females and the females give the males the eggs. Then, and this is the cool part, the females leave. They travel for days back to the ocean and jump in and go fishing.”

“The females just take off and leave the men with the eggs?” Tony asked.

“Yes. The males take care of the eggs. They sit on them. They have this little pocket between their legs where the egg goes. They gather around in an enormous circle to keep each other warm. The penguins on the inside of the circle very slowly move to the outside, and then back to the inside. They do this to take turns on the outside because it is really cold. They do this for an entire month.”

“A month!”

“Yes. The males sit out there on the eggs for a month. They don’t even eat. They just watch the eggs. Then the females come back, and right when they do, almost to the day, the eggs are hatched. The females somehow know, even though they have never had babies before, the exact day to go back to the males. And that is how baby penguins are made.”

“Very interesting.” Tony clapped for me.” So what in the analogy here?”

“I don’t know, really. It’s just that I identified with them. I know it sounds crazy, but as I watched I felt like I was one of those penguins. They have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day thier babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly to me. Maybe it isnt so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me.”

Tony smiled at my answer. He lifted his glass of beer. “Here’s to penguins,” he said.

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Written by Ryan

July 31, 2007 at 8:45 am

Another Josh Garrels Clip

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I posted a YouTube clip of Josh Garrels last week and I came across another gem that I wanted to post. This clip is of him performing “Freedom” and I’m hoping I can find an MP3 version of this performance on the ‘net. Can someone help me out with this?

Written by Ryan

July 30, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Christian, Music, YouTube

Patience

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I’d add my own thoughts but Mathew Rauch summed them up best when he wrote:

There’s just something in our flesh, in our human nature, that wants to earn what we get. We want to fix our own problems, and many of us have a lot of trouble with this verse: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, TNIV). We want to be self-made men and women. But the scripture goes on “ … not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9,TNIV).

The problem is that many of us are constantly trying to work. We are constantly trying to do, but God is waiting for us to cease to do. Here’s the point; in the words of Watchman Nee, “The Christian experience does not begin with a big do; it begins with a big done.

There’s profound truth in that simple statement. How many times can I look back at my life and see a continuous history of me being so caught up in “ministry” that I’m not really ministering? We busy ourselves in an effort to accomplish God’s will for ourselves, but it’s time to stop and let God’s will be accomplished in us.

Written by Ryan

July 27, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Rest

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I’m reading through a book by Steve Case called God Is Here and a section of the book that caught my attention is when he wrote:

Imagine the greatest rest stop in the world. You are on a road trip, and the drive is long and hard. You are out of munchies. You’ve listened to that one CD too many times, and all the radio stations are sounding the same.This rest stop has a gift shop the size of a mall. Everything is on sale. The food looks great. Fresh fruit and sandwiches instead of overpriced vending machine cheese-and-peanut-butter crackers.

There’s a guy standing nearby with a guitar, playing music. He’s good. He’s selling CD’s for $5 each. The bathrooms are immaculate. You buy a sandwich and a slice of fresh apple pie. You sit on a clean bench and listen to the man sing. You plan to buy the CD for the road….

Are you going to stop and think, “this is so nice, maybe I’ll just spend my vacation here?” No. You are going to rest and then continue on. Brother Lawrence said that to stop moving forward, even if you are really, really comfortable, is to move backward. The longer you stay at this rest stop, the closer you are to where you started.

One of the hardest things in the world is to move on. To get back in the car and keep driving even though you know you have a longer drive ahead of you than you do behind you. But you keep going anyway.

You may have noticed as you begin to live the spiritual life that the little things don’t bother you like they did. The life you are living is just fine. You start to think, “yeah, this is good. I can stay here.” but you can’t. Just like you can’t stay at the rest stop, you can’t stop during your spiritual journey. The presence of God is a continuing process. You keep going. You keep trying. You keep connecting because that is simply what you have to do. If the threat that you could wind up back where you started isn’t enough, then the goal of what you could become should be.

The road hurts. There’s construction. There are long delays. A drunk driver is weaving in and out of cars, just missing your bumper before cutting back into the lane and avoiding a head-on collision.

So you pop in your new CD. The voice fills your car and eases your aching shoulders. The melody is sweet, and you start to sing along.

How often have you found yourself content when God has something bigger and better planned for you? I know I have – far too many times – and I’m thankful for God urging me to keep moving despite my laziness wanting to get in the way.

Written by Ryan

July 26, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Books, Christian, Steve Case

Josh Garrels

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I have a hard time getting into Christian artists so I’m stoked to find two artists this summer that I can blast from my iPod. The first was Jeremy Camp (who I’ve gotten my buddies hooked on as well) and the latest is a new artist called Josh Garrels. His official site has some free MP3’s you can download and I embedded a YouTube clip of my favourite song (Joyful Boy ) so that you can check him out doing a live performance. Enjoy!

Written by Ryan

July 25, 2007 at 10:33 am

Posted in Christian, MP3, Music, YouTube

Interruptions

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After heading away to a buddies cottage this weekend I’m really digging an article by Austin Bonds called “Interruptions.”

He begins his article by writing:

Interruptions inundate us daily, stealing our attention, deflecting our thoughts elsewhere. Let me illustrate with a quick example…as I write this article, a lawn mower is humming outside the window; I received a phone call moments ago; the television is on in the next room. I have always been fascinated with teenagers who complete homework with headphones on, concurrently posting messages on MySpace. Ironically, many perform very well academically, unimpeded by a phenomenon society as a whole continues to master–multitasking.

This past winter through some sermons, books I’ve read and conversations that I’ve had with friends I’ve realized the importance of setting aside one day a week where I don’t log online and I try to do other things to uphold the Sabbath so that I can clear my head and attempt to spend some time with God. Do you have any idea how hard that is for an ADD kid like myself? Wow! I’ve tried to keep Sunday’s as my chill day but even during the NFL season I find myself getting antsy by dinner time and jonesing to log onto Facebook or fire off some email to friends. Shortly after dinner I find myself starting to create excuses to log on and check my email or surf the ‘net and most days I can have the self control to win that battle. However, there are countless days where I crumble like a cookie and can’t hold out. What is it about the need to feel connected via email and my cell phone that provides such a strong pull?

Heading into this weekend I knew I’d be like a coffee addict going into withdrawal without my laptop but I refused to buckle to my addiction to feel “connected” and I left it at home. My cell phone, however, was a whole other issue. I kept it turned off for the majority of the weekend but I would turn it on for a bit each evening to listen to my voicemails and respond to text messages that were rolling in.

While reading through Austin’s article I couldn’t help but chuckle when he wrote:

As unwelcome and unwanted as interruptions are from time to time, they keep us on our toes. They can create a moment of aghast shock, a jarring of the mind. I recently listened to a radio program and will never forget this humbling phrase: “One phone call can change your life.” Sadly, a full and joyous life degrades through this mindset; anxiety and fear begin to control thought patterns. But interruptions are the quintessential unknown, the essence of uncertainty. They are unavoidable in life. There is another side to this coin though. Interruptions break the ebb and flow of monotony, the slump a typical work week exacts. Joy surfaces when a friend calls to spend time catching up. Glee rises when an unexpected bonus finds its way to your desk. Delight ascends when a child takes his or her first steps.

For some odd reason as much as I loved the peace I enjoyed while away from “life” I also feel a strong desire to still feel connected to what was going on back home. Why is that I needed the distraction from the calm and tranquility of the cottage?

Written by Ryan

July 24, 2007 at 1:32 am

Posted in Austin Bonds, Christian

Disquietude

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Something that you’ll realize about me as you read through my blog is that I have a really hard time being still. I’d like to blame it on the fact that I have ADD and I’m a hyper hypo but the reality is that I just need to take some time each day with God and find ways to focus during church sermons.

While reading through Steve Case’s book “God Is Here” this point was hammered home when he wrote:

Disquietude is a very cool word. It means to have feelings of anxiety or uneasiness that makes you tense or irritable. Too often this is how we approach God. Ken Davis, a noted speaker, often says, “there isn’t a parent in this room who has not spent a Sunday morning with their hands around the throat of a child they love dearly.”

Getting up and going to church becomes an ordeal. We sit in pews and think of the things we could be doing. We concentrate with intensity on ripping the check out of the checkbook one perforation at a time, oping that no one will hear the cht… cht… cht…cht.

We notice the cobwebs in the lights. We notice the noise our stomachs make. We notice whose kids are brats. We notice that the choirmaster is drifting off and leaning slightly to port. We notice that there are exactly seven spelling errors or grammatical errors in the bulletin and wonder why they don’t use spell check.

Part of the problem is that when we go to church, we think we are an audience. More and more churches are being built like theatres. There’s a stage, a light show, a drop-down screen and a sound system with a killer band. All the focus is on the stage. Pastors become actors and eventually stars.

If you travel outside of the United States, you find that the churches in other countries, by their very architecture, are designed to lift the face, lift the voice, lift the spirit. The congregation is not an audience. The choir, the pastor, the people sitting in the pews, the band, the liturgist, or any other worship “helper” are all part of the same worship experience. God is the audience. The pastor and the congregation are on equal tier. We are there to worship God… together.

Next Sunday instead of giggling at the mistakes in the church bulletin or making excuses instead of reading my bible I’m going to think back to this excerpt. Then, hopefully instead of making excuses on why I don’t need to be still instead I’ll realize the benefits of slowing down and allowing God to speak to me.

Written by Ryan

July 23, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Books, Christian, Steve Case