Just beathe.

1Praise the Lord!  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven. 2Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!  3Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!  4Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!  5Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.  6Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord! ( Psalm 150:1-6)  But first, just breathe.

Just Breathe
Just Breathe

Continue reading Just beathe.

Rats and Bats

Did you ever have a verse of scripture suddenly jump out at you, seemingly for no particular reason? On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rats and bats. (Isaiah 2:20)

Rats and Bats

As you probably can tell, Isaiah rarely minced words.  When God gave him a message, he spoke it no matter what.  In the verses around this “rats and bats” passage, he tells Judah and Jerusalem the good and bad of what will happen when God returns.

He starts by telling what the actual reign of God will be like:   1This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:  2In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all—the most important place on earth.  It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.  3People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God.  There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.  4The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes.  They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:1-4)  It will be a time of peace under the reign of the Lord.

Unfortunately,  Judah was much like many of us today.  The people had lost their focus on God and were spending their time and energy on worthless idols.  These idols were things made by human hands.  There was nothing magical or otherworldly about them.  Whether they were statues, or groves of trees, or golden calves, or money or important positions, or sexual prowess, or power–are these starting to sound more like our current times?  Remember, History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

So, even though our idols may be different on the surface, human nature has always remained the same.  And we still make the same mistake in focusing more of our attention, time, money, and energy on things other than God.  Some of us try to fool ourselves by attending church on Sunday and making regular financial gifts.  We might even become involved in some sort of charitable work to make us feel good about ourselves.  When the time of the Lord’s return comes, 18Idols will completely disappear.  19When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground.  They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty.  20On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship.  They will leave their gods to the rats and bats, 21while they crawl away into caverns and hide among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.  They will try to escape the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty as he rises to shake the earth.  22Don’t put your trust in mere humans.  They are as frail as breath.  What good are they? (Isaiah 2:18-22)

Frail as breath.  Not much hope in other humans or those idols, is there?  Besides, I really don’t like rats and bats.

Act Your Age!

I can’t remember how many times I heard my mother admonish me by saying, “Act your age!”  It usually had to do with something I did or said, which seemed  more appropriate to someone much younger than myself.  It might have been the time that I filled my pockets with ants and brought them home to create my own ant farm. Or the time I ruined a perfectly good baseball bat by using rocks to practice my hitting.  Or maybe the time I invited several of my friends (male and female) to follow me into our bathroom, where we stood in line waiting for our turn.  Picture my mother’s expression when she saw all of us jammed into our tiny bathroom each taking our turn.  Her expression must have been priceless.

Act Your Age
Act Your Age

The problem with acting your age is summed up by the poster above, because no matter what age you are, you don’t know how to act your age because you’ve never been that age before.  But there ought to be something different about you as you continue to age.  As children, it’s pretty obvious.  You grow…lots!  You learn to talk and walk.  Then you go to school and church where every day is a learning experience in knowledge, physical training, sociability, and spirituality.  Then it’s off to college or into the work force and marriage and a home and kids.  And at each of those steps, we start out in a position of not knowing how to act.  And, believe me, at first it is just an act.  Anyone who thinks they know how to behave properly in a delivery room as their first child is being born, is either very foolish or not very truthful.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth, 1Dear brothers and sisters,a when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.b I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.c 2I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. (I Corinthians 3:1-3)  It was as if an older child continued to need baby’s milk instead of solid food.  Paul was telling these young Christians, “Act your age!”

In his letter to the Hebrews, he wrote,  12You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.c You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Age is inevitable.  Maturity is a choice.  And it’s a choice we need to make every day because we’ve never been this age before.  So, starting today and through every additional day God grants you, learn something new, do something different, make a new friend, and with each change, act your age!

Who in the world is Benaiah

The Bible is filled with people who are only mentioned briefly.  Yet their deeds are awe-inspiring.  Benaiah is one such man.  So who in the world is Benaiah?  He was the son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. (I Chronicles 11:22)

Who in world is Benaiah?
Who in the world is Benaiah?

This is one of the most obscure yet courageous acts ever recorded in Scripture.  Yet, who is the world is Benaiah?  His father was Jehoida, a leader among the priests, who rallied 3,700 men to support David when he was crowned at Hebron.  His grandfather was a “valiant warrior” and they came from Kabzeel, a town of Judah situated along the borders of Edom in the extreme south. (Joshua 15:21)

I mean what kind of man chases a lion into a pit on a snowy day to fight it to the death?  And those two men from Moab, are described in the KJV as lion-like men–definitely no pushovers.  Another time he fought with an Egyptian, and while the Egyptian might not have been the equal of the giant Goliath, his height was still five cubits, which figures out to be about seven feet tall.  Plus the Egyptian had a huge spear.  so Benaiah took it away from him and killed him with it.

So who in the world is Benaiah?  He was the man David later chose to be the Captain of his bodyguard.  He was renowned among “the thirty” of David’s mighty men, and was with David as he went on the run during Absalom’s rebellion.  But David lived.  Benaiah did his job well.  Suffice to say, he became one of King David’s right-hand men.  And he was also there when Adonijah tried to usurp the throne from Solomon.  He then served as commander-in-chief under Solomon.

So who in the world is Benaiah?  He was a man like you or me who found himself in dangerous situations.  but it’s worth noting that he didn’t just meet the situation.  He didn’t play it safe and leave, hoping the lion wouldn’t see him. He didn’t wait to see what the lion was going to do.  He didn’t worry about falling into the pit because of the snowy ground.  He chased the lion into the pit and killed it.  And that’s what made him the kind of man King David and King Solomon wanted to help defend the kingdom.  A simple man who stepped out of his simple life and to become a key figure in the lives of his kings and nation.

How about you? Have you chased any lions lately?  For some reason, God likes to get us out of our comfort zone by “chasing lions” and/or jumping into pits.  That’s when we begin to rely on Him because we have no one else to look to and nowhere else to go.  And when we do, he turns us into mighty warriors able to defeat lions, giants, and armies.  So be on the lookout for roaming lions.  Remember that the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8)  And his final resting place will be a bottomless pit in a lake of fire.  I think I’d rather chase lions into a pit on a snowy day.

Neoteny

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)  A warning from Jesus dealing with neoteny.  Neoteny…it derives from the Greek word neos, which means “new, fresh, or youthful. It’s the retention of youthful qualities by adults.”  According to Warren Bennis and Robert Tomas, neoteny is more than retaining a youthful appearance.  It’s the retention of those wonderful qualities that we associate with youth: curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, and energy.

Neoteny
Neoteny

Creativity in the Young or the Old (Neoteny)

Gordon MacKenzie, a worker at Hallmark did a number of creative workshops for elementary schools.   He would start by asking the kids upfront: “How many artists are there in the room?”  In the first grade, the entire class waved their arms like maniacs.  Every child was an artist.  In the second grade, about half the kids raised their hands.  In the third grade, he’s get about ten out of thirty kids.  And by the time he got to the sixth grade, only one or two kids would tentatively and self-consciously raise their hands.

By the time the students had reached the sixth grade, the world around them had ground down the potential for greatness  by its pressure to be normal.  Harry Chapin wrote “Flowers are Red” back in 1978 (when I was still a teenager) that seemed to me to be one of the saddest songs I had ever heard:

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red”

“There’s a time for everything young saw
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

And she said, “Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me”

And she said, “Flowers are red, young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should”

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

The teacher there was smilin’
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

Somebody cut off the possibility of future neoteny and prevented that child from being original and thinking outside the box.  This eliminates intellectual counter- intuitive and divergent thought.

Genius vs. Normal

There was another study done that measured this idea of divergent thinking.  The study showed that 98% of children between the ages of three and five score in the genius category for divergent thinking.  Between the ages of eight and ten, that number drops to 32%.  By the time the kids become teenagers, it drops down to 10%.  And only 2% of those over 25 scored in the genius category.

Is it any wonder that Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” ? (Matthew 19:14)  As we strive to become more like Christ, remember that He possessed the fullness of all our lives–including our own inner child’s weirdness and zaniness.  Don’t give that up to fit in with the world’s idea of an “adult.”  Put away those things of childhood that hold you back from becoming more Christ-like.  But hang on to the ones that give you the desire and ability to become more like Him–in whatever way He has for you.