Month: March 2021

“Cleanliness is next to godliness”

Is it? What is it’s real value?

Queen Elizabeth I of England bathed once a month, “whether I need it or not”, she said.

James I, her successor washed only his fingers.

Henry IV of France was prominently known for his body odor (from a distance even) and his son – Louis XIII boasted, “I take after my father, I smell of armpits.” (Yuck, why?)

During 17th century Europe washing the body was actually to be avoided, and let’s not forget those nasty medieval times when cleanliness was all but non existent.

It seems the importance of cleanliness changes with time and culture. Or does it?

Historically we would have to agree that to be true. Time and culture have impacted cleanliness. But has the value of cleanliness changed just because culture has changed? Is it beneficial or harmful regardless of the times and culture? Does cleanliness have value in and of itself? Could it ever be considered “next to godliness”?

In our world of covid, crazy-cleanliness this has taken on an entirely new meaning, hasn’t it? It was during the flu epidemic of 1918 that doctors in maternity wards realized that the washing of hands helped to stop the spread of contagious fever. Now look at us, how many times have you washed your hands today or disinfected them?

Today we hear alot about “Follow the science”.

So, I want to do just that, but not as it applies to covid. What does the science tells us in 2021 about cleanliness?

First off, this is not about how clean your house is or how often you bathe. There is no judgment here. But because it is “Spring cleaning time”, I wanna know if there is any real value in cleaning. Fair? What does the science say?

What are the benefits of cleanliness?

” the state of quality of being clean or being kept clean.”

Oxford dictionary

We clean our homes, cars, appliances, tools, clothes, bodies; we seek to put clean things into our body – foods, drinks, data, influences, words. Are there benefits to this cleanliness?

An Indiana study shows a strong connection between a clean home and one’s physical fitness. Their study shows in cleaner homes were people who exercise more. Why was their question. Do they possess more energy to clean or are they more disciplined? Here are some of their findings:

  • cleanliness lowers stress and fatigue – messy tells the brain there’s work to be done and creates stress
  • it reduces allergy and asthma reactions – dust mites… need we say more
  • cleanliness improves safety – falls and fires are the number 1 cause of injuries in the home
  • it reduces germ spread – and the kitchen is the no. 1 place for this, NOT the bathroom
  • cleanliness keeps pests away – I HATE ANTS AND COCKROACHES!
  • cleanliness improves diet and the waistline – seriously! Their study showed that women eat more sweets and high fat foods when faced with daily hassles. A clean house or at least uncluttered will cut down on stress and therefore cut down on sweets. (Of course removing the candy bowls around the house would help too)

Dawn Howard, in her studies of cleanliness says,

“Benefits of cleanliness are studied for treatment of people suffering from everything from anxiety to zygomycosis.” (a rare fungal infection caused by molds)

A recent UCONN study substantiates that decluttering and cleaning helps maintain well being, positive mental attitude and is energizing.

Depression, anxiety and PTSD have been proven to be reduced in homes that are monitored for cleanliness.

Our mental condition is affected by our cleanliness and our cleanliness affects our mental condition.

Controlling negative thoughts, cutting off negative forces, influences, music, hobbies and people are vital for our own mental health, our mental healthiness.

Here are 9 ideas to do just that: (as suggested by Emil Baltman, 12/18)

  1. deal with emotions
  2. stop trying to please others
  3. face & overcome your inner critic
  4. give up bad habits
  5. take positive action
  6. learn to say no
  7. don’t blame others
  8. recognize unhealthy thought patterns
  9. don’t fear pain

There are things we each can do to be as fit as possible. But as always, it is our choice and the first step is the toughest. Dealing with cleanliness in areas of our life is a simple way to take action towards that goal, towards wholeness, less anxiety, stress and peace.

Whether we believe the Talmud,

“cleanliness… for the sake of his Maker.”

The Talmud

Or we believe a 2002 study that expressly stated,

“the effects of spa therapy have been proven to reduce pain, global well being, and stiffness…”

We can say with confidence, that cleanliness does have benefits, mental, physical, and emotional.

As to whether or not it is next to godliness, we’ll let you ponder that.

For now, take a look around you, within you; where do you see a need for a clean up?

Cheers to you.

Palms, Cloaks and Artichokes

Sunday Sermon, Palm Sunday, 3.27.21

Nearly 2,000 years ago, as hundreds of thousands of travelers gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Jesus Christ entered the city, riding on a donkey, as the victorious King of the Jews. The crowds shouted, “Hail to the King”, “Hosanna”, and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as they waved palm branches they had cut down and carpeted the road with their cloaks.

This is recorded in all four of the Gospels in the New Testament. Without exception the crowds are characterized by waving palm branches and spreading their garments on the donkey and on the road along the procession. With passionate shouts they hailed Jesus the victorious one who they hoped would save them from Roman oppression.

In their celebration some preceded the Christ with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise while others followed in the same manner, with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise.

Here were men and women, removing not only branches from the palm trees but also their garments. Yes, their outer garments, but they willingly removed their cloak, or robe – perhaps the only clothing they owned, to pay honor and respect to Jesus Christ.

These crowds as participants in the processional, recognized who Jesus was. They acknowledged who he was with their ruckus praise and extravagant expressions. They realized this coming king was coming to bring God’s kingdom influence. They waved their palm branches in approval symbolizing His goodness, victory, joy and triumph.

The removal of their cloak too, was an expression of highest regard for Jesus Christ. This left them exposed and uncovered their lowly state. This removed their layered defenses and protections and left them with little to hide behind.

They had shed what people see in order to honor Jesus Christ and they chose to wave a palm branch as a sign of surrender to the victorious One.

This Holy Week, as we again reflect on Palm Sunday, (Good Friday and Easter,) what can be gleaned from it? We should ask ourselves these things, we should recount the events, and reconsider the fresh impact on our life. These stories are for us, for today. They have value for our everyday living, and are not just ancient history and outdated, irrelevant events.

So I offer you this, an artichoke.

Consider this thistle that we cultivate for a yummy food; it’s edible portion is the fleshy section at the base of the leaves and heart or choke at the center. Dip the leaves in butter, place in your mouth, scrape down with your teeth to remove the flesh, discard the empty leaf and start again.

Over and over and over again leaves are removed, layers peeled away, flesh is torn, and sustenance gained until the heart is revealed.

That artichoke is like those people on Palm Sunday. Like us today.

By removing their cloaks, they were peeling away at those layers that people see, their outer leaves if you will, and revealing their heart. What covers us, our cloaks must be removed, our fleshly ways must be shed to expose our heart.

Those things that we cover ourselves with and hide behind must be shed before we can join Jesus’ victorious parade. As we shed those “leaves”, a layer at a time, our heart too is laid bare and exposed, and there He finds joy in the true expressions of our heart and brings victory, joy, goodness and triumph to us.

We are living in a season of exposing the heart. He is wanting to reveal the heart of the issue, the heart of the problem, the heart of man. He is peeling away layer after layer, leaf after leaf, removing flesh and exposing the heart. Revealing what is hidden behind layers of defenses, cover ups and artificial protections.

He is revealing the heart of praise, the heart of abandon to Him, the heart of devoted passion and extravagant worship. The heart that doesn’t care what man sees, because that heart is all about reverence to the victorious king.

The heart that openly and publicly honors Him above all, lavishing praise, glory and respect to the King.

So you see, that first Palm Sunday crowd, you and artichokes share a thing or two.

I’ve heard said that God peels away at us a layer at a time, like an onion.

I submit a better analogy may be He peels away a layer at a time like an artichoke, because He wants to reveal our heart.

So, Happy Palm Sunday, and don’t forget the palms, cloaks and artichokes…

Go with God.

Chester Cheetah

You know him, don’t you, the fictional character and official mascot for Frito-Lay’s Cheetos snacks?

Anyone who knows me and our family knows how important these snacks are to my husband. He has a large cup that reads, “Den’s Cheetos” and he even has Cheetos socks. Friends and family see anything Cheeto and get it for Den or they pass on an image, or fact. So we know Chester well.

Chester is a cheetah and cheetahs are amazing animals.

Some facts about cheetahs I’m sure you know, are:

  • they are the largest cat on the planet and more social than other cats
  • they are the fastest land animal (recorded at 93-98 mph)
  • they have a light build, long, thin legs and long tail

Some additional cheetah factoids are:

  • females search for prey while males are more sedentary
  • they stalk within 200 ft., charge it, trip it during the chase and bite its throat to suffocate it to death
  • they are active during the day, especially at dusk and dawn

Why the Chester the cheetah talk, where are you going with this, Deb?

Glad you asked. I see a couple of fascinating similarities between you and me and cheetahs. Really!

According to Quora –

“…(cheetah’s) high speeds can only be maintained for 400-800 meters before exhaustion sets in and the body overheats.”

A cheetah’s entire body design is made to assist his speed:

  • he has a supersized set of lungs
  • he has a super sized heart
  • his nostrils are extremely large to take in Oxygen
  • his long tail acts as a rudder for sharp turns and in his pursuit assists with his balance
  • he has light bones
  • his reflexes are built to survive a tumble at 65 mph (wish I had that!)
  • his spine and back muscles are extremely flexible (not mine)
  • his claws are semi-retractable with tough pads for traction

Everything within the cheetah is fine tuned to allow for super speeds and yet, even with those design marvels, he still cannot maintain those speeds for very long with out facing exhaustion and overheating.

Additionally, in his sprinting, much of the time he is actually propelled through the air at long strides. One stride for him = 26 feet!

So when he sprints 300 yards, (3 football fields) his paws are actually on the ground for only 3-5 seconds! The rest of the time he is airborne. Plus, he is able to make 4 strides per second. Unreal! Cheetah’s really know how to fly.

Again though, he cannot sustain high speeds or prolonged runs very long. He must catch his prey in 30 seconds or less before he must rest. An example I read said that if a cheetah were to run 154 miles from Otjiwarongo to Windhoek (Namibia), it would need to stop and rest over 311 times. If it were able to run without stopping, it would take only 2 1/2 hours running at 68 mph. Incredible.

How are we like cheetah’s?

Our human design is masterful and yet without proper rest we, too will face exhaustion and heating up. We were made to take our strides here on earth, but our efficiency is when we are airborne, when our strides take us above ground and into the air. (Into the spiritual dimension)

Whether you find yourself in the desert, the grassy savannah (of the Serengeti), or the mountains (of the Sahara), like our cheetah friends, I trust that you will realize your absolute need for rest and your purposeful design to be airborne.

Now, let’s celebrate our cheetah likenesses by enjoying a bag of Cheetos. 🙂

Crunches to you.

What do you do when you’re displeased?

Sunday Sermon 3.20.21

First off, you probably don’t even use the word, “displeased”, right? For those of you that do, KUDOS! You get a gold star in Vocabulary for the day

Although not difficult to figure out, here is it’s meaning –

“feeling or showing annoyance and displeasure.”

Oxford disctionary

This is the biblical text that got me evaluating what I do when I am displeased –

But when they said, ” Give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”

1 Samuel 8:6

Other translations put it this way –

“Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.”

NLT

” When Samuel heard their demand … he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.”

The Message paraphrase

” And the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel… and he prayed to the Lord.”

The Septuagint

When I read it again this past week, I seriously thought, “Wow! Without the slightest hesitation, when Samuel was displeased, He prayed.” And of course, I began evaluating myself and my first reactions and responses. If we’re keeping score here, Samuel wins this one over me! How ’bout you? What’s your first response when you are displeased?

The Hebrew meanings of these words about Samuel’s response actually mean that he was “broken up, with an expected violent reaction. Figuratively, fear.” In other words, Samuel was so upset with what was happening, it broke him up, He was truly ticked off and in fear.

For Samuel, he was dealing with a political situation. He was the leader of the nation of Israel, and the people were now asking to have a king, “like all the other nations”. Israel had never had a king because The Lord, Jehovah wanted to be their king. But here the people were asking to be like every other nation. They wanted a king.

This is what caused Samuel such displeasure. He couldn’t believe that the Israelites were turning their backs on Jehovah God and denying His authority over them. This tore him up, and in fact it caused him fear. He was afraid for the nation. He was afraid for what it would become apart from God. He was afraid of what would become of it. He feared for the nation.

What do YOU do when you are displeased?

Without missing a step, we see Samuel taking his whole load of displeasure in prayer to the Lord. It’s like it was his go to, basketball pivot – receive displeasure = pivot and go to prayer. As quick and smooth as a Kobe move, receive the hit pivot to prayer.

I am not quite that quick. Kobe’s pivot picture makes me a laughingstock.

The truth here is this. Our displeasure, whatever the cause, can and should be taken to the Lord in prayer.

Whether it’s a displeasure that crushes us or a displeasure that incites fear within us. Be it a displeasure that angers us or confounds us, pivot and take it to the Lord in prayer.

Other choices are to let that displeasure out on another person, or to allow the anger to simmer and boil over into other areas of our life. Or maybe do or buy something stupid, or simply throw up your hands and succomb.

We do have other options for how we handle our displeasure.

But today, this is a spiritual and biblical blog, therefore the option we advise is prayer.

Samuel, in his hurt, questioning, and fear, took it all and poured it out in prayer to the Lord.

What does that mean?

Prayer is simply talking to the Lord. There are alot of different kinds of prayers, but here’s what the Bible says:

” Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. “

Ephesians 6:18

” Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

So, we can pray for any reason, on any occasion. We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

But what Samuel did, his kind of prayer was a little different. His prayers actually intervened for Israel, By that, I mean, His prayers stood in the gap for Israel. Israel was on one side of the valley and God was on the other side of that valley. Samuel’s prayers made a bridge, across that valley, and connected Israel with God. He literally intervened to connect Israel with God again.

That is called intercession, when one intervenes in a relationship to bring two together.

Isn’t that what Jesus did?

He came to earth to bridge the gap between God and man. He interceded. That is why the scripture says,

“… Christ Jesus who died is at he right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

Jesus threw himself across that chasm between God and man at the cross. He intervened.

Samuel did similarly. Confounded at Israel’s choices and stubborn refusal to follow God’s ways, afraid for what lay ahead for them, he threw himself between God and Israel in prayer. In his displeasure he immediately pivoted to prayer. Intervening for them all. Standing in the gap for the nation. EVEN THO’ HE WAS DISPLEASED.

Are we any different from Samuel? 2,950 years have passed since he prayed in his displeasure for Israel.

Undoubtedly you have faced displeasure over something recently in your life. If not, Hallelujah. Be prepared tho’, it is coming, because that is the way of life. That displeasure is meant to draw you into a place of prayer with the Lord. A place of interceding for others, intervening on their behalf to the Lord.

You don’t have to be a great spiritual leader or pastor to intercede; all you have to do is lift up that one to God in prayer. Stand before God, in prayer, on their behalf. Stand in the gap for them. Create that bridge across that valley for them.

You can intercede for another. You can make a difference. Your prayers matter. The one you’re praying for needs your prayers and the Lord will hear your prayers. Whether it be for an individual, a family or a nation. Do not hesitate to pray, intervene and intercede. Do not hesitate to pivot and pray.

In your displeasure – pray.

Go with God.

Music’s Power

For over 20 years, I was a music teacher and so I never missed the Grammy Awards on TV. Times have changed for me, but the Grammy’s aired again Sunday night, for the 63rd time.

Music is the universal language. It is a powerful communication tool, memory provider, relaxation technique, mood creator and even medicine.

Scientists tell us that music is hardwired into our brain. It’s components like rhythm and melody echoes in our physiology, our functioning and our being. It has prominent effects on our body.

Before we go any further, because I hope you too are a music lover, let’s do an exercise. You can do it there where you are, but I would love to hear your responses, so please, please consider leaving a comment when you come to the end of this blog today, please?

THINK ABOUT THE YEAR 2020. WHAT SONG WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT IT?

THNIK ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. WHAT SONG BEST DESCRIBES THOSE YEARS? (If you aren’t in HS yet, think about your middle school years and choose a song)

Lastly, THINK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE. WHAT SONG WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?

Music is entertaining of course, but it is more than that. It is powerful and it’s ability to help in the healing processes are still being discovered and understood.

Because of the close association of music with memories, doctors are telling us that it could be helpful with Alzheimer’s patients. Other doctors have told us listening to hip hop music is of great benefit to those with mental disorders. Pediatricians have concluded that infants remain calmer with music rather than speech.

Chances are you may have music playing right now, somewhere around you. If not now, you probably have recently or will in the near future. Music has become the soundtrack of our life. Silence is uncomfortable for many and therefore gets filled with music and other noise.

The power of music is undeniable.

Music stimulates more parts of your brain than any other human function. “Melodic intonation Therapy” coaxes parts of the brain to take over damaged parts, and that may even help patients regain the ability to speak. For stroke patients who have lost speech, music may stimulate those functions.

Music has been proven to reduce pain and anxiety, according to Brunel University in UK. After testing over 7,000 patients who had undergone surgery, playing music during their recovery (music of their choosing is even more powerful) reduced pain.

“… if music was a drug, it would be marketable… music is a non evasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.”

Medical News Today 2015; Brunel University, UK

A Denmark study in 2014 has found that music may be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients.

“calm, relaxing, self-chosen music reduced the pain and increased functional mobility.”

Denmark study 3/14

Listening to music triggers opiods in the brain; they are the bodies natural pain killers. Listening to music also increases dopamine in the brain.

So… the music you choose to fill your home, car and brain with has power. Power to relieve your stress, strengthen your body and brain and even heal your mind and body. Pump it up, play it on repeat, and allow music to bring to you the peace and strength that The Creator intended.

Sit back, pump it up, close your eyes, (pour a glass of wine), and soak in music’s power of healing and strength. ENJOY.

Cheers to you.

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR SONGS IN THE COMMENT SECTION.

My 2020 song – Avenue of Broken Dreams – Green Day

My high school song – I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone – Johnny Nash

My future song – Waymaker – Sinach

I Am Your Oasis

Sunday Sermon 3.13.21

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and no relief is in sight. No oasis is near.

Scattered over these Saharan desert sands are over 90 major oasis and for the largest desert in the world (about the size of the continental US), that means traveling between them will take days. Merchants and traders make the trip totally dependent on the promise of replenishment and rest that the oases provide.

An oasis is a fertile area that has a freshwater source, surrounded by a dry and arid region. They are irrigated by natural springs underground and vary in size from a small cluster of palm trees to a city with crops. Visible above ground, are date palms and other lush vegetation. Dates, cotton, olives, figs fruits and corn are commonly found in oases. In some places full cities reside in them with hotels.

The underground water sources are called “aquifers”. Sometimes a manmade well is dug to tap the aquifer and will provide more water for the city. In many settlements, the wells have been flowing and maintained for generations and centuries.

Oases became important stops along trade routes through many countries of the world. Some of the most beautiful ones are in Egypt, Israel, Brazil, Niger, China, Peru, Libya and Tunisia. Even the United States cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs could be considered outgrowths of Westward expansion and merchants traveling along the oasis route. (The oasis outside of Palm Springs is still there, I took my son once.)

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I am gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

Matthew 11:28-30 TPT

It is easy to visualize these verses in light of our oasis construct, isn’t it?

Jesus was speaking to weary travelers who were burdened with their loads from life. His offer, come to me, I am your oasis.

This is the only time in scripture where Jesus says, “Come to me”. Often He said, “Come after me”, or “Come follow me”, but only in this context does He say, simply, “Come to me”. The message is clear. He recognizes the fatigue, hard work, and heavy load of the listener. Nothing else is needed at this time, only rest, refreshment and replenishment. Coming to Him, The oasis, will provide just that. It’s that easy, and He knows it.

In Him we find rest. In Him we are refreshed. In Him we are resupplied to carry on. We are free to travel on when we are ready.

Although this is a temporary rest stop, He offers more than a temporary seat, He offers permanent rest for our raging soul.

A permanent supply is promised when we join our life with His. The picture Matthew gives us is one of taking on a yoke, and stepping into the yoke with Him. Living in the place of being teamed up with Jesus in all we do. Learning His ways and listening to his direction as we walk together in the yoke.

The work is not the only focus, it is the union with Jesus.

United with Him we learn and begin to understand that He is gentle and easy to please. He doesn’t get all worked up or stressed out. He doesn’t freak out. He is peaceful, kind and humble. Yoked together with Him, we learn these traits too. Our thoughts and feelings begin to change as we learn His ways.

When we lean on our own understanding, it hurts, we feel the rub. We are aware He is not leading or leaning that way. We lean His way and find it easy.

It is from this union with Jesus that we find a permanent rest for our soul, not just a refreshing drink. A fountain flowing from deep underground, a spiritual aquifer for all time and every generation. The best thirst quencher and big gulp ever. Imagine having a spiritual aquifer attached to your big gulp cup, anytime you need refreshing. (minus the calories and sugar even)

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and RELIEF IS IN SIGHT. I see The oasis!

Stop. Unload your burden. Rest. Drink deeply from The oasis.

Realign your yoke as needed. For some, you need to step into it and team up with Jesus. Join forces with the Maker of the Universe. What a deal!

A temporary resting spot or permanent rest and refreshing is yours, because Jesus said, “I am your oasis.”

Drink deeply.

Go with God.

We the Sheeple

“Sheeple” = sheep + people

This term, as Merriam-Webster defines it is, ” people who are compliant or easily influenced; people likened to sheep.” It describes those who acquiesce to suggestions and ideas without critical thinking or research.

I have always been intrigued with group think and herd mentalities, and been often criticized for not “going with the flow”. So what’s happening in these days is of tremendous interest to me. People as sheep, governed by a group mentality…

Not wanting to be too heavy or a Debbie Downer, what I share with you, will be about collective animal behaviors. As I share about these animal group behaviors, glean from them facts that could also apply to us. (All of this research is solely about animal group behavior.) I believe you will see stunning similarities.

To begin with here are some groups of animals that demonstrate “herd mentality”.

  • flocking birds
  • herding hooved animals
  • shoaling and schooling fishes
  • pods of dolphins
  • marching locusts
  • nest building ants

We will look at three of these: Let’s start with HERDING – like SHEEP and WILDEBEEST.

These guys form a social group based on being the same species. Their collective behavior is called “herding”.

This group acts together without planning or coordination. Each individual chooses their behavior that best corresponds with that of the majority of the other members. They tend to imitate others in similar circumstances.

Their leadership is unstructured but tends to be one or two whose actions are imitated more than others. This one or two is called “the control animal” because his behavior will predict that of the herd. The control animal is not always the most dominant in conflict situations, though.

Each individual member of the herd reduces it’s own danger by moving toward the center of a threatened group. This makes the herd appear to be a unit moving together, but really, it is self-serving individuals‘ uncoordinated behavior that prompts the herd’s movement.

FLOCKING – like BIRDS

We all recognize a flock of birds when we see them, and I’m sure we have noted their abilities to fly in close proximity and even symmetry with such gracefulness and accuracy. It is truly amazing.

Birds flock when they are in flight or foraging. “Flocking – a collective motion by a group of self propelled entities.”

Did you know that they have 3 rules when flocking? They are:

  1. separation
  2. alignment
  3. cohesion

Each one of those rules has a ton more details to go with it, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own. But it is interesting to note that a SWARM also has three rules: 1. travel in the same direction 2. stay close 3. avoid collisions.

Lastly, SHOALING and SCHOOLING – like FISH

I was unfamiliar with shoaling, but it is when a group of fish start out together for social reasons, but as that group swims together in a coordinated manner manner, they are schooling. One quarter of fish species shoal ALL THEIR LIVES. One half of those that shoal, do so for only PART of their lives.

The benefits are obvious – defense, improved foraging and even better mate selection.

However there is this interesting effect in shoaling fish. It is called “The Oddity Effect“. Any shoal member that stands out in appearance will be preferentially targeted by predators! Yikes, watch out odd ones.

Another thought-provoking point to make about these fish is when a fish is removed from a school, it will have higher respiration rate that is attributed to stress. One example would be the herring that becomes extremely agitated if it is isolated.

We know that there are other groups of animals that have a group mentality as well. Such as a lions pride, a swarm of bees, and the wolf pack.

It is worth noting too certain species with their own distinct mob characteristics.

The meerkat mob of 20-40 have a guard keeping watch for hour long shifts (called the sentry); the rat group is appropriately called a “mischief” and the clam and oysters group is of course a “bed“.

Stop. Think it through. In what way(s) do these animal group characteristics apply to me in my world?

As far back as Freud, there has been analysis of “the crowds”, “herd mentality” and the “herd instinct” in human society. Today, research has identified herd behavior in humans to explain the phenomenon of large numbers of people acting in the same way at the same time.

For example, “when panicked individuals are confined to a room with two equal and equidistant exits, a majority will favor one exit while the minority will favor the other.” (Symmetry-breaking, Wikipedia) In these cases, individuals display a tendency towards mass or copied behavior and they even overlook using less used exits.

In all these cases, in other words, they stop thinking for themselves!

That is the main characteristic of group, herd mentality, or whatever you choose to call it. People become passive and easily controlled. They act collectively free of independent thought and reason. They have yielded to the idea of a “group mind” for greater defense. They have found safety in the center of the herd and have exchanged their will for the will of the herd.

They have become sheeple.

I will not live this way! Not from the bed, not from the head. Not from the mob, not from the blob. Not from the herd, not like a bird. Not from the school or any pool. I do not like green herds and man, I do not like it, Sam, I am!

Break free sheeple.

Cheers to you.

For hints on personal applications, see the italicized phrases.

Healing From What We Are Harboring

Sunday Sermon 3.6.21

Recently in my reading, I was struck with a phrase that has been reverberating through my spirit, mind and soul. It was this:

Because you harbored an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel, the Prophet, chapter 35 verse 5

Other renderings put the same phrase this way –

  • because you kept this age-old grudge. The Message
  • because you kept eternal hatred. NLT
  • because you cherished perpetual enmity. ESV
  • because you maintained perpetual hatred. CSB

The challenge to me was to inspect within myself, those areas that may be harboring any type of grudge, resentment, or bitterness; those unresolved, concealed or secret hurts, or offenses. God was calling me to identify them for what they are – hurts, painful events, and to let them go by allowing Him to uproot their poisonous taproot of resentment and bitterness.

I believe this same experience is what He would have for all of us. He is wanting to completely heal us of all of our grudges, bitterness and resentment. He wants us to be whole and unhindered by negative, past feelings, memories and experiences. Letting go of the anger, bitterness, hurt and pain of the past allows us to focus on the present.

“When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”

Piedmont Healthcare, Angela Buttimer MS, NCC, RYT, CPC

In the book of Hebrews, we find this very same issue being addressed:

“Make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”

Hebrews 12:15 TPT

The Apostle Paul adds this piece of insight to this whole issue of anger, bitterness, resentment and grudges:

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

It is apparent that unresolved anger leads to poisonous roots growing in our heart, and yields a place for the devil with his toolbox of sins to grow.

One last quote and then we will look at a story.

James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James, and also knew a thing or two about envy, and selfish ambition left us this piece of wisdom: (geesh, can you imagine dealing with the envy, bitterness, resentment, and misunderstanding in this home between these brothers??!)

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts….such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…”

James 3:14 NIV

All of us have had conflicts from which grudges have grown. Those grudges sorta become our consolation prize- we were wronged and now we get a grudge. It seems to serve as a way to compensate for our negative feelings.

A perfect example of this is found in the story to which Ezekiel was referring in our opening statement about harboring ancient hostility.

The story begins in Genesis 25, where we see Rebekah about to give birth to twin boys who we now know as Esau and Jacob.

Even from the womb these boys were jostling, wrestling and competing. Gen. 25:22 As they grew, they developed very different likes and lifestyles. Esau was an outdoors, hunter kinda guy, while Jacob was a stay at home, cooking in the kitchen type. Esau and his Dad were close, Jacob and his Mom were close. Gen. 25:27

The first glimpse we have of growing tension between Esau and Jacob is when Esau comes in from a long and exhausting hunt and is famished. Cooking in the kitchen, is guess who? Yep, Jacob. Esau asks Jacob for some of his yummy, red, stew, so Jacob finagles a deal – food for your first-born birthright. Esau easily caves and swears an oath to Jacob, stew for my birthright. Genesis 25:34 says that Esau hated his birthright.

Esau had given up his firstborn position in the family. Some would say Jacob tricked Esau out of it. What do you think?

Either way or both ways, Jacob was now considered the firstborn son with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And so it begins, the grudge holding, bitterness and resentment.

Some years later, when Isaac, Esau’s dad was old and blind, he asked Esau to hunt him some game and prepare him a meal, because it was time for Isaac to pronounce his Fatherly blessing on his son. Overhearing this request, Rebekah called for Jacob and told him to fix up Dad’s favorite venison meal. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was cooking in the kitchen.

Making a long story short, Jacob and Rebekah hatched a plan that worked and one in which the Father’s firstborn blessing would be pronounced upon, you guessed it – Jacob!

When Esau returned to Dad and heard that Dad’s blessing had been given to Jacob, all were shocked and surprised! This was not a happy family. Esau’s grudge was now exploding and all of his pent up anger, bitterness, resentment came cascading from his lips and life. Jacob was gonna be toast if Esau had his way. This was no small grudge anymore, this was a pot boiling over with hatred, hurt and blame.

“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Genesis 27:41

When Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threats she arranges for Jacob to steal away and live with her brother in a distant city “…for a while, until your brother’s fury subsides… when your brother is no longer angry…and when he forgets…” Gen. 27:42-45

Pausing here, we can see clearly that Esau is harboring hostility toward his twin. Who knows how many years these wounds had been festering and infecting Esau and his relationships with his family members, as well as others that he related with.

It is no secret that holding onto grudges and negative feelings affects your health and your relationships with others. In fact, as you play over and over those negative, wounding, bitter memories, your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined, so your body reacts as if you are having the same experience over and over.

“Living in this chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increases inflammation and the stress hormone – cortisol.”

Piedmont Healthcare

Esau was in a very unhealthy state. His blood pressure was elevated and he was now at risk for heart disease. His prolonged feelings of resentment were also impacting his metabolism, immune response and organ function. He was probably even dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Facts from Neurocore)

Esau’s choice to harbor hostility was certainly not a safe harbor.

What Esau harbored during all those years growing up and following Jacob’s departure to Uncle Laban’s, ate away at not only himself, but he passed it on to his descendants, his sons, grandsons, and eventually to all of his ancestry. His offspring through time became the kingdom of Edom. In the kingdom of Edom, each had been programmed with the ancient stories of Grandpa Esau (or Great Granddad Esau, etc.). They were well versed in what happened between Grandpa Esau and Uncle Jacob. They all knew about the loss of the birthright and the blessing. They all had learned to:

“harbor an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel 35:5

Although Jacob and Esau’s grudge holding match lasted twenty years, (which to me is a long and serious grudge) before they reunited with gifts, tears, humility, hugs and favor; (Gen. 33) the affects of that grudge on their family was centuries long!

It is quite scary to think that as a parent, my unresolved grudges as well as my resolved grudges impact my family. They have heard stories, seen reactions, and formed opinions. They have partaken of my poisonous resentment. Even after I resolve with that family member, the root of bitterness has been planted in them.

Additionally, that twenty year period of my grudge holding (or whatever the length of time in your life) has allowed the taproot of bitterness, anger, resentment, blaming, hatred, anger and hostility to sprout and even blossom. The poison has permeated my life, my thoughts, perspective, and relationships. What I have been harboring needs healing and uprooting.

That infection in you, God wants to heal. That sensitive area that you guard is what He seeks to puncture and drain. Those inflamed emotions and memories, He will restore to health.

God has the cure for what you are harboring.

In releasing it to Him, you are not excusing anyone’s behavior and you may not forget what happened, but it will break its hold on your life. Then you and the Lord will face that pain and walk through it together. He will empower you to live a life free of poisonous grudges and bitterness. He will free you from those ancient hostilities.

He will provide full healing for what you are harboring.

Go with God.

Elephants and Camels

I want to share two stories with you.

#1 Elephants

When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that these elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants we certainly strong enough.

He asked the trainer why, and the trainer said that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they are babies to break free from the rope, they grow up thinking that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t fight it.

#2 Camels

A mother camel and her baby were lying down, soaking up the sun. The baby camel asked his mom, “Why do we have these big bumps on our back?” The mom stopped to think and then said, “We live in the desert where there is not much water. Our humps store water to help us survive on long journeys.”

The baby camel then stopped to think and said, “Well, why do we have long legs with rounded feet?” His mother replied, “They are meant to help us walk through sand.”

The baby asked a third question, “Why are my eyelashes so long?” The mother replied, “Your eyelashes are long to offer you protection from the sand when it blows in the wind.”

Finally, the baby said, “If we have all of these natural abilities given to us to walk through the desert, what’s the use for camels in the Zoo?’

Allow me to play Aesop, for a minute.

From each of these stories, we can glean important life lessons, and encouragement. Listen to your heart and hear what application lies there for you. At the very least, I will offer these:

All of us, like the elephants, have grown through and are learning to fight our own programmed, learned helplessness. You know, that thing or those issues that we believe are stronger than us and so we don’t bother fighting. Be they family traits, ingrained scripts, perceived weaknesses, or whatever; they are tied about our feet, trying to keep us from moving forward. FACT: you are stronger than your childhood programming and you are strong enough to break free from it all.

Our perceptive baby camel offers us the simple truth that you have been designed to withstand what comes against you. You have all that you need, if you are in the right place. The camel is designed for the desert and is therefore fully equipped for sand, wind, dry and waterless situations. Out of that environment, he doesn’t quite fit. He doesn’t really belong in a zoo, does he? FACT: Our design is perfect and fully utilized when we are in the right environment.

I am certain that the elephant and the camel are speaking to many, and I trust that from their stories you will see yourself as strong, and well equipped for whatever you face. Break free and live life to your fullest, where you are s’posed to be!

Oh, what we can learn from the elephant and the camel.

Cheers to you.