Going With The Crowd


All of us have experienced peer pressure at some point in our lives.  We want to fit in and be a part of the group so we go along to get along.  Now even as I write this I know that some of you and maybe many of you are strong-willed and balk at me saying we’ve all done it.  If you haven’t ever given into peer pressure good for you.  But for the rest of us it’s hard at times in our lives when everyone else is doing something to stand by our principles.  It becomes easier when we become an adult to stand alone, but in the teen years it’s difficult because the peers are so important.

In grade school it may be a popular group we want to be in so we do what the group does to be accepted.  In the junior high and high school years, it may involve trying alcohol or drugs or smoking a cigarette or marijuana.   As an adult, when everyone is speeding over the limit and passing you by, do you hold to the speed limit and move over to the slow lane?  It takes will power to hold to our principles when it seems that everyone is going in the opposite direction.

I was reading in the bible about an individual who was pressured to go with the crowd.  His name was Micaiah and he was a prophet.  The backdrop of the story had the King of Israel wanting the king of Judah to go to battle with him.  The king of Judah wanted to seek the Lord before going to battle to see what He wanted.  “So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Go,” they answered, “for God will give it into the king’s hand.”  II Chronicles 18:5

The response of the 400 prophets of Israel didn’t satisfy the king of Judah so he wanted one who would prophesy in the name of the Lord.  There was only one prophet in the country who did that and his name was Micaiah.  They sent for him and this is what they said to him.  All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.” The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.” 2 Chronicles‬ ‭18: 11-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As you read the rest of the story, Micaiah initially did what the other 400 prophets wanted him to do–say the same thing they had said.  But when the king of Judah challenged him to speak in the name of the Lord, he spoke from the Lord and told them that if they went they would be defeated.

Speaking up and saying the right thing knowing you are going against the crowd is difficult because you will stand alone when you do it.  Do you want to be known for being in the crowd or doing and saying the right thing even if you have to go it alone.

On this journey, there will be times when you are called to be the lone voice speaking the truth to others.  It will be at times seem lonely, but know that God will never leave nor forsake those who follow Him fully.

 

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Bald Eagle?


Have you ever believed something and then found out your belief was false?  I had one of those days a few weeks ago.  Nadine and I ventured up to Flagstaff for the weekend and did our 4+ mile walk through the forest trees, smelling the fresh pine smells and blue sky.  Did I tell you it was Flagstaff where the temperature is 25-30 degrees cooler?  Anyway on this walk I spied a large bird in the trees that I swore was a bald eagle.  It had a white head and black body.  Here is what I saw.

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As we approached to get a closer look, be began to notice something different about this large bird.  It did have a white head and a black body, but we also noticed a black strip on its eyes and a white underbelly.  What we saw from a distance in our mind was changed as we walked closer and closer.  Although  we wanted it to be a bald eagle, we realized that it wasn’t what our minds told us, but was an osprey.

Don’t get me wrong.  It was a wonderful sight to see such a magnificent bird and the way it flew in the air, but our minds were anticipating the validation of what we wanted it to be.  It was a  let down to realize that the bald eagle turned out to be an osprey.

This kind of thing happens in life all the time.  We are taking a test and are sure we know the answers to the questions only to realize that our answers weren’t the ones the teacher was looking for.  We are in a relationship and think that we have a bald eagle kind of picture, and the person we are with turns out to be different from what we anticipated.  We may have studied long and hard for a job of our dreams and when we get closer to realizing our potential, the real thing turns out to be different that our fantasy.  If we hold on to our initial impressions, we are doomed to disappointment rather than changing our mindset of what we see presently and appreciating what we do see and do have.

On this journey there will be times when life and relationships take a right or left turn and we weren’t expecting the turn.  Embrace the here and now and appreciate what you have.

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A Choice To Listen


Early on in my life, I read a passage that became my life verse.  It is found in II Chronicles 16:9 where God comes to King Asa, king of Judah.  He tells him through a seer, or prophet the following.  “For the eyes of the Lord move throughout the earth that He might strongly support those whose heart is completely his.” NAS.  This passage hit me hard when I read it, because the seer was saying to King Asa that the Lord is continually looking all over the earth to find individuals whose heart is 100% devoted and committed to following after the teachings and direction of the Lord.

I took on this verse as a verse that I wanted to pursue with all of my heart.  I had this verse caligraphied and put into a frame that is hanging on my office wall as I write this jlog.  I have read it numerous times over the years, memorized it and given it to others as a word of encouragement in their journey with the Lord.  This year is no exception as I was again reading through the scriptures and came upon this verse.  This time as I read it something new popped up in my mind.  Here is the passage with a couple of verses before and after it.

“At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him:  “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.  Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen?  Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand.  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”  Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison.  At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.”  II Chronicles 16:  7-10 NIV

God is taking King Asa back over history and telling him about the times when Asa rested upon the Lord and how the Lord gave him victory over the Cushites and Libyans.  He also tells King Asa that in this present situation, King Asa didn’t rely upon the Lord.  Asa blew it.  Asa rested upon himself and not the Lord.  Asa made a mistake.  Why was the Lord bringing this bad decision to King Asa?  Was it to bring him down?  Was it to make him feel like a loser?  Was it to give him the message that he was a failure?  None of these thoughts came to my mind when I read this passage.

God wanted Asa to admit his mistake of trusting others versus trusting God.  God wanted Asa to humble himself and admit his sin.  Unfortunately that’s not what God got.  Instead, Asa was angry for having the seer point out the truth and put the seer in prison.  He took out his anger on the messenger, rather than humbling himself and admitting his wrong.  Asa took it further by brutally oppressing other people who had nothing to do with his decisions.  When we are convicted of sin in our lives and don’t take responsibility for our wrong actions, we like Asa take out our anger and frustration on those who are closest to us.

On this journey there will be times when we make mistakes and God through others or by His spirit will bring conviction.  He is looking for a humble and remorseful response so that He can continually support us and give us direction for the future.  Be careful how you respond to wrong roads taken.

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Conditions For Godly Connections


There was a poll taken in the United States and people were asked if they believed in God.  Nine of ten people surveyed said they believed in God.  Of the nine who believe in God, most if not all would say that they want to have connection with the God of the universe to get His perspective on their lives.  Most if not all would want to have God give them answers to their prayers and help solve the dilemmas that they find themselves in.  All of us whether or not we believe in God find ourselves in relationships at times where we see no hope nor answers in solving the stalemates that seem to come.

If only we had a step by step plan for connecting with the God who is able to give us insight and wisdom for life’s challenges.  Well, as I was reading the bible today, I came across just such a plan and it was written by God through the writer of II Chronicles.  He says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  ‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This passage starts with a conditional “If.”  God is willing to connect with us and give us direction, but we have a responsibility in the connection.  In fact there are five important responsibilities that God spells out as to our actions.  The first responsibility is to be apart of His family and be called by His name.  Jesus speaks more clearly to this step when He talks to Nicodemus in John 3 where He tells us to become one of His children by recognizing what He did on the cross and receiving Christ into our lives.  That’s what being called by His name means.

The second step in this process of connecting with God is to humble ourselves.  The humbling process is admitting our faults and recognizing our inability to solve our problems on our own.  Humbling is admitting we can’t but He can.  The humbling process moves us to step number three where we pray and ask the God of the universe to intervene on our behalf.  Praying to God causes us to take our eyes off our self and begin to focus on the face of Christ (step 4).

When we begin to focus on God and humble ourselves, it will reveal the unhealthy choices we have made and negative attitudes we have manifest in our interaction with others.  Seeing Him and His purity shines a light on all the wrong choices and behaviors we have had which opens us to wanting to turn from the bad and seek the good.

It’s the 5 steps that we take which causes God to then act in our behalf.  When we are serious about humbling, praying, seeking, and turning, He says He hears from heaven, forgive us of our sins, and heals our land.  I know, it would be easier if we didn’t have to do anything, but that’s not God’s plan.  He wants to be in relationship with us which means that we both participate in the connection.

On this journey, connection with God is possible if only we are willing to do our part in preparing our heart and mind to interact with Him.  It only takes 5 steps.

 

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Seeing Up Close


On our trip to New Mexico, we passed the National Petrified Forest Park in eastern Arizona.  As we were walking on one of the trails, I came across a lizard I had never seen before.  It is called a common ring neck lizard that I thought you might like to see.  At first glance you see the beauty of this lizard with its colorful markings.

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I am colorblind, but I could see the beautiful markings of this common ring neck reptile.  You can see the black rings on the neck, the yellow feet, the gray and yellow dots on his body and tail, and the solid gray (I was informed by my wife as she read my jlog that my description of the colors is way off) on his legs.  I looked at his color and even my color blindness appreciated the beauty he bestowed lying on this rock.

What I did next was to enhance this picture a bit and bring it closer.

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You begin to see something different about this lizard.  He is covered with little dots like armor all over his body.  His nose has bright red dots (what color I see) and his eyes have those same dots to protect him when he is going among the thorns of the desert.  You also see the ears to the left of his eyes just before the black, white and yellow rings around his neck.  Such a little reptile and yet she is one of 9,500+ reptiles slithering on the surface of the earth.  A magnificent species of God’s creation.

As I have gone on this journey, I have never stopped to meditate on one aspect of God’s creation as I am learning to do.  My getting from point A to point B  and accomplishing my goals in life have often hindered my eyes from seeing the beauty right in front of me. This lizard has taught me to slow down and really see the beauty that is before me, including those He has placed before me in relationship with.  Today is another opportunity to see His beauty.

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The Old Stories


On the road from Sante Fe, NM to Taos, NM, Nadine and I passed some old vehicles that we just had to stop and photograph.DSC_0166

I wonder the old stories that this Fire Truck could tell if it only could talk.  I wonder how many fires it was driven to  or cars that were on fire that it had to put out.  It no longer is in working order, but there are stories behind the red paint.

What about this one?

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It was a convertible and probably wasn’t used in the northern states, but isn’t it awesome to look at.  The white paint didn’t deter it from getting to the locations to douse the flames of a burning house or building.  The bumper shows the wear and tear this vehicle went through doing its job in seeking to prevent loss of life and property.

And how about these?

Both of these fire trucks have many stories that if told could hold our attention for hours.    These are fire trucks but have multitudes of stories that inspire us and give us clues to the rich history they came from.

Unfortunately in our society, we often treat our elderly just like these fire engines.  We park them into the retirement years and allow the grass to grow around them not thinking another thing about how they could enlighten us as to what they did in helping to impact our society.  We zoom by our elderly and pay little to no attention to where they are parked or what kind of stories they could bring to the table to enrich our lives.

On this journey, we have the opportunity to stop and ask some questions  to those our society has parked on the sidelines of life.  Unlike these fire engines, we have the privilege of seeking to find out those old stories that will cause us to appreciate the older generation and what they did to build a foundation for this and future generations.

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Assumption Versus Reality


I have driven the road from Phoenix to Flagstaff to Albuquerque and then up to Colorado Springs numerous times over the 32+ years.  It was in 1985 that we moved to Scottsdale and have gone back to my roots regularly to visit my family.  There is a place outside Flagstaff about 60 miles that I have passed over the years and have never stopped.  It’s called the Petrified Forest National Park.  It can be seen from the road as there are several trees and a couple of buildings.

I assumed that someone found a couple of petrified trees and put them in the buildings off the road and tried to get you to stop to see the tree or a couple of trees that had been petrified.  Needless to say I never stopped because of my assumption.  Who would want to stop only to see the petrified trees in a museum?  I wouldn’t and so I never stopped.  Not until Nadine expressed her inquisitiveness and wanted to stop this last trip so I obliged.  It would only take a few minutes and a maximum of 30.

Come to find out the building was just the start of a road that meandered thru 17 miles (one way) of fascinating places of petroglyphs and petrified forests that blew my mind.

There were these big logs that had fallen down and became petrified over thousands of years (pictures on the bottom).  Then there were these huge logs in the middle right picture that were taller than Nadine when she stood next to them.  In washed out ravines were numerous pieces of petrified trees that had accumulated as a result of rain that washed the trees down the slopes.  We spent over 3 1/2 hours at the petrified park and could have spent more time.

What I assumed to be the case turned out to be something entirely different.  How many times do I (we) make assumptions of what someone is about to say and turn them off because we think we know what we will hear?  How often do we assume what the end result will be and never travel down the road of investigation to find out that we were so wrong in our initial thought process?  Do we make assumptions of what someone will be based on their dress or the kind of car they drive and never find out who that person really is by doing some investigative questioning?  Assumptions are deadly as I found out with my assumption about the petrified forest.

On this journey, our minds will create many assumptions about events, situations, challenging issues, and people that we encounter.  Our job is to cut away those assumptions and take the first step of investigation.  Who knows whether we might find something that blows our mind.

 

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