Dinosaurs are endlessly fascinating.
Since their fossil story began to emerge from the rocks about 200 years ago, they have captured the imagination of kids and adults alike.
Many of us grew up with a box of plastic dinosaurs that included all the favorites: the armor-plated Stegosaurus, the three-horned Triceratops, and the long-necked, long-tailed Brontosaurus.
These creatures, all herbivores, were thought to be mere buffet items for the world's most popular dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex, probably the most terrifying carnivore ever to walk the earth.
As fossil hunters make new discoveries, paleontologists are continually tweaking our assumptions about dino-culture.
For starters, there were definitely a lot more species than those two dozen varieties we learned about as kids. The current tally exceeds 1,000, and something like 15 new ones are unearthed every year.
Drexel University paleontologist Kenneth Lacaovara found one of those new species in 2005 in Patagonia, a region in southern Argentina. He and his team happened upon several enormous bones protruding from the face of a cliff. It took four years to recover a pair of almost-complete skeletons of an animal that appears to have weighed 10 tons more than a Boeing 737.
What was this creature? Think Brontosaurus on steroids.
It was 85 feet from snout to tail and stood two and a half stories at the shoulder. Its impossibly thick neck was greater than half its length.
One of the privileges of discovering a new species is naming it. Lacovara chose to make a statement. He called the new creature Dreadnoughtus ("fears nothing"). In the paleontologist's mind, this gigantic beast had no reason to dread anything else on the planet.
This of course swam against one of the cardinal assumptions about dinosaurs, one that went all the way back to the earliest days of fossil-hunting.
Sauropods - those mega-beasts with long necks and long tails - were thought to be "gentle giants." They were lumbering creatures that lazily chewed away the hours in some swamp, watching soap operas, gazing absentmindedly at the passing world. Bring to mind any movie that features dinosaurs. Everything's peaceful until a T-Rex approaches the swamp like he just walked into Golden Corral. The big plant-eating dinos don't stand a chance.
Lacovara vigorously disagrees.
He points out that the most dangerous animals in any ecosystem are typically not the meat-eaters - lions and tigers and bears (oh my) - but the biggest herbivores. They tend to be "surly, territorial, and mean."
More visitors to Yellowstone National Park are hurt each year by angry bison than angry grizzly bears. About 300 residents of India are annually killed by raging elephants. The most frightening creature in Africa, bar none, is a highly motivated hippopotamus.
Lacovara is convinced that an adult Dreadnoughtus, which weighed 14 times more than a T-Rex, would have stood its ground against any predator. It had nought to dread.
Fragile human beings, by comparison, tend to be racked by fears.
Most of them have little to do with immediate physical survival.
We fear rejection and abandonment. We anguish whether the money will run out before the next paycheck. We dread that someone will see right through our happy act and realize we're deeply sad. We fear what tomorrow might bring. Or whether there will even be a tomorrow.
Jesus wasn't neutral about any of this.
He didn't recommend that his followers not be afraid. He commanded it. "Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." (Mathew 6:23, The Message)
Jesus calls us to be dreadnoughts - not because we're big and strong, but because we have the capacity to entrust ourselves to God.
And he is very big and strong, indeed.