Urinal Madness

I’m guessing none of my readers from the female persuasion will be able to relate to the following annoyance. You have many of your own which are undoubtedly far more irritating. So, please allow me a moment to vent from the male side of things.

I don’t know if the rest of you guy-types have noticed the trend in urinals the past few years, but I am finding that the urinal situation in Men’s Rooms is becoming peeving (no pun intended). Have you observed the height of these things lately?

“Aside from the ocassional splashing…”

In the old days, a urinal would extend from the floor to an elevation of four feet or so. In today’s parlance, one size fits all in that scenario. Aside from the occasional splashing of one’s shoes, everyone was happy (or, at least, satisfied). Not so these days.

In the modern restroom, urinals are only a couple of feet in length. That, in itself, is not a huge problem. The problem lies in the fact that, in order to accommodate differences in the height of individuals, they are arranged in varying altitudes on bathroom walls. If you encounter this arrangement in, say, a large airport, it poses no real problem. There are so many of them, finding one that fits your body type is rather easily done.

It’s when you enter the Men’s Room of a smaller establishment that you run into a dilemma. Let’s say there is only enough space for two urinals. Dollars to donuts, you’re going to find that the two urinals are placed in the extreme. In other words, one will be situated very low to accommodate the little boys. The other will be high enough that only a giant can comfortably reach it.

The Good Old Days

Not to give out too much personal information, but I’m five feet, seven inches tall. The later arrangement leaves me out. I can make due, but not without a little consternation. Usually, I despise one-size-fits-all products. Urinals are a major exception to my rule, however. I yearn for the good old days when I didn’t have to size up a urinal before I made my choice.

I don’t know if these things bother anyone else, but it’s evoked a major discontentment in me. I realize it probably takes twice as much porcelain to produce the old-style urinals, but can’t we err on the side of the ceramic manufacturers? I haven’t heard that there is a porcelain shortage in America. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I realize the difficulty I’ve just outlined is a minor one. It’s what we like to refer to as a “first world problem.” The displeasure I’ve experienced over these bathroom fixtures is, I realize, quite superfluous. This is particularly true in light of Jesus’ injunction to not sweat the small stuff. You know…things like food and clothing (Matthew 6:25)… I guess I’d be better off making an adjustment in my attitude rather than lobbying for a change in the amount of porcelain in Men’s Rooms.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

My Kingdom for a Hot Dog

I recently read an article about some problems at PNC Park. In case you’re not aware, this is the home of the Pittsburgh Pirate Baseball Club. The problems have not arisen over baseball but over food. Actually, it’s over the wait-time for food.

Apparently, the lines for concessions are unbearably long. One customer said she waited in line for an hour. Another said he waited an inning and a half for a hot dog. Someone complained about the fact that the lines were impenetrable. People who weren’t in line for food couldn’t get through. This could be an even larger problem than being hungry. A trip to the nearest bathroom could be affected. An usher might walk by with some food, but no one is coming by with a restroom facility.

Working on the Problem

The Pirates say they’re working on the problem. I’m not sure how they’re going to tackle the long lines. They currently have a winning team, and winning teams attract large crowds.

This is nothing new, of course. Jesus had a similar problem. At one point in His ministry, He began drawing large crowds. I suppose He could have invited hot dog vendors to alleviate a situation involving a large number of hungry people, but I’m not sure kosher dogs had been invented as yet. Instead, He fed them Himself.

You may remember that He once fed four thousand men plus women and children (don’t ask me why they didn’t count the women and children). On another occasion, He fed five thousand men (plus…). He did so at each event by multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread. That meal doesn’t sound as exciting as hot dogs, but the miracle of providing so much sustenance for so many people with so few morsels trumps the blandness of the meal.

If I owned the Pirates, I’m pretty sure the first thing I would do would be to pray. If I remember correctly, that’s what Jesus did. Of course, the Pirates already have enough food. They just can’t get it to the proper people quickly enough. The logistics are different, but it’s still a matter of distribution.

Give Each Vendor a Hot Dog

Maybe if they gave each vendor a hot dog or two, they could move through the crowd and break off a piece of dog for every person who wanted one. If it works as well as it did for Jesus, they would return with a cart full of food that could, in turn, be resold. This, unfortunately, would cause a problem for the state of Pennsylvania. They wouldn’t be able to figure the sales tax correctly. Moreover, they would have a health problem with all the sharing of food among the thirty or so thousand patrons of PNC Park.

These were problems which Jesus did not face, of course. The Jerusalem Board of Health had not been convened in first century Judea (although the Romans had a pretty good handle on taxes). I’m just wondering if He passed out mustard packets with the fish.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Another Royal Pain

I hear there’s about to be another Royal Wedding. Have you heard anything about that? Of course, you have. We will be inundated with all things Royal in a matter of moments. As one who celebrates wedding ceremonies with regularity, I suppose I should be thrilled, but alas, I am not. I, in fact, am far less than thrilled.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I find it so boring and over the top. I’ve done so many weddings in my life, I guess I’m not overly exhilarated to watch another one on TV (particularly one that will not only last for hours, but one that will get days of commentary and replays following the actual event).

Self-Important and Pompous

Every wedding is important. I believe that to be true. That’s why I wrote “The Last Wedding.” But no wedding is THAT important (except the final one). There’s not a wedding around that merits the hours of spectatorship that the Royal Weddings garner. For my money, Royal Weddings are no more important than any other. In fact, I find them to be overly self-important, pompous, and presumptuous. I seem to be in the minority, however.

The Brits are in love with them, of course, but it’s their tradition. As far as I can tell, people all over the world go gaga for them as well. Frankly, it’s beyond me, but my lovely Bride is one of them (a viewer, not a Royal), so I can’t totally avoid the spectacle.

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing there are a lot of fathers out there who spend thousands of extra dollars on weddings because their daughters were infatuated with one Royal Wedding or another. Since all of our daughters and granddaughters are wannabe princesses, how can we say, “No.” We can only pray that they’ll be somewhat sensible as they seek to fulfill their need to be a Royal bride.

Love, Honor, and Cherish

Weddings are important rites of passage. They mark and publicize a covenant many single people make to pass into the ranks of the united—as in “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It’s a critical moment in someone’s life when they answer, “I will” to the attending celebrant. That celebrant (officiant, pastor, justice of the peace, etc.) has just asked one of the most significant questions to which anyone will ever agree. “Will you take” this person to be your spouse? In so doing, do you agree to “love, honor, and cherish” that person “so long as you both shall live?” It’s a daunting question—one which many of us answer in the affirmative and yet fail to live up to its meaning. Even the Royals have problems living out those vows to the fullest.

Now that I think about it, maybe the well-publicized Royal Weddings are a good thing. If anyone actually listens to what goes on, it could be a good reminder of the gravity of the marriage vows. It could serve as a nudge toward rethinking our own. It surely couldn’t hurt.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Working on a Building

For the past several days I’ve been working on a building. We’re doing the Chip and Joanna Gaines thing and remodeling a second home we own in the state of Florida. If you’ve ever watched Fixer Upper, you know that Chip’s favorite day is “demolition day.” Well, I’ve basically had five demolition days in a row. It’s a destroyer’s dream.

My sons (who are basically my work crew) and I are about to turn the corner, however. We’ll begin to put it all back together today or tomorrow. It won’t be as much fun as tearing it apart, but it will look a whole lot better when it’s finished than it does now (I hope). It will take a lot longer to reassemble the pieces than it did to disassemble them, but I’m expecting that the finished product will be worth the effort.

A Strange Phenomenon

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon occurring within my psyche over the past week. I find that every day when we leave the site of our property, I’ve become more attached to it than I was the day before. The more time and sweat equity I put into that place, the greater the pull to keep it and live there. Our current plans are to sell it when it’s completed, so that is unlikely to ever happen. But investing yourself in something like that tends to change you from the inside out.

Essentially what I’m doing is working on another person’s abode. I own the building, but it will soon be someone else’s home. As gratifying as it is to see the bungalow transformed before my very eyes, it’s even more satisfying to anticipate the enjoyment another individual (or individuals) will receive as they live in the space we’ve provided for them.

This all puts me in mind of Jesus’ words as he was preparing to depart planet earth for His heavenly home. He told His disciples that He was leaving in order to build them a house. His actual words were, “I go and prepare a place for you.” (John 14:3) He didn’t describe it in detail except to strongly imply that His Father’s home has a lot of floor space. I guess that’s why we often refer to our heavenly dwelling place as a mansion in the sky.

Oh, My Aching Back

My aching back causes me to wonder what means Jesus will use to erect our saintly domicile. If the creation account in Genesis is any indication, He will simply speak it into being. On the other hand, we often assume that Jesus was a carpenter during his physical life here on this earth (although it doesn’t really say that anywhere). He may actually be building our divine lodgings by using His muscle and sinew and the sweat of His brow.

However He chooses to do it, I’m sure He’s getting a lot of satisfaction from the fact that it will be there for someone else to enjoy. I look forward to being one of the providential residents.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Parking Lot Committee

Now that I’m fully retired from pastoral ministry, I can sit back and take stock of the things I really miss as opposed to those things to which I will never give another passing thought. One of the latter happens to be administrative meetings. Some folks seem to live for these get-togethers, but I, on the other hand, have no such draw. Other than meeting for worship or fellowship, you can have your summits without me, and I will be none-the-wiser and just as happy. Administration is necessary, even in the church. None-the-less, it is a necessary evil for which I will not pine.

To tell you the truth, a lot of those church meetings were highly superfluous anyway. Whether you call them the Church Board, the Administrative Council, or the Panel of Deacons, there were other meetings that almost always superseded those official gatherings.

The Real Business of the Congregation

There are unofficial (but highly significant) assemblies that usually happen in the church parking lot. They are impromptu and far more honest than those that occur within the building. They transpire as the participants of the indoor meetings are headed to their cars. The real business of the congregation is handled there, and usually, people like the pastor are excluded. The Parking Lot Committee Meeting is where the conversation following the conversation takes place (if you get my drift).

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to hold the Parking Lot Meeting until the official, indoor meeting has taken place. The preliminary discussion happens in the authorized meeting to lay the groundwork for the unauthorized one. Then the real business of the church is hashed out in the parking lot. As a pastor, I was never privy to these real meetings (the parking lot ones), but I’m sure my remarks in the earlier confabs were used as fodder to facilitate the later consultations (I hope that’s not too confusing for your understanding).

Who’s Who in My Church?

The Parking Lot Committee is the real mainstay of your congregation. They are not listed anywhere in the offices of the church. Make no mistake, however, they are every bit as influential and effective as any other official body listed on your paper of Who’s Who in My Church. Getting to know who these people are just may be a priority for you if you care about where your ecclesiastical body is headed. They, my friends, are your real movers and shakers.

Any pastor worth her salt will get to know these folks and will schmooze them as best she can. Ignoring them is highly unadvisable. Crossing them is fatal. Any ministry you thought you had will quickly exit the nearest window, and you will be left with nothing but your clerical collar and your shiny book of polity (neither of which will have any meaningful purpose anymore).

Pontius Pilate assumed he was in charge of the Roman province of Judea. He was merely the figurehead for the Parking Lot Committee who yelled, “Crucify him!” Wash your hands all you want. It doesn’t change a thing.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Suppertime

A lot of people get hung up on titles. I’ve known a lot of clergy types over the years who were like that. If you didn’t call them Reverend, Father, Pastor, Monsignor, or Bishop, they would get all bent out of shape. I suppose it’s a respect thing. Unfortunately, demanding respect is a lot different than earning it. Frankly, once they hang that title in front of your name, that’s when the real earning begins.

When I was ordained, someone asked me what they should call me now that the deed was done. We were with a small group of people at the time, and I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “His Holiness.” I was joking, of course, and got the belly laughs I was looking for. What’s really funny is that, since then, I still have friends who will occasionally refer to me as His Holiness.

Late for Supper

As a matter of course, I try to go by the old saying, “You can call me anything but late for supper.” That seems to work pretty well for me (and for my acquaintances). There are still those folks who can’t bring themselves to call me by my first name, but that’s okay. I’m old school on a lot of things myself—just not in the title department.

In this weird stream of consciousness, my next thought takes me to an old Gospel song I haven’t heard in years. I guess it was the word, supper, that did it. It was written by Jim Reeves and recorded by everyone under the sun. I think my favorite version of it was done by Johnny Cash. The song takes the listener back to the days when Mom would call at the end of a long day of playing out in the neighborhood, “Come home, come home, it’s suppertime.” As the lyrics develop, the song then transitions to what the Apostle John calls, “the Wedding Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:6-9).

“Some days are like that.”

In Revelation, John speaks of a celebration that occurs in Heaven when the Bride of Christ (the church) is invited to come home to a wedding banquet. It’s for that reason (among others) that we in the church often refer to death as “going home.” I remember in my early days as a pastor having a parishioner often say to me, “Dave, I just want to go home.” Some days are like that.

Suppertime is something to which most of look forward. It’s a time of gathering, a time of winding down, and a time of fellowship with the ones we love the most. These days, with much of my family scattered to the four winds, suppertime is a tad less fulfilling than it used to be. I always look forward to those times, mostly on holidays, when the whole family is back together again for a big meal. There’s nothing quite like it. The reunion in Heaven is going to be a doozy. I hear God can really throw a great dinner party.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Jeep Wave

My usual form of transportation is a Jeep Wrangler. It’s one of those vehicles that has a tradition attached to its ownership. It’s an unwritten rule that, if you ride around in one of those babies, you’re supposed to give a wave to anyone who goes by in another Wrangler. This is also true of motorcycle riders, and I recently learned that it’s true of Mini Cooper owners as well. If this keeps up, we’ll all be waving at each other in no time.

I find it interesting to see who all lives up to the tradition. I reside in an area of the country where there are lots of Wranglers tooling around, so I’ve done a considerable amount of observation over the past couple of years. The results of my observations are about what one might expect.

They May Not Be Invested

I try to wave every time if possible. Then I intently peer at the approaching driver to see if he (or she) will wave back. About a third of the time, that doesn’t happen. For whatever reason, I don’t get a return wave. That could be for several reasons. They might not see me, they may be distracted, or they might just not want to play nice. I’ve noticed that a high percentage of women don’t bother. My guess is that it’s their boyfriend’s Jeep and they’re just not invested in the tradition.

For the most part, the rest of the drivers give me a wave (including some from the female persuasion). The tradition holds for them. Some are quite enthusiastic about it, some flash the peace sign (do they still call it that?), and if the top is down, many will wave above the windshield.

Then, there are those who are so intent on upholding the tradition that they practically cause a head-on collision attempting to get my attention. I appreciate their zeal, but a little more caution might be the better part of valor there.

I have to say, I like being part of the club (so to speak). There’s something about being friendly with people you don’t know. Not only that, in this case I’ll probably never know them. It’s quite freeing. No drama, no pretense, just plain affability. Admittedly, it’s really shallow, but that seems to be how many of us live our lives these days.

It’s Not Biblical

That, of course, is really un-Biblical. The Biblical model is based in community. The community we see fostered and endorsed in Scripture is of a very profound nature. A simple wave wouldn’t cut it there. The early Christians were called upon to persevere, but they were never asked to do it alone. They were urged to continue meeting together and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost a lot of that comradery in the church. Often, we’ve been reduced to ducking in and out of a Sunday service as we give the Jeep wave. Heaven help us. We’ve become ships in the night.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Mary Had Our Little Lamb

The stories of Jesus’ early life are, in many ways, the most fascinating and mysterious of them all. The ones that relate to His mother are particularly rife with human emotion, angst, and devotion. The fact that she played an integral part in the Lamb of God’s human development is often neglected and simply ignored by many of us.

After His birth, we don’t read anything about Jesus until He is twelve years old. You may remember the story. The Holy Family took a trip to Jerusalem along with many other pilgrims of their day. The went there to celebrate the Passover. It was a longstanding Jewish tradition. To this day, Jews all over the world end their Passover Seder Meals with the expression, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

They Were a Nervous Wreck

It was customary for the women and men of the various villages to travel in all female groups and all male groups. The children could travel either with the men or the women. There was no strict custom for them to follow. Because of that, Jesus was inadvertently left behind. Joseph thought He was with Mary, and Mary thought He was with Joseph. After traveling a day, they discovered Jesus was missing and rushed back to the Holy City—probably a nervous wreck.

When they arrived, they searched three days for Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus was in the Temple conversing with the teachers (who found Him to be amazingly wise and thoughtful). Mary, however, was in no mood to be swayed by a bunch of old men. In typical Jewish mother fashion, she gave Jesus a piece of her mind. Though He thought he was doing what the Lord wanted Him to do, he went with His earthly parents and, apparently, didn’t cause them any more problems. At any rate, we don’t hear anything else about Him until he’s in his late twenties.

At that point, John’s Gospel places Jesus, His mother, and His disciples at a wedding in Cana. I’m guessing you’ve heard the story. The bridegroom runs out of wine and is about to be totally humiliated. Mary cajoles Jesus to do something, but Jesus tells her in no uncertain terms that His time had not yet come. In other words, no miracles today, Mom.

The Same Woman

The same woman who dragged him out of the Temple when He believed He was doing God’s will, now forced His hand to begin His public, earthly ministry—much to His chagrin, I might add. Mary stopped Jesus from ministering when He was twelve and pushed Him back into it when he was twenty-nine.

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I think it’s imperative for us to remember the importance of earthly parents. If Jesus needed them, how much more do we. God the Father used a young woman of humble birth to not only parent His Son, but to direct His footsteps in ministry.

There’s something fascinating about the God of the Universe being vulnerable to this Jewish handmaiden. What’s a mother to do?

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Charlie Blackmon & the Samson Syndrome

In case you’ve never seen Charlie Blackmon, he’s one of the premier players in major league baseball today. Besides being a great hitter, one of his claims to fame is the fact that he looks like a caveman. He has a shaggy mane on his head, but his most prominent feature is his magnificent beard. It’s thick, full, and dark. Most guys would love to be able to sport facial hair like that. Some of us can’t even get that kind of a mop on top of our heads let alone our chins. Very manly to say the least.

Baseball is one of those games that hangs on statistics. They measure everything. Now they’re measuring Charlie Blackmon’s performance against his facial growth. As it turns out, he has the Samson Syndrome.

Remember Samson?

You may remember the Old Testament story of Samson. He’s the guy whose strength was in his hair. The longer his hair got, the stronger he became. It’s kind of an odd story, but Blackmon is proving the reliability of its historicity.

Baseball announcers and statisticians have gone back into Blackmon’s baseball career and discovered an interesting correlation. The bigger Charlie’s beard gets, the more home runs he hits. One year, he shaved it off and his homer total dropped to one during the subsequent season. Ever since then, he’s allowed it to propagate, and his homer totals have climbed. Last season, he hit thirty-seven. It’s definitely the Samson Syndrome.

Here Come the Judge

The original Samson was a “Judge.” If you read the Book of Judges, you’ll quickly discover that a judge in the ancient history of Israel was not what we envision these days. These Judges were basically temporary leaders in a time when there really were no leaders. Undoubtedly, each family, clan, and tribe were rulers unto themselves. But it seemed that in times when things got exceptionally bad, a “Judge” would arise to help them out of one morass or another. Most of them probably never knew they were judges, but there was no salary attached to the position, so I doubt if they cared.

The story of Judge Samson begins in the context of a forty-year, Philistine occupation which resulted from Israel doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (Judges 13:1) The Israelis were prone to this sort of behavior, so they needed a Judge once in a while to lift them out of a mess of their own making.

Samson had apparently taken the Nazarite vow. Part of the vow was to never apply a razor to one’s head. Consequently, Samson’s hair grew long, and his body grew strong. He strength was so great that he once tore a lion apart with his bare hands. He also was credited with several other feats that were equally jaw-dropping before his wife (Delilah) betrayed him and cut off his hair. Sans coiffure, he lost his strength and was defeated.

All I’ve got to say is this. Charlie Blackmon, let that beard continue to grow (and don’t get married).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]