Sirs Laugh-Alot

We just returned from a trip to Florida where our two, grown, male children live. I would have said boys, but they are both in their 40s now. I felt I should give them their adult props. Now that I have done that, however, they are still our boys.

That fact is never more evident than when the three of us guys get together. When that happens, all three of us make a quick transition from men to boys (not to be confused with the boy band, Boyz II Men). We spend most of our time yucking it up together. Suddenly, everything seems funny. If something is not so humorous, we tend to turn it into a joke anyway. Consequently, our times together are always memorable—sometimes, epic.

Back in the Day

Back in the day, when my Dad was still living, he and his older brother (my uncle, obviously) would often get together. The result was much the same as happens today with my boys and me. I can remember my Mom intently listening to them laughing so hard that it appeared as though they might wet their pants. On one occasion, she said aloud to no one in particular, “Listen to them. They’re laughing like fools!” And, indeed, they were.

There’s nothing quite like a good laugh. I suppose we Zuchelli boys take it to the extreme. But, somehow, I get the feeling that we’ll live a tad longer because of it (unless, of course, we literally split a gut someday). Laughing until we cry is a common occurrence among us.

I remember, several decades ago, listening to a Christian comedian who was speaking about the Body of Christ. He said that some of us were the feet, others the eyes, and still others the ribs. He then announced that he was the laugh. He was extremely funny, so I bought it. It just fit. Sometimes I feel like there should be a portion of Scripture that says, “And God made them laugh—and it was good.”

A Cheerful Heart

There is a line in the book of Proverbs that says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22). I’m guessing that there is, at least, a loose connection between a cheerful heart and laughter. A cheerful heart would be more prone to laughing, and laughing might bring cheer to an otherwise mournful heart. Either way, laughter (in general) is probably a good thing.

In Genesis, Sarah named her son, Isaac. All you Bible scholars out there already know that Isaac means laughter. I don’t particularly like the name, Isaac, but I wouldn’t mind being named “Laughter.” There’s something uplifting about the whole idea.

I’m not going to change my name at this late stage, but maybe I can inspire someone else to find a good word (from another language, maybe) that would capture that thought. You might be doing your child a favor by laying that moniker on him or her. What could it hurt? That child might even bring joy to all those around.

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

Trophy Husband

I had just embarked a plane with my lovely Bride when we heard two men and a woman conversing in the row behind us. They had apparently just met. One man was explaining to the other that his wife had a great job and that he was the designated, stay-at-home partner. The other gentleman congratulated him on his unique position and remarked, “So, you’re her trophy husband!”

Since I, too, am a house husband, my spouse and I relished the conversation and smiled at each other. The “trophy husband” remark was icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve been pondering it ever since. While I don’t fancy myself to be a trophy husband by a long shot, it’s an interesting concept.

I Didn’t Get the T-Shirt

I checked the internet and discovered that being a trophy husband is a real thing. I just thought the guy on the plane had coined a new term, but no. There really are such animals. In fact, there are t-shirts. You always know it’s a real thing when there are t-shirts. I considered ordering one that said, “Denise’s Trophy Husband,” but I chickened out. I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify.

The Urban Dictionary defines trophy husband as “a man who looks amazing and sits at home all day, mooching off his wife’s money.” Well, maybe I do qualify (just kidding). None of that actually applies to me. I don’t sit at home all day, and I have my own income stream (however meager at this point). One out of three ain’t bad, however. Unfortunately, the body has gone bad in recent years, so I believe the mighty Casey has struck out.

I suppose the goal of being a trophy husband is something a few men aspire to, but most of us will never meet the stringent parameters of such a position. More importantly, most of us would be totally bored with such a deal. Trying it on for size might be fun for a while (especially the amazing body part), but living off someone else’s dime (particularly someone you love) isn’t the best way to boost your ego or maintain your self-esteem.

The Exception

After a while, you’d be miserable—at least, I know I would. The exception to this, of course, is when I lived off my Dad’s dime for a couple of decades. I felt pretty good about that until I got tired of him telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Once that arrangement was broken, there was no looking back. I guess they call that, adulthood.

The Apostle Paul once told the church in Corinth that “the husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife.” In context, he was speaking about sexual relations, but I’m pretty sure this extends to other areas as well—like not being a sponge. I don’t want to put words into the Apostles’ mouth (or pen), but he seemed to be a stickler for respecting each other. I’m not sure a trophy husband holds a lot of respect for his spouse.

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

Key of F

As I write this, I’m sixty-nine years old. Why have I never heard this before? I just read that American car horns are tuned to honk in the key of F. This seems to me to be a fact that every educated American should know. Did you know it?

It gets worse, however. I checked this obscure fact out on my Google machine and discovered an even deeper truth. Until the mid-1960s, American car horns were tuned to the musical notes of E flat or C. For whatever reason, most automobile manufacturers have bumped it up a tad. They now honk in F sharp and A sharp.

Musically Inclined

If you’re musically inclined, you probably realize that a single note is not necessarily in the key of anything. However, if you’re as old as I, you may remember that cars actually had two horns that blew simultaneously. Consequently, they actually could honk in the key of F.

Now, however, many cars only have one horn (a cost cutting measure, no doubt). The result is a singular beep that is, technically, in no particular key at all. If you actually have a double horned car, the good ones are tuned to a perfect fifth from each other. This causes a more pleasing sound—in tune, as it were. You may want to check it out with a guitar tuner.

I find this to be anathema to the very idea of car horns. From my perspective, they were all meant to be annoying. I can’t ever remember thinking to myself, “My, that’s a sweet-sounding horn.” That’s probably due to the fact that the guy honking at me is usually ticked off because I wandered into his lane (or something innocent like that).

Making Noise

Regardless of what key your horn might be in, it’s interesting to note (no pun intended) that horns have been around for centuries—millennia, actually. We read about them being sounded back in Biblical times. I did a little research and found that the first time the word horn is used to describe a noisemaking instrument is way back in Exodus. This is, of course, the second book in the Bible—one of the Books of Moses.

In that passage, people could only approach the mountain of God when a ram’s horn was used to sound a long blast. As a side note, anyone touching the mountain without hearing the blast was to be stoned or shot full of arrows. This was obviously the precursor of the long blasts we hear when people want us to get out of their way while driving.

Of course, we’ve changed the meaning. The Lord’s horn was sounded to alert us that we were permitted to approach. Today, we sound those long blasts for exactly the opposite reason. We want more distance between us and the other driver. With all the road rage that can exist these days, offenders are still likely to be stoned or shot with arrows (or with icy stares in the very least).

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

Happy, Happy, Happy

I flipped on the TV recently just in time to hear a talking head say, “The United States has twice as many millionaires as Finland does people.” The segment was nearly over, so I never caught why he was using Finland as an example. That thought settled in my brain for a couple of days, so I jumped on my trusty Internet machine to see if I could figure out why that particular country was even mentioned.

I never did figure it out, but I learned a lot of cool stuff about Finland. For example, Finland is the eighth most expensive country in Europe. I bet you didn’t know that. Well, now you do. I also discovered that they speak Finnish (surprise, surprise), but they also recognize Swedish as a second official language. How Canadian of them. At least they HAVE an official language (unlike some other countries I could mention).

The Happiest Country

The most interesting thing I gleaned, however, is that Finland is the happiest country in the world. Apparently, there’s an organization that measures these things, although I’m not sure how. I suspect the final decision is rather subjective, but I’m happy for the Finns (or maybe I should simply say, I’m delighted for them—happy seems to be taken).

Having learned all that, I tried to tie it back to the original shared fact that the U.S. has twice as many millionaires as Finland has people. The closest guess I can make is that the talking head was referring to the pronouncement that Finland is the happiest country in the world. If that was, indeed, the subject, the moral of the story would seem to be, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” The people of Finland are short on millionaires, but their happiness abounds (at least, according to the World Happiness Report). Apparently, the happiness index is not overly influenced by wealth.

I learned this to be true when I was but a young lad. I was listening to my favorite rock musicians (the Beatles), and they taught me that money “Can’t Buy Me Love.” I was extremely exultant to hear that, because I didn’t have any—money, that is. Since love makes the world go around and is the root of all happiness, I was glad I didn’t have to buy it. If that sounds like it’s a circular argument, it probably is. Nevertheless, I’ve been rather happy for a long while—poor as I am.

Economic Bliss

That, of course, brings me to the Word of God (like everything else). The Bible, like the Beatles and the World Happiness Survey, also indicates that happiness does not lie in riches. In fact, it seems to suggest the opposite. Our wealth seems to make us happy for a while, then our economic bliss fades. Whether it’s because we get bored, greedy, or indifferent, we always end up seeking true happiness in other arenas of life.

Another Finnish tidbit: Their population has been stagnant for many years. Maybe we should all move there.

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

The Blame Game

I’m sure you’re aware of the horrific shooting rampage in New Zealand that left fifty people dead. In case you were hiding in a cave somewhere (which would be understandable), allow me to briefly explain that two mosques were targeted by at least one gunman. In addition to the fifty killed, it has been reported that over twenty more were seriously injured. Ironically, all this happened in a city named Christchurch.

These incidents seem to be occurring with increasing frequency—so much so that one man calling into a radio talk show sadly proclaimed, “I don’t even feel anything anymore.” It’s almost like we expect it and have numbed ourselves to the resulting casualties.

Paranoia

The victims of such crimes, of course, are not limited to those who sustain physical injuries as a result. Most of us are affected in some way, even if it’s merely emotional. Other side effects can also impact us. These can be felt through such things as new stringent laws, losses of freedom, and out-and-out paranoia, just to name a few.

One side effect I’ve noticed as these occurrences begin to mount is that of the blame game. For some reason, people feel the need to lay the responsibility for such atrocities at the feet of almost anyone but the perpetrators. In various newsfeeds this week, I’ve seen people point a finger at President Trump and (of all people) Chelsea Clinton.

I can (sort of) understand someone attempting to lay culpability at the feet of Mr. Trump. Presidents get blamed for all sorts of things—even when they occur half a world away. But Chelsea Clinton? The poor woman was confronted at a vigil for the people killed and wounded in the terrorist attack. She was accused of “stoking” the attack because of her denunciation of the anti-Semitic language of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar. Apparently, denouncing hate speech has now become hate speech itself. Oy vey!

Accosted

More importantly, Chelsea Clinton was accosted for something she had nothing to do with. Even if she had been spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric (which she hadn’t), there would have been no blame to lay at her feet. I’m pretty sure the culprit was the person carrying the weapon. Does anyone remember him?

If you take a real good look at Chelsea these days, you might notice that she’s pregnant with her third child. Not only were the accusers out of line, they were ganging up on a young mother with child. Real nice…

Scripture has quite a bit to say about the blame game. Jesus talked about the log in our own eyes as we try to remove the speck out of someone else’s—quite a vivid visual. The Apostle Paul told folks in his letter to the Romans that “at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself…” (Romans 2:1). The reason he gave was the fact that we are usually guilty of the very same thing of which we’re accusing someone else. He was right, of course.

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

March Sadness

It is currently being estimated that businesses in the United States will lose $13 Billion in productivity during March Madness. Just in case you’re somehow oblivious to the term, March Madness, it’s related to college basketball. But even if you never paid attention to that world, the insanity has probably touched you in some way (sorry for the pun).

Since I, too, am somewhat insensible to the whole phenomenon, I pulled this description from the all-knowing Internet to help us out:

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is a single-elimination tournament of 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the national championship. The penultimate round is known as the Final Four, when (you guessed it) only four teams are left.

That’s it in a nutshell, folks. Somehow, it doesn’t sound quite so exciting when it’s laid out in simple black and white. Green, yellow, and red uniforms help enliven the entire matter, however, and people go nuts (hence, the madness).

Are You Insane?

The first such tournament was held back in 1939. That date even precedes my birth (which was quite a while ago), but I can’t remember it getting so insane until quite recently (that’s, lately, in dog years). We’ve gotten to the point, as I implied before, that it’s affecting almost everyone.

If business owners lose productivity during the days of March Madness, it’s because their employees are distracted by watching, listening to, and/or jawing about their team(s). But it’s a lot worse than that. Everyone seems to have a bracket.

I, personally, don’t have a bracket. In fact, I’ve never had a bracket. Still, every year, people ask me who I have in my bracket. I’m pretty sure you’ve all been inundated with bracket talk, so you probably know what that is.

In case you don’t, it’s literally an empty bracket in which you write (or type) your picks in order to gamble your money away. Sixty-seven games are played during this lunacy soaked mini-season. Even the most avid round-ball fan doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance. A hoops doofus like myself should not even try—that, in itself, would be madness.

Odds Are…

In case you don’t agree, I checked the odds for you. There are nine quintillion different bracket combinations—literally. That’s a nine followed by eighteen zeroes. It’s no wonder people don’t have time to work. They have to fill out (and follow) a lot of brackets in the hope that they can recoup their hard-earned dollars.

Things have gotten so bad that some politicians are contemplating making March Madness a national holiday. That sounds nice, but the tournament begins in mid-March. It extends into the second week in April. I like long vacations, but this might be a tad over the top.

I don’t know what the solution to all this could be. The Bible says that the “worker deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). Still, March Madness might present us with a worthy exception to that. Maybe these workers should donate their brackets to the owners.

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

Marinate in the Truth

I’m frequently preaching in worship services other than the one we often attend as congregants. So when I get the opportunity to sit among the brethren, I really enjoy it.

The service we repeatedly attend as simple worshipers, gathers just down the street from where we live. It’s not only convenient, it’s a solid, Bible-teaching, local church. I relish my time there, in part, because the main pastor/teacher obviously does his due diligence in understanding Scripture before he attempts to expound upon it.

A Good Visual

One of the phrases I’ve heard him use from time to time is, “Let’s just marinate in the truth of this passage.” I like that phrase because it gives me a visual that I can understand. It also imparts with it the implication that knowing the Word of God isn’t an instantaneous thing.

Obviously, we usually associate the act of marinating with cooking meat. I’ve never done much marinating in preparation for a meal. There are two reasons for this. First of all, I don’t usually plan that far ahead. Secondly, I’m usually too impatient to wait that long. A good marinade often should be done overnight. When I see a prime piece of meat, I want to throw it on the grill—right now!

As I’m sure you know, the word, marinate, means to soak in a marinade. The pastor to which I’m referring is prompting us to soak in the truth of God’s Word. It’s a good visual for me, because I usually want to bite off a chunk of the Lord’s wisdom and move on in the hope that it will provide some nourishment on the run. Because of that, I’m quite sure I miss at least some of the flavor of what the Lord is providing.

Taste and See

There’s a passage of Scripture that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8). It’s kind of an isolated thought because it goes on to talk about taking refuge in God. If we take refuge, we’re seeking shelter—attempting to be surrounded in safety and security. When we are in Christ, we are soaking in his salvation and taking refuge from the storm. We are, in effect, marinating.

In this fast-paced world, we flit around like butterflies moving from one thing to another. We seldom take time to marinate in God or his Word. We seldom settle in to allow his Word to soak deep into the crevices of our lives and spirits. Consequently, we tend to remain very superficial in our understanding and in the ways we follow through. We don’t tarry long enough to savor each bite, and we move along—satisfied in our shallowness.

It’s a common malady among us Christians. Instead of growing in discipleship, we live lives that tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep (as some like to say). Along with my pastor friend, I would urge us all to take time to marinate in the truth. It will make life taste a lot better.

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

House Vs. Home

I was talking to an old buddy of mine yesterday who told me about a text he received from his adult son. The text came in the form of a question. It read, “Dad, do you know the difference between a house and a home?”

At that point, my pal began to feel pretty good about how he had raised his male progeny. As he swelled with pride and emotion, he began to phone his offspring. When he got through, he said, “Okay. What’s the difference between a house and a home?”

The Voice on the Other End

Naturally, he expected to hear the old saw, “A house is where you live…a home is where you love.” That, however, is not what the voice on the other end conveyed. The first line was there—A house is where you live. The second line had a slightly different ring to it. His son said, “A home is where my sister and I are going to put you when you’re old.”

He was kidding, of course (well, I think he was), but there may come a time when that actually might come to pass. These things are, on occasion, unavoidable. My lovely Bride often tells me that she has a home all picked out for me. If that time ever comes, I hope she can afford it.

We always kid around about getting old, but the whole subject is deadly serious. We’re all headed in the direction of old. Some of us are, in fact, already there. We do what we can and hope for the best. Eventually, the best we can hope for will be to die well.

I’m No Moses

Moses was a good example of someone who died well. The Bible tells us he was 120 years old. His eyesight was still good, and he was still strong. The circumstances surrounding his actual death are clouded in mystery, but it’s apparent that the Lord, himself, buried him. Not too many folks get the Heavenly Father as a pall bearer, but Moses was a special guy.

I’d like to think of myself as a special guy as well, but I’m not looking to live for 120 years. I already need reading glasses and I’m certainly not as strong as I used to be. Dying well might not be in the cards for me. Still, one can hope. (Right in the midst of writing this piece, my lovely Bride asked me to move our recliner across the living room. Having done it, I can tell you right now that I’m no Moses.)

Scripture tells us that Moses died and was buried in Moab. I checked it out, and Moab is the mountainous region of modern-day Jordan. I quickly realized that I had been there a few years ago. I was still in pretty good shape at that time, so there was no thought of getting buried there. If I ever go back, however, it might be as good a place as any. If it was good enough for Moses…

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

Just the Two of Us

Ever since I’ve retired from pastoral ministry, I’ve been doing a lot of weddings. I use a couple of websites as clearing houses (so to speak) to put myself out there before the public. People who are in between pastors (or don’t care to have one at all) occasionally seek out my services.

Sometimes, the wedding descriptions people give are either hilarious, incredible, or just plain hard to swallow. Reading them makes me wonder why they’re going through the process at all. It also makes me wonder if some of them even consider it to be “holy matrimony.”

“There is no Wedding...”

Recently, one guy posted his desire for an officiant to do his ceremony by saying the following: “There is no wedding…just the two of us getting married.” That one definitely gave me pause. I think I know what he meant, but it seems to me that getting married IS a wedding.

Another memorable one came when I quoted my fee to a prospective groom. I would have had to travel quite a distance, perform the service, and (of course) take care of the legalities. Because it was a small wedding, he balked at my price and answered, “Gee! It’s really just a formality.” I didn’t bother pursuing it any further, but I felt like saying, “If it’s just a formality, you don’t want me.”

To me, wedding ceremonies are a big deal. They’re such a big deal to my way of thinking that I wrote an entire book about them (The Last Wedding). Weddings are Biblically important. Jesus is recorded in the Gospel of John as performing his first miracle at a wedding reception (changing water into wine). If he thought it was important enough to do that, I’m guessing it was more than a mere formality in his mind.

“I’m not the Caterer”

I’ve never kept track of all the wedding ceremonies I’ve celebrated over the years, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the hundreds. It doesn’t matter how many people are there. If it’s just the couple and me, or if it’s done in the presence of hundreds of people, it’s still the same to moi (and, I suspect, to the Lord). My part in the ceremony doesn’t change with the number of people in the congregation. I’m not the caterer.

If it sounds like I’m whining a bit, I suppose I am. It just kind of irks me that people don’t take their vows before the Lord a tad more seriously. The most common ceremony request is that it be “short and sweet” (as if they were paying me by the hour). Wedding ceremonies are typically quite short anyway, but people seem bent on getting right to the reception. (I know–now I’ve moved past the whining and have gone right to complaining.)

I suppose I could start charging more by the minute–but in reverse. The shorter the service, the higher the fee. I’m sure that would be counterproductive, but it’s quite tempting. I don’t think anyone would go for it, though.


Not a Village Idiot

Last year during hurricane season, the storm chasing reporters were right on it. They swarmed into the tiny, coastal villages and interviewed everyone on site. One particular guy stood out to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget him.

The wind was whipping around him and his wife as the reporter asked about the ensuing tempest. Most folks had already left town for safer climes, and the correspondent seemed to be a bit concerned. He asked if the guy and his spouse would hunker down or exit the premises.

The gentleman was trying to be patient as he answered the journalist’s queries. He offered that he’d be staying until it was apparent that the coming hurricane would make it too difficult to remain. At that point, he said, he and his wife would get on their boat and head to safer areas.

“I’m a Sailor!”

By that time, the broadcaster seemed to become a bit more anxious for the man and his better half. He anxiously asked if the man thought he would be safe on the ocean. In reply, the man abruptly announced, “I’m a sailor, not a village idiot!” And with that, the interview was over.

I think the sailor stood out for me because I know I would have become impatient with the reporter’s incessant questioning as well. His retort was classic. I’d like to think I could have come up with such a quote in the heat of the moment. Those kinds of instances are really gratifying.

That’s not to say it’s a good thing to become impatient with people. As they say, patience is a virtue. In fact, the Apostle Paul told us that patience is part of the fruit grown in us by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22). I’m guessing, however, that we have to be fertile ground for such a harvest to be reaped in our lives. Sometimes I’m all too happy to misplace my patience—it can be rather enjoyable cutting irritating people to the quick.

Sons of Thunder

Once, the Disciples were traveling through Samaria with Jesus. They came through a certain Samaritan village where the people were less than hospitable to them. The two brothers, James and John (the ones Jesus nicknamed, the “Sons of Thunder”) lost patience with the attitude of the entire village. The turned to the Savior and said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54).

Even if you don’t know the story, you can probably guess what happened. Jesus reprimanded them, and he led his motley crew out of the unwelcoming village. My guess is that James and John were pretty quiet as they traveled on to the next town.

In life, there are times when we feel as though we’re surrounded by people who think we’re village idiots. The most satisfying reaction would be to call fire down on their heads. That doesn’t seem to be the way of Christ, however. Maybe I should ask for a bit more patience.

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