Coffee, Tea, or Ze

It used to be that your gender was determined through biological means. Your sex was a product of whether or not you had a Y-chromosome. You were either declared a boy or girl at birth. As far as I can tell, this is the way it was for several millennia.

That, of course, was a tad too simple for twenty-first century schizoid man (if you get that obscure reference, you’re older and hipper than I suspected you were). These days, your gender is no longer a mere biological accident. It’s become a cultural or sociological construct. Certainly, we all like choices. This one, however, is way past this old dog’s capacity to maneuver the maze of modern living.

Looking for Justice

Now, having the option of being male, female, or a plethora of other possibilities, we need a new vocabulary to help us identify ourselves. If you choose one of the non-traditional selections, “he” or “she” doesn’t always cut it. “He” always worked pretty well for males, and “she” was actually quite a handy term. But what if you identify as one of the LGBTQ-CSNY crowd? The whole he-she thing doesn’t always do you justice.

Never fear. Linguists have ridden in on their white stallions to save the day. They have coined a new, third, catchall pronoun that will fill the void that has been created by our new, seemingly endless alternatives. The new pronoun, as I understand it, is “ze.”

I never thought much about it until last week. I only ever saw it in print. Then, recently, I heard a radio announcer use the phrase, “he, she, or ze.” He pronounced it like the letter—zee. Hearing it spoken out loud hit me like a two-by-four upside the head.

Like many of you, I suppose, I’ve had many nicknames over the years—Zuch, Deacon, Preacher, Rookie, Davey, etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera. During seven decades on this earth, one tends to collect these things. One of those nicknames, however, has stuck and lasted about fifty years now. That nickname is “Z.” So, you can imagine how my ears perked up when I heard that phrase, “he, she, or ze.”

Earning the Man-Card

It almost seems as if people have been preparing me for the moment when I could enter into the third category of human being. This is a bit disconcerting considering the pains through which many of us put ourselves as we attempted to earn our “man-cards.” I’m just not ready to give that up. I’ve worked too hard to get it. Truth-be-told, however, I’m not ready to give up the nickname either. What’s a father to do?

Given that the whole gender thing seems to have a lot of fluidity these days, I suppose I can decide what I am depending on what people I’m with. If I’m with the Z crowd, I can use whatever bathroom I feel like using. If I’m with the Deacon crowd, the choice is considerably narrowed.

Whatever happened to, “Male and female he created them.” Sigh…

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

Winning the Prize

There’s a cutesy commercial that I’ve seen several times now. It depicts an elderly couple attempting, for whatever reason, to get into shape. They’re obviously concerned about their health. During the ad, you see them repeatedly walking up and down stairways in what appears to be their home. Very admirable…

I have to confess, I don’t remember what product is being promoted. I think it’s because the end of the advertisement always causes my mind to wander. The final few seconds shows the couple, each clad in their favorite home baseball team jersey, walking up the steps to the highest tier in the stadium. They were apparently getting into good enough shape to be able to make the climb to the spot where their seats were located. Like I said, cutesy.

“I’m not dead yet.”

My lovely Bride and I took a walk just last evening during which we climbed a rather steep hill. Having thankfully reached the top, breathless but without having a heart attack, I gained a new appreciation for the couple in the commercial. They did the right thing. My spouse looked at me and said, “We need to get into shape.” As much as I hated to hear those words, I had to agree with her. As the old saying goes, “I may be old, but I’m not dead yet.” I might add, “Nor do I want to be.”

Most of us tend to have an aversion to the things that keep us in shape. Once we’re out of shape, that aversion inclines to grow. It’s hard to keep in shape and much more fun falling out of it. Getting back into it is torture—particularly at my age. But if I want to see another birthday or two, it would behoove me to get after it.

Switching from the physical to the spiritual (you just had to know this was coming), there’s a common phenomenon in Scripture whereby the Biblical writers tend to use the physical to help us understand the spiritual. It makes sense to use something we can see and evaluate in our daily lives to help explain something that is a tad more ethereal. Preachers (and writers) use that tact to this day.

A Race of Endurance

The Apostle Paul was big on this sort of approach to spiritual matters. More than once, he compared his spiritual life to that of a big-time athlete. He spoke of buffeting his body to run the race of endurance. He was, of course, referring to running the spiritual race of life. He wrote about going into strict, disciplinary training so he could finish the marathon he was running.

He spoke of winning the prize, which to him was the goal of attaining eternal life and entrance to the place we like to call Heaven. He wanted to be in good shape—both physically and spiritually—so he could share the Gospel with everyone else. I’d say that would be a pretty good goal for all of us (despite our tendencies to the contrary).

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

Yes, Dear…

I was watching one of those popular, morning news shows early today. As always, they went outside for the weather segment. That part of the program is the time when all the out-of-towners gather around to get their mugs on TV and yell “Hello” to the folks back home.

That day was no exception. All the rabid glory-seekers were crowding around the host to get their five seconds of fame. The host yelled out this question to the throng: “Any birthdays or anniversaries today?”

The Weather Gal

One older couple was standing there (seemingly much more sedate than the rest of the crowd). They raised their hands in response to the question. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary. The weather gal asked them how long they had been married, to which they responded, “Forty-four years…” She then followed up by asking the secret to their longevity. The husband quickly answered, “Saying ‘Yes’ to her…”

As I listened for his answer, he almost literally took the words out of my mouth. I often kid young married men that the secret to a successful marriage is for the husband to learn two simple words—“Yes, Dear….” While I say that as a joke, there’s quite a bit of truth in that humorous statement.

I suspect a lot of marriages fall apart because people feel the need to have their own way much of the time. We often tend to be stubborn in our ways—even when we’re wrong. The inability (or outright refusal) to say, “Yes,” is probably our downfall more often than we’d care to admit. How many relationships are destroyed by our failure to offer a positive response or to even change our attitude to a more affirmative one?

“I yam what I yam”

That, of course, is the main problem. Attitudinal changes don’t come easily. As Popeye used to say, “I yam what I yam.” We are who we are, and we’re not interested in altering our persona to please someone else. We see a big danger in that. We don’t want to lose who we are in the process.

This innate self-protection might be the key to our disobedience to the Almighty as well. We are no more apt to say yes to him as we are to a spouse, friend, or co-worker. In fact, we might be even more prone to ignoring the word of God as it prods us into an act of obedience. After all, he doesn’t seem to insert himself into our lives the way human beings do.

The real problem, then, becomes our ineptitude in making proper choices for ourselves. When we say, “No” to God (or ignore Scripture altogether), we’re refuting the very one who has our best interests at heart. Not only that, the Lord is the one with enough knowledge, wisdom, and experience to point us in a direction that will best benefit our lives. Failing to say, “Yes, Lord,” just isn’t very smart.

Still, we say, “No,” way too often. Getting to yes is a worthwhile endeavor.

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

My Hope in Your Word

There’s a verse in the Psalms (specifically Psalm 119:114) that says, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” There is something satisfying and scary at the same time about trusting God’s word. It’s satisfying because we have no real knowledge beyond what we can see in this world. The word of God takes us beyond what we can see into a vast eternity of possibilities. It’s scary because we still can’t see them.

Then there is the fact that we can’t really trust in God’s word until we actually trust that it IS God’s word. I guess those are two parts of the same equation. Once we’re convinced that Scripture is his word, we then have to take the leap into actually relying on it to guide our lives—not an easy thing for most.

Of course, that’s why they call it faith. The very first verse of Hebrews chapter eleven gives us the classic definition of faith. The author puts it this way. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Ultimately, we hope the Bible is truly God’s word, and we seek assurance to march into the future as we attempt to follow Christ.

My Meager Attempt

I’ve been making a meager attempt to do these things for a long time—almost three-quarters of my life. It’s been an interesting ride up until now, and I don’t expect it to change much. One thing I’ve discovered is the truth of one verse in particular. “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). That, of course, comes from the chapter commonly known as the “love chapter.” In it, the Apostle Paul lays out his understanding and definition of love.

If you read it carefully, you’ll undoubtedly discover that you don’t live up to it. Upon further reflection, you may also notice that no one else you know does either. There’s a simple reason for this. In this chapter, Paul is describing the love God has for us. It’s a perfect love. As someone once said, “God loves…period. He doesn’t love you if… He doesn’t love you when… He doesn’t love you because… He just loves you—no strings attached.”

A Three-Word Sentence

That’s tough to grasp until you read another great verse. 1 John 4:16 has a simple, three-word sentence that just nails it. It simply says, “God is love.” Try to wrap your head around that one.

You and I can love. We can love each other, we can love our country, and we can love hot dogs. But we can’t BE love. But since we’re made in God’s image, we have the potential to love. We just have a tough time living up to his standard, but we can try.

Because of all this, I have to go along with the psalmist. “I have put my hope in your word,” Lord. Everything else lets me down. You, on the other hand, are love—and love never fails.

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

Wi-Fi Down!

Through a series of circumstances (some accidental and others purposeful), we lost our wi-fi service for a couple days. No internet, no e-mail, no printer (at least the way it’s currently set up). I have to say, it was a horrific experience.

It wasn’t long ago that I had no wi-fi at all. Now, I can’t stand being without it. I didn’t know what to do, nor did I know how to act. As it turns out, almost everything I do these days is connected by wi-fi. I have to tell you, I got downright cranky.

The Pot Was Idle

The only thing I could do was cook. I even had a hard time doing that, however. We landed one of those new Instant Pot pressure cookers recently, and I’ve been on the Internet checking out recipes and techniques to use it well, properly, and safely. The pot was idle these past few days.

I couldn’t mow the lawn—it was raining. I couldn’t do the carpentry project I’ve been working on—no Pinterest (see Pinterest: Man’s Best Enemy). I did go for a ride on the Harley, but eventually, I had to return to an empty home robbed of all its high-tech features (Alexa was on the blink as well). It’s almost impossible to live when something you so widely depend upon is ripped from your very midst.

It all reminded me of the passage from the first chapter of Colossians which informs us that not only was everything created through Jesus, he continues to hold all things together. I’ve thought about that a good bit over the years. The logical conclusion from that passage is extraordinary. If Jesus decides to let go, everything will come apart. It will all explode.

How to Destroy the World

We know that a tiny atom is filled with energy. Those protons, neutrons, and electrons form little powerhouses. You’ve heard what happens when scientists split atoms—atomic bombs. It’s always occurred to me that, if Jesus wanted to destroy the world, all he’d have to do is let go. Let’s hope he keeps holding on.

The tie-in to my wi-fi woes is this. I depend upon my wi-fi day in and day out. I don’t ever think about it, though. I just jump on my computer and expect to be able to pull up YouTube, Facebook, and all those other great websites (like davezuchelli.com). I don’t even consider its existence until it’s not there. I expect Alexa to turn on my living room lamp at night and turn off my bedroom light when I go to bed—until she doesn’t.

According to Scripture, Jesus holds the universe together. We don’t think about it, we just live here. We go through all our machinations and probably never pray and ask him to please hang onto everything. We just expect him to do so. As far as we can tell, it’s always been that way and it always will be.

By the way, my wi-fi has been restored—and Jesus is still hanging on.

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

Keep Calm and Blink

Have you heard about the cougar that curled up for a nap behind the woman’s couch? No, this isn’t a segue to a joke. This is a real news item.

It happened in Oregon. The mountain lion had apparently walked through an open back door to the home (which was decorated somewhat like a jungle with live plants and a stairway built around tree branches). A roommate saw the large cat and screamed. The feline hid behind the couch and took a nap—for six hours.

When the owner of the house arrived, she purposely made enough noise to wake the purring fuzzball. When it awoke, the woman “gazed lovingly into her eyes, and communicated using feline-speak eye blinking to calm her.” She went on to say, “It was amazing to realize that this worked. I gazed lovingly then blinked hard and then she did it back.” The lion was trusting enough to go back to sleep.

“This is wild.”

Finally, the landlady decided it was time for the cat to scat, and she got out a drum and beat on it until the animal left the way it entered. The woman proclaimed, “This is wild.” I guess that’s true on several levels.

Firstly, I had no idea there was a thing known as “feline-speak eye blinking.” I’ve never been good at languages, but I’m thinking I could actually learn this one (not that I’ve had much need for it). I’m not sure why that woman knew about this kitty dialect, but it certainly came in handy for her. Not many folks want wild animals strolling around their homes (or sleeping behind their furniture).

More importantly, I’m impressed the woman was able to keep her wits about her to even try the blinking thing. I’m quite sure I would have let sleeping dogs lie (excuse me—sleeping cats) and called Animal Control.

What Lessons Can We Learn From This?

I’m sure we can all learn several lessons from this event. 1) Don’t bedeck your home to look like your backyard. 2) Make sure you learn how to talk to the animals (Dr. Doolittle, I presume). 3) Keep your back door closed at all times. And last but not least, keep calm and blink.

I’ve often wondered how Mr. Noah was able to herd all those animals into his makeshift watercraft. This little feline fete provides a possible answer to my question—at least for the wild cats and other animals with working eyelids. The Bible tells us that Noah was six hundred years old when he rounded up his menagerie. This, of course, would give him plenty of time to learn enough animal lingo to accomplish his God-given task. Even though it took him a hundred years to build a worthy seagoing vessel, he had to do something in his spare time.

The Bible doesn’t tell us this, but I suspect he went about his communications as calmly as anyone could. Still, I’m not sure how calm anyone could be while they were staring down a saltwater crocodile.

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

The Wedding on the Ark

One of the ministries I currently offer is Christian wedding ceremonies to displaced Christians, Christians who have no pastor (for whatever reason), and other folks who somehow identify with the church. In this day and age of people who have been displaced from the church for various reasons, there are more of them out there than one might think.

One of those reasons is commonly what we now call “destination weddings.” I end up celebrating a few of these each year. I officiated one of those this past weekend.

Not an Obvious Find

It was somewhat unique in that it was tucked away in a cabin back in the woods. I had the address loaded into my GPS, but I was still a little nervous about locating the place. I could tell by the map it wasn’t going to be an obvious find.

To add to my tension, it poured buckets all day. Flash flood warnings were everywhere. I left early and drove through the downpour with much trepidation. Floods, accidents, and low visibility were fears I was experiencing. I didn’t want to be late, and despite my travails, I was right on time.

I found the road rather easily (kudos to Waze) and discovered that the cabin was back in the woods up a rather steep, winding hill. Since I have a Jeep Wrangler, I wasn’t too worried about heading in. However, I had visions of shuttling people out if the road washed away. It never did stop raining.

Wedding Logistics

The road didn’t wash out, but the hosts had a difficult time getting the crowd up that one-lane, steep, dirt lane. Consequently, the ceremony was delayed for over an hour. As I stood on the deck of the cabin (which, by the way, turned out to be a fabulous place for a wedding ceremony) I marveled at the logistics involved in moving the masses upward. It occurred to me that a wedding crasher was the last of their worries.

As I waited, I went over the service in my mind a few times. Over-preparation can be a killer (check out my first book—The Last Wedding). But in this case, it gave me time to stumble across an idea that I had never used in a wedding ceremony prior to this one. With all the precipitation and the water gushing in rivulets down below, my thoughts wandered to Noah.

It suddenly occurred to me that Noah’s Ark was the perfect metaphor for a marriage. I don’t know why I had never thought of that before, but I’m sure others have used it.

When it came time for the wedding homily, I briefly alluded to Noah building the boat to keep his family safe. I likened it to marriage where we build our home and relationships to be an ark of safety from the storms of life—two by two, no less. I hope the couple liked it. I know I enjoyed the moment (although I did keep one eye on the rising water).

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

Dr. Bumbum

I had never heard of him prior to stumbling across a recent article. I wouldn’t even have given the item a second look had it not been for his name—Dr. Bumbum. As I read the piece, my suspicions that this couldn’t possibly be his real name were confirmed. His actual name is Denis Furtado, he’s from Brazil, and he’s apparently a celebrity plastic surgeon.

From what I can gather, the term “bumbum” is Portuguese slang for the posterior end of the human body. Given the man’s profession, I guess it’s an apt nickname. It would be approximately akin to a guy like me having the nickname, Dr. Bible Thumper (if I actually had a doctorate—which I don’t).

She Died of Unknown Causes

As the story goes, the good (sic) doctor was injecting chemicals into the bumbum of one of his patients when she took ill. He rushed her to the hospital, dumped her in the emergency room, and took off for parts unknown. The big news is, 1) the patient later died of unknown causes, and 2) the police captured and arrested our antagonist five days later.

I don’t mean to make light of this series of unfortunate events, but the fact that this woman wanted her butt enlarged seems a bit ironic to me. From what I can tell, most women I know are looking for ways to reduce their behinds. How many of you husbands have heard this question just prior to taking your spouse out on the town? “Honey… Does this dress make my butt look fat?” I rest my case.

I know plenty of guys with nonexistent butts whose pants are in constant danger of falling down because there’s nothing to hold them up. The females of the species don’t generally have that problem. This was, obviously, an exception to the rule—may she rest in peace.

Not Everything in Rio is a Carnival

Let this be a warning to anyone who seeks buttocks enhancement procedures. My dear departed father used to use the phrase, “a shot in the rear.” He was referring to being caught by surprise. This, in fact, seems to fit right in with his terminology. Both the doctor and his patient got the surprise of their lives (or, in her case, the surprise of her death). She not only lost her life in the process, but she never got to enjoy having a more well-rounded derrière.

It’s been reported that Dr. Bumbum was neither a licensed nor trained plastic surgeon—at least not in Rio where the incident took place. It’s clearly a case of buyer-beware which devolved into a situation of buyer’s remorse. I’m guessing Furtado has a little remorse himself at this point.

The Bible tells us that human eyes are never satisfied. I guess that was the case with the female patient in our story. She obviously looked in a mirror and was unsatisfied with what she saw. As a result, one supposes she is now only seeing with spiritual eyes. Hopefully, she is currently liking what she sees.

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

FOMO V. JOMO

FOMO is a thing. It’s been around for a while—years, in fact. In case you’ve missed it, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” Many of us are inflicted with this disorder which causes us no end of stress and angst. Lots of us are constantly concerned about things that are happening without us.

After years of suffering with this malady, it seems some of us are opting out and moving to a much more peaceful avenue. The new FOMO is JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out). In a state of JOMO, people are unplugging their Wi-Fi, turning off their phones, and leaving their i-Pads in the drawer. It’s their way of avoiding burnout and ulcers. It sounds a bit like the era in which I grew up.

Four Hours a Day

It’s obviously much different these days. I’m told that the average person spends four hours per day on social media alone. I have to admit, four minutes on that stuff sometimes is enough to stress me out. Still, FOMO can reign in my life all too often.

It’s interesting to note that some of the big boys (i.e., Google and Apple) are attempting to help people track their digital usage. I’m not sure how many folks are interested, but it might be a good idea to limit one’s self. Sometimes it becomes addicting. Other times, it just seems like a necessity—whether it actually is or not.

It’s not unusual for my lovely Bride and I to be sitting on our front porch in the evening and hearing her comment out loud, “Take a break, people!” She says this because she has her cell phone in hand and notices some of her fellow staffers from her job still texting and emailing about work meetings. I hate to break it to her, but she DOES have her phone in her hand (hopefully to view the latest videos of the grandbabies).

Don’t Leave Home Without It

As a writer, preacher, and family man, I spend a great deal of time on my devices (don’t you just love that term?). If I leave home and discover I’ve forgotten to grab my phone, I become extremely annoyed with myself. I find this rather peculiar considering I never even owned a cell phone for most of my life (even after they had become popular). Now, as the credit card company promoted, I don’t leave home without it.

I’m sure it’s a good thing that resorts are beginning to advertise “digital detox” vacations. I’d like to take one, but I’m not sure I could go cold turkey. If I can’t run to the drugstore without my cell phone, how can I go to a tropical island for five days sans electronics.

As a Christian, I have to ask myself what Jesus must think of the digital age. I can’t really give you a good answer on that one. I CAN say, however, that you don’t need a cell phone or computer to reach God. He’s always been there and always will be.

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

Why Do We Go to Church?

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with some Christians who were complaining about their respective worship services. After listening for a while, I asked them this question. “Why do we go to church?”

It took me a while to muster up that question because I hate that terminology. The simple fact is, we don’t GO to church. We ARE the church. Wherever we gather as the Body of Christ, that’s where you’ll find the church.

I didn’t want to sidetrack my point with a theological discussion of what constitutes the church, so I simply asked the question. I knew everyone would understand what I meant since that’s the way we always phrase it. “Why do we go to church?”

My Lovely Bride

Knowing I’m a retired pastor, everyone got quiet and just stared at me for a few seconds. My lovely Bride was present, however, and saved the moment. She’s never intimidated by me at any level, so she shot back at me, “Okay, Pastor. Why do we go to church?”

I quietly said, “We should go to church to worship.” Everyone knew immediately what I was driving at and the conversation quickly dwindled. We all want to worship, but we want to worship in our own way. Our real problem is with “corporate worship.” When a bunch of us get together to worship corporately, it gets harder and harder to please everyone. If we try hard enough, we eventually don’t please anyone (except God, I hope).

Since the conversation fizzled out that night, let me flesh out my own answer. We go to church to worship. We don’t go to hear a concert. We don’t go for a pep talk. We don’t go to show off our newest clothing or teach our kids how to be nice. If we expect the worship service to be exactly what we want it to be, we’ll be sorely disappointed—sooner rather than later.

A Disparate People

The body of Christ is made up of disparate and varying kinds of people. They’re all on their own journeys through this life as they attempt to be discipled in the ways of Jesus. They all have differing desires, attitudes, and preferences. When they gather together, it’s simply to be with someone of like mind (meaning, people who want to love and follow Jesus). If you’re a part of the body of Christ, you’ll want to worship in conjunction with a group of believers—a community, to be more exact.

Our problem is that we want to walk into a worship service, be entertained, hear a great sermon, interact with as few people as we can, and leave. If you’re one of those people, I suggest you turn on your computer every Sunday morning and find a podcast of a worship service. If you splice a few together, you might get the perfect one.

Simply put, we “go to church” to be with other people who want to worship too. They’re just as flawed as us. Let’s try to remember that.

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