Please God, Send a Professional!

A lady hurried to the pharmacy to get medication, got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys inside.  The woman found an old rusty coat hanger left on the ground.  She looked at it and said, “I don’t know how to use this.”   She bowed her head and asked God to send her some HELP.  Within five minutes, a beat-up old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag. He got off of his cycle and asked if he could help.
Biker
She said: “Yes, my daughter is sick.  I’ve locked my keys in my car.  I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?”
He said, “Sure.”  He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute the car was open.  She hugged the man and through tears said, “Thank You God for sending me such a very nice man.”

The man heard her little prayer and replied, “Lady, I am NOT a nice man. I just got out of PRISON yesterday; I was in prison for car theft.”

The woman hugged the man again sobbing, “Oh, thank you, God!   You even sent me a Professional!”

I love that story. A friend of mine sent it to me business womanrecently and I knew I had to recycle it to you.

Imagine being that lady. Imagine being face to face with a rough looking biker and counting on him for help. Lot’s of people would have taken a pass and waited for God to send someone a little safer looking.

The woman in the story, however, wasn’t putting any parameters on what she would accept from the Lord. If he was going to help her through a “professional,” so be it. She was just grateful for the help.

So many times our prayers have parameters. We try to box God in with our requests. “I want this, but only in this way.” “I’ll serve you as long as I don’t have to leave home.” “Please give me someone to pray for, as long as it’s not my mother-in-law.”

Sometimes God will send a professional…

When Jesus said, “Come follow me,” he didn’t give us a multiple choice questionnaire to determine how we wanted to fit into the ministry. The rich, young ruler just walked away because he wasn’t interested in Jesus’ terms (Matthew 19:16-22). Others who wanted to follow were told they couldn’t go home, say goodbye, or bury their dead. Talk about a narrow-minded, my-way-or-the-highway mentality.

We love answers to prayer–as long as they’re comfortable answers. We love to help the poor, the down and out, the destitute–so long as we don’t have to interact with them. We love to say we’re followers of the living Christ–just so we mother-teresa-poor-childdon’t have to go where he leads us.

Sometimes God will send a professional (whether you like it or not). Sometimes YOU will be the professional he sends. Get over it!

Closet Confessions of a Hanger Snob

I guess it’s time to come out of the closet. Well… For this one, I’m actually going to have to go INTO the closet.

woodenhangerI don’t like wire clothes hangers—especially the puny ones that come from the dry cleaners. I like the thick plastic ones for my shirts and good wooden ones for my pants and jackets.

Because of this, the wire hangers always accumulate at the far end of my closet. Every so often, I give them to my bride for recycling at the cleaners. For these reasons, she has labeled me a “hanger snob.”

“I must confess it’s true.”

I must confess it’s true. I should also quickly add I’ve never heard that term before and didn’t realize one could even BE a hanger snob. Guilty as charged.

I wondered—does this qualify as a guilty pleasure? Just to be sure, I looked it up on my Google Machine. A guilty pleasure, according to Wikipedia “is something, such as a movie, a television program or a piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.” It goes on to say, “Fashion, video games, music, theatre, television series, films, food and fetishes can be examples of guilty pleasures.“

“Hangers don’t seem to qualify.”

Hangers don’t seem to qualify. A fetish they are not. One might be able to classify them under the heading of “fashion” if they weren’t hidden away in my upstairs closet. I guess hangers aren’t a guilty pleasure.Closet

That little exercise got me thinking. Do I have any guilty pleasures? Maybe I’m a tad too close to my own situation to be objective, but I can’t pinpoint any. I guess I’m too much in the mainstream to have those things. The things I enjoy are generally held in high regard.

On the other hand, I’m a Christian. Christians (at least in this country) used to be mainstream. That seems to have changed—or is changing. Maybe the things I enjoy aren’t actually held in such high regard anymore.

Think about that for a second. If you’re a Christian, some of the things you relish are no longer in vogue. Things that were once generally accepted now make you appear less than cool.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Maybe you like Christian music. Maybe you enjoy worship. Possibly you appreciate hanging out with others to study the Scriptures. If we stack those up against the Wikipedia definition, all of them have become (or are quickly becoming) guilty pleasures.

Years ago when I entered pastoral ministry, it was not uncommon to be introduced as the “Reverend.” I tried to avoid that for several reasons, but when I couldn’t, it was often followed by a general atmosphere of respect and deference. That is no longer the case.

I don’t mourn the loss of that instant respect. Yet the change in attitude toward Christians in general is noticeable. It seems now that the ultimate guilty pleasure is Jesus, himself. Does that make me a “Jesus snob” too?MommyDearest

Share This Post!

SHARE THIS POST! Share it. Pin it. Post it. We see these directives over and over again. Sometimes we do it. Often we ignore them.

Social media sites like Facebook are full of these little commands and suggestions. They’re known as “calls to action”—CTA for short. And I always thought that meant Chicago Transit Authority. Who knew?

I’m sure you’ve seen them. Some are very obvious and purposeful. Others are more accidental and indecisive. All of them are instructions to do the deed (whatever the deed might be in that particular case).

I dare you to post this on your wall for two minutes!

A lot of them want you to agree with what they’re laying down. They have CTAs like, “share this post if you agree.” Others want you to help them get something around the cyber world and ask you to, “post this to your FB page.” Still others are a dare that bait you to, “post this on your wall for at least two minutes.”

As a Christian, the ones I like the least are the ones that suggest you’ll be blest if you share their post. God will give you 60 days of good luck if you do. Either that or you’ll prove you don’t really love God if you don’t repost. Please…TLW Stack

Of course the goal of these reposting requests are ultimately to get something to go “viral.” Going viral could turn our fifteen minutes of fame into a YouTube phenomenon. Sometimes these are good and other times they are embarrassing. But any publicity is good publicity, right?

Shared posts are like compound interest.

The big thing about sharing posts is this. It’s like compound interest. Compound interest is when you begin to earn interest on your interest. You invest the principle amount, it earns interest, and then the interest earns interest. You make money while doing nothing (in other words, your money works for you).

That’s how posts work. A “share” is like interest. A friend reposts your post. A friend of theirs (whom you don’t know) likes it and reposts it. A friend of theirs does the same, and all of a sudden, you have an audience bigger than you can imagine (compound interest).

Two things you can glean from this…

So you can glean two things from all of this. Number one is you shouldn’t share anything you’d rather not see go viral. You never know what you’re starting.

Number two is you can really help someone get their point, product, or cause out there if you want to. One thing can lead to another, and they’ve got a large audience, fan base, or clientele list.

The real reason for this post.    TLW Angled Cover

That brings me to the real reason for this post. I’ve written a book entitled “The Last Wedding.” I’d like you to help me get the word out by…you guessed it…sharing this post.

You’re not going to get 60 days of luck or prove you love God by doing it. You just might help my meager effort to touch souls, however.

Sorry for the crass commercialism, but you know how it is. Please share this post.

(Better yet–click here and order it!).

My Band of Brothers and the Advent Relived

Occasionally, I make the five-hour trek northward to my hometown. While there, I meet up with some of my high school buddies for breakfast.

It’s amazing how we can pick up where we left off. Sometimes it’s like we were never apart. We yuck it up, renew old acquaintances, and catch up on each other’s lives.Brothers II

Inevitably, we tell a few stories that never get old. These are stories we’ve been retelling for forty or fifty years. We still laugh just as hard as when we first told them (or we still shake our heads just as much). Either way, they are a reminder of the history we share.

“They told me the same stories over and over again.”

Those stories remind me of my first parish. I often visited the nursing homes in my area as many pastors do. There were a few lovely, elderly ladies that stand out in my mind from that era of my life. They each would tell me the same stories every time I visited them.

I would patiently listen to those stories, nod, and act surprised by the ending. Then I would politely ask clarifying questions as if I didn’t already know the answers. It was a ritual I grew to enjoy.

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. I was reminded that it is the first Sunday in the Christian calendar year. A new cycle has begun.

We do the same thing every year. During Advent, we look back to the coming of Jesus and look forward to his return. In the short term, we gear up for the celebration of his birth.

We tell many of the same stories. You Brothersknow the ones. Stories about John the Baptist, Mother Mary preparing for the babe, and Joseph trying to keep his family afloat. Along with that, we sing the same songs. Each of these things keeps a spark alive within us.

Some of it is nostalgic—harking back to childhood memories or more recent happenings. But all of it adds up to much more than nostalgia. Advent is the time for stories and songs and rituals that never get old.

“Advent means a coming into view or an arrival.”

The word “advent” means a coming into view or an arrival. While Jesus is always in view for a Christian, we use these four weeks leading into Christmas as a time to remind ourselves of how we got here. It’s a time of joyous anticipation as well as quiet hopefulness.

The Advent Season is really indispensible. If we didn’t tell these stories over and over again, we would soon lose sight of them. If we didn’t cherish the memories, we would undoubtedly become stale in our faith and in our daily walk.

We Christians are a band of brothers (and sisters) not unlike my old high school buddies and those nursing home beauties. So we retell the stories. In doing so, we help imbed the reality of the greatest occurrence in human history into our souls. God comes in the flesh, and our lives are never the same again.Band of Brothers

How Sikh is That?

A friend posted a placard on Facebook recently that displayed pictures of various people. Underneath the individual pictures were simple descriptions. These were those descriptions:

  1. This is not a Muslim; this is a Sikh.
  2. This is not a Muslim; this is a Hindu.
  3. This is not a Muslim; this is a Buddhist.
  4. These are not Muslims; these are Christians.
  5. This is not a Muslim; this is a fundamentalist nutjob terrorist!

Being the wise guy I am, I posted a NotaMuslimjpgquestion beneath his placard. I simply asked, “Do Muslims actually exist?” I was being facetious, but something about this placard really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I disagreed with his point. The thing that really bothered me was within myself. I looked at the picture of the Sikh and realized I always thought the Sikhs were a sect of Islam. Is my face red!

The placard forced me to actually do some research. I discovered that not only are the Sikhs not Muslims, they don’t get along with Muslims.

I’m not sure how I picked up this misinformation in the first place.

I’m not sure how I picked up this misinformation in the first place. I apparently misunderstood something along the way. Maybe someone misinformed me. Even worse, I may have just made some poor associative assumptions. As the kids like to say these days, “My bad!”

There’s enough bad blood floating around this planet without some well-meaning dolt like me adding to the ignorance. Fortunately, I don’t think I ever shared my errant knowledge with anyone else. But since I’m a preacher, the possibility had certainly existed.

I try not to badmouth anyone (including Muslims). I do, however, slip up now and again just like everyone else I know. One of the more embarrassing things in life is to accuse someone of something only to discover they’re innocent.

I don’t think it’s a secret that a lot of Muslims in general are getting a bad rap these days. I assume most of them don’t deserve it. If they actually did, the world would be in a lot worse shape than it is.

I neither recommend nor endorse trashing others. In fact, I strongly counsel against it. But if you’re bound and determined to do it, it would behoove you to at least know whom it is you’re trashing.

We tend to paint with very broad brushes.

This sort of behavior is certainly not relegated to faith battles. It branches out into lots of areas of our lives. We seem to have a great propensity for painting people with very broad brushes. In doing so, we crush the innocent along with the guilty.

I seem to recall Jesus saying something about pulling up weeds and inadvertently destroying the good wheat along with them. He advised against that.

Our problem seems to be an unwillingness to distinguish between the weeds and the wheat. We just randomly destroy what’s in front of us. A little discernment mixed with more knowledge of the facts might go a long way. If you’ve ever been on the wrong end of that attitude, you know what I mean.

I’m Full of It: Tryptophan and Our Thanksgiving Stupor

I’m full. I’m really full. I could stop right there, and almost everyone in America would understand exactly what I mean. But since I have to justify my existence, I’ll explain further.

WarningThe Thanksgiving meal is over, so I’m not only full, I’m sleepy. I’ve lain around watching football and the tryptophan has kicked in. At least that’s what they’ve told us for the last fifty years (whoever “they” are).

However, “they” are now telling us differently. It appears someone was wrong. I’m presently reading that we’ve been duped all these years.

“It’s a big fat lie.”

The Huffington Post says, “It’s a big fat lie.” Yes indeed…none other than the Huffington Post. And you know if the Huffington Post says it…well…

So to make sure, I’ve checked several other sources. Lo and behold, everyone seems to be in lock step on this one. Tryptophan is apparently not the kryptonite we once thought it was.

We are now told we’re sleepy simply because we’re all little piggies (or big ones). We’re sleepy because we overate. We’ve gorged ourselves. We were hungry enough to eat a horse, but we substituted a turkey, three yams, two pieces of pumpkin pie, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I have to say that I believe them (even TenPoundsthough I saw it on the internet first). The scary part for me is what happens after the meal is over and we’ve cleaned up the kitchen.

All the leftovers are packed away and stored in the refrigerator. I’ve sprawled out on the couch to watch the NFL marathon. After the first quarter of football (and sometimes sooner than that), I’ve got my nose in the fridge looking for some leftover stuffing. Why do I do that?

I do it because it’s really good. I do it because leftover stuffing is even better than first-over stuffing. I do it because I know if I don’t, I won’t get any (and that’s because everyone else in the house has the same idea). And to be totally honest, I do it because I have zero discipline (particularly on Thanksgiving Day). I can’t blame it on the Bossa Nova like Eydie Gorme (look it up, young people).

“Tryptophan was a great excuse.”

And so it goes. We overeat. It’s carbohydrate city. Melatonin galore. And what do we do? Go back for more. And until the leftovers are all gone, I’ll keep a path worn from the couch to the Amana. I’m my own worst enemy. So I’m full.

Tryptophan was a great excuse. I’m sleepy? It’s the tryptophan. I can’t help it. I’d better take a nap.

RetainingFoodNow the excuse has been unceremoniously jerked from my unsuspecting hands. It’s no longer God’s fault for putting that stuff in such a delicious bird. It’s now my fault for being a glutton. Oh the humanity!

I guess I’ll have to take a step or two toward personal responsibility. Hi—I’m Dave Zuchelli, and I’m an overeater.

More on that later… Right now I’m too sleepy.

 

Lepers of the Third Kind: A Thanksgiving Tale

Anyone who’s been a Christian for three years running has heard the story at least once. Preachers love to tell it this time of year. It’s from that classic Thanksgiving Scripture passage, Luke 17:11-17.

Jesus heals ten lepers. As he often does, he performs this feat in a rather clandestine way. They ask him to have pity on them. His response is to send them to someone else.

Tlepers-insethe someone else, of course, happen to be the priests. There are theological reasons for his choice, but we’ll let the preachers worry about that one today. What strikes me about this rather terse and abrupt tale are the results.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum (or temple, or wherever the priests were hanging out that day). They all were healed—cleansed of leprosy. The big twist is that only one of them went back to thank Jesus.

Were the rest ingrates?

The standard line of thinking is the rest were ingrates. Plus, as a little sideline, the one who came back was a foreigner. I’m not sure why that matters, but we make a big deal out of that little fact. The Bible doesn’t give us all the dirty little details. So for all we know, they were ALL foreigners (maybe even undocumented citizens). But I digress.

These ten usually get divided up into two groups—nine ingrates and one elated, enthusiastic, and rip roaring new believer. He, of course, was thankful in a huge way. He came back yelling thanks and praise while tossing himself at Jesus feet.

So the classic juxtaposition (don’t you just love that word?) is between the one who gave thanks and the nine who didn’t. Yet it occurs to me there is probably a third group.

Christ heals 10 LepersDid ninety percent of them actually see their healed state and say, “This is cool. No time to go back to say thanks. Let’s go party!” No. I suspect at least a couple of them had no clue what happened.

Some of them probably never put two and two together. They walked away never realizing it was Jesus who did it. After all, he simply sent them away. He didn’t touch them. Nor did he say, “Be healed.” He just sent them to the priests.

Was it a coincidence?

Some of them may have considered it a coincidence. Some could have even attributed the cleansing to the priests. One or two may have given credit to diet and exercise. Who knows?

My point is this. Someone had to tell them what actually happened or they would never have guessed. These things still happen today.Jesus Did His Part

How many ungrateful people are walking around today sporting the many blessings of life? How many of them don’t realize where those blessings originate? They think they either worked hard for them or just lucked out.

Somebody should tell them. That somebody is the church. We’re the ones who know the truth, aren’t we?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Glass in the Street

BrokenPaneIt was recycling day in our neighborhood this past Thursday. I put our oversized bin out to the curb early in the day like a good doobie. I had missed the week before for some reason and we were full to the brim.

Later in the day, I headed out to retrieve the bin and saw the recycling truck out front. I didn’t want to be pushy, so I waited in the garage until I figured they were done. Then I headed toward the curb.

I stopped short when I saw the RD (recycle dude) busting his buns to pick up odds and ends off our street. Apparently, he overestimated his reach or underestimated the distance. Either way, he was in a hurry to cover his tracks.

When the truck pulled away, I moseyed out to the curb to finish retrieving my  bin. It didn’t take me long to see why the RD was busting his buns to get out of there. What I saw was broken glass spread across the street in front of our home.

I was a little torqued off, but I kind of blamed myself for missing the week before and having so much stuff in my container (even though it wasn’t my fault). So I picked up the largest pieces by hand and then grabbed a push broom from my garage to quickly get the rest of the thoroughfare cleared away.trash

I got to thinking later how much like life that little incident was. For example: we always talk about congress hurrying to pass laws that have unintended consequences. They want to clear up a little problem that made big news, so they pass a statute to fix it.

In their hurry to do so, they fail to think through the possible results of their little fix. Consequently, they end up causing more problems than they solved for a lot more people than were helped in the first place. Like my recycle dude, they make a hurried mess for someone else to clean up.

These things happen all the time in life on a smaller scale. A driver swerves to miss a squirrel and hits another car. A cook takes a shortcut to move a heated dish and burns her hand. A pastor preaches a sermon to address what he thinks is a problem in his congregation and drives ten people away (woops).

A decision made in haste, a thoughtless action taken, a reflexive word spoken without consideration… Each of us has done all these things. Each time we’ve done so, we’ve made a mess. On top of that, sometimes we can’t stick around long enough to clean it up. Other times we’re unable to clean it up. Occasionally we don’t even know we caused the mess in the first place.Broken_glass

In each of those instances, someone else has to clean it up (or at least help). I really hate glass in my street! Don’t you?

 

Wrinkles, Gray Hair, and Scars

Wrinkles Gray HairAwhile back, I saw a placard on Facebook that said,

“Wrinkles mean you laughed, grey hair means you cared, and scars mean you lived!”

Using the “e” in gray would seem to indicate it came from Great Britain, but that’s not the point.

Wrinkles, gray hair and scars together on one body generally point to one thing—old. Old is a state no one wants to reach. It’s a condition everyone attempts to put off.

The older we get, the less we like to speak of it. The old (pardon me)… The timeworn adage tells us we should never ask a woman her age. A lot of guys feel that way as well.

Wrinkles can be a good excuse!

I have to tell you, I’m enjoying my old age. Aside from the aches and pains, I like being old. “ I’m too old” is a pretty good excuse for avoiding lots of things.

One thing it’s not good for avoiding is leadership in the Body of Christ. The Bible is really clear about being an elder and a leader. Young leaders in the Bible are definitely the exception.

Timothy is one of the more notable exceptions. You might remember Paul telling him not to allow anyone to look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). For the most part, however, people were revered because of their age and wisdom.homeless

That sure seems to have gone by the boards lately.

Everything is geared toward the young (but I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new there). I don’t mind that so much, but I think we’re missing the boat in the church when we do that. We’ve got a bit too much to lose when we overlook the elders.

The world likes to create new styles and try them out. They try them out on the young, not us. That’s smart because we old geezers aren’t all that crazy about any change—particularly when it means spending money. But that, my friends, is one of our strong suits.

Wrinkles can equal wisdom.

Any change that’s going to occur with us is going to take awhile. We’re going to have to test it out. We’re going to have to examine it. We’re going to have to make sure it’s heading in the right direction and line up with the will of God.

That’s why (Biblically speaking) we’re the ones the Lord points to when someone’s looking for answers. We’ve got the experience to lean on. We amassed a lot of wisdom over the years (collectively at least). We’re bound and homeless-845709_1280determined to do something right if we’re going to do it at all…particularly when it affects the Kingdom of God and how it functions within the church.

So the next time someone calls you old, thank him or her. Then ask them how you can help. If they’re smart, they’ll take you up on it. And if you’re smart, you’ll follow through…wrinkles and all.

Eddie Haskell and the Price of Insincerity

If any of you are as old as me, you probably remember the defunct TV program, Leave It To Beaver. I loved that show. If you’ve never seen it, you can find full-length episodes of it on YouTube (just like everything else).

Leave it to Beaver has been described as a “feel good” family sit-com. I don’t EddieHaskellknow about that, but I always found it to be entertaining (probably a little tame for today’s tastes, however).

Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver were quite the family. But I have to say, the most unforgettable character on that show (for me at least) was Eddie Haskell.

Eddie was the smart mouthed kid who always tried to put up a phony façade for the adults. He would tell June Cleaver how nicely she was dressed that day and then go upstairs and make wisecracks about her. The kid who portrayed him, Ken Osmond, pulled it off really well. So well, in fact, that he got typecast by the role and couldn’t find enough work as an actor after that. He ended up becoming a policeman.

But back to Eddie Haskell… Eddie was a good-looking kid who thought a little too much of himself. On the other hand, he was too insecure to let the real Eddie be front-and-center.

Not Eddie Haskell
Not Eddie Haskell

He was a mere television character, of course, but there are lots of Eddie Haskell’s around. It amazes me how many of us in the church act like him. The church is the one place where we should be able to be ourselves—no airs, no facades, no false demeanors. Yet sometimes we’re as fake as anyone else. Who are we trying to be?

We’re often too busy appearing to be “holy” to let our guards down. We have to make sure no one suspects we’re really sinners underneath our halo. Heaven forbid we might emerge as less than perfect.

The sad thing about Eddie was that no one was fooled by his act. Everyone saw right through him. Nobody thought he was anything but a phony. They certainly didn’t see him as the overly polite young man he tried to portray to the adults. When he said, “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver,” June wasn’t buying it.

Well guess what! Not many are buying that we’re perfect saints either. In fact, some folks avoid our churches because they think we’re hypocrites. We talk a good game, but are we convincing anyone we actually care?

Eddie has an opposite in this world. His name is Jesus. Ask yourself this. Do I want to be like Eddie Haskell or Jesus Christ?

CleaverFamJesus told the Pharisees (the forerunners of Eddie Haskell) that they were like hired hands who would abandon the sheep when the wolves came around. He, on the other hand, was the real deal. The sheep would gather at the sound of his voice because he was genuine. How genuine are WE?