Faster or Further?

I just ran across an article entitled, “Is It More Important to Run Faster or Run Longer?” I had a mild interest in this particular piece because I used to run a lot. That, of course, was in my younger days. I have little, if any, desire to run anymore.

I still run to the grocery store, but I tend to do that in my Jeep. But, when I’m reliving my glory days, I fondly remember that I was a track star (of sorts). I also played a semi-decent centerfield and was known for my base-stealing prowess when I participated in what used to be known as the National Pastime. 

The Proverbial Bridge

All that, of course, is just so much water under the proverbial bridge. If I could find that bridge, maybe I could retrieve something of what I lost. But even if I could, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know what to do with it any longer. Time has a way of doing that to a person.

As it turns out, the author of the article ended by saying that he voted for all of the above. Apparently, one should not only run far but should run fast as well. To me, that was always a non sequitur (especially being a sprinter). When I was in my twenties, I could jog a few miles and I could do the hundred-yard dash in less than eleven seconds. Mixing the two, however, was unthinkable. 

Someone once said, “Speed kills.” I had found that to be especially true when I was attempting any distance beyond 220 yards. I could let it fly up to that point, but beyond that, a jog was all I could manage. These days, walking that far is a chore and a half.

Unfathomable

Still, I’ve always been enamored with today’s long-distance runners. They not only have tremendous endurance, but their times are getting so low they often approach sprinting speed. The whole idea of running as far as one can while doing it as fast as one can…well, that’s just unfathomable to me. My hat is off to those men and women.

I’ve heard that there is a spiritual side to running like that. I can’t comment on it from experience, because I have no first-hand knowledge of it. Some people call it the “runner’s high.” The only high I ever experienced from running was in winning a race. That was as close as I ever got to a spiritual experience from my running days.

Still, like the writer of Hebrews, I’m prone to comparing the spiritual life with racing. For that person, however, it was not a sprint or even a fast marathon. Apparently, it was what my track coach used to call, “a gut race.” It’s long-distance, sometimes slow, and often plodding. The most important thing seemed to be that we would finish—endure to the end as it were. Sometimes I get weary of that race as well, but at least it’s not a sprint.

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

Woodstock (and Other Near Misses)

From what I’ve heard, this weekend is the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. It was billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music.” I was nineteen years old when that granddaddy of all music festivals took place.

The Brown Acid

The previous spring, an acquaintance at college mentioned to me he was planning on attending. That’s about all I ever heard about it and promptly forgot it entirely. Besides that, I had a summer job, and making money was a tad more important at the time. It was only after the fact that I realized what I had missed. Oh well… In those days, I was much more of a follower than a leader and may well have taken the, now infamous, brown acid.

That event took place during the Vietnam War era. This was another event that I narrowly missed. I had a low number when the military draft was reinstituted. Had I not been in college at the time, I would undoubtedly have been shipped off to the front. Then, when I took the physical ordered by the draft board, I didn’t make the cut. 

There have been moments when I’ve regretted not serving. These moments never seem to last when I realize I was never the military type. Regimentation was not my thing. Besides that, each time I visit The Wall and see the names of guys I knew, I realize my name could be there instead of at the bottom of this blog.

Game Seven

Then, of course, there are three other events I missed attending. These would be the seventh game of the three World Series that my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates won—1960, 1971, and 1979. On October 13, 1960, I was in sixth grade. As I left school that day, all the kids were jumping up and down, screaming about the Mazeroski home run and the Pirate championship.

On October 17, 1971, I was working at a gas station. It was a beautiful, autumn day with sunshine and a gentle breeze blowing the falling leaves around the streets of my college town. Some Pirate fans rode through those streets in a convertible while holding up a homemade sign which read, “Pittsburgh Pirates, 1971 World Champs!” 

Then there was October 17, 1979. It was a Wednesday night game in Baltimore. I didn’t even entertain the thought of laying out the money on top of taking off from work to attend the game. I had kids to feed—boys, nonetheless. I had to settle for seeing it on TV. At least I got to watch it that time.

Throughout our lifetimes, we will have a lot of near misses. Some will be to our benefit while others we may regret. Through it all, I suspect the Lord will lead us to where we need to be when we need to be there. At any rate, rather than dwelling on what we might have missed, let’s live the present moment to the fullest.

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

Fredo Zuchelli

In case you haven’t heard, Chris Cuomo (opinionated CNN commentator), was recently caught videoed as he was engaged in conversation by an unknown bystander. This is nothing new, of course. It seems to be the practice (even sport) of the day. Say something rude, crude, or lewd to some sort of celeb and make sure the cameras are rolling.

Unfortunately for Chris, he didn’t simply pass it off and allow it to roll off his back. He immediately jumped into an animated, curse-filled argument with the perpetrator. The fact that he reportedly had his family with him makes it a bit surprising. Still, if you push the right buttons in someone’s psyche, they’re going to hit the ceiling. 

Highly Bleeped

Apparently for Cuomo, his button has the name, “Fredo,” on it. His interloper seems to have referred to him as Fredo. The troublemaker claimed he actually thought Cuomo’s name was Fredo, but I could not verify his beliefs on Snopes at this time. Cuomo took umbrage at the man’s name for him and loosed a highly bleeped rant in his direction.

One of the things he told the heckler was that the term, Fredo, was an insult to Italian-Americans. He equated it with calling a black man the n-word. Being of Italian descent myself, I was a tad surprised to hear this. Growing up, I heard my fair share of insults, but Fredo was never one of them. Dago, WOP, and Guinea were the preferred offenses in my day. WOP meant without papers. The other two are a tad vaguer. Still, they were used as pejoratives.

Apparently, we were also called goombas. I never found that term to be at all distasteful, but I guess it’s all in the ear of the beholder (or the insulter). In fact, there’s a winery down the road from me with the moniker, Quattro Goombas. I haven’t found the need to boycott or protest as yet. Truth be told, I’ve frequented their establishment on a couple of occasions. After all, goomba actually means “mate” (or sometimes, godfather). We’ve always referred to each other as goomba, so I’ve considered that to be a good thing my entire life.

Self-Deprecating

That brings us back to Fredo. The term, Fredo, didn’t become popular until the movie, Godfather: Part 2. Fredo was the brother of Michael (Robert DeNiro) and was a general screwup. The long and short of it is simply that Fredo is not a racial slur as Cuomo insisted. It IS, however, a personal insult. Interestingly enough, it’s one that Chris Cuomo has used to label himself in the past. As we all know, however, it’s one thing to be self-deprecating and quite another to be the butt of someone else’s barbs.

Since the incident, people have been playing clips of various celebrities hurling the insulting, Fredo, in the direction of other people they held in lesser regard. While I’m not overly impressed with Cuomo’s unchained reaction, it’s certainly understandable. From now on, please refrain from calling me Fredo.

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

Polyamorous

Like most everyone else, I was interested in the background of the two shooters in the recent mass murders in our country. I happened to be reading an article about that topic which quoted the Dayton shooter’s ex-girlfriend in regard to their first date together. It was not overly surprising that he showed her an anti-Semitic video of the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and gave her a play-by-play description. Some first date…

It wasn’t their initial outing that really caught my eye, though. The article mentioned that while she was dating the soon-to-be shooter, she also had another steady boyfriend. The author of the article seemed to take this in stride and simply mentioned in passing that she was polyamorous.

Bi-Sexual?

That term perked up my ears (or my eyes, as it were) and caused me to think. I’m pretty sure I had never heard that term prior to seeing it in this piece. I was so intrigued that I stopped reading the article and went to my trusty Google Machine to see what it meant. I assumed it had something to do with being bi-sexual or some other such variation on human sexuality, but I was wrong—sort of.

I had heard of polygamy, the sixty-three genders, and gender fluidity, but polyamorous had eluded me up to this point. As it turns out, polyamory “is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. It has been described as ‘consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.’”

At first glance, the whole idea didn’t seem too far-fetched. After all, I suppose a lot of young guys wouldn’t have minded having a harem or two (particularly when they were teenagers). Most people would chalk that up to youth and raging hormones. But the part that tripped me up was the phrase, “with the consent of all partners involved.” That little caveat was (and still remains) a tad foreign to me. There’s this tiny thing called jealousy (as well as possessiveness) that has pervaded our culture for as long as I can remember. On top of that, once maturity sets in, so does reality. One relationship is about all most of us can handle at a time.

Outside the Boundaries

I think we cause ourselves a lot of problems when we stray outside the boundaries of Scriptural advice. I’ve not counted them, but I’ve read that there are at least one hundred verses in the Bible that promote marriage between one man and one woman. For example, 1 Corinthians 7:2 says, “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

Apparently, there was some non-monogamous activity happening in Corinth in those days. St. Paul did not approve. I’m a bit surprised that anyone does (with the possible exception of teenage boys). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4). All the polyamorous might do well to take heed.

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

Fake News You Can Trust

Those of you who know me well know that I love satire. One of my fave publications is the Babylon Bee which is advertised as “Your trusted source for Christian News Satire.” Their motto is, “Fake news you can trust, delivered straight to your inbox.” I’m often found reposting their stuff on my Facebook page.

Recently, I ran across one of their articles named “Why Can’t We Return to How Peaceful the World Was Before Guns?” I didn’t repost this one because I wanted to be sensitive to feelings caused by the recent mass shootings in our country. Many people look at the Bee’s articles and actually think they’re serious, so I refrained.

Merely Satire

I was, however, intrigued by the Facebook thread that followed the satire on removing guns from the world. As the conversation took the usual twists and turns, people had to be constantly reminded that it was merely satire. Yet, as any good lampooning often does, it sparked some extremely serious dialog (not to mention a few arguments). I found the exchange of ideas to be stimulating, educational, and noteworthy.

So satire, at its best, can indeed be fake news you can trust. Unfortunately, there is satire and then there is satire. In other words, any writer of satire needs to be sensitive to the “line.” There is an invisible line that should not be crossed. It’s not always easy to see or determine. The best of satirists are the ones who are able to sense the line and are able to get their point across before they transect that demarcation. They make us laugh and they make us think. If they’re good at it, they cause us to do both simultaneously.

My attention was recently directed to an upcoming movie that is being advertised as “a satire that follows wealthy thrill-seekers taking a private jet to a five-star resort where they embark on a ‘deeply rewarding’ expedition that involves hunting down and killing designated humans.” The designated humans are apparently referred to as the “deplorables” in the movie. Sound familiar…? One character is quoted as saying, “The Hunt‘s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.”

Over the Line

To the production company’s credit (I think), they are pulling the ads due to the recent mass shootings in our country. From what I understand, however, they are not pulling the movie. In all fairness, I (like you), have not seen the movie. But I’m going to go out on a limb here by suggesting this sounds like a satire that’s gone a tad over the invisible line.

As much as I love satire, this one sounds like a real loser. In a time when everyone is screaming about being more sensitive to each other, about political divisions, and about coming together in unity, this release seems to be rather ill-timed.

Who knows? Maybe it will be a lot more positive than it sounds. I sure hope so. Otherwise, we’re neither laughing nor thinking.

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

It’s All Your Fault

Unless you’ve been living off the grid the past few days, you know that there have been two mass shootings in our country taking the lives of almost thirty people. You probably also have taken note that everyone is pointing fingers.

Democratic candidates for the presidency are blaming Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump is blaming the Internet and the holes in the mental health system. I heard a pundit blame parents while an associate added that “it takes a village” and included the entire community in on the blame game. Other people are upbraiding the NRA, computer games, liberal courts, and/or the lack of prayer in the schools. I don’t have the space to include the entire list, but I’m guessing you get the picture (or have already gotten it).

A Tad Ludicrous

I haven’t heard anyone blame Wal*Mart as yet, but I suppose that’s coming. If their prices weren’t so low, there wouldn’t have been as large a crowd at which the shooter could have taken aim. That’s a tad ludicrous, I know, but not any more ridiculous than attributing guilt to a bunch of innocent third parties.

Sooner or later, some commentator will get around to actually impugning the shooters themselves. It’s not as interesting to do so, but it’s where the guilt actually lies. Regardless of where you place culpability, however, it seems to be national sport to point a bony digit at someone you don’t like. I saw a meme yesterday that suggested we should blame everything bad on the people who disagree with us politically. That sounds like literature imitating life.

The fact is, blaming other people is nothing new. You only have to get a couple of pages into Genesis before you see Adam accusing Eve of tempting him to eat the fruit. Then he charged God for giving him Eve as a wife. Not to be outdone, Eve blamed the serpent. It doesn’t say so, but I’m guessing the serpent just smiled.

Resident Evil

In the book of Revelation, it tells us that Satan is the serpent. All that causes me to suspect that Satan is still smiling as we blame everyone else for our societal ills. There is a resident evil in this world, and as much as I hate to say it, it’s not merely our politicians. We all unwittingly fall prey to it when we deny the real troublemaker.

Just before Cain killed his brother, Abel, the Lord cautioned him that sin was crouching at his door. He ignored the warning and murdered his sibling anyway (Genesis 4:6-8). The more we entertain sin, the closer we come to committing evil acts ourselves. Fortunately, most of us will never become mass murderers (thank God). We will, however, entertain sin in our lives, and our society will grow all the worse for it.

Don’t be deceived by your own righteousness. King David was “a man after God’s own heart,” and yet he killed Uriah. Consequently, the sword never departed from his house. We may be reaping what we sowed.

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

Go Green or Go Home

Over the past few decades, there’s been a lot of political talk about going green. We can always count on someone coming up with a new name for it. Lately, a plan has emerged and been labeled the “Green New Deal.” Someone else flippantly called it the Green Dream. In arguing a need for such legislation, the pols are prophesying various doomsday scenarios. One candidate has gone so far as to put a ten-year limit on humanity’s lifespan if things don’t change.

There are other proponents of green as well. Some political types are more concerned about the growth of the greenback dollar. Their doomsday scenarios involve the demise of the Social Security System and/or the crashing of the stock market. This could very well be called the Green Old Deal. The Green Dream might fit that struggle as well.

The Harsh Facts

The harsh facts of the matter are that politicians aren’t the best prognosticators in the world. Even when they attempt to quote Biblical prophecy, they seem to get it wrong. Personally, I’m not counting on any human government to either save the planet or grow my retirement fund. It’s neither practical nor wise. Promises, politicking, and partisanship have historically proven to fall short in almost every case.

Even though many folks tend to look at Scripture as the ultimate in doomsday prophecies, it actually touts a much more balanced approach. It certainly contains many warnings to those who would run afoul of the Lord’s commands, urges, and precepts. Still, it is quite clear that we all run afoul of such things. In other words, we’re all sinners. Yet, God’s Word holds out hope for each of us.

The Bible tends to downplay any talk of green. In fact, if you lean green, it seems to be saying that you’re heading in the wrong direction. Of course, in Bible times, biological green was equivalent to the green of money. The proverb tells us that trusting in your green isn’t going to save you. It makes one wonder why we seem to be so hung up on it (whether it be biological or economic).

We Follow Suit

It’s certainly not that the two greens are unimportant, but there’s no question we tend to make a much bigger deal out of them than they warrant. Politicians, of course, see them as a way to make hay (no pun intended). The public then follows suit and eats it all up. Very seldom do we see politicians promote the solution offered by Scripture.

The truth is simply that “the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” And so the Bible introduces the best Green Deal of all. We are offered forgiveness and grace through the sacrifice of Christ as we trade our sinfulness for his righteousness. Through this great exchange, our ultimate doomsday scenario is avoided, and we’re poised to go home—our Heavenly home.

As it turns out, green is good. It appears that our job is to keep all the greens in their proper perspective.

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

No News Is…

When you write a blog three times a week as I do, topics of interest often fall into your lap. Occasionally, however, you have to cast your nets into deep waters to find something that tickles your fancy. Today is one of those days. I tried scanning the news to see if something popped up, but no.

It’s not that there aren’t any news articles out there. There are plenty. It’s just that I’m not finding anything thought-provoking or even worthy of comment. I’m not sure if it’s merely a slow news day or if I’m just plain disinterested. Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

The Information Cycle

When the information cycle becomes boring to me, I have to search elsewhere for my inspirational ideas. Sometimes, all I have left are the dark recesses of my mind. Frankly, that’s a pretty scary place, and the results can be quite ominous. Even worse, they can often be as boring as the latest news cycle.

Having trolled around for a topic in the morass of my mind it dawned on me how bad it must have been in Biblical times. Just think about that for a second. There were no computers, no TVs, or nary a radio. Video games were unimaginable, and a trip to the movie theater was still a year or two away. Oh, the humanity.

What DID people do in those days? How did they while away the hours? I realize, for the most part, they had shorter lifespans (except for guys like Methuselah and Adam). Still, I’m guessing they didn’t work sixteen hours a day—did they? Although, if leisure time was simply a drag, maybe they did prefer working longer hours.

Workaholics

I checked Scripture to see if there were any references to the word, leisure. There were exactly zero. “Work,” on the other hand, had multitudinous mentions from Genesis onward. Of course, God rested on the seventh day, so I suppose that should be counted as leisure time. I suspect that God, himself, doesn’t actually need to rest. He probably did so as an example to us, since many of us tend to be workaholics.

Many of us are so bad at inactivity that the Lord had to institute rules for us to follow. We are told to take a Sabbath rest each week. This is often ignored by the bulk of humanity—Christians and Jews included. Consequently, there are those of us who literally work ourselves to death. I don’t think I’m ambitious enough to become one of those statistics. Still, I often find myself at a loss when it comes to relaxing. Doing something usually takes precedence over merely sitting around taking my leisure.

Still, there were guys like the writer of Ecclesiastes who said, “I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me (Ecclesiastes 2:17).” Yet after saying that he added, “there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (3:22). I guess we’re hopeless overachievers.

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

Terminally Nice

I recently ran across the phrase, “terminally nice.” The coiner of the phrase was making the point that we are not commanded to be nice to a fault. Unfortunately, because we are called to be loving, nice is the idea we often settle upon. Christians are supposed to be nice people—period.

Just to be sure, I looked up the definition of nice. The dictionary listed such synonyms as pleasant, agreeable, and delightful. You know…nice… We all like nice. We like people who are agreeable. Most of us, I’m sure, would like to be known as nice individuals. Christians, in general, are wildly guilty of that. I say, guilty because nice is not the goal. Yet, many of us have made it the objective of our existence.

Mr. Nice Guy

I am certainly no whopping exception to this.  I want to be known as Mr. Nice Guy as much as the next person. There is, however, a line that we cross along the way. That line is the demarcation between nice and terminally nice. There’s a point at which we become a little too agreeable or a tad too delicate in our dealings with those around us. When we cross that line, we’ve become terminally nice.

Please allow me to stop here to remind us of something. Jesus wasn’t always nice. In fact, there were distinct moments and events during which Jesus was anything but nice. You may recall many of his dealings with the Pharisees ended in name-calling. My mother always taught me that wasn’t very nice and should be avoided at all costs.

So, if Jesus is our greatest example, how is it that he could stoop to such demeaning behavior? Why would he take the chance of hurting someone else’s feelings or bruising their egos? Why would he go so far as to mess up someone else’s property (John 2:15)? What kind of Savior is that?

Tough Love

The short answer is he is the kind of Savior whose ultimate end wasn’t simply to be nice. I’m sure you’ve heard of tough love. Jesus was the master of tough love. If we can go by what he preached, he loved (and continues to love) everyone. And yet, he doesn’t continue to be nice ad nauseam. There’s a limit to nice. Nice ends when it clashes with the truth.

If there’s anything we Christians place a higher claim upon than nice, it’s truth. One of our basic tenets is found in the claim stated by none other than Jesus himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). You may notice it doesn’t contain the phrase, “and the nicest guy on the planet.” If we are bearers of the truth, sharing that truth is the ultimate goal. If we can be nice along the way, that’s great—even preferable.

It would behoove us to pass along the truth of Christ without wrecking someone’s life. But if we have to upend a few tables in the process, so be it.

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

Try Not to Gasp

I was reading a news item when, suddenly, I started seeing ads for other articles that began with the words, “Try not to gasp…” Above each statement was a picture of a young celebrity whose popularity had come and gone. The hook lines were attempting to draw me in (as all hook lines do). They were doing so by showing a young and beautiful (or handsome) star and saying, “Try not to gasp when you see ________ as she (he) is now.

Basically, they were trying to get me to a different website to show me what people look like when they get older. Frankly, that might work on young folks, but it won’t work on me. All I have to do is look in the mirror. Give me a break. People grow old and they get wrinkled (or whatever). Gawking at pix of them in their more mature state isn’t my thing. I hope it’s not yours either. If it is, I’ll send you some before and after photos of me (for a very minimal fee).

Obsess

Of course, we in this country (as well as the western world in general) tend to obsess on old age. I suppose it’s not old age as much as elderly appearances, but the two generally go hand in hand. While aging well is a desirable progression for most of us, there seems to be at least a small segment of the population that rejects the idea of aging at all.

I’m always amazed by the folks who either don’t want to talk about it or, when they do, want to talk about ways to stay young. I don’t know a lot, but I’m pretty sure remaining in a nubile state is not an option. The idea of staying young is appealing, but fighting physical maturity tends to be a losing battle—at least from my perspective.

I remember when the great baseball slugger, Ted Williams, passed away. His family had his head removed and cryogenically preserved. The idea behind doing so was the hope that someday his head could be attached to a healthy body and he could live on. I’m not sure, but that might be a bridge too far in the quest for the fountain of youth. I love science fiction, but to my way of thinking, that effort is a tad beyond the pale. When I die, just bury me—please.

Besides all that, I kind of like growing old. Of course, I could do without all the aches and pains. However, having white hair and wrinkles definitely has its perks. There are still a lot of people left in this world who give old geezers like me preferential treatment. There are senior citizen discounts and early-bird specials (and we’re always early these days). Best of all, being “too old” is a great excuse for almost anything I don’t want to do.

So, if you ever see a photo of me in my younger days, try not to gasp.

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