Zeal

Why has the letter Z come to mean sleep as in “get some Zs”? Maybe because we sleep at the end of a day and Z ends the alphabet? Or some snoring sounds like a buzzz? My favorite Z word is jazz, which can be slow and sleepy, but usually connotes zing or zest as in “jazzing things up”. Jazz is passion. Robert Gelinas’ book, subtitled Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith, was one of many that spurred my zeal for Scripture.

The Lausanne Movement’s Capetown Commitment states: “We share God’s passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God’s providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

Like the author of Psalm 119, sometimes “my zeal wears me out” (139), though I can’t tell God it’s because “my enemies ignore your words.” I like to think I don’t have enemies, and I don’t want to judge people’s appreciation of God’s word. No, my zeal wears me out and I grow “weary in well-doing” (Galatians 6:9), because I’m too full of myself, too eager for applause or at least acknowledgement.

God, forgive my foolish attempts to write with pizzazz. Forgive my yearning for recognition. May all who read my words, especially those who disagree, “see your zeal for your people.” Jesus, “you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us” (Isaiah 26:11, 12).

So ends this re-mulling of the 26 words from my first book. Thank you to all who walk with me the way of awe, bread, Christ, desire, earth-care, freedom, growth, hope, integrity, joy, keeping faith, living love, making peace; thank you, readers and writers who foster newness and over- coming through prayer, quiet and receiving; praise God for your shining, trusting, understanding, for your vigorous, vivacious voices whose work exalts Jesus. I salute you, people of eternal youth and divine zeal.

Youth

The Aging Myth: Unlocking the Mysteries of Looking and Feeling Young, like most current best-sellers, is one I won’t be reading. I’ll stick with Isaiah and friends. Here’s a young Welsh author’s paraphrase:

God recharges the weak with his power. Even teenagers need him to fill their energy tanks. Even they trip up… land flat on their faces. But those whose prospects are tied up with God will get a second wind, third wind, fourth, fifth, sixth. They’ll fly, magnificent, like eagles on the Nature Channel. They’ll run marathons back to back. They’ll walk mountains at midday, midsummer and not even break sweat.

With Isaiah I long for God’s re-creation: “Never again will there be infants who live but a few days, or older people who do not live out their years; those who die at a hundred will be thought mere youths; those who fail to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”  The opposite of now, when we remember “Abraham, Martin and John” and “it seems the good die young.”

As I approach my 65th birthday though, I am seeing: “It is good for people to bear the yoke while they are young”(Lamentations 3:27). Richard Rohr (approaching 70)

recently watched a documentary on the life of Helen Keller. She seems to have leaped into the second half of life in the chronological first half, once she discovered her depths and despite her severe limitations. She lived an entire life of rather amazing happiness and generativity for others. She was convinced that life was about service to others and not about protecting or lamenting her supposedly handicapped body.

Rohr gives another example of those who benefit by “bearing the yoke” in youth: “Many of the happiest, most generous and focused people I know are young mothers.” True, and I would add young fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, as well as all who know the One whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light.

Here is my prayer for today (from Mulled Psalms #71):

We are safe with You, God; Keep us confident in Your goodness. Hear us pray; save us, even from ourselves. Shelter us always sane in Your Spirit. Come retrieve us from the clutches of those up to no good. We have looked up to You, trusted You from youth; You blessed our mothers with healthy childbirth. We will always thank You. God, inspire us till we tell our children all the good You do. Your love radiates endless as the sky — who compares to You? Though You test us with many bitter tastes You will revive our flagging spirits gently, tenderly.

eXalt

“He must become greater; I must become less” exclaimed John the Baptist. The apostle Peter also expressed this paradox, the crux of Christian faith: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

This morning a sentence caught my attention from Richard Rohr’s new book: “You will have many more Aarons building you golden calves than Moseses leading you on any exodus.” Do my golden-calf-like attempts to exalt (magnify, glorify, celebrate) God keep me from the exodus, the necessary ego-abandoning humbling?

Too often we can’t wait to exhale, to breathe exalted air and experience ecstasy; so we work to exalt ourselves or our children or our church. Jesus says: “When I am lifted up (on the cross, as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness) I will draw all people to myself.”

The word exalt is based on the Latin words for out and high. God is the farthest out, the highest power, the most exalted. Through the ancient psalm God speaks: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” On June 27 The Wall Street Journal published a Salvation Army ad picturing a woman walking through devastation in the aftermath of a tornado with the caption: “We combat natural disasters with acts of God.” Yes, God is exalted among the nations. Three days this past week I was privileged to watch the cloud-obscured sunrise at Virginia Beach. With grass stalks standing at attention my heart affirmed, God is exalted in all the earth.