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zealbyMia

Artwork by my 18-year-old friend Mia; she created this masterpiece after reading this post and sent it to me. Yes, I cried.

This post has 2 parts: one written before the news of San Bernadino, one written afterwards. I ask for your patience and grace in reading both parts as we struggle together through these hard issues.

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I find that I am drawn to people who live their lives passionately…people who feel strongly and love deeply.  Even if I don’t completely understand the focus of their passion, I appreciate the wholehearted devotion with which they pursue their goal.  Apathy and cynicism seem like such a waste in a world where there is so much beauty to embrace and yet, still so much that needs to be changed. Part of the reason I love being around teenagers and young adults such as my kids and their friends is their tendency to live their lives with this kind of intensity, commitment, and emotion.

As I think about this propensity we have to feel passionately, I am reminded that this characteristic is handed down from our heavenly Father in whose image we are created. This morning, I read one of my favorite Christmas season verses.  In Isaiah 9:6-7, we find the familiar verses about the coming Messiah, “He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace….” It goes on to say that this promised One will bring peace, justice and righteousness that will have no end.  How will this happen?  The verses at the end of this passage are the ones that are stuck in my head.  They say, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Zeal is defined as fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor.  Zeal is the power behind devotion, the muscle of aspiration. Zeal is a strong word. A word describing laser focus and single-minded intensity, an immutable unstoppable force. Although we have recently seen examples of human zeal gone horribly wrong in religious fervor leading to hate and destruction, I still believe zeal is one of the more powerful character traits handed down to us from above. Caring deeply makes us feel alive and gives our existence meaning. Caring deeply is how God created us to live.

My faith was turned upside down when I finally began to comprehend and accept that I am the object of “the zeal of the Lord.” Me, you, us. We, His creations, are the focus of God’s fervor, desire, and enthusiastic diligence.  He is simply crazy about us. He pursues us with passionate, relentless ardor and devotion to the degree He was willing to enter incarnationally into this broken world on Christmas morning to woo us back home. He wants to live with us, for us, in us and through us. Emmanuel, God with us. The zeal of the Lord Almighty with accomplish this.

Paul uses the word zeal again in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans as he describes for us what it might look like to live this Spirit-filled life:

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Warning: when we care deeply, work diligently, love passionately, pray earnestly, serve cheerfully and hope zealously, we are quite likely to encounter hurt, disappointment and discouragement. We will almost certainly have our hearts broken repeatedly.

It is much safer to choose apathy and cynicism.

But safe is boring and cynicism is lazy.

I think the adventure lies in caring deeply, loving passionately and serving cheerfully. Caring deeply, living with zeal, is brave.

And when it gets hard, and it will, remember we are Spirit powered. Repeat after me, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

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I wrote the post above yesterday, before the news broke about San Bernardino and another mass shooting. The 355th mass shooting in 336 days in this country.

Yesterday, I was pleased with my pretty words about zeal and passion and caring deeply.

Today, I am drowning in a sea of cynicism, sadness and anger.

What will it take? When will we DO something besides offer our wimpy prayers and empty outrage?

God has heard our prayers. Repeatedly. And He is waiting for us to DO something with our outrage rather than throw up our hands in helpless despair.

Do we care? Do we really, truly care about the 17 families in California who are weeping this morning as they consider Christmas morning without their loved ones? Or the 20 Sandy Hook families who are still gutted when they pull out the stocking with the name of the child they lost 3 years ago, forever frozen in their memories at 6 years old?

Will we finally care when it is OUR child? Our brother? Our parent?

When will people of faith step up and speak out on this public health crisis?

I’m not going to offer possible solutions today. I am however challenging ALL of us, me included, to pray with our feet. And our hands. And our money. Our outrage, our zeal, our passion is empty and useless when we weep in front of our televisions and computers, ask God to fix the problem and DO nothing. We are complicit when we do nothing. Love in action is real love. Anything less is just talk.

And when it gets hard, and it will, remember we are Spirit powered. Repeat after me, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

WE are the hands and feet of Jesus. Let’s prove it today.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

Welcome #LiveFreeThursday friends from Suzie Eller’s blog community. Today’s theme “Shaken” has become even more eerily appropriate, hasn’t it? Father, hear our prayers and make us brave.