ISSUE No. 21 | May 2022
If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you! CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND. Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:
What are you cultivating in your life?
What fruit do you want your life to bear?
Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:
Cultivate: Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”
Irrigate: Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation: Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.
Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.
Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living. We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
Our theme this month is ZEAL. Why zeal you may ask? Good question. We think zeal has gotten such a bad rap these days that it largely misunderstood. A fresh perspective is needed. We hope this issue brings a new vantage point on zeal which for centuries was viewed as a virtue.
Zeal is usually viewed negatively today, seen as off-putting, obnoxious, and non-empathetic. And we get that. Politicians, leaders, marketers, and celebrities energetically abuse their roles and power in ways that distort or ignore reality and truth, illuminating their harmful efforts and ends. But what if zeal and enthusiasm are used for good? Throughout history zealous medical workers have brought an end to disease and illness, zealous peacemakers have brought an end to wars, and zealous advocates for justice have brought an end to systems of oppression. Zealous energy toward positive ends brings needed and redemptive fruit.
The New Oxford Dictionary defines ZEAL as: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Zeal is the impulse to go forward, the urge behind all good things. We see that in the beauty and wonder of nature each Spring. The impulse to emerge takes root. New life springs forth.
In this issue we highlight both healthy and unhealthy expressions of zeal. We spotlight two Elizabeths--our profile is on Elisabeth Elliot while our documentary film is on Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. We highlight a gifted and creative married couple, artists Christo and Jean-Claude. Our Essay looks at the virtue of zeal, and we feature lessons on happiness from Saints through the ages in our book of the month.
Our hope is that with a fresh look at zeal you will be prompted to take a fresh look at your faith. To what might God be inviting you to devote greater energy? What divine cause might God be calling you to pursue? We affirm the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he forewarned: “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Or, in the words of Edward T. Oakes, “Without zeal, Christianity becomes a hollow shell of itself.” May we all emerge from whatever shell we find ourselves in and trust God in ever-empowering ways. (DG)
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (2 Kings 19: 30-31 NIV)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Where zeal abounds, maturity should abound much more. (Ayoola Ekunboyejo)
We all tend to make zealous judgments and thereby close ourselves off from revelation. If we feel that we already know something in its totality, then we fail to keep our ears and eyes open to that which may expand or even changes that which we so zealously think we know. (Madeleine L'Engle)
The zest for life, which is the source of all passion and all insight, even divine, does not come to us from ourselves.... It is God who has to give us the impulse of wanting him. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
While the rest of the evangelical world seems bound and determined to pursue zeal without knowledge, I fear we have learned to be skeptical about zeal instead of ignorance. The answer to zeal without knowledge is never knowledge without zeal, but a zeal inspired by, driven by, informed by knowledge. (R.C. Sproul Jr.)
Moral crusaders with zeal but no ethical understanding are likely to give us solutions that are worse than the problems. (Charles Colson)
Nonviolence will empower and equip us to bring generations to the table and fuse our knowledge, gifts, and zeal together. (Bernice King)
I am sure, zeal or love for truth can never permit falsehood to be used in the defense of it. (John Locke)
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that “zeal for God and His gospel” which is nothing else but our own tempestuous and stormy passion. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame, which makes us active for God – but always within the sphere of love. It never calls for fire from heaven to consume those who differ a little from us. It strives to save the soul – but hurts not the body. True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction. (Ralph Cudworth)
Artists of the Month
Christo & Jeanne-Claude
I first encountered Christo and Jean-Claude’s extraordinary artwork in 1991 when I made a drive from my home in Southern California up Interstate 5 on my way to visit family and friends in Northern California. As I drove north from LA, approaching the long road’s climb up “The Grapevine” (as it is known to locals) of the mountainous Tejon Pass, I saw a sight that left me stunned! There, scattered across the hills of the mountain pass like seeds sprouting at will, were hundreds of large yellow umbrellas! I had to pull my car over so as not to cause an accident. I was captured by what my eyes took in. I would later learn that what I witnessed was the creative, some would even call it zealous, work of husband-and-wife artists Christo and Jean-Claude.
Born on the exact same day, June 13, 1935 – Christo in Bulgaria and Jean-Claude in French-Morocco – the two formed a personal and professional collaboration that flourished until their respective passings (Jean-Claude in 2009; Christo in 2020). The large-scale installation works they co-authored, stand out as some of the greatest achievements in site-specific art. Together, the duo created monumentally scaled sculptures that often used the technique of draping or wrapping large portions of existent landscapes, buildings, and industrial objects with specially engineered fabric. Examples of their work include wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin (1995), the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (2021), and installing 7500 fabric gates in NYC’s Central Park (2005).
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s outdoor works are regarded as some of the most ambitious and innovative in the world, though they are oftentimes controversial due to their size and questionable impact on the environment. But it certainly takes zeal to imagine, create, and convince resistant and reluctant government officials (some over the course of 25 years!) to allow their public buildings and spaces to be used as a setting and stage for the whimsical and wondrous work of beauty – ethereal and energizing. (DG)
To learn more about this dynamic duo, we encourage you to watch this 11-minute 60 Minutes episode: View Now
Wrapped Reichstag, 1995, photograph by Wolfgang Volz
True And False Zeal
by John Newton
Zeal is that pure and heavenly flame,
The fire of love supplies;
While that which often bears the name,
Is self in a disguise.
True zeal is merciful and mild,
Can pity and forbear;
The false is headstrong, fierce and wild,
And breathes revenge and war.
By Billy Brummel
Elisabeth Elliot was a missionary to Central America and a hugely influential author and speaker in 20th century evangelical Christianity. She was born to missionary parents in Brussels, Belgium in 1926 but her family soon moved to the United States where there was a constant stream of foreign missionaries on furlough visiting the house. Upon graduating from a boarding school in Florida, she chose to attend Wheaton College in Illinois and to study Classical Greek so that she would have a strong foundation in language to pursue her vision of creating new translations of the Bible for unreached people. After graduating from Wheaton College, she went to Ecuador to begin her missionary work with Wycliffe. There she re-encountered Jim Elliot, her brother’s roommate from Wheaton with whom she had shared a Greek class. The two were married in 1953 and they had a daughter, Valerie in 1955. One year later, Jim and four other missionaries were killed while trying to make contact with the Huaroni, a violent and elusive tribe. In the aftermath of such a great loss, Elisabeth stayed in Ecuador working with another indigenous people group, the Quichua. Her attitude of service to God and her focus on her divinely ordained mission to the people of Central America remained clear. As she would later write about her faith in the aftermath of disappointment and pain, “I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” She was able to learn the Huaroni language. After two years she re-established contact with the Huaroni, and eventually she and Valerie shared the Gospel with the entire tribe. One of the early converts and the Elliots’ most ardent allies in the tribe was a man named Mincaye—a member of the warrior party that killed her husband.
During her time in Ecuador, Elliot wrote three books about her experience. Through Gates of Splendor was a worldwide best-seller. When Elizabeth returned to the U.S. she was a highly sought after Christian speaker and author, eventually writing 24 books in all. She also had a short radio program called Gateway to Joy. She opened each episode with this exhortation: You are loved with an everlasting love, that’s what the Bible says and underneath are the everlasting arms. This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot. Upon returning to Massachusetts, Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, a theology professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1969. However, after only 4 years he tragically died of cancer, leaving her and young Valerie alone again. In her journals Elliot speaks of battling intense feelings of loneliness during this time, but her focus on the eternal and faith never wavered despite the questions that would steadily gnaw at her. She wrote in These Strange Ashes, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.” In 1977 she re-married and continued to write and speak publicly until 2004 when her health prevented her from continuing. She died in 2015.
As I think about Elisabeth Elliot’s story, the verse from the book of Hebrews (12:1) comes to mind: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Elliot was a woman who persevered through myriad emotional and physical obstacles along her path. The perseverance did not have to do with the now-popular notion of grit. She was not “white knuckling” her way through life. From what did her remarkable perseverance derive? The following verse in Hebrews (12:2) gives us the answer: . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Her vision of Jesus stirred in her a zeal to pursue His mission for the earth, regardless of circumstances that appeared in her life. And it was her zeal to walk in step with Jesus that enabled her long obedience in the same direction.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
The movie The Mission is a period drama film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th-century South America. Directed by Roland Jaffe and written by Robert Bolt, the film stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Aiden Quinn, and Liam Neeson. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. We recommend the film as worthwhile simply for the beauty of the musical score written by Ennio Morricone.
The film invites us to consider how our beliefs and positions, actions and inactions, affect the lives of others. In this film we witness zeal for God, for nations, for war and for peace, by which the audience is asked to grapple with how such zeal fosters activities that affect individuals and communities.
THE INVENTOR: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
A film about Elizabeth Holmes & Theranos
Find what you love, and don’t let it go no matter what. I would say Winston Churchill really knew what he was talking about when he said, ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never ….’ And I would say that I am living proof that it’s true that if you can imagine it, you can achieve it. (Elizabeth Holmes)
It takes a certain zeal to break boundaries and achieve great things. However, the issue with zeal is that it can muddy the waters between fiction and reality. The story of Theranos is a pertinent example of how zealous intention, when not grounded in truth, can turn toxic. As a 19-year-old dropout of Stanford, Elizabeth Holmes’ zeal to overhaul healthcare by simplifying and expanding the capacity of blood testing led to ten years of fraudulent proclamations of victory in public while privately experiencing one set-back after another, ultimately resulting in her and her partner’s prosecution. This tale of “fake it till you make it” reminds us that zeal is intended to be the means to an end, not an end unto itself. Available on various streaming services.
John Cleese - Extremism
While the quality of this video is admittedly poor, this two-minute monologue from comedian John Cleese captures a timeless truth: Zeal unchecked leads to extremism, and extremism sees everyone outside of its camp as the enemy.
Megan Phelps: Former Congregant of Westboro Baptist Church
Westboro Baptist Church encapsulates a kind of zeal that has made its name synonymous with religious hate and intolerance throughout the United States. Under the banner of theological rightness, this small congregation would show up and picket with hate signs at a variety of places including the funerals of homosexuals, Muslims, Jews and/or their spouses and partners. In this Ted Talk, Megan Phelps, a literal five-year-old poster child of Westboro reflects on her institutionalized beliefs, and the kindness she experienced from her enemies that caused her to re-think what she was zealous about.
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme
The Saints Guide to Happiness
Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world. (St. Theresa of Avila)
For our book selection we desired to give you examples of zealous living anchored in the transforming knowledge of God. The Saints Guide to Happiness presents the lived experiences of faithful individuals who, through a zealousness for goodness, have followed Christ into rich and meaningful daily experiences. These individuals weren’t saints because of the way they died or their visions or wondrous deeds. They were saints because of their extraordinary capacity for goodness and love, which in the end, makes us happy. Among the exemplars set forth by Ellsberg are Augustine, Mother Theresa, and Flannery O’Connor.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
1. Do you excitedly anticipate spending time with God?
2. Do you yearn for intimacy with Jesus?
3. What matters most in your life?
4. What is your purpose in life?
5. What are you doing about the most important things in your life?
6. What can you do to make someone feel loved today?
2. READ THIS ARTICLE!!! – The Atlantic
For a totally different take on zeal, we encourage you to explore this thoughtful 2018 article in The Atlantic which takes on the overzealousness of our digital communication and the way it may diminish the meaning.
3. JON BATISTE & SULEIKA JAOUAD
Much of this edition of Cultivare has discussed zeal regarding specific beliefs. This short 9-minute TV interview gives a glimpse of zeal for living, something we often don’t think about until it’s threatened.
4. GRETA THUNBERG - Zealous for Climate Change
You can argue with her positions, her politics, her pointedness, but one thing you cannot argue with is Greta Thunberg’s passion and persuasion. Frankly, we think the world would be a better place if, like Greta, we were a bit bolder about our beliefs.
5. PRAYER FOR ZEAL
O almighty and merciful Father,
you pour out your benefits on us,
forgive our unthankfulness for your goodness.
We have stood before you with dead and senseless hearts,
unkindled by the love
of your gentle and enduring goodness.
O merciful Father, turn us and we will be turned.
Make us hunger and thirst for you with our whole heart,
and with all our longing desire you.
Make us serve you with our whole heart
and with all our zeal seek whatever is pleasing in your sight;
for the sake of your only Son,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
*By St. Anselm, eleventh century
Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Middle Ages,
edited by J. Manning Potts, 1954.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
CULTIVARE is a ministry of TEND and is offered free to our subscribers. We are grateful to our donors who help underwrite our costs. If you would like to support the ongoing work of CULTIVARE, please consider us in your giving. All financial contributions to TEND
(a 501c3 ministry) for CULTIVARE are tax-deductible.
Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free!
Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Photograph by John Miller
2. SEEDS: Photograph by Rob Badger
3. ART: Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Umbrellas Japan-USA 1984-91
Photo courtesy of the Tejon Ranch.
4. POETRY: Photograph by Natalie Burt
5. PROFILE: Photograph by Kyle Hanson
6. FILM: Photograph by Kevin McNeal
7. ESSAY: Photograph by Rob Badger
8. BOOKS: Photograph by Calvin Hy
9. DIG DEEPER: Photograph by salibhatt, Shutterstock
10. ROOTED: Photograph by Kevin McNeal
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Elizabeth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)