Monday, December 31, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - NEW YEAR'S EVE RESOLUTIONS

 BY STEVE DUNN

It's Monday morning of New Year's Eve.  This is the day before we are supposed to fall off the fiscal cliff. I suspect we will hit January 1st without any resolution.

Speaking of resolutions, many people are taking some time right now crafting some.  Last year I wrote that I had long since stopped making resolutions. IT'S ABOUT TO BE A NEW YEAR. What I offered last year was this observation:"What I look for more in a new year is to see the rhythm that will be required to live it in a healthy and fruitful manner.  Life has its seasons, as I am beginning discover as I approach my sixty-first year and actually begin contemplating how to finish well in my calling as a pastor."

Well, I've spent a year doing just that and it was really more of a test than I had anticipated.  A sabbatical, a bout with pneumonia, re-entry to my pastorate and then the decision that the church needed a new kind of leader for the season that it was in.  And then five months when I was not pastoring--instead selling a house, going on the road for the Bridgebuilders Seminars, teaching a seminary class, doing some consulting for a church, and a personal exploration that led to committing to a ministry of being an Intentional Interim Pastor.  Which was then followed by the season I am now in of awaiting this first assignment and living primarily off the proceeds of the house sale.  In those months we have called four different locations home. Did I mention adding a CPAP machine to my life?

The best rhythm I have come up with is how the pack and repack for each new temporary home, and learning how many of the possessions I have had in storage since September that I can actually do without.

But maybe that's my lesson for the year -- or one of them:

Sometimes living can only be day by day.

Challenges need to be faced like the challenge of eating an elephant--one bite at a time.

Possessions possess you and when you don't have so many to trip over you actually have time to enjoy your relationships.

A good wife is the best gift a man can have,

God's timing is never ours.

When God guides, He also provides.

2012 has been an interesting year.  I have absolutely no idea what 2013 will look like, but I know that the year and I both are in the hands of the One Who does.

In case, this did not speak to you--maybe these cartoons will.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A MESSAGE FOR CHRISTMAS - ALL IS WELL

As we begin our celebration of Christmas, may you know the peace that only God can bring. - Steve

Monday, December 24, 2012

O HOLY NIGHT

Perhaps one of the favorite songs from Christmas Eve - the message of hope that Jesus brings.

BREATH OF HEAVEN

As we approach Christmas Eve morning, reflect on this reflection on Mary's thoughts on Jesus' impending birth.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD

BY STEVE DUNN

"It's okay, Mayans. We all make mistakes. It's not the end of the world." -someone on Facebook

Today is December 23rd.  Two days after the world was supposed to end--at least that's what some ancient Mayans tried to tell us.  It's ironic. Most of us would not have known of the world's impending doom if someone hadn't unearthed a prophecy that had long been forgotten. The ancient Mayans were; well, anicent and don't have too many spokespersons left on this planet.  In fact, the only reason most 21st century non-Mayans even knew of this prophecy is someone's marketng scheme.Olin Yolotzin is spiritual master, who leads the Aztec ritual dance group Cuauatli, is quoted on December 21st as saying: "The world was never going to end, this was an invention of the mass media." Somehow most of us knew that. Yolotzin's take on the so-called explosive end of the world:. "It is going to be a good era. ... We are going to be better."

So days have passed and we're still here.  We're still planted on an aging planet that is being warmed ever more seriously by things like greenhouse gases.  We still live in societies that ignore God and pursue selfish aims making life on this planet at times dark and troubling.

A middle schooler I know named Hannah was engaged in a classroom discussion about this whole Mayan Calendar episode. During a discussion about the Mayan calendar and end of the world, Hannah spoke up said "I am a Christian and I believe the Bible and the Bible teaches that no one knows the time or day of the "end of things." And that is exactly what the Bible says.  We cannot know the time and need not add to our anxiety by obsessing about it.

Actually, I was never worried.  Christians do not believe that the world will end in a cataclysmic event.  God has told us through the Bible that instead of destroying the planet, that at the end of time as we understand it, He will simply make a new heaven and a new earth.

Don't get me wrong.  Christians believe in natural disasters and human tragedy.  Quite often natural disasters which follow the intricate workings on nature itself are made more disastrous by the sinful and unwise way we humans treat Creation.  And human tragedy is a direct outcome of mankind's inherent sinful nature which quite often victimizes others.

As Christians, we are taught that we are to treat this planet with care.  We are stewards of what God has created.  We are to see that it is used wisely because this planet is the resource that God has given to sustain human life until He comes to make that New Earth.  We are taught to work on helping people find healing and hope by being reconciled to the God Who has created them and desires to redeem them.

We believe that we sin when we treat this planet as something to be ravaged and abused because it is God's gift to us.  We do not worship Creation. We worship the Creator.  And we believe that we prepare people for living at the end of all history by preparing them to meet God Himself. For we believe that there will not be a place in that New Heaven and New Earth for people who didn't have a place for God in the Old Earth.  The worst part of the human condition is that we make creation and creature man more important than the Creator, and we systematically push Him out of the picture  and naively neglect to honor His purposes for the world and for us.

The "end of the world" is not a matter of disaster-proof shelters or religious ceremonies to invoke some unnamed help or comfort us as life as we know comes to an end.  The end of the world, which will not come with a bang but as a surprise, is the reason why we call people to turn to God so that time will be something to celebrate, not fear.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn


Saturday, December 22, 2012

MARY DID YOU KNOW

Christmas Eve was a time of wonder for the shepherds abiding in the fields--and their response, Mary would ponder in her heart.

HOMELESS AT CHRISTMAS

BY STEVE DUNN
For the first time in my life I am homeless at Christmas.
This is my 61st Christmas.
Before you get overly concerned, I am not sleeping my car nor have I had to go stay in a shelter.  I am not homeless in that sense.  In late June I resigned my pastorate to seek God’s next chapter in my life and anticipating that this would require us to move, Dianne and I put our house up for sale.  We sold it in 28 days to someone who sold their eight days later. On September 28th we closed on the house and moved out.
As a result, still without a new pastorate or ministry to move to and not wanting to be locked into a lease in the wrong location, we ceased having a fixed state of residence.  I conduct seminars on church renewal and evangelism, and I do some church consulting and speaking; so we have lived “on the road in hotels” 24 days these past three months.  We have house sat for two pastoral friends as they took a combined seven weeks of vacation.  And early last week we moved in with other oldest daughter and husband in Kentucky for an extended Christmas holiday.  In early January we will return to the last pastor’s home where we continue to occupy a bedroom and storage space when we have to be “settled” for the part-time work Dianne and I still do to pay the bills.
So really we have had a multiplicity of places to call “home” temporarily without fear of eviction.  We still have a place to receive mail forwarded from our P.O. box.
But the transience of our current existence takes adjusting.  Right now I am 550 miles from my storage units, so a book I might need or a fresh Christmas tie are really beyond my reach.  We still need to adjust our eating schedules to fit the homes we are in (unless we want to go out to eat, which has already gotten old).  There is no place to just dump our stuff if we get lazy because other persons have uses for those locations in their houses.  People who learn we have no place of residence and know that it is because of a choice we made still look at us strangely, as if we are out our minds or at least, very eccentric.
And we have to live daily very much by faith because most of the time that is our only choice.
This is the first Christmas that I have truly identified with Mary and Joseph on that cold winter’s night in overcrowded Bethlehem.  Because I plan, own a cell phone, and have money; I am not confronted with “there’s no room in the inn.”  But I think I identify what they feeling.
Here we are in Bethlehem. It’s cold and late and we are tired.  We’re doing what Caesar has ordered and this stable is not what we desired.  We are part of a mission that God has given us, but people back in Nazareth have a  different assessment of that.  Will Joseph ever be a respected carpenter again?  And wouldn’t Mary have a safer delivery if she could have been at least in the home of Elizabeth?
There is so much that is beyond our control and we are uncomfortable with that reality.  The future is so uncertain. We don’t even know where we will sleep tomorrow.  And God doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to give us a plan.  Yes, we trust him; but it’d be nice to have a little more control.
And when God’s plan is finally fulfilled, how will our lives be changed.  This pregnancy has already changed a whole lot about our lives, and the birth is only the beginning.
Things are so uncertain now. It would be nice to have a sign…..
linus
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told”. – Luke 2.12-20
For Unto Us a Child is Born_Simon Dewey
Perhaps you, too, are on a journey that God has called you to, but the uncertainty is a little too uncertain. As you travel life’s road this Christmas – homeless or not – may you see the sign of God’s peace and purpose in your lives.
(C) 2012 by STEPHEN L DUNN

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TIME TO REFRAME THE DISCUSSION



TIME TO REFRAME THE DISCUSSION

by Stephen L. Dunn

       Like many people, my attention has focused this past week on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown CN and the need to address the escalating violence in the American society.  In LIFE MATTERS and through my Facebook ® page I have shared several posts from others and made my own comments.  I also entered into a thread of debate stemming from comments by another pastor friend that took a strong stand against the NRA and those whose love of their Second Amendment rights appear to be thwarting any significant attempts to deal with this gun violence.  The results were to be drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex of individual rights to own guns, debates over whether our gun laws are really the problems, nit-picking over the details about guns, and then the darker issues of the extreme left’s hatred of the right, and the right wing’s deep suspicion and fear over President Obama and his political agenda for America.  I found some helpful insights regarding how we deal with mentally ill persons in this country, but those things were often drowned out by more comments by what I can only term as “gun worship.” 

     I have spent this last week with my daughter and son-in-law and 4 ½ year old grandson.  And you need to know that many, many parents—many of whom sit in the political center of this nation—are fearful for the threat to their children, and absolutely frustrated by the fanaticism and intransigence that seems to define both the debate and any attempt at a meaningful solution of the simple problem of gun violence perpetrated on children and innocents both in schools and public places by mentally imbalanced persons who have easy access to whole arsenals of weapons and ammunition.  And they are deeply concerned of the impact of this violent culture upon the well-being (physical, emotional and spiritual) of their children.

      So hear me plainly … this is not a time for fanaticism or intransigence. Whether it comes from the left or the right, this is not the time.

     It is time to reframe the discussion.

      As a disciple of Jesus Christ, my concern is that we address this issue with a clear perspective of the heart of this matter.  And the heart of this matter is, how will we protect the innocent—our children, the weak, the defenseless—in this nation from this escalating spiral of violence.

     In the Old Testament we hear clearly about God’s perspective towards children and others who are innocent and vulnerable. “ A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)  In Isaiah 1 we are told that God’s judgment against Judah comes in particular because she has not protected the children, the widows, the defenseless.  This was equated with idolatry.

     After the massive outrage perpetrated by Herod, commonly called, “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” Matthew records, "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Matthew 2:18)

     And then we have the words of Jesus himself,  in Matthew 18:14 – “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

      These innocents should not be the collateral damage to a political debate or a culture war.  As a Christian, this is precisely the oppression and injustice for which the Prophets condemned Israel and was at the heart of Christ’s judgment against those who claim to belong to Him when they appear before the King in Matthew 25.

      Clearly we must approach the whole issue of how we deal with persons with mental illness in this country.  Our pushing them into the streets or leaving them entirely to parents who are often older and overwhelmed is not acceptable.

       This means that our healthcare system must stop trying to negate benefits for such treatment and care, and governments must also help provide programs and treatment for such persons.

     This means that we must stop making weapons with such firepower so easily accessible to people that such persons can have almost unfettered access to those weapons.  Background checks and waiting periods clearly have proven insufficient.

      This means we must protect our schools. I am not proposing arming teachers nor do I believe that encouraging our citizenry to be self-appointed law enforcement because they are armed is a solution.  Only persons properly trained (including how to be in these settings with impressionable children) and authorized by the government (who scripturally I believe to be the persons responsible to restrain the lawbreakers, e.g. Romans 13) should be given these jobs.

       But this is just dealing with this at one level.  Since our frontier days we have been a “wild west” people for whom guns are a right and an obsession.  When the Founding Fathers adopted the Second Amendment, the “arms” they protected were single-shot guns and not all that accurate.  None of them could have envisioned what our human ingenuity or perversity would manufacture.  Our culture’s worship of the gun is legendary across this planet.  It is not a healthy legacy.

      We need to address the proliferation of violent games and entertainment.  We must address the excesses of violence in our sports culture.

      Many of my biblically conservative friends correctly say that laws do not change people, a change of heart is what changes them.  Our world will never be “right” until its inhabitants are right with God.  But too often this is simply used as one more slogan in a political campaign or culture war instead of being translated into serving as God’s agents of reconciliation in this fallen world.  And some of my more darkly conservative friends have come to believe that they are called to possess the guns themselves so they can be agents of God’s justice in an immoral society.  I found no such justification in God’s Word.

     And too many people on the other side of these issues, mock or thwart any attempt to let the values of the ultimate peacemaker, the Prince of Peace have a seat at the table or a place in the schools or an unfettered hearing in the public arena.  The violence in our culture is a deeply spiritual matter and will never be solved by increasingly secularizing our society or making religion so inoffensive as to be unprophetic and unauthoritative.

      The time has come to change the debate from rights and political philosophies to what has violence done to our society and what are we going to do to combat its effects—especially on the innocent.

     In the mean time we must take steps, albeit small and sometimes difficult to protect the innocents.  Our children, who are our future, absolutely need it.

      It is time to reframe the dIscussion.

© 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

GOD IS MOURNING, TOO

One of the persons who follows LIFE MATTERS in its version on Wordpress is Linda Peterson.  She writes an insightful blog to which I subscribe called Raising Five Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog.  I'd like to share with you her contribution to the discussion about the Newtown shootings.  You also need to read the comments that she received to her post.

Is God at Fault for the Tragedy in Connecticut?

Like the rest of the nation, I have been saddened by the tragedy at the school in Connecticut.  All of those poor children and adults who are dead.  It is very mesmerizing for the nation, and feelings are raw, trying to find someone to blame to make sense of it all.  People are blaming God.

I have learned in my own life that tragedies happen every day.  Children are terminally ill.  Children are struck by cars and killed.  Parents abuse children beyond the scope of the normal imagination, (just ask my own beautiful children.)  Tsunamis strike.  Floods devastate. FAmines consumer whole countries. Earthquakes destroy communities and people.  Murders and domestic abuse happens.  I am sure that you can think of many, many more tragedies  that have happened, and many more will.  It is awful.  It is saddening.  It is unbelievable, and as humans we naturally look for someone to blame.

Maybe there IS someone to blame in some circumstances, but God is not to blame.  To attribute His involvement with us to cause every disaster is ludicrous. For which disasters should He take blame…natural ones?  man-made ones?  And how large of a disaster should he take blame?  Where many people are killed?  Where only one is killed?  Where people are very ill and suffering?  Where I get laid off from a job and have no money?  Where I have blister on my big toe?

My point is, it is not God’s fault.  We are placed on earth with our own free wills; on an earth that has always experienced natural disasters.  We are actually lucky that we have not been wiped out completely by a wayward asteroid similar to the one that made the dinosaur distinct!  But if we were to be destroyed, the ultimate tragedy, it would not be God’s fault.  He loves us.  We are all His children. He mourns when a child is severely hurt, a woman is a victim of domestic abuse, when houses and lives are destroyed by natural disasters, and when people are suffering. But if He were to intervene, then we would be but His puppets placed on this roller coaster of ride called earth. God may be Almighty, but that does not mean that he takes over for His children or his earthly creation.  That would  not fit the description of “life”.

Yes, I am greatly saddened by the Connecticut massacre.  People may disagree with me vehemently, but I have empathy for the actions of the killer, who obviously was mentally ill. To have reached this stage of his life with such bad thoughts, (similar to the demons which cause violent actions from two of my own children,)  is a also a tragedy. This incident took not only the lives of the children and adults murdered, but the life of a young man who will forever be vilified for his actions. It is a tragedy all around, and God is mourning with us.

READ THE COMMENTS ....

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WEB SITINGS - PARENTS RESPONSES TO NEWTOWN SHOOTINGS

Will Rothman was a contemporary of mt oldest daughter Christine at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne IN.  I found his observations a helpful reflection amidst the histrionics following these tragic shootings.


The Newtown effect: As nation grieves, parents everywhere find new patience

http://www.today.com/moms/newtown-effect-nation-grieves-parents-everywhere-find-new-patience-1C7641059
IMAGE: Alicia Combo hugs son after school Friday
AP
Parents around the country are feeling renewed gratitude for their children in the wake of Friday's shootings. Here, Alicia Combo hugs her son Morgan Askins tightly as she picks him up Friday from Garfield Elementary School in Spokane, Wash.
 
Parents all over the world this weekend received a strange gift: The stark reminder that even if your kids are kicking and screaming, sneezing in your face, turning up their noses at broccoli, or shrieking like spider monkeys in the back of the minivan, every moment with them is a gift to be cherished.
Kids can be a pain. I’ve got a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, two growing humans who require constant stimulation from a wake-up time of 6 (if we're lucky) to a bedtime of 8:30 (if we're lucky). When the weekend comes, it generally sweeps in a mixture of excitement and dread. But not this weekend.

It's with no small amount of guilt that we realize that this lifetime of anguish facing the Newtown parents has a byproduct for the rest of us: a temporary immunity to typical kid annoyance. It's an immunity that verges on serenity, and it's just in time for Christmas.

The first sign of the effect: Hugging your child instantly went "Gangnam Style" viral on Friday. "Counting my blessings that I could give my son an extra hug tonight," wrote one Twitter user, echoing tens of thousands of others.

My cousin Carroll Hannon in Indianapolis — who, with five children ranging in age from 7 to 21, has a case full of "mom of the year" trophies — summed up the Newtown effect in a Facebook post:
Lily just spilled a whole box of Lucky Charms and I could not care less!!!! I just hugged her and we laughed. Thankful for my children ♥♥♥♥♥
"And not just a regular box, a large Costco-sized box of cereal," she told me when I called her.

"Normally, I would have been pretty angry."

Same goes for me. I'm typically the "bad cop" dad, meaning my decisive dealing with problems sometimes results in tears. My rationale for the shorter fuse is that I quickly get everyone moving on to something more pleasant, and that I serve as an enforcer when my wife needs back-up. But this weekend I was all "good cop." Instead of laying down the law, I found myself coming up with creative ways to deal with the usual BS.

When my 2-year-old son threw himself on the floor at the public pool, I didn't bark at him to get up, but instead smiled and swept him up in my arms. When he refused to sit down in his car seat, I didn't do my typical "I'm going to count to three!" routine but instead, I asked if he wanted to see a picture of him with his grandpa. He said yes, and graciously sat in the seat in anticipation.

My wife found herself having a little more patience — especially during nighttime disturbances — and being a little more indulgent, too, like when our daughter wanted a snack during the 15-minute drive to brunch. "These little battles that we used to care so much about, they just seem irrelevant now," she said.

Helicopter parenting probably got a sizable bump over the weekend. Parents we know announced on Facebook that their kids could sleep in their beds, while others, like Carroll and her friends, shut down sleepover plans by declaring, "It's family night across the country." My kids are too little to know what's going on, and probably didn't notice the extra hugs and easier tempers; older kids, like Carroll's, understood that something terrible had happened, and didn't complain when she stymied their social plans. But we agreed that the Newtown effect likely doesn't trickle down to the children.
"It's not like it altered their behavior or their way of thinking in any way," she told me, "but as adults and parents, it's like a bullet to your heart. You have to keep that perspective: We're lucky every day that we can see them and can touch them."

How long will the effect last? It’s hard to find any value in a tragedy this terrible. If we rededicate ourselves to the spirit of kindness and charity in our hearts, and to love and patience towards our children, then there is at least some redemption. Still, if the effect wears off Jan. 1, we do a profound disservice to the parents in Newtown, who are paying a terrible price for our newfound parental bliss.

In addition to being a father and a husband, Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. You can catch up with him on Twitter at @wjrothman.

*******
And then there was the helpful post on Facebook by a pastoral friend in Illinois, Brian Miller.

My thoughts on the school shooting in Connecticut:

The problem is evil. The solution is good. As the world becomes more evil, we must become more good, more active in our communities, more helpful, more loving. Jesus was really clear on this type of response in the Gospels.

This morning, I thought, "What good could I do in response to this?" So I went down to my child's elementary school and
asked if I could show a supportive presence during the morning assembly. I was welcomed and was able to encourage several staff members.

I encourage you, rather than to become more defensive and more protective, do more good. Become more involved in the schools. Williams Elementary is looking for Big Brothers/Big Sisters to simply come in once a week and eat lunch with a child. Volunteer.

Jesus says this does more damage to evil than anything.

Monday, December 17, 2012

THE SLAUGHTERING OF THE INNOCENTS AGAIN ---

I set off a bit of a firestorm yesterday when I shared Bob Douglas' post from Facebook on the Newtown shootings and our worship of guns.  At times I wish I were more articulate because immediately my own posts were attacked as naive and wrong-headed.  In my own further reading I came across this post from Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar and cultural observer who said what I wish I had been able to say as well.  I am reposting it for all our benefits. - Steve

The Slaughtering of the Innocents—- Again

 December 16, 2012 By Ben Witherington

We are all familiar with the story of nasty old King Herod and the slaughtering of the innocents. Herod was indeed a paranoid Idumean who just happened to be king in Judaea. There would always be questions about his legitimacy as a ruler in that land. And in order to maintain his throne he was prepared to kill some of his wives and offspring as well. ‘Paranoia strikes deep/ into your life it will creep/ it starts when you’re always afraid….step out of line ‘the man’ comes and take you away…’

There are many things ironic about King Herod, not the least of which is that his fortress built on an artificial hill on the back side of Bethlehem (called the Herodium of course) where he thought he would be safe is also where his tomb was found in the last decade. The story in Matthew’s Gospel is totally believable knowing Herod’s character as displayed at length by Josephus, but we need to not over-imagine the size of the story. Bethlehem was a one horse town at best in Herod’s day, and the number of infants under two would have been exceedingly few— maybe 10-12. So don’t let the gory Renaissance paintings fool you—- what happened in Newtown Conn. this week was likely far worse than what happened in Bethlehem so long ago.

I was watching an interview this week after the massacre in Newtown and the inevitable question was asked—= ‘What could we do to prevent this from happening again?’ The candid answer given by a former head of various FBI operations was as follows— ‘absolutely nothing unless we are prepared to significantly change our gun laws and also change what we do with the mentally ill’. But even that would not be enough because some mass murderers are not technically deranged, they are simply wicked. There is a difference.

In the case of the Newtown killing it seems clear we are dealing with a mentally unbalanced person. Psychologists have already been weighing in with the theory that: 1) Adam was disturbed about his mother’s warm relationships with the school children she taught at Sandy Hook. He felt he was losing his mother, or most of her affections were directed elsewhere. 2) in a rage he decided to stop that positive thing from ever happening again— killing his mother, and then numerous children. It remains to be seen whether he also killed himself, but perhaps he did. I want to return to a few points. Sometimes in the wake of such a massive tragedy as happened this week, people have a sense of helplessness, a feeling that nothing at all could have been done to prevent it. This however is not quite true, as I will speak to in a minute. But one of the reasons so many people are bewildered about this is that they simply do not understand either human fallenness or mental illness.

read more

Sunday, December 16, 2012

LIFE MATTERS CARTOON COMMENTARY

My thanks to USA Today on-line and these comments about out nation and culture.  They would Sunday "funnies" except they're too close to reality.



MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - IT'S TIME, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

BY STEVE DUNN

The school shootings in Newtown CN are almost a news cycle in the past.  And if my experience serves me well, they soon will be replaced by other "earth-shattering" and breaking news about the economy, some political intrigue, or geo-politics.  But in Newtown those new developments are irrelevant. Their earth has already been shattered. 

A friend of mine, Bob Douglas, posted this comment this morning on FACEBOOK: " We MUST change the WAY we THINK about guns....the way this country FEELS about guns....the way we TALK about guns...and "solving problems" by using guns! I'M NOT talking about changing the laws to TAKE AWAY guns....but changing the underlying WAY we BELIEVE about what guns will DO for us."

Immediately he received negative comments that saw his words as one more attempt to take away guns from the average citizen.  Their comments totally ignored the reality that innocent people were being maimed and blown way by the senseless violence made possible by our attitude that says, "Don't take away my gun.  I need it."  

Bob had an interesting proposition explaining what he means by changing the way we think about guns and feel about guns.  " I believe there should be "memorial walls" (much like the Vietnam Wall) that lists the names and ages of ALL of the Family members....friends....playmate
s....sons and daughters....mothers and fathers.....next door neighbors....co workers.....classmates....and other "non criminal" persons who have been KILLED, MAIMED and Blown away by gun violence in the last ten years. Those are PEOPLE....LOVED ONES....who have done NO WRONG....and should NOT be lumped together in a MASS NUMBER of those killed by guns. Set that Memorial Wall up in EVERY country courthouse lawn.....and let people who have lost loved ones rub their fingers over the names....FEEL THE PAIN of what GUNS have done to their lives. I believe that there should be bill boards on every highway....paid for by the gun dealers and manufacturers...that show faces of dead bodies with their faces blown off with the caption "Guns DON'T SOLVE PROBLEMS.....PEOPLE do!" Do you get my meaning? CHANGE the WAY WE FEEL!....change the way we THINK....change the discussion from "it's OK to blow people up with guns"....to "DON'T EVER DO THIS TO ANOTHER PERSON....for ANY reason". If the NRA and those who support them want a SEAT at the TABLE where gun laws are going to be discussed....LET THEM PAY FOR THEIR SEAT....but demonstrating how MANY HUNDREDS OF HOURS of Public Service television spots they have run from their VAST RESOURCES....to promote GUN SAFETY.....to SHOW they are REAL partners in making country FREE from Gun Violence."
 
Bob was immediately mocked as being naive.
This was my response to Bob and his readers: "None of this changes the fact that what we think about guns and the way some of us worship guns is a problem that must be dealt with. These arguments are merely justifications to retain the guns we believe we have a right to. Our rights to guns do have limits and we need to face that for the good of this nation. Bob is right on."
 
I stand by that even in the face of friends who will feel betrayed by my attitude.  There reaches a time when ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  And that time is now.  The nation's psyche is further scarred every time such incident occur.  But more importantly, innocent people's lives are shattered by these events. Where is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness furthered by the random violence, by the preservation of rights at the cost of perpetuating what  is clearly not right.
 
Now is the time! We owe it to the families in Newtown.  This is not a bad dream. It is a bad reality and we need to wake up and do something about it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - FISCAL CLIFFS...NO TIME TO PLAY "CHICKEN" OR "KING OF THE HILL"

 
BY STEVE DUNN 

Dear Mr. Boehner, Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi and the rest of our nation's leaders within the Beltway:
The rest of us living outside the beltway are sick and tired of the posturing, the "politics," press conferences and pronouncements.  We have two words for you.... STOP IT !!!!!!!!

Children play "chicken" and "king of the hill," not grown-ups.

Every one has to give a little, every one has to give up something.  Many people I talk with of many generations and philosophical persuasions are reminded that the reason for government includes "promoting the common good."

It's the little guy and gal that get hurt by the games.

The real persons carrying the bulk of the tax burden are those in the middle class and the upper lower class.  I didn't say the bulk of taxes (although it has become that.)  They are the ones for whom taxes have become such a burden that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are eroding away into simple economic survival and there are not enough powerball jackpots to reverse that reality.

Stop holding us hostage to the "games."

Perhaps you need to remember a few words from the Lord. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Do not take us over the cliff - any of us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

MUSIC WITH MEANING - ONE KING

Point of Grace sings "One King" for Thursday's music with meaning.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BRIAN'S QUESTIONS - MYSTICISM (REPRISE)

This post is part of a thread called Brian's Questions. It began with a Facebook message from a young man and I first outlined this thread in a post on September 17, 2010.  Yesterday I responded to Brian's first question which is about Lilith, a popular figure in Jewish mystical literature.  It got me thinking about the reason for such a question, which led me to the question, "Why is mysticism so attractive, especially in 21st century spirituality?"

From the earliest days of Christianity, there have been persons who have chosen the path of a mystical religion. That mystical impulse has shaped the way they looked at the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ. Basically Christian mysticism can be defined as the pursuit of union or communion with God through direct experience, insight and intuition. This a desire and a quest to step beyond words and ideas and even history to have an encounter or experience with God in the here and now in a deeper way. This approach generally focuses on prayer and meditation. Generally Christian practice is concerned with applying God's truth and living God's truth (incarnation of truth) in our daily (ordinary) existence.  Mysticism desires a deep union with God that goes beyond existence, an experience that actually makes our daily experiences and lives as merely something we do as we work to be united with Christ and raised above existence.

Basically, the Jesus who came in the flesh and lived among us is a nice introduction to God. But rather than staying in the world living by his example, we need to pursue the real Jesus, that spirit that we do not yet know.  When we find that Jesus, we will find God.

Other streams of mysticism seem to have this same above or beyond existence focus.  Life in the flesh is something that can be endured or even escaped by a deep union with the Divine.

Why is this so appealing? The scriptural record of Jesus is that he went about the daily business of his ministry and at the same time was in deep communion with His Father.  That deep communion was not a way of stepping out of his everyday existence but his everyday existence and how he conducted himself was an expression of his deep union and the place where that deep union was lived out. You did not step away from your calling to live for God, you grew closer to God by living out your calling.

On the one hand, mysticism has a great motivation, to stop seeing through a glass darkly and finally to know God as He really is. But it can also be an inward focus that forgets that Jesus was a man for others. He existed to serve, ultimately to serve humanity through his sacrifice. Mysticism can make detachment so important that our spiritual quest becomes self-serving, with no real responsibility for the world around us. Mysticism can easily become escape instead of engagement.

Non-Christian mysticism has the same tendency.  In many of the religions of the East and mystical cults of the west, the pursuit of deep knowledge of God can become an excuse for giving little concern for how we live as a neighbor. Someone else becomes responsible for salt and light, we're too busy trying to find the light for ourselves.

We don't need secrets or ceremonies or higher consciousness, we just need a relationship with Jesus Christ and a life in obedience to his commands to love God and the people God loves. That's how we get close to God.

(C) 2010 by Stephen Dunn

Addendum in December 2012:  When I first posted this response, it was in response to some comments I had received on the post about Lilith where persons felt I had given mysticism a bad rap. Again, please understand that I am commenting about any approach to spirituality that encourages us to disengage from our need to be engaged daily in the second Great Commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - STEVE

Monday, December 3, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - POWERBALL WINNERS?


 BY STEVE DUNN

This week the BCS race, the Fiscal Cliff and the meltdown in Egypt found themselves being bumped in media air time by the record $588 million dollar prize of Powerball.  A couple in Missouri won half the prize, the other half has been won by a man from Arizona who has yet to be identified. The first set of winners even announced their "good fortune" on Facebook.  (I wonder how many friend requests they have subsequently received,)  News stories leading in talked about all the different kinds of people buying a ticket, or how they were choosing their number, or what they would do with the money if they "hit" the jackpot.  I did not hit the jackpot (I haven't been to Arizona in a couple of years).  I did not even buy a ticket nor did I think of buying one.

I found myself agreeing with one news commentator who said, "Maybe we should report on the persons fortunate enough NOT to win the Powerball."  While most people think of all the "problems" they could solve in their life if they finally found the winning number to the Powerball or even some its lesser partners, I also wonder what it does to their lives as people began to approach and/or pursue them for a share of their winnings.  And how people who have lived with less and  found peace in their lives, albeit a financially limited one, still find that peace when they have plenty.  And how do they keep that newfound and instantaneous wealth from changing them as people into someone they have not really chosen to be.  If you can now be permanently on vacation and travel around the world, what do you lose in everyday relationships or in having a community where you can actually put down roots.

The Bible teaches us that "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Timothy 6.6)


Actually the whole passage reads:  "But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

By now we should have learned that character trumps everything. What we do not need is one more avenue to find our contentment and worth in possessions.  We need to learn to let our success be measured in the quality of human being we are.

 And money absolutely has a way of making you love it.  Part of the reason we are nearing the Fiscal Cliff is that everyone loves money too much - the rich love their money too much to pay more taxes and the rest of us love the money the rich have so much that we want them to pay for our country's needs instead of all of taking responsibility to make all of this work.

So I must say today, I am glad I am so lucky as to not win the Powerball.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I NEED A SILENT NIGHT

One of my New Testament students, Susan McMichael, sent me this video as an early Christmas present. I suspect a lot of this share Amy's sentiment. Thanks, Susan - "Dr. Steve"


Saturday, December 1, 2012

WORKING SMARTER

Grading papers today for my New Testament Foundations Class and handling other pressing matters, so I thought I would take my own advice in this blog post and reprint it today.  This originally appeared in my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST September 1, 2009. = STEVE

WORKING SMARTER

"Whatever you do in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord ...." - Colossians 3:17
I am not always the most efficient worker. Sometimes it takes me twice as long to get something done as I think it should. Many years ago I decided to replace the faucet in our kitchen sink. It had been leaking, much to Dianne's annoyance. It didn't annoy all that much--but when she told me we were wasting money--that motivated me. As a homeowner with little money, I thought, "Go to Sears, buy a faucet, and put it in." So off to Sears I went.

The salesman assured me it would be a simple task. It would take me maybe 30-45 minutes to accomplish. Since I am not much of a handyman, I decided to wait until I had nothing better to do. So one night around nine o'clock I decided to tackle it. First problem, I had to find the wrench needed (I had everything else I needed in the kit.) Once that was located, I started to take off the old faucet, only to find that this required me to get under the sink to do so.

There I found that the depth of our sink did not accommodate my short-handled wrench. I needed a long-handled one. Since I did not own one I went next door to my neighbor's house. Dick WAS a handy man and he had almost every tool imaginable. He had the needed tool. By now I had easily killed the salesman's "30-45 minutes."

Dick followed me home. There I discovered that no amount of effort with new tool would budge the old faucet. "Let's just take the whole sink out," suggested Dick (now we were past the first hour of this project.) That made sense, so we started -- only to discover that the sink was anchored into the cabinetry. Whoever had put the sink in must have feared earthquakes or just had too much time on his hands. He had anchored it in MORE THAN 30 PLACES. Now we had to remove drawers, wedge ourselves into many small place (and did I tell you? Go in search of NEW TOOLS).

Finally, after three hours--we got the sink out, the old faucet removed, the new one replaced and the sink back in place (this time with perhaps a dozen anchor points). Guess what?

You guessed it--the new faucet leaked, as well.

After that I determined that you can work or you can work smarter. There is little satisfaction in work that requires a lot of effort and produces minimal results. And there's no merit in working faster if the job still isn't done right. It's not about the work--it's about the results.

Jesus reminds us that the best results for our work come when we work according to His purposes, following His plans,and doing it to help people honor Him. In the end that is the work that will be effective and whose results will be lasting. 

(c) 2009 by STEPHEN L DUNN

Thursday, November 29, 2012

THURSDAY IS FOR MUSIC WITH MEANING - JESUS CULTURE

For a season I will be posting music as part of LIFE MATTERS on Thursdays--music with meaning. This is from the new Christian group, Jesus Culture, has been a great source of encouragement to me in my walk with God.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NO MORE TWINKIES

Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread are going out of business.  Two staples of Americana for decades will disappear from grocery shelves (in some cases, they are already gone).  Given the notorious staying power of a Twinkie, they may actually stay in existence for  another decade in someone's climate controlled (and sentry-dog guarded) warehouse.  Wonder Bread will be gone much sooner. Bread mold still seems to find an errant loaf and turn the white bread green in short order.

Having given up white bread for my health at least 20 years ago, I confess I won't miss that.  My children, however, are a different matters.  Despite being highly educated and extremely health-conscious; they still choose to make their toast or peanut  butter and jelly sandwiches out of that white loaf.  That won't last more than a week, although  there are many white bread manufacturers.  It's just not Wonder Bread.

Think of what this will mean?  The purveyors of deep fried twinkies as street fairs and country fairs will have to deep fry something else--probably pickles or something.  Oh, I forgot.  They already are doing that.

There will be a run on the remaining Twinkies that exceeds bread and milk runs before a snowstorm.  People will have to find a place to hide their stash so that the burglars don't take the Twinkies instead of the computer equipment.

Twenty years from now one of the last remaining boxes of Twinkies will go up for auction in some capital city and will sell for $100,000.

Divorce settlements will have to include the possession (or division) of all the Twinkies in the marriage (unless one spouse has managed to hide them in an off-short safety deposit box).

The potential for crisis and comfort food meltdown are infinite.

It's probably time to have a new food capturing our imagination and identifying with inner peace.

Did I hear someone say, "Broccoli?"

I didn't think so.

Until someone finds a suitable nominee, we will have to cherish the memories (and maybe lose some weight in the process).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WEB SITINGS - CHRISTMAS NOT, DARTH TAKES DISNEY, CELEBRATING THE IDOLATRY SEASON

Todd Rhodes recently shared a link on his blog about the fact 45% of Americans would consider skipping Christmas. Read more

 Now that Lucasfilms and its Star Wars franchise has bought Disney, Michael Kelly offered this video reflection. Then I came across this blog post by Robert Olsen, an evangelical Christian who comes from the same Arminian heritage as myself.

 Merry idolatry season! November 24, 2012 By rogereolson

 Recently, in the last couple days, I’ve been in places where I have to listen to loud, canned, “Christmas” music. I didn’t have to strain to hear the words; they were loud and clear. In one well-known chain coffee shop I have heard dozens of “seasonal” songs but not one about Jesus–directly or indirectly. One song is about Santa Claus and contains the words “Santa brings us peace” and “Santa brings us all love.” There is no doubt that the song’s writer intended to replace Jesus with Santa Claus in the Christmas mythos. I asked a waiter why the store plays only secular “Christmas” music and he said they get complaints if they play anything religious. I said “Please tell the manager that I’m a customer, too, and I’m offended that the store plays only secular “Christmas” music.” He just looked at me like I have two heads.

Even as I write this I hear several Christian voices answering me in my mind. “Let the pagans have the holiday” (Rodney Clapp) is one that I respect. Maybe I’m just too old, but I have trouble going with that. Christians are still a significant portion of this society and our celebration of this holiday should at least be acknowledged and taken seriously by those who want our business. I say play music of all the celebrations of the season–Jewish, Christian, African-American, secular, etc.

Of course the other response I agree with entirely is that the “real” idolatry of the season is the excess of consumerism, not music.

Monday, November 26, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - WAY TO GO PENN STATE

BY STEVE DUNN

More than a year ago devastating revelations about Jerry Sandusky and the cover-up by Penn State's highest leadership and legendary coach Joe Paterno rocked Happy Valley.  Next to the victims of Sandusky's sexual atrocities, there were other victims of a different order--the young men who had been recruited to play football for Penn State University and the rich heritage of the excellent athletes and model citizen leaders who graduated from "Linebacker U."

The NCAA, before leveling its unprecedented punishment, gave the remaining young men and incoming recruits the chance to pit their football fortunes in another program.  Some took the opportunity, but many young men of great character and loyalty to their school chose to remain. Penn State brought in a coach, Bill O'Brien, who proceeded to create a "new day" for Penn State football and to help shape a team again into a competitive squad that could hold its head up with dignity and be more than competitive on the gridiron.

Penn State succeeded beyond many people's expectations.  After a slow and sometimes agonizing start, the Nittany Lions grew into one of the class teams of the Big Ten. Their only two losses were close contests against eventual division leaders--Penn State and Nebraska/  Even with no bowl game or Big Ten title games to validate their efforts, these young Lions pressed and worked and performed at a great level.  When they faced the Ohio State Buckeyes, they were very much in the hunt to capture or share the Leader Division title of the Big Ten.

Personally, I am a life-long fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes and rejoiced as Urban Meier and his charges went 12-0 in a season when like Penn State, they would have no further reward. But no football program in America had as much as adversity to overcome and as much to prove as the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So with great respect I must say, Way to go, Penn State!