Thursday, December 31, 2015

SOME YEAR ROUND FUNNIES FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE

BY STEVE DUNN

Recent things across my desktop that have tickled my funny bone.  Stay safe tonight.  Don't drink and drive and don't do anything you wish God hadn't witnessed.

For you Natalie and Ashley


 For you Abby




For you - well, you know who you are

For you Jim Stanley - both of these


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - REFLECTING ON THE OLD YEAR

BY STEVE DUNN

Grandpa and his newest granddaughter, Emmaline

It's 10:00 pm on December 28th as I begin this post.  My wife and I are en route back to Pennsylvania following a delightful Christmas Week with three of our kids and their families in the Midwest.   I am wide awake in the Comfort Inn in Somerset PA and got the urge to blog - urge or inspiration, never quite sure which word is correct.  My thoughts have turned not to 2016, but the months that I have passed through in 2015.  So here are some of my thoughts on what God was doing in me and through me in the year that is about to be history.

Dianne and I celebrated 43 years of marriage.  No small accomplishment in a world where
relationships are so transient.  Dianne and I have been sharing a journey of ministry, child-raising, and serving that has been a challenge at times because of what the Lord has called us to do.  But it has been an incredible blessing as I have experienced over and over the joy of loving and being loved by one of the most beautiful people God has created.

We continued serving as an Intentional Interim Specialist/Pastor, moving in January from an assignment that involved a church of nearly 700 to one that served 100.  The Newport First Church of God in Perry County, Pennsylvania proved to be one of most pleasant pastorates--healthy people who loved each other, loved God, and loved us. We were able to help them find a pastor in nine months and my assignment ended two months later. I
am now awaiting the next assignment having developed a new love--helping churches navigate the often difficult, uncertain and even grieving time when they lose their pastor.  Churches often rush to fill the void and end up "marrying on the rebounds" which unfortunately ends as well as marriages on the rebound between a man and a woman.

I am teacher by gifting and passion.  For the last several years I have served as an adjunct professor for Winebrenner Theological Seminary.  This summer I was invited to the multiple-hat, daunting and yet highly satisfying responsibility of being hired as the Academic and Institutional Liaison for the Scotland PA location.  It is a new venture with incredible potential to impact the Kingdom in our region.  And on top of it I have been able to continue teaching, helping shape men and women to be resilient, healthy, faithful and fruitful pastors and ministry leaders.  This took me into a new realm of ministry that like Intentional Interim work has renewed my passion to serve Jesus.

 In January, I realized a life-long dream--to be published.  My first book The Bridgebuilder Principle was released.  It was a clear stating of what I have devoted much of my life to--helping churches effectively reach their unchurched neighbors.  Helping them be healthy, outward focused and on mission with Jesus as they build bridges of truth and grace to the Bridge - Jesus Christ. Not only was it gratifying to know people were reading and using this fruit of my labor, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to autograph their copies.  (Hey, there's a little egotism in all of us.)

All of this comes with a price.  A friend, Mark Hosler and I were invited to join a committee to develop a program of training for interventionists who help a church deal with the dismissal of their pastor for moral or legal reasons.  (Isn't that a sign of our times?)  In the early going, though, we weren't sure why we were working on a project that was staffed with some powerful spiritual and mental health professionals.  When we asked why, the young chairwoman said (reflecting that this all would have to pass through ecclesiastical hoops) "because you are two old guys with clout."  The clout part was okay but the "old guy" provoked some troubling thoughts.

There's a lot more and I may write more; but for now my initial reflection is that I simply chose to be obedient to God as I walked through my 64th year of life and He blessed me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.

P.S. - My time at Newport allowed me for the first time since I was in high school that I got to walk in a parade (the 175th Anniversary Festival Parade.)  It was a hoot!



Friday, December 25, 2015

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

BY STEVE DUNN

One of the songs that has always grabbed me at Christmas is called, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  It is based on a poem write by that classic American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was written in 1863 in the midst of the bloody, family-dividing American Civil War.

In March 1863 at age 18, Charles Longfellow had joined the Union Army. He was the oldest son of Longfellow and his wife  Fannie Elizabeth Appleton. Two years earlier Fannie had died when her dress caught on fire and Longfellow himself had burned severely while trying to save. Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.  He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. Charlie was severely wounded in battle near New Hope, Virginia later that November.Before that he had only seen battle partially at Chancellorsville. That Christmas the widowed Longfellow, the father of five children with his oldest in the midst of a long recovery penned the words of the poem that became a classic Christmas carol. (These details based on "The True Story of Pain and Hope Behind 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Justin Taylor.

Listen as Casting Crowns shared their version of the powerful carol.

Christmas 2015 is a time when many around the world from places like Paris, Afghanistan, Syria, northern Mexico, the Ukraine, and even here in the U.S. would echo Longfellow's sentiment:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

But in the midst of this we must keep our ears tuned to the Bells that will ring on Christmas Day.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

More than 70 years in the hellish bowls of a Nazi concentration camp, a dying Betsy ten Boom reminded her sister, Corrie-- "You must tell them that there is no pit so deep where God is not deeper."

No matter had corrupt humanity may become, no matter how strong the insanity of violence may grow, no matter how much the shame may mount - we are reminded that God can and will overcome it all.  That;s His role in history. Our is to love and trust Him through it.

Ultimately Christmas is a reminder that gave Longfellow hope in the midst of his pain and suffering.  A hope ground in this confession of the Apostle Paul.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."- Romans 8.35-39

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A CHRISTMAS EVE REMINDER - ALL IS WELL

CHRISTMAS EVE REFLECTION - MARY'S SONG-BREATH OF HEAVEN

CHRISTMAS EVE MORNING

BY STEVE DUNN

It is the day before Christmas--the morning to be exact.  I have traveled the 400 or so miles to my daughter's house where we will be Christmas morning.  I have finished my shopping and just a few minutes ago, my wrapping.  That Christmas haircut was accomplished yesterday.  The pre-Christmas bills are all paid and even some that would normally appear after Christmas.  We opened some presents last night with my daughter Katie and her family, so they can travel today to join her in-laws for Christmas Eve.  Unless I want to work on a lecture for one of my seminary classes, I have nothing to do until the Christmas Eve Service we will be attending tonight.  I don't need to worry about the cookies and milk for Santa.  My grandson Jake has that one covered.

This is not my car, but if it was I might be cruising around in it 


It is really a good time for reflection--so here goes.

Christmas comes around every year whether we are ready for it or not.  Those of us of the Christian faith try to prepare for it with a season called Advent--where we reflect on the hope, love, peace, and joy that Christ's first arrival was meant to represent.  Many of us--Christian and otherwise, look for neighbors -both known and strangers-to share gifts and  necessities to brighten what is sometimes for them a grim existence.  The media is filled with reminders of how many shopping days are left and what bargains can still be obtained.  Packages are mailed and travel plans made.  Work days are shortened by on-line shopping and holiday parties.  Grief groups ramp up for heavy traffic, as do airlines as well.  Christmas is quite complicated and often chaotic.  I wonder what Mary and Joseph camping out in a Bethlehem stable would make of what their tax-collected journey would induce.

Christmas 2015 is certainly not peaceful.  Oh yes, we have the Star Wars release to distract us and lower gas prices are a pleasant surprise. We are in the pre-primary season and we have Donald Trump blasting profanity and half-truths in the name of politics nightly and the Democrats once again championing political correctness so that manger scenes still come under fire.  ISIS has left a layer of terroristic fear that makes shopping and church-going an act of courage.  In my own state schools may have to close in the new year because politicians playing hardball refuse to pass a state budget.
Recent violence in Paris and San Bernadino have Americans playing the dangerous game of considering a religion test for immigration, including those seeking asylum because of the evil being done by others in the name of their religion.

As Christmas 2015 nears its dawn, I take hope in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "The children walking in darkness have seen a great light."  And that is my prayer this Christmas Eve morning--that people everywhere will see that light who is called "Emmanuel" (God with us) and trust in Jesus (He shall save His people).  For we ARE his people.



© 2015 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 




Wednesday, December 23, 2015

ADVENT 2015-SILENT NIGHT

BY STEVE DUNN
My Christmas vacation has begun and today blogging is not part of my agenda. However, Pentatonix can do a fine job sharing a reminder of what we will be celebrating in just two more days.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

ALL KINDS OF WAYS TO TELL THE STORY OF JESUS

I came across this YouTube from St. Paul's Arts-N-Kids via a friend Jimmy Grainger.  Thought I'd like to pass it on. - STEVE


Thursday, December 17, 2015

A LITTLE SLIGHTLY IRREVERENT HUMOR

Some of my favorite Christmas cartoons from the last few days.  Have a good laugh. - STEVE




You were warned.

Monday, December 14, 2015

ADVENT - THE SEASON OF THE REFUGEE

BY STEVE DUNN

Advent: the season of the year we celebrate the coming of a refugee child
 and his family fleeing a land plagued with violence. (Matthew 2:13-15)
 - shared by Andrew Draper on Facebook


We have a short memory.  If not short, then selective.  That child who came into the world was named Jesus ("he shall save his people.").  He entered a world in darkness ruled by violence and marked by fear.  He came to bring peace on earth and good will towards men.  He came to bring the world the gift of salvation.

Violent, fearful men ruled the world.  Unashamedly nationalistic, willing to use the sword not only to establish their security but to insure their supremacy.

The innocent, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden didn't have a chance.  But they did have a prayer and God answered their prayer with a baby.  And violent men made the baby and his parents refugees.

But God was on the side of the refugee,

Think about it, please.

© 2015 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 
 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

SEEKING A KING

BY STEVE DUNN


Reading: Matthew 2.2-12

We think there three of them. But that is an assumption based on the number of gifts they brought with them on their journey. They were not Jews, not worshipers of Yahweh. They were wise men, men who studied the stars--and they were kings.  The were kings looking for a king.

They had seen his star in the East--a new star they believed to herald something world-changing. A king worthy of worship.  And so they left their home and places of honor to honor one they did not yet know.  Two years they traveled until they found the One they sought.

In the church calendar, their story belongs in Epiphany, the season that follows Christmas.  But I want to think it today.  Advent is about expectation, about seeking, about hope yet realized and joy yet experienced.

Finding that for which you hope requires seeking and seeking requires belief that it exists and is worth journey.  And at first that hope requires a sign.

When you are person who lives expectantly--you do not miss the sign. But when you have given up expecting or one who doesn't care--you rarely find the kind of living Hope that can change your life.  

I pray that this season you have not grown callous or uncaring or inattentive that you miss the "Star"that is there on the horizon. Keep on seeking Jesus.

© 2015 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, 
proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided
 to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve