Saturday, July 31, 2010


Earlier this summer I spent a week on the staff of Camp Yolijwa.  This is a Christian camping program operated by the Churches of God at Doubling Gap Center near Newville, Pennsylvania.  I work on the staff of our Youth Camp, an increasingly demanding assignment for a man my age.  180 10th, 11th, and 12th graders have far more energy and stamina than an overweight, diabetic, relatively out of shape 59 year-old pastor.  Far, far more.

Generally I am the first one up at that particular week of camp. I rise before even the cooks who will prepare the breakfast for all those teenagers.  I rise not too long after some of the kids have finally fallen asleep. I almost always rise while it is still dark.  I do not rise at this hour by choice, but because of my sleep patterns and the amount of sleep that I seem to require to function.

There is something nice about that early hour, and the silence that accompanies it.  Even in a dorm where more than 70 boys are sleeping within earshot, there is a sense of isolation that puts me at peace, The silence holds back the distractions and the urge to "do things" and prompts a quieter, more reflective spirit within me.  It is a time when I most often hear from God for it is into that solitude and detachment that His "still small voice" often speaks with an eloquent whisper.  It is a time when I am most likely to "take the time" to reflect, assimilate, and commit to a direction God has given me. Many a powerful new beginning "has begun" in the morning's solitude - particularly at Camp Yolijwa.

But there's one more blessing in store for me at those times.  As the darkness begins to recede and the first sounds of a stirring camp arrive into my ears, I step to the front porch and watch the sunrise. The first rays of the sun that begin piercing the hillside upon which the camp sits never fail to inspire a sense of beauty, and energy, and hope for new life in my innermost parts. For out of the even the "good darkness" of the early morning, there still is to be experienced the glory of the Light of the world arriving. 

God often uses the times of isolation and solitude to reshape and refocus so that we will be ready to receive His light in all its brillance.  But the Light's arrival is a first deposit and a reminder of the promise of God that is being renewed day by day out of the grace and the plan of God.

Friday, July 30, 2010


The original, world-famous awareness test from Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. Check out our new book, THE INVISIBLE GORILLA for more information (

More than 10 years the creative minds of Daniel Simon and Christopher Chabris devised a "test" of selective attention. Could you tell us how many times the basketball was passed? More importantly, did you see the monkey? The first time I took the "test" I wasn't being all that attentive to the basketball passes and actually saw the beast before those who were trying to count the passes. I suspect that was dumb luck rather than my general inattention.

Selective attention is a phenomenon to be found in all walks of life and in all generations. An older adult can see all the tatoos and piercings and tears in the clothing of a teen and not hear the eloquence with which they may speak. Teenagers can drown out wave upon wave of sound coming through their ipods as they memorize their Spanish vocabulary for class.  Mothers can see every potential danger or risk in a room rather than a baby taking its first steps.  In the political arena we can hear all the buzzwords that evoke a justification to accept or reject an idea and totally miss the new element being proposed in a piece of legislation.  Employers can focus on profit and loss statements and never "see" the personal struggles of an employee. Pastors can see every transgression of their parish and yet overlook the moments of ordinary grace that occur in the midst of it all.

Paul speaks in Romans 8 of the importance of living "with eyes wide open to the mercies of God." To what frequency of life do we tune our spiritual antennae?  Do we set the dial on the world's failings and sin's burdens or do we place it on glimpses of His grace and evidences of His unconditional love.  If the former is true, we will place our energies on judgment and confrontation. If the latter is true, more and more we will become persons of forgiveness and humility.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Saturday I will share in the wedding of my youngest son Stephen Christopher to Megan Parrot of Columbus IN.  (This is Christopher in the tuxedo in the foreground.)  As I wrote this post I do not yet have any photos of that event; but trust me, you will see them sooner or later on this blog and on Facebook.

The last wedding we had (June 2005) was for my youngest daughter, Katherine Marie (Katie). She became the wife that day of of Jason Huther of Jasper IN.  It's interesting, my oldest daughter Christi married Tim Kiefer of Vincennes IN and my oldest son Michael married Melonie Wente of Fort Wayne IN.  Those Hoosiers of given me some really great sons and daughters-in-law.
Katie was my only child married in a church that I served at the time.  There is something special that occurs in the life of a church when a pastor's daughter is the bride.  Your family becomes a whole lot bigger on these unique occasions and although Katie had only been a part of the Landisville Church of God during her breaks from college, my congregation had adopted her like they had raised Katie since her toddler days. We were truly blessed by their love and support. (We also had two receptions  - the first being for that church family; and the second the more typical like many of you would have for family and friends.)

I shared the officiating for Katie and Jason's wedding with my father, also a pastor, Dr. A Gail Dunn.  I would have been happy simply being the father of the bride; but Katie insisted that I do the marrying part as well.  So after tearfully coming down the aisle with my "baby," I soon took my place in front of them, hearing their vows and pronouncing Jason and Katie to be husband and wife, "according to the ordinances of God and the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."  I have had the same exact privilege with Christi and with Michael. With Chris, the  "pronouncing" will be done by Megan's priest; but once again I will serve a pastoral role as I share in officiating and present the homily (or as we Protestants tend to call it, The Charge.)

One of my fondest memories of Katie's wedding is our Father-Daughter Dance at the reception. All the time that we danced in that spotlight, she kept telling me "I love you, Daddy" and even adding why. Finally I said, "Katie, you need to stop; you're making me cry."  She said with a young woman's impishness, "I know, Daddy." We danced, I cried, she beamed, and the whole world watched the performance.
There is something special about a family wedding when the family loves God and the couple know that they have been brought together by the grace and goodness of God.  Even though Katie and Jason soon moved to Toledo OH where my son-in-law entered a master's program in philosophy and I saw them less and less; it is the knowledge that the two of them love Jesus Christ and believe their marriage is God's will for their lives that has given me assurance and confidence in their relationship.  Their life has not been without its challenges and even its tragedies; but I have watched as they pulled together and pulled through still committed to the promises that they made to God that day.

My deepest prayer for Chris and for Megan is that they will keep God the center of their lives and the foundation of their marriage. That they will love each other not out of the affection that sometimes passes for love in our world today; but the agape love that God has intended for all of us since the foundation of the world.  I pray that Megan and Chris will grow deeper in that love and more in love each day of their lives til death do them part.

On the left is my new daughter-in law Megan, who was one of Katie's bridesmaids. On the right is Christi, my daughter who was matron of honor. To the far right is my Dad.  In the picture above my oldest son Michael walks his mother Dianne down the aisle as Mother of the Bride.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DAY 100

Yesterday was the 100th day after the disaster oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Already this accident has cost jobs -- from fisherman to the head of British Petroleum; spoiled vacations and destroyed fish and shrimp, set back local economies from Texas to Florida. It has contributed to mental health problems all over the Gulf Coasr and wiped out the work of generations.  Disaster seems to be an inadequate way to describe what has happened in these past One Hundred Days.Tar balls, oil sheen, globs of crude and petroleum smells have come ashore on beaches since the disaster began with an April 20 drill rig explosion that killed 11 workers. BP capped the well July 15, but this is at best still a temporary measure until the gusher can be plugged underground. Scientists estimate that between 94 million and 184 million gallons of oil has poured into the Gulf. TO READ MORE GO TO ENVIRONMENT REPORT

People have responded to this disaster with stoic resignation, unbridled anger, vituperative protests, political finger-pointing, deep sadness, and fervent prayer.  In fact, in our own church in faraway central Pennsylvania; we have prayed regularly for all of those who have been impacted by these circumstances and praying the damages to their lives can be minimized and healed. I suspect this final reaction has been far more helpful to the citizens of this affected reason than the list with which I began this paragraph.

We often try to make sense out of such situations and the government, as well as industry, no doubt, will spend still millions more trying to examine what went wrong; as well law firms seeking to whom to assess responsbility for the damages. This will be going on for a long, long time. I suspect the outcomes will please no one and too many persons will pay a higher price for this spill than is fair or reasonable or just.

Walt Kelly once spoke great wisdom through one of his characters in the comic strip Pogo, one of the forerunners to the environmental movement in the US and an earlier promoter of Earth Day. "Gentlemen, we have met the enemy and he is us."

As long as we focus our energy efforts on petroleum, as long as Americans (and others in this global economy) chose their comfort and convenience over sound ecological concerns, as long as we pursue resources in unstable environments; there will be the push for exploration and production that makes disasters such as occurred on April 20th inevitable.  All the "green" practices of recycling, energy conservation, etc, will not repair the damage created when we do not give due consideration to the ecosystems and their limitations as they have been designed by our Creator. The call in the Book of Genesis to exercise dominion over creation is a call to stewardship of it resources for all humanity and for all the time the Maker has determined humanity should have on this planet.  It is not  a license for the reckless use, consumption, and waste of what God has graciously given to all of us.


My eldest daughter Christi commutes most days up a congested interstate from her home in suburban northern Kentucky into Cincinnati. The commute can take from 30-45 minutes on a good day; longer when there is some traffic snarlup. Most persons who commute learn to be somewhat Stoic about the trials of high speed city driving, especially when the driving drops to a snail’s pace at inopportune times. Nonetheless, it it also a source of great aggravation; which I suspects adds to the costs of both healthcare and lost productivity.

But I turned on my Facebook this morning to read this message on her wall: This morning on the way to work, an accident on the interstate involving a truck filled with tissues – tissues blowing all over the highway as traffic crept slowly forward – surreal…makes it hard to be mad about the traffic jam.

I am trying hard to imagine what this looked like? Why would something as gentle and soft as tissues stop big bad vehicles from driving forward? Or did this create a “white out condition” with tissue paper? A daily tabloid would have posted a front page photo with the banner head line KLEENEX CRASH !!!!!

Part of the reason things like traffic jams drive us crazy or make us angry is because they explode the myth of control with which so many of us want to live. One of my most famous posts on another blogsite, “Invictus Revisited” quotes those famous words, “I am the Master of My Fate, the Captain of My Soul.” (By the way, search engines bring people to that post almost daily who are looking for the words of that motivation post. I hope they read also that I consider it good motivation, but bad theology.) We deeply desire to have everything in our lives wired for our personal preference and find inconvenience a great … well, inconvenience. And to quote a friend speaking of someone we both know, “They don’t do inconvenience.”

It is also a reflection of the innate perfectionism that drives too many of us into an early grave and our colleagues to distraction. We want control of our environment because we want to be sure everything works perfectly for us.

Yet the great inventive geniuses of the world – men like Thomas Edison and Bill Gates – will attest to the importance of failure to actually help us become better. In Christianity we teach that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we give up the myth of control, we find the peace (and success) that comes from what God’s perfect love provides instead of what our imperfect humanity can never achieve.

Most of us, however, need a few traffic jams and crashes and times of utter impotence to come back to the real world where things are not perfect, where we cannot control everything — and yet we can find happiness and joy in the ordinary.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Tim Hawkins on food choices


As you read this, I am on vacation. I am one of the fortunate who still get vacation as part of their compensation. Five weeks vacation to be exact. In the busy life of a lead pastor in a busy congregation, sometimes it is a challenge to get all of the vacation actually scheduled. Then, of course, there's the need to pay for it. Still, I'd be a fool to not take vacation. The opposite is a formula for burnout. And as a pastor, it is nice to know that I am not essential; that people can carry out the mission of the church out of their own passion and vision, and the work goes on through their gifts and love of Christ. In fact, when a pastor takes a vacation; a church learns a whole lot about their capabilities and responsibilities.

Volunteers are essential to the success of most not-for-profit organizations. Not-for-profit implies not a lot of money. I know there are exceptions, but most donors want as much of the money as possible spent on the purpose of the organization or the object of their concern, the latter almost always being people in need. In this context, volunteers are every bit as important a resource as an endowment fund. Not only do they help stretch the money of the organization thereby enabling it to do more; but they also insure a human face and caring humanity to be part of what that not-for-profit offers to its consituency.

Did you ever have a photo that fascinated you? This one is first saw on Walt Mueller's blog learning my lines ... (bottom photo). This listing, rotting vessel occupying space along the coast line was once the source of someone's livelihood. It was part of a fishing industry that brought purpose and jobs and food on the table to some family as it shaped and grew the people within it. I see these things and wonder what they were like when they had life. I sometimes think the same when I pass by dilapidated or empty churches dotting our landscape. Now some are not even good museums of the past because their caretaking has been neglected. But what was it like then there was life in those churches? What kind of impact did they have on the people under their care and influence. Why is this boat abandoned? Why are these churches empty and unused? How might they have stayed alive and useful? What story could they continue to tell if they had not lost their usefulness?

Shirley Sherrod was a long-term employee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a "good woman put through hell" because of viral bloggers, quick news cycles, and government leaders who rushed to do damage control without bothering to check the facts. A conservative blogger used an edited video clip and quoted her totally out of context regarding her dealings years ago with a white Mississippi farmer (Shirley is black). Whether that blogger knew they were playing fast and loose with the truth to advance their political agenda remains to be seen; but Fox News picked it up and reported it too quickly, and then Shirley's boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack fired Herrod based on this information and possibly pressure from of all places the NAACP, whose leadership also seemed to accept these "altered facts" quickly without adequate investigation. Now the Obama administration has egg on its face, the NAACP has its much-needed integrity tarnished, and Shirley Sherrod has now had an experience (as well as losing her job) that will no doubtedly unlock another round of viral blogging that will further cause people to think that America is a nation incapable of doing anything right. And the viral bloggers both on the left and the right will be unchastened, continue their polemics, and more of us with thoughtless abandon will email their half-truths around the world. Shirley has received an apology from her boss and a new job offer, but her reputation has probably been tarnished because there will still be people who choose to believe and repeat the half-truth that they preferred in the first place.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Keri Wyatt Kent recently wrote in Christianity Today:
"The kingdom of heaven isn't just a place we go when we die; it's a movement we're part of today. It's living in the presence of God forever, starting right now. Eternity, by definition, is all time, including the present moment.

"Instead of being about the kingdom of God coming to earth, the Christian religion has too often become preoccupied with abandoning or escaping earth and going to heaven," pastor and author Brian McLaren writes in The Secret Message of Jesus. "Too often its members have forgotten the teachings of Jesus about making peace and turning the other cheek and crossing boundaries to serve people formerly considered 'outsiders.'

"Jesus talked about the future, no doubt. But mostly he lived as if the kingdom of God truly was "at hand." He told us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). This prayer isn't just hoping for change, but asking God to direct us in facilitating that change and then—often the most neglected part of prayer—actually doing what he commands.

"Jesus also said his disciples would be known by their sacrificial love for each other and for God (John 13:35). How do we show that love? Jesus said: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Matthew 25:35-36).

"People who live in the kingdom of God right now choose to give, to practice hospitality, to be kind to the suffering, sick, or poor. We experience the kingdom of heaven on earth when we recognize God's presence here with us and serve him as if he really is our King."
To read the rest of this excellent article go to the link KENT

As a pastor seeking to lead a church to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I believe that Kent is on solid, essential ground. The kingdom of heaven is not a destination, it's a movement. Too many Christians have been co-opted by the consumerism of our culture and think only in terms of personal needs and satisfaction,  For them the emphasis is on heaven and once they are assured that they have a place prepared for them there and a ticket to ride to that destination, they pretty much stop thinking intentionally about living in the kingdom of God on this side of eternity.

In that mindset they have abandoned or forgotten the powerful reality that we are a countercultural movement.  Our job is to be distinct within our culture as witnesses to the more perfect way of the kingdom of God than the temporary way of the kingdom of this world --a kingdom that is not eternal. Jesus calls us to be "salt and light" - to flavor our world with the distinctiveness of Christ, to preserve the world by making sure that God's eternal values are brought to bear and influence in this life - to bring "light" to a world that embraces its darkness as truth, by demonstrating what the real truth of God is and showing how it can transform our lives (and our world).

Too often our destination mentality excuses us (or so we think) of living like Jesus.  Too often we believe it is safe and sensible to embrace our temporal cultural values rather than representing God's eternal ones.  And in the "reality" we create, we actually contribute to the problem of God being out of sight and out of mind for most of the world.  Our steeples, and T-shirts, and publications are insufficient to overcome the powerful message of human culture.

In this world we think membership where Jesus commands discipleship.
In this mindset we think savings, where God works for salvation.
We chose preservation, God desires sacrifcial obedience.
We desire comfort, God wants us to take up a cross and follow Him.

How very different the 21st American church would be if we were truly citizens of the kingdom of heaven that is being manifested here on earth! How very different our world would be if we believed the kingdom of heaven was not a destination, but a movement of God.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The title of this post may have been sufficient to prompt people to push the delete button or to click away to something more inviting. Suffering is something people would like to keep at several arms lengths from their lives. We medicate and premedicate to alleviate it or to avoid it. We trivialize our lives with shallowness so we can step away at the first sign of suffering. We cocoon ourselves lest our relationships and/or environment introduce suffering into our experience. We often measure success by the pleasure we had in achieving it--an approach that tends to discount the necessity of suffering.
Yet suffering is part of life; but suffering is also more than fate. Suffering is a key ingredient in developing a quality of life that sustains us far beyond the moment. And it helps exert an impact and influence upon our neighbor than can outlast our temporary residence on this planet.
Consider these observations on the idea that suffering is essential.

"The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it." - Helen Keller

"Suffering is but another name for the teaching of experience, which is the parent of instruction and the schoolmaster of life.” - Horace

"It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one's own suffering." - Robert Lynd

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller

"Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state. "-George Eliot in Adam Bede

"One of the greatest sources of suffering is to have an inborn sense of honor" - De Casseres
"Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence." - Bill Graham in Just As I Am

One of the things that makes Christianity unattractive to some, but signficiant to others is its position that suffering is essential. Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4. "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."
As Christians we embrace the idea that suffering is part of God's plan to shape each of us into the character of Christ so that we can carry out the mission of Christ to bring hope to the world. This is not senseless suffering. It is suffering with a purpose. It is not suffering born of our sin or circumstances. It is suffering that is embraced as a part of our calling to bring the hope of God to the world. When a Christian suffers injustice or misunderstanding to reflect the core values of God's love, they are doing an honorable thing. When a Christian suffers the loss of status or the loss of their comfort to go and serve among the least, the last, and the lost on this plan; they are providing a countercultural witness that reminds all of us of a more perfect way--the way of love. When Christians walk through the valley of the shadow of death with someone, sharing their grief and suffering, they bring comfort and strength.
We take our cue from Jesus, who engaged in the suffering first of being human; but ultimately the suffering of death on a cross for a crime he did not commit so that we might be freed from our sin. His suffering was essential to our eternal destiny.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Six months have barely passed. Is Haiti still in your heart and prayers?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, July 19, 2010


For all my Lutheran friends, I thought you'd enjoy this little spoof.

By the way, did you notice my MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS were published on Saturday? Clicked the wrong key on the POST OPTIONS scheduler. I can write but I can't click worth a you-know-what. - Steve

Sunday, July 18, 2010


From South Hills Church of Christ in Abilene TX

Saturday, July 17, 2010


As a blogger, I am always trying to find significant things to share and useful formats for that sharing. Of course, no blogger wants to simply be speaking to dead cyberspace; they want to be communicating with real people. That's why subscriptions to our blogs (especially new ones) and comments from the readers (except for the spammers surreptitiously trying to draw you to their marketing website) are great energizers to those of us who blog. Last week I was energized in this effort by several Twitter "tweets" for Life Matters and Biblical Joy (an on-line Bible study group that I facilitate via a blog on another blogging engine Wordpress) and several key referrals from the blogging engines in their daily summaries to several of my blogs.

A friend of mine shared that they enjoyed blogs that had regular features tied to specific days rather than random posts or infrequent ones. As I looked at other blogs, I saw that this was indeed a pattern for many. For some time I have used Monday as a sort of general reflection post; I just haven't posted every Monday. My personal schedule does not always permit me to post daily, nor do I have something I believe worth saying every day. However, I often have more random reflections that are more comments than an attempt to write something definitive to help us experience an abundant life in Christ.

Beginning this week, I will experiment with this idea; hoping to make this blog more useful and interesting. Just Mondays. I encourage you to comment on these reflections with some of the thoughts they provoke. Sometimes a good dialogue starts with a single comment.

Prayer is a power source.
One of things that Christians believe is that prayer is powerful. It has nothing to do with eloquence and enthusiasm of the person doing the praying. It has to do with the connection with God who is all-powerful. When you plug into a power source, you expect some juice. If the source is powerful enough, it just may rock you.

A troubling Bible verse. Actually, there are a lot of troubling verses in the Bible. Lately, as an ardent blogger, Facebooker, and busy preacher; here is one that has caused me some sleepless nights and anxious moments. "You will be called to give an account on the day of judgment for every idle (careless) word you have spoken." Matthew 12:36

Mosaic Lancaster is the name of a new faith community (another name for church) being started by a good friend named Nick Francis for my parent denomination, the Churches of God. His group is using the creative arts as a tool and a contact point for reaching people who were formerly churched, or who are not interested in conventional churches. I'd love for you to watch this video and see what it prompts.

My youngest son Chris is getting married at the end of the month to Megan Parrot, a doctoral candidate at Indiana University. Chris is a web designer and computer engineer who worked for several years for Butler Universit7 and now is working on his own. These young people have been "going together" for five years without cohabiting, one of the longest times I have known this to happen in our contemporary culture; but two people who now know each other well, love each other deeply; and lack the baggage of so many who try to act married without the commitment to marriage. This time and approach has been a product of their personal faith in Christ and the values it produces. I am praying this test of commitment will serve them well.


Many people in our culture have a warped view of Christianity. They think it's all so serious and sacrificial that no one in their right mind would want to consider being one when they consider the alternatives. Of course it isn't helped by Christians who behave like they perpetually get up on the wrong side of the bed, or constantly talk about "duty and responsibility" with a pained expression and through gritted teeth. Or Christians who are so un-serious about their faith that a person outside the faith wonders why anyone would bother with a lifestyle that does require reading the Bible or wasting your Sunday morning in a boring church service.

Such a view comes easily to a culture where "having fun" and "feeling good" are core values. Being bored is considered an unpardonable sin. Making a sacrifice is only acceptable if you get an award, a tax credit, or air time on Letterman or Leno. When the credo is "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", then any lifestyle that expects accountability to a higher Being is not a comfortable fit. And much of our culture is predicated around achieving comfort.

But fortunately that is not the only value swimming around in our culture. There are people who believe that significance is more important than success. There are those who want their efforts to count, to make a difference; not simply earn an entry on Facebook. There are th0se who believe that we should be concerned about our planet's well-being, justice for the oppressed, and the plight of the poor.

And not all of these persons are Christians. We don't have the market cornered on altruism and self-sacrifice. Nor are all the shallow me-firsters among the pagans. A whole lot of Christians can be numbered among the selfish and the comfortable.

Christians really do have a lot of fun. If you think that you have not been to places like Creation 2010 or on the golf course with a bunch of guys who love Jesus and golf. You have not sat in a Chondra Pierce or Ken Davis comedy concert and laughed your head off at clean routines. You have not let loose with a black gospel choir on a Sunday morning, nor have you been to stunt night at a church camp.

But Christians have a different priority and goal than simply enjoying themselves. They desire to be a blessing. They take their joy (which is a whole lot deeper and more significant than simply having a fun time) from creatively sharing the pleasure of being loved by God and being invited to be the instrument of His love. Think Extreme Home Make Over and you then add it to a sense of calling and gifting by God to really transform someone's life and help them get a fresh start and you begin to see what genuine Christians are all about.

Christianity isn't any fun? Instead of believing the rep, try the walk for yourself.

Friday, July 16, 2010


A new friend of mine Tammie Gitt has an excellent blog called living3368 which appears in my blogroll to the right. She posted a great reflection last week that I am re-posting for your benefit. You will want to explore her blog for other creative insights. - Steve

The trip odometer on my Rockhopper turned over 65 last Sunday on the way home from the symphony concert.

That may not sound terribly exciting to recreational cyclists. It wouldn’t have been exciting to me a couple of years ago when I would put in 65 miles in a single weekend — and occasionally on a single ride — on my road bike.

What makes it exciting is that represents 65 miles that I didn’t use my car. It’s six miles roundtrip to church on Sundays. Three miles roundtrip to visit my Grammy. A couple of miles back to Target or over to the grocery store to pick up only as many items as I could fit in a backpack.

Since I drive a Corolla with excellent gas mileage, it’s not like I’m saving much money. With the current price of gas, I’ve saved about $5 in two months or so.

But the experience is worth so much more … good and bad:

• I’ve learned that my town is full of false flats. Nearly every road has a slight, slight incline that’s all but imperceptible to someone driving a car.

• I know the joy of seeing a light turn green from half a block away and cranking a mountain bike with knobby tires up to 21 miles per hour to speed through.

• On the flip side, I’m proud of the fact that I have learned to soft pedal in such a way as to reach the red light just as it turns green.

• Along those lines, I can now briefly balance my bike so that I stop at stop signs without putting a foot down.

• I’ve been frustrated by drivers who turn right in front of me.

• I’ve been encouraged by drivers who share the road.

• I can tell you that there’s one store —ONE — that I frequent that actually has a bike rack. Any time I go anywhere else I need to chain my bike to a sign or pole.

• Because I clean up a little after I arrive at church and before I take my seat in the sanctuary, I can tell you who usually needs to use the restroom before the service begins.

• Just ask me which roads need repaired!

• I know that it’s just unnatural how many people on a certain street own Mini Coopers.

And this is just the beginning for the season. If the weather holds out, I can keep using the bike for errands well into October and maybe November. I’d like to keep going, but I’m not crazy about cold weather and it gets dark too early in the winter to be very practical.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Two months ago the church's leadership and I agreed to a new position description - changing my title and purpose from being Senior Pastor to Lead Pastor. If you understand the philosophy of pastoral leadership, this is a very significant change; but now is not the time to unwrap that.

All of us develop routines for managing our lives and achieving our expectations. Routines are a tool of life management that
allow us work effectively, otherwise expectations are only dreams not reality. Routines allow us to organize so that we operate daily by the priorities of purpose instead of the tyranny of the urgent. Routines can be very helpful unless they become ruts that stifle creativity and defer initiative.

Part of my personal challenge is that routines are often tied to specific responsibilities. And in my case, responsibilities that cannot be dropped, they must delegated. So part of the challenge for me lately has been to find a way to step away from some responsibilities, so that I can develop a new routine that matches my new responsibilities. It is a little weird right now, sometimes a bit frustrating as I am eager to fully embrace my new responsibilities. However, if I persevere patiently and move in that direction intentionally it will become a reality and I will be able to develop and work by new routines.

Persevering patiently and moving intentionally is a good way of describing the process of becoming the person God has created you, redeemed you, and called you to be. The apostle Peter wrote these words to the early Christian church: (2 Peter 1:5-9)

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I pray that you will be able to find the routine (the pattern) and live in its discipline, so that you may be faithful and fruitful for God.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Even for those who are Sports Center -challenged the world of sport has captured much national attention these past 3-4 weeks. The World Cup has played across our television and computer screens from South Africa since the second week in June. High drama and thrilling heroics. Team USA, not generally included among the upper echelon of soccer powers, had several late-scoring victories that propelled them into the Round of 16, the so-called Knockout Round. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal was enough to propel the United States into the round of 16 today in Pretoria, South Africa. It seemed as though the USA was on the brink of elimination when Donovan scored off of a Clint Dempsey rebound during the first minute of added injury time. The USA came won their group for the first time since 1930 by posting a record of 1-0-2. As the final horn sounded the US cleared the bench and continued onto the field creating a huge pile of bodies all of which were celebrating on of the most important victories in US soccer history.

NBA Free Agency was the other dominant sports story. It grabbed center stage because such outstanding hardwood performers as Dirk Nowitski (Dallas), Dwayne Wade (Miami)Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) were now "on the market." No one, however, was as prized and sought after as "King James," Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. No heroics this time. In fact, American competitive spirit and the "business" of sports at its worst. Lebron, Wade, and Chris Boche manuevered shamelessly to try and be together one on team, hopefully "stacking" it to insure an elusive NBA title for each - especially for LeBron James. With a city that adored him twisting in the wind, James negotiated intensely and finally negotiated a self-serving "special" on ESPN Thursday night to justify the greed and the manipulation.

Landon Donovan has gone relatively unnoticed in sports-sated America. James has visibility and endorses worthy of the moniker "King James." Today, Donovan is revealed as a hero. James? I think he has joined a long line of self-serving sports celebrities, whose reputation has taken a powerful beating because of his personal ambition.


To read additional commentary go to DECISION

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Yesterday I was asked if I thought Arizona would win in the lawsuit being filed against it by the Obama administration over that state's immigration policies. To be honest, it's part of a myriad of issues that consume public debate that I sometimes lose track of. So I did a little early morning research. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

The Christian Advocacy Tracker
posts update on issues facing our culture today and what various Christian advocates are saying about these issues. (CAT is a feature of Christianity Today On-Line) Here is part of yesterday's post:

President Obama entered the Independence Day holiday weekend with a renewed call for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking at American University, he said that "fixing our broken immigration system is not only a political issue, not just an economic issue, but a moral imperative as well." It was a view echoed by evangelical leaders, both right and left.

NAE president Leith Anderson said, "President Obama raised immigration higher on the national agenda. Now we are looking forward to Republicans and Democrats joining together to write and pass immigration reform legislation."

"It was encouraging to see a religiously and racially diverse audience of faith leaders standing with the president, calling for comprehensive immigration reform," said Sojourners president Jim Wallis. "Now the task is for religious leaders to stand up in their own communities and, in particular, press their own political representatives to put narrow political interests aside and take a moral stand for necessary reform."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), agreed. He and the Southern Baptist Convention have officially supported comprehensive immigration reform since 2006. However, Land said that before current immigrants are granted legal status, the U.S. must "[secure] the border first with measurable metrics that have been certified as met by the federal government in terms of stemming the flow of illegal immigration."

Faith in Public Life's Shannon Sullivan said such arguments calling for greater border security before enacting reform often represent a "false dichotomy."

"We cannot secure the border without comprehensive reform, without a way for individuals to legally and fairly enter the system," said Sullivan. "The faith community isn't backing down on the overwhelming need for reform. They know that the pragmatic and moral solution is a comprehensive one, and not one that relies on faulty logic and calls for militarization along our Southern border."

Both the American Family Association (AFA) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) oppose the federal government's lawsuit against the state of Arizona's recent immigration law. The U.S. government claims that the law violates the Constitution because Congress alone has the power to regulate and enforce immigration policy.

ACLJ's chief counsel Jay Sekulow called the lawsuit "flawed" and "nothing more than a waste of taxpayer funds." He said the Arizona law is "both sound and constitutional."

"It's troubling that the federal government, which has repeatedly failed to secure our nation's borders, is now attempting to punish the state of Arizona for doing just that," said Sekulow. "Instead of spending taxpayer funds to challenge Arizona's constitutional right to protect its borders and its citizens, the Obama Administration should secure Arizona's borders and the borders of other states."

The AFA's Jeremy Wiggins said that "the federal government wants to take power from the states and give it solely to the federal government, which goes completely against what the framers intended." The Arizona law does not change federal immigration law, said Wiggins, it merely enforces the law differently. He said the lawsuit "is exactly what you would expect from a socialist run establishment."

Without taking a position on the law, ERLC's Land said, "The Arizona law is a cry for help from a state that is in crisis because the federal government has not done its job for many years now."

Thursday, July 8, 2010


How did you celebrate Independence Day 2010?
Many Americans celebrated it with backyard barbecues, trips to the ball park, parties at a lake, and/or fireworks. All part of the common experience of this holiday in USA 2010. Some of us are extending the holiday into Monday, a creature called "Independence Day Observed." Turns the whole celebration a long weekend of rest, recreation, and relaxation.

Some of us spent the morning in church in a time of worship. The freedom to worship is one of the fundamental rights afforded by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution. It is one of our most precious rights because our connection with the Creator is what gives us life itself. In my own congregation we also shared in a service of communion. We are not one of those churches that celebrates communion each week, yet again it seemed appropriate to come to the Table of the Lord to give thanks for a Savior who makes possible the truest of all freedom. "He died to make men holy. He died to make men free."

We concluded our worship time with a prayer for our nation.

It is popular in our culture today to bad-mouth America. There are clearly many things that are wrong with our country, but such failings must not be blamed upon our system of government but laid at the feet of the values of its citizenry. Democracy does not promote greed, idolatry does. The Constitution does not endorse factionalism and racial bigotry, but our sinful nature thrives on such things. Our shallow ethics and consumer mentality are not the result of our three branches of government, they come from people who believe that they are accountable to no one save themselves and believe liberty is a license to grab all you can get.

Therefore, I pray that we will respect and treasure the liberty that our nation affords us who are fortunate to be born here and to emigrate her. But we need to pray for the soul of its citizenry that they do not use their human liberty as an occasion to live as sinfully as we desire.