Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Author Anne Rice, who had "converted" to Christianity before writing her novel Christ the Lord, has announced on Facebook that she is "quitting Christianity."In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control...In the name of ... Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Before her conversion several years, Rice was famous for her graphic vampire novels, which she ceased writing.  Her new writing was hardly orthodox Christianity, but in our celebrity-fascinated culture, many persons excitedly gravitated towards her new "Christian" writings.  In a sense to explain to those persons, she also wrote on Facebook:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

I'd like to offer several observations.  The "Christianity" she describes represents an abberation of the faith, but is also a caricature frequently embraced by the media and a population who has never taken the trouble to meet a regular, everyday, deeply committed to the Word and Christ, follower of Jesus.

She equates Christianity with the Church (in particular that abberant minority).  In one sense, that is a correct correlation.  The Bible teaches clearly that you cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church -- for the "church" is the Body of Christ.  That is an organic definition not an institutional one. The "Church" is a living thing that has been created and called out of the world by Christ, the Lord to be the living embodiment of His values and His work in the world.  We (I am part of the church) have some unhealthy parts just as most human bodies have some unhealthy parts, and those of us who love Christ seek to bring healing to those parts by reminding them that they are not some voluntary, secular institution, or "clubs" or "PAC's" but persons who are to reflect the person of Jesus Christ today.  Anne and others like her do the world a disservice by trying to separate themselves from the Body which is accountable to the Christ she claims to still follow instead of intentionally being a healthy (read, biblically faith) part of the Body Christ Himself ordained.

The scriptures also teach that the Church is the "Bride of Christ."  In the model of faithfulness of Groom to Bride that the Bible commands, we cannot expect Christ to chose anyone over His Bride, because His concern is the holiness of His Bride and His love for His Bride is unconditional and unbreakable.  You love the Groom, you love the Bride."

In the Sunday School Class I teach for younger adults called The New Wineskins, we discussed this situation. Anne took a bit of a beating for her lack of sophistication, but later one of the class members sent me this quote from Eugene Cho:

"Anne isn’t the first nor will she be the last.
In fact, one can argue that there have always been folks that have quit Christianity in every generation, every denomination, every tribe, and every community. Someone today – albeit, without the fanfare of Anne Rice – has just quit Christianity- and probably on Facebook or Twitter…
Part of me applauds Anne because I can certainly resonate with her feelings. Honestly, we’ve all been there on some level, haven’t we?  And we understand – in part – because if you’ve been part of the Church and Christianity, you know exactly how far it is from the portrait of beauty, idealism, and shalom we think the Church should be. Anne – to her credit – has shared in subsequent interviews that her decision wasn’t flippant but processed over several years and especially as she wrestled with numerous critical issues.
We understand her decision or at least, her sentiment…because we understand the failures and inconsistencies of Christianity…and because at one point or dozen points in our lives, we’ve contemplated the same thing."

Then there were a number of observations on the Christianity Today Live Blog.  This one I found most interesting of them:

"I understand why people want to "quit" Christianity, but in the end it just reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin decides he's sick of his family, how they act, how they treat him, so he's going to secede from the family and move to the Yukon. Lucky for Calvin, it only takes him an afternoon to realize what a ridiculous idea that is.

"What I don't understand is how people who claim a faith entirely built on grace can decide to continue accepting that grace, while refusing to continue extending it to their brothers and sisters. It seems to send the message, "I am perfect, you are not, and you're making me look bad, so I'm outta here!" When did running away from a family problem ever solve it?  CAPTCHA: difficulties tour

Probably in the end, my personal observation echoes something Cho said in his blog post.

The overdramatization of the suckiness of the Church

Let’s be honest. It’s easy to take shots at an institution – especially Christianity and the Church. For Christians, it’s our family and that gives us license and permission to speak constructively or critically at our own family.
We all do it: men, women, children, poets, singers, skeptics, believers, cynics, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers, Coffee Partiers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Covenanters, Calvinists, Arminians, Trekkies, and even you and me.
In fact, it’s become the somewhat cool, hip, and edgy thing to do…because you are more [wait for it...wait for it] – - authentic.
Ahhh. Authentic Christianity.
And while I can’t argue that Anne’s descriptions are entirely inaccurate, I really do wonder if we’ve allowed these assumptions, judgments, and descriptives to become the totality of Christianity. Is it possible that we’ve given these descriptives so much press that it has grown bigger than reality? They have grown  to be such that many – perhaps including ourselves – have come to believe that Christianity is all about being anti gay, anti-feminist, and anti-artificial birth control (anti-science)?
  • Are those descriptives realities for some and in some communities? Yes.
  • Are they the totality of the movement of Christianity? No.

Christ Died for an Imperfect Humanity [and Church]

This isn’t license for Christianity to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-whatever we think the Church is against. But leaving Christianity or no longer desiring to be known or identified as a Christian isn’t the answer.
The answer is right before us. The good news isn’t institutional religion. It isn’t a denomination, Christianity, or the Church.
The good news is the Gospel and the Gospel is not just merely propositional truth but Truth that has been personified in the person of Jesus the Christ – fully God and fully human – who chose to dwell and live amongst us and ultimately, go to the cross…
for an imperfect, depraved, and fallen world and Church.
This is why – as much as I’m tempted to join Anne, I am publicly declaring

my imperfect love for an imperfect world (& Church) – for whom Christ demonstrated perfect love.

I am a Christian because

a perfect Christ demonstrated perfect love for an utterly imperfect humanity.


Monday, August 30, 2010


Some of my friends accuse me of being a compulsive blogger, which I may be.  I have a new one called Immeasurably More-Discipleship Version.  It is written specifically for Christians, persons already persuaded to follow Jesus Christ.More than a year ago I began publishing LIFE MATTERS as a dialogue with the general population about Jesus Christ, life in general, living with purpose, reflecting on the culture. It's purpose was to help them see that not all Christians are the narrow-minded, judgmental extremists that the media paints us to be. IMMEASURABLY MORE is to a different audience. I share thoughts, observations, questions, links, etc with fellow Christians who have one desire - to be authentic servants of Christ living the promise of Paul's benediction to the Ephesians "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more." I may offend you or challenge you or worry you or encourage you but all is done in the spirit one of who loves Jesus Christ and the Church passionately, and wants to "get it right." If this latter desire matches you, visit the site and sign on as a FOLLOWER or SUBSCRIBER.  Even if you are not a Christian, but want a deeper look at how someone who believes that Christians need to take their faith more seriously, you are welcome.

 I have an unusual week these next seven days. I will be performing two weddings. Tonight I am uniting a lovely couple I have been pastoring now for a little over year, their first marriage. Saturday I will be in Indiana performing a second, for a cousin who has been very special to me over the years and who was once part of my ministry team at a church in Fort Wayne. Both of these couples have been planning for this for some time and I believe God deeply desires to bless both unions. 

Marriage today draws both passion and pundits.  Literally thousands of dollars are spent on a wedding to make it a special, memorable moment; but often those moments are fleeting because the marriage itself (not the ceremony) has been approached far too casually.  I am a pastor who requires preparation for marriage counseling because I learned a long time ago that a healthy marriage requires a solid foundation (which I believe is a relationship with Christ) that is strengthened when there is a clear understanding of the responsibilities of the marriage relationship and a common agreement as to the expectations.  Although more than half of marriages in the US today end in divorce, I firmly believe that God's intention is that this union is "for as long as we both shall live." (By the way, last week's post on my wedding anniversary "38 years" was among the most widely read on any of my blogs and I received a number of comments and emails both of congratulations and concurrence.)

 It's the first day of school in my community today. I leave on one of the streets leading to the high school. About 7:15 am there will be an increasing volume of foot traffic from the student's favorite on street parking two blocks away (for some reason they don't like the school lots). I will have to exit my neighborhood from another direction as I will be unable to get onto the street on the other end because it is almost the exact point that cars and minivans turn into the school entrance to deposit their would-be scholars. 

I am a firm believer in the public schools because I believe we need to learn, work, and live together with all the people of our community.  Schools are the center of most communities. I realize that schools carry many of society's problems through their front doors despite vigilant administrators, book bag inspections, and metal detectors.  I believe we should pray for our schools and also to be proactive in helping provide solutions and assistance to the many challenges schools face.

Have you prayed for your school today? Are you volunteering?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


by Jim Stanley on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:38am
I’m a pretty loyal fan. Some friends consider me a diehard. A few offer sympathy to my wife as baseball season rolls around. They know I love my Chicago White Sox. And on those rare occasions when my first baseball love — the Pittsburgh Pirates — are playing the Cubs, you will inevitably find me watching WGN or Chicago Sports Net. I am the one guy cheering for Pittsburgh. The last dozen or so years, that’s been like cheering for the lightly armed Belgians against Hitler’s mighty war machine. Or like rooting for me, Jim Stanley, as I try to guard Michael Jordan or LeBron James in a game of one-on-one. But I remain loyal. I love the Pirates and I have since I was about three or four. It helped to grow up in Pittsburgh when they were actually good. And it was there, in that horrendously boring soup-bowl of a stadium, where I preached my first sermon. I don’t recall the date. Must have been 1974 or 75. Dad had purchased three tickets to see the Pirates play the San Francisco Giants. We got to our seats and they were occupied. The usher looked at our tickets, then studied the squatter’s tickets. Our tickets were valid. Their tickets were valid. We each had a right to them and they got there first. And then the usher made the foolish mistake of using a phrase my Father simply could not — would not — tolerate. “Sorry sir, but you’re going to have to…”
Dad was a remarkably patient man when dealing with strangers and people in the service industry. But the phrase “you’re going to have to” was just one he would not accept. (I am the same way!) He emphatically informed the usher that he wasn’t going to have to do anything. Except maybe speak to someone in charge. And so down to the Pirate offices we went, deep in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium. There, my father politely but very firmly stated his case. A rain check would not suffice. Whatever potentate Dad dealt with took pity on us and gave us other seats. Better seats. Right on the third base line, within earshot of the Giants’ dugout and third base!
As a Pirate fan, I would have preferred first base. But beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, I reasoned, the Buccos would have plenty of runners on third for me to cheer on. And cheer, I did. Eight or nine years old, maybe ten, I screamed my melon off the whole game. My poor sister, about 23 or 24 at the time, must have been mortified. Particularly when I informed the Pirate third baseman, Richie Hebner, that my sister was single. Yes, I admit it. I was ready to pimp my sister out for a chance to meet Willie Stargell. (Richie smiled at her, I swear it. But nothing ever came of it.)
Dad might have been embarrassed or self-conscious. But I remember, years later, he told me “a stadium is one place where a kid ought to be able to scream at the top of his lungs.” I have tried to remember that when I now get annoyed at ball games!
As the game wore on, I noticed something that angered me. Pirate fans — people with the caps and the jersey’s and the big, foam fingers — were boo’ing certain Pirate players. Richie Zisk and Al Oliver, to be specific. That made no sense to me. If the guy’s in a slump, and they both were, wouldn’t it be logical to cheer for them all the more? “He’s a bum!” “Send him back to the minors!” It was sermon time. And I preached a two-parter at the top of my little lungs.
The first time, (I can’t remember which of the two was up. We’ll say it was Zisk.) I stood up on my seat, turned around to the fans in our section and gave them what-for. I told them that REAL fans never boo their own team or their own players. TRUE fans cheer even harder when someone’s having a hard time. And then, I prophesied. (An eight year old televangelist. Who knew?) “Just you watch”, I said. “Just you wait! Zisk is gonna hit a homer.” The other fans were amused. But hardly receptive.
Guess what?
Yep. Out of the park.
As Zisk rounded third, I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead and scare away the walking undead. And fans around me were patting me on the back, saying, “Nice call, kid.” “Way to go.” Meanwhile, a surly-looking older man in a San Francisco Giants uniform stuck his head out of the dugout and looked into the stands.
A couple innings later, it was Al Oliver’s turn up. And, as he too was slumping, Al got treated to a chorus of raspberries and catcalls. “The guy’s a retread!” “Whiffer!” I went straight into what I call “Moses coming down from Mount Sinai” mode. If had been more familiar with Biblical syntax, I might well have thundered, “You are a stiff-necked and rebellious people!” Instead, I repeated my earlier sermon about loyalty and fandom. This was Pittsburgh, after all. City of champions. Once again, I predicted a round-tripper. And yes, Mr. Oliver delivered a towering homerun. It was one that wound up making the difference in the game. I am certain I have never yelled quite so loudly since.
This time, the fans were buying beers for my Dad. Offering, anyway. They were talking about hoisting me on their shoulders and getting me season tickets. (I thought that was a swell idea. Dad seemed to feel attending school should take precedence.)
And then, that crabby-looking old man from the Giants dugout climbed out of the dugout and scanned the crowd again. He looked, and looked, and finally…he identified me. (It wasn’t hard.)
Now, I don’t know about you. But I have always wondered if the players on the field can hear the fans. Particularly those of us in the first few rows. You never really know from watching on television. Evidently, they hear quite well. The “old man” was the Giants third base coach. I don’t remember his name, sorry to say. But I remember his steely stare. He pointed at me. “Hey kid! Yeah, you! Get over here!!!” I wasn’t terrified. I knew my Dad (to say nothing of an army of now-quite-happy Pirate fans) had my back.
Dad gave me the nod and I padded down a couple steps to the rail. The coach handed me a baseball, one that (I was certain!) had just been fouled into the dugout by none other than the great Willie Stargell. He looked at me, smiled broadly, and said, “Here kid. Now SHUT UP. You’re killin’ us!” He winked at my Dad and went back into the dugout. I still have the ball. (And sorry, but I didn’t shut up. Though I am sure you’re hardly surprised.)
For years, I remembered the story because it made me smile. A big shot noticed me, a little kid. And he gave me something special. But as I have aged, something else has become real to me about the story. I’ve been in more than my share of slumps. Like Al Oliver. Or Richie Zisk. Nothing has picked me up more, given me greater strength or helped me back onto the field like those of you who are in my cheering section. Especially those of you who cheer loudest when I am slumping most profoundly.
I hope I cheer for you, too. At least as loudly as for Al Oliver and Richie Zisk. Because I know it. I just know it in my bones. You’re going to knock one out of the park. I believe in you. And if you ever need a reminder, you know where to find me. I’m the kid in the Pirate jersey, who smells of peanuts and is yelling at the top of his lungs.
(C) 2009 by Jim Stanley
Jim Stanley is an old and dear friend of mine from my Ft Wayne days.  For a period of time I had the privilege of being his pastor. Besides our loves of Jesus, theological jousting, Brennan Manning, and prayer … we love baseball.  Jim wrote this article earlier last  year and has given me permission to share it.


For years Christian publishers have been churning out books attempting to answer the question “What would Jesus do?”
The question has earned some barbs from comedians and scorn from non-Christians not because of the books but the marketing that piggy-backed on the question, marketing that runs the gamut from trivial to heretical (At the bottom of this blog post you will find one of those photos that has given me a good laugh; but I doubt entirely that God has a favorite team.)

Some humorist once said “Of course Jesus would play baseball. Haven’t you ever heard of Jesus Alou? (Jesus Alou was among many Hispanic players with this surname, a common practice in Latin countries.  This Jesus played in the 60s and 70s for the Giants, Mets, Astros, and A’s).

The question is rooted in the fact that many people absolutely love baseball. It is a sport that gives them much joy.  But it is also a sport that others disdain, or even consider a royal waste of time in a world where weighty matters need to be addressed.  Who cares about the Cubs and their misfortunes when there is poverty in Haiti and terrorism in the Middle East?

Whenever I hear that, I just want to say “Lighten up.”

Of course, people are often far too hasty to invoke the reputation of Jesus to advance their prejudices or justify their petty hatreds.  I have little doubt that what Jesus hates is little badges like this, or big causes that use His name for evil.

The truth is that the question is a valid one and for authentic Christians, an absolutely essential one. Not specifically “would Jesus play baseball” but the core value behind it. As Christians we are called to reflect the values of Jesus Christ in all the activities of our life and at all levels of our life.  There are some things that clearly Jesus would not do - abuse a child, burn a cross in hatred, steal someone’s retirement fund, pass by on the other side when he saw a beggar in the street.

But there is a whole lot of life where the deeper question is, “would we do this as Jesus would do it?”  Or “would Jesus even do this at all?” Would we do business in a manner inconsistent with the values of loving our neighbor?  Would we support the porn industry?  Would we abuse a fellow employee so we could get the job we wanted to have?  Would we ignore our grandmother in the nursing home because we’d rather play golf?

Back to baseball, I doubt seriously that if Jesus were pitching that he’d throw a knockdown pitch in retaliation or use steroids to get an edge on every one else.  He wouldn’t loaf up the line to first base either.

Christians understand that they are in the world to be salt and light, to influence and transform their world precisely by doing what Jesus would do.  And for Christians there are no “time outs” when they can act like hell in a world that already knows enough hell.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16

There are probably enough books on the market answering the question “what would Jesus do?”, but the question never is trivial or irrelevant. Our world would be greatly blessed if we asked about our values, our activities, our professions, etc. “is this what Jesus would do?”   

Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist.

Friday, August 27, 2010


A child's letter to God
I love it when children think theologically. It is so wonderfully concrete. They don't know they're thinking theologically. They are just analyzing life as they know with the truth as it has been taught to them. They try to explain (or have it explained) not to explain away.  They could care less about the nuances of the Greek (it's all Greek to them) nor are they influence by any school of thought (they haven't yet been to school, or are still early in the experience.)

Adults have a way of complicating everything. They don't necessarily complicate by reflecting on the Greek and Hebrew. They complicate it by adding their experience to the interpretation.  Yet so often in our fallen world, their experience isn't all that enlightening.  Children are short on experience and in explaining the Truth of God, that may be an asset.  They still believe God is worthy of our trust for "Jesus loves us, this we know, for the Bible tells us so."
(And hopefully Mommy and Daddy have told them and the church has told them.)

Maybe that's the key to becoming the little child that is worthy of entrance into Kingdom.  "The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love."(Galatians 5:6)  A little child still believes the the promise - "Love never fails." They haven't let their experience in a fallen world rob them of their confidence in God's unfailing love.

"Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." - Mark 10:15

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Marilyn Reames and Gail Dunn, united in marriage January 1,1951

Dianne Gordon and Steve Dunn united in marriage August 26, 1972
 August 26, 1972.

A hot and humid day in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

 In Allison United Methodist Church on the campus of Dickinson College

The Reverend A. Gail Dunn officiating

A gorgeous girl from South Florida and a skinny guy called to serve God consented and covenanted before God and our witnesses to be husband and wife until death do us part. 

It's now 38 years later ... today.  Seven different communities, four children, three grandchildren; four ministry staff jobs; four pastorates ... in sickness and in health ... in prosperity and want ... we remain Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Dunn (now Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Dunn).  Not every moment pleasant but a lifetime of joy. United by the gift of God in Jesus Christ.  Living as one flesh to be gifts of God to others.  Sharing more than a legal name. Sharing a passionate belief that marriage was God's design for Dianne and Steve; and that through Christ we have all we need for the love and loyalty that is absolutely essential to a healthy and enduring marriage. Believing that what we have is not a contract measured by the performance of our partner but a covenant measured by our faithfulness to God and one another.

As a pastor, I perform weddings.  I unite no one in marriage who does not spend time preparing for marriage by sitting with me, examining the foundations and values of marriage, identifying and agreeing to the expectations of marriage, and committing to do the
work of marriage.  My pastoral efforts have not
Now we are husband and wife!
always been successful in producing healthy marriages.  The people being joined are free moral agents in a fallen world.  Some of them come to the altar perjuring themselves before God by lightly repeating the vows embedded in values that they do not intend to live by.  Some of them come to the altar more in love with love than with God and one another.  But some come committed to Christ, truly committed to one another and continue to seek God's empowerment daily to preserve and strengthen that sacred covenant.

And those marriages are a source of joy to the couple, to their children, and to the world in which they live and love as husband and wife.  I believe that is what has been true for Dianne and myself. I look forward to the next 38 or however many we will have until we go to be with our Lord.

(C) 2010 by Stephen L. Dunn
I wonder what our life together will be like

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


We have been using Tuesdays as Music Day on Life Matters.  Music can inspire, Music can touch our inner most being. Music can release the passion within us.  Music can make us laugh and teach us at the same time.  Chris Rice has a great song with a lighter message, but a good one nonetheless.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Monday morning is nearing and I find reflecting is difficult.  A busy, intense week--lots of writing, reading, praying (not necessarily in that order) and I find my brain a bit depleted. It leaves me thoughtless in Landisville.  To cover this deficiency I am going to share thoughts from my friend and church members, many of who have posted these thoughts on Facebook.

Doug Riley, a good friend and great musicians "wonders if being a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles automatically registers you for unemployment."

Andrew Kuhn, a high school senior and a member of the CORE student leadership team of our BURN student ministry at my church commented: "What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."
How about this thought posted by Jonathan Bowers, a nearby youth pastor, quoting T.R. Philip: "Loss of cultural respectability and popularity should not be the concern of the church that ought to be more worried about losing its soul than about gaining the whole world. "

How about this one by Brook Sarver, a missionary friend working in Thailand. I may try this in the US at Landisville. "I declared today to be "Take your Coffee to Church" Day. My travel mug is very proud..."

Nick Francis, chief spiritual architect at Mosaic Lancaster, who shares my 10:45 pulpit next week."Your dreams lack the power to change the world, but your willingness to live out those dreams certainly does!"

Joe Sheedy is a pastor I recently met from Frederick MD. Talking about an experience he had with his young boys: "Got absolutely crushed on the bike today by Mike and Justin. I'm old and am not gonna catch them. Hard truth for me to swallow. Pretty sure that they were at least 3.5 miles ahead after 35 miles. I need Popeye's spinach!"

And then there's the image that adorned our kitchen wall for many a year when my kids were young.

That's probably enough reflecting for a Monday.  Feel free to comment. - Steve

Sunday, August 22, 2010


A pastor friend of mine from Illinois, Fran Leeman, helps support an organization called NEW LIFE FOR HAITI
Medical facilities, housing particularly for children and schools in the remote mountain regions of Haiti are some of the major efforts.  Go their web site. Read about it. Consider supporting their efforts.
Blackboard in the old Marfranc Primary School
Waiting for the paint to dry in the new school


To the best of my knowledge I was posted all of these cartoons according to the copyright expectations for this kind of us.  Kindly visit these websites for more of these great cartoonists' work. - Steve

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Amish Country Indiana
These are some magnificent photos by a missionary friend Michael Sarver. He's an Indiana boy now serving in Thailand with his wife Sara.  His blog is called two10Eleven and appears in the blogroll on my homepage.  These photos are used by permission of a limited license.  Check this link LICENSE. Enjoy the photos. Email him your appreciation (maybe even support his mission efforts). Respect his rights as a photo as you perhaps share these.

The beauty of Thailand

Friday, August 20, 2010


This was posted last Sunday on NFL Fanhouse and I thought it was worth re-posting. I'd be interested in your comments. - steve

 Glen Coffee – “I’ve Already Told Christ It’s Time to Go”
Glen Coffee’s stunning retirement Friday sparked a lot of speculation as to the reason — including guesses that Coffee had failed a drug test or been involved in a spat with 49ers coach Mike Singletary. Turns out, the truth is much less sinister: Saturday, Coffee told Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee that he’s headed back to school to complete his undergraduate degree and pursue a master’s degree, a decision rooted in his deep religious beliefs. 
“Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place,” said Coffee, who left the University of Alabama after his junior year. “Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the [49ers'] time.”
“His will, I felt, wasn’t football. I felt like I forced football because everyone expected me to play football. He told me a long time ago to walk away from the game.”

The 23-year-old’s discussion with Barrows seemingly squashed the possibility that he’d go back on his retirement announcement.

“I’ve already told Christ it’s time to go. I’ve already rung the bell. That’s not going to happen,” Coffee told Barrows.

San Francisco had been counting on Coffee to help spell starting RB Frank Gore, just as Coffee did during his rookie season. In 14 games last year — including two starts — Coffee carried the ball 83 times for 226 yards and a touchdown. Between Coffee and rookie Anthony Dixon, the 49ers were hoping to limit the beating Gore took in 2010. Most of that challenge will now fall on Dixon, unless the 49ers make a move to add another running back.

After Coffee’s sudden announcement Friday, Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald tweeted, “Having covered 49ers RB Glen Coffee for 3 years, not surprised he retired. He has a higher call. Wouldn’t shock me if he headed to ministry.”

Coffee didn’t specifically say that’s in his plans after he returns to school at Alabama — he’s just six hours shy of his undergraduate degree in consumer affairs — but he didn’t rule it out either.

“There’s going to be people that understand and there’s going to be people that don’t understand and don’t care to understand,” Coffee told Barrows. “They’re going to feed off that negativity. That’s life.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The big sports news today is the Brett Farve is back in camp, signed on for another season with the Minnesota Vikings.  Tell me you're surprised.  I confess this "I'm retired/I'm unretired" drama is getting a little tedious.  The best thing about it is that it has bumped LeBron James from the top of the sportscasts.

There is no doubt that Brett is a superb quarterback.  Except when he goes on an interception binge (generally because he's trying to win games all by himself), he's definitely one of the men you want in that spot when the chips are down and the going has gotten tough. (How's that for mixing cliches?")  He lost a little of my respect as as a person when after his first retirement from the Packers, he tried to come back and bump out a man who had been waiting patiently for several years in Brett's shadow for his turn to the lead that team.  (I have great respect for the Packer front office that just said NO!)  He seemed lost and overhyped in his season with the Jets.  But last year, he took a great Vikings team and almost made them Super Bowl champs.  There is no doubt that he is a superb quarterback.

Some people think he should surrender to his age and let younger men take the helm. As a 59 year old pastor heading towards older age but still believing I have great usefulness as a leader; I have no sympathy for such ageist blatherings.  It seems obvious that the Vikings players wanted him to be their leader.

So Brett, best wishes.  Forgive me if I don't put a lot of stock in this morning's announcement "This is definitely my last year."  Have a great season.  Have fun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


With this post I am going to begin a new feature on LIFE MATTERS.  Calvin Miller has written a beautiful trilogy called "The Singer", portraying Christ as the one who sings the song of God's grace to the world.  Tuesdays will be SINGER AND THE SONG posts (they may not be the only posts on Tuesdays) where we will share a variety of artists whose songs communicate the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This week's post features a great song by Mark Lowry called "Mary Did You Know?" and scenes from what I consider the best Bible movie ever made, Jesus of Nazareth.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Glen Lapp, martyred relief worker from Lancaster PA
There has been a disturbing escalation of violence in Afghanistan orchestrated by the Taliban as Ramadan approaches. The most recent was the murder of Glen Lapp, a relief worker from Lancaster, Pennsylvania working with the Mennonite Central Committee. Lapp was  traveling with a medical team of four Afghans, six Americans, one Briton and one German. All, including Lapp, worked with MCC partner organization International Assistance Mission, a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan. Local police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles. One Afghan team member traveled home via another route and is safe. Another Afghan survived the attack and is being questioned by the police. The Mennonites are not known for their aggressive evangelism. They are known for their dedicated and unbiased humanitarian relief work. Lapp's family said he was well aware of the dangers in his work, especially in Afghanistan where the Taliban is experiencing a resurgence of power.

Lapp was to complete his MCC term in October, and recently wrote about it in a report, “Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country. Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.” Read more at LAPP.

This is a tragic reminder of the irrational fanaticism of the forces we face in Afghanistan and other places where we are attempting to combat international terror. Our prayers for the Lapp family and all of those relief workers who are attempting to bring a little bit of the compassion of Christ to a worn-torn world.

Brees and the Saints win a Super Bowl 

 A hero of a different sort is Drew Brees.  Brees began his career as a quarterback at Purdue in the Big Ten. He played five years with the San Diego Chargers before coming to the Saints. A serious injury almost ended his career, but he recovered and in 2004 was named Comeback Player of the Year.  Brees was the QB in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Drew had already established himself as a humanitarian when he and his wife Brittany established the Brees Dream Foundation in 2003 and since then have raised and/or committed over $5 million to help advance cancer research, care for cancer patients, and help rebuild schools, parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields in New Orleans, San Diego, and West Lafayette IN. The Brees bought a home in New Orleans and following Katrina, Drew became one of the most influential people in that community as he rallied his fellow Saints players to work for football success as a symbol of New Orleans' hope for the future, but added to that humanitarian aid especially for the children of that city whose lives had been devastated by Katrina. Now he tells of his faith journey and the recovery of both his career and his adopted city in the excellent book, Coming Back Stronger: releasing the hidden power of adversity. (published by Tyndale House)
I am working on a review that I will publish in about two weeks.

Speaking of sports, I am discovering that the most read posts on Life Matters tend to be about sports.  I double-post Life Matters on Wordpress as well as Blogger. Items like "Curtis Granderson is a Yankee" "Dagly Ordonez" "Fanstasy Baseball," "Disabled List" and my Monday Morning Reflections which always have some baseball or sports commentary attract more readers than many of my other month's posts put together.  I guess I'm not the only American who is fixated on sports. (My friend Tammie Gitt says she figured that out between my blog posts and my Facebook wall.)

So while we're on sports, it was reported that Reggie Bush had apologized to Pat Haden and the folks at University of Southern California for his actions that costs them as BCS title and Reggie a Heisman. I wonder when Peter Carol is going to apologize for being asleep at the switch as the leader of Trojans Football. If he's not on top of things better than this, then the Seattle Seahawks may have reason to be concerned, especially in this day when NFL Commissioner Robert Goodell seems determined to restore the moral reputation of pro football. (Kudos to Goodell).

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The regular season in baseball has about six weeks. Five of the six divisional races remain tight.  So in the spirit of baseball in all of its fanatical glory are some baseball funnies for Sunday, August 15, 2010.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I know. I know. That is a depressing way to begin today's post. School starts in my community in just two more weeks. Families are rushing around trying to squeeze the last bit of vacation into the remaining lazy days of summer.  Church attendance has been abysmal for at least past three weeks and will probably be so for two more - or maybe even through Labor Day. It's not that people are hypocrites or closet pagans. It's just that once school starts for many of them, "slipping away" will become a lost option in a world of football and band practice, homework, back-to-school nights, and trying to juggle family schedules so they can still be a family.

Then there's that ludicrous idea of the lazy days of summer.  Our household barely slowed down enough to call anything in our life and schedule lazy.  It has now been five weeks since I made it to the golf course (my own normal summer activity). I have yet to make it to the beach, or to a professional baseball game of any kind. I have been to no community picnics nor sat on a Sunday night with friends on patio at Black Knight. There have been no picnics.  There have been a couple of walks in the park, when it wasn't too hot. And speaking of hot, I have sat neither on my front porch or back yard since sometime in early June.  I'm beginning to ask what I did all summer. My vacation time was connected with a wedding and a visit to grandchildren, both of which I enjoyed immensely but both of which could have been done (and usually are) in any season.

Have I depressed you enough? I've depressed me.

I can hardly wait for the less lazy days of autumn. At least it should be cool enough to sit on the porch.


Carman is an acquired taste, but a whole lot of funky fun. Back in the late 80s, one of my youth pastors and our youth group performed this song as part of a powerful Youth Sunday.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

A missionary friend of mine, Brook Sarver, put me in touch with this powerful video. (By the way, Brook is in Thailand and this awesome photographer, Sean Steigemeier is looking for sponsors.)

Most of us live in safe, tame places. More ordinary than spectacular.  But the truth is that life is never lived to the fullest unless we are willing to embrace the adventure that goes with truly living.  Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) There is an energizing beauty to letting go and letting God take you to the places He has planned for you--places where you will learn of His strength, see the world through His eyes and grow. This doesn't always mean going to geographically far away places; but it does mean never settling with the ruts of ordinary, head-down existence.  As I have said more than once, "A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out!" Peter found danger, but he also found greater commitment when he stepped outside the boat and answered Jesus' call to walk to Him on the water.


A number of years ago at the National Pastors' Conference in San Diego, I was introduced to the music of Todd Agnew. I have been a fan ever since. "Grace Like Rain" is my favorite.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This has become "unofficially" Music Week on LIFE MATTERS.  Newsong has written a song of the Resurrection that stirs my heart and is on my "Top Ten" favorites. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010



Baseball fans have stadiums full of excitement with less than two months (50 games) left in the 2010 season.  Five of the six divisions in the two major leagues have divisional races where the leader and its chief contender are separated by two games or less. In the AL East, the Yankees and Tampa Bay are battling out for first place; the White Sox and the Twins in the Central Division. In the NL West the Padres lead the Giants by one, the Braves lead the Phils by one in the East, and the amazingly reborn Cincinnati Reds lead perennial power St. Louis by a game.  Only in the AL West are the Texas Rangers (ironically on the auction block) starting to pull away from the pack. The Oakland Athletics are hanging around barely. My Tigers have just about self-hammered the last nail in their coffin; but the other team of my childhood, the Reds, are giving me something to cheer about.

 Speaking of self-inflicted nails in their coffin, Tiger Woods shot his third straight over par round at the Bridgestone Open on Saturday, pretty much assuring that Phil Mickelson will be No. 1 in the world by week's end.  Tiger has owned this course so many times, but even his new found facial hair cannot seem to break the cycle of struggle that begin with his marital problems.  Although I deplored his moral choices, he had been a lot of fun to watch. He's not even fun to watch anymore (sort of like the Detroit Tigers.

Then there's Afghanistan with last month being the bloodiest since we began trying to defeat Al Quaida and the Taliban in the crucial mountain nation. I have young men connected with my church family who are deployed there and we pray daily for their safety. The word quagmire is beginning to form itself in my thought patterns.  Yet we know we are engaged in a life and death battle with an implacable enemy whose hatred of the West will keep them at war with us interminably unless we find a way to defeat them. Walking away is not an answer to this issue, but we need to find the will and the wisdom to pursue this war as effectively as possible. In the mean time, we are reading of the mental, relational, and even employment issues faced by our returning troops.  We dare not abandon our responsibility to these men and women. Health care, rehab, counseling and jobs must be made available. This is an issue of integrity for us a nation.

Surprise! Surprise! A federal appeals judge in California has overturned Proposition 8. Once again the door is being opened for marriage between same sex couples. One cannot help but think that political correctness is trumping the nation's spiritual health under the guise of constitutionality.  All things may be lawful but are they wise?  I suspect I'll have some more reflections on this later.

I soon may be resorting to counting sheep.  For more than a week I have suffered from a troubled sleep cycle.  Some nights I only manage 2-3 hours before waking.  And then I cannot go back to sleep.  Sometimes power naps help, sometimes they hinder. Sleepless in Landisville doesn't even merit a good plot. Seattle's sleeplessness seemed a better story line.  Right now I am just tired and have to figure out the best way to handle this. The only thing that has really benefited from my sleeplessness has been my blog production. You be the judge of whether or not it has been worth it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


 Sunday afternoon is part of the Christian Sabbath. It's time to let go, lighten up, and to have a little fun if for no other reason than it adds a little joy to your tank before you hit Monday traffic and work schedules. Never mow the lawn on Sunday afternoon or pay the bills. Take a nap, read the funnies, make a few funny faces, take a walk in the woods with your best friend. Discover the you beneath all the busyness. Watch a Phillies game or go fishing if that's fun for you. Just leave your cell phone at home. Turn off your cell phone and read a good book.
I recommend it highly. For the next few Sundays (if it doesn't become too much like work), I will blog of LIFE MATTERS with stories, comments, photos, cartoons aimed at letting you make some funny faces in your inmost being.  Or some Sundays I may have to skip a week so I can just have some fun.

For all of you who went to church this morning to start your sabbath, "What does it mean when your pastor takes off his watch and lays it on the pulpit in front of him?"

Absolutely nothing.

I got here first!
Baseball is a funny game. Those ESPN highlights show some spectacular plays, but they rarely show you the crazy stuff.

Take that!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Christopher Hitchens is a well-known atheist. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer. He was interviewed on CNN about his cancer and his thoughts about God. How would you respond to Hitchens?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Places of beauty bring refreshment to the heart.  Like the photo (Colorado 2005 by Tim Kiefer) below on the left.  We see that beauty and our hearts are filled with joy.  That beauty is also intended to prompt a heart of praise to God as it gives evidence of His awesome creating hand.  Scenes like the one below it, taken on the Gulf Coast as workers clean up the aftermath of the BP Oil Spill; remind us of the ugliness and consequences introduced into the world by our human sin and shortcomings.  Let me be among the first to admit that I introduce far too many consequences into a world desperately in need of grace.

"This world is no friend of grace" goes the words of a song I once heard.  In other words, this world is a place where our basic sinfulness can make a vicious cycle where even those who want to walk in step with God find it an all too difficult task.  The apostle Paul talks about this inner struggle when he says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). Without any help from our friends, it is all too easy to step away from God and abandon the holiness of His gracious calling upon our lives.

Jesus speaks of another kind of problem that is introduced into our lives. And that is the influence of others.  Speaking to his disciples Jesus said, "The things that cause man to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person who causes another to stumble."  Perhaps that's why we should not only examine our lives for whether or not we see; but also on whether or not in our words and actions we cause others to sin - either by example or enablement or in reaction to our sin.  Ultimately we are to keep our lives free from sin not simply to assure our own salvation; but also to remove the stumbling blocks and bad examples that might keep others from receiving theirs.
The writer of Hebrews speaks a powerful word of reminder "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)          

So what is your impact on the world? Are you a friend of grace reminding people that God is at work to give us the healing of forgiveness and the blessing of new life? Do your words and actions provide a model of "the more perfect way"--the way of God's love?

Many years ago it was my privilege to get acquainted with a wonderful Bible teacher named Jill Briscoe.  Jill had a prayer that she shared at the conclusion of most of her speaking engagements. It went like this, "Lord, help me to be the blessing that I am blessed to be."  What a wonderful prayer--one that if we pray, God will answer and there will be no question that our impact on this difficult world will be one that points people to God's amazing grace and unconditional love.


   Two of the most dreaded words in baseball vocabulary are disabled list.  They are second only to season ending injury.  In the long 162 game Major League Baseball season, the monthly fortunes of a team are often determined by who is on the list and for how long.  Should someone go onto the disabled list in the second half of a season, even a hot contender can be headed for elimination before September.  The disabled list is no respecter of persons.  Hence, a real "hero" of the game and solid role model like Chase Utley takes an injury that puts him on "the list."  Nor a real scrapper, someone who keeps coming back from injuries and makes spectacular plays even when injured like Brandon Inge is on the wrong end of a wild pitch, breaks his hand and heads for "the list."

Few teams are immune from the list's frustrating clutches. The Oakland Athletics lead baseball with nine players on the list, followed by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals.  Today the Phillies added Ryan Howard and the Braves added Martin Prado at perhaps the most critical time of the season for these two contenders in the NL East.  The addition of Armando Gallaraga and Johnny Damon in the last five days for my own beloved Detroit Tigers have pretty much put the final nail in the coffin for this season. That's four starters and another starting pitcher.  There are not enough Toledo Mudhens to make an August-September miracle occur.

   This latter observation, however, does show who benefits from the Disabled List. Minor league prospects hoping to get a shot at the Bigs are called up, sometimes with dizzying speed. Like Lucas Harrell, who woke up in Louisville KY planning to pitch for AAA Charlotte, only to find himself that night at Cellular Field in Chicago, pitching (and winning) for his parent club Chicago White Sox.

The Disabled List actually reminds me of an observation made in the Bible. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." It doesn't seem fair, but it is reality.  In an imperfect world, injuries happen.  The best laid plans of GMs and managers are thwarted by someone else's plans or someone else's choices.  In baseball the best team doesn't always get the pennant or the World Series ring.  There are too many variables in the long season and sometimes timing is everything.

The Bible actually reminds us not to place too much emphasis on the rewards of this world, precisely for those reasons.   The real reward that comes to a person who loves and serves God in this life is the joy of knowing you did your best for God and that your best for God always blesses someone. The real reward for a Christian is in the life to come when our Heavenly Father says "well done, good and faithful servant" and we take our place in His Hall of Fame.